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.

Book Review – ‘Broken Throne’ (#4.5 Red Queen) by Victoria Aveyard

Filling in the gaps in the Red Queen series.

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 480

This gorgeously designed package features three brand-new novellas, two previously published novellas, Steel Scars and Queen Song, and never-before-seen maps, flags, bonus scenes, journal entries, and much more exclusive content.

Fans will be delighted to catch up with beloved characters after the drama of War Storm and be excited to hear from brand-new voices as well. This stunning collection is not to be missed!

A bind up of novellas for the Red Queen franchise that follow secondary characters in this universe, and the final short story lets us glimpse into the further of Mare and Cal after ‘War Storm.’

It pains me to say, but this was the least interesting read of the series so far. That, in addition to the publishers doubling up on releasing two short stories previously published in another bind-up. Which left two novellas that I had not read that were so steeped in politics and descriptions of the nation (and historical research) that the tone was dry and boring. I seriously had a difficult time trying to stay focused on the page.

The ray of sun that broke through the clouds, was the inclusion of Mare and Cal reuniting in the last novella. Though not really explored, just a brief moment where they address feelings (not getting too deep) before the story ends.

So I got a brief moment of joy in a sea of lengthy beaurocratic red tape descriptions and two already-read short stories. I kinda feel ripped off.

There were moments of Victoria Aveyard’s writing that really drew me in, especially in the final novella, but the rest of the time the pacing was off and the plot so bogged down with situational recount, no compelling protagonist, for me to feel connected to the narrative, or even care where the story is going.

Broken Throne’ is more for the die-hard enthusiast for the Red Queen series. It has snippets from other characters, description of political movements and wars, history from present day to this dystopian powered world of Reds and Silvers. A great companion for the fans; but for me, a lover of the supernatural powers and a strong tale of a protagonist overcoming the odds, much of this did not appeal.

Overall feeling: It was just not for me…

© 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 – ‘Reckoning’ by Magda Szubanski

Enlightening personal history of identity, country and family.

Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, War, History

No. of pages: 400

Magda Szubanski’s childhood in a suburban migrant family was haunted by the demons of her father’s life in wartime Poland. At nineteen, fighting in the Warsaw resistance, he had been recruited to a secret counter-intelligence execution squad. His mission was to assassinate Polish traitors who were betraying Jewish citizens to the Nazis. The legacy of her father’s bravery left the young Magda with profound questions about her family story.

As she grew up, the assassin’s daughter had to navigate her own frailties and fears, including a lifelong struggle with weight gain and an increasing awareness of her own sexuality. With courage and compassion Szubanski’s memoir asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.

Magda Szubanskiis one of Australia’s best known and most loved performers. She appeared in a number of sketch comedy shows before creating the iconic character of Sharon in ABC-TV’s Kath and Kim. She has also acted in films (Babe, Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet, The Golden Compass) and stage shows. Reckoning is her first book.

Magda Szubanski is an impressive woman and a magnanimous writer. Her style is beautiful, melancholic, and haunting. I was bursting with pride and envy upon reading her memoir – her writing skills are first class.

I’m not big on memoirs or autobiographies, but frequently pepper them in my reading schedule because I like to take in a wide breath of writing styles and subjects. ‘Reckoning’ first attracted me because Magda has been the one Australian actress/comedian that has been a constant with me throughout my life. I was always amazed at her work, her humour, her skills in all the endeavours she put her hand to. Then as I started to get into the memoir, I discovered that we were kin on so many other levels. Her father is Polish and served – and survived – the war; my partner is part Polish, descendant from the royal family, and served in the NZSAS, and some of the atrocities he has lived through quite frankly scare the bejeezus out of me. Magda counts herself as a part of the  LGBTQIA+ community as do I, and issues pertaining to identity, coming out, admonishing over labels and perception I can fully relate to. The loss of loved ones – check! And trying to navigate the world as a woman in male dominated industries… need I say more. Though in having said all that, ‘Reckoning’ heavily deals with history and identity of a country which was just about wiped off the face of the earth. A people who only have a history of pain, death, and displacement.

Reckoning’ is a lot to digest. It’s full of a time of humanity at its worst, mixed together with Magda coming to terms with her families role in that period, and, like a heavy sweater, something she drags around with her, trying to fit in today’s society. So I had to put this down a lot. It was emotional, difficult, and confronting subject matter. Distinctly Australian and nostalgic. But also triggering. It brought up all my insecurities again, as Magda faced hers,  and had me reliving precious childhood memories that I don’t even have the opportunity of sharing with family again because they have all passed on.

We also get snippets of her professional acting career; and not really a behind the scenes feel, but a glimpse into her emotional and mental states around those events. I loved how this is not anything like the memoirs I’ve recently read from other famous female actors and comedians. In comparison those are fluffy, feel good pieces, where ‘Reckoning’ is a soulful powerhouse.

This memoir feels more like a love letter to her father, and the Polish people. It’s about her discovering her heritage and using that as a lens to confront her own identity. Though this writing was completely unexpected, I can say with all honesty this memoir is the best of this genre I have read to date. The only down side is that it may isolate some younger readers and can get a little bogged down in history. But this is definitely a memoir I will be recommending to everyone.

Overall feeling: I stand with you…

© 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.

Book Review – ‘The Marque’ by Michael Patrick Harris

Western meets Space Invaders.

The Marque Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 57

From Goodreads:

The world has fallen beneath the rule of alien invaders. The remnants of humanity are divided into two camps: those who resist, and those serve.

Darrel Fines serves. He is a traitor, a turncoat who has betrayed his people, his wife, and most of all, himself. In this new world order, in which humanity is at the very bottom, Fines is a lawman for the violent and grotesque conquerors.

When the offspring of the Marque goes missing, Fines is charged with locating and recovering the alien. Caught in the crosshairs of a subdued worker’s camp and the resistance cell that he was once allied with, Fines is forced to choose between a life of servility and a life of honor.

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This review will be short and sweet – because ‘The Marque’ is only 57 pages long.

While I enjoy sci-fi and horror, this combination was akin to Stephen King. Though I’m uncertain of the message.

The writing is gritty and dark and fiercely masculine. I think that is what disappointed me a little, I was hungering for a bit more perspective! A bit more mythology.

The Marque’ was more like a soundbite. A premise of a great story. A snapshot of an interesting character facing a moral crossroad.

And then it was all over.

Fantastic writing and imagery, great concept… but that is all this is.  I’d love to read a full length novel by this author, I have a feeling it would be incredible. Checking his back catalogue I can see he has only listed short stories and novellas on Goodreads. While I enjoy this medium of storytelling, I prefer novels. I like to get lost in the world building, character development, and feel the build of a fast-paced plot. You don’t get that in a shorter lengthed tome. Michael Patrick Hicks is definitely a talented writer and I recommend you check him out (but only if you enjoy mini-bites of fiction.)

Overall feeling: Not too shabby.

The Marque Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Marque Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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 – ‘Into the Still Blue’ (#3 Under the Never Sky) by Veronica Rossi

The hair-raising conclusion to a lightning filled dystopian world that fizzled flat.

Into The Still Blue Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 389

From Goodreads:

The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they’re using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn’t just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival—he’s also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most. 

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The battle is real – with this conclusion to the trilogy ‘Into the Still Blue’ brings about all the physical fight against the elements and each other in hope to find an Oasis from a decaying environment and factions struggling for power. On the surface the plot is outstanding, but the delivery felt a somewhat lukewarm.

I felt Aria finally got her sea-legs. In the previous novels I felt she bounced around between place, people and conviction. As much as I did not connect with her, I appreciated her story.

Perry just seemed to struggle. From the start – right to the end… and I think that is just who he is. So that left me kind of meh!

I think I was more excited about the dog Flea in this novel. The mention of him always brought a smile to my face.

Into The Still Blue Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleIt felt masterfully crafted, though I must admit I never really connected with Aria or Perry throughout this trilogy; and something about the writing style had me wandering away from the book quite a lot. It’s not that it was boring, I just never felt compelled to read on.

I feel like I want to say that the supporting characters had more depth than our two protagonists. Maybe because Aria and Perry were so single minded. So serious. That their narrative came across slightly monotone. There was no fluctuation in ambience and motive.

There wasn’t anything that struck me as particularly wrong with this concluding novel, just there was something missing. I think the dual perspective, again, gave too many answers and details for the story, eliminating a great opportunity to up the tension.

On the subject of loss and Death – I was a little on the fence with how this was dealt with. There were varying degrees of impact from the loss of certain characters. I felt more importance and compassion should have been considered. It would have also made for a much more poignant conclusion. I also did not like how murder and killing were handled either. Again, the facts were mostly glossed over to move the story along. When it would have been a great opportunity to up the emotion and paint a picture of devastation, brutality, and inevitability of the fight for survival against nature, and each other.

The plot unravelled very organically and I never felt the hand of the author guiding along the story. Though, the writing style did not paint a detailed enough picture of the world for me. I still have trouble picturing the main characters and the landscape they live in. Some aspects are crystal clear, but others felt washed out.

I liked the tone the novel ended on and how the storyline wrapped up. But I was still hoping for more mythology from this dystopian world to explore. Get some more technology in this sci-fi. Oh well…

It’s not a series I would recommend to friends – it’s okay. But there are much more entertaining collections out there.

Overall reaction: *rocking hand motion*

Into The Still Blue Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Into The Still Blue 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 – ‘King’s Cage’ (#3 Red Queen) by Victoria Aveyard

A masterful crafting of plot, but suffered with pacing. Still captivated my imagination.

Kings Cage Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

No. of pages: 528

From Goodreads:

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

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It’s not like ‘Red Queen’ where I was fascinated by the world of Norta and the novelty of Silvers and their X-Men like abilities. With this I find long chapters of inner musings about the past, ponderings on strategic moves for gains in war and politics. And while interesting, after a while I became a little bored.

We get more mixed perspectives in ‘King’s Cage,’ Mare, Evangeline, Cameron, and as much as each narrative added something to the plot, they were similar in tone. I found myself wishing for a different style of words and sentence structure to really separate the voices. If not for the description and characters around them (and the title headings) I would not know who’s perspective I was reading. I had enjoyed the single narrative and pacing of ‘Red Queen,’ With ‘King’s Cage’ comparatively the pacing felt slow from the changing perspectives adding extra “mess.” The varying perspectives could have been used as a tool to pump in some action and entice the reader with mini cliff hangers… which it did to some extent, but I wasn’t sold.

Much like Mare’s prisoner routine – it felt repetitive and didn’t go anywhere.

Kings Cage Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgAs much as I love Mare, the strong, downtrodden protagonist. The lightning girl. A red. This wasn’t the book for her to shine. This felt more like a middle book in a trilogy where all the pieces on the chess board are being moved into place for the final battle. I didn’t get any resolution. And I felt as though Mare didn’t develop so much, more like she suffered through challenges. For a hot second I thought things were going to get really interesting for her when she started training her abilities which exceeded what she had accomplished in the past with Cal, but it kind of fizzled out (pun intended.) Though I hope it’s a promise of something really cool to come in the fourth book, ‘War Storm.’

Maven is a bit of a mixed bucket of nuts for me, both literally and figuratively. While we get his backstory to drag out some compassion and understanding; he really rubbed me the wrong way. And even though he is pretty evil, I don’t see him as the “big bad” of the Red Queen universe. I have a few predictions and am keen to find out what happens next. Plus you get a strong sense that Maven is always playing a strategic game, figuring out multiple moves ahead.

Cal was just as confusing – as mentioned, all of their voices were hard to distinguish if not for the chapter titles. But I felt less engaged and frustrated with the political drama. I was praying for action and powers flying about. Cal is painted with different strokes in ‘King’s Cage.’ Aveyard lets crack appear and exploits them beautifully. Mare has a lot on her plate with this King-to-be.

Cameron – why was her perspective even here? To add background information to the story? *confused face*

The snarky dialogue wasn’t even that entertaining any more. It wasn’t funny, more like a sullen teenager’s lame attempt at annoying someone. I hope Aveyard isn’t losing her touch.

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With a slow pace, long paragraphs of cast members not in the action, but in the periphery, it all had me putting the book down frequently. But just as I was starting to get bored, things switched gear at the halfway point and I started to get all the bits and pieces I was craving – Mare and all the abilities in one big clusterbang! Whoo-hoo!

A few Easter eggs are thrown our way in ‘King’s Cage’ and I am really eager to get all the answers and read an explosive end to this collection in the last instalment due out 15th May, 2018. Evangaline, and Cal suddenly got way more interesting in ‘King’s Cage’ and I am eager to see where the story takes us. *drumming my fingers in impatient anticipation*

The plot and story itself is still something I find enrapturing.  I love the battling factions, the tone of discrimination and apartheid. Rebel forces fighting against an unfair regime. And don’t get me started on paranormal abilities! It is all so intriguing. The politics can be fun too, although it started to feel long-winded and dragged down in my opinion of this series. But it is certainly leading up to a very interesting position for the finale.

I don’t know how to comment on the predictability of the novel though – as very little was resolved. Yes, things happened that I expected, there was a twist or two that you knew was coming, but I didn’t get any massive ‘oh shiz’ moment when I got to the end. Honourable mention to Evangaline though – a few scenes with her really blew my mind, she is definitely my favourite character for this book and added the much needed tension.

There is definitely a lot of work Aveyard has done in weaving this storyline. It is truly an amazing feat of beauty.

The writing style is still fantastic. The descriptive turn of phrase, the analogies, are rich and drip with colour and meaning. I’m still impressed with Aveyard’s writing style, the symbolism she uses feels unique and helps create an accurate picture of the Red Queen world. However with the pacing issues, I put down ‘King’s Cage’ a number of times due to wandering interest. It wasn’t that I was bored, or found the story no longer captured my imagination, just that the plot did not move forward. In all honesty, if this book was half its length, I feel it would have been extraordinary. But as it stands, I have to say I had very little compulsion from one chapter to the next throughout most of the novel.

Overall feeling: erm… loved it and was simultaneously underwhelmed…

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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 – ‘Golden Son’ by Pierce Brown

A solar system at war led by an impostor.

Golden Son Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 442

From the dustjacket:

As a Red, Darrow grew up working in the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labour while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds – and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.

A lamb among the wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love – but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution – and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.

He must live for more.

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While it starts off with an engaging encounter turning everything achieved in ‘Red Rising’ on its head, immediately after, the narrative fell into that long-winded flat tone I found at the beginning of ‘Red Rising.’ The story is interesting but the writing style is not so compelling for me. Pierce can have such a meaningful and succinct turn of phrase that really resonates… and then waffle for pages on mundane happenings. It’s really frustrating to sing his praises when I find times I’m so bored I’d rather wait for my dog to fart for entertainment.

So, after 131 pages, I had to put the book down and walk away. Reading three other novels before returning for a second wind. And then it is all so interesting and so political… but that went hand in hand with wavering engagement. With many long difficult character names (and there are lots of them) and such macabre machinations I only got another 100 pages before I needed another rest. Slow pacing and a dry narrative are killing me!

Golden Son Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe story is great. Complex characters. Political chess playing manoeuvres. Power plays. It has all the ingredients I usually love in a novel but it just didn’t sell me. I found my interest waning a number of times, bogged down with too much detail, too much padding to the main story line in a barren narrative tone. And then, like a switch had been flipped, I was back into it again. It was as if only half of the book really grabbed me and the other half put me to sleep. Talk about polarizing.

I took just under a month to read ‘Golden Son’ and managed to read another eleven novels in between. I’m hoping it was just a second-book-syndrome thing. Because I liked ‘Red Rising’ and can imagine the finale to be explosive. Especially after the hype this series has received. I don’t think I’m all that emotionally invested in the characters, they are all about war and revenge and playing a long game to end oppression. That leaves little room for softness and building trust and love outside the harsh landscape – I guess that’s why I kept putting the book down because it was so hard to digest knowing that they all turn on each other.

My favourite scene was that of Darrow with his mother. It was the first emotional connection I’d gotten to the series – even in comparison to the death of Eo.

Here’s hoping it gets better… I really want to love this series.

Overall feeling: Some really amazing writing – and some that lapsed me into a coma

Golden Son Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Golden Son 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 – ‘Red Rising’ by Pierce Brown

Being a Martian is difficult.

Red Rising Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 382

From Goodreads:

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

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I’ve owned ‘Red Rising’ (well, the whole trilogy) for a while, but have only just started reading it after a number of rave book reviews popping up on my feed to remind me why I bought this collection in the first place. While an amazing story, at the beginning I was resistant to the narrative. There is a lot of information to process, and the writing style feels dry, or sparse, making it hard to connect with our protagonist, Darrow. ‘Red Rising’ read like an institutionalised Lord of the Flies on a futuristic Mars. Brutal.

Darrow is a complex protagonist, but there is something hinted at in the narrative, at to how his destiny is shaped the way it is, but not revealed. I think this is a major part that stopped me from truly connecting with him. The novel is full of puppet masters pulling strings – and Darrow is ultimately just another pawn. I never felt his motivations and actions were truly his own. But I love an underdog story, someone fighting against insurmountable odds, so I was invested in his story though not truly convinced by his convictions.

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The friendships formed – especially in the school, were barbarous and endearing. I see it in my best friend and his buddies that were in the S.A.S. together, there is a certain type of connection that is formed on the battlefield that nothing can break, and others will not truly understand. Piece Brown captured that comradery perfectly.

There are a few things about the society and its technology that puzzle me in the face of human nature. Such as the role carvers (doctors) play and how malleable the body, and its genetics can be. They are truly playing God… and from the hierarchy and accounts of the ruling factions they pretty much are, but this aspect did not seem to be explored as far as I think it would be naturally with such a powerful instrument to play with.

The politics, however is an intricate web and blindsided me on a number of occasions. I think this, and the battle scenes are the best parts of the novel.

I may have rated ‘Red Rising’ higher, because it is truly a tremendous tale, but if not for my issues connecting with the writing style, and near boredom through two thirds of the novel. But aside from that, it is a magnificent book that others may find outstanding. The writing style was sparse, dry, distinctly masculine. Even though the protagonist is male, something about the narrative made it difficult for me to immerse myself into the Martian landscape. I was frequently putting the book down for a rest or lack of interest. The last third of the novel, however, is an entirely different creature. The pacing is gripping, and so is the plot with all its twists and turns. The cast start to show their true colours and get tested… I was truly riveted and could not put the book down. The only thing that kept my persistence in the beginning was that I had heard so many wonderful things from friends about this series and kept telling myself that it will get better… any time now… any time… and finally it did.

I think there is so much to set up for this series to work, the world building, the motivations, the politics, that it takes some time to get its legs. That didn’t bode well for this debut, but promises that the following two books in this trilogy should be amazing. That’s what I am hoping for anyway.

The main purpose of ‘Red Rising’ is easily predictable – it has to be to continue on to the second and third in the series, but the journey there was not. There were some minor points that I had been spoiled from my friends, but they confirmed what I thought as I was reading, but did not detract from the enjoyment near the end. I still got shocked and horrified. It’s a great story, but because of the issues I had with the writing style, did not get emotionally invested. Had I been sucked in, I think ‘Red Rising’ would have brought all the feels.

On a side note, I found elements of this society synonymous to that of the Japanese yaoi ‘Ai No Kusabi’ (minus the sexual nature of the anime.) This book has also been optioned to be turned into a movie. I’d be interested to see how this series will be treated… maybe it will fix the issues of pacing because there wouldn’t be the need for pages and pages of explanations. And I can just imagine the special effects! No news has come through on the development of this project as yet, but I am certainly keeping my eyes peeled. Additionally, Pierce Brown is starting a new series in this universe, with the first novel ‘Iron Gold’ due for release in January 2018. It’s all so exciting!

I think I’ll reserve judgement on whether or not I’d recommend this novel until I’ve finished the trilogy because there are so many unexplained elements that worried my brow…

Overall feeling: Huh?…. OH! *lightbulb*

Red Rising 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 Infinite Sea’ by Rick Yancey

This sci-fi dystopian adventure is slowly roping me in.

The Infinite Sea Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I took a long time to build up to reading ‘The Infinite Sea’ after many of my friends gave this a less than stellar review. In hindsight I can understand why they did, but I also loved the story. But at least, for the middle book in a trilogy it didn’t feel like it was treading water.

I managed to get plenty of surprises. I did not guess many of the plot twists either, so that’s a wonderful thing. Either Yancey’s writing style is better in this book, or I noticed it more. Some of his descriptions, dialogue and snippets of expression were truly brilliant.

What did bother me – and in a major way – was the jumping around with the narrative. So many points of view, picking up different parts of the story. ‘The Infinite Sea’ felt more like a collection of novellas in the same universe than and actual book. In a way I felt cheated. In ‘The Fifth Wave’ we get a big chunk of Cassie, and smaller parts from Evan, Ben and Sam, This second book was proportionally different and even introduced more characters voices. As much as I loved the story – this style of jumping into so many different character heads just killed it for me. I really think Rick Yancey should have adopted an omnipresent narrative style like Stephen King to tell this trilogy and it would have been executed so much better.

The Infinite Sea Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

There is a lot of action. It starts off with a bang, and ends with one. So pacing is not an issue. Contrastingly, there were a few moments that I found boring as cast branched off in backstory or storytelling, but on the whole it’s an engaging read.

I’m definitely curious for the final book ‘The Last Star.’ The sci-fi element has got me hooked and I am really interested to see where it all goes. I have so many questions about the invasion that didn’t make sense in the first book, and getting a hint to a possible explanation has me hungry to find out the truth. Please, please, let there be an explanation in the final novel.

I know that a movie adaptation for ‘The Infinite Sea’ is still up in the air, and honestly, after reading the book, I’m not entirely sure it would work given that Cassie is absent for over half the book. I’m not sure how that would go down with audiences… but who knows what Hollywood magic they will perform. I mean look at ‘New Moon’ from the Twilight Saga – they still got a lot of Edward onto the screen where in the book he was only present for a few chapters… food for thought.

Overall feeling: Too many voices.

The Infinite Sea Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Infinite Sea 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.

Book Review – ‘Glass Sword’ by Victoria Aveyard

From the slums, to the castle and ending up in the trenches, Mare is in for the fight of her life.

Glass Sword Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

No. of pages: 444

From Goodreads:

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?
Page border by Casey Carlisle

It wasn’t long after the release date that I began reading this follow up to Victoria Aveyards debut, and it had some big shoes to fill with all the hype surrounding this release; but did it meet my expectations? ‘Glass Sword’ has definitely surpassed ‘Red Queen’ in my opinion. More complexity. More characters. More supernatural. More action and character development. It impressed me on so many levels.

Glass Sword Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgPicking up the story not long after where ‘Red Queen’ concluded our protagonist, Mare and her (kind of) beau, Cal’s relationship for most of the novel was…. I want to say distracting… because of the nuances of their history and situation. And though it made good reading I’m not sure if I was completely sold on the pairing until after half way. Mare is not the type of girl who needs a man. And Cal certainly does not see her as a damsel in distress. They are warriors with equal gifts to use in their arsenal. A great team for the rebellion. There is distaste and attraction equally present for Mare, she is battling with what she thinks of Cal. War is a difficult time to form romance, it shows our nature at its ugliest and most basic.

 

Cameron was a great addition to the cast – a realistic portrayal of a tween and not quite an antagonist. I really appreciated the dynamic he brought to the relationships and it was relieving to read a story which strains many of the typical tropes of characters in YA.

Maven has transformed into someone else entirely and immerses himself fully into the role of the antagonist. This is where I was a little disappointed: I wanted to see some humanity or inner struggle with Maven. All the other characters were written so beautifully, where Maven tended towards a stereotype.

Glass Sword Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Though the narrative style – easy to read – had occasional moments where a sentence felt clunky, and had me rereading the line several times to understand what was being conveyed. ‘Glass Sword’ is definitely high on my recommendations list and is helping me get into a fantasy mood after a past year heavy the contemporary titles.

Plenty of surprises. Great character development.

The ending was bloody brilliant!

Bring on Red Queen #3 – no title yet and just an expected publication date as somewhere in 2017 – Argh! I’ll just have to fill up my time with some other great series 🙂

Overall feeling: Damn girl!

Glass Sword Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Glass Sword Book Review Pic 05 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.