Review: The Darkling Child by Terry Brooks

 

Title: The Darkling Child {The Defenders of Shannara Trilogy #2}

Author: Terry Brooks

Published: Hachette June 2015

Status: Read from June 08 to 10, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

High Fantasy is not a genre I read often but I have fond memories of Terry Brooks’ original Shannara trilogy, read when I was a teen, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming television series adaption.

Though it can be read as a standalone, The Darkling Child is the second novel in The Defenders of Shannara trilogy that takes place several years after the previous book, The High Druid’s Blade. It is also the 29th book in the Shannara saga, which Brooks intends to wrap up in just four more books.

The Defenders of Shannara features Paxon Leah, the Druid’s Blade, and his nemesis, the Sorcerer Arcannen. In the Darkling Child, Arcannen who has been in hiding since Paxon foiled his grand plans for dominion over the Four Lands, is seeking revenge after his refuge is razed to the ground by an elite command of Federation soldiers. Fortuitously Arcannen stumbles across Reyn, a young man with the rare power of the Wishsong. Reyn neither understands nor can control his ability, and when Arcannen offers to mentor him, he accepts.
Meanwhile the Druid Council is alerted to the use of Wishsong and Paxon along with Druid Avelina are dispatched to find the magic user. Unfortunately they are too late to prevent Reyn from falling under Arcannen’s influence but they are determined to thwart whatever nefarious plan Arcannen is using Reyn for.

Even with only vague memories of the Original Shannara series, The Darkling Child feels familiar. Brooks’s world is easy to understand, the magic system makes sense, and there is enough backstory provided to create context where needed.

The plot involves fantasy’s most enduring trope, a quest to prevent evil triumphing over good. Arcannen is a suitably ruthless, if uncomplicated villain and Paxon a valiant, if flawed, hero. There is plenty of action in the confrontations between the sorcerer and his enemies, a small measure of intrigue stemming from the question of Lariana’s true motives, and a dose of emotion with death, guilt and romance.

I found The Darkling Child to be a quick and entertaining read but I’m not struck with the urge to continue with the trilogy. Fans may be more appreciative.

Available to purchase from

Hachette Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU via Booko

Amazon US I BookDepository

and all good bookstores.

Review: Ascendance by John Birmingham

 

Title: Ascendance {Dave Hooper #3}

Author: John Birmingham

Published: PanMacmillan May 2015

Status: Read from May 28 to 30, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The final novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Ascendance picks up right where Resistance left off.

Super Dave, newly teamed with the katana wielding Russian spy Karen Warat (aka Colonel Ekatarina Varatchevsky), is in New York. Dismissing Trinder, they race to defend areas of the city under siege but are nearly overwhelmed as the Hunn continue boiling up from the underworld realm. The powers that be soon realise that the Horde is using Professor Compton’s theoretical model for collapsing western civilisation, and the world is in real peril. However Dave’s primary concern becomes his sons when he learns New Harbour is under attack and if he can’t save the world, he is determined to at least save his children.

Dave suffers badly in comparison to Karen whose training and discipline allows her to exploit her gifts, which includes an empathic ability. Not only does she wield her deadly katana like a master, she thinks strategically and seems to have her powers sussed out. Dave is pretty much left trailing in her wake like a meat-head while the choices he made in Resistance come back to haunt him.

The action in Ascendance is non-stop, violent and bloody. This is not a story for the squeamish what with splattering ichor and demon flesh and babies being tossed from buildings like confetti. To be honest I got a little bored with all the fighting, though the final confrontation was tense and exciting.

There is plenty of the bold and crass humour I’ve come to expect in this series. Dave is still a dick, Threshy’s thinkings are riotously confused and Karen adds her own brand of dry humour.

While this is supposed to be last book of a trilogy, the story definitely feels unfinished. It has been fun though.

 

Available to purchase from

PanMacmillan Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Review: My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

 

Title: My Life as a White Trash Zombie {White Trash Zombie #1}

Author: Diana Rowland

Published: C & R: Allen & Unwin 2015

Status: Read from May 23 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

This title has been on my ‘to read’ list for eons. First published in 2011 this reprint coincides with the launch of CW’s new television series, iZombie. There is some debate as to the source of producer, Rob Thomas’s inspiration – there are vague similarities between the show and this novel, but Thomas claims the show is a loose adaption of the Vertigo comic book series of the same name (beginning with Dead to the World).

My Life as a White Trash Zombie is the first book in a series featuring Angel Crawford, an unemployed, high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record, who wakes up in the ER after an overdose she doesn’t remember taking. Confused, but accepting the scenario, she is further puzzled when she receives a letter notifying her that a job is waiting for her at the morgue, intimating that failing to follow through will result in her going to jail. Despite her reservations Angel reports for duty and soon discovers that whoever anonymously secured her the job has in fact saved her life, or at least her afterlife, because Angel is now a zombie, and needs to consume brains to avoid rotting away.

A zombie is an unlikely heroine, especially one with Angel’s ‘white-trash’ background, but Rowland has created a surprisingly likeable protagonist. Forced to figure out the rules for her new afterlife on her own, the character growth is really surprising, involving not only staying ‘alive’ but also getting sober and dealing with her alcoholic father and her ‘asstard’ boyfriend.

The mystery reveals itself when headless bodies begin turning up and Angel begins to suspect a rogue zombie is murdering the populace to feed, until she learns the dead were also zombies. Angel needs to figure out who is hunting zombies before she becomes the next victim. The answers to Angels’ questions are fairly predictable, including who made her a zombie, but I enjoyed it anyway.

My Life as a White Trash Zombie is a quick, fun read offering plenty of snarky humour, as well as some gross descriptions of bodies that might turn the stomach of the squeamish, a touch of romance, mystery and action.

Available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

BookDepository  I Amazon UK I Amazon USIndiebound

and all good bookstores.

Review: Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry

 

Title: Church of Marvels

Author: Leslie Parry

Published: Hachette Australia May 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from May 18 to 19, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Church of Marvels is an atmospheric and haunting tale set in New York during the late 1800’s that unfolds from the perspectives of four compelling characters, whose lives eventually converge.

Leaving behind her twin sister, Isabelle Church fled to Manhattan in the wake of the Coney Island fire that killed her mother and destroyed the Church of Marvels, the carny show in which Isabelle starred. No one knows why she left, where she is, or what secrets she keeps.

“I haven’t been able to speak since I was seventeen years old. Some people believed that because of this I’d be able to keep a secret. They believed I could hear all manners of tales and confessions and repeat nothing. Perhaps they believe that if I cannot speak, I cannot listen or remember or even think for myself – that I am, in essence, invisible. That I will stay silent forever. I’m afraid they are mistaken.”

With her mother dead, and her twin sister gone, only Odile Church remains at Coney Island, the spinning girl on the Wheel of Death. When a letter from her sister finally arrives she heads to Manhattan, determined to find her.

“At first glance the twins looked alike – they were both freckled and hazel eyed, with thick blonde hair and the snub nose of a second-rate chorus girl. But that was where the similarities ended, Unlike Belle, with her lithe and pliant acrobat’s body, Odile had a permanent crook in her neck and a slight curve to her spine.”

Sylvan Threadgill is nineteen, abandoned as a young child, he makes his living as a night-soiler, and boxes for a few extra pennies. One night he finds a baby girl half drowned in the effluent and rescues her.

“Under their breaths they called him Dogboy. He’d been puzzled over and picked apart all of his life – the skin of a Gypsy, the hair of a Negro, the build of a German, the nose of a Jew. he didn’t belong to anyone. They started at him with a kind of terrified wonder, as though he was a curiosity in a dime museum. One of his eyes was brown, so dark it nearly swallowed the pupil, and the other pale, aqueous blue.”

When Alphie Leonetti, once a ‘penny rembrandt’, is first introduced she is waiting for her husband, Anthony, to rescue her from the notorious Blackwell’s Asylum in the East River, the last thing she remembers is an argument with her disapproving mother in law. Desperate to escape she befriends a mute inmate with startling skills.

“Alphie curled up and covered her face with her hair, then cried her voice away. She couldn’t bear it; she’d come so far from her days a s a girl on the street, a bony runaway with shoes made from paper, waiting there on the corner with her paint stand and jars. And here she was, through some cruel reversal, sent back to the anonymous hive, trapped in a room full of women who were not missed and not wanted, who would wear the same dress every day until it disintegrated on their hungry frames-a dress she too wore, formless and smelling of some previous disease…”

With evocative phrasing Parry creates memorable characters and vivid settings, from the seedy shores of Coney Island to the dark, narrow streets of inner Manhattan, and the bleak horror of the asylum marooned in the middle of the East River.

A novel that demands attention, the lyrical prose of Church of Marvels tells a complex, suspenseful mystery that sometimes appears scattered, but is eventually brought to a stunning resolution.

“We can be a weary, cynical lot – we grow old and see only what suits us, and what is marvelous can often pass us by. A kitchen knife. A bulb of glass. A human body. That something so common should be so surprising – why, we forget it. We take it for granted. We assume that our sight is reliable, that our deeds are straightforward, that our words have one meaning. But life is uncommon and strange; it is full of intricacies and odd, confounding turns.”

 

Church of Marvels is available to purchase from

Hachette Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

US Cover

BookDepository  I Amazon US I Indiebound

and all good bookstores.

 

Review: A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J Maas

 

Title: A Court of Thorn and Roses {A Court of Thor and Roses #1}

Author: Sarah J Maas

Published: Bloomsbury May 2015

Status: Read from May 14 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

As a huge fan of Sarah J Maas’s ‘Throne of Glass’ series, I’ve been excited about the release of A Court of Thorn and Roses, the first book in a new trilogy, blending fae lore with a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fable.

In the depths of winter, Fayre is fighting to keep her poverty stricken family alive when she kills a wolf, unaware he is a creature of the fae. Having unwittingly broken the centuries old treaty made between the humans and their kind, she willingly submits to the penalty to protect her family and is dragged to Prythia by the beast that demands it, expecting to be killed, enslaved or worse by the race that once slaughtered humans for sport.
Instead the beast, who is not exactly a monster at all but rather a High Fae with shape shifting abilities, offers her a life of ease in his court but can Fayre really trust the word of a Faerie, especially when something dark and wicked lurks close by?

I really liked the character of Fayre, she is a strong willed, fierce and passionate, though not without her vulnerabilities. She struggles to adjust to her new life in Prythia and is understandably slow to trust Tamlin but once she gives in to her fate she embraces it wholeheartedly.

It isn’t until Fayre is captive in Prythia that Tamlin reveals his true self, not just High Fae, he is the devastatingly handsome and powerful High Lord of the Spring Court. Tamlin though is also cursed, condemned to wear a masquerade mask with weakening powers, by what he explains to Fayre is a blight that has been poisoning the magic in the realm.

The nature and source of the ‘blight’ provides the major arc of conflict for the novel. I won’t give it away but I will say it surprised me. I enjoyed the action and drama of the story, particularly in the climatic final chapters, but I did feel that the story lagged somewhat in the middle. Fayre’s time in the Spring Court is largely uneventful, with most of the action happening ‘off the page’, while Fayre sort of wanders around with her easel.

And as to be expected, romance develops between Fayre and Tamlin. There are some intimate scenes between the couple, but nothing too explicit. There is also the potential for a love triangle of sorts with the introduction of the enigmatic High Lord of the Night Court, Rhysand.

While I wasn’t wholly enamored by A Court of Thorn and Roses I did enjoy the characters and the world Maas has built and I will be picking up the next book, as yet untitled, as soon as it is available.

A Court of Thorn and Roses is available to purchase from

Bloomsbury Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

BookDepository  I Amazon US I Indiebound

and all good bookstores.

Also by Sarah J Maas reviewed on Book’d Out


Review: Resistance by John Birmingham

 

Title: Resistance {Dave Hooper #2}

Author: John Birmingham

Published: Pan Macmillan AU March 2015

Status: Read from March 12 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The second novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Resistance is another darkly funny, action packed fantasy adventure from Australian author John Birmingham.

Dave is enjoying his celebrity, in a typical Dave-like manner, after the defeat of the Hunn but the breach in New Orleans was just the start and now the Hunn are boiling up from the underworld realm all over the globe, eager to reclaim their dominion.

There is no getting away from the fact that Dave is a dick, and his basic nature is unchanged despite becoming a superhero. In Resistance he is confronted with his new responsibilities as the only man able to translate the intentions of the Hunn but he manages to alienate almost everyone when he makes the wrong choices.

Like Emergence, Resistance is a fast paced, entertaining read, hilarious, action – packed and unfailingly politically incorrect.

I’m looking forward to Dave’s final adventure in Ascendance

 

Resistance is available to purchase from

Pan Macmillan Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Also available: Book 1

Review: Shadow Study by Maria V Snyder

Title: Shadow Study {Soulfinders #1; Study#4; The Chronicles of Ixia #7}

Author: Maria V Snyder

Published: HarlequinTeen Au March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 26 to 28, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Shadow Study launches an exciting new fantasy adventure trilogy by Maria V Snyder featuring characters familiar from her Study and Glass series.

It opens as Yelena, on her way to meet Valek for a brief reunion, is attacked by a hidden assailant who shoots her with a poisoned arrow. Able to heal herself, Yelena enjoys a passionate reunion with Valek before he returns to Ixia, but twenty four hours later she realises her magic has disappeared. Returning to Sitia, Yelena is desperate to find out how she has been stripped of her powers, and how to get them back. Without them she is vulnerable, especially since an old enemy is bent on revenge, and a new one is determined to destroy her.

While Yelena sets out to find the answers she needs, Valek is busy in his role as the Commander’s second after being gone for almost a year. His point of view details life at the keep, as well as Valek’s recall of his past as a student of the The School of Night and Shadows, desperate to avenge the murders of his family, and sets up what I assume will be the main thrust of the plot for this trilogy – a brewing war between Sitia and Ixia.

I don’t think it is strictly necessary to have read the previous books set in this world to enjoy Shadow Study, but those that have will have the slight advantage of being privy to both the history of Snyder’s world, and the development of the characters and their relationships. Snyder does introduce a few new characters in Shadow Study, most notably Onora, a talented assassin with her eye on Valek’s job, and Gerik, a soldier, who are partnered with Janco and Ari.

For established and new fans alike, Shadow Study should prove to be a fast paced and entertaining fantasy adventure. Fair warning though, the book ends on a cliffhanger and the second book, Night Study, won’t be published until 2016.

Available to purchase from

Harlequin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

BookDepository  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Poison Study Magic Study Fire Study

eclecticreader15

YA Adventure

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

 

Title: Red Queen {Red Queen #1}

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Published: Hachette Au February 2015

Status: Read from February 11 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

A fast-paced high fantasy adventure, Red Queen introduces Victoria Aveyard’s debut trilogy.

Perhaps the weakest aspect of Red Queen is its fairly formulaic concept. Aveyard pits an elite group – the Silvers – against an oppressed faction – the Reds. The Silvers, so called because of their silver blood, have a range of special abilities and hold all the wealth and power. The Reds, who bleed red blood, have no such gifts and are used as little more than slave labour or as fodder for the war with neighboring factions, subject to the whims of the ruling class. Enter the Scarlet Dawn, a band of Red rebels determined to overthrow the Silver’s.

“We will rise, red as the dawn.”

In terms of plot however, the author ably develops exciting conflict, intrigue, and betrayal. There is plenty of tension, high emotion and drama as Mare struggles to deal with the dangerous situation she finds herself trapped in. The story is fast paced with plenty of action and the obligatory romantic triangle, though with a surprising twist.

“I see a world on the edge of a blade. Without balance, it will fall.”

I liked Mare a lot, she is daring, feisty and loyal to those she loves. She has never simply accepted her lot in life as a Red, rebelling by becoming a petty thief in order to help support her family, and she jumps at the chance to become part of the revolution. Mare’s idealism is tempered with a hard earned streak of pragmatism but it proves to be not quite enough to protect her from intrigue of the Silver Court. She makes mistakes, tending to take things at face value, and as such is vulnerable to placing her trust in the wrong people with dramatic consequences.

“It is impossible. It is foolish. It is our best chance.”

The other main characters introduced in Red Queen also prove to be interesting, particularly the Silver Princes, Cal and Maven. Their complicated dynamic is integral to the plot development and Aveyard uses it well.

“He’s strong, he’s talented, he’s powerful – and I’m his shadow. The shadow of the flame.”

Entertaining and exciting I really enjoyed Red Queen and I am looking forward to the next book.

Available to purchase from

Hachette Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

BookDepository  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

challenge_2015wian_zpsafb42579

 

Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

 

Title: The Fire Sermon { The Fire Sermon #1}

Author: Francesca Haig

Published: Gallery Books February 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 05 to 07, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A dystopian blend of fantasy, sci-fi and adventure with a touch of romance, The Fire Sermon is the first book in a planned trilogy from Australian author, and award winning poet, Francesca Haig.

In the world four hundred years after The Blast, every person is born with a twin. One is always healthy and whole, while the other suffers from some abnormality. Identified as the Alpha and Omega, the twins are separated in early childhood, the Alpha is given the privileges of education and power, while the Omega, whose life only has value because their fate is entwined with the Alphas, is branded and banished to a life of poverty.
Cass and Zach have been raised together much longer than most twins while waiting for the Omega trait to surface. They are thirteen when Zach, eager to embrace his birthright of entitlement, finally betrays Cass as a seer and she is cast out.
Seven years later, Zach has risen to a position of power on the Alpha Council and to protect himself from his rivals, imprisons Cass in an Alpha facility where she is confined to a cell, her only regular visitor The Confessor, an Alpha colleague of her brother, determined to exploit Cass’s ability as a seer. It’s another four years before Cass has an opportunity to escape and she sets out to find the Omega Resistance, hoping to change the world.

The idea of Alpha and Omega twins is interesting though the general concept of a society, where one faction is privileged and another oppressed in a post apocalyptic setting, isn’t a new one. Haig doesn’t offer any explanation for the ‘twinning’, but I like the way it allows her to exploit the ‘greys’ of the premise. The physical link between the twins raises some philosophical and ethical questions that relates to issues in our own society.

AU Cover

I’m in two minds about Cass. I admired her determination to escape and search for something better but she is more pious and naive than I was comfortable with, with her compassion, and her eagerness to find excuses for her brother’s behaviour, verging on being a weakness of character rather than a virtue of idealism. Neither did I find Cass particularly brave or heroic and overall I didn’t feel her character demonstrated much growth over the course of the novel.

The pacing is somewhat uneven, Cass and Kip’s road trip in particular drags on a bit and I felt that Haig waited a bit too long to introduce the Resistance, but the writing is strong enough to encourage momentum. The tension is there when needed and there are a couple of twists designed to surprise the reader.

Marketed at a crossover adult/YA audience I’m sure the Fire Sermon will find readers among fans of dystopian fiction. Though the Fire Sermon didn’t wow me, I do think the trilogy has potential and I’m interested to see how the story develops.

Available to Purchase From

Gallery Books I Amazon US I BookDepository I Indiebound

via Booko

aww-badge-2015

 

Blog Tour Review: Avery by Charlotte McConaghy

Title: Avery {The Chronicles of Kaya #1}

Author: Charlotte McConaghy

Published: Random House Feb 2015

Status: Read from February 03 to 05, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Avery, the first book in Charlotte McConaghy’s romantic fantasy adventure trilogy, The Chronicles of Kaya, introduces a nation divided by war. For centuries the people of Kaya and Pirenti have fought bloody battles for dominance. The Pirenti, ruled by the sadistic Barbarian Queen, have the advantage of size and strength, the Kyan rely on the magic of the Warders and the bravery of their people to fight the tyranny.

During a mission to assassinate the queen in her castle, Avery is caught and savagely murdered much to the horror of his bond-mate, Ava. The people of Kyan die in pairs, and his passing should condemn Ava to death, but instead she is the first of her kind to survive. With her soul ripped in two, and cast out of Kayan society as ‘unnatural’, Ava assumes Avery’s identity and plots her revenge on the Queen but her plans are thwarted when she is captured by Ambrose, the Pirenti Prince.

Ambrose, like his elder brother Thorne, has been raised by his mother to hate the Kyan, scorning their physical weakness and soft emotions. A fierce and merciless warrior he is nevertheless beginning to question his mother’s cruelty and the endless bloodshed. Tasked to transport the Kayan boy he captured to the Pirenti prison isle, and then shipwrecked during the journey, he slowly comes to admire Avery’s courage and tenacity, challenging all he has been taught …and his barren heart.

Unusually, the narrative of Avery is carried by the first person perspectives of Ava and Ambrose, as well as Thorne, Ambrose’s elder brother, and Thorne’s wife, Roselyn. The focus of the tale is on the emotional journey of these four characters, struggling to reconcile their expectations and desires. The characters are quite complex and stir a mixture of admiration, pity, distaste and respect.

It wasn’t until I began to organise my thoughts to write this review that I realised there were elements of the romantic relationships that made me really uncomfortable. There is the idea that a man’s violent nature can be changed by love, that Roselyn’s patience with her abusive husband, and Ava’s endurance of Ambrose’s violence, are eventually rewarded by that change. That the Prince’s are excused because of their twisted upbringing, and eventually redeemed simply because these women love them. There is some attempt to mitigate the dysfunction with apologies, promises and redemption, but it is still a troublesome model of romance.

I did enjoy a number of other elements of the plot, particularly the twist that reveals the Barbarian Queen’s secrets. The action scenes, even those that are quite brutal, are well written, as are the more intimate and emotional scenes. Avery explores a number of facets of love – the love of country, and the bonds between siblings, parents and lovers. The world-building is fairly simplistic, I understood the Pirenti but didn’t feel I learned much about Kaya. I did find I could easily visualize the Pirenti castle, the hazards of the Prison isle and Ava soaring through the sky on the back of her Pegasi.

Avery is a tale of love, hate, revenge and redemption. Though I have my reservations about the romance I did enjoy the story in the moment and found it to be a quick read.

Follow the Avery Blog Tour

29 January 2015 – Booklover Book Reviews 31 January 2015 – Book Muster Down Under 5 February 2015 – Speculating on SpecFic 6 February 2015 – Book’d Out 9 February 2015 – An Adventure in Words 12 February 2015 – Inside my Words 13 February 2015 – Words Read and Written 16 February 2015 – Stephanie Gunn blog 17 February 2015 – A Word Shaker 19 February 2015 – Inside My Words 24 February 2015 – Thoughts by Joy 26 February 2015 – The Rest Is Still Unwritten

Avery is available to purchase from

Random House Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

aww-badge-2015

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,988 other followers