Review

Review: A Mighty Dawn (The Wanderer Chronicles #1) by Theodore Brun

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

A Mighty Dawn was offered to me by the publisher, because of my love for archaeology and history. The book itself is written by an archaeologist, specialising in the Dark Ages. I have to say the fact that the publisher clearly researched bloggers with these kinds of interests really impressed me, and immediately warmed me to the book.

The story follows Hakan, the young heir to the Lord of the Northern Jutes. His life seems calm, uneventful – until one day, their village is struck by tragedy, and Hakan leaves, unable to bear his grief. I have some familiarity with the history and mythology that this book is based around, but I feel that any reader would understand Hakan’s world regardless of their background knowledge. However, there were some instances of unexplained terminology, and it would have been nice to fully understand these.

The battle scenes in this book were so well-written, I found myself flying through the pages and following the action with bated breath. It was easy to read, but also so gripping and somehow even managed to drag me away from Mass Effect: Andromeda – an impressive fate when it’s a game I’ve been anticipating for years.

With a truly detestable antagonist, a dark historical fantasy setting and the genuine feeling that the protagonist is slowly crumbling away and perhaps slightly losing his mind, A Mighty Dawn was an enthralling read that should appeal to all fans of the genre. It is a shame that I felt less drawn into the story during the second half, but following Hakan along on his journey from the heir of a lord, green in battle, to something very dark and twisted, kept me reading.

If you’re interested in this period of history or want something a little dark, or a historical fantasy, then this is a great choice for your next read!

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Review

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Because I don’t have a lot of space for storing books, I do quite often donate them to charity after reading if they aren’t favourites or I don’t think I will re-read them. This allows me to buy even more without taking up more space, so my book collection pretty much remains at the same size. Revolution was in my ‘donate after reading’ pile, and as I will soon be moving I’ve been trying to work through more of these so I don’t need to take them with me.

I’m not really sure what I expected when I picked up this book. In fact, after a couple of chapters I almost DNFed it because of the main character, Andi. The book opens with Andi hanging out with her friends, and they immediately seemed so pretentious and ridiculous, but I decided to keep going. And whilst I finished the book, Andi was definitely not my favourite of characters. I loved that she was so passionate about music and art, and really knowledgeable, but at times she felt elitist and a bit of a snob. Not to mention the whole very ‘try hard’ emo style she was going for. I get that she’s grieving. I get that she’s gone through this horrible event. But it kind of felt lazy for the author to use the emo look to portray someone who is struggling to get over the death of someone close to them.

However, Revolution was a clever story. I thought the use of the French Revolution, and entwining both Andi and Alex’s stories to be very well done. I maybe didn’t enjoy reading Alex’s journal entries as much as I’d expected – they just didn’t flow as well – but it was nice to revisit this area of history that I studied in detail eight or nine years ago.

Overall, this was a quick and easy read, and actually a lot more enjoyable than I’d reckoned – but let down in places by the portrayal of the main character.

Review

Review: The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1)

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

The Dark Days Club combines two things I love to read about:

  • a fantastical spin on a real historical period
  • real historical figures as minor characters

 

And it did it wonderfully! I absolutely loved the idea that behind this delicate society, where main concerns are the latest fashions, finding an appropriate husband before the spinsterly age of 23 and discussing who has been snubbed from the latest social event, there is a group of demon hunters. A group of demon hunters in Regency England, comprised of not just aristocratic gentleman who would be familiar with hunting and other such pursuits anyway, but society ladies, who swap their petticoats for trousers (scandalous!), and evenings filled with balls, champagne and dancing for hunting dark creatures. The book really exposes the ridiculousness of society at the time, where things seemed prim and proper on the outside, but often there was something darker hidden away.

I liked Helen as a character. She longs for the independence that her society will never grant her, and won’t settle for just being married off to the first available bachelor who will take her. Unfortunately, due to some family history, her name is not as desirable as it once was, and her uncle (and guardian) pretty much just wants to be rid of her. Helen is curious and intelligent, eager to learn and quick-witted. It wasn’t just Helen that was likeable, but also Darby, her maid. Their relationship in particular really stood out. Darby was more than just a maid, and the friendship between her and Helen felt so genuine. She could have easily been scared off by Helen’s abilities, but instead she was loyal and just as curious as Helen about what she could do.

I was a little dismayed by the pace of the book – it really was quite slow moving, and it is a good third of the way in before Helen even finds out what she is, let alone starts using her powers. I just wanted the demon hunting to commence asap! Sadly there just wasn’t enough action or demon slaying by the end for my taste, which is one of the reasons why this is a four star read rather than five stars. I’m hoping for a lot more in the second book to make up for it, but it also seems like Helen still has a lot to learn. One of my other issues was that it was quite predictable – none of the ‘shocking’ events were a surprise and it was easy to guess what was going to happen. Finally, at times there was quite a bit of info dumping, which can be quite frustrating.

However, I found The Dark Days Club to be a really fun novel, if slow to start. I absolutely loved the concept, and the contrast between the genteel society and the demon hunters. I’ll definitely be looking out for the second book in the series!

Misc.

A Guide to 2017 Releases

When it comes to listing my most anticipated books for the year, I find it pretty difficult. How am I supposed to restrict my choice to just five or ten books, when thousands are published every year? Instead, I’ve decided to create a comprehensive little guide to the ones I’m most excited about, sorted by genre – with the main focus on science fiction and fantasy, but what else would you expect? ๐Ÿ˜‰ As this post was written in mid-December, by the time it goes live I’ll probably have another 50 or so books I want to add…

Science Fiction

The Massacre of Mankind (War of the Worlds #2) by Stephen Baxter, Empire Games (Empire Games #1) by Charles Stross,
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty,
The Moon and the Other by John Kessel, The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley, The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda, The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente and Annie Wu, The Wanderers by Meg Howey, All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, Blight by Alexandra Duncan, Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, A Perfect Machine by Brett Savory, Proof of Concept by Gwyneth Jones, Ball Lightning by Liu Cixin, Change Agent by Daniel Suarez, New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Fantasy

The Winds of Winter (A Song of Ice and Fire #6) by George R.R. Martin, A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab, The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco, Crossroads of Canopy (Titan’s Forest #1) by Thoriya Dyer, The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad, Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by V.E. Schwab, Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts, Tyrant’s Throne (Greatcoats #4) by Sebastien de Castell, The Heart Of What Was Lost (The Last King of Osten Ard #0.5) by Tad Williams, Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence.

Horror/Thriller

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel, Dreamfall (Dreamfall #1) by Amy Plum.

Historical Fiction

The Dark Days Pact (Lady Helen #2) by Alison Goodman, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) by Kiersten White.

Contemporary

American Street by Ibi Zoboi, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz, City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson.

Which 2017 releases are you most looking forward to? ๐Ÿ™‚

Review

Review: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books: after reading it first at school aged 16, I then re-read in 2014. This time round, without the need to analyse every little detail, I absolutely fell in love with it. Ever since then, I’ve been looking out for any Jane Eyre inspired books or retellings, which is why I was so eager to accept a copy of Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.

Jane Steele is not strictly a retelling of Jane EyreJane Eyre is in fact one of the favourite books of the protagonist, and she often references it. Her story mirrors that of Jane Eyre’s, with some differences, and there are many small references to parts of the book. However, the main difference between this Jane and the original? Jane Steele is a killer. It might seem like a rather outlandish and ridiculous idea, but actually it works so well. Jane Eyre is already a Gothic novel – the huge house, a mysterious employer, strange noises at night and of course the goings on in the attic… Lyndsey Faye takes all of this and adds even more.

This Jane is not the one we know – she is not meek, but cool and cunning. And despite being a killer, she is a likeable character. The book describes her as a ‘serial killer’, but I wouldn’t go as far as that. She kills when she has to – for self-defence, or to protect others, rather than just picking targets at random. But despite knowing from the very beginning that Jane is a murderer, when the murders happen they are still shocking and brutal. Jane Steele is practically the opposite of Jane Eyre in every way – she is confident, sexual, more experience with life, not to mention has slight murderous tendencies… yet despite this, I could easily tie the events of this book back to the original.

There are other differences too. Instead of a ward from France, Mr. Thornfield (Rochester) has a ward from India. Mr. Thornfield is also a lot more open and talkative than Mr. Rochester, but still very mysterious. Lyndsey Faye also reverses some events from the book, e.g. Charles Thornfield spooking Jane’s horse as she is riding down the lane, as opposed to the other way round, which was how Jane Eyre met Mr. Rochester for the first time.

Beautifully written, with a tone that truly evokes the original, Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele is a truly gripping book, perfect for fans of Jane Eyre who are looking for something a little bit different. I’ve read a faerie version of Jane Eyre (Ironskin), but I never expected to come across something like this! It is incredibly clever and still original enough to stand out, whilst still drawing from the major events of Jane Eyre. I liked that Jane Steele referenced Bronte’s work herself, somehow that grounded it even more. And if my review isn’t enough to convince you, know that this also comes highly recommended by the Jane Eyre expert herself, Charlene!

 

Favourite Quote:

[Jane, on meeting Mr. Thornfield for the first time] “If I were to kill this very intriguing man, I wonder how difficult he would make the task?”

This stood out to me so much, because it is definitely not something that would have come out of Jane Eyre’s mouth!

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Review

Review: The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Oh, the Borgias. Infamous throughout history for murder, debauchery, incest, bribery, nepotism, poison, adultery and so much more. From the moment Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alexander VI, he was already scandalous – a pope with at least four children, possibly more.

My question is, how could you possibly not want to read a book about this family?

I’ve been fascinated by the Borgias, and the period of history within which they lived, for a while now. Their story is so familiar to me, but still I love to read about them – whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I love it. The Vatican Princess in particular is, I have to say, one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read about the Borgias. Told from the point of view of Lucrezia, the Pope’s beloved daughter or his ‘farfallina’, the story begins when she is 12 years of age, about to be married off to Giovanni Sforza. Lucrezia’s life was a sad one – forced into a series of marriages from a young age, some unwanted, some happy, but all ended badly.

Gortner’s narrative worked beautifully. The book spans about eight or nine years, divided into sections of several years each, but it skips through chunks of time without missing anything important. There is a real sense of Lucrezia growing, perhaps too early, from a girl into a woman, and learning what her family is really like. She hardens herself, learns how to protect those she loves – without Gortner falling into the trap of portraying her as an evil seductress, poisoning every Borgia enemy, as some texts show her.

I don’t know whether it was due to my familiarity with the Borgia history, or because of Gortner’s writing, but the book was so accessible. There is quite a large cast of characters, some of whose names might seem very odd to someone who does not know this period of history, but at no point did I feel lost amongst them all. It would be interesting to know whether someone who does not know the history as I do felt so comfortable among the cast of characters. She is both strong and naive, retaining some of that childish innocence whilst still learning how to make her way through the politics of late 15th century Rome.

Overall, The Vatican Princess was a wonderful novel, some of the most engaging and beautifully written historical fiction that I have read in a while. The thing about the Borgias is so much of their history is uncertain – so many rumours contradict each other, there is a lot that is not set in stone – that actually, it is possible to be quite inventive when writing about them. Gortner uses this, but also sticks fairly faithfully to the ‘history’, making some changes where they allow the story to flow more easily – and explaining all of this at the end. Whether you’re already a fan of one of history’s most infamous families, or know nothing about this, I would highly recommend this title.

Blog Tour, Review

Blog Tour + Review: The Sisters of Versailles by Sallie Christie

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I’m pretty picky about the blog tours I take part in nowadays, and will only sign up if I know I’m going to enjoy the book. So of course I knew I would enjoy The Sisters of Versailles – whilst I’m not a fan of romance novels, I do enjoy a bit of steamy historical fiction – but I didn’t realise just how much I would enjoy it. Told from the point of view of the Nesle sisters, this novel is unique in that whilst its main characters were historical figures, very little has been written about them in English. Four of the five Nesle sisters became mistresses to King Louis XV of France, and whilst this was of course a huge scandal at the time, it doesn’t seem to be something that has been recorded quite as much as you would think. In fact, I’m pretty sure more people would be nore familiar with Madame de Pompadour, another of Louis XV’s mistresses, than Louise, Marie-Anne, Hortense, Diane or Paulie Nesle.

From the very first chapter of the book, I got a really clear and vivid image of life at Versailles. It seemed so colourful and fast-paced, but there was also something darker hiding in the shadows, hinting at what was yet to come. The reader sees it all at first through the eyes of Louise, the eldest of the Nesle sisters and the first to go to Versailles. From the moment the sisters become of a suitable age for marriage, they are obsessed with the idea of it – so it is so sad that Louise’s marriage, to a man twenty years her senior, makes her feel so lonely. Her husband is an imbecile and a horrendous person; when her mother dies he complains of the ‘inconvenience’ of having to travel to Paris to help his grieving wife. Therefore it is completely understandable when she is persuaded by the ladies of the court to have an affair, after all everyone is doing it. But then Louise comes to the attention of the king, and everything changes.

Whilst each sister narrates at least one chapter each, their voices didn’t feel entirely distinctive. They had very clear cut personalities though: Diane the slob, Louise the naive one, Hortense the pious one, Marie-Anne a revolutionary in the making, and Pauline, determined to get whatever she wanted despite the consequences. Pauline’s letters, not so subtly hinting to Louise that she deserved a visit to Versailles, were kind of hilarious. At first I quite liked Pauline, but her later actions turned me against her. Watching her steal the man her sister loves, then reading Louise’s point of view of the whole experience was pretty heartbreaking. Marie-Anne was a surprise, going from seemingly innocent to a real schemer.

As time went on, I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for Louise or whether I want to just shake her and shout ‘Get a grip!’. It was sad watching her pine after someone she couldn’t have, who was clearly not interested in her anymore, whilst sister after sister replaced her. I don’t know how Louis XV is represented in history (having studied his grandson Louis XVI in much more depth), but in this he felt so shallow. He wasn’t outright mean, but the way he treated people, especially women, as objects that he could just use and then toss aside when the next exciting thing came along, was abhorrent. He did it without people even realising they were being replaced until it was too late.

I’m so glad I got the chance to read and review The Sisters of Versailles. I have found the whole ancien regime period of French history very interesting ever since I studied it in school, and I’m always happy to read historical fiction set in that era. What I really loved here was learning about historical figures that aren’t widely written about, and the whole scandalous history of the Nesle sisters. How is the fact that Louis XV slept with four sisters not as widely known as his affairs with Madame de Pompadour? History does love a good scandal, after all.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Sally Christie for giving me the chance to read and review this one! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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