Thank goodness the influx of incredible ebook deals seems to have tapered off, or else I don’t know how much more my TBR pile can take. After the explosion of my last Book Haul, I promised I would show more restraint…still, there were one or two good deals that I couldn’t resist. But more on that later; for this time, most of my new arrivals are from the wonderful publishers I’ve gotten in touch with, and you should really check out their books! Here are this fortnight’s epic book loots, the physical pile first:
The Rift Walker and The Kingmakers – after I reviewed The Greyfriar, Pyr sent over the next two books in the Vampire Empire trilogy, which was swell because I’m loving this series! You can already read my review for The Rift Walker, because I couldn’t wait one more second to devour it.
Thief’s Covenant – also sent was something to whet my appetite for YA fantasy fiction. A very fun novel about a thief named Widdershins, and I’ve just finished reading this one, actually. Keep an eye out for my review, coming soon!
A Guile of Dragons – described as darkly humorous, I was told this one’s actually the first book of a prequel trilogy to Enge’s Morlock Ambrosius books. Sounds like something right up my alley, I can’t wait to get to this.
Mayhem – I recently got in touch with Jo Fletcher Books, the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror imprint of Quercus. They may be new-ish, but already JFB has published a lot of great titles. Mayhem was one I’d wanted to read for a while, and I was not disappointed. Easily one of the best, most exceptional books I’ve read this year.
Autumn Bones – huge fan of Jacqueline Carey here, and her Kushiel trilogy featuring Phedre will forever and ever be a favorite of mine. So I was intrigued when I got word she would be writing an Urban Fantasy series called Agent of Hel. I found I very much enjoyed the first book Dark Currents, and Autumn Bones is the second book Roc sent my way. This one is going to be fun, I can tell!
23 Years on Fire – an unsolicited arrival and an unexpectedly pleasant surprise! Out of curiosity, I’d picked it up to read the first few chapters and ended up finishing it soon after that. I haven’t read enough military sci-fi to know how I feel about the genre yet, but this book makes me optimistic. Review will be coming up in a few days, so look out for that.
The digital pile:
Pantomime – I really wanted to get this book when Strange Chemistry discounted a bunch of their ebooks for their first birthday celebration last month, but for some reason this title was the only one not showing up on Amazon with the sale price. It finally did, and you can bet I jumped on it! It’s still for $1.99 as far as I know, but grab it quick, because I don’t know for how much longer!
Infinity Blade: Redemption – who am I kidding, how can I ever turn down anything Brandon Sanderson does, even when it’s a novella based on an iOS game I’ve never played? I’ve read the first one (Infinity Blade: Awakening) after all, and with this for $2.99, heck yeah I’ll bite.
Ancillary Justice – been seeing a lot of good stuff about this book already, and I have a feeling this one is going to be BIG. So when I saw it up on NetGalley, I couldn’t help myself.
Ex-Purgatory – also couldn’t help myself. Loved the first three books of the Ex-Heroes series by Peter Clines and I’m sure I’m gonna love reviewing this fourth book as well.
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Young Adult
Series: The Keepers #2
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Author Info: www.liantanner.com.au/
Just assume that if I listen to an audiobook narrated by Claudia Black, that I will be giving her performance five stars. Not only does she once again do an excellent job with the various characters, but I continue to be amazed by how she can pull so much emotion from words on a page. It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the action and emotion when she is so completely immersed in her telling. Not that this is surprising for me. I’ve been known to shed real and true tears along with her as she expresses her deepest regrets to a puppet.
Anyway, City of Lies takes place six months after the events of Museum of Thieves. The Fugleman is assumed dead and his Blessed Guardians have been removed from power, which means children are now free to roam without chains. Some parents and children aren’t quite ready for the change and make their own bindings. A broken limb and an almost drowning are raising tensions in the city of Jewel and calling the Protector’s abilities to keep the children safe into question, especially when rumours of a return of kidnappers proves true with the disappearance of a little girl.
Meanwhile, Goldie Roth has been busily avoiding the Museum of Dunt and the request to take her place as Keeper. Her parents are both unwell and she places their poor health squarely on her own shoulders as a result of her running away in the last book. Becoming a Keeper would mean abandoning her parents and that’s not something Goldie is willing to do, no matter how much her parents encourage her and her friend Toadspit demands it. The kidnapping forces Goldie to forget both of these concerns to focus solely on the rescue of not one but two children, whisked away to the city of Spoke which is about to celebrate its Festival of Lies. For two days, everything will be backwards. How will Goldie learn the truth and rescue her friends within a city of lies?
Once again, Goldie must rely on her wits and the skills of theft and stealth she learned in her previous adventure. And she must also deal with the mysterious voice in the back of her mind that continues to steer her. I’m glad the issue of the voice is addressed. It plays such a prominent role in Goldie’s decisions, as does the broach she wears that once belonged to her bold Auntie Praise. Neither device received much explanation for their purpose in the previous book, but clearly they are important. I’m not certain how I feel about the voice by the end of City of Lies, but I’m curious about how things will play out in the final book in the trilogy. Hopefully we’ll also get to learn a bit more about Auntie Praise.
I’m glad that Goldie’s guilt over her parents does not become an overwhelming shadow to the story, though I appreciate the level of responsibility it shows in Goldie. The whole concept of The Keepers series is to show that children don’t need as much protection as we believe they do. They can be trusted with responsibility and don’t need to be locked in protective bubbles for their own safety. That was more heavily addressed in the previous book, but the lingering paranoia of adults who don’t believe this to be true continues to hang over the plot.
I was disappointed in the lack of Broo in this story, though the tattered cat was a worthy replacement. I also missed the Museum of Dunt, which is a character unto itself. Not that Broo, the Museum and the other Keepers are forgotten, though. They all play a very important part in the story and their connection to Goldie and the children remains strong.
The festival of lies is a fun part of the adventure and the idea of having everyone say the opposite of what they mean is not overdone. Or rather, it could have become annoying, but keep in mind that this is a book written for a younger audience who would probably appreciate the backwards antics of the festival. I am a bit skeptical about the introduction of Princess Frisia, but am curious enough to find out how everything falls into place in the end.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Steampunk
Series: Book 2 of The Lotus War
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Date of Publication: September 17, 2013
It’s going to be extremely difficult to talk about the sheer awesomeness of this book without giving spoilers, but darn it, I’m going to try! In general I tend not to do spoilers in reviews, but more important is the fact that I simply don’t think anything will compare to the emotional roller coaster of experiencing all the ups-and-downs of this book yourself.
Like the first book, though, it took me a while to get into the story. However, it’s significant to note that some of the best books I’ve ever read start off slow in the first 100 pages, and this has been the case with both books in this series so far. Part of this also has to do with the writing style, which I still find over-encumbered and hard to get used to.
But none of that mattered in the end; as soon as this book got its arashitora claws and talons in me, I was pretty much putty in its clutches! After the events of Stormdancer, I was on pins and needles wondering what Yukiko, Buruu, and the Kagen rebels would do now with the entire Shima Imperium in turmoil. My first shock was discovering the Lotus Guild’s choice for the new Shogun. That just can’t end well.
Now the Kagen are in a frenzy of planning, hoping to sabotage the Shogun-to-be’s wedding and foil the Guild’s aim to put him at the head of this new tyrannical dynasty. The enemy, however, are also plotting something of their own, something that would have the power to end the Kagen and destroy their forest home. Meanwhile, Yukiko flies off across the oceans on Buruu to learn more about the Kenning, her mysterious power that has been unstable as of late.
There’s definitely an epic feel to this series now, especially with the addition of more characters, their points-of-view, and multiple plot threads occurring in different places all at once. For the first time, we also get a brief glimpse of the world happening outside Shima, finally giving some context to this “gaijin war” we’ve been hearing about for the whole of the first book and a part of this one, but so far have seen none of the fighting or battles.
And if I thought the first 100 pages were slow, the last 100 pages certainly made up for them and more besides. I know “unputdownable” sounds cliched, but it was almost literally the truth when the book was practically glued to my fingers with the nervous sweat coming off of my hands, I kid you not. I don’t often like making comparisons to A Song of Ice and Fire when I talk about books (because truly, I have never come across anything quite like George R.R. Martin’s series) but there were definitely times where I felt this one was “Game of Thrones-ing” me. It was just shock after shock in the last quarter of the book, some which were expected, some not.
Of course, I had some issues, especially with some parts of the plot (like, what a nice convenient way to get Yukiko out of the picture for a while), and the prose with its excessive use of metaphors often made me want to tear my hair out, but overall these were overshadowed by the climax and finale, as well as an insane revelation about Yukiko. I cannot believe I didn’t see that one coming!
In the end, I think I liked this book even more than the first one because it was darker, more visceral, violent. I love books which are unpredictable and that keep me guessing, whose direction can change like the wind without warning. I liked how this was not a happy story. It has evolved a lot in this book, and its characters as well. Considering how Jay Kristoff left things off here in total chaos, I’m already looking forward to the next book which I have no doubt will be explosive.
Note: My copy was an advance reader edition from the publisher provided to me in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Science Fiction Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Date of Publication: September 24, 2013
My copy of this book was an ARC I received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Tor Books and NetGalley for making that happen! My recent positive experiences with the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust had made me curious about this novel, so I was looking forward to checking it out.
The concept behind The Incrementalists is a very interesting and original one, and it only gets wilder as you read more of the story. Phil and Celeste are part of a secret society of two hundred people with an unbroken lineage of memories reaching back to the dawn of humankind. Their ongoing mission: to make the world better a little bit at a time through a process called “meddling” or “meddlework”, which they achieve through influencing others by nudging them gently towards a certain inclination.
With Celeste’s recent death, Phil goes looking for a new recruit for her next reincarnation, which is how he meets up with Renee “Ren” in Las Vegas. The book is told in alternating parts by these two characters, though Celeste remains a prominent presence in their lives. Always an unstable personality in life, Celeste is no different even in death. Now not only has her meddlework jeopardized Ren’s initiation, her plans also extend to affect her fellow Incrementalists, changing the rules and putting them all in danger.
The idea behind the Incrementalists’ work was what initially attracted me to this story. Personally, I felt the hints of both sci-fi and fantasy in the way their meddling process operates, which makes me think this would be an excellent book for readers who love cross-genre speculative fiction. To influence people, the Incrementalists would gather a list “switches” which are essentially memory and sensory factors which would trigger a reaction from their individual target. The Incrementalists themselves experience a sort of memory and personality “immortality” for as long as their consciousness stays stable through the reincarnations. All their collective knowledge or history of the world is seeded to the memory “Garden”, available for any Incrementalists to “graze” from. This concept feels almost magical to me in a way.
This would also be perfect for those looking for something more cerebral and abstract, as the book is also heavy on symbolism and metaphors and would be positively mind-bending for someone not expecting it. The story mostly focuses on the Incrementalists and their own inter-societal crisis that Celeste has wreaked, but I would have loved it even more if there had been more on their history, or if their mission goals of making the world “better” had been expanded upon.
I also enjoyed the writing style. Of the two authors, I’m not familiar with Skyler White, though after this book I may be open to checking out more of her writing. But from what I’ve read of Steven Brust’s fantasy novels, this definitely has the distinct feel of his work. The storytelling is so fast-paced, the reader has to be quick on their feet to keep up and you can’t zone out for a second lest you miss something. I like that the book isn’t bogged down with superfluous details, and in fact starts off with very little information, so you have to trust to the fact that more will be explained as the story progresses.
Overall, a great read if you’re looking for something a little fun, a little strange, and a little different!
“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!
Martha Wells’ The Cloud Roads made me an immediate fan of the author and it was a no brainer that I would need to read her first adventure within the Star Wars universe. I love the leaps into the Star Wars future with stories like Legacy, but I’m also enjoying this recent return to tales about our original heroes.
Times are desperate for the Rebel Alliance. Harassment by the Empire and a shortage of vital supplies are hindering completion of a new secret base on the ice planet Hoth. So when Mid Rim merchants offer much-needed materials for sale, Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo lead an Alliance delegation to negotiate a deal.
But when treachery forces the rebel ship to flee into territory controlled by pirates, Leia makes a shocking discovery: the fierce marauders come from Leia’s homeworld of Alderaan, recently destroyed by the Death Star. These refugees have turned to pillaging and plundering to survive—and they are in debt to a pirate armada, which will gladly ransom the princess to the vengeful Empire . . . if they find out her true identity.
Struggling with intense feelings of guilt, loyalty, and betrayal, Leia is determined to help her wayward kinspeople, even as Imperial forces are closing in on her own crippled ship. Trapped between lethal cutthroats and brutal oppressors, Leia and Han, along with Luke, Chewbacca, and a battle-ready crew, must defy death—or embrace it—to keep the rebellion alive.
The Terror, Dan Simmons’ horror novel inspired by the 1845 Franklin Arctic Expedition is probably one of the most bone-chilling novels I’ve ever read. The Abominable sounds very much like something in the same vein, and as such is right up my alley.
As they set off toward Everest, the men encounter other hikers who are seeking the boy’s body for their own mysterious reasons. What valuable item could he have been carrying? What is the truth behind the many disapperances on the mountain? As they journey to the top of the world, the three friends face abominable choices, actions–and possibly creatures. A bone-chilling, pulse-pounding story of supernatural suspense, THE ABOMINABLE is Dan Simmons at his best.”
Series: Book 1
Publisher: Jo Fletcher
Date of Publication: April 25, 2013
Interestingly enough, well before this book came into my life, I’d happened to be browsing through the many publishing-related newsletters in my email inbox one day when a deliciously creepy animated gif banner in one of them caught my eye. In fact, it was an announcement for this very title, bearing the tag line:
“Jack the Ripper is terrorizing London. Now a new killer is stalking the streets, the victims’ bodies are dismembered and their heads are missing…the killer likes to keep them.”
It gets even more intriguing than that. The book’s blurb also describes it as a supernatural thriller, and given my penchant for historical horror novels (particularly those featuring a paranormal angle) I just couldn’t resist. So you can imagine my excitement when I received Mayhem for review from Jo Fletcher Books, and remembering that banner with its promise of a hunt for a serial killer in Victorian London, I needed little convincing to start this right away.
Still, Mayhem isn’t really a story about Jack the Ripper. Between 1888 and 1891 there were a series of murders in or around the Whitechapel area, and the modus operandi of some of these were different enough that investigators theorized that they could have been committed by another person other than Jack. The idea of a separate “Torso Killer” in these “Thames Mysteries” is what forms the basis for this book, and in Sarah Pinborough’s version of the events, he takes his victims’ heads as trophies.
Though Jack the Ripper doesn’t take center stage in Mayhem, his name and his crimes are referred to frequently, and his terrifying hold over East London is part and parcel to the creation of the setting. Establishing that there’s the possibility of not just one but two killers stalking the streets creates this sense of dread that is pervasive throughout the novel. Because of the way the plot is set up, even when nothing suspenseful was happening on the page, the book always had me steeling myself in apprehension for something horrible to come along — that’s what a good horror novel does to me.
The supernatural aspect also helps in this regard; as I’ve said before in my past reviews, I like a touch of that in my horror. In Mayhem, it adds a whole new dimension to the story, making it a lot better than if this had been just a straight-up hunt for an ordinary mundane killer.
In spite of this, much in this book is rooted in reality. The author did her research, and even included events like the true instance of a reporter’s dog used in finding a severed leg during the Whitehall Mystery. Also, a couple of the book’s chief characters, like those involved with the investigations, were actual historical figures — the police detective Henry Moore and the British physician Thomas Bond, for example. The latter comes closest to being our main protagonist, with his chapters being the only ones written in the first person, while the others are in the third person. Initially, I found this point-of-view switching to be quite bizarre, but ultimately it worked for me.
Reports from news articles about the killings are also interspersed between the narratives, which not only establishes the timeline but also provides historical context. A work of fiction this may be, but the book never lets you forget that the Whitechapel murders, their victims and their grisly circumstances (especially in the case of Mary Jane Kelly) had really occurred, that at least one insane and very real killer had actually once terrorized London’s East End, and I think that’s what unsettled me the most as I was reading.
This was a very dark tale, chilling and disturbing without being overblown or excessive. The atmosphere of tension is subtle and builds gradually, but things peaked for me during that terrible scene at the dinner table involving Dr. Bond’s revelation. I didn’t realize until then that I was just like him — bracing myself for the inevitable macabre conclusion. This is highly recommended for those who like historical mysteries and crime fiction, particularly if you don’t mind a little paranormal thrown into the mix.
Note: I received a review copy of this book compliments of the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinions. My thanks to Jo Fletcher Books!
Genre: Fantasy, romance
Series: Aetherial Tales #1
Author Info: www.fredawarrington.com
It’s hard not to judge a book by its cover when the cover is as beautiful as this. Especially when, as you read along, you discover that the imagery isn’t just there merely for aesthetic value, but actually does reflect the story itself.
For me, slipping into Elfland was like overhearing bits of an intriguing conversation. I sort of knew what the conversation was about, and was enticed to learn more as Warrington allowed me into this secret world of Aetherials – fae creatures living along side us in the human world.
The story centres around the Fox family whose lives are intertwined with the cold, sometimes violent members of the Wilder family. Every seven years, the Aetherials gather at Freya’s Crown to re-enter and reconnect with the Spiral on the other side of the Great Gates, but Lawrence Wilder refuses them entry this time, warning them of a great and deadly foe from whom he, as the chosen Gatekeeper, must protect them. Sealing the gates serves as the underlying conflict of the story, with the adult Aetherials angry at Lawrence’s decision, while the younger ones lose their opportunity to truly understand their heritage since they are not allowed to participate in the ritual until they are sixteen. The broken connection to the Spiral also means that the Aetherials will eventually lose their powers and even their memories of being Aetherials at all.
Warrington takes the reader through the lives of these families, mainly seen through Rosie Fox, the main character, but with occasional points of view from others, including her younger brother Lucas and the troubled Wilder boys, Jon and Sam. I really liked the smooth transition through time, beginning with the children at a young age, travelling through to adulthood and all the strange and very human issues they all deal with along the way. Their Aetherial natures play a part through the story, but it is almost secondary. I became so wrapped up in their lives that when the Gates were inevitably opened three quarters of the way in and we get to see the other side, I was a bit upset because I wanted their normal human lives back, crazy emotional conflicts and dysfunctions and all! I managed to get over this and was then swept away in the beauty and magic of Elfland and may have shed a few tears over the wonderful, not quite fairytale ending.
My only disappointment is a minor one over all. It involves the human characters whose depiction and motivations are a bit shallow. One human in particular serves merely as a plot device with obvious outcomes and the character becomes somewhat unjustifiably vilified because of it. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the second, which I already own because… just look at that pretty cover…
It’s no secret we’re huge fans of audiobooks here on The BiblioSanctum. Whether you’re on the road, busy working, or just generally have your hands too full to read, listening to audiobooks is a great way to enjoy books thanks to the talented voice actors and actresses who narrate them. This “10…” post is inspired by some of our favorite narrators who bring these stories and characters to life!
At the top of our lists is Simon Vance. The quality of his performances is undeniable, and if you doubt us, he’s got the Audie and Earphone Awards to prove it. And the sheer number of books that he has narrated is staggering! It’s no wonder the majority of the audiobooks on our Audible.com wishlists are narrated by Mr. Vance, including books we’ve already read, but want to hear him read it anyway. None of us could pick a favourite performance, so instead, why not check out his favourite!
Mogsy says: An accomplished actress, Lorelei King is definitely a favorite narrator of mine. Not only that, one of the first audiobooks I ever listened to was read by her – Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. I thought they couldn’t have chosen a better voice for Mercy Thompson, and since then I have picked up most of the other audiobooks in the series. Sure, I could have read the books, but I’d much rather listen to Ms. King’s performance. She certainly made an impression on me, and played a huge part in launching my interest in audiobooks.
Wendy says: My mage may have fallen in love with Fenris almost entirely because of his voice in Dragon Age II. And I may have started listening to The Laundry Files series entirely because they are narrated by Gideon Emery. Emery’s voice peppers many other video games that I play, so why shouldn’t I let him invade my reading hobby too. Lest you think my opinion of his narration is entirely biased by my infatuation, I am pleased to report that he does an excellent job narrating the Atrocity Archives, expertly maneuvering through various characters and bringing the right amount of feeling to each of them.
Tiara says: Most people know him as Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fewer people know that he narrates Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files with the exception of one book. Admittedly, as a fan of the short-lived show, it took me a minute to get over the fact that he wasn’t Paul Blackthorne when I listened to Fool Moon, but once I did, I was impressed with how he really brought the book to life and made a promise to listen to the rest of this series on audiobook due to his amazing performance. He has the perfect voice and attitude for the urban fantasy series.
Mogsy says: The fantasy audiobook lover will be no stranger to Michael Page. His recent performances I’ve enjoyed include books by Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch, but Mr. Page has been narrating audiobooks since 1984 and has recorded over two hundred titles and won several awards since. In the past, I’ve been motivated to pick up the audiobook versions of several books on my TBR solely based on his name attached to them, which probably accounts for the great number of fantasy titles he’s narrated in my library.
Wendy says: When I started listening to The Raven Boys, I was a bit surprised that a male was narrating a book with a female lead, surrounded by a large group of females. I’m still a bit new to audiobooks, so this might be more common than I realize, and there are male characters, some of whom have their POVs front and centre. Either way, once I got over my little mental stumble, I came to really enjoy Patton’s narration, and particularly loved the voice he gave to my favourite character, Ronan. I’d describe him as a dangerous creature, a poisonous coil ready to strike who deals only in cold, hard truth. Patton found all of those elements in Stiefvater’s writing and brought them to life in his narration.
Tiara says: No, not Freak On A Leash Jon Davis, but how metal would that be? Jonathan Davis/Narrator, as I often see his named written probably because there are so many people named Jonathan Davis, has an impressive catalog of books he’s narrated ranging from Star Wars to Halo to Vonnegut’s Galapagos. I first heard him narrating one of the tales in the book Stories and again in a book about human sexuality called Sex At Dawn. I felt he was one of the stronger narrators in both books. Recently, I’d listened to D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker because it included two things I loved, history and magic, and I really loved Jonathan’s performance and how he brought the pre-Revolutionary War world of the conjurer Ethan Kaille to life.
Mogsy says: Star Wars books are a guilty pleasure of mine, and I’ll read them whenever my brain is in need of some pure mind candy. Ever since I discovered their audiobooks, though, I’ve been indulging in them a lot more. One reason for this is because of Marc Thompson. Between the wide range of voices he does and the wicked pew pew sound effects, Star Wars audiobooks are actually fun. Mr. Thompson also has the overwhelming task of making the average of 30-40 characters in each book all sound distinct, while emulating the voices of prominent personalities or alien species that are already well established in media like the Star Wars movies, games, or TV. I’d say he handles it spectacularly — just check out this video on how he can pull off his Star Wars character voices spontaneously, including Yoda, Han Solo, C-3PO and more.
Wendy says: Juliani played one of my favourite characters in Battlestar Galactica and I recently listened to him narrating John Scalzi’s contribution to the scifi compilation, METAtropolis. He and Scalzi were definitely the highlight of the compilation. Juliani captured Scalzi’s lighter tone, playing up the straight-faced sense of humour without losing the ‘moral of the story.’ While I didn’t enjoy the rest of this particular book, I’m glad I listened to it because now I intend to listen to more books narrated by Juliani.
Tiara says: I did not really care much for The Drowning Girl, but I thought Suzy Jackson did a phenomenal job narrating the book. She played the part of Imp so well, but sadly, the story itself never grabbed me. Suzy Jackson’s performance did, though, and I went in search of other books she might’ve narrated. Surprisingly, I’d heard pieces of quite a few of them such as The Beauty Myth for a discussion I participated in and I’d listened to the story she narrated from Kiss Me Deadly. She doesn’t have a huge collection of book she’s done. She seems to be an up-and-coming narrator, but if she continues to deliver strong performances, she’ll be someone we’ll see (or hear, rather) often.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of The Assassin’s Curse
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Date of Publication: October 2, 2012
This book sounded fascinating from its description, with words like “Pirates” and “Assassins” leaping out at me and pushing all the right buttons. And while Angry Robot’s young adult imprint Strange Chemistry has only just celebrated their one year birthday, they’ve already made a name for themselves in my book with their wide variety of unique and interesting titles. So, I’ll admit I was going into this with rather high expectations.
A strong point for this book is that it doesn’t waste time getting started. Our protagonist and narrator Ananna of the Tanarau faces a difficult and undesirable situation on page one. Hailing from a family of pirates, she is being forced by her parents to marry a scion of another pirate clan. As handsome as he is, Ananna dislikes him right away and figuratively jumps ship on her impending nuptials, leading the jilted young man’s family to send an assassin after her.
And yet, I found the story’s momentum rapidly loses it steam, even after Ananna and her would-be assassin Naji faces off one night and their skirmish accidentally results in a curse binding them together. Their subsequent quest to break it involves a journey to far off lands, impossible magic, and encounters with strange characters and creatures. On the face of it, that might sound like a lot, but very little of it actually advances the plot.
In essence, I think there’s a lot of potential for this series, but this first book read like one long introduction. I waited for it to pick up, but there was really no climax. Upon completing this, I got the impression that I won’t get into the real meat of the story until the next installment. It just felt like a very risky way to manage the pacing and a strange place to end the book, with no cliffhanger or anything, just a straightforward promise of more to come.
To its credit, though, the novel does give you plenty of reasons to want to continue with the series. Seeing how Ananna and Naji manages to break the curse will be plenty motivation enough, but their relationship also grows with complexity and is rife with romantic tension throughout the entire book. Those who are interested in seeing what becomes of that will probably want to pick up the next one too.
Bottom line, I don’t think a whole lot happened in this book, but it does a decent job setting up the situation and the players. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for book two.
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Publisher: William Morrow
Date of Publication: April 30, 2013
I’ve always adored horror novels that incorporate paranormal elements or a touch of the fantastical, and considering my enjoyment for such types of books written by Stephen King, it’s a wonder to me why I waited so long to check out something by his son, an acclaimed author in his own right.
Why I thought this was a great book, reason the first: it succeeded in creeping me out. Honestly, why else would I pick up a horror novel? I mentioned before how much I appreciate having fantasy in my horror, because rather than dulling my fear by being “less realistic”, a story with supernatural aspect actually accentuates it. In NOS4A2, Joe Hill manages to balance the “world of reality” and the “world of imagination” perfectly, sometimes blurring the lines.
In this way, a tale about a predator named Charles Manx who snatches children from his vintage Rolls-Royce becomes even more frightening when you think about how in this world of mystical powers, secret places and hidden roads, anything can happen. Manx’s powers are even more disturbing, when you find out that his Wraith car has the ability to transport its riders beyond the veil to a place called Christmasland, which at first sounds like a wonderful place, except every moment a child spends there they lose more and more of themselves. Knowing that this villain uses his young victims’ love of Christmas against them makes this book even more chilling.
Which brings me to another reason why I found this book so effectively unsettling: the fact that this is, in a way, a story about the loss of childhood innocence. Like Manx, our protagonist Victoria McQueen also has a power, which she discovers at 8 years old, when a rickety old covered bridge appears whenever she rides her bike, always leading her to exactly what she’s looking for. Years later and seeking trouble as an angsty teenager, the bridge leads Vic to her first traumatic encounter with Charles Manx.
The events in Vic’s past will remain with her forever, but all powers also have their costs. As she grows into adulthood, her memories and power change her life, her personality, her relationships with the people close to her. Her struggles with these changes are a big part of why I felt drawn to her character, because it’s easy to sympathize with her desire to be a good person and do the right thing, even if it means facing her greatest fears and returning to the worst time of her life.
Joe Hill builds Vic up to be this fully-realized and well-defined character, so that her fears became my fears, what she cared about became what I cared about, and what she wanted became what I wanted, too. Indeed, it’s not just the thrills and suspense that got me into this novel, but also the factors involving Vic’s emotions and relationships with her parents, Lou, and her son.
It takes a very good storyteller to frighten their reader but to also move them, and in this way Joe Hill’s writing reminds me a lot of Stephen King’s work. This is one seriously talented family. While NOS4A2 may be the first book I’ve ever read by Joe Hill, it certainly won’t be the last.