Review: Vox

August 17, 2018 in Book Reviews, Dystopian

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: Vox Vox by Christina Dalcher
Published by HQ on 23rd August 2018
Genres: Dystopian
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial--this can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

A Wee Summary of Vox

Vox is set in a dystopian US where, post-election, a new President and his associates take control of the lives of US women – no working, no reading, no writing, no birth control and a limit of 100 spoken words a day. Every female is fitted with a counter around their wrist – exceed the 100 word limit in a 24 hour period and the counter shocks them. The further the 100 words is exceeded, the more intense the shock.

In line with the “Pure Movement”, the government are restricting the lives of women, effectively reverting the US to a previous time where the role of the female was to make the home, care for the family and be dominated and controlled by the men in their lives.

With schools introducing a new curriculum, boys studying such subjects as AP Religious Studies, and the girls focussed on home economics and crafts, the purpose of the Government and Pure Movement is clear – a patriarchal society.

Jean holds a doctorate. Before ‘it’ happened, she was working in neurolinguistics on an anti-aphasia serum, verging on a breakthrough that would make a high difference to many lives. Now, she and her 6-year-old daughter are restricted to 100 words a day, constantly under monitoring, while the males in the house are free. Her sole purpose is now to look after her family and home, all the while silently witnessing her oldest son’s conversion to the Pure Movement.

That is until there comes a time when the President needs her expertise, and she’s temporarily given back her voice, if not her freedom.

My Thoughts

I have tried many times to get my thoughts on Vox down in some kind of coherent manner. The majority of which ended up in a rant about the world today, so I’m going to try to rein that in!

To be honest, this book is pretty terrifying. It made me so angry, the thought of a world where our voices and freedom are stolen – but what’s more terrifying is that it has a very real feel to it! A few years ago a book like this would have seemed total science fiction to me; now though, it feels scarily possible.

I actually couldn’t put this book down – it’s the fastest I’ve read a book in a while. This is Christina Dalcher’s debut novel and what a debut it is! Dalcher herself is a doctor of theoretical linguistics, so her exploration of the consequences of removing language in Vox is all the more fascinating. Through Jean’s 6-year-old daughter, we see the impact of the 100 words on younger children and the potential damage to future generations.

This novel is cleverly written and incredibly memorable. The writing is engaging, and Jean’s character is an interesting one through which we explore the changing face of the US, the wider impact on the country, but also the effects on individual families. It’s a story that as well as providing food for thought, also has twists and turns, with moments where I actually held my breath while reading.

I will say though that I felt the ending of the book was a bit rushed. I could tell that I didn’t have many pages left for the conclusion to pan out, and personally, I would have liked a few more pages in that ending.

For me, I found the thought of losing my voice so deeply uncomfortable, and the way that the Pure Movement suddenly took control pretty terrifying. For me, this is a fascinating exploration of language, as well as an unsettling dystopian novel. It’s a book that is bound to generate a lot of discussion, and attract very different opinions.

Please read it so we can discuss it! I need someone to talk to about this book!

four-half-stars

Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

August 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, Short Stories

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: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by Various
Published by Greenwillow Books on 9th August 2018 (UK)
Genres: Retellings, Short Stories, YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.

About The Book

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an anthology of short stories, retelling the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia.

Editors Elsie Chapman and Ellen Oh have gathered 15 bestselling and acclaimed Asian authors, with each reimagining their favourite Asian myths and legends.

I guess, due to my heritage, I’m mostly familiar with Celtic folklore. That said, it isn’t something that I actively sought out until recently. My 7-year-old Goddaughter has taught me more about Greek mythology than I’ve ever known, and it piqued my interest (as well embarrassing me at my lack of knowledge!)

So when I saw A Thousand Beginnings and Endings which draws upon Asian folklore, with Asian writers, I figured it was time to expand my knowledge.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this anthology. As I find with most short story collections, there were one or two stories that I was less keen on. However, even with those I enjoyed learning about the traditional legends and folktales that inspired the works.

Following each story the author shares the premise of the original tale, myth or legend, and explains why they chose it for their retelling. That in itself is fascinating and educating.

Another beauty of such an anthology is that you get to discover some new (to you) authors. While I’d heard of the majority of the writers, I’d only actually previously read some of Renee Ahdieh’s work. Now that I’ve had a taste of the others’ writing there are many more books to add to my ever-expanding TBR list.

There’s a mix of everything in the collection – science fiction to fantasy, romance to contemporary, there’s something for everyone. My favourites? For me, Julie Kagawa’s Eyes like Candlelight, Alyssa Wong’s Olivia’s Table and Renee Ahdieh’s Nothing into All were perhaps my favourites, but I took something from every reimagining.

Whether you’re looking for a book to dip into, or binge read, I think you’ll enjoy these retellings. If, like me, you are pretty ignorant when it comes to Asian mythology, then I’m sure you’ll learn something too.

Authors

With stories from Renee Ahdieh, Aliette de Bodard, E.C. Myers, Elsie Chapman, Melissa de la Cruz, Cindy Pon, Sona Charaipotra, Julie Kagawa, Aisha Saeed, Preeti Chhibber, Rahul Kanakia, Shveta Thakrar, Roshani Chokshi, Lori M. Lee and Alyssa Wong.

Edited by Elsie Chapman and Ellen Oh.

four-stars

Review: Ash Princess

June 14, 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: Ash Princess Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
Series: Ash Princess Trilogy #1
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 14th June 2018 (UK)
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

The queen you were meant to be
The land you were meant to save
The throne you were meant to claim

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. Ten years later, Theo has learned to survive under the relentless abuse of the Kaiser and his court as the ridiculed Ash Princess.

When the Kaiser forces her to execute her last hope of rescue, Theo can't ignore her feelings and memories any longer. She vows revenge, throwing herself into a plot to seduce and murder the Kaiser's warrior son with the help of a group of magically gifted and volatile rebels. But Theo doesn't expect to develop feelings for the Prinz.

Forced to make impossible choices and unable to trust even those who are on her side, Theo will have to decide how far she's willing to go to save her people and how much of herself she's willing to sacrifice to become Queen.

A Wee Summary

Theosodia Eirene Houzzara, daughter of the Fire Queen aka the Queen of Astrea, was six years old when the Kalovaxians attacked her homeland. She was 6 when the Kalovaxian warrior the Theyn murdered her mother before her young eyes.

She has spent the last decade in the palace of the conquering Kaiser, dubbed “Ash Princess” and given the name ‘Thora’ and under the constant surveillance of her three ‘shadows’. Her only friend is, ironically, the Theyn’s daughter, Crescentia.

Those Astreans who remain alive are enslaved in one way or another, often in the hallowed mines where magical Spiritgems are mined. The Kalovaxians ignore the sacred nature of the gems, disrespecting the Astrean way of life.

There remains a band of Astrean rebels who seek to free their country and see Theosodia (Thora) in her rightful place as Queen. The Kaiser tortures Thora, punishing her for the acts of these rebels. She knows that she must show deference to the Kaiser at all time, lest she be whipped.

When one of the main rebels is captured, the Kaiser forces Thora to kill him. Along with his death goes Thora’s distant hope of rescue.

When the Kaiser’s heir, Prince Søren, returns from his warfare training, it becomes clear that he has feelings for Thora. She begins to wonder if he might somehow be her route to freedom.

My Thoughts

On the whole, I enjoyed Ash Princess. It has a very well-built fantasy world with interesting politics and magic. I will warn you though that some people may find some of the issues tackled triggering. (View Spoiler »

I must admit that I felt this book rather “samely”. Broadly, it resembles many YA fantasies I’ve read in recent years. However, I tend to enjoy this kind of fantasy so this is just a warning if you’re somewhat fed up with such themes. Oh and there’s a bit of a love triangle going on too, FYI.

While I really liked the world building and premise of this book overall, I didn’t really connect with Theodosia (Thora). Although we get a bit of an insight into her mind, I just didn’t feel drawn to her. Perhaps this was intentional as part of the PTSD she suffers from? I’m not sure.

It was those around Theodosia that actually piqued my interest. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m going to be a bit vague with this, but I liked Søren and would’ve loved more on him. There are rebels as well that I hope we get to learn more about in the next book.

Ash Princess is largely set within the confines of the palace, and I’m looking forward to finding out what lies further afield.

While I didn’t feel that this book was anything particularly ‘new’. I did enjoy it. There were a few twists – some I foresaw, others I didn’t. These twists coupled with the darkness and the politics of the world have me genuinely intrigued about book two, Lady Smoke, which will be out next year.

Have you read Ash Princess? Do you share my opinions?

three-half-stars

Review: Smoke In The Sun

May 28, 2018 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: Smoke In The Sun Smoke In The Sun by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame In The Mist #2
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 5th June 2018
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice - to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor's ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire.

Following the revelations at the end of Flame In The Mist (warning, this post will contain spoilers for book one), I’ve been desperate to read book two, Smoke In The Sun.

With Mariko ‘rescued’ from the clutches of the Black Clan by her betrothed, Prince Raiden and her brother, the Dragon of KAi, Kenshin, she is taken to Heian Castle in the imperial city of Inako to face the future. With Okami imprisoned in the depths of the castle, Mariko desperately wants to find a way to free him. So she keeps up pretence of her kidnap, and works to convince Raiden of her loyalty to him and the Emperor of Wa.

I really enjoyed the conclusion to this duology. Largely set within Heian Castle and the city of Inako, it has a different atmospheric feel to the Jukai forest of book one, but it’s a setting that Ahdieh ones again captures beautifully with her descriptive writing.

The character development in this second book was so interesting. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone a bit more – with Yumi, Raiden and Roku standing out for me.

I actually discovered after I finished Smoke In The Sun that there are two short stories available that are set between books one and two – Okami and Yumi. They are available for free on the kindle. You definitely don’t need to read them for Smoke In The Sun, they are really just like extra chapters. Okami’s focusses on his ride in the wagon to the castle following his capture. Yumi’s was actually more interesting to me, it gives us a bit more of an insight into her character in preparation for the second book.

To be honest, my only real complaint about this book is that I felt the ending was rather rushed. To me, it lacked the detail that the rest of the two novels possess. I know it’s obviously at a faster pace than the rest, but I just felt like I wanted more. I was so near the end and started to doubt whether this actually was a duology; how could it finish in so few pages? But it does and I’d have liked a bit more from it.

All in all though, I really enjoyed this book and its predecessor. I loved the setting of Feudal Japan and everything that went along with it. Each character has their own individual struggles and issues, drawing me in and making me want to read more about them.

Then, of course, we have Ahdieh’s writing style which just adds to the journey of this tale. She, seemingly effortlessly, painted the feudal Japan setting in my mind, and brought her characters to life. I could smell Okami (warm stone and wood smoke), hear the creaking of the nightingale floors and envisage the colours of Mariko’s silk kimonos.

It’s an easy read, but it’s a fantastic tale and I’m definitely going to miss some of these characters.

four-stars

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 Ashes King 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