You’re probably getting sick of this. But here is another book that deserves all kinds of superlatives and that I can’t shut up about. To my attentive readers, this will come as no surprise at all. Cat Valente has been rocking my reading world since last year but 2013 is particularly Valente-heavy. I just can’t keep my hands (and eyes) off her books. And the amazing, surprising, even unbelievable thing is that every single one of them is brilliant. If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it here: Catherynne M. Valene is easily my favorite writer.
Published by: Subterranean, 2013
Hardcover: 165 pages
My rating: 8,5/10
First sentence: I accept with equanimity that you will not credit me when I tell you Mr. H married a Crow woman and had a baby with her round about the time he struck his fortune in the good blue, which is how folk used to designate Nevada silver.
From New York Times bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente comes a brilliant reinvention of one the best known fairy tales of all time. In the novella Six-Gun Snow White, Valente transports the title’s heroine to a masterfully evoked Old West where Coyote is just as likely to be found as the seven dwarves.
A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parents—a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother’s death in childbirth, so begins a heroine’s tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.
I’ll be honest, this time around the style took a little getting used to. This is, however, entirely my own fault. I am still right in the middle of The Orphan’s Tales and my head (and heart) has a lot of trouble letting go of that world. But when this hardback beauty arrived in the mail, there was no way I wasn’t going to devour it, and soon. Especially because I thought, when I bought it, I was just getting the “regular” hardback, not numbered or signed or special in any way (other than being a Cat Valente book and, therefore, inherently special). I was all the more surprised when I opened it and saw this:
Yup. That is mine. All mine. Even my boyfriend squeed with me (because guess who gets to hear even more gushing Valente fangirl rants from me than you guys?). A bit of research showed me that there were only signed copies of this and I, without knowing it, snatched one.
Like I have mentioned before, fairytales were my very first contact with stories, tales that I knew so well I would correct my grandparents when they told me one. Retellings of fairytales are incredibly popular these days which does not mean that they are any good. Most YA retellings (Margo Lanagan totally excluded) simpy set the fairy tale in an different place or make it modern. Valente is cleverer than that. While transporting the story of Snow White into the west, making her father a miner and her mother a Crow woman, already adds an element of interest to the well-known story. Snow White’s childhood is not a happy one and she is reminded constantly – by her name if not anyone else – what she can never be. Beautiful and loved and white. The stepmother lives up to everything you’d expect from Snow White’s evil stepmother and that fact that she wraps her cruelties in a cloak of “love” makes it even worse.
She put jasper and pearl combs in my hair and yanked them so tight I cried – there, now you’re a lady, she said, and I did not know if the comb or the tears did it. She put me in her own corsets like nooses strangling my waist til I was sick, my breath gone and my stomach shoved up into my ribs – there, now you’re civilized, she said, and I did not know if it was the corset or the sickness that did it. She forbade me to eat sweets or any good thing til I got thin as a dog and could hardly stand I was so damn hungry – there, now you’re beautiful, she said and I did not know if it was my dog-bones showing or my crawling in front of her begging for a miserable apple to stop my belly screaming that made me fair.
For myself I thought: this is how you make a human being. A human being is beautiful and sick. A human being glitters and starves.
There are heartbreaking moments of cruelty in this novella, but then there are amazing moments of strength. I couldn’t quite figure out Snow White until the end, I could never be sure how she would decide in a given moment, but I had endless amounts of empathy for the little girl just trying to be loved by her new mother, for the lost woman trying to find a place where she can belong, but never quite fitting in anywhere.
Elements of the original fairytale were incorporated in a clever way. Apples are involved, the stepmother does visit three times, but Snow White is anything but stupid. Her character was nuanced, which made her quite different from the Snow White we may all know (from fairytales or the Disney version) but it also made her a believable person. There is a hunt but it involves guns rather than bow and arrow, and my favorite part was the shape the seven dwarves took in this alternate version. They brought me enormous amounts of happiness but I can’t tell you why without spoiling the fun a little.
This being a novella, there are few characters, but every one of them – even the ones who never get any lines – are three-dimensional. This is something that keeps impressing me. Cat Valente creates atmosphere and an entire personality within a short paragraph. Her style, while experimental and a little different in every book, has a fairytale-esque quality to it that never ceases to engross me. Even if the plot were shit, I could open any of her books and just fall into whatever paragraph my eyes would land on. That’s how beautifully she writes.
My only complaint about this book is that it could have been longer. Especially parts that happened toward the end, Red Deer becoming a character, Snow White sort of bonding with animals, were so powerful that I could have read on and on and on. They were cut short by the ending and I was a little sad about that. The ending as such worked for me, but then so would a completely different one. I consider it a good thing that Valente’s books aren’t about how it all ends, they are about everything that happens from beginning to end, they don’t rely on a big reveal at the end or even a huge climax. They just are. Whenever I read one of her books, I have that feeling of I don’t want this to end.
THE GOOD: Valente paints pictures of wonder and magic in your head, uses words in a way I have never seen before, and tells stories of strong women struggling through life.
THE BAD: I wanted more (or longer) scenes toward the end, more of the women’s village, more of Red Deer.
THE VERDICT: If you like fairytale retellings, mythpunk, or lyrical prose, you’ve come to the right place. This also happens to be a beautiful book (speaking of the cover, binding, paper texture).
RATING: 8,5/10 – More than excellent
You can read an excerpt on Tor.
Let me be honest with you. I’ve always preferred Through the Looking Glass to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Even so, it is rare that I can resist anything with a bit of Alice in it. There were two reasons why I requested a review copy of this book via NetGalley. Number one was the beautiful cover. It drew me in and made me read the blurb. Number two was just that blurb. The little descriptions of the four short stories all included some buzz word that made me go “ooh”. Let’s see how I ended up liking this small volume.
Published by: Candlemark & Gleam, 2011
ebook: 219 pages
My rating: 5/10
First sentence: The boy has managed, so far, to displace himself four meters off the ground.
In 1865, Alice went on an adventure to Wonderland. Today, four modern authors follow her down the rabbit hole…
This is the first in a planned series in the (re)Visions line, which is devoted to exploring the lasting legacy of classic works of speculative fiction on our genres and on our lives. In each book in the series, four authors will tackle a classic work of imaginative fiction, and give it their own spin; along with each of these novellas will also be the original work.
I read few to no anthologies or short story collections (a fault I am trying to remedy at the moment) and it may be because I feel the need to read the stories in order and not skip any of them. Reading short stories online (at Clarkesworld, etc.) has brought me enormous amounts of pleasure, though, so I thought I’d give this little collection a try. After all, not much can go wrong when you know you’re getting spins on a favorite classic, right? Well…
Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
I won’t say much about this. It is Alice as we know and love her, and if I ever do write a review on that book, it will get its own post. This was very nice beginning for the anthology, of course, and gave me an excuse to re-read it. Luckily, I can continue in my Annotated Alice which includes Through the Looking Glass. That one is definitely worth its own review…
I will talk about each of the four contained novellas separately, as they were all written by a different author.
Kaye Chazan – What Aelister Found Here
Blurb: It is 1888, and Aelister has never felt at home, not even in his own skin. Now that he’s been expelled from school, he sees no reason to stick around his house in Warwickshire, so he runs away to another world altogether: London. The city is a maze of heat and rain, where a murderer stalks the streets of Whitechapel and a Crown Prince flouts his mother’s laws, and Aelister soon finds himself dealt into a series of deadly games—ones that put his life, and far more, on the line. And while London may not be the wonderland Aelister expected to find, he is far from the only person in the city looking for that very place.
Now this is what I was hoping for. The story opens on our practical boy-protagonist in avery Alice-like style. The witty prose and clever asides were totally up my alley and reminded me very much of Victorian prose. There are references to Alice and they are very neatly incorporated into the real-world setting. While the main story has pacing problems as soon as Aelister arrives in London, it picks up once a very peculiar game of chess starts. I enjoyed how Jack the Ripper was mixed into this strange little tale, but the end came extremely abrubtly and was somewhat anticlimactic. The Alice-elements are subdued, you will recognize a lot of characters from the original. Altogether, a story that I enjoyed more for its whimsical tone and its practical protagonist than for its connection to the original Alice. Recommended. Rating: 6,5/10
Amanda Ching – House of Cards
Blurb: There’s Alice, who fell down a rabbit hole and had an adventure. Then there’s the Queen of Hearts, who loses her temper quite frequently. But before that, there was Mary Ann, a servant pressed past patience, past duty. As all three hurtle toward an inevitable meeting, a creature has broken from its coffin and is even now tunneling to meet them. When the deck is stacked like this, even the strongest foundation could crumble.
This story featured surprisingly many characters for such a short piece and the climax was probably supposed to be when it all comes together and the separate storylines make sense as a whole. But the story as such failed to grab my attention and I mostly just read on because I wanted to get to the next story. The Queen of Hearts as well as some other known characters do show up but mostly to spout nonsense. And not the brilliant kind of nonsense Lewis Carroll gave us, just plain nonsense without much humor. Except for the occasional badam-tish line that made me roll my eyes rather than smile. I was hoping for some fantasy elements but even that bubble was burst. I’ll give the writer props for the idea but I think it would have needed more characterisation and depth to work. Rating: 3,5/10
Hilary Thomas – Knave
Blurb: In the city they call Wonderland, the Queen calls the shots. If she doesn’t like the way you’re playing the game, she’ll give you the axe. Permanently. Jack Knave is an investigator, a man of many talents, an occasional blade for The Crown; and he’s the best at what he does. He knows every face in the city, every move they make, every connection. Except one.When a mysterious woman shows up in town, Jack is sure she’s not just here for the tourism. But the more he digs, the less he knows. Finding the answers means getting close to her, but she’s not the only one with secrets. Somebody’s been stealing from the Queen, and it looks like Jack’s taking the fall. Alice could seal his fate with a word—or not. With no options left, and the odds stacked against him, Jack must make a desperate gamble to survive. Whether his luck holds out or he’s left out to dry, one thing’s for certain: he can’t afford to lose his head.
Jack Knave lives in the city of Wonderland and the arrival of a certain dame named Alice turns things upside down. This is Wonderland goes noir. I was surprised by how much that genre mash-up appealed to me. But an idea alone does not make a good story. Characters may have names that sound like they are from Wonderland (Jimmy Cheshire, Jack Knave, The Queen, Kingsley, Alice) but they are walking stereotypes. I don’t read noir fiction but I have seen a few movies that fit the description. There is nothing new or original about this story. There also happens to be no magic whatsoever and the big reveal (if, indeed, it is supposed to be a big reveal) was painfully predictable. All of that said, I enjoyed the story more than “House of Cards”. The prose wasn’t a revelation but easy enough to read and the plot was fast-paced and had a nice flow to it. Probably not a story I will remember for long, but enjoyable, nonetheless. Recommended with reservations. Rating: 5,5/10
C.A. Young – The World in a Thimble
Blurb: Toby Fitzsimmons hates the creepy sculpture of Alice on display in his gallery, but when it drops him into Wonderland for real, he’s not prepared for what he finds. From real living furniture to scoutmasters and cowboys to coyotes who really do go everywhere, Toby finds himself in a Wonderland that’s more deadly, and much more American, than the one he remembers reading about as a boy. At the heart of it all is the Catmistress, who rules over the city’s dark alleys and knows the secret of the Cheshire trick. In this strange new world, Toby will need all the help he can get to find his way home. Before that, though, he’ll have to find a way to keep from losing himself. Wonderland, it seems, changes everything it touches. And then there’s the thing in the sewers…
This time around, the story starts in a modern day setting with gallery owner Toby, who spends his time as a punching bag for Hambrick, a man whose collection he’s showing in said gallery. With a little help from the Alice sculpture on display, he falls into Wonderland. I was insanely happy to actually read a story that took me to Wonderland and showed me some of its marvels. There are flying coyotes (who can talk, of course), cats who know the Cheshire Trick, depressed fountains, and bottles that say “drink me”. It could have been so nice. But the writing is clumsy at best, the characters – including Toby – are very flat, and the storyline is predictable. I did enjoy the craziness of Wonderland and its inhabitants but the description dumps and the characters left me rather unimpressed. Rating: 5/10
Overall, the first story was my favorite because it hit the tone of the original most closely and, while not showing us actual Wonderland, gave well-known characters a new personality. It had atmosphere and a good plot. I liked “Knave” second best, despite its stereotypical characters and predictable plotline. At least the idea was original and the execution okay. As a collection, I didn’t love it and wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. But if you love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and want to see its characters wearing new cloaks, this might be right for you.
RATING: 5/10 - Meh
I picked this book up for two reasons. One, the Book Smugglers have a major love affair with Frances Hardinge’s books. And, two, I trust children’s books much more at the moment than I do YA. I never thought I could shy away from an entire genre but the pile of crap that is being published lately is disturbing. I am sticking with adult books and, to get my dose of whimsy, books for younger kids. Thanks to Ana and Thea for the recommendation – this was a blast.
Published by: Macmillan, 2005
ebook: 448 pages
Series: Fly by Night #1
My rating: 7,5/10
First sentence: “But names are important!”, the nursemaid protested.
A breath-taking adventure story, set in reimagined eighteenth-century England. As the realm struggles to maintain an uneasy peace after years of cival war and tyranny, a twelve-year-old orphan and her loyal companion, a grumpy goose, are about to become the unlikely heroes of a radical revolution. Mosca Mye has spent her childhood in a miserable hamlet, after her father was banished there for writing inflammatory books about freedom. Now he is dead and Mosca is on the run, heading for the city of Mandelion. There she finds herself living by her wits among cut-throat highwaymen, spies and smugglers. With peril at every turn, Mosca uncovers a dark plot to terrorize the people of Mandelion, and soon merry mayhem leads to murder . . .
With an unforgettable cast of characters and an inspiring message at its heart – sometimes the power of words can change the world
It’s going to be very difficult to talk about this novel without rehashing the entire plot. So I will only give you the basics. Mosca Mye runs away from home, with only her trusted goose from hell, Saracen, by her side. Her journey will take her to the rather unsuccessful conman Eponymous Clent, and later into the city of Mandelion. There, conspiracies are brewing under the surface, an illegal printing press has the Stationers Guild up in arms, and Mosca manages to get herself right into the center of the political intrigue.
Which leads me to the first two things that impressed me. First of all, Frances Hardinge manages to put a quite complicated political situation in a children’s book and make it accessible despite its intricacies. Sure, I can hear the outcry of certain parents (the same ones who cried out about Cat Valente’s Fairyland books) that this may be too difficult for a child to understand, but I’ve always been of the opinion that people can only grow when they are confronted with something new. And children spend most of their time discovering things they don’t understand. Yet. That said, it did take me a while to understand how the political factions are connected to each other. The Guilds – Stationers, Locksmiths, Watermen – each came to life after a while and I came to see a bigger picture.
The second thing that made me adore this story was the author’s phenomenal imagination. There is very little 18th century England in this novel, most of it is pure made-up brilliance. Be it the religion – one with numerous gods, shrines, and giving children a name befitting the Beloved under which they were born – the city of Mandelion, where coffee houses are found on boats and can float down the river at a moment’s notice, or the politics governing that city. Mosca is born under Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butterchurns (see why I love this?) and is thusly named Mosca – fly in Spanish. I found it stunning and refreshing and was reminded a little bit of the Flora Segunda books. Every page offers something new to the greedy reader and these things can range from downright hilarious, to scary, to surprising. You will look for boring moments in vain.
The only reason I haven’t mentioned the characters yet is because the abovementioned two points stand out so much they had to come first. But Mosca Mye definitely deserves to be noticed, not only because she is a plucky heroine with her heart in the right place and her body often in the wrong place and the wrongest of tiems, but also because she is a girl I wholeheartedly want my own children to love and look up to. Mosca doesn’t always do what’s right, but she always does what she believes to be the right thing. She is not perfect. Living in the swampy town of Chough has made her eyebrows almost seethrough, her face is often described as ferrety and her looks don’t even figure into the plot at all. What a refreshing notion – and one I see much better done in Middle Grade fiction than YA, for some reason. While the side characters don’t show up a whole lot, they each have personality and a distinct voice that made it easy for me to know who was talking, even without the “xyz said”. Eponymous Clent especially has grown on me with his flowery speech and the big words he uses.
While this wilde adventure is over and Mosca is mostly unscathed (come on, that’s not a spoiler), there is a sequel to Fly by Night which I will be reading quite soon. After all, there is some unfinished business to take care of and I have a hunch that Mosca won’t be far from it when things culminate…
And after all, it was Mosca who said:
THE GOOD: Great characters having a wonderful adventure in a wildly imaginative world. Politics, intrigues, and ideas that will challenge kids to think for themselves. A heroine that is lovable and concerned with things other than boys and her looks. Yay.
THE BAD: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, the political intrigue may be a bit over their head. Honestly, I think even without understand all the details, kids will still enjoy this story for the fun adventure that it is.
BONUS: Saracen, the goose. Unstoppable.
THE VERDICT: 7,5/10 – Very good.
I finished the penultimate instalment of the Codex Alera a few days ago. The fact that I didn’t immediately write down my thoughts goes to show that I was quite underwhelmed this time around. Having come this far, I will obviously listen to the last book in the series, but just to put it into perspective: Had this been a standalone novel or the first in a series, I wouldn’t feel the need to read anything else by Butcher. SPOILERS for books 1-4 ahead…
Published by: Penguin Audio, 2008
Audiobook: 17 h 46 min
Paperback: 640 pages
Series: Codex Alera #5
My rating: 6/10
First sentence: Raucus had cut his teeth in battle at fourteen years of age.
Tavi of Calderon, now recognized as Princeps Gaius Octavian and heir to the crown, has achieved a fragile alliance with Alera’s oldest foes, the savage Canim. But when Tavi and his legions guide the Canim safely to their lands, his worst fears are realized.The dreaded Vord—the enemy of Aleran and Cane alike—have spent the last three years laying waste to the Canim homeland. And when the Alerans are cut off from their ships, they find themselves with no choice but to fight shoulder to shoulder if they are to survive.For a thousand years, Alera and her furies have withstood every enemy, and survived every foe.The thousand years are over…
Jim Butcher returns to his well-established characters pretty much where he left them off in Captain’s Fury. Once again, the foe threatening the kingdom of Alera is the Vord, that alien species which seems to adapt to any circumstances and grow more terrifying the more they are defied. Pretty early on, I knew I wouldn’t love this book. Tavi’s storyline takes place entirely out of Alera – first we follow him on a sea voyage drawn out for no good reason and slowing down the plot any time the point of view switched to Tavi. Isana, Amara, Bernard, and Ehren may be up to interesting things of their own – Isana trying to make peace with the Icemen in the north, Amara and Bernard on a dangerous mission for the First Lord, and Ehren just genearlly having his hands in a bit of everything. But the pacing was so off in this volume that I could rarely work up interest in any plotline.
Tavi’s storyline was by far the weakest, although it did have its moments of edge-of-your-seat action (we know Jim Butcher is good at writing those). Amara’s story being the most nuanced in that it is about more than travelling and looking at the Vord destroy everything (althout a fair bit of that, too), still wasn’t up to par. Obviously, this book benefits from me already having enjoyed the volumes that came before, and the author’s laziness in character development was balanced out by my memories of who the characters are. I don’t mind authors who let their readers do part of the work in creating a vibrant world and characters that feel real. But this is not that kind of create-a-world-together, it’s the kind of I-already-told-you-who-Isana-is-now-I-don’t-feel-like-giving-her-depth-anymore. The ladies especially suffered from this laziness. Kitai rarely has anything better to say than that she worries about Tavi, Isana is the strawman peacemaker, willing to sacrifice everything for her country – remember her opinion in the former books? She didn’t seem to give much of a fuck about politics, it was her loved ones and her quiet live she cared about. If the author had show us what had brought about this change, I would have been fine with it. This way it is just inconsistent.
This is not only true of the female characters. Some of the most interesting male side characters also lose all their depth. And I can’t even tell you in favor of what! Because there isn’t enough quick-succession action or complex politics to justify that lack of love for your characters, Mr. Butcher. Altogether, the book seemed like an unnecessary instalment in the series, where the author relied too heavily on the work done in previous books, and offered very little that was new or pushed the actual plot forward.
Having let the book “settle” for almost a week and looking back at its entirety, it just feels like a big mess. Plotstrings, characters, and world-building all seem to me extremely confused. The Canim, for example, have been established as a people who rely on hierarchy and demonstration of power, almost like a pack of wolves (because obviously). Their actions have always seemed consistent within that set of rules so far, but now even they acted out of character, being too trusting or, at times, just plain stupid. The Icemen didn’t even merit being properly introduced as anything other than “those barbarians in the north”. They are humanized to some degree but, let’s face it, they are not really written as people, just another stand-in threat that needs to heroically be resolved.
Needless to say, this was not my favorite book in the series. But Butcher continues to write in a way that is gripping and intriguing, at least when it comes to action. He seriously let his characters drift and unlike the other novels in the series, this one does not offer a proper ending. Some of those random plot-threads are semi-resolved, everything else is still chaos, literally and figuratively. Alera is struggling against an overwhelming enemy and any structure goes down the drain, and I was struggling to keep interested in (fictional) peoples’ lives who didn’t read at all like the characters I had come to know and love.
THE GOOD: Good, thrilling action and fight scenes.
THE BAD: Confused on so many levels: plot threads, character development, politics, and world-building.
THE VERDICT: As a standalone, I would not recommend this. But having almost finished the series, I won’t stop here now. My hope is high that Butcher got back to old form in the last book and delivers a well-plottet story peopled with lovable characters again. Fingers crossed…
RATING: 6/10 – Okay
The Codex Alera:
I know, I know. My forays into recent YA fantasy have been mostly devastating (with the exception of Patrick Ness, who is awesome) and it seems that I keep falling for the same kind of hype. But Laini Taylor has been praised not only by voracious YA readers but by pretty much everyone, and I feel reluctant writing off a new (to me) writer just because the hype seems insincere (again). You know the feeling, right?
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011
ebook: 391 pages
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
My rating: 2,5/10
First sentence: Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Oh boy… it is at times like these that I am grateful I don’t have a lot of followers. Or at least not the kind of followers who will rip me apart for disliking a beloved book. Let’s do this! Karou is a young girl who goes to an art school in Prague. What her quirky best friend Zuzana doesn’t know is that Karou leads a second life. A life of running errands for the only family she has – a group of chimaera, monsters if you will, with bodies that are part human and part animal. Karou knows almost nothing about the chimaera or their magic which makes for a great premise and immediately drew me into the story. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t really focus on these interesting bits enough. Instead, she has other things in mind. Let me explain with this quote:
Karou was, simply, lovely. Creamy and leggy, with long azure hair and the eyes of a silent-movie star, she moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx. Beyond merely pretty, her face was vibrantly alive, her gaze always sparkling and luminous, and she had a birdlike way of cocking her head, her lips pressed together while her dark eyes danced, that hinted at secrets and mysteries.
This is worrying for two reasons. One, nobody is that perfect. Personally, I like my heroines flawed – physically as well as otherwise – and except for photoshopped supermodels, I have never seen a woman who could be described like this. I only quoted this one part, because it shows just how über-perfect Karou is and how clunky the language in which she is described. But there are numerous occasions on which Karou’s perfection is highlighted. Her ballet-dancer figure, her shiny hair. Every single girl and woman I know has in some way suffered because she didn’t fit the current beauty ideal. Having struggled with my own weight and a pimply face for quite a few years, I find it much easier to sympathise with protagonists who are in some way like me. Give her too bushy eyebrows, a potato nose, crooked front teeth – something to make her more realistic. I should also mention, that everyobdy in this book is of otherworldy beauty. I’ll grant that some of these characters actually are supernatural and I’ll forgive them their perfection, but with everybody being beautiful, the word just lost its meaning.
The second reason this paragraph struck me as awful was that this is a third person limited narrative. Meaning, we see and know only what Karou sees and knows. That is essential to the plot, because for the most part of the story, she is rather clueless. Then I read this paragraph and wonder how full of oneself a person has to be to describe herself in such a manner. Had another viewpoint character spotted her and thought these things, everything would be peachy, it would be his perception of her. The way it was done? Not ok. On a sidenote, the other viewpoint character does see her and describes her in equally flowery, cheesy language. So there you go.
Having gotten the author’s obsession with physical beauty out of the way, there were other things that rubbed me the wrong way. As the story progresses, Karou stops thinking about her love life and starts thinking more about survival. But there is a clear line between her adventures concerning the chimaera world and Karou’s real world life. The latter never offers more than conversations about boys, idiotic stereotypical girl characters and – you guessed it – more talk about how beautiful everybody is. This became worse and worse, especially when the male romantic lead shows up. It was at that point that the writing took a terrible spin for wanna-be-poetic, but ended up being clunky and, a lot of times, illogical.
[...]when I saw her smile I wondered what it would be like to make her smile. I thought… I thought it would be like the discovery of smiling.
Apart from strange and not very elegant sentences like the one above, there are tons of continuity and logical mistakes in this book. Remember, this is third person limited. However, when we switch between the two protagonists, Akiva knows things that Karou only thought to herself in the last chapter, never said out loud. He has information that he couldn’t possibly have – unless he’s also a mind-reader. Frequently, you will find moments of head-jumping in the middle of a chapter. Generally, that’s ok. It is the inconsistency that bothered me. The author couldn’t make up her mind whether to use a third person limited or third person omniscient perspective. The fact that you never know what you’ll get in a given chapter is massively annoying.
But speaking of Akiva… oh boy. If you’re a Twilight fan, you will probably find him cute and strong and protective and whatnot, but let’s face it. He is 50 years old. He stalks Karou, watches her sleep, and – without warning, by the way – falls in love with her. Well, the only “warning” we get is that Karou is beautiful. That’s enough, right? Apart from being a creepy, old stalker who falls in love with a girl who could be his dauther, this felt wrong to me on so many levels. If at least there had been an actual romance, a getting to know each other and slowly falling in love, maybe (though probalby not) I wouldn’t feel so strongly about this. But it’s insta-love. And just because it is insta-love on second sight doesn’t change that fact. Karou is also most taken with Akiva’s beauty. At least people are equally shallow in this story – men are worthless if they don’t look pretty just the same way women are.
The bottom line is: A 17-year-old girl and a 50-year-old man fall in love because of how pretty they are. I am disgusted.
At pretty much the exact point the “romance” starts, Laini Taylor apparently decided to entirely drop all plot. Everything that we get to read in the second half of the book is how two impossibly beautiful people are in love after only a few minutes together. The last third was definitely the worst, though. Not only because the prose reaches levels of cheesiness that I thought were impossible but because the story is interrupted for flashbacks. Flashbacks that tell us – in minute and achingly boring detail – things we already know! In somewhat decent foreshadowing, we were given all the information we needed. But it seems that we get the prequel included in this first of a trilogy. Needless to say, it slowed down what was already a very loose plot to a standstill.
Let me mention the few things that were done well. In the first half of the book (this is vital, the second half is pure torture), the story was actually quite immersive, and hard to put down. It promised to show us a world of wonder, a world filled with monsters and dark magic – all of which was unceremoniously dropped for a lame romance between a child and an oldish man and for flashbacks with more gorgeous people telling each other how perfect they are.
Another thing I liked (again, only in the beginning) was Taylor’s sense of humor. Zuzana, who was mostly there for comic relief, always had something funny to say. Even Brimstone came up with the occasional chuckle-worthy sentence.
I don’t know many rules to live by,” he said. “But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles – drug or tattoo – and… no inessential penises, either.”
I could rant much more because this could have been a great book. If somebody had dared to tell the author to stay on track with the plot and to tune down the descriptions of beauty and flowery language a bit, it could have worked. This way, the book was just horrible. A fresh idea wasted on somebody who lacked either the will or help to execute it well.
THE GOOD: A great idea and a thrilling beginning.
THE BAD: Every character is of unnatural beauty, the language is clunky, there are logical mistakes galore, the romance is revolting, the plot gets dropped mid-book. Plus, cliffhanger (for those who care what happens).
THE VERDICT: Not recommended. Dear YA authors. Not every story needs a forced romance, especially between an old man and a teenage girl. Age is not just about how old you look, it is about experience and maturity. This was a pretty terrible book.
RATING: 2,5/10 – Terrible
- Ten Things About… Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (tenthingsabout.wordpress.com)
- Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor; or, the Official Worldbuilding Committee (jennysbooks.wordpress.com)
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone ~ Laini Taylor (silkscreenviews.wordpress.com)
- Daughter of Smoke & Bone – Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1) (nicsbookshelf.wordpress.com)
Originally, I had planned to read Lord’s new book The Best of All Possible Worlds first but couldn’t really get into the right mood. I loved the writing style, but the time wasn’t right for a science fiction travelogue/love story, and so I thought, why not read her debut novel first? While very different in style and premise, it intrigued me in a similar way. The novel stands out for its originality and its freshness, not for its plot. I had a lot of fun for a couple of hours and Lord is a talented writer that I’ll be following.
Published by: Small Beer Press, 2010
ebook: 200 pages
My rating: 7,5/10
First sentence: A rival of mine once complained that my stories begin awkwardly and end untidily.
Paama’s husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents’ home in the village of Makendha—now he’s disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones—the djombi— who present her with a gift: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, a wrathful djombi with indigo skin believes this power should be his and his alone.
Bursting with humor and rich in fantastic detail, Redemption in Indigo is a clever, contemporary fairy tale that introduces readers to a dynamic new voice in Caribbean literature. Lord’s world of spider tricksters and indigo immortals is inspired in part by a Senegalese folk tale—but Paama’s adventures are fresh, surprising, and utterly original.
When you start reading Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo, you will not be able to say just where the story begins. It is narrated in such a way that makes you believe another person is telling you the story, frequently breaking the fourth wall, jumping ahead in time or space, explaining to you that a character might not be all bad, despite what you’ve seen him do. Redemption in Indigo is almost like a conversation between reader and storyteller.
The first few chapters are a retelling of the Senegalese folktale “Ansige Karamba, the glutton” but Lord decided that the story shouldn’t end there. Paama is a magnificent cook, famed throughout the land for her culinary creations. Her husband is a glutton – a match made in heaven, one might think. If it weren’t for Ansige’s foolishness when it comes to food. He will eat anything, especially if he suspects somebody else so much as looks at his food. And Ansige considers all food his food. When he embarrasses himself and Paama in her own hometown, she decides to leave him, once and for all.
Ansige’s escapades in search of more food may be troubling and mortifying for Paama, but they were delightfully funny to read. Karen Lord takes on a fairy tale-esque narrative style, infused with a subtle sense of humor. In this very slim novel, she manages fantastic characterization that rivals many bigger books. She features strong women, several djombi, and to my particular delight – Anansi, the trickster god. And every single one of them is drawn with precision and love for humanity. In all their flaws and ugliness, their beauty and virtues, these characters jump from the page, and take residency in your head for a while.
Lord juxtaposes the magical with the mundane without effort and in case the reader is worried about the physics of it all, the narrator preemts any concerns.
I know your complaint already. You are saying, how do two grown men begin to see talking spiders after only three glasses of spice spirit? My answer to that is twofold. First, you have no idea how strong spice spirit is made in that region. Second, you have no idea how talking animals operate. Do you think they would have survived long if they regularly made themselves known? For that matter, do you think an arachnid with mouthparts is capable of articulating the phrase “I am a pawnbroker” in any known human language? Think! These creatures do not truly talk, nor are they truly animals, but they do encounter human folk, and when they do, they carefully take with them all memory of the meeting. (page 20)
My favorite part was easily Ansige’s tribulations but the story really starts when Paama is given the Chaos Stick, a wooden stick holding the power of making the possible probable, and so changing the course of the world, butterfly effect style. This idea really spoke to me and wouldn’t have minded seeing more of it. Being the central McGuffin of this tale, the Chaos Stick actually takes a place in the background when we are introduced to the Indigo Lord, a djombi fallen from grace. All I’m going to say is that Karen Lord kept more than one surprise up her sleeve when it came to him.
As you’ve probably guessed, I absolutely loved the beginning of the book and I enjoyed the rest of it. But at times I felt that it tried to encompass too much for such a limited amount of pages. I can’t say that any of the characters wasn’t fleshed out enough, even Paama’s sister felt real to me (not necessarily likable, but real). I can’t complain about the story arc, or Paama’s development. But there were side characters whose fate interested me and I never got to read about anymore. The narrative voice, while being utterly enchanting, also kept some distance between me and the characters, making it harder to fully engage with them.
Overall, this was a charming fairytale, retold and continued by a writer well worth following. Karen Lord brings something fresh and new into fantasy, not just because she used an African folktale as inspiration but because she breaks the rules and boundaries of what much of the genre is doing at the moment. And I just love trying new things.
THE GOOD: A funny, light tale with every word in its place, great characters and a wonderful ending.
THE BAD: The characters were somewhat distant, some side characters deserved more screen time. Plotwise a bit forgettable in the end.
THE VERDICT: Recommended for everyone who wants something different than you average epic fantasy. This is a perfect book for a cozy afternoon, spent with trickster gods, objects controlling chaos, creatures with indigo skin, and one woman in the middle of it all.
RATING: 7,5/10 - Very good
So, I’ve been hearing good things about this new comic book series. It was the subdued kind if good things, the recommendations on blogs, from readers who actually enjoyed it. There is no hype swamping the internet (although if you go looking for it, you will find tons of rave reviews). This is the kind of graphic novel that everybody seems to recommend without the publisher making a big deal out of it. So naturally, I had to buy it. I read it yesterday in one sitting and… Wow – this thing is brilliant. When’s volume two coming out?
Published by: Image Comics, 2012
Paperback: 160 pages
Series: Saga #1 (duh)
My rating: 9/10
First sentence: Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting.
When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.
This volume collects the first six issues of the smash-hit series.
My love for graphic novels is, in the big scheme of my reading addiction, a late addition. I started with the “classics” of the genre with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Moore’s V for Vendetta and Watchmen, the Sin City series and then went on to more experimental (not as tested by the community) comic books such as The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin. My boyfriend has been telling me to read Transmetropolitain and The Boys but while they interest me, no recent graphic novel spoke as much to me as Saga. The cover alone promises Tons of Cool Stuff. And it didn’t disappoint.
We enter on Alana giving birth to her child, with her horned boyfriend Marko helping as much as he can. It becomes clear very soon that (a) they are on the run and (b) there will be a fight about the baby’s name. Writer Brian K. Vaughan doesn’t only combine fanasy and science fiction, he also weds humor with horror, action with emotional scenes and generally adds a bonus of awesome to every page. He also adds something that we rarely see in actiony stories – the protagonists are brand-new parents! Having a baby is challenging enough in a stable world with help from family and friends and I suppose few fantasy writers take up the subject because it complicates everything. It makes for particularly heartstopping moments when not just our competent heroes are in danger, but so is the helpless baby. Plus, I really enjoy reading about relationships after the first bumpy get-to-know phase.
Saga Volume One did so many things right. The dialogue is snappy and brings the characters to life incredibly easy. After only two pages, I felt that I knew – to some extent – who Alana and Marko were, and their love became an inevitability, their voices clear and distinct. Of course, this Romeo and Juliet in space offers more than just a couple of new parents on the run from their respective armies. It is the newborn child that narrates the story and gives this first volume a sense of being a very small part of a bigger picture (which I cannot wait to discover). While they are running away, trying to keep their child safe, they meet all sorts of curious creatures all of which benefited from this story’s medium. I doubt that prose descriptions of the author’s imagination would have done quite the same job. I was especially fascinated with The Stalk and Izabel, both because of the way they are drawn and who they were.
The art in general was totally up my alley. There are characters that are mostly human-looking, but some that are anything but. To my delight, this graphic novel is also full of little details that don’t necessarily pertain to the story but that make you smile when you notice them. For example, the greasemonkey Marko talks about way in the beginning turns out to be an actual monkey mechanic. Call me silly but things like that make me happy. I hope the thought police doesn’t come knocking at my door for liking this little quirk, telling me how wrong it is to portray a group of people (namely mechanics) as an animal, thusly disrespecting them, etc. etc. I don’t mean it that way and you know it. At this point, I must also mention the visit to Sextillion, a place with lots of sexy time going on. Apart from the fact that what The Will finds there is utterly disgusting and made me wince, I was impressed with Fiona Staples’ way of drawing lots of naked ladies (and gentlemen, although I’m not sure about their manners) without going too far. If you are sqeamish, if you have a problem seeing naked breasts or the occasional penis, then this is probably not for you. Also: swearwords. Lots of them. Alana has a filthy mouth and always finds the best insult for every situation.
Alana and Marko aren’t the only characters we follow in these first 6 issues of the series. Naturally, people are out to get them and these people have leaders in high places. One hires a mercenary to kill them and retrieve the child, another one, a robot prince with a TV instead of a head, has to hunt them to get his father’s approval and finally be done with this war. The TV-robot-guy, prince IV, opens a whole world of possibilities because sometimes emotions (or memories?) flicker across his TV screen. I have nothing more to say to that except awesome!There are multiple layers to each of these characters and we only get glimpses for now but enough of a taste to make us beg for more.
That is probably my only negative thing to say here – while the characters were fully fleshed-out and felt real to me (despite the horns, wings, TV heads, etc.), I would have liked to spend more time with them. Action scene follows on action scene, guaranteeing that there is not a boring moment in sight, but I felt this story deserved at least an extra 50 pages. And also, I lied a little. There are quieter moments that focus on the emotional drama, rather than the physical. I realise this is just the opening chapter to a bigger story and I’ll leave it to you to interpret my slight diasppointment. I wanted more. Because it was that good? Yes. Because the story told in this first paperback could have been spread out a bit more to give us more insight into the characters (especially The Will and Prince IV)? Definitely. But if you think about it, me wanting more of the same, and in a larger chunk next time, can’t really be counted as negative, can it?
THE GOOD: Incredible characters, fast-paced action, emotional levels to everything the characters do, and a world that begs to be explored more.
THE BAD: It was too short. The Stalk’s story arc was the only one that really suffered from the abrupt ending point, but I would have liked more in general.
BONUS: Lying cat. Also, The Stalk. That bitch is straight out of my nightmares.
THE VERDICT: If you haven’t guessed yet, I am going to recommend this book to everyone. It’s a fast-paced science fiction odyssey with Romeo and Juliet bickering along the way and super creepy creatures lurking in the dark. It is fun, it is original, and the art is beautiful. Go out and get it (or maybe wait until the second paperback comes out so you don’t have to suffer like me…)
RATING: 9/10 – Pretty close to perfection
- Why You Should Be Reading Saga (comicbooked.com)
- Review: Saga, Vol. 1 (inbedwithbooks.blogspot.co.at)
- Graphic Novel Review: Saga vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (http://classicvasilly.wordpress.com)
It is official now. Discworld and I have become friends after all. I doubt I’ll ever become a big fan of the earlier Discworld books but ever since I started reading them at random, by pure whim, I have had nothing but fun in Terry Pratchett’s hilarious flat world.
Published by: Harper Collins, 2009 (2003)
ebook: 375 pages
Series: Discworld #30
Tiffany Aching #1
My rating: 7,5/10
First sentence: Some things start before other things.
Up on the Wold, there’s a monster in the river and a headless horseman in the drive. And now Granny Aching has gone, there’s only young Tiffany Aching left to guard the boundaries. To stop . . . things getting through.
It’s her land. Her duty.
Tiffany Aching is a practical, nine-year-old girl who has decided she would like to become a witch. Living on the Chalk, however, means herding sheep, making cheese and butter and – the one really bad thing – taking care of your useless and constantly sticky baby brother Wentworth. When Tiffany meets a scary creature in the stream and soon stands face to lack-of-face with a headless rider, she knows that things are afoot. Thankfully, the Nac Mac Feegle, little blue men in kilts and with a drinking problem, are there to help her wherever they can.
It is with utter charm and magic that Terry Pratchett allows us to enter Discworld once more. While Ankh-Morpork may be the center of the craziness, the Chalk made for a refreshing, rural setting and I couldn’t help but love Tiffany. A young girl who knows how to spell difficult words, how to cure ailments in sheep, and how to smack a monster over the head with a frying pan – she’s a heroine to my liking.
I found this book to be more obviously centered in the YA genre than The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents which is not to say that it is dumbed down in any way. I appreciate how Pratchett manages to keep the plot straight-forward (if not exaclty simple) and still respect his younger readers. He does not subscribe to the school of “that’s too hard for kids to understand”.
The main story arc is Tiffany’s little brother getting lost and her trying to get him back. However, there is so much more to discover. This book is about dreams and magic and believing in yourself. Tiffany does not rely on other people to help her, and she is not a perfect little person. There are moments of self-doubt, a lot of self-reflections (her Second and Third Thoughts take care of that) and realisations about life. All of that is wrapped in a fun adventure story with cursing, sort-of-Scottish blue men who are six inches tall and whose swords glow blue when there are lawyers nearby.
You know that you will laugh when you pick up a Discworld novel and this one is no exception. It was not laugh-out-loud funny on every page, some jokes are much subtler than others. I believe that any child will adore the Nac Mac Feegles for the hilarious creatures that they are. But there is enough for adults to get out of this to merit a read. References to fairy tales or pop culture may not be understood by every child but they will add a chuckle or two for (young) adults.
I must say, Maurice blew me away more but it is really not fair to compare the two. Tiffany Aching is an engaging, strong heroine and I look forward to her next adventure. Her character arc alone made this worthwile and I highly recommend it to fans of Discworld or even someone completely new to Pratchett’s world. If you don’t know where to start, the YA books are good choices. And trust me, you will not want to stop there.
THE GOOD: A fantastic protagonist, a lot of fun, crazy adventures and terrifying creatures. Not a single boring moment.
THE BAD: A bit confusing at times, especially when we enter dreams-within-dreams. Also, the toad should have been allowed to talk more.
THE VERDICT: A highly recommended (starter) novel of Discworld that introduces a character the likes of whom YA literature needs more.
RATING: 7,5/10 – Very, very good (leaning towards an 8)
The Tiffany Aching Series:
I planned to make the Books of the Raksura my first Martha Wells books because so many people have raved about them. But, as these things go, Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot’s YA imprint) offered e-ARCs of Wells’ young adult novel on NetGalley and I couldn’t resist.
Published by: Strange Chemistry, April 2013
ebook: 320 pages
Series: Emilie #1
My rating: 4,5/10
First sentence: Creeping along the docks in the dark, looking for the steamship Merry Bell, Emilie was starting to wonder if it might be better to just walk to Silk Harbor.
While running away from home for reasons that are eminently defensible, Emilie’s plans to stow away on the steamship Merry Bell and reach her cousin in the big city go awry, landing her on the wrong ship and at the beginning of a fantastic adventure.
Taken under the protection of Lady Marlende, Emilie learns that the crew hopes to use the aether currents and an experimental engine, and with the assistance of Lord Engal, journey to the interior of the planet in search of Marlende’s missing father.
With the ship damaged on arrival, they attempt to traverse the strange lands on their quest. But when evidence points to sabotage and they encounter the treacherous Lord Ivers, along with the strange race of the sea-lands, Emilie has to make some challenging decisions and take daring action if they are ever to reach the surface world again.
It is rare that I can’t make up my mind whether I liked or disliked a book. I suppose one emotion always outweighs the other and if you pinned me down I’d have to go with “rather disliked it”. Emilie and the Hollow World is a nod toward the wonderful Jules Verne adventures, discovering new worlds hidden within our own, meeting strange peoples and making new friends. The idea is wonderful and adding magic to it seems like a nice bonus. But there were many little things wrong with this book that add up to a rather unengaging reading experience.
It starts with a minor qualm – the protagonist’s age. Emilie is supposed to be 16 but from the get go, I though of her much more as a 12-year-old, maximum. She acts and speaks like a much younger person and if her age hadn’t been mentioned, I would have happily continued imagining a little girl. But the fact that we are told how old she is, bothered me. Emilie runs away from home, intending to buy passage on a ship. Instead, she realises she’s spent too much of her money on food, has to run away from people who suspect her of being a thief, and ends up as a stowaway on the Sovereign.
Of course, that much fancier ship has its own crew but just when they disocver Emilie, chaos ensues. I assumed the issues of her being a runaway and hiding on their ship would be talked about when the characters were out of immediate danger. But no, people just seem to take things the way they come without asking questions. The author seems to expect a bit too much suspension of desbelief here and while I am willing to believe pretty much anything for the sake of a good story, it needs to work within that story. This tale is set in a world that seems to believe in reason and science and rules. So it should strike somebody as odd that a young girl has run away from home, and even though Emilie explains her reasons, there were still two points that annoyed me. First of all, her reasons sound very good but unfortunately we are told them, never shown them. If the book had opened with Emilie suffering from her uncle and aunt’s treatment, her entire character would have been much stronger. Secondly, even if I accept that the ship’s crew feels empathy for Emilie and there’s not much to be done about her (now that she’s on the ship) it strikes me as very unlikely they would involve her so quickly and deeply into their venture and lay open all their plans. If anything, it would have been believable for her to become a kitchen maid on the ship to pay her passage and cleverly overhear these plans.
Once they arrive in the Hollow World – via aetheric engine (read: magic) – a lot of stuff happens but nothing of real consequence. Of course, there are things afoot that will have consequences for the people of the hollow world, but since they aren’t the main characters of this story, there was not much for me to engage with. At that point, the focus of the story shifts from Emlie to the politics of the Hollow World – since we don’t get enough time with any of the parties involved, I had a lot of trouble working up enough interest to keep reading. This not very thick novel took me a good two months to finish. It just lacked drive, after the initial action-packed moments with Emilie running away from home.
The characters, including Emilie, were flat and underdeveloped. There would have been so much potential for this young girl to realise she can take things into her own hands, that she doesn’t have to depend on other people. But Emilie comes out of this story pretty much the way she entered. The only exception to this was Kenar, the most interesting character in the entire book. Unfortunately, we get see very little of him in the second half, which made it even more tedious to read. Another problem I had with the characters was that there was no real bonding between them, despite being through quite a lot of adventures together. If the protagonist doesn’t seem to truly care about her companions, why should I? Again, we were told that they were sad to say goodbye, but we’re not shown why.
The bottom line for me is: Reading this book felt more like a job, something I had to do, instead of a story I couldn’t wait to get back to. Whenever I put it aside after half a chapter, it took a lot of willpower to pick it up again. A novel, especially a novel aimed at children, should at least get the entertainment factor right.
THE GOOD: A good premise and a nice tip of the hat to Jules Verne.
THE BAD: Emilie came over much too young, despite non-stop action, there is very little development or emotionally engaging moments.
THE VERDICT: It’s a gamble. Maybe if I were 10 years old I would have liked this book more. This way, it was neither horrible nor good. The few elements I enjoyed didn’t get enough screen time and most of the time, I didn’t care enough to pick the book up and continue reading. And I certainly won’t be back for more of this series. Wells’ other books though… probably.
RATING: 4,5/10 – Bad but not terrible