This is the novel I wish I had wrote. Shannon builds her world with deep originality and a fascinating dystopian concept. Though it seems like I should have waited it out until I’d persisted with all of the series first, I wanted to just get right in and gush about The Bone Season…
I like the way we jump straight into the mystery with one of those vague ‘we walk among you’ paragraphs followed by an initial development on the setting of the novel. There are dates and histories to Shannon’s world that show great care and imagination, not to mention the whole ‘Seven orders of Clairvoyance’ and the detail given to each (I think I would want to be a Dreamwalker by the way, in case you were interested. Though I am intrigued by the Augurs and there many subtypes.) The whole ‘dreamscape’, ‘aether’ and ‘spirit’ concept completely beguiled me, despite my tiny brain having initial trouble following all of the information dedicated to the plot. It was a little overwhelming jumping straight into everything but the terms and mechanics of the novels make up grow more concrete as you read.
As always, I stayed with the book because of the characters and I’m hugely keen to spend more time with the Seven Seals and get a real taste of the Dials in the second book. Paige is intriguing from the get go because of her gift, it’s the first thing we learn about her and it throws you in deep rather than beating around the bush and dragging you through a hefty build up. There is a fierceness in her that makes her immediately respected, if not likeable, she’s stubborn and grows from being dependant on Jax and his Seals to being reliant and trusting in herself. You’re on her side because she’s so headstrong and, well, badarse. Even the smaller characters, like Liss and Julian become dear through their struggle. In this world the humans are the weak ones, the hunted and their circumstance builds pity and anger in the reader, especially toward the amaurotic’s (the fully human, no clairvoyance to grant them worthy) and the brutality of the slavery they face.
Sheol I was a gnarly setting, again with that well set up back story of the fire in Oxford and the isolation from the rest of the Scion. And the clairvoyants revolting and overcoming the imposing power of their Rephaite captors appealed to the underdog backer in me. You wanted to keep at the story because you needed to know the outcome.
I’m less keen on the love story development. It felt rushed, like Paige was all of a sudden smitten just because Warden showed her some attention. There didn’t seem any gradual warming to him at all. It was as if the author thought it best to shovel a love story down our necks to keep us interested for the second novel. Warden was an okay guy, loved the heart of gold rebellion he had going on, but mostly he was sort of dull. I was more intrigued by Dave, the fellow red jacket and the prospect of an, at least friendship, blossoming there. There are so many lose ends to continue with though so I’m almost certain the next instalments in the series will be just as compelling.
What did you guys think of it? Any recommendations along the same lines?
Holly Black is a new favourite author. If I hadn’t been so overjoyed in discovering ‘The Cruel prince’ earlier this year, then this stand alone definitely sold me. The central premise revolves, once again, around faerie lore, with a heard of magnetic characters and themes integral to the fantasy genre. There are mystical forests, hidden worlds, knights and dream walking. It’s set in a small town in America, always a promising setting for the weird and wonderful. The plot follows the lives of a sister and brother, now in their teens, who have grown up infatuated with the mysterious presence of a young boy in an unbreakable glass coffin in the woods. In this town the people aren’t strangers to the trickster work of the faerie folk and even have a half breed changeling boy living amongst them. The story is all sorts of magic but has it’s roots in the modern world which is always the best doorway to escape.
As a kid I used to love being let lose in the woods, my imagination whirring in the same direction as the tale Black weaves in ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’. For some reason the setting just stuck with me, a little like the Shiver series by Stiefvater, where the forest is home to the uncanny, a deep, twisted land of possibilities. If you’re a fan of the genre then you have to give this one a read. Black is sort of phenomenal.
A Skinful of Shadows – Frances Hardinge
A stunning write with a fascinating concept at the heart of it. The opening to chapter ten is one of the countless pages I bookmarked and I’ve included some snippets here because, gosh darn, they’re illuminated by imagery. Such prettily strung words they are.
‘Twenty-seven months is long enough for a place to seep into your bones, its colours become the palette of your mind, its sounds your private music.’
‘Humans are strange, adaptable animals, and eventually get used to anything, even the impossible or unbearable.”
‘One day you wake up in your prison, and realise that it is the only real place. Escape is a dream, a lip-service prayer that you no longer believe in.’
So many of the lines are almost poetic and there’s a constant solemn tone to every paragraph. I found it almost draining to read because there wasn’t really any comic reprieve or any love story. But the tainted bones of it all only made it all the more impressive. It had the senses of a classic in the detail of description, the setting in an old manor in the marshes, the severity in class divide and the themes of war and politics. The characters are pretty much all ghastly, the redeeming qualities are forever in self interest. It’s all very pessimistic and very…honest.
Makepeace is likeable in her naivety and in her struggle. She’s just so good despite her “curse” and the family that are bestowed on her. I say it in every single book review when I’ve quite obviously chosen the novel because of the protagonist, but she’s such a gem of a female character. She doesn’t give up, not in the cemetery where the dead could get the better of her, not at the house when she’s caught time and time again daring to escape and then not on her brother James, even after he seemingly gave up on her. The way she and James utilise their curses in the end is so fulfilling too. But bear is my favourite character, I love the way he becomes an extension of Makepeace, possesses her and turns her into a feral girl capable of protecting herself. Like a witches familiar, only a whole lot more discreet. The heart of the story is bonkers and, for me, a very original concept. Massive love for Hardinge.
Dark Elements – Armentrout
I think this may not be the first time I’ve read this series which wouldn’t be a wild guess seeing as it’s an Armentrout creation. The first two books were niggling at my memory and I kind of had a grasp on the outcomes and felt familiar with the characters and their relationships. Regardless, it was such a throwback series, a very teen me kind of deal, and I felt a bit weird reading about eighteen year olds falling in love at twenty three. Is that silly? Regardless, I dig the plot. Being that it revolves around my all time favourite subject matter, demons. It’s a classic, over done, concept but I always go back to it.
Layla is fiesty and headstrong, though the self pity in the beginning made her my least favourite Armentrout heroine. But the whole, mother is Lilith, boyfriend is Prince of Hell but demons have redeeming qualities and one once feeble eighteen year old girl can now save the world thing had me hooked. And of course the ease in which the books read is just bliss. You can drown in the world because you don’t have to think about an overly complicated language or navigate your way through a completely new realm. That’s not to say the simplicity is a bad thing but a strong foundation to place witty banter between well rounded characters. The dialogue in Armentrout’s books has forever impressed me. There is always such a rhythmic, realistic, flow to it and the characters are always so dominating of their own identities. You could read the lines without, ‘he said, she saids’ and know from the story who’s speaking when. It’s a powerful thing that.
As always recommendations are welcome, hope all of you lovely people are doing well.
A haunting, erotic, very devourable novel. I didn’t absolutely love it and it did take a bit of time to get into but it was a nice easy, impossibly romantic, storyline with a proper crime plot around it. There was a hint at ghosties and the supernatural but it never lead anywhere, it was more of a thriller than a fantasy. Which of course was gripping just not a genre I tend to get obsessed with. Armentrout is, as always, one of my main ladies and her female lead had that same headstrong determination I’ve always admired in her novels. Julia was relatable and courageous and grew subtly throughout which is always a little bit empowering. The de Vincent brothers were a treat too, and not just because of how they were physically described either, it was a pleasing story in itself to go from that super tense relationship between them all, to that sense of loyalty in the end. Armentrout planted little seeds of intrigue hinting at the lives of Gabe and Dev too, which definitely upped the hype for the next instalments.
Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas
After the whole A Court of Thorns and Roses hype I was sceptical to try another series by Maas because it seemed that anything would just be a disappointment in comparison. However, though I can’t quite let myself love this world as much just yet, it still indulges in that smooth writing style, particular description, deep world building and of course a feisty leading chica. Celaena is a freaking assassin for a start which is just such a top level of badassery I can’t even handle it. It has just the right sprinkle of romance between a lot of magic and action packed scenes too. And though I was gunning for a possibly lesbian relationship between Celaena and Nehemia (how perfect would that of been though?) the tension between Celaena’s obvious attraction toward Prince Dorian and that hopeful little spark toward Chaol was tension enough. I’m team Chaol by the way, in case you were wondering.
Be Careful What You Joust For – Ryan Hauge and Ivy Smoak
This one is a little bit special because I got to read it before the release and as an avid reader of the fantastical, that was a slight honour. When I was in my teens I was following all major writing and book publishing career paths, I wanted to be an editor and publisher and a published writer and just all of the wordy creative pursuits. I used to follow book bloggers and get all kinds of envious when one of my favourite authors reached out to them for an early copy of a book and then a couple weeks ago it happened to me.
I read the synopsis and I was super keen, it had hints toward the historical and fantastical, a whole load of depth to promise a gripping read. What I loved most was the multiple perspectives. It gives you a stronger engagement with each of the characters and as there are a whole bunch of them with varying but related stories to tell, it’s a pretty nifty narrative tool. I was particularly fond of Isolda because of her double life and Terrin for his wild little heart. It was a beautifully crafted world too and after that cliffhanger I’m hungry for what the writers have up there sleeve for the rest of the Pentavia series. Massive thanks to Ivy Smoak for letting me read it ahead of release too. So cool.
As always drop me your recommendations and favourites below. Always scouting for new paper worlds.
All of the sorry’s for not uploading for last week or so. I have been slacking I’ll admit and there are no real excuses except that the weather here has been a blessing and I’ve had my lazy arse on the beach every evening after work, soaking up every last beam, book in hand. And there, my friends, we have the second reason, the book series I just finished. It’s been a while since a series got that under my skin. I was wishing away my hours at work just to get back to its pages. And the culprit? A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas. Be warned there are a few little spoilers ahead!
I’ll get right down to it and say that the first element that snared me in was the writing style. Before I began, I got the impression that it would be a light hearted, young adult paranormal romance book. And I don’t mean that in a negative light at all, many of my favourite books are of a similar genre and they’re the books I rely on most to really transport me somewhere. But whereas there were elements of the expected, this was different from the get go. Much like Stiefvater (Shiver trilogy, The Raven Cycle) never underestimates her audience and gives us “big” words and lengthy description, Maas too has catered to the hungry. There is no difficult language per say but the way she strings together sentences and plays out her narrative is pretty spectacular. There is intention behind it, a determination to paint the most spectacular of images in the readers head, to really give life to the characters, most importantly Feyre. And there lies my next compliment, the characters.
Always of most importance to me with any novel are darn good characters. Especially if it’s the character narrating the story. I have to like them, or at least find them intriguing to really get into the stories rhythm. Feyre is a gem, likeable but difficult. Ferocious and head strong and all the admirable things a young woman could be. Her development throughout the three books is so satisfying and honestly? I miss her. She has a courageous backstory, a self deprecating attitude that blossoms as she persists and takes on all of these insane challenges. She does everything for love, loyalty, despite the way others treat her. You fall in love with her in those opening pages as she faces the wood alone, crossbow in hand and takes on a wolf she suspects to be something even far more terrifying just to feed a family devoid of gratitude. It’s beautiful how Maas uses the imagery of painting to represent her story, her emotions. The dream that painting is, the subjects and moments in her life worth the time of creating a piece, how the darkness post Amarantha blocks her creativity but the calm and security of Velaris and the dreamers cracks open that defensiveness, the fear until she’s willing to think of painting again. You can’t help but want all of the happiness for Feyre which makes all those brutal tasks she takes on all the more tense.
The other characters we meet in her story are equally as tangible, all unique and carefully crafted. Identity is so solid in each new interaction and the villains are pretty gnarly too. I love it when I can really hate a villain, when they’re so terribly vile you really feel that animosity. Like they’ve threatened you personally. And Amanthara does that job very aptly. The dark beings like the Attor and Naga are equally as haunting in the brutal way Maas portrays them. I like darkness very much, nightmares and horror, and these books are saturated in it.
Then there are the unexpected villains, in the second book for example when one of the good guys from the first does a switch and goes from being a beloved hero to a bit of a sorry excuse for a man. There is room for much sympathy toward Tamlin but because Feyre is our conduit to this world, because you experience her so completely, it’s hard to have an unbiased view. Though Lucien’s involvement in Feyre’s depression always hurt me more, Tamlin was always a little bland in my view but Lucien was a cracker and I needed him to stay good.
But lets just take a hot (literally) minute to discuss Rhysand. In his introduction in the first book he has that love hate situation about him. He’s charming and seductive and so opposite to Tamlin and even though he’s presented as a threat there’s something in his description that you can’t quite help feeling endeared by and then in the second book I found myself looking forward to his involvement. So cheeky and lighthearted whilst the rest of the plot was so dark and twisted. And then of course his whole backstory and his family back at Valeris. He’s that classic tortured soul, misunderstood by the world and harbouring a heart of gold. He’s divine.
Settings are also so crucial throughout, so much imagery goes into casting a whole host of fantastic scene’s. The Night Court becomes something so magical when you’ve been led to believe its a nightmare. Cassian and Azriel and Mor and Amren are all such delights, my little dreamers. It’s always intriguing when the characters have a darkness and a light to them. When they’re a little bit screwy. It makes them relatable, despite the whole magic thing. And each of them already possess their own whole little worlds inside the mammoth plot that I would kill for a spin off series, prior to the current day, that goes into detail about how they all met and all of the shenanigans they got up to. That unit of characters really made the series for me.
I, of course, have to gush about all the magical stuff. I love me a deeply intricate fantasy world and Maas delivered in this series. Prythian is a beast of a world, a place that you yearn to hear more tales of, especially in the third book when you’re introduced to the other Courts and their High Lords. And all of the creatures that inhabit the place, not just Fae (always a favourite with me) but some original species too, like the Illyrians and Shadowsingers.
Finally I just wanted to give a massive shout out to the social issues Mass interweaves throughout the three books. Yes the whole class element is nifty but also the idea’s surrounding gender and sexuality. Though I wouldn’t personally categorise this series as Young adult, due to all those naughty scenes and the violence and torture and all that good stuff, it’s positive to know that younger readers are being exposed to all types of representation. Mor’s little confession to Feyre in the third novel, about her attraction to women and her lost love whom no one knows of, had my feels all in a tangle. I need another addition to the series if only to see Morrigan happy. And then, of course, all of the badass women, including Amarantha and especially lovely, brave, Feyre. The feminism is oozing out of the pages in this one.
I’m so sorry that this turned into one heck of a ramble. I really need to get a grip on how I want to present the whole book element to this page. But if you’re a fantasy fan, a lover of a well developed world and carefully constructed scenes, if you’re love of a novel is held quite detrimentally in the hands of its characters then this series will not disappoint. Go read it and if you have already lets gush about it together in the comments!
Oh, and be sure to follow me on Goodreads! – Check it for more specific reviews on each book.
Can we all, please, take a moment of silence to truly appreciate this work of wonderment? The world and the characters and the narrative. All of it, not one downfall. Well, not in the actual pages anyway. But waiting another year, or so, for the next instalment? That could be a problem.
The world of faerie seems to be an ever giving treat. If you love the magical, the whimsical and the violent, then the lore surrounding it all is pretty tip top. It’s a very visually rich book, this one. Lots of colour and careful description. But when you’re not catching yourself a million miles away from your drab reality, you’re indulging in the characters Black spins for you.
The narrator Jude is a determined young woman, she’s bent on proving herself, as a mortal, to the faerie who think themselves more than her. As with your typical mortal teen there is sibling rivalry, parent problems (I mean intense parental issue’s that are not really relatable at all but still) and this yearning to be more and do more. So yeah, a pretty typical teen girl but like, not at all. She’s gifted with a sword and finds throughout the story that she has a penchant for the violent, no matter how much she realises the moral wrongs of it all. I like her, a lot and that has always been the most important aspect of a plot line for me.
There is some element of romance too but it’s all skewed and darkened, it’s refreshing. I’ve been re reading a load of my favourite teen paranormal romance recently so it’s nice to have a breather from all that cliche lovey dovey stuff. But I am eager to follow the arc of Jude and Cadan’s relationship. I’m very pro the grey area that shrouds all of the characters in this story, no one is who they seem or wholly good or evil. I think I’ve maybe gone on too much already but I could praise this book for pages. Maybe I’ll revisit it again.
Brave – Jennifer L Armentrout
New Armentrout releases make me a very happy book nugget indeed. Being one of my all time favourite authors, this release was especially exciting. Brave is the final book in the Wicked trilogy (though, that open ending has me praying for another, surprise addition) and follows the work of a secret organisation of badass humans, protecting us unassuming humans, from the world of the Fae. Throughout the series the plot unravels and reveals characters aren’t all they seemed and the enemy is a little closer to home. The plot is twisted with action sequences, a saucy, swoon worthy, romance and a whole lot of magic.
Ivy joins the long list of fierce female protagonist’s in Armentrouts repertoire and Ren claims a spot on the list of indulgent man candy. My absolute favourite is Tink, the cheeky brownie with the stellar one liners and the villains are obviously impressive in their own right too.
My only gripe is that the ending seemed a little too hasty for my liking, the final battle was kind of anti climatic. And there’s this scene that involves an army of troll dolls which, even for Armentrout and all her beautiful wit, was a teeny bit bizarre. Despite this, Armentrout continues to ultimately win at series endings as a whole, the closing chapter made my heart happy. As much as I love an intense story filled with surprise murders, a lot of the time it’s lovely to just have one of them good old happy endings.
Note To Self – Connor Franta
This is one of the more random picks of mine. I actually didn’t have a clue who Franta was until I read the ‘about the author’ segment at the back. This book is more of a solo anthology than a novel. A non-fiction prose and poetry collection, interluded with photographs (I own the proper full bodied book version back home and it’s a treat to flick through, beautiful images). It’s a publicised journal but also acts as a self help book all at the same time. Franta invites us into the difficult periods of his life, dealing with depression and his sexuality, to his creative pursuits and heartbreak. To say I resonated with the content is an understatement. There were so many pieces on mental health, creative living and self development that had me smiling and nodding along. I still haven’t ventured into Franta’s online presence but I have noted down his debut ‘Work in Progress’ on my ‘To Read’ list.
So there you have it folks, my top recent reads of the last couple weeks. As always I’m more than happy to discuss these books in the comments. And let me know what you’ve been reading lately, down there, too!
I simultaneously love and hate ‘Turtles all the Way Down” It’s a masterpiece built up of poetic language and intricately created characters. It’s also my new favourite Green book and thus I forgive him for the extended absence. For a minute there was a worry that his words wouldn’t imbed themselves quite so deeply as they had done during my lonely, self discovering, teen years but I needn’t have worried because the soul he’s so evidently woven through passages of unfaltering craftsmanship could appease the readership of any age. There is a philosophical tone throughout that wriggles in the brain as Green presents us with common Greeny themes: Growth, identity, relationships. There was no slow building, no half there chapters or quick fix sentences to bring down the tone of the words, every thing was carefully structured. And this is why I hate it.
I write often, I have to write often, it’s how I deal with a whole host of rubbish catapulting through my head. But nothing I write matches the brilliance of this. And it’s this book that hits my creative self the hardest because it’s always the characters that I give my devotion too. Building them through mood boards and poems, quotes and photographs and art and cities. Every person I write will have a whole background, pages in my scribble notebook dedicated to different elements that make up a personality. But Holmesy is just so solidly presented, such a relatable dialogue, that I lost myself so purely in the narrative of the novel.
‘”I was so good at being a kid, and so terrible at being whatever I was now.”‘ TATWD
Before, I’d marvelled at the mystery surrounding the women in Green’s books. My favourite novel of his has always been Paper Town’s and I’ve read everything he’s written. Margo was this marvellous enigma that I intended to be when I was fifteen and reading the book for the first time. It was when my longing for escape truly started. I re read it so often but never wore it out. I loved that ‘unfulfilling’ ending everyone got so hung up on, actually I thought it was perfect. A long road trip, a long journey and then? A mundane destination. Brilliant. In a lot of my earlier journal entries you can tell in the try hard quirk of my writing that I was trying to become this figure of unattainment and attraction, just like Alaska and Margo. I was encouraging myself to be poetry without really taking into consideration that the narrators were male teens, a perspective I was always going to be detached from. There was this brutality to the female figures, one that reminded me of the boys in The Virgin Suicides, peeping in on the lives of these girls and creating their identities for them based on the fragile grasp they held on their own identity, based on that awkward stage when puberty hits and everyone’s giving into that new urge, driven by the idea of sex and the new appeal of their once completely neutral peers.
“Margo always loved mysteries. And in everything that came afterward, I could never stop thinking that maybe she loved mysteries so much that she became one.” PT
So Turtles impressed me more in that the narrative is female. And not only female but a teen female suffering at the expense of her mental health. There were passages that broke me, where I had to step back and just breathe for a minute. As difficult as The Fault in Our Stars often became to read and as distraught as Looking for Alaska may have made me, the hurt reading this novel was on a new scale. When Holmesy battles with herself and asks to be free of her torment? That was troubling. If you’ve ever lived as the victim, at the hands of yourself, whatever category of illness that might be, then the punch is there in these raw lines. It’s such an important topic to explore, especially in young adult fiction.
“You just, like, hate yourself? You hate being yourself?” “There’s no self to hate. It’s like, when I look into myself, there’s no actual me—just a bunch of thoughts and behaviors and circumstances. And a lot of them just don’t feel like they’re mine. They’re not things I want to think or do or whatever. And when I do look for the, like, Real Me, I never find it. It’s like those nesting dolls, you know? The ones that are hollow, and then when you open them up, there’s a smaller doll inside, and you keep opening hollow dolls until eventually you get to the smallest one, and it’s solid all the way through. But with me, I don’t think there is one that is solid. They just keep getting smaller.” TATWD
I’m not sure, however, what it says about Green, that all of his female characters seem to be suffering. Perhaps that’s the analyse-everything-in-the-book-and-tear-it-apart mentality I developed studying literature but it’s still on my mind writing this a week after finishing the book and I feel like maybe I might want to look into it a little more closely. Or maybe just the representation of females in young adult fiction in general.
Regardless there is power in the writing here, there is power in expressing the many faces of teen mental health, and there is power in taking six years to make sure you perfectly do your creative pursuits justice. Kudos to Green and his new modern classic, ay?
Let me know your own opinions on the book! I know I read heaps of differing perspectives on goodreads and I’m always keen to hear new opinions.