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 – The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

An epic sci-fi adventure that left me gob-smacked.The Illuminae Files Wrap Up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

There was a lot of hype surrounding the launch of this trilogy – and rightly so. It was phenomenal. I haven’t been so captivated by a YA science fiction series in a very long time. Not only does this grab reader’s attention with its format of collated documents to form the narrative, but the pacing jumps from chapter to chapter. I am in awe of Kristoff and Kaufman in creating this collection.

If I wanted to be picky, I’d say there are a lot of character to keep track of – and some may read similar to one another. The mostly have that sarcastic sense of humor and are ballsy hero types. Also with the change in perspective in the second book (‘Gemina’), which felt a bit slower, left me high and dry after I had invested so much into Kady in ‘Illuminae.’ But not to worry, all the cast are brought together in ‘Obsidio.’ Like I said that’s if I was looking for some elements to be critical of. Because of the main cast, their personalities are distinctly different, we get diversity  and a range of special skills that each of them bring to the team. One of them is an artificial intelligence (AIDAIN) who is in front and centre just as much as his fleshy counterparts. All the characters are fallible and make mistakes along the fight for their lives against greedy corporations only trying to save their own behinds and turn a profit.

The Illuminae Files Wrap Up Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

There is always more than one thing going on in the plot, it’s literally everything but the kitchen sink thrown at the main cast. This adds to the tension and pacing. And for a sci-fi it is not bogged down in world building or technical information to support the narrative. Apart from a lull in the first 100 pages of ‘Gemina,’ I did not put these books down except to eat or sleep.

I’m ecstatic to hear Brad Pitt had optioned ‘Illuminae’ for a film adaptation – after seeing how he treated World War Z, I am expecting marvelous things! You can bet I’ll be keeping my feelers out to see how this project develops.

So I won’t go into detail too much about the characters – I don’t want to spoil too much. But you can bet that this is one of my all-time favorites and comes vehemently recommended. I hope Kristoff and Kaufman team up for more similar projects in the future, because I’d add them to my shopping cart automatically.

The Illuminae Files Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Illuminae’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/book-review-illuminae-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoff/

‘Gemina’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/book-review-gemina-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoff/

Obsidiohttps://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/book-review-obsidio-3-illuminae-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoff/

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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 – ‘Obsidio’ (#3 Illuminae) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Hold on to your nickers!

Obsidio (#3 Illuminae) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 615

From Goodreads:

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.

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This series is the coolest kid at school. It was everything I wanted an epic sci-fi novel to be. We get all of the characters back in a high stakes battle for survival. The first half is all about the build and moving the chess pieces around on the board. The second half is mind-blowing action, twist and turns. I felt like I was reading this in a wind tunnel. So much going on. I couldn’t put it down.

Though I enjoyed ‘Gemina,’ I missed Kady. But we get her back and all the crazy characters interacting with that same witty sarcasm I’ve come to love. It suited their dialogue, their age, and helped with the heavy tone of the trilogy. Because there is a lot of carnage. Not everyone survives and you never know what unexpected thing is going to happen next to take away someone you love.

Death is handled delicately. It’s balanced with humanity. Everyone is important, everyone has a back story. There are no unimportant characters. I frickin love this aspect about the Illuminae Files. And it shines brightly in ‘Obsidio,’ as the reasons for all those sacrifices takes the forefront.

I’m sad for this series to end because I absolutely loved my time reading ‘Illluminae,’ ‘Gemina,’ and ‘Obsidio.’  But I will definitely be re-reading this sometime in the near future.

Glad to hear Brad Pitt has optioned ‘Illuminae’ for development – it’s a movie I’m really excited to see come to the big screen.

Obsidio (#3 Illuminae) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The use of graphic as a part of the narrative is still something that enhances the story for me. It adds another element, like art, evoking even more emotions than you can get from words alone. The abstract formation of a mentally unstable A.I., to the handwritten notes passed secretly between characters.

I lost a little bit of my love for the series in ‘Gemina,’ new characters, a completely different setting, but ‘Obsidio’ manages to draw everything together and deliver what I was missing. And I am ecstatic about this book. It is one of my favorite sci-fi titles of all time! It has been so long since I was totally engrossed and compelled with a read in this genre. Hats off to Kaufman and Kristoff – you guys are geniuses.

The book is a brick though, my wrists ached from holding it up, and I’m uncertain if you’d get the same reading experience in ebook form because most of the graphics are a two page spread. But it would have made it much easier to read.

I’m not going to talk about individual characters because of spoilers – and this would turn into a 10 page essay. But in comparing the ones who survive to how they were at the start of the series, they have been shaped a little differently, grown up. But are still the teens we know them to be. I will say it didn’t feel like there was this massive transformation – only because it didn’t suit the narrative tone. And well, this isn’t one of those naval gazing types of books. It’s more about action and space wars, there is a hint of philosophy and inward soul gazing, and that’s all you needed for a YA series like this.

My only worry now is what to read next… and is it going to stack up to the glory of ‘Obsidio.’

Overall feeling: OHMYGODOHMYGOD!

Obsidio (#3 Illuminae) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Obsidio (#3 Illuminae) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Gemina’ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Teens surviving a shit-storm in space – Excellent!

Gemina Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 608

From Goodreads:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

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It has been an age since I was eagerly anticipating a book release – and it just had to be a massive space soap opera! Maybe I’m flashing back to my childhood and the Star Wars days? Anyway, I cracked the cover and started reading ‘Gemina’ as soon as I had unboxed it. I found I was missing the characters from ‘Illuminae.’ We get a few glimpses of them, but this sequel deals with a whole new cast – and there are so many new characters! It took a bit to keep track of them all and focus on what’s happening – especially with the format of collated documents.

The story feels slow to start with, and was a little difficult to capture my interest, especially after my disappointment at not reading more about Kady and Co. After I got past the first 100 pages, I settled into the new environment, got to know our protagonists Hanna and Nik, things started to get better and better. The anty just kept getting one-upped. Just like ‘Illuminae’ I was completely engrossed.

Hanna is a real balls-to-the-wall kind of girl. A cross between a pampered princess and an Amazonian. She called to all the joys I have about reading a take-no-prisoners heroine. Only because I wish I could be that kind of person, instead of passing out after one push-up.

I appreciated the humour mixed into the narrative and laughed out loud man many times. Though sometimes it felt forced and unnecessary. But I can understand the characters need to crack a funny – to release tension and teenagers are always inappropriate and the worst of times. But still…

Nik – I guessed his backstory well in advance, something about how he was written gave it away. But I still really liked him, even if he was predictable. If I had to nit-pick I’d say he was the weakest part of the novel.

Ella was cute and reminded me of Iko and Winter from the Cinder Chronicles rolled into one.

The plight of the teens under terrorist attack, a bio threat, wormhole issues, incoming destroyers… it was all enough to reduce you into a puddle of your own making. The tension builds and builds, the pace quickened expertly. For such a large novel, I flew through the last half in a matter of hours. Such an expert mix of action, adventure and science fiction. Even with the mixed format of collated documents, you still got a sense of urgency and multiple points of view which only added to the story.

That ending tough – by the time I got there, I thought anything could happen and wasn’t certain about any predictions… I like to be kept guessing, so the conclusion was simply brilliant. I’m desperately hangry for the next release ‘Obsidio’ to be dropped next year.

Overall feeling: So. Much. Stuff. Happening!

Gemina Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Gemina Book Review Pic 03 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 Darkest Part of the Forest’ by Holly Black

The double edged sword of having Fae folk as neighbours.. it can only be delicious and terrifying.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough? 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I bought this after reading ‘The Coldest Girl in Coldtown’ – Holly Black’s writing is fun, dark, and she’s great at developing a character; so I was expecting all of that in ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ and was not disappointed.

I’m not big on fantasy, but the setting of this novel was in a modern day urban locale, with a small town sharing a forest with Fae Folk. They’ve reached a sort-of pact, and know all of the Fariy Lore. So, I found it easy to relate to the story, and wasn’t distracted by lengthy world building.

The writing style has an omnipresent eye, bucking the trend of a first person narrative, as we follow brother and sister, Ben and Hazel, both who are fascinated (as are much of the town of Farifold) with a beautiful boy in a glass coffin, Snow White-style.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleHazel is warrior child from the get go, she wild and brazen and not afraid of the folk. Imaginary games of being a huntress, dispatching the bad Fae becomes a real life duty for Hazel. It’s her secret double life outside of being a regular fun-loving school student.

Likewise, her brother Ben assists in Hazel quests using his ability to entrance all with music, like a Pied Piper, a gift bestowed on him by the Fae. Ben is compassionate and tortured, like every true artist. Having Ben identify as gay only added delicious layers to his story.

Jack is Ben’s best friend (and Changeling – a fairy youngling, replacing a human child and left for the family to raise, however the ruse was discovered and the human baby recovered, though Ben was kept as a punishment. Looking completely human and identical to human baby Carter, he was raised as a part of the family.) Jack loves without discrimination and has a foot in both worlds. Of course, Hazel would have a crush on him. I loved the way his character developed in this story most of all.

Severin the horned prince in the glass coffin – and Ben’s love interest still manages to be in the centre of the storyline even though he is asleep. The stories everyone makes up about who he is, and how he came to be entombed in a magical glass box is fascinating.

A surprisingly fast read that is paced well. ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ always kept me interested and engaged. The story dealt out some surprises, but overall, fairly predictable – though that did not detract from my enjoyment. With such a rich array of characters and a fantastical world juxtaposing over our own, it ticked all the poxes for me as an enjoyable weekend read. I think the only thing that could have made it better was a heavier dose of darkness and menacing tension – then I would be completely satisfied. Though having said that it would have lost that innocent lyrical tone befitting the Fae so well.

Loved the physical presentation of the hardback copy. Deckled edges, mat and embossed dust jacket and beautiful typesetting throughout the interior. And did I mention the stunning cover art?

Overall feeling: One word – Cute.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© 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.