The False Prince (Ascendance Trilogy #1)
Author: Jennifer A. Neilsen
Publication Date: 4/1/2012
THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.
In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.
As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.
An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.Review:
This book makes me want to put on my blandest Mr. Darcy voice and declare it “tolerable…but not handsome enough to tempt me
.” This book is fine. I think many of you will notice its exercise-brightened eyes and charming irreverence and fall for it. But for me, it was just okay.
If you’ve read any amount of young adult fantasy, you probably know where this book is heading just from reading the synopsis – or hell, even the title! I had a lot of hope that this book would go in an unexpected direction or bring something new to the table, but it didn’t. Of course I had to stick around for the ending just to make sure but hopefully I can now save someone else the time. If you think you know where this book is going, you probably do.
I have read other books (like Finnikin of the Rock
) that had predictable outcomes as well, but that one at least had gorgeous writing, three dimensional characters, and impeccable world-building to keep me satisfied. This book had none of the above. My friend Tatiana recently used the term “fantasy lite”
in one of her reviews and I think this book fits that label perfectly. The world-building is very simplistic and barely deserves the title “fantasy”: a vaguely historical setting with almost no real culture, religion, or background. There is some small mention of a conflict with a few neighboring nations that is never developed. The main character is an argumentative, willful, scrappy boy who’s discovered in an orphanage by a man looking to train and install a look-alike as king (a puppet king, of course). He talks back, he pretends to be foolish, and of course he’s so much more than he appears to be. In summary: he’s Eugenides-lite.
None of the other characters left more than surface impressions on me and I found it difficult to care about any of them. There is an attempt here at an unreliable first-person narrator that doesn’t quite succeed. Yes, Sage lies and pretends to be something he’s not, but the “little hints” about his true identity that are frequently dropped are so obvious that it’s hard not to get frustrated. And even his deception starts to feel illogical by the end. Why is he hiding who he is again? Why doesn’t he tell Mott? Or Imogen? Or Tobias? I can think of no reason except to possibly heighten the drama of his eventual reveal, which is so long in coming that I felt no excitement - only relief - when it finally came.
Additionally, any intimacy that I felt with Sage’s point of view is effectively ruined by two sections of the book that are written in the third person. Why? I can think of nothing that is gained by showing us those two scenes in the third person. Yes, there is important action going on while the narrator is not present and yes, his entrance is supposed to be a big, climactic scene so in theory it might be nice to be able to see it as a member of the audience. But when you’ve committed the entire book to Sage’s point of view, it feels glaring and alienating to suddenly be thrust into a third person perspective. There are also a few scenes where Sage “checks out” for hours at a time. His narration is allowed convenient lapses so that he may go off and do secret-secret things without the reader knowing about it. It all feels as if the author didn’t quite know how to negotiate between an intimate first person narrator and the number of secrets that she wanted to keep from the reader. The end result is a very obvious, distanced, boring narrative.
Wow. I thought that I was so-so about this book but apparently I disliked it more than I realized. I was originally thinking that even though I didn’t quite like it, it might still be a good recommendation for younger readers. But don’t young readers deserve to have great characters, world-building, and writing too? Why not read Finnikin of the Rock, The Thief, Book of a Thousand Days, Graceling, Crown Duel
, or the many other well-written young adult fantasy novels instead?2/5 Stars
Froi of the Exiles (Chronicles of Lumatere #2)
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 3/13/12
Publisher: Candlewick Press
From master storyteller Melina Marchetta comes an exhilarating new fantasy springing from her celebrated epic, Finnikin of the Rock.
Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home . . . or so he believes. Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been taken roughly and lovingly in hand by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper with a warrior's discipline. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds in its surreal royal court. Soon he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess in this barren and mysterious place. It is in Charyn that he will discover there is a song sleeping in his blood . . . and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.
I always have a hard time reviewing these books: the ones that aren’t read so much as frantically consumed in a whirlwind of gluttonous book hedonism. Afterward I feel like, “What just happened to me? Yesterday is such a blur…a happy, sad, angry, intense blur.”
So, I’ll just apologize now, because this review probably won’t be very coherent.
This book begins like a lot of Melina Marchetta books. (In fact, I might say that all
of her best books begin this way.) There’s a mad jumble of names, events, and relationships spilled out in the first few chapters; it feels like not only a map (which is helpfully provided) but a family tree and a flow chart of some kind might be necessary to keep track of it all. It’s confusing. But, I am not some greenie; I am a Melina Marchetta veteran! I know by now to just keep reading. Sure enough, everything becomes clear (not to mention, extremely engrossing) in no time at all.
This book claims on the outside to be about Froi: the young thief and exile who becomes a dedicated Lumateran in Finnikin of the Rock.
And there’s no doubt that it is. But of course, we can count on Melina Marchetta for so much more than that. Every one of her books has a complete cast of consuming, vibrant characters and this book is no exception. This book is written in third person but shifts between the perspectives of four different relationships. So, as Froi takes up a dangerous errand and heads into Charyn, the notorious kingdom that once invaded Lumatere and incited a horrible curse, we also get to keep up with all his surrogate family left behind. For all of the Finnikin of the Rock
fans out there: rejoice! You’ll get plenty of time with Finnikin, Isaboe, Lucian, Lady Beatriss, Trevanion, Tesadora, and…Jasmina. I’m not going to tell you who that last one is; you’ll have to read this to find out!
I don’t even know where to start on the major themes of this book. In a way, this book is about the many facets of romance: infatuation, lust, companionship, love, betrayal, understanding, redemption. It’s also about identity, family, war, hatred, curses, misunderstandings, history, and perspectives. This is one hefty book and I’m not just referring to its massive size.
There were so many times where I thought, “No…she wouldn’t….
” But OF COURSE she would. There were also times that I assumed dark and dreadful things and she surprised me with lightness and grace. Everything that she writes just feels so true to life. Life isn’t tragic and dark and it’s not easy and wonderful either, but it is both of these at once. People aren’t just greedy or just good or just anything. A whore can be a mother, a severely damaged girl can be a born ruler, an outcast can be a diplomat, a once violent boy can be a healer of women, and an “evil” kingdom is much more than the sum of its parts. Perfect Musical Pairing
TV on the Radio – Family Tree
This song is about dark history, both inherited and remembered. I think that it’s also about how hatred can be fed and perpetuated across generations, but I think that it has a hopeful note too.
”Were laying in the shadow of your family tree
Your haunted heart and me
Brought down by an old idea whose time has come
And in the shadow of the gallows of your family tree
There's a hundred hearts soar free
Pumping blood to the roots of evil to keep it young”
Froi of the Exiles
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 3/13/12
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Blurb (GR): Blood sings to blood, Froi . . .
Those born last will make the first . . .
For Charyn will be barren no more.
Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...
Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.
And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.
Gripping and intense, complex and richly imagined, Froi of the Exiles
is a dazzling sequel to Finnikin of the Rock
, from the internationally best-selling and multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi
, Saving Francesca
, On the Jellicoe Road
and The Piper's Son
.Review: Finnikin of the Rock
was a fine fantasy novel in itself, but I think there is more of everything in its sequel. There is more heartache, more pain, more adventure, more mystery, more secrets, more magic, more intrigue and more madness.
Three years after the breaking of the Lumateran curse Froi is sent to neighboring Charyn on a revenge mission. What first is thought to be a simple avenge-and-escape task, quickly becomes something more when Froi learns of a curse hanging over Charyn, a curse that is even more horrifying than the Lumateran one. And the person who seems to suffer the most because of it is the half-mad Princess of Charyn Quintana. Hers is the unbearable and thankless burden to save the country which is about to explode from the inside.
Now, I will refrain from saying more about the plot to stay away from inadvertently revealing secrets and plot twists. Trust me, there are many. But I will tease you with a few things: Quintana - she broke my heart, a poor girl who has to serve her land by doing things most degrading; Lucian - I was ashamed of him in the beginning, I was in pain for him in the end; Froi - he has become a man of wondrous strength and depth and he might have met his match - someone of equal passion and darkness of soul. These are only a few familiar characters that took possession of my heart, but there are more, equally fierce and unforgettable - a couple of old men with dark pasts, a defiant whore, a stuttering idiot girl who finds her worth in spite of everyone calling her useless.
It won't be a proper Melina Marchetta
book review if I don't mention how much I cried over it. And, of course, I did quite a bit. I cried because I felt shame and of pity and in triumph. Froi of the Exiles
is a huge book. It is so big, I am actually surprised it wasn't split into two, because, if you look at it, the climax of the story happens at about half way point. But for such a lengthy book, it is surprisingly unputdownable and very tightly written.
You also need to know that this is only a half of the story. The cliffhanger is big, softened only by a mercifully hopeful epilogue.
I remember Marchetta promised not more than a year between publications of Froi of the Exiles
and Quintana of Charyn
. I sure hope it's true. I foresee this wait to be quite agonizing. 5/5 stars
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publication Date: 1/3/12
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.Review:
Let me first give credit where credit is due. A cyborg Cinderella
? Wow! It's a bold premise. I applaud Marissa Meyer
for thinking this up.
In this re-envisioning of the fairy tale, Lihn Cinder is a cyborg, meaning, she is almost half mechanical - she has prosthetic hands and a foot, a big chunk of her internal organs are wired into her body. Cinder is a mechanic in New Beijing, the capital of the Eastern Commonwealth, a country ravaged by plague outbreaks. One day, the heir to the throne of the Commonwealth, Prince Kai, steps into Cinder's shop to get his android fixed, and everything changes for Cinder. She falls in love, she becomes a center of multiple intrigues, she discovers her own well hidden (even from her) secrets.
As much as I appreciate an author willing to think outside the box, I am afraid in this case Marissa Meyer
bit off more than she could chew. The world of Cinder
is very imaginative and full of potential. New Beijing, royalty, plague, cyborg falling in love, a war with the Lunar (Moon) Empire. I mean, just think about the possibilities here. Too bad, these possibilities are never explored to their best advantage.
Let's take Cinder, for example. She is almost half robot, there is stuff wired into her brain and body. Is she a human? Does she have artificial intelligence? Does she think of herself as human? How can she love? Are her emotions real or programmed? None of this is explained with any kind of depth. I compare this book to The Adoration of Jenna Fox
, and Cinder
How about the setting? New Beijing! Futuristic China! Is there any Chinese flavor in this story? Any infusion of Eastern cultures, customs? Not really.
Ok, maybe there is something to this Lunar business then? Who or what are these Lunar people? How did they get there? How do they live on the Moon? Why exactly are they at war with Earth? I still have no clue.
My general impression after finishing Cinder
is that every good idea in this story is developed very superficially. It's like Cinder
is... Ship Breaker
's ugly cousin. What Paolo Bacigalupi
managed to do in his fairly short book with great depth - the world ruined by environmental changes, genetically altered human beings, poverty - is all done here, but in the most shallow way, as if the author was determined to keep the plot moving at a break-neck pace, afraid that any paragraph spent on layering the world or characters' personalities would bore readers.
There is still some entertainments value in Cinder
, and I did get all the way through it to find out how the story would unfold. (BTW, you can predict the novel's outcome at about page 50 and it all ends with a cliffhanger.) But the novel fails miserably at being thought-provoking, challenging or truly engaging, even though the ideas are all there. Squandered potential. 2/5 stars
Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Publication Date: 1/3/12
Blurb (GR): Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered. This was worse.
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as The Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive.
A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.Review:
My opinion about Under the Never Sky
is similar to the one I have about Unearthly
. I am not going to claim that these books are ground-breaking or Printz
-worthy. But in their genres, dystopia/post-apocalyptic and PNR respectively, they are as good as it gets. They are well written and entertaining, with characters and relationships that do not annoy and make you roll your eyes.
The summary of Under the Never Sky
does this book a disservice. It is accurate enough, but overwhelms you with weird names of things and places. I'll try to explain the plot in a, hopefully, simpler way.
In a distant future, our (I assume) planet is ravaged by strange climate changes that make living on the surface quite rough. A big part of the population now exists inside huge, self-supporting, sealed from the outside domes. This group of people finds its only relief from the tediousness of the confined, sterilized living in virtual realities. The other half of the population barely survives outside. Food is scarce, climate dangerous, the living is primal, only the fittest survives.
Aria belongs to the sheltered kind, Perry - to the savage kind. When Aria is expelled from the security of her dome, she joins Perry, and together they ally to reach their separate goals.
While Under the Never Sky
is hardly super-original, whatever genre tropes are used in it, are done exactly to my taste.
The novel has dual narration, but the choices Veronica Rossi
made here work just right. 3rd person helps her avoid the customary similarities between her characters' voices. The switches between the POVs always happen when it is the most advantageous, no repetitiveness, no excessive navel-gazing (also, very frequent whenever 2-POV structure is used).
Another plus, Under the Never Sky
is more of an adventure story, rather than romance (thank you, Jesus! I mean, Harper Teen). The love story line is strong, but the romance is slow-burning, not angsty, not overwhelming. The priorities are straight here - there are more important things in the characters' lives than a few days-long romantic relationships, things like families and loyalties.
Finally, the characters. I really liked Aria and Perry, especially Perry. There is a soft spot in my heart for a guy who is understanding of and helpful during the special lady days (aka periods).
Basically, Under the Never Sky
, in my eyes, is a perfect mix of adventure and love, sci-fi and romance, entertainment and heartbreak. I am definitely coming back for more. 4/5 stars
The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Publication Date: 1/10/12
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.Review: The Fault in Our Stars
currently has a rating of 4.74 on Goodreads, almost everyone I know has given it 5 stars, therefore I'm certain no one would want to read my sour musings, except me and maybe a couple of other like-minded and unimpressed.
What I'd love to know is this - what makes a writer undertake the topic of cancer? So much has already been written about it, so many Lifetime
movies filmed, so many tears shed. It literally has been done to death. What new did John Green
have to bring to the cancer table?
The way I see it, nothing. Having your terminally sick characters be ironic about their illnesses and swap cancer jokes isn't groundbreaking. The Fault in Our Stars
isn't a bad book, but it's a standard cancer book, and, sadly, a standard John Green
book, with standard John Green
humor and standard John Green
characters speaking in the very same John Green
You have a witty and intelligent protagonist (this time 2, Hazel and Augustus - a female and male versions of Miles/Quentin/Colin), a funny, slightly pathetic sidekick (Isaac - another version of Hassan/Chip/Marcus), a mysterious, unhinged girl, Gus's dead ex (Alaska/Margo clone), and, of course, the signature ROAD TRIP. I can't help but recognize these people and this plot, I've read all of Green's novels.
I understand why so many readers would have such an emotional response to the book. Nothing will get the ladies crying quicker than a kid dying of cancer. Add in some long farewells, painkillers, eulogies and funerals - you can collect buckets of tears. But, IMO, here Green aims for the most obvious, the most easily accessible emotions, for the most typical "life lessons." And for all Green's attempts to be subversive and to make fun of "cancer cliches" - inspirational quotes, heroic cancer survivors, etc. he ended up writing about exactly the same things.
Frankly, I think The Fault in Our Stars
is Green's weakest work to date, weaker even than half-baked Zombicorns
. Because this, unlike his earlier works, feels commercial and intentionally tearjerky and insincere. It will probably sell the most copies. 3/5 stars