Kindle Daily Deal: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Do you like steampunk, Japanese fantasy, and griffins, with kicka-ss heroes and dystopic politics? Then you should buy today’s Kindle Daily Deal (Amazon UK) is the amazing Stormdancer – £1.39 today only! The first book in The Lotus War series, the sequel, Kinslayer, was released a coupel of weeks ago, so if you’ve had your eye on this series what better time to grab it than now? Violence, airships, and talking mythical creatures? What more could you want?

10852343Description:

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

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Book Review: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

1111608Title: The Eye of the World

Author: Robert Jordan

Series: The Wheel of Time #1

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review:

“The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again.”

Rand al’Thor is just the son of a mere farmer, believing his life to involve nothing more worrying about the harvest festival and winning the attention of the pretty Egwene, the inkeeper’s daughter. Then the attack came. In the middle of the night, Rand’s father’s farm is pillaged by trollocs – hideous part man and part animal monsters who swear allegiance to The Dark One. Rand and his father Tam flee to Emond’s Field only to find that the village has also been burned. While talking to Moraine Damodred, a member of a magic-wielding cult known as the Aes Sedai, it is revealed that though the attacks seemed random, Rand and two other young men, Mat and Perrin, are the targets. It seems that the Dark One has taken an interest in them, but why?

Moraine convinces them to travel with her and her Warder, Lan, back to Tar Valon, home of the Aes Sedai. Packing their bags as fast as they can, the young men set off, joined by Egwene and a travelling entertainer called Thom. None of them are safe from the Dark One, and Rand is consumed by worry he begins to visit Rand’s dreams. The Dark One claims “you are mine, or you are dead” by what does he want with them?

The Eye of the World is an ambitious tale. The beginning of a fourteen book series, set in a Tolkien-esqe fantasy world, it deals with grand plots – good verse evil, war and peace, magic and religion. Full of fascinating characters, each with their own detailed back stories, loyalties, and quirks, this truly is a great epic fantasy for those looking for a fully imagined world. ‘World building’ is a term that is use in reviews, but I believe this is one of those rare times it is accurate, as The Wheel of Time features an entire world, full of different cultures, creatures, and beliefs. Though there are a few obvious comparisons to Tolkien (the group of strangers on a journey, the main character starting as a simple village person, orc like monsters, and regions called The Mountains of Mist and The Mountains of Doom to name a couple), there are plenty of original and great ideas. I love the fact that magic is wielded by the women, giving them power, both magical and political. It’s great that it breaks away from the idea that women with magic are only ever healers and ‘wise women’. The Aes Sedai have really power, including fire and lightening strikes, tracking, and protection from the Dark One (and that is just one in the first book). All the women in this book are real people, not just a couple of characteristics and a pretty face.

There is so much to this book, from characters to plot to world building, that it can become a little confusing. This is not a book you can skim through – but once you throw yourself in, it’s easy to get caught up in the action. It’s been said by other reviewers that The Eye of the World can be read as a stand alone novel, but personally I feel there are too many unanswered question. This could be seen negatively as you have to invest in all fourteen books to know what happens, but I enjoyed this so much I am diving back in with book two as soon as I can.

This is a novel truly deserving of the name ‘epic fantasy’. It is the beginning of an amazing journey and I cannot wait to read more.

4.5 stars

Book Review: The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock

16045366Title: The Glass Republic

Author: Tom Pollock

Series: The Skyscraper Throne #2

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review:

Parva “Pen” Khan has survived a brutal attack from a living mass of barbed wire. Well, if you can call this surviving. Covered in scars all over her body, with a face that people recoil from, Pen is trying to get her normal life back. But it’s not easy: with her best friend Beth turned into a living embodiment of the city of itself, pressure from her fellow classmates to tell them what happened, feeling that her face is no longer her own, and the guilt of causing her parents pain. The only person who understands Pen is Parva, her mirror sister who lives in the reflected city of London-Under-Glass.

But when Parva is kidnapped, Pen knows that she must find her, whatever it takes. Striking a deal with the Chemical Synod, Pen trades her parents’ memories of her for entrance to London-Uner-Glass, where looks are currency and her sister is considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Posing as Parva, Pen is caught in a world of politics and terrorists, where beauty is everything.

The Skyscraper Throne is a series that takes the genre Urban Fantasy to a new level – the city of London literally comes alive in these books. Descriptions of living street lights who communicate by flashing light, Pavement Priests who are trapped in stone, creepy men covered in oil who collect and experiment with human emotions and memories (to name a few), are all fascinating and original, building a truly unique picture of the modern world. The new society of London-Under-Glass introduced in The Glass Republic mirrors and distorts the idea of beauty being connected to self worth that is so prominent in our culture, much like the way the river Themes reflects the city itself. The use of half-faces and the terrorists know as the Faceless are both creepy but sympathetic, showing the flaws in both worlds and our obsession as people with looks. But as great as the world build is, it is nothing when compared to the characters, especially the protagonist Pen.

It’s great to see the return of Beth, the hero of the first book The City’s Son, who is still just as brilliant. Her change into a daughter of the streets continues and her struggles with this transition, and the sacrifices made by Fil, the boy she loved, are realistic and moving. There is the introduction of another great character, Espel, a steeplejill with half a true face and half a mirror. She is in many ways Pen’s opposite, a beautiful girl who braves the hights of the skyscrapers in London-Under-Glass to clear it of raining brick and concrete in an almost reckless way, but she shares a lot of the same fears and self doubts as Pen. Then there is Pen herself – a character so raw with pain, anger, and fear, but so willing to throw her own safety to the wind to save the people she loves. Her struggles made me want to cry: watching her fight for a normal life any way she can whilst living with a ruined face, bullying from her schoolmates, and knowing that the teacher who abused her may be going free. All this doesn’t stop her, as she just keeps telling herself that “It’s still all you, Pen” – and it is. Pen is a truly amazing character, who does gain back part of her control over her body after her trauma. I love Pen with a passion.

The reason I’ve rated The Glass Republic 4.5 and not 5 stars? The cliffhanger ending was completely unexpected and shocked me, as I didn’t realise this series was in fact a trilogy. Waiting for the next book may actually kill me! What else can I say but read it, and read it now.

4.5 stars.

Book Review: Loss by Jackie Morse Kessler

12176820Title: Loss

Author: Jackie Morse Kessler

Series: Riders of the Apocalypse #3

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review:

Life for fifteen year old Billy Ballard is not easy. He’s the kid who everyone picks on, the one who the teachers either overlook or “make an example” of. He doesn’t even get a break at home, living with his single mother who’s always working to make ends meet, and his Alzheimer’s suffering grandfather, who can sometimes be worse than the school bullies. If it wasn’t for his friend, Marianne, he’d probably go mad – though never working up the courage to ask her out might drive him to madness anyway.

Then Death visits Billy. He wants Billy to stand in as Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as the original White Rider has gone missing. Billy agrees, thinking this could be his chance to get back at his tormentors, and takes the Bow which allows him to strike disease. But when he accidentally causes an outbreak of meningitis, Billy realises he can’t handle this kind of power, and must hunt out the previous White Rider, who is hiding in the memories of his long, strange life. After years of causing death and disease, the White Rider has become insane, and plans on an outbreak more terrifying than any the earth has seen before…

Loss is another excellent book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series, which deals with teenagers struggling with different problems who then become one of the riders, and their experiences with their new powers and responsibilities. Though all part of a series, each book can be read as a stand alone, and nothing is lost by reading them out of order. This book’s protagonist, Billy, is a very sympathetic character. Watching his life of abuse and pain is moving, especially if you (like myself) have experienced bullying in the past. Even if you haven’t, the frustration, anger, and self loathing that Billy feels is written in a clear and very convincing way, and I found myself desperately hoping for a scene where Billy stands up and finally gets his own back. Though this doesn’t actually happen in Loss, the battles Billy does win, over his own self doubt and outlook on life, are much more important. This is not a book about revenge, it’s about accepting yourself no matter what others think – which can often be harder than getting your own back.

The world building in this book is fascinating and well researched, the story of King Mita tying in very well with the Riders’ biblical tale. The character Death and the other horsemen are all entertaining and it is a very good thing they all get their own books, as you cannot help but want to know more about them all. There is also a very funny and cute scene from the point of view of the White Horse, who is excited to have not one but two riders now. Death himself is an amazing character, and though he doesn’t get as much focus in this book as I would have liked, this is not his story (thankfully, Death’s story is the next and final book in this series Breath).

Billy’s story is one of struggles and triumphs, both over other people and yourself. It’s moving and very satisfying, and I can’t recommend it enough.

4.5 stars.

Early Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

17670709Title: Crown of Midnight

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Series: Throne of Glass #2

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review:

(Spoilers for book one.)

After nearly dying during the King’s tournament, Celaena Sardothien has been officially crown the King’s Champion and the Royal Assassin. She is the King of Adarlan’s mutt, his attack dog, doing his dirty work by killing off those who oppose or displease him. This was supposed to gain Celaena her freedom after a few years, but it feels more like slavery than ever. What no-one realises is that Celaena has a terrible secret – she’s not actually killing those she’s sent to dispatch of. Playing a very dangerous game, Celaena lives in fear that the King will discover that the people he believes dead have in fact gone into hiding, whilst also trying to help Queen Elena and bring back magic to the world. But magic may not be gone as everyone thinks, with an unnerving fortune teller from a camp of travellers and something menacing stalking the palace dungeons. If the King doesn’t kill her, this mysterious magic might.

Crown of Midnight is one of those books that has so many twists and turns you just can’t stop reading it, and will probably spend hours emerged in this amazing story without even realising it. Sarah J. Maas exceeds her first book, which is quite a feat in itself. Stakes are higher than ever, and gone is the flirty, somewhat easy going Celaena (at least compared to her attitude in this book). She is hiding her defiance of the King all by herself, and it’s clear the pressure, and having to act like a loyal dog, is getting to her. Still, her resilience is admirable, and her struggles also show the strength of the friendships she has with Chaol, Dorian, and Nehemia. The friendship with Nehemia was one of the best aspects of Crown of Midnight – it is deep and meaningful as not only does Nehemia support Clelaena, she isn’t afraid to tell her the harsh truth that Celaena needs to hear whether she wants to or not. The romance develops more and goes beyond the love triangle hinted at in the first book, with Celaena making a choice, but still staying close friends with the other man. There is still no happy ending in sight however, as issues and conflicts drive a seemingly inevitable wedge between the couple, in a heart breaking way that may not be salvageable.

The other part of this book I thoroughly enjoyed was the discovery of further magic, especially the character Baba Yellowlegs, an iron-toothed witch posing as a fortune teller. She was both truly creepy and intriguing, and the nature of witches is something I hope to see far more of in the next books. The idea of magic returning is one that can cause endless adventures for Celaena and her friends. The revelations about her nature and identity make for a shocking ending that will leave everyone dying for the next book.

I loved Crown of Midnight, it was a constant twists in politics, magic, and characters. After that cliffhanger I cannot wait for the third book.

4.5 stars

 

Early Review: Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson

(Apologies for the late review, life just gets in the way sometimes.)

16059404Title: Elysian Fields

Author: Suzanne Johnson

Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #3

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review:

(Spoilers for books one and two.)

Only a few weeks after settling the mermaid feud and losing the closest thing to a mother she’s ever had, all DJ really needs is time to rest and recover. Most certainly not an historical undead serial killer known as the Axeman come back to reek havoc on New Orleans. During the investigations, DJ discovers that he is being controlled by a necromancer, one of her own wizards, and now the Axeman is after her. Trying to survive being hunted by a serial killer is really not being helped by the elves’ interest in her being taken to a new, worrying intensity. It seems like everyone is after a piece of her, and they don’t care how many pieces she breaks into.

The phrase “action-packed” seems too tame to describe Elysian Fields, which is stuffed full of so many great different plots, that all tie off nicely at the end. More happens in this book by the half way point that most others in entire series, and it’s very impressive how Suzanne Johnson fits so much into one book. Watching DJ struggling with everything that happens is quite moving, and shows her strengths as a character. It’s also great to see progress with the romance, which is still no where near a boring “happily ever after” as events in this book will definitely cause further issues and more entertainment. One of the best parts of this book is the extended world building. The Elves’ culture is a very interesting one, their political systems and nature are the cause of a lot of the conflict, and it’s interesting to see where exactly DJ, as both part elf and wizard, fits into this. Many of these issues are left open to be further explored in the next books.

The only real problem with Elysian Fields is that other than DJ herself, there seem to be too few women in this world. Other than her human friend Eugenie who doesn’t know anything about DJ’s world, two elven woman (one who is barely featured before she is killed off in what felt a little too much like a plot device), and a vampire who does nothing but seduce and corrupt a wizard, there are next to no women. Eugenie was the only real positive female secondary character in this book, and it is good to see her taking a bigger and more active role in the story. Men, on the other hand, see to be everywhere – from romantic interests, to friends, colleges, enemies, even to nameless background characters. This just doesn’t reflect real life, and I can’t help but worry that this is a subconscious decision to make DJ look all the more special – she’s the only woman who is not a bitch, a slut, or is naive.

This one issue aside (which was more of a musing after I finished the book), Elysian Fields is a non-stop, action packed book that will keep you captivated throughout.

4.5 stars.

Early Review: The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce

16006117Title: The Weight of Souls

Author: Bryony Pearce

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review:

Everyone knows being a teenager sucks. Especially when you’re bullied by the popular guys at school, even worse when one used to be your best friend – but when you are hunted by ghosts how can you be anything but a freak? Like all the women of her family, Taylor Oh is cursed, haunted by the ghost of murder victims only she can help. When a ghost touches her she has roughly three weeks to hunt out the murderer before she is consumed by a void known only as The Darkness. Taylor’s life consists of hiding at home where she’s safe from the ghosts, but not her father who thinks she’s suffering from a mental illness, and at school hiding from Justin and his friends who spend their time coming up with new ways to torment her.

But everything changes when Justin suddenly dies, and his ghost marks Taylor. Since Justin doesn’t know who killed him, Taylor must gain the trust of his friends by infiltrating the exclusive V Club, a secret society where members play true or dare with horrifying stakes.

It’s hard not to feel for Taylor, as Bryony Pearce pulls no punches in making her life almost unbearably hard. As the victim of such horrid bullying, where the teachers seem to be deliberately turning a blind eye, and having to hear her own father tell her again and again that she is crazy, and without her mother who also had the curse, it’s impressive that Taylor doesn’t fall apart. Having had personal experience with bullying in school, Taylor’s character resonated with me and I admired her strength to keep on struggling, even if no-one else understood or was on her side. For me, Taylor was the strongest part of The Weight of Souls, and her trials moved me.

That’s not to say this was its only strength – there is a lot to love about this book. The curse itself was both fascinating and seriously creepy, with clear rules as to how exactly it worked and background knowledge that, unlike some Young Adult books, didn’t make it feel added in for the sake of it. Having said that, there was still enough mystery to entertain you throughout and ends with room for a sequel. its origins to a exploration to an Ancient Egyptian tomb by Taylor’s ancestor and the god Anubis were very interesting and become a much bigger part of the story towards the end. Unfortunately, I can’t say more without spoiling the book.

It shows Bryony Pearce’s skill as a writer that the evolution of Justin from leader of Taylor’s tormentors to love interest feels natural and believable. He is a character you hate in the beginning, and his change could have easily felt forced and rushed, ruining the book – but he is more than the two-dimensional jerk potential boyfriend troupe that is commonly used in Young Adult. As Taylor gets to properly know Justin, he is shown to be a complicated boy caught up in the V Club, which has spiralled out of his control as their dares get more dangerous. With his realisation that he has in fact died without a chance to say goodbye to anyone, and his anger at being murdered, Justin is another very sympathetic character you came to love.

The Weight of Souls was a very entertaining book, with very sympathetic characters and a great idea done justice to. The story is left open, and I can only hope there will be a sequel.

4.5 stars.

Series Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Welcome to a special series review, where I review all the books in a series I love in one go. This week’s series is the amazing Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo; a Russian inspired world where one girl discovers she is the Sun Summoner, gifted with the power of light, and must fight against the darkness spreading over the land, and the man who can control it.

Today is the second novel in this series: Siege and Storm.

14061955Title: Siege and Storm

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Series: The Grisha #2

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review:

(Spoilers for book one.)

After hiding from the world for a few months Alina and Mal are betrayed and handed over to The Darkling, who has not only survived the Shadow Fold but gained a terrifying new power. They travel as prisoners on a pirate ship across the True Sea, hunting and capturing the mythical ice dragon known as the Sea Whip, to use its scales as another amplifier. The Darkling’s disturbing new plan to control both Alina and the Shadow Fold nearly comes into fruition – until the Captain, Sturmhond, steals the Sea Whip and escapes with both Alina and Mal across the Shadow Fold and back to Ravka.

After only just surviving an attack on the Fold, Strumhond reveals his true identity and his plans to fight against The Darkling, but he needs Alina’s help. Taken back to the Little Palace, Alina struggles to juggle uniting and leading the other Grishas, play politics with the Royal Family, dealing with the public belief that she is a Saint, and keep her relationship with Mal from falling apart. When she discovers that there is a third and final mythical creature that can be used as an amplifier, Alina has to face whether her desire for this power is just her duty to defeat The Darkling, or for her own gain.

If Shadow and Bone begins the series in with a familiar fantasy story, Siege and Storm throws out these well known and used ideas, and carves out its own path in a completely unpredictable way. It’s a thrilling book, full of surprising twists that work to make a brilliantly entertaining and clever read. One of the main causes of these twist is the character Strumhond, the notorious privateer who is not who everyone believes him to be. With a reputation for being charmingly clever as well as a cut-throat, he and his ship are for hire to the highest bidder – but you can never trust that you are in fact the highest bidder. Brilliantly scheming, charmingly witting, and a naturally confidant leader, Shurmhond is a new favourite character.

This book not easy on its treatment of Alina. She is struggling to fight a war and accept her responsibilities as the Sun Summoner by embracing her power whilst trying to still remain herself, despite finding that she is becoming increasingly tempted by the idea of more. She is terrified of turning into a monster, like The Darkling, but can’t stop herself thinking about him, and though she denies it, she is beginning to relate to him. Alina also has to deal with the expectations of the public believing her to be a Saint, the weight of her duty to save Ravka and being “holy” slowly crushing her spirit, but not her determination. Alina is a wonderfully written character, becoming even more real in this book. Her strength is admirable and her inner conflicts make her a relatable character, and just like the plot she makes some surprising but great choices.

The only setback to Siege and Storm was the ongoing relationship drama between Alina and Mal, mainly caused by Mal’s stubborn belief that Alina thinks her power makes her better than him. Whilst the reader can see through Alina’s narrative that this not true, it is obvious that her power does drive a wedge between them. This gives Alina another complication with obtaining the last amplifier, as she will have to eventually choose between her power and Mal. Mal, however, comes across as fairly selfish because of this and becomes just one more person demanding something from Alina.

 

It’s impossible to to predict where the next book, Ruin and Rising, will go, but I personally cannot wait to see what will happen. My only complaint is that the next book is sadly the last. This series is highly recommended.

4.5 stars.