Book Review – ‘Shadow and Bone’ (#1 The Shadow and Bone Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo

A unique magical system set in historical Russia, this tale of a girl with special powers blasts competitors out of the water.

Genre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 358

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal–and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.

Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destroy the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart–and her country–in two.

I did the mad rush to quickly get the book read before the television series was released – and thankfully managed it so that I could indulge in the series. It was a great kick in the pants for some motivation because this book has been sitting on my TBR shelf for years!

Shadow and Bone’ definitely lived up to the hype I’ve heard all of these years. Fantasy had fallen out of favour with me a while back, which is why I let this sit for so long, but it has re-ignited my interest in the genre. Leigh Bardugo has created a fantastical world of powered individuals called the Grisha, a dark cloud cutting their country in half called the Fold created by a powerful Grisha known as the Darkling. With warring countries, and a battle for power between the royals, church, and the Grisha this Russian landscape proves a formidable one for protagonist Alina and her childhood best friend Mal.

There is a bit of an overused trope here – the orphan who has a secret formidable power to save the world – but it is done so well that I didn’t mind it in the least. Alina is intelligent and there is a slow burn of her coming into her confidence and expanding her knowledge about the Grisha. A country at war provides a dynamic backdrop as Alina and Mal travel into the Fold where Alina’s Sun Summoner power first shows itself under attack from the monsters in the shadows.

There is some admirable character development for Alina in ‘Shadow and Bone.’  Though Mal comes in and out of the narrative and seems to be the same reliable and loyal friend Alina has always known, so I didn’t see much growth for his character. We get a sense that Mal could be a love interest, as too do we see the leader of the Grisha, the Darkling. I really loved how Alina investigates the world of the Grisha and tries to hold her made family of her and Mal together. There are some great reveals in ‘Shadow and Bone’ that help set a cracking pace. I devoured this novel in two sittings and it felt effortless. Leigh Bardugo’s writing style is breezy and melodic setting a beautiful tone, and you don’t see the twists and turns coming until they are upon you.

This book comes highly recommended and I can see why – I definitely agree this is in the top of my favourite reads in the fantasy genre to date. The concept of the amplifiers, though interwoven seamlessly into the story was the least plausible for me in this magic system. The idea of groups of powered Grisha, and the variations within those groups is truly fascinating. I’m sure we’ll get to explore much more in the following sequels.

I had a wonderful experience with ‘Shadow and Bone’ and am keen to jump into book two, ‘Siege and Storm’ right away.

Overall feeling: Magical!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wrap up – Reboot Duology by Amy Tintera

This is like a starter pack to the dystopian genre.
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With a rock start, ‘Reboot’ was difficult to get into. With an unemotive protagonist (Wren) who has been brought back from the dead by the corporation HARC and used as a professional assassin, the first two thirds of the novel were hard to get into and relate with the main character. It took Wren’s relationship with love interest Callum to warm up the narrative and give it some interest. While I enjoyed the premise, storyline and started to invest in Wren as a main character; overall the writing style was a little dry and sparse. So the pacing faltered at the beginning because of a robotic protagonist, though the last third everything picks up and really engages the reader. I wish there was more resolution at the end of the first novel as well, there were so many unanswered questions I simply had to read ‘Rebel’ just to satiate my curiosity.

‘Rebel’ was a superior novel to the debut on all counts. Where ‘Reboot’ was predictable, ‘Rebel’ was complex. The characters really come alive. The plot more sophisticated. Thought the ending to ‘Rebel’ did feel a little rushed it brought the hero’s journey to a satisfying end. However there were still many unanswered questions around the mythology and origin of the reboots and HARC I wanted to delve into. But this is definitely a fun and interesting duology and does the dystopian genre justice.

Wren is a hard character to get to know and love. It’s all about describing actions and observations. We don’t get a lot of inner emotional dialogue until halfway. Maybe writing in third person could have avoided this disconnection and allowed the reader to identify with Wren much earlier? Her love interest, Callum, was so much the trope of the boy-next-door. A loveable loyal companion, I really wanted to see an arc of his own to struggle through. But he was a great juxtaposition to Wren. Without Callum this would have been a very boring read.

You can see a definite improvement from book 1 to book 2, and I’d say it’s an average rated read for this genre. The novels are short so you can power through them quickly. I love the concept, but feel there could have been more done to up interest and engagement of the reader. Something I’d recommend for the YA demographic as they are imaginative, fun, and uncomplicated.

I’m interested in contrasting Amy Tintera’s later releases, because if the trajectory of improvement holds, they should be some awesome reads!

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Reboot’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/book-review-reboot-by-amy-tintera/

Rebel’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/book-review-rebel-by-amy-tintera/

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Rebel’ by Amy Tintera

Zombie soldiers revolt against the evil corporation that created them… where do I sign up?

Rebel Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 340

From Goodreads:

Wren Connolly thought she’d left her human side behind when she dies five years ago and came back 178 minutes later as a Reboot. With her new abilities of strength, speed, and healing—along with a lack of emotions—Wren 178 became the perfect soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation). Then Callum 22 came along and changed everything.

Now that they’ve both escaped, they’re ready to start a new life in peace on the Reboot reservation. But Micah 163, the Reboot running the reservation, has darker plans in mind: to wipe out the humans. All of them. Micah has been building a Reboot army for years and is now ready to launch his attack on the cities. Callum wants to stick around and protect the humans. Wren wants nothing more than to leave all the fighting behind them.

With Micah on one side, HARC on the other, and Wren and Callum at odds in the middle, there’s only one option left…

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A great follow-up to the debut novel ‘Reboot,’ I enjoyed this more than I expected. I went into this book not really expecting much, but as the relationships and mythology were explored further, I developed a new found appreciation for this new take on zombie super soldiers. There is a certain amount of predictability for ‘Rebel,’ I easily guessed the ending – but I mean it was pretty obvious given the title; but the twists and turns it took to get there certainly made a wild ride. With just about everything imaginable thrown at the reboot gang, this was an engaging read.

Rebel Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleOur protagonist, Wren, felt more human; and I was able to connect with her character better than I had in the debut. She was able to emote and make human connection, where I had difficulty relating to her in ‘Reboot’ because of her cold stoic nature. Her love interest, Callum, still reminded me of a loyal Labrador in this follow-up, and felt like the grounding force amongst all the chaos for Wren. I liked how he found his place in the dysfunctional rag-tag group they formed while running for their lives.

The element of politics and alliances was a great touch and added a layer to the story telling, one-upping the plot complexity from the debut. The narrative still felt a little bland – but I’m not chalking it up to Wren’s nature like I did with ‘Reboot’ – I think it’s tone and style of Amy. And in saying that, I think this book could have been more engaging, which is why I’ve given it an average rating. It didn’t leave a large impression on me.

There wasn’t the great uncovering of the mythology and science behind the existence of reboots, or much explanation into the experiments being performed on them, it was cursory in nature, which is a shame – I like more science in my sci-fi. I was waiting for the nuts and bolts of the world building and that ah-ha moment around Wren, Callum, and HARC; but the impact was soft and not satisfactory.

Towards the end, a few things felt coincidental and rushed for the sake of wrapping up everything in a pretty pink bow, but with YA and Amy’s writing style, it worked. This is cute, and gave me a pay-off worthy of the duology, and makes me want to recommend to fans of dystopians. A fun and interesting read all up.

Considering it took me a while to get into and finish ‘Reboot,’ I completed ‘Rebel’ in one sitting over the course of an afternoon. The pacing and tension were handled better than the first novel, and even though the narrative was still dry, was much more engaging. I’m looking forward to trying out her latest series ‘Ruined’ and ‘Avenged.

Overall feeling: I’ll give it a thumbs up

Rebel Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Rebel Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Reboot’ by Amy Tintera

An emotion-less heroine is hard to connect with – but the story has potential.

Reboot Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 365

From Goodreads:

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

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It took me a considerable amount of time to really get into this book. I kept putting it down, interested, but not compelled to keep reading. The concept certainly had me hooked, but an emotionless protagonist was hard to connect with. It was also hard to become invested in the reboot’s plight when I am still trying to figure out HARC. We got some insight, but it was mostly speculation. I like that is wasn’t fully explained, but I needed more to feel like I got a decent pay-off on completing the novel.

Our protagonist Wren was a hard character to like for the first three-quarters of the novel. An unfeeling, unemoting, assassinating machine does not warm your heart. It was her connection to the love interest Callum that finally had me beginning to like her and invest in their relationship. The interaction she had with her roommate, Ever, was limited as well.  And later, when described as her best friend, I was still struggling to understand Wren completely. I think the narrative relies on the reader to attribute human emotions to the situations even though they are not represented in the written word.

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Ever seemed a bit more present in the story. Where Wren was an observer for much of the novel, Ever was the subject. I got a quiet bravery and solidarity from her reflected in Wrens eyes.

Callum very much reminded me of a friendly puppy dog, always happy, wagging tail, smiling. The perfect balance to Wren’s stoic nature. He added layers of empathy that were absent and slowly engaged me in the story and shone a more flattering light on Wren. Though it seems he was only interested in her because she was cute. It wasn’t until much later in the novel we discovered other motives. And I wasn’t entirely convinced about how their relationship progressed. It didn’t fill me with love or angst… it was cute and okay, but didn’t sell me on the romance.

On the whole, the plot of this story is predictable. A few curve balls were thrown in with other arcs, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but they weren’t explored enough to give this novel the oomph it needed – I am expecting these to more developed in the second novel of the series ‘Rebel.’

Amy’s writing style is a little dry. She has moments of humour and manages to pace the novel well. But the beginning and middle sections of the book felt slow because of this flat narrative. Which could be in part because of Wren’s nature, and part because not much imaginative description and postulation regarding Wren’s surroundings and the world at large.

I’d recommend this to anyone who loves dystopian YA. It’s not the best I’ve read, but certainly entertaining.

For me, there felt like there were so many plot holes and unexplained phenomena to really get into, but we’ll see what happens in the sequel…

Overall feeling: just like another teen movie

Reboot Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Reboot Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – The Queen’s Army by Marissa Meyer

The Queens Army Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 18

From Goodreads:

It is time. The boy must leave his family to serve in the Queen’s army. To be chosen is an honor. To decline is impossible. The boy is modified. He is trained for several years, and learns to fight to the death. He proves to the Queen—and to himself—that he is capable of evil. He is just the kind of soldier the Queen wants: the alpha of his pack.

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Continuing on with finishing up all the novellas in the Lunar Chronicles, ‘The Queen’s Army’ wasn’t really as satisfying as I expected.

While I enjoyed this story, and it was interesting to get a glimpse into a soldier’s perspective of the Lunar Queen’s armed forces, it did not shed a whole lot of new information about the story or characters. It bridged a little of the gap, but didn’t enhance my experience of the Lunar Chronicles so much.

And it was barely longer than a chapter in its entirety, so there is little to add… it wouldn’t hurt anyone to give this one a miss, but if you are obsessed with the Wolf Pack and its origins, then this is one for you.

Overall feeling: sniff… snuff… sneeze…

The Queens Army Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Queens Army Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Untaken by J. E. Anckorn

Hang on to your socks – it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Untaken Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure, Dystopian

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

It turns out that a real alien invasion is nothing like the Sci-fi shows 14-year-old Gracie loves. Not when it’s your own family who are swallowed whole by those big silver ships. Not if it could be you next.

In her search for her family, Gracie meets Brandon, a high school dropout who would never have been caught dead hanging out with a dork like Gracie before the world ended. Gracie isn’t too crazy about Brandon either, but he has one thing she doesn’t: A plan.

Brandon’s uncle has a cabin up in Maine, and If Gracie and Brandon can survive long enough to get there they can hide out until the Space Men pack up their ships and leave.
Until the army guys come to rescue them, says Brandon.
Brandon is big into army guys.

Gracie has to admit that Brandon’s Awesome Plan probably would have worked out great if wasn’t for Jake.
They found 5-year-old Jake, laying half-dead under the remains of someone’s ranch house. He’s a good kid, even if he won’t-or can’t- talk.

But Jake has a secret, and when Gracie finds out what it is, the fragile new life they’ve started to forge looks set to break apart.

When the people you’ve been counting on to put the world back together start hunting you down, alien invaders are the least of your worries.

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This book was unexpected. I assumed it was another alien invasion story… and it was, but with a few other twists.

Narrated in alternate P.O.V. from Gracie, Brandon and Jake, Untaken documents their journey of survival through alien and human combatants’ alike, searching for a safe place to call home (in the form of a cabin in Maine). I’m not usually a fan of alternate voices in the narrative, but this time it gave unique perspectives and added something to the story.

I found Brandon to be a little crass and obstinate, the curse words and his attitude fitted his age and how he assumed a leadership role. This juxtaposed with Gracie, more of a tween than a teenager, but with the common sense of someone much older. She was quietly observant and determined with a manner that worked around the boys and kept the group together. The group dynamic was very reminiscent of The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey.

Jake, the youngest, only has short and sparse contributions to the narrative, but it was always to show something important.

The mode of the alien attack was a little derivative, I would have like to read a more original aspect to their presence; however their motivations were pretty cool indeed.

Untaken Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Overall, I was really excited about this book – parts of the narrative felt awkward, but that was due to the fact of the cast’s such young age. And this is a quick and easy read full of action and mystery. I devoured the book in one sitting. I had difficulty in predicting what was going to happen, maybe about three quarters through I was pretty close, but there is certainly enough plot twists to keep you guessing.

I’d recommend this without hesitation, especially if you love sci-fi or dystopian.

Overall feeling: That was sumthin’

Untaken Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Untaken Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.