Book Review: Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire

10184403Title: Chimes at Midnight

Author: Seanan McGuire

Series: October Daye #7

Rating: 5 stars

Review:

Toby knows first hand how hard life for changelings is, living under the rule of pure blooded faeries. Filled with contempt for the changelings, the rest of Faerie couldn’t care less about their welfare – not even when changelings start dying. A drug known as Goblin Fruit has flooded the streets of San Francisco, and is leaving a trail of bodies behind. Addictive from only one bite, Toby knows that if she doesn’t stop it, no-one will. So it looks like, once again, it’s all down to Toby. If it wasn’t for her friends, and boyfriend Tybalt, she’d probably go crazy.

But Toby needs the support of her friends more than ever when The Queen of the Mist suddenly banishes her from the kingdom, leaving Toby with only three days to arrange her affairs. But of course, for Toby things can always – and will always – get worse. In the middle of trying to save her skin, Toby is attacked and forced to ingest Goblin Fruit. Now she running out the clock from both the hatred of the Queen and her painful, and quite frankly, unfair addiction. And the more Toby and her friends uncover, the more it seems that the Queen is not actually legitimate after all.

The October Daye series is prime example of brilliant urban fantasy, and are some of my all time favourites. I’m a huge lover of faerie books, and truly believe that this series is has the best faeries, and some of the best characters in general. The level of research into folktales and legends is impressive and it really shows: there are many different types of fey featured in each book, each with their own unique origins, traditions, and quirks. In every book a new area of fey lore is introduced which is not only great for readers like me who already have an interest but it is written seamlessly into the narrative, avoiding info dumping or becoming boring.

The characters are one of the best part of this series, and they continue to go from strength to strength in each book. They each could stand on their own, and I would personally love to see spin off stories for all of them. My favourites are Toby, Tybalt, and the Luidaeg, but I love how all Toby’s friends band together to help her – they make an awesome team. It’s also refreshing to have a main character who’s not convince she must do it all alone, and is not afraid to ask for help. Toby’s romance with Tybalt is blossoming into something really moving. As an added bonus there is also a fair amount of humour and friendly banter, which has made me laugh several times.

Chimes at Midnight is a game changer in terms of plot, with secrets and relations reviled. I can’t imagine where the story will go next, but I can’t wait to find out.

5 stars.

September New Releases

There is nothing more exciting than the release of an amazing sounding book. I for one love the whole process of book releases: the slow reveal of the title, the cover, the synopsis, extracts and teasers, and then, finally, the publication day. So here is my personal list of books I’m looking forward to this month with their UK release dates.

Books I can’t wait for:
Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst – 3rd Sept
17286817Description:

Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she’s in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – 5th Sept
12813630Description:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

Antigoddess by Kendrare Blake – 10th Sept
13246736Description:

The Goddess War begins in Antigoddess, the first installment of the new series by acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake.

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

Kinslayer (The Lotus Wars #2) by Jay Kristoff – 12th Sept
17927022Description:
A SHATTERED EMPIRE
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of
civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken
dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires
nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé
rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the
thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin,
the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets,
and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins.
A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy
gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to
survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no
katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Boys #2) by Maggie S – 17th Sept
17370618Description:

The second installment in the all-new series from the masterful, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater!

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #2) by Rae Carson – 19th Sept
18370601Description:
The epic and deeply satisfying conclusion to Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns trilogy.

In the final volume of Carson’s trilogy, the 17-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she’s never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion – a champion to those who have hated her most. Riveting, surprising, and achingly romantic, Rae Carson has spun a bold and powerful conclusion to her extraordinary trilogy.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – 26th Sept
17727802Description:
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

The Falconer by Elizabeth May – 26th Sept
16046550Description:
Heiress. Debutant. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

Books that have caught my eye:
Relativity by Cristin Bishara – 10th Sept
17286818Description:

If Ruby Wright could have her way, her dad would never have met and married her stepmother Willow, her best friend George would be more than a friend, and her mom would still be alive. Ruby knows wishes can’t come true; some things just can’t be undone. Then she discovers a tree in the middle of an Ohio cornfield with a wormhole to nine alternative realities.

Suddenly, Ruby can access completely different realities, each containing variations of her life—if things had gone differently at key moments. The windshield wiper missing her mother’s throat…her big brother surviving his ill-fated birth…her father never having met Willow. Her ideal world—one with everything and everyone she wants most—could be within reach. But is there such a thing as a perfect world? What is Ruby willing to give up to find out?

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas – 17th Sept
17332556Description:

It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Th Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason – 17th Sept
16066190Description:

Two young women of similar age and standing have disappeared:
one found dead and the other still missing. The only clue to
connect them is a small Egyptian clockwork scarab. Only Miss
Stoker and Miss Holmes are well-positioned enough—similar in
age and stature as they are to the victims—to investigate. An
unlikely pair, the fierce Evaline Stoker and logical Mina Holmes must follow in the footsteps of their infamous families—Miss Holmes has inherited her Uncle Sherlock’s keen investigative skills, while Miss Stoker has accepted her family calling as a hunter of the undead. The partners must find a way to work together, while navigating the advances of a strange yet handsome American, a clever Scotland Yard investigator, and a cunning thief, to solve the mystery of the clockwork scarabs.

Set in steam punk London, steeped in Egyptian mythology
and literary references, with a surprising time travel twist and compelling romantic triangles, Colleen Gleason has crafted a fast-paced and romantic debut young adult novel.

Shadows by Robin McKinley – 26th Sept
17465456Description:

A compelling and inventive novel set in a world where science and magic are at odds, by Robin McKinley, the Newbery-winning author of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, as well as the classic titlesBeautyChaliceSpindle’s End, Pegasus and Sunshine

Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago.

Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know . . . until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage.

In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.

That’s my list for July, what about you? What books are you most looking forward to this month?

Early Review: Indelible by Dawn Metcalf

12411687Title: Indelible

Author: Dawn Metcalf

Series: The Twixt

Rating: 1.5 stars

Review:

Joy thought her life was hard enough already – her mother left after having an affair, her brother, the one person she can properly confide in, has gone away to university leaving her alone with her Dad, who tries but is still caught up in his own problems. That was before the night at a club when a boy tried to blind her by stabbing her in the eye. Since then she’s been seeing . . . things. Flashes in the corner of her eye, strange messages she doesn’t understand, creatures coming for her.

The boy who tried to stab her, Ink, reveals he is in fact a faerie, and tells her that she has been marked as one of his lehmen – a messenger, servant, and, sometimes, lover. Now Joy is caught in a world of monsters and magic, between those who want to use her to get to Ink and those who want the fey to dominate the human world.

Young adult books about the fey are often hard to get right: the juxtaposition of unearthly, immortal, magical creatures against human teenagers in the modern day world is difficult. Some are written beautifully, and manage to explore the fey world in great detail[1], but others unfortunately (like many YA fantasy books) end up using this magic as a set up for a predicable romance between annoying characters, wasting the great ideas that were made to sound so much bigger in the blurb. Sadly, Indelible was the latter of these books –  another case of great ideas, poor excision. This had the potential to be a very interesting book, but not enough focus on the magic, with a brief explanation as to how the magic worked which barely made sense, and unlikeable character, ruined it.

The few faerie creatures who did show up, like Filly the viking warrior woman who loves battle and Aniseed the villain who believes in fey supremacy, were interesting, but not featured anywhere near  often enough. In fact, Aniseed, who was meant to be the main villain, wasn’t even mentioned by name until about three quarters of the way through the book. The odd messages left for Joy, before she understood what was happening, were quiet creepy and created a fair bit of tension as she didn’t know where or when the next one would come from, but this seemed to be dropped far too quickly once Ink was properly introduced. Joy’s job as messenger as a whole was overshadowed and all but forgotten in exchange for the romance and parties with Ink’s sister, Inq. Which leads to another huge problem: why on earth would you name two of your main character Ink and Inq? It’s confusing and comes across as lazy.

None of the characters were likeable. Joy was unbelievable selfish: with every problem that occurred, including ones that were nothing to do with her,   Joy’s first thought is “this make it so much harder for me!”. For instance, when her brother tells her he has discovered he is gay, her first reaction is to become angry and upset at him for hiding this information from her. This, and many other similar instances, made her sound like a spoil, bratty child. Inq was just as petty and annoying, a girl who thought of nothing but her own wants and needs, even if that means pulling people away from their lives, just so she can party, with no notice. Ink was bland and boring, making him a very poor romantic interest. Other reviews have mentioned his ‘slowly learning to become human and feel love’, but I personally couldn’t see it. Using contractions in your speech and obsessing over the shape of ears doesn’t make you human, or particularly interesting to read about. The stereotypical idea of a girl ‘curing’ a boy, and teaching him to love is both patronising and stupid.

The worst part of this book, however? It was boring. So boring, that had it not been an ARC, I would have stopped reading about half way through. I was not impressed in the slightest by Indelible.

1.5 stars.

[1] Examples of good faerie books are Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series (YA), Malissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series (YA), Seanan McGuire’s Tody Daye series (adult), and Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series (YA).

Book Review: A Sliver of Shadow by Alison Pang

11929939Title: A Sliver of Shadow

Author: Alison Pang

Series: Abby Sinclair #2

Rating: 3.5 stars

Review:

(Spoilers for book one.)

Abby is still adjusting to her new life as a Touchstone – someone who can help the OtherFolk cross between our world and the world of Faery – and though she is getting the hang of it, it’s not easy. Especially when Moria, the Protectorate, leaves for the Faery Court. With Abby left in charge things go from bad to worse when a spell on Abby backfires and causes the Queen of Faery seals the doors between the two worlds closed. Now OtherFolk on Earth are fading, and Faery is preparing for war with Hell. All Abby can do is travel to the CrossRoads and attempt to override the Queen’s magic, and prey she is strong enough for it to work.

This book continues the dynamic politics and magic system set up in the first book, exploring Abby’s role as a Touchstone and the relationship between Earth, Faery, and Hell. Abby herself is a great urban fantasy character, strong and brave without becoming a stereotype; she admits her fears and doubts but doesn’t let them stop her, and is willing to sacrificing herself to save Faery. However, Abby fails to live up to this when it comes to her first love interest, the incubus Brystion. He turns up half way through the book and does nothing but act self absorbed and arrogant, with no respect for what Abby wants. Sadly Abby never calls him out on his actions, only ever half-heartedly telling him to back off then giving in to him. In book one, Brystion was the classic sweet but tormented and misunderstood hero, but in A Sliver of Shadow has become the other urban fantasy cliche; the self involved jerk who can’t understand the word “no”. This change is hugely disappointing.  Also, the descriptions of Faery were very interesting, but few and far between and felt like they could have been much more extensive. This was a missed opportunity, and very disappointing seeing as most of the book is set in Faery.

What saved the book though, other than Abby herself, was the elf prince Talivar and the unexpected cliffhanger ending. Talivar, the second love interest, was much more preferable than Brystion – in fact, he seemed to fill the void of positive male love interest left by Brystion. Talivar is sweet, understanding, charming, and funny; a much more favourable character in general and a better match for Abby. The cliffhanger was a complete surprise, leaving you wanting to read the sequel now, and may be a complete game changer for this series. Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best in book three.

3.5 stars