#bookporn #coverlove

A post-apocalyptic start to a trilogy that was never completed in publication which I really enjoyed. It’s such a shame when series get abondoned. Alex Adams, if you’re out there, could you at least self-publish ebooks to complete the trilogy? This reader would appreciate it so much!

Are there any series that you loved that were never completely published?

Book Review – ‘Ruin and Rising’ (#3 The Shadow and Bone Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo

Culture, magic, and political infighting make this epic fantasy shine bright.

Genre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 422

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

The finale for a trilogy set in a fantastical Russia where protagonist Alina is going to have to test all that she is capable of to defeat the evil power-hungry Darkling and his supernatural army. I’m not a huge fantasy reader, and it has taken me a while to get to read these novels, but I have to admit, the debut, ‘Shadow and Bone’ drew me in to the world of the Sun Summoner (Alina) and an army of preternaturally gifted soldiers (Grisha.) The world building in this series, from the landscape, to the magic system, and the political manoeuvring was done so expertly it’s easy to see why so many readers rave about this series.

I have to admit, I purchased all the books in this trilogy as they were released, but it took the airing of the television adaptation for me to quickly pick up the books and explore the world in written form before allowing myself to watch the show. And the television series is definitely one of my top five adaptations of all time. I hope subsequent seasons continue to live up to the high standard it has set for itself and don’t stray too far from the original source material. (As there has been some departure from the original concept, but it seems to be for the better.)

Admittedly ‘Rage and Ruin’ felt like it took a bit to warm up and get the story moving forward. It also felt a bit busy. There were a lot of elements and arcs, political movements that bogged down the pacing. It wasn’t until the last third of the book before the plot really took its stride.

There is a lot of carnage… but there did not feel like there were a lot of repercussions and dealing with the loss, instead pushing it aside to wrap up the trilogy nicely. I see this quite regularly in YA and fantasy, and I understand why – you don’t want to get side-tracked with heavy emotion and change the tone of the story; but, I think valuable character development and motivation can be overlooked because of this. And endings can be bittersweet, impactful, when you celebrate both victory and loss at the same time.

There was a good twist in the concluding pages, but besides that I didn’t get any surprises from the plot. The previous two novels were so good with swaying predictability in a way ‘Ruin and Rising’ didn’t. I also wanted some more exploration about the theme of power and corruption – it felt like it got built up and then magically went away. It has been such a strong theme throughout the trilogy, and I was left wanting a more resounding conclusion. As a result, the ending felt slightly (teensy-weensy) anticlimactic.

I don’t feel like Alina or love interest Mal had a lot of character development for ‘Ruin and Rising,’ but rather faced bigger challenges to pit against their morals, their connection, and their love for the country Ravka. All of the character development was done in the prequels, in this finale it was about putting all they have learned on the line – for themselves, and the rest of the country.

Leigh Bardugo can paint such a rich tapestry in world building and culture, creating political factions and armies, and builds a diverse cast of characters. Even though the novel is told in first-person narrative from Alina’s point of view, it is not hard to pick the voice of other characters without a label to identify them. I think that is a pretty amazing feat and shows just how honed Bardugo’s writing style and craft is.

I’d definitely recommend this trilogy and have already purchased the rest of the series set in this universe – Six of Crows  duology and the King of Scars series – as I have fallen in love with the mythology, the country, and the way Bardugo can craft a character driven story.

Overall feeling: quiet awe

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘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.

#bookporn #coverlove

I’ve been having a science fiction moment with my reading at the moment, and I was in the mood for a military twist from a new-to-me author. I have a feeling ‘Ancillary Justice’ will scratch this itch. Has anyone else read this? What am I in for?

#bookporn #coverlove

‘Wool’ had been sitting on my shelf for sooo long now – which is surprising because I like a good dystopian and I’ve heard great things about this series. I went a head and bought the rest of the collection because I’m confident this will be a great read. Are there any new authors that you just knew you’d love and bought a whole series on a whim?

Book Review – ‘This Vicious Cure’ (#3 This Mortal Coil) by Emily Suvada

A beautiful conclusion to a possible future where biology and technology merge.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 440

Two factions at war.

A plague that can’t be stopped.

A cure that could destroy them all…

Cat’s hacking skills weren’t enough to keep her from losing everything – her identity, her past, and now her freedom.

Meanwhile, the person who’s stolen everything from her is close to realizing a hacker’s dream: the solution to humanity’s problems in gene form. Or so she thinks…

But now a new threat has emerged – a threat that could bring the world to the brink of a devastating war.

Both sides will stop at nothing to seize control of humanity’s future, and that the centre of this war is Cat, and a race against the clock save millions of lives . . .

This is hands down one of my most favourite science fiction series read to date. Emily Suvada manages to surprise the reader in each instalment. Face crack of the season for me.

This, as a conclusion, had all the plot points I was expecting, but the climactic ending took an emotive humanitarian route (and rightly so) which was a departure from the scrappy band of soldiers fighting for freedom. So half of me wanted an all stakes battle, blood and guts everywhere, casualties, and world at the brink of an apocalypse… and the other half understands that the underlying battle of this series was to be fought in a laboratory and none of that balls-to-the-wall gore can actually play out in that scenario. I think Suvada did justice to this trilogy at the end, but it did not end with that definitive thump I was craving.

We see character arcs galore in ‘This Vicious Cure.’ I loved how everyone has to face personal demons in order for the world to change. Hats off to you Suvada, you know how to structure a character driven story with a plot engorged with action.

The ending, though slightly sickly sweet (cure Disney theme music) really leaves the reader with a sense of hope and wonder. I actually appreciated it. It was also easy to see that the job of healing the world was not over, neither was the growing developments in science, technology, and biology… each character finds new drive and motivation in the changed climate.

I really gelled with Suvada’s writing style. She manages to leave enough space for you to get to fall for a character without bogging you down with too much plot (info dumping) which is prevalent in science fiction. While I have read a few novels around technology and biology merging, and the ramifications of advancing in this area, none of them explored it in detail as much as Suvada. This trope was a character in the storyline in its own right; it wasn’t a plot device. You could see that this biotechnology was the heart and soul of this trilogy, and not a by-the-way aspect to show some futuristic wonder in setting a scene.

In hindsight, I think there were a lot of characters to keep track of (especially in book 2) but by the time I started reading ‘This Vicious Cure’ I was used to the cast and it did not feel like a struggle to keep all the characters straight in my head. Even though the pacing was a little slower at the beginning of the novel, it was not noticeably so, and this final instalment flew by and kept me engaged throughout. I only put the book down because I needed to sleep.

I don’t want to talk about the characters too much because it will spoil too many plot points for the series, but many of the main cast get a lot more fleshed out, motivations come to the forefront, and we really get to see them test their mettle.

A massive recommendation from me. This is a great exploration into a dystopian world where genetic tampering and biotechnology have brought the world to its knees with a masterful plot and interesting, driven characters. This is definitely sitting in my top 10 list.

Overall feeling: Inspirational

© 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.

Book Review – ‘This Cruel Design’ (#2 This Mortal Coil) by Emily Suvada

Human evolution and technology start to take on a new meaning to me…

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 435

In bunkers and strongholds across the world, people are celebrating. There’s a vaccine to the virus that has ravaged the planet for years.

But the vaccine isn’t working. The virus is evolving. Catarina – genehacker, reluctant warrior – must find the one person who can help: her estranged father, who is guilty of unimaginable crimes.

Time is ticking. She has three days before the shadowy gentech corporation Cartaxus will use lethal code to wipe out every person on the planet’s surface: kill the hosts, kill the virus.

Forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts, and with the end approaching, Cat discovers that the biggest threat of all may be buried in her own mind.

Such a fantastic book!! I have not read a science fiction series that I have been so engrossed in that is not based in space or alien planets ever. I bow to you Miss Suvada!

There is only a few teeny-tiny things that stopped me from giving this novel a perfect score. The first being I had difficulty getting my bearings at the start. I was about 50 pages in before everything clicked. Even though the story takes up right after the debut ended, there was no summary or re-cap and given the length of time between picking up ‘This Cruel Design’ since reading ‘This Mortal Coil,’ I was just floundering along trying to make sense of things and trigger memories – in a sense I was like Cat attempting to fill in gaps of memory.

I really think a foreward would have been helpful just to summarize and set the scene from ‘This Mortal Coil’ and then ‘This Cruel Design’ could have launched in earnest.

The other small aspect, was the novel had a bit of a slow start. ‘This Mortal Coil’ starts off with a bang, and I didn’t get that sense with ‘This Cruel Design.’ There is a lot of science and technology in this series. A true STEM geek-out (which I adore) but with having to get back into world building of a universe the reader was already familiar with felt counter intuitive.

Besides those niggling aspects, ‘This Cruel Design’ is an excellent read. I have not read a series that has continued to surprise and delight me multiple times with each instalment. I am so envious of Emily Suvada’s writing and ability to craft a plot and plot twists. She doesn’t drop obvious hints that have you sleuthing out the ending… she is a true master craftswoman. Add to that the science, theories, grounded in practical experience lends so much credence to the storyline. It may be isolating to some readers who don’t have a grasp on things like genetics, coding, and technology, but this was right up my alley. All those shows discussing the direction of human and technological evolution are like an appetiser to this series.

I felt we really got to see what Cat was made of in ‘This Cruel Design,’ like she became even more fully resolved. Plus the aspects of biology and technology she plays with is truly mind-bending. The relationship she had with Cole did feel slightly too fast. Not insta-love, but not a slow burn either, and did not feel quite organic.

The rest of the gifted children (genetically altered soldiers) while each a fully rounded characters – both endearing and annoying… there is always something holding me back from falling in love with them. Maybe it’s the military aspect with them withholding information; or the fact they may be controlled or manipulated to some extent, but that is a truly marvellous storytelling device. This is interwoven with the expansion on Cat and Jun Bei’s family through flashbacks, history and present day events.

I love the introduction of a counter-faction to Cartaxus; equal in diverging biology and technology.

A side note of things yet to come, like the Dax mystery, the Lachlan mystery, and Agnes (yaya) secrets – these should be the big ones in the final book of the trilogy. The pigeons still have a part to play – they’ve been mentioned far too much to not have any significance. I’m keen to find this out. Not to mention the final showdown between Cat and Jun Bei… I’m clenching my buttocks with excitement for that one. Oh, yeah, and the ending of Cartaxus and orientating the world towards a new freedom. No biggie.

Though the story concluded, you still get a sense that there is still a much bigger picture and fight to be had (sans abovementioned notes) – setting up ‘This Vicious Cure’ really well. Can’t wait to see what surprises are in store. What new twists Suvada has in store.

Overall feeling: Mind-blowing adventure galore!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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.

#bookporn #coverlove

I got the bind-up of this trilogy and it’s been suggested for fans of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ so we’ll have to see how this measures up – and no need to wait for a sequel, it’s all right there. My summer holidays are looking great right now for reading material!