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Review: King of Ashes

May 22, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, High Fantasy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: King of AshesKing of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist
Series: The Firemane Saga #1
Published by Harper Voyager on 5th April 2018
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

For centuries, the five greatest kingdoms of North and South Tembria, twin continents on the world of Garn, have coexisted in peace. But the balance of power is destroyed when four of the kingdoms violate an ancient covenant and betray the fifth: Ithrace, the Kingdom of Flames, ruled by Steveren Langene, known as "the Firemane" for his brilliant red hair. As war engulfs the world, Ithrace is destroyed and the Greater Realms of Tembria are thrust into a dangerous struggle for supremacy.
As a Free Lord, Baron Daylon Dumarch owes allegiance to no king. When an abandoned infant is found hidden in Daylon’s pavilion, he realizes that the child must be the missing heir of the slain Steveren. The boy is valuable—and vulnerable. A cunning and patient man, Daylon decides to keep the baby’s existence secret, and sends him to be raised on the Island of Coaltachin, home of the so-called Kingdom of Night, where the powerful and lethal Nocusara, the "Hidden Warriors," legendary assassins and spies, are trained.

Years later, another orphan of mysterious provenance, a young man named Declan, earns his Masters rank as a weapons smith. Blessed with intelligence and skill, he unlocks the secret to forging King’s Steel, the apex of a weapon maker’s trade known by very few. Yet this precious knowledge is also deadly, and Declan is forced to leave his home to safeguard his life. Landing in Lord Daylon’s provinces, he hopes to start anew.

Soon, the two young men—an unknowing rightful heir to a throne and a brilliantly talented young swordsmith—will discover that their fates, and that of Garn, are entwined. The legendary, long-ago War of Betrayal has never truly ended . . . and they must discover the secret of who truly threatens their world.

A few years ago I read and enjoyed Raymond E Feist’s Riftwar Saga and have been meaning to read more of his work ever since. So I was delighted to get the chance to read the first novel in his latest series, The Firemane Saga, King of Ashes.

The book opens to the aftermath of a battle where Steveren Langene (aka Firemane), King of Ithrace, one of the five Great Kingdoms of Garn has been betrayed and defeated. He, along with his family, is put to death to ensure the destruction of Ithrace, Kingdom of Flames.

Baron Daylon Dumarch was one of the men to betray his friend, Steveren Langene. So when a baby who is said to be the last remaining Firemane is brought to him in secret, Baron Daylon ensures the child’s safety by sending him to the legendary “Invisible Nation” of Coaltachin, where is to be raised until he comes to manhood.

We then fast forward some 16 years or so and the story largely follows two characters, the first of whom is Declan, an orphan who has been raised and trained by Edvalt, former Master Blacksmith to Baron Daylon. The second character being Hatushaly, or ‘Hatu’, a student of one of the nameless schools of Coaltachin, a nation renowned for producing the finest spies and assassins in the world.

I’m not going to tell you any more about the plot than that!

Raymond E Feist’s world building is incredible. He weaves such detail into the narrative of his story that we feel ourselves transported to Garn.

Admittedly, I was initially somewhat concerned about being overwhelmed by all the names and nations but it didn’t take long for me to get up to speed.

Feist’s characters are so well-formed. Years on, and I still think of Pug from the Riftwar Saga,  if this isn’t the sign of a good character then I don’t know what is. I just know I’m going to feel the same about Declan and Hatu.

This is a thoroughly entertaining read, filled with action and never a dull moment. It is beautifully poised for the continuation of this series and I cannot wait to see where book two takes us.

If you are looking for an accessible, entertaining fantasy, then you can’t go amiss with Feist’s King of Ashes. I’m just sorry to have to wait for book two.

four-half-stars

Review: HUNTED

May 18, 2018 in Book Reviews, Dystopian

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: HUNTEDHUNTED by G.X. Todd
Series: The Voices #2
Published by Headline on 31st May 2018
Genres: Dystopian
Goodreads
five-stars

The birds are flying. The birds are flocking. The birds know where to find her.

One man is driven by a Voice that isn't his. It's killing his sanity and wrestling with it over and over like a jackal with a bone. He has one goal.

To find the girl with a Voice like his own. She has no one to defend her now. The hunt is on.

But in an Inn by the sea, a boy with no tongue and no Voice gathers his warriors. Albus must find Lacey ... before the Other does. And finish the work his sister, Ruby began.

 

I have been SO excited to read HUNTED, ever since I closed the final page of DEFENDER (see my review here).  If you follow me on Twitter you are no-doubt aware of my love for that book. So when I was kindly sent a HUNTED ARC by Headling, I started it ASAP and proceeded to eke it out for as long as possible, because I wasn’t ready to leave the world and Todd’s writing for another year.

As you’ve probably gleaned from this first paragraph, HUNTED did not disappoint!

Todd has taken the world and characters we became familiar with in book one and expanded in the best possible ways – new characters, new concepts, new relationships, new dangers. I could easily have swallowed this book whole, but, like I said, I needed to savour it – every last word!

As ever, Todd strikes the perfect balance between action and character-building, allowing us to get to know those characters that she inevitably puts through the mill. I swear she took my heart and stomped on it at one point.

What’s so delicious about this book is that, although we start to gain some information, some more understanding of this dystopian world, by the end we are hungrier than ever for more answers.

I know I’ve not mentioned much about the plot here but that’s intentional. This is an action-packed sequel that absolutely lives up to the very high standards of book one, and is a story that you need to uncover for yourself!

Limited Edition SIGNED Copies

Before I go, let me draw to your attention the exclusive limited edition, signed copies available from Goldsboro Books. There are only 250 copies available and each will be signed and number with sprayed edges. I can’t wait to see my copy!

five-stars

Review: The Accidental Bad Girl

May 14, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Accidental Bad GirlThe Accidental Bad Girl by Maxine Kaplan
Published by Abrams, Amulet on 15th May 2018
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

After getting caught hooking up with her best friend’s ex on the last day of junior year, Kendall starts senior year friendless and ostracized. She plans to keep her head down until she graduates. But after discovering her online identity has been hacked and she’s being framed for stealing from a dealer, Kendall is drawn into a tenuous partnership with the mastermind of a drug ring lurking in the shadows of her Brooklyn private school. If she wants to repair her tattered reputation and save her neck, she’ll have to decide who she really is—and own it. The longer she plays the role of “bad girl,” the more she becomes her new reputation. Friends and enemies, detectives and drug dealers—no one is who they appear to be. Least of all Kendall.

 

The blurb for The Accidental Bad Girl really intrigued me and I had high hopes for this novel – it did not let me down.

17-year-old Kendall is starting her senior year at Howell Preparatory School. She’s an intelligent girl, a scholar and has always been in the popular crowd at school. The thing is, on the last day of junior year she was caught with her then best friend Andrea’s ex, Grant. She’s now facing her senior year friendless and the talk of the school. No-one will look at her. When she can’t quite imagine how everything could get worse, she discovers that her Facebook account has been hacked and that a drug dealer called Mason is after her for supposedly stealing from him.

With none of her old friends to lean on, Kendall finds herself wandering deeper into Mason’s world as he blackmails her, threatening to ensure she loses her place on the Young Astronomers Talent Search program – the one good thing she has in her life right now.

The deeper she gets, the more she learns about Mason and the drugs he is dealing.

I really enjoyed this book. I was drawn in from the start and found it hard to put down. Kendall is an interesting character, a capable young lady who finds herself in increasingly difficult and dangerous situations.

It’s a gritty read that doesn’t shy away from detail. It tackles a plethora of issues, from modern day problems associated with technology and social media, to older issues such as drugs. (View Spoiler »)

It’s a multilayered book. We have the mystery of who is framing Kendall and why, the blackmailing by Mason and how Kendall deals with it, as well as seeing Kendall reach out to trust new friends, all the while uncovering who she really is.

I don’t want to risk any spoilers so I’ll just end by saying that I really enjoyed this book. It’s hard to believe that it’s a debut novel and I’m looking forward to reading more of Kaplan’s work in the future. If she carries on as she has begun, I foresee her being a strong, unflinching voice in YA literature.

four-stars

Review: Valley Girls

May 8, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Valley GirlsValley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon
Published by Abrams on 8th May 2018
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
two-stars

When 17-year-old Rilla is busted for partying 24 hours into arriving in Yosemite National Park to live with her park ranger sister, it’s a come-to-Jesus moment.
Determined to make up for her screw-up and create a stable new home for herself, Rilla charms her way into a tight-knit group of climbers. But Rilla can’t help but be seduced by experiences she couldn’t have imagined back home. She sets her sights on climbing El Capitan, one of the most challenging routes in Yosemite, and her summer becomes one harrowing and ecstatic experience after another: first climb, first fall two thousand feet in the air, first love. But becoming the person Rilla feels she was meant to be jeopardises the reasons why she came to Yosemite—a bright new future and a second chance at sisterhood. When her family and her future are at odds, what will Rilla choose?

Following an incident at home in Rainelle, West Virginia, 17 year old Rilla is sent to stay with her elder sister, Thea, a Ranger in Yosemite, California. She has schoolwork to catch up on over the summer if she wants to graduate high school and Thea is determined to see her achieve it.

It seems she is the only person in Yosemite who doesn’t climb or hike. So when she makes friends with a group of climbers, she gets some lessons and catches the climbing bug.

This is probably best described as a ‘coming of age’ tale. Rilla arrives in Yosemite at the start of summer and is lost and low, but we see her progress as the story evolves.

I wanted to enjoy this book and there were parts I did get caught up in but overall I found it pretty lacklustre. For the first 80 pages or so I was pretty bored, to be honest.

Evidently, the author has a love of climbing and this shines through, but at times I found all the technical jargon a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong, I did learn along with Rilla, but at times I couldn’t process, or want to process, all the climbing lingo.

I felt that most of this book trundled along, then at the end, when there was finally some action, it was rushed. I’d have liked more of the action at the end and less preamble.

Also, I didn’t really care that much about the characters. I wasn’t particularly rooting for any of them and I find books like that hard to get into.

This wasn’t really the book for me. I learned about Yosemite and (when I wasn’t overwhelmed) about climbing but I was left pretty disappointed by this read.

two-stars

Review: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

May 3, 2018 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Mystery

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s MurderThe Colour of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris
Published by HarperCollins on 3rd May 2018
Genres: Mystery, Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone what you did to Bee Larkham…

Jasper is not ordinary. In fact, he would say he is extraordinary…

Synaesthesia paints the sounds of his world in a kaleidoscope of colours that no one else can see. But on Friday, he discovered a new colour – the colour of murder.

He’s sure something has happened to his neighbour, Bee Larkham, but no-one else seems to be taking it as seriously as they should be. The knife and the screams are all mixed up in his head and he’s scared that he can’t quite remember anything clearly.

But where is Bee? Why hasn’t she come home yet? Jasper must uncover the truth about that night – including his own role in what happened…

Thirteen-year-old Jasper lives with his ex-Royal Marine father. His mother died several years ago and he misses her. Jasper has synaesthesia. Rather than hearing sounds, Jasper sees them as colour. Every sound has its own colour, every voice its own colour palette. His mother understood this – she had synaesthesia too.

Jasper also experiences prosopagnosia, meaning that he can’t recognise faces, even his father’s. He has developed techniques to help him, the colour of people’s voices, the clothes they wear, accessories they have etc. His Dad helps him by wearing his “uniform” – certain colours that Jasper recognises, as well as calling him “son” and speaking in his ochre tone.

Jasper loves art and records the colours of the world in his paintings. Most people can’t appreciate them, but for Jasper they tell the stories of his life.

When a new neighbour, Bee Larkham, comes to the street he befriends her (her voice is sky blue, not quite the cobalt blue of his mother’s) and becomes obsessed with the parakeets in her garden, and the colours they make in his world.

When Jasper becomes convinced that Bee Larkham has been murdered, he becomes increasingly frustrated that people aren’t taking him seriously.

Told from Jasper’s perspective, we get a fascinating look into how he perceives the world. He doesn’t like change, sticks to routine, takes things literally and, consequently, misunderstands those around him. While not actually saying that Jasper is autistic, it is implied in the pages of this book.

We are taken along with Jasper as he tries to piece together what happened to Bee Larkham, all the while being desperate to protect his new friends, the parakeets.

This is an interesting read, that I certainly found educational. Personally, I wasn’t overly familiar with the conditions in this book prior to reading, so it opened my eyes.

I enjoyed the writing and the description of colours that define Jasper’s world. Also, the way we see the truth behind much of Jasper’s naive observations.

I did find it somewhat repetitive at times, but I guess that’s the point – to capture Jasper’s character.

Although this book is told from the eyes of a teenager, and is being likened by many to The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time, I feel it’s important to note that this isn’t a book for children. There are some issues in it that aren’t suitable for a younger audience.

All in all, I enjoyed this novel. I really liked Jasper and enjoyed seeing the world from his perspective, all the while trying to uncover some mysteries for myself.

three-half-stars