Review: Isle of Blood and Stone

April 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

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: Isle of Blood and StoneIsle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier
Series: Isle of Blood and Stone #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 10th April 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

Ulises asked, "How can I look at these maps, see this riddle, and do nothing? They are my brothers."

Elias reached across the table and flicked aside two shells with a fingertip. The map curled into itself. "It's bound to be a goose chase. You know that?"

"Or a treasure hunt," Ulises countered, "and you've always been good at those."

Nineteen-year-old Elias is a royal explorer, a skilled mapmaker, and the new king of del Mar's oldest friend. Soon he will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, an expedition past the Strait of Cain and into uncharted waters. Nothing stands in his way...until a long-ago tragedy creeps back into the light, threatening all he holds dear.

The people of St. John del Mar have never recovered from the loss of their boy princes, kidnapped eighteen years ago, both presumed dead. But when two maps surface, each bearing the same hidden riddle, troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young heirs? And why do the maps appear to be drawn by Lord Antoni, Elias's father, who vanished on that same fateful day? With the king's beautiful cousin by his side—whether he wants her there or not—Elias will race to solve the riddle of the princes. He will have to use his wits and guard his back. Because some truths are better left buried...and an unknown enemy stalks his every turn.

I’d been really looking forward to Isle of Blood and Stone – fantasy, maps, a dangerous treasure hunt, sounded right up my street! Oh, it was! I really enjoyed this book.

When two maps are found that seem to imply that the del Marian Kind’s two brothers survived the attack by the kingdom of Mondrago 18 years ago, King Ulises enlists his closest friend and navigating explorer, Lord Elias to help him uncover the truth. Elias has his own interest in the mystery. His late father, the Royal Navigator Lord Antoni, had been with the young princes when the attack occurred.

The King’s cousin, Mercedes, whose mother was Mondragan, joins Elias and Ulises as they attempt to find out the truth.

I loved the characters in this book. Sometimes a host of characters can feel overwhelming, but that definitely wasn’t the case here. What’s more, I felt like we actually got to know our main characters; at no point did I feel disconnected from them – a testament to Lucier’s writing.

Talking about her writing, I loved her style. It added to the feel of the book, a perfect accompaniment to the world that Lucier has created.

I found this to be a really entertaining novel. It’s easy to read, mysterious and tense at times, while wonderfully meandering at others.

When I finished reading, I actually craved more of these characters, so I was delighted to find out that there will be a second book. With the way that this book finishes, book two could go any way and I cannot wait to see what Lucier treats us to.

If you like the sound of a well-written, easy to read, fantasy treasure hunt with fantastic characters, strong females, fierce loyalty, deception and sea serpents, then this is the book for you!

four-stars

Review: To Kill A Kingdom

March 17, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

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

Review: To Kill A KingdomTo Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Published by Hot Key Books on 6th March 2018
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Readers First
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

I was lucky enough to win an advanced copy of To Kill A Kingdom through Readers First. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a platform whereby you get sneak peeks of books, share reviews for points and cash those points in for books. They also have weekly giveaways with some of their upcoming titles. Plus, you don’t have to be a blogger to join!

Anyway, suffice to say I was excited to get my hands on a copy. A pirate, siren-hunting prince and a prince-slaying siren? Yes, please!

Prince Elian is heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Midas. Except, he’s not interested in becoming King. He’d much rather continue as captain of the Saad, sailing the oceans with his pirate crew and hunting down the sirens who relentlessly take human lives.

Lira is the Sea Queen’s daughter, heir to the Kingdom of Keto, hidden in the Diavolos Sea. Her mother’s kingdom of sirens is at war with humans and the Sea Queen urges her subjects to hunt sailers, using their magical songs to enrapture them before ripping out their hearts.

But for Lira, only the hearts of princes will suffice – she takes one every year at her birthday, earning her the notorious title of Prince’s Bane.

When Lira disappoints her mother, her mother punishes her by turning her into a human. She may only return to the kingdom beneath the waves when she steals the heart of a Prince, without using her siren strengths.

So it is that Elian and Lira’s paths cross as he undertakes a mission to destroy the Sea Queen. Only, he has no idea who the girl is that has just walked into his life.

I loved this book so much! Told through chapters from both Elian and Lira’s perspectives, this book is a real page-turner. I loved the banter between Elian and his crew, as well as the back and forth with sassy Lira. The dialogue as a whole in this book is probably one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much.

I also really enjoyed the way the author has drawn upon myth and legend, weaving it throughout the novel.

Also, I just have to mention the cover. It’s stunning, and once you dive into this novel it’ll mean all the more.

This is actually a stand-alone novel, which makes such a nice change from the fantasy series I tend to read. It was nice to have a conclusion, a whole fantastical tale in 300-something pages. That said, I’d love to read more of these characters someday – maybe an Elian prequel?

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read that I definitely recommend.

four-half-stars

Review: Scythe

March 13, 2018 in Book Reviews, Dystopian, Fantasy, YA 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: ScytheScythe by Neal Shusterman
Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
Published by Walker on 1st February 2018 (UK)
Genres: Dystopian, YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

In a world where disease, war and crime have been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed ("gleaned") by professional scythes. Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythes' apprentices, and despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation, they must learn the art of killing and understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe's apprentice and as Citra and Rowan come up against a terrifyingly corrupt Scythedom, it becomes clear that the winning apprentice's first task will be to glean the loser.

Scythe has been out in the US for a wee while and I kept hearing great reviews about it, so obviously when it was published here by Walker I snatched up a copy. (I actually ended up with two copies so be sure to enter my giveaway if you are based in the UK.)

The world has evolved to a place where there’s no more sickness, little crime and humans are now immortal. There are no more governments, no war and if you do become “deadish” you are whisked to a revival centre and return as good as new. There are nanites in the blood to stop pain and when you grow older you can ‘turn the corner’ and continue life at a younger age. Basically, it’s a perfect world, which is under the watchful and constant gaze of the Thunderhead – essentially a ‘cloud’ that developed AI and now keeps the world in check.

The only issue with this new world is overpopulation, and so the Thunderhead has developed the Scythedom – the only aspect over which it has no control. Scythes are the only people with permission to take a life – to glean. They are responsible for meeting their quotas and gleaning in a non-prejudiced way that reflects the mortality of the old world. They are simultaneously feared and revered, for as well as being able to take a life they can also grant immunity.

This is such a fascinating concept, one that captured my imagination and I found quite thought-provoking.

We follow two main characters, Cintra and Rowan, who both find themselves with an opportunity to become scythes and thus secure their family’s immunity from gleaning. Taken on as apprentices, they must prove themselves in order to attain the position of Junior Scythe. As they become involved in the Scythedom they realise that there’s more to being a Scythe than meets the eye, with unrest within the Scythedom itself.

I really loved this book – every aspect, from the world building and characters to the storytelling itself had me enraptured. I’m absolutely desperate to get my hands on book 2, Thunderhead, which will be released in the UK in August. In the meantime, I might have to make myself more acquainted with the rest of Shusterman’s work.

Go enter the giveaway now! (ends 15th March 23:59)

five-stars

Review: Spare and Found Parts

February 5, 2018 in Book Reviews, Dystopian, YA 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: Spare and Found PartsSpare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin
Published by Titan on 6th February 2018
Genres: YA Fantasy, Dystopian
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Nell Crane has always been an outsider. In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs everyone now uses. But Nell is the only one whose mechanical piece is on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. As her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary idea when she has none of her own?

Then she finds a mannequin hand while salvaging on the beach—the first boy’s hand she’s ever held—and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.

I received a sampler of Spare and Found Parts a few months ago and must admit I was very intrigued, so I was delighted when Titan Books sent across a finished copy.

Spare and Found Parts is the story of Nell, a teenager living with her father in a post-apocalyptic version of Dublin. A century before, the ‘Turn’ happened, a great sickness that claimed many lives with computers being the source (somehow, I was never entirely clear how). The result is a world where many of the population are missing limbs, eyes – or in the case of Nell herself, a heart.

There are three rules in this post-Turn world

  1. The sick in the Pale, the healed in the Pasture.
  2. Contribute, at all cost.
  3. All code is blasphemy.

It’s a world where even to utter the word “computer” is rebellion.

Nell is approaching the age where she must make her contribution to society. It seems everyone around her has their ideas and talents honed. Her own father is one of the most revered men in the city having created artificial limbs. Her late mother’s contribution is forever in sight, a giant stonework woman. So needless to say, Nell feels the pressure to live up to her parents. In fact, she’d love to surpass them.

Nell is different from those around her. Her heart is clockwork – created and installed by her father. Her life is accompanied by a constant audible ticking, seemingly counting down the days to her contribution.

When Nell finds a mannequin hand washed up on the shore – one of the many relics from before the Turn – she starts to dream of a man more like her. So, she decides to build him.

The start of this book is fairly slow-paced. It’s quite a while before Nell decides to build her creation. However, we do glean a picture of Nell and her introverted personality – so at odds with her best friend Ruby. We’re also introduced to Oliver Kelly who wants nothing more than for Nell to love him.

Ordinarily, I might have found this beginning a bit too slow but actually I was just enjoying Griffin’s writing so much I didn’t mind!

I’m not going to lie; this is a bit of an odd book and consequently, it won’t be for everyone. However, it’s a book that had me intrigued from the very first page.

Nell is certainly an interesting character. I didn’t ever feel completely comfortable with her – but I guess that’s the point eh? Plus I did love Kodak, her stoat. I really liked her friendship with Ruby and her interactions with Oliver made me chuckle.

My favourite character by far though was Nell’s creation, Io. I enjoyed the chapters written from his perspective – the sole android in a world of computer-fearing humans.

I’m still left kind of baffled as to what actually happened at the Turn. I assume that this is on purpose and isn’t just me! I like answers though and I feel I’m lacking them. Also, the Pasture is very vague to me.

For all that the start was slow-paced, I did feel that the end was somewhat fast, abrupt even. I’d have liked more.

All in all, I enjoyed this novel, different as it was. Griffin writes beautifully and I can’t wait to see what she brings us next.

four-stars

Review: WaR: Wizards and Robots

February 1, 2018 in Book Reviews, Sci-Fi, YA Fantasy

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: WaR: Wizards and RobotsWaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am, Brian David Johnson
Published by Penguin on 25th January 2018
Genres: Sci-Fi, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

When a young man breaks into her home claiming her life is in danger, Ada Luring's world changes forever. Geller is a wizard, on the run from his father's hidden clan who want to kill Ada and her mother. Sara Luring is the scientist who will create the first robot, the wizards' age-old foes.

But a robot has travelled back in time to find Ada, and will lay everything on the line to protect her, as she may just be the key to preventing the earth's destruction in the future.

Ada, Geller and the robots must learn to work together to change the past and secure the future. But they don't have much time before a mysterious enemy launches its attack on Earth...

Well, for the first third of WaR: Wizards and Robots I thought my brain might explode – wizards, robots, high school kids, three times in space – I was somewhat overwhelmed! But once I started to get my head around things I actually quite enjoyed the story – it certainly is action packed!

I made a real attempt to write a synopsis for this book, but quite honestly it hurt my head, so I can only imagine what it would’ve been like for you to read! So, here’s a basic rundown. We have a teenage girl, Ada and her Mum who is a doctor of AI in the 21st century. We have a castle under siege in the 16th century. We have wizards, including a boy called Geller. We have a robot, Kaku, and the world under siege from aliens in the 31st century. There’s magic, technology, time travel, distrust, friendship and the desire to save the world.

This is a fast-paced read which crams a lot into its 320 pages. Because of this, I don’t feel we ever make real connections with the characters – I certainly didn’t. For me, this book is kind of all over the place. We jump between times, characters and scenarios very quickly. It feels like watching a film at 30x speed. That said, I was never bored- there wasn’t time for that! It’s packed full of action and is actually a quick read. But I can’t help feeling it could’ve been more. The underlying story is good – a bit of a fantasy/sci-fi/YA mashup. However, I’m left feeling that there are many threads unexplored, a lack of depth and hence of character building. It could’ve been far more cohesive, but instead looking back it feels kind of a jumble – with the main story tacking its way through the pieces.

All that said, despite feeling overwhelmed – and kind of shocked – for the first third, I did find this book entertaining. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read WaR.

three-stars