Review: The Cruel Prince

December 7, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, 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: The Cruel PrinceThe Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Series: The Folk Of The Air #1
Published by Hot Key Books on 2nd January 2018
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him—and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Jude is a child living with her parents, her twin Taryn and her older sister Viv when a stranger appears at their door and kills her parents before her eyes. The murderer? Her Mother’s faerie ex-husband Madoc who has come to retrieve his daughter (Viv) whom he previously thought dead. He takes the two human twins with him, returning to Faerie and raising them all as his own. That’s the background.

Madoc is the High King’s General; because of this he has the power to demand that the human twins be treated as his own. So Jude and Taryn are educated with the Faerie gentry, schooled in swordsmanship by Madoc and attend functions at Court. Madoc has remarried, his new wife Oriana is not Jude’s favourite person, but she very much loves her younger brother from this union, Oak.

But not all of the faeries are happy to have humans in their midst, least of all humans with privilege and protection of the General.

Jude dreams of becoming a Knight – a fanciful ambition for a mortal in Faerie but one that she is determined to fulfil. She knows she can’t live under Madoc’s protection forever and if she wants to stay in Faerie rather than return to the mortal lands she is going to need to find some power of her own. Her twin is content with finding a marriage to keep her in Faerie but Jude wants to follow her own dreams.

Jude is educated with the High King’s son Prince Cardan, and his group of gentry faerie friends. They are not fond of humans and even less so of the twins, making life difficult for the twins. This animosity between Jude and Cardan is a theme that runs throughout the novel.

When the High King decides to leave his throne, a succession must follow. Any one of the King’s offspring could wear the Blood Crown, but it’s Prince Dain that the High King has chosen.

So when Dain makes a proposition to Jude, she realises that this could be her chance to find power and forge her own destiny.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the progression of Jude’s character and the quick escalation of the issues she had in front of her.

Through Jude, Black explores what it’s like to be different in society, to stand out from the crowd and to suffer the consequences of such differences.

Black’s land of Faerie had me thoroughly enthralled and I loved the contrast of the normalcy of going to Target in the mortal lands and the magic, and darkness, of Faerie.

While this book begins somewhat sedately (well, aside from the brutal murder of Jude’s parents) everything soon escalates to the point that you just want to keep reading. It’s a book full of betrayal, loyalty, families, scheming, ambition and secrets.

It is packed with fantastic characters. I’ll admit to being somewhat confused by the different court and placing some of the characters to begin with – I was a bit overwhelmed by names at the start. One of these thoroughly interesting characters is Prince Cardan who is at the heart of the cruelty, taunting and abuse that Jude encounters in Faerie.

I think of the things I liked most about Black’s characters is that they are flawed. No-one is perfect, each has their own stories and desires. Couple that with Black’s descriptive writing, fantastic world building and captivating plot, it’s hard not to love this book.

five-stars

Review: Defy The Stars

June 2, 2017 in Book Reviews, Sci-Fi, 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: Defy The StarsDefy The Stars by Claudia Gray
Series: Constellation #1
Published by Hot Key Books on 6th April 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Noemi is a young and fearless soldier of Genesis, a colony planet of a dying Earth. But the citizens of Genesis are rising up - they know that Earth's settlers will only destroy this planet the way they destroyed their own. And so a terrible war has begun.

When Noemi meets Abel, one of Earth's robotic mech warriors, she realizes that Abel himself may provide the key to Genesis' salvation. Abel is bound by his programming to obey her - even though her plan could result in his destruction. But Abel is no ordinary mech. He's a unique prototype, one with greater intelligence, skill and strength than any other. More than that, he has begun to develop emotions, a personality and even dreams. Noemi begins to realise that if Abel is less than human, he is more than a machine. If she destroys him, is it murder? And can a cold-blooded murder be redeemed by the protection of a world?

Stranded together in space, they go on a whirlwind adventure through Earth's various colony worlds, alongside the countless Vagabonds who have given up planetary life altogether and sail forever between the stars. Each step brings them closer - both to each other and to the terrible decision Noemi will have to make about her world's fate, and Abel's.

Noemi is risking her life to save her planet, Genesis, from their ancestors-turned-enemies, Earth. In three weeks she’ll participate in a suicide mission to damage the Gate that links the worlds and find Genesis some much-needed time. At least that’s the plan until she discovers another way to potentially save her planet, a theory that will result in a race across the galaxies adventure.

Abel is the most advanced mech ever created. Mansfield has created mechs for Earth for every scenario – healthcare, labour, war, but Abel is Mansfield’s one-of-a-kind creation.

When Abel and Noemi’s paths cross they are of course enemies, Earth vs Genesis. However, Abel’s unique programming offers Noemi the chance to utilise him – that is until she realises that he is no mere robot.

There is much to like in this novel. At times I can struggle with world-building set in space, but actually I got on pretty well with Defy The Stars.  Admittedly there’s stuff I didn’t completely follow; the politics and the exact reason for the war still eludes me but that’s probably just my foggy brain. However, as a result, I didn’t feel like I cared as much as I should have.

My favourite element of the story was Abel which to be honest took me by surprise. I loved the concept of him, his interactions and the way his character developed. I enjoyed the storytelling style too – the mix of perspectives of both Noemie and Abel. I thought it worked well.

Yet, while I enjoyed this book I didn’t LOVE it. A cursory glance on Goodreads tells me I appear to be in the minority with this one though.

Will I read on in the series? Probably, depending upon the focus of book two.

 

three-half-stars

Review: The Ship Beyond Time

May 29, 2017 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: The Ship Beyond TimeThe Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig
Series: The Girl From Everywhere #2
Published by Hot Key Books on 9th March 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

Nix has spent her whole life journeying to places both real and imagined aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. And now it’s finally time for her to take the helm. Her father has given up his obsession to save her mother—and possibly erase Nix’s existence—and Nix’s future lies bright before her. Until she learns that she is destined to lose the one she loves. But her relationship with Kash—best friend, thief, charmer extraordinaire—is only just beginning. How can she bear to lose him? How can she bear to become as adrift and alone as her father?

Desperate to change her fate, Nix takes her crew to a mythical utopia to meet another Navigator who promises to teach her how to manipulate time. But everything in this utopia is constantly changing, and nothing is what it seems—not even her relationship with Kash. Nix must grapple with whether anyone can escape her destiny, her history, her choices. Heidi Heilig weaves fantasy, history, and romance together to tackle questions of free will, fate, and what it means to love another person. But at the center of this adventure are the extraordinary, multifaceted, and multicultural characters that leap off the page, and an intricate, recognizable world that has no bounds.

Last year I read the first book in this series, The Girl From Everywhere (see review) and thoroughly enjoyed it. So naturally the second book in this duology The Ship Beyond Time was high on my 2017 TBR list. I was really excited to revisit Nix, Slate and Kashmir and join them on their time-travelling (navigation) adventures, but sadly I just didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first.

My main issue was that I found this book confusing. Now, you all know that my brain’s rather foggy, so this could be entirely a personal issue. However, I found it hard to keep up with the time travel, the dates and, I guess, the chronological order of the story. Personally, I found it challenging and ultimately this affected by enjoyment of the book.

Of course, there were elements I enjoyed too. As with the first book, I enjoyed the blend of fact and fiction – the history, myth, and legend entwined within Nix’s story.

I also enjoyed Heilig’s writing although I definitely didn’t feel as connected to the characters in this second book.

Although this is a duology, I do feel we have been left with the chance of more Navigation stories, and although I didn’t love this book I’ll certainly be looking out for more of Heilig’s work.

three-stars

Review: The Girl From Everywhere

February 13, 2016 in Book Reviews, YA, 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: The Girl From EverywhereThe Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Series: The Girl From Everywhere #1
Published by Hot Key Books on 3rd March 2016 (UK)
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer.

Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times - although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix's father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix's existence rather dangerously in question...

Nix has grown used to her father's obsession, but only because she's convinced it can't work. But then a map falls into her father's lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it's that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.

I wanted to get this post up in time for the US release which I believe is this Tuesday (16th February -where is the year going?) so although this isn’t out in the UK until 3rd March here are my thoughts…

A time-travelling pirate ship? Erm, yes please! A blend of fact and fantasy? Sign me up! I was thoroughly intrigued by the concept of this book and so jumped at the chance to read it. I’ll tell you now that I really enjoyed it!

Nix is 16 and she lives on board a ship called The Temptation with her father the Captain, Slate, her best friend Kashmir and their crew. Nix’s father is a Navigator – he can use old maps to shuttle them across time and place. I loved this concept, that once reaching the border of a map another map of a different time and place can be used, the two maps blending together with some kind of purgatory in between. This is such a fascinating idea and is obviously where the time travel element comes into this story.

Now, Slate is from our current time New York, but his daughter Nix is actually from 19th Century Hawaii. Slate fell in love with Nix’s mother Lin back in 19th Century Hawaii. He didn’t know she was pregnant when he went to sea to gather funds so that they might build a home together. He returned to find that Lin had died giving birth to Nix, and, well, he had a daughter. So Slate ‘stole’ Nix away on the ship. However from that day he has been obsessed with finding an accurate map drawn during that period he was at sea, when Lin was still alive, so that he might go back to her. It’s this obsession that’s at the core of the story.

Nix has grown to be an expert in maps. She’s also well versed in history, myth and legend. It’s her  job to think of ways they can generate funds for these old maps and so she takes the crew across space and time hunting for the map that will set her father free from his obsession – as well as his opium addiction.

The thing is though that no-one quite knows what will happen to Nix should her father succeed. Would she cease to exist?

There’s so much to enjoy in this book and a great deal to learn. Heilig is clearly well read herself and has undertaken significant research to mix real history with fantasy in this novel. I loved the way she weaves myth and legend throughout this book. Upon reading the author’s note I realised several links that I had failed to pick up on.

Heilig’s description in this book is wonderful. I could truly see everything she described. Her descriptions of Hawaii were stunning – not only do I now really want to go there but I wasn’t surprised to learn that she herself is Hawaiian.

I must admit that at times I found it a wee bit hard to keep up with the dates, places, maps and history. However I’m sure that’s just down to my fog-addled brain. I wanted to mention it though as it was something I encountered.

Heilig has created some wonderful characters in this book, not only Nix, Slate and Kashmir but some of the more peripheral characters too. She had me going back and forth on Slate – one minute I thoroughly disliked him, next I felt sorry for him, then I was frustrated by him…it was quite the journey!

Nix is a strong likable character but I must admit that Kashmir was my personal favourite – a cheeky chap with a sense of style, the gift of languages, an absolute charmer and a master thief. I just loved him!

All in all, this was a fascinating read. It’s a true blend of fact and fantasy filled with adventure, beautiful writing and fantastic characters. Loved it.

four-stars

Review: Mind Your Head

February 3, 2016 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: Mind Your HeadMind Your Head by Juno Dawson
Published by Hot Key Books on 4th February 2016
Genres: YA
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

We all have a mind, so we all need to take care of our mental health as much as we need to take care of our physical health. And the first step is being able to talk about our mental health. Juno Dawson leads the way with this frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt. Covering topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders, Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people's mental health - whether fleeting or long-term - and how to manage them, with real-life stories from young people around the world.
From Goodreads

Sometimes you find a book that you just know you have to read. Juno Dawson’s Mind Your Head is one such book for me. In my early 30s I’m not really the target audience for this book, but having tackled mental illness myself for many years I instantly recognised the importance of this book. Having now read it, I can confirm that this is indeed a very important book/resource.

Juno makes it very clear from the start that this isn’t a self-help book (something which I personally appreciate). She also states that, despite her first-class honours degree in psychology, she is not a doctor, so she has enlisted the help of her friend Dr Olivia Hewitt, a clinical psychologist, to assist with this book.

From the outset Dawson forewarns us of “triggers” – this is something to be aware of before you start to read. The book covers a huge amount within its 200 or so pages, and so it’s unsurprising that this book comes with a trigger-warning. From coping with stress to addiction, depression to personality disorders, self-harm to anxiety, each area is approached in an informative, yet friendly manner. Juno isn’t afraid to use humour where appropriate. Likewise, she doesn’t shy away from any issue, offering the reader her total honestly. It’s this honesty that, I feel, makes this book what it is. It’s quite some time since I was a teen but I know that had I read this during that time I would have appreciated the honesty of the adult writer. Heck, I appreciate the honesty now!

Juno understands what her readers want and need. She’s not judgemental; she’s approachable (I’m not sure that’s the word I’m looking for but hopefully you know what I mean) and together with Dr Olivia offers some real insight and useful advice.

As I read I couldn’t help but think how important this book will be to so many. I imagined a teenager with no parental support, struggling with depression. This book would be a much needed lifeline to them.

It doesn’t claim to have all the answers and it certainly doesn’t imply that there will be any miracle cure. However, it does share experiences from fellow sufferers and makes it clear that the reader is not alone in their feelings. It advises of the steps the reader can take – where to turn to, be it online or to a trusted adult, or GP.

As an aside, my husband came home from work the other day to find me reading this book. He told me he’d see Dawson’s book This Book Is Gay in the school library that morning. Naturally I was delighted to hear this, and I genuinely believe that this book should also be a fixture within school libraries across the country. It will have a huge impact on thousands of young people and might just save some lives too.

I learned a lot from this book and could really imagine how powerful it would have been during my darkest days. You don’t have to be a teen to read it. In fact whether you’re a parent, a teacher or a family friend I urge you to read this book.

five-stars