Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

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Title:
Glass Sword
Author:
Victoria Aveyard
Publication Date: 9th February 2016
Publisher: Orion
Pages: 444
Format: Paperback | Purchased
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Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Summary: 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?

My thoughts: I had a lot of high hopes about Glass Sword; convinced that Aveyard would be able to grow from Red Queen. Sadly, I was wrong. Mare is not an interesting enough character to carry a series, and Aveyard is not a good enough author to bounce back from Glass Sword.

I am well aware that the YA fantasy pool is largely fluffy romances disguised as fantasy, but I am usually able to find something I like about a book regardless. This is one of the rare instances where I’m stumped for something nice to say. “This book was a hot mess” is probably the nicest thing I can say about it, considering it is a hodge-podge of basically every young adult fantasy book that came before it.

My main problem with Glass Sword is that Mare is so damn unlikeable. Now, I am all for unlikeable protagonists that worm their way into your heart – the one that immediately comes to mind is Katniss Everdeen. She kept everyone at arm’s length, including the reader, but she still managed to make you love her. Mare is not that kind of unlikeable. She’s arrogant, whiny, self-indulgent and rude – there’s no space for any other character, because she demands your full attention. She treats her brothers like brutes, her parents like simpletons, and those around her as if they are constantly in her way. She doesn’t allow other, more experienced, individuals to voice their opinions – her opinion is the only one that is worth anything. She doesn’t listen to those around her, and then complains when things don’t go her way. It is frustrating as a reader to have to spend 400+ pages with someone so awful.

The secondary characters are so bland that it is impossible to keep track of who is who and why they are important to the very thin plot, which is mildly problematic when a new character is being introduced every few pages. Both the characters and scenes exist only to further Mare’s mission, which is tiresome and dull. The writing is contrived and derivative. Multiple characters died, and their deaths had zero emotional impact on me.

There is very little world building – it’s hard for me to situate myself in the story, given that we jump around from location to location. A map would be handy, given how much Mare moves around, and I’ve read middle-grade books that provide its readers with a map. It’s a nitpicky thing, but when the scene setting is as abysmal as Aveyard’s, it comes in handy.

There is nothing special about Mare as a heroine – you can shelve her amongst the other forgettable YA heroines. Aveyard has attempted to create a morally questionable, mysterious, super special heroine that will be the next big name in YA.  If you’d like a morally questionable heroine, check out Isaboe and Quintana in The Lumatere Chronicles. Both got less page time than Mare, and both made a better impression. If you’d like a heroine with a bit of mystery surrounding her, try The Colours of Madeleine. If you want a super special heroine, stick with Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Basically, I can think of a dozen authors who write better characters – better stories – than Aveyard, despite getting less recognition.

Much like its predecessor, Glass Sword introduces the action far too late. This time, the cliffhanger ending wasn’t enough to save it, nor make me want to read the next book. It is a run-of-the-mill young adult fantasy that does nothing to distinguish itself from the crowd. You’d be better off saving your money.

 

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

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Title:
The Winner’s Kiss
Author:
Marie Rutkoski
Publication Date: 24th March 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 484
Format: Paperback | Purchased
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Rating: ★★★★★
Summary: War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him. At least, that’s what he thinks.
In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her. But no one gets what they want just by wishing. As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

My thoughts: When I first started this series, I thought what I’d get was a light romance. Three books later, I can honestly saw that this one of my favourite YA trilogies. It was an absolute rollercoaster, filled with action and political intrigue.

Rutkoski is such an engaging storyteller. She has such an easy, flowing style – the story moves seamlessly, each page balancing dialogue and tension. The romance is present, but it isn’t the focus of the story. Much like Maggie Stiefvater, it doesn’t feel like Rutkoski is telling you a story, it feels like she is painting you a picture. She somehow manages to convey so much more than what is written. Usually I glaze over when authors start info-dumping or start discussing war tactics, but Rutkoski manages to explain complex battle scenes, political manoeuvers and war tactics/strategies without confusing the reader or putting in too much information.

The Winner’s Trilogy is one of the few series that manages to strike the perfect balance between plot and character – you could say that is both plot-driven and character-driven. We are able to watch Kestrel and Arin grow as characters, we are able to watch their relationship develop as they come to understand each other more and overcome obstacles to trust one another. Their struggles felt real – it wasn’t the fantasy world that was causing problems for their relationship, it was real-life issues: a lack of communication, trust issues, struggling to accept faults in character. It made for a so much more satisfying communication, and as far as emotional reactions go, it made me feel so much more.

For those of you who like the series’ secondary characters, you’ll be pleased to know that Rutkoski doesn’t push them aside. Special mention to the resolution of the relationship between Kestrel and her father (such a complex relationship, it fascinates me endlessly), and the friendship between Arin and Roshar. Their friendship is such fun, lots of banter and bickering. Roshar is sarcastic and witty, and will often come out with the book’s best one liners. His presence is often needed when the romance takes centre stage, providing comedic relief when the tension becomes too much.

It is always sad to say goodbye to a series, to beloved characters, but I loved everything about this series and cannot wait to revisit Kestrel and Arin in the future. I never expected to love The Winner’s Trilogy as much as I have and cannot stress enough how brilliant its conclusion is.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

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Title:
The Raven King
Author:
Maggie Stiefvater
Publication Date: 26th April 2016
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 439
Format: Hardcover| Purchased
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Rating: ★★★★☆
Summary: For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him. Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

My thoughts: My goodness, this review is long overdue! Honestly, I don’t know how to write this review. I’m such TRC trash that it’s virtually impossible for me to write a neutral review and not shower love and praise all over this book, but I’ll do my best. I don’t think I’ve had such a hard time saying goodbye to characters since Harry Potter; I will miss Blue, Gansey, Adam and Ronan very dearly.These characters and their relationship  with one another (whether platonic or romantic) are some of my favourites. 

This book is a lot more… preternatural than its predecessors, it’s quite heavy on the fantasy elements and it’s… creepier, more gothic than the others. Some parts of it wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie.

“We should all be afraid,” Noah said, his voice thing through the buzzing. “When you play with time –”

I loved the character development, particularly Ronan and Adam’s. Watching these two grow as characters over the course of this series has been an absolute joy. They are complex, fleshed-out, three-dimensional characters who thought-provoking are able to elicit so many emotional reactions from me.

Stiefvater’s writing is glorious – her attention to detail is where it’s at. She is a master at world-building and really pulling the reader into her story; it doesn’t feel like you are reading a story, it’s almost like Stiefvater is painting you a picture with words.

The Raven King is not a perfect book. I didn’t like that Stiefvater went the Veronica Roth route and introduced new characters and (what felt to me to be) an irrelevant plot line this late in the game. Henry Cheng was a welcome addition, but I felt others were added purely to cause overwrought drama and add unneeded tension. There were also points where I felt quite disoriented and had to go back and reread. The plot seemed directionless at times, and I think it was the point, Stiefvater wanting to make the reader feel the disorientation and confusion that the characters felt, but it felt overdone and affected my enjoyment of the story.

Another thing that made me feel a bit uncomfortable: Ronan and Adam coming across as, erm, racist. I mean, stick me in the Pynch pile – this ship has well and truly sailed. I just don’t think the best way to establish a romantic relationship canonically is to have them make fun of Asians as an in-joke.

All in all, a nice way to finish off the series. I don’t think that The Raven King is the strongest book in the Raven Cycle, but it’s full of Stiefvater signatures and is bound to leave fans pleased.

 

 

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

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Title:
The Sidekicks
Author: Will Kostakis
Publication Date: 29th February 2016
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback | Purchased
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Rating: ★★★☆☆
Summary: All Ryan, Harley and Miles had in common was Isaac. They lived different lives, had different interests and kept different secrets. But they shared the same best friend. They were sidekicks. And now that Isaac’s gone, what does that make them?

My thoughts: Will Kostakis is an author I’ve heard a lot about, but whose work I’ve never read. Given that his book The First Third received such high praise, and Kostakis has been in the press quite a bit recently, I decided to check out his most recent effort. Ultimately, this book left me wanting more – more from the characters, and more from the author.

The Sidekicks is split into three sections – we get the aftermath of Isaac’s death from Ryan, Harley, and Miles’ perspectives, with a slight overlap of events in each account. You really need to commend Kostakis here – it could’ve easily ended up a disjointed mess, but you walk away from this book feeling like you got to see the big picture. That said, there were times where it felt less like one coherent novel, and more like a collection of short novellas. Kostakis is quite good at characterising the leads – Ryan, Harley and Miles all have distinct voices, and despite the shortness of the book, all were fully developed characters with their own flaws and problems. The same can not be said for the side characters – teachers, other boys at school, they all seemed to blend in to one another. They felt like placeholders, rather than actual characters. I struggled to remember the smaller characters as we jumped from section to section and went back and forth over events.

Given the subject matter, I was expecting to feel more. It never really felt like the boys were grieving, just going through the motions of it. I was told that they were in pain, but I never really saw it. It felt like they only cared because Isaac held their secrets, but that was all he was good for. However, I did like that Kostakis seemed to be sending the message that grief is not “one size fits all,” that people experience grief in different ways. Also, that ending – that ending really did make me feel something. It was so heartwarming and… delightful to watch this unexpected friendship form.

Kostakis does have an easy writing style – there’s something about it that keeps you glued to the pages. There’s some great comedic moments in there despite the heavy subject matter, and the ending will leave you feeling a little uplifted.

All in all, a great concept of a book – maybe not perfectly executed, but enjoyable nonetheless. It’s a good little book about friendship and loss. Kostakis has managed to cover a lot in such a short novel, and I really do think it’ll be a hit amongst the YA crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty

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Title:
A Tangle of Gold
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Publication Date: 1st March 2016
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 528
Format: Paperback | Purchased
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Rating: ★★★★★
Summary: The Kingdom of Cello is in crisis. Princess Ko’s deception has been revealed and the Elite have taken control, placing the Princess, Samuel and Sergio under arrest and ordering their execution. Elliot is being held captive by the Hostiles and Colour storms are raging through the land. The Cello Wind has been silent for months.Plans are in place to bring the remaining Royals home from the World but then all communication between Cello and the World will cease. That means Madeleine will lose Elliot, forever. Madeleine and Elliot must solve the mystery of Cello before it is too late.

My thoughts: I originally finished this book last night (this book is the fastest read I’ve had all year, which is surprising, given that it’s also the thickest book I’ve read all year), and was going to wait a few days before posting a review. We were given so much information that I felt that I needed a couple of days to digest it all, but I’m so excited to talk about this book that a review is going up today, folks!

I’ve been a Moriarty fan since I was about ten, so it’s incredibly hard to sit down and write a review that doesn’t make me sound like a crazy fan. When reading, it was hard to separate what was good about the book from the fact that this was a book that I have been waiting for for a very long time. I think I can objectively say that The Colours of Madeleine has been a trilogy that just keeps getting better – every book, Moriarty ups her game. She presents information to her readers, but doesn’t spell it our for them. It was fascinating to watch her weave together bits of information given out in the earlier books, and it was thrilling as a reader to have that big reveal.

A Tangle of Gold was not only one of my most anticipated books for 2016, but one of my most anticipated books period. It was up there with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Quintana of Charyn in terms of how excited I was. Very rarely do books live up to (high) expectations, but I’m pleased to say that A Tangle of Gold was pretty much everything I was hoping for, and then some. Moriarty took plot twists to a whole new level.

This book saw the introduction of a new voice, so to speak – while written in third person, it flipped between Elliot’s and Madeleine’s perspectives. This time we also had Keira’s perspective, and her voice is distinctive and completely different from Madeleine’s or Elliot’s. While surprising – I have to admit I did initially find it a little odd that we had a third perspective – I felt that it added so much more to the story, and I loved getting to know a character that I’d previously dismissed because I didn’t think that she’d stick around.

Honestly, I’m finding it difficult to criticise this book – it’s been tightly plotted and well-written, the characters are well-drawn and distinctive. If I was pressed, I would say that some readers may find it overly complex and left feeling a little overwhelmed – you do get plot twist after plot twist after plot twist, and at one point I was thinking, “what other secrets has this series been hiding?” I really did find this book to be fantastic though, and I don’t want to spoil others by talking about it too much. I will say this: connections will be revealed, betrayals found out, and the political intrigue thickens. Also, the secret to immortality! … kind of.

This series has been ridiculously ambitious and amazingly original, and cemented Jaclyn Moriarty as one of the greats in Australian literature. I already want to return to Cello, and if that is not a sign of a good series, I don’t know what is. If you haven’t read it yet, move it up on your TBR list – you won’t regret it.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday #12

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a book-related prompt for book bloggers to answer. This week’s prompt is Top Ten Books to Read When You are in the Mood for Contemporary YA

This week is only a top five, because as I was writing this list I came to the realisation that a) I don’t read as much contemporary YA as I thought I did, and
b) I have a tendency to follow authors, not books, especially authors who cross genres.

1. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: I’m pretty sure that this book managed to top everyone’s Best of 2015 list, and that I don’t really need to be talking about why you should read it… but just in case you managed to miss it, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda manages to find that perfect balance between being light & fluffy and tackling serious issues head-on, possibly because Becky Albertalli is (was?) a high school counsellor. It’s a fun read, from beginning to end. It can also be read in one sitting – and now that winter is approaching, I look forward to (re)reading it whilst curled up in my reading armchair on rainy weekends.
2. Saving Francesca: When it comes to Marchetta’s contemporary YA fiction, everyone will talk about Josie but Frankie is really where it’s at. This book deals with another serious issue – depression – but there are moments of lightness and sweetness that make it feel like a lighter read than it actually is. Given the alternative rock bands that keep popping up courtesy of Tom Finch-Mackee’s Discman (you read that right, folks: Discman), it’s the perfect book to read while listening to Jimmy Eat World, Incubus, and any other 90s – 00s alternative band you happen to be fond of.

3. Feeling Sorry for Celia: Okay, so the slang in this is dated – really dated – but it still manages to be a timeless story about the awkwardness of being a teenager, told entirely in epistolary form. I first read this book in 2001 when I was ten, and it was definitely a book I kept pulling out in high school because Elizabeth and Christina felt so real and relatable to me.

4. The Virgin Suicides: I avoided this book for years, assuming that it would be pretentious and hipster-y, so you can imagine my surprise when I finally sat down and read it and realised that it was kind of a modern-day take on tragedy. Also, the film? One of the best film adaptations ever made.

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Honestly, this book just breaks my heart. While Chbosky does deal with big issues like suicide, drugs and abuse, there’s something that makes Charlie so relatable – when he’s writing those letters, you really do feel like they’re meant for you. It’s insightful and poignant and just… a beautiful book.

 

 

 

 

The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

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Title:
The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and The Dawn
Publication Date: 12th May 2015
Publisher: Putnam
Paiges: 388
Format: Paperback | Purchased
ISBN:9780399171611
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Rating: ★★★☆☆
Summary: In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

My thoughts: This one was a mixed read for me. The second half was definitely stronger than the first – while the first half left me feeling underwhelmed, after that ending I cannot wait to get my hands on the second book.

The Wrath and the Dawn is an angsty romance inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. However, although this book was a romance, there were a lot of things I enjoyed about it, namely that the world was very different to typical YA worlds. Taking place in a world inspired by the Middle East, it was a breath of fresh air to see a world that wasn’t inspired by Medieval Europe. The supporting cast were three-dimensional and add something to the story. Shazi’s friendship with Despina is heartwarming and a much-needed female companion for her; Jalal charming and witty.

However, there was something missing – the writing felt stilted and emotionally distant. It was never explained why Khalid chose to let Shazi live beyond the first night. Shazi was given multiple opportunities to ~exact her revenge~ on Khalid, but she never does because there was a slight case of instalove, in that despite the fact Shazi offers to marry Khalid in order to kill him, two days into their marriage he’s already tugging on her heartstrings. The romance, while compelling, didn’t feel organic in the beginning.

Shazi’s retellings of the Arabian nights didn’t really add anything to the story – I found myself skimming some of them in order to get back to the main story because they were clumsily inserted and had zero subtext and I didn’t feel any emotional connection.

Finally, there’s a love triangle, which I could do without. I felt that it existed to make a ‘bad guy’ out of Tariq – because, honestly, you just know that Tariq and Shazi aren’t going to end up together, regardless of whether Shazi and Khalid end up together.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been shelving The Wrath and the Dawn as a fantasy, but it doesn’t have any fantastical elements to it – a few mentions of magic here and there, but nothing really to warrant a fantasy label. It felt more like a historical romance than anything else.

 

Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

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Title:
Their Fractured Light
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Series: The Starbound Trilogy
Publication Date: 1st December 2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Paiges: 400
Format: Paperback | Purchased
ISBN:9781743319710
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Rating: ★★★★★
Summary: A year ago, Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase made the now infamous Avon Broadcast, calling on the galaxy to witness for their planet, and protect them from destruction. Some say Flynn’s a madman, others whisper about conspiracies. Nobody knows the truth. A year before that, Tarver Merendsen and Lilac LaRoux were rescued from a terrible shipwreck—now, they live a public life in front of the cameras, and a secret life away from the world’s gaze. Now, in the center of the universe on the planet of Corinth, all four are about to collide with two new players, who will bring the fight against LaRoux Industries to a head. Gideon Marchant is an eighteen-year-old computer hacker—a whiz kid and an urban warrior. He’ll climb, abseil and worm his way past the best security measures to pull off onsite hacks that others don’t dare touch.

Sofia Quinn has a killer smile, and by the time you’re done noticing it, she’s got you offering up your wallet, your car, and anything else she desires. She holds LaRoux Industries responsible for the mysterious death of her father and is out for revenge at any cost. When a LaRoux Industries security breach interrupts Gideon and Sofia’s separate attempts to infiltrate their headquarters, they’re forced to work together to escape. Each of them has their own reason for wanting to take down LaRoux Industries, and neither trusts the other. But working together might be the best chance they have to expose the secrets LRI is so desperate to hide.

My thoughts: This series has been the perfect combination of fluffy and science fiction. Although I had my reservations about this series after These Broken Stars, I’m glad that I kept with it – because it has turned into one of my favourite YA series. It’s actually quite epic and intricate, and despite the fact that these books are companion novels and feature different characters, it has been steadily working towards a bigger picture. There has been some Harry Potter-level plot building put into this trilogy, and I was in awe of how much planning went into these books.

The first half of the book was spent with Sofia (whom we had met in This Shattered World) and Gideon, and their interests in LaRoux Industries. The second half saw us reunite with the entire gang, raising the stakes for them and making what I felt to be a much stronger half of the book.

When I say the stakes were raised for everyone, I mean the stakes were raised. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I feared for Lilac and Tarver, who were struggling with Lilac’s connection to the whispers. I hoped that Jubilee and Flynn could have a better lot in life than what they’d been given. I felt for Sofia and Gideon, who had both reached a point in their lives where they felt they couldn’t trust anyone and that it was easier to live life without any ties to anyone. I was found myself emotionally invested in the characters and was reluctant to put the book down and leave the action.

My only quibble was getting little snippets from the whispers, which I felt was unnecessary (and kind of reminded me of AIDAN in Illuminae). I didn’t think they added that much to the story, and even though they were usually only a paragraph in length I found myself skipping over them to get back to the main action.

Their Fractured Light was a beautiful ending to a wonderful series. Everything that I felt maybe hadn’t been addressed properly in earlier books was wrapped up in this one, and it was the perfect send-off for these characters.

If you haven’t read The Starbound Trilogy, I highly recommend you do! Kaufman and Spooner are in the process of writing another trilogy (with a planned release for 2017), which has already gone on my auto-buy list. While I’m sad that this series has come to an end – and hope we’ll be able to revisit this world sometime in the future – I cannot wait to see what these talented ladies do next!

 

 

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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Title:
Illuminae
Author: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files
Publication Date: 1st November 2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Paiges: 602
Format: Paperback | Purchased
ISBN:9781760113803
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Rating: ★★★☆☆
Summary: One moment, Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have nothing bigger to worry about than each other. Specifically, avoiding each other in the wake of their messy break-up. In the next second, their entire world falls apart.The year is 2375 and one of the mega-corporations that control much of deep space has just fired the opening salvo in an intergalactic war, destroying Kady and Ezra’s planet. Forced to flee on a small fleet of crippled rescue ships alongside thousands of other refugees, the fear of enemy warships chasing them down is at first all-consuming but soon becomes the least of their worries. A deadly plague is ravaging the refugees on the ships; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be an enemy; and High Command is refusing to acknowledge that there may be a serious problem. As Kady plunges into a tangled web of data in search of the truth, she realises that Ezra is possibly the only person who can help her save the refugees before it’s too late.

My thoughts: I like my books to come with structure, and this book doesn’t really have that. When I first started reading, I was kind of thrown by its lack of structure and change in perspectives, with the occasional graphic thrown in. Don’t get me wrong: it is a spectacular book and a very cool idea: it will probably sell quite well because it’s innovative and original and if I were handing out stars based on ideas alone, this book would get all five, no questions asked. I’ve seen people refer to it as a ‘romantic space opera,’ and I agree with that.

However, this was – once again – a romance novel masquerading as something else. Most of the interview transcripts, emails, and instant messages in the book revolved around the two leads either telling the other they were in love, or talking about their love for the other lead to one of the sidekicks. Trying to figure out what went wrong with AIDAN, the artificial intelligence that helps run the spaceship, seemed to be a minor inconvenience in their tale of woe. Chatspeak was used, but the characters would use ‘u’ and ‘you’ in the space of about six words, which annoyed me more than it should, and the military reports seemed jokey and fake – if you’re going to write in a certain style, please commit to the format.

Finally – and this is only a minor criticism – but I had assumed that with two Australian authors we would finally (!) but getting some kind of non-contemporary YA novel set in Australia (or some version of Australia on another planet in a galaxy far, far away), but alas. With all the Americanisms (“mom” being the most noticeable one), it was seemed to be set in some futuristic replica of America, which I found a little disappointing. Okay, yes, small, tiny, ridiculous complaint in the grand scheme of things, but if we go by YA standards, the US has a lot of bad luck while the rest of the world gets off seemingly scot-free. It would’ve been nice to have a bit of a change.

What did I like about this book? You can tell how much love and work went into the making of this book. It is detailed beyond all belief. Kaufman and Kristoff aren’t afraid to try things stylistically speaking, and I have a whole new level of respect for them as authors.  But the book’s selling point is also its downfall: it is perhaps too epic.

Also, Kaufman and Kristoff aren’t afraid to get violent. It’s basically a super-gorey, non-musical, science fiction version of Into the Woods, in that you’re made to care about a character, and then they die. It’s like Wash commenting that he is a leaf on the wind in Serenity. It’s like the time Amber Benson was finally added to the opening credits of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Your heart will be ripped out unapologetically. You’ve been warned.