Book Review: The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman (Invisible Library, book 3)

burning-page

My reviews for books 1 and 2 of the series can be found here and here.

Favourite quotes:

“I’m quite happy to steal a book from storage where nobody’s ever going to read it. But I do feel a bit guilty about snatching it mid-read from someone’s bedside table”.

“I have spent most of my life preferring books to people. Just because I like a few specific people doesn’t change anything”.

“The only problem is that it’s difficult to imagine something entirely new. We use the words and definitions of the past to shape our ideas. Something that is genuinely the next evolutionary step is unlikely to resemble anything we can imagine. Even the best books on the subject are limited”.

At the end of “The Masked City”, Irene Winters has stopped a war between the Fae and dragons. However, the mess she’s made in the process wasn’t appreciated by her superiors of the Library, so she’s currently on probation. Which means that she’s stuck with lowly jobs that are hardly prestigious, such as snatching books from heavily chaos-infested worlds that are dangerous. And that means that her apprentice Kai (who happens to be a dragon prince) is also stuck doing these jobs with her. His Royal Dragon Family isn’t too happy, needless to say, despite the fact that they respect Irene for saving Kai from his kidnappers. One such lowly job almost ends in Irene and Kai being burnt to death just as they are about to leave a chaos-infested world and return to the Library. Turns out that the fire wasn’t accidental, and the Library Elders are very concerned. It seems that the traitor Alberich is trying to do something to the Library, but nobody knows for sure what. Since Irene is on probation, she doesn’t have much influence, but her mentor is willing to listen to her insights and assigns her a job that’s slightly more prestigious than her previous one. Irene is to snatch a book from one of the alternates ruled by the Imperial Russia.

But before she can set for St. Petersburg, Irene has to stop by Vale’s London to check on him. In the process, she and Kai are attacked by giant babboon spiders, Irene is kidnapped by werewolves, and the two Librarians find their friend Vale acting too much like his literary counterpart. On top of that, Irene’s old flame, a Fae called Zayanna whom she met in Venice, makes an appearance. And everyone knows that you can’t trust the Fae…

Will Irene and Kai be able to complete their mission and save the Library and Vale in the process? Or will traitors, giant Asian hornets, snakes and worlds that don’t seem to listen to the Language end up being too much for them to deal with?

I must admit – I’ve missed Irene, Kai and the London gang since finishing “The Masked City” almost exactly a year ago. I adore the characters of the “Invisible Library” series, and the world Genevieve Cogman has created. The third installment of the series contains even more action than the previous one, and characters barely spend any time on research or planning. We saw at least some semblance of that in “The Masked City”, when Irene tried to get to know the Guantes’, but “The Burning Page” contains very few interludes like that. Irene is actually a prime example of “act first, think later” in this book. Or maybe things just tend to happen to this “unprincipled adventuress working as a book thief”. Indeed, only in the first third of the book, she:

  • Was nearly burnt to death;
  • Was nearly trampled by furniture and stairs;
  • Was attacked by giant spiders;
  • Flew on a dragon’s back;
  • Got ambushed by an overly-friendly Fae;
  • Got rejected by a potential bedmate after finding him high as a kite;
  • Got dragged to what essentially was a staff meeting and an internal affairs squabble;
  • Got kidnapped by a bunch of werewolves.

And a bunch of other things happened. I’m sure you can imagine that the rest of the book is just as eventful. And all Irene’s ever wanted was just a good book to read…

Despite the dangers faced by a Librarian, I still have a major case of job envy. Irene indeed does have my dream job – she gets to travel to parallel worlds and meet all kinds of characters, live in the biggest library in the world, practice her language (and Language) skills on a daily basis, and of course, she has access to any book she could ever want. The Language was my favourite plot device in the first two books, and I was thrilled to see it making a huge comeback in “The Burning Page”. It has a lot of potential that wasn’t realized in “The Masked City”, so it was wonderful to see Irene and other Librarians use it a lot more frequently. And its usage in a fight between a hero and a villain was absolutely epic!

“The Burning Page” is primarily an action-and-adventure novel set in a world established in “The Invisible Library”, but we do get to learn more about Irene. If “The Masked City” focused more on Kai’s character and his family, the third book allows us some insights into Irene’s past and gives her several opportunities for character development. One of the things I’m expecting from “The Lost Plot” (Book 4, out later this year) is getting to know Irene even more. Another is seeing how the Library is managing, given the internal conflicts we’ve received a sneak peak of in this book, as well as other obvious challenges it had to overcome in “The Burning Page”.

The setting is one of my favourite part of the “Invisible Library” series, and it was lovely to see more of the Library in “The Burning Page” – we barely got to spend any time there in “The Masked City”. And of course, it featured two of my favourite cities – London and St. Petersburg. I’m convinced that whatever world they’re a part of, they would always be stunning, atmospheric and breathing with history. So it was quite wonderful to see Irene and Kai in action in these two cities. I can’t wait to find out where they’d be going next!

“The Burning Page” is just as good as its predecessor, “The Masked City”, and I look forward to reuniting with our favourites in “The Lost Plot” in a few months! My rating is 8/10.

Dreamcast:

Irene – Rebecca Hall

Kai – Godfrey Gao

Bradamant – Indira Varma

Vale – James D’Arcy

Zayanna – Holliday Granger

Recommendations

You might like “The Invisible Library” series if you liked:

“Rabbit Back Literature Society” by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläi

“Magic Ex Libris” series by Jim C. Hine

“The Librarian” movie trilogy

Have you read “The Burning Page” yet? How about other books in the series? Share your opinions in the comments! 🙂

Book Review: Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, Book 1) by Seanan McGuire

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Favourite quotes:
“You are an insolent, irresponsible, immature little bitch!
And you’re an arrogant asshole, and there may be a dragon under this city. Now can we stop the dick waving and start figuring out how we’re going to deal with this? Or do I have to kiss you again?”
 
“Mother Nature is a freaky lady who probably created pot so she could spend all her time smoking it”.
 
“It’s amazing how quickly and completely the natural world can adjust. People forget that pigeons aren’t hatched from cracks on the sidewalk; they’re wild birds that have simply learned to exist in symbiosis with the human race. Their adaptation is proof that it can be done. We should applaud the pigeon as a survivalist totem, not call them “rats with wings” and shoo them off our windowsills”.
 

 

“New York is a city built upon the cannibalized remains of its own past, constantly changing, constantly the same”. Verity Price, however, isn’t looking to bring any change to New York, except to ensure that its cryptids (the bogeymen, the chupacabra, the basilisks, etc.) are safe from humanity, particularly The Covenant. And to win the Regional Argentine tango competition, despite her family insisting that she dedicate her life to cryptozoology, like every other member of the Price clan.

 

Apart from living illegally in an apartment infested with Aeslin Mice, working for a sleazy cryptid bar owner named Dave and having to sacrifice her nights for either work or dancing or cryptozoology, life isn’t going too badly for Verity Price. That is, until she encounters tall, dark and insolent Dominic de Luca from The Covenant – a society of religious fanatics who want to rid the Earth of all cryptids and who are the reason the Price family had to hide for hundreds of years. Is Dominic de Luca the reason cryptid girls are disappearing all over the city? Or is it just an unfortunate coincidence and if yes, who is kidnapping the girls? And how could there be a dragon sleeping underneath New York? Is he eating all the girls? And does Verity have the time to find all that out in addition to her dance competition and her job at the bar?

 

“Discount Armageddon” is classified as urban fantasy and I must say, it’s urban fantasy as its finest – diverse cast of characters, urban setting (you can’t get more urban than New York really), monsters who are characters in their own right, and utter hilarity. Yes, “Discount Armageddon” is a lot of fun. The character of Verity Price is a big reason why – she is clever, she’s witty, she’s been trained to fight to the death from a very young age, and she doesn’t take crap from anyone. Overall, a badass with an attitude and a sharp tongue to match. She reminded me a little of Alexia Tarabotti – a woman who is a unique species in itself and feels at home with all sorts of creatures, except religious fanatics who probably want to murder her. However, the world of “InCryptid” isn’t like Parasol Protectorate’s England – for starters, werewolves etc. don’t present themselves as integral members of society. “InCryptid” isn’t an alternative history novel, it’s an urban fantasy novel – more like “Matthew Swift” than “Parasol Protectorate” in that regard. Verity Price doesn’t have any angels stuck in her (as far as we know!), but her wit can certainly match Swift’s, and like Swift, she has a special relationship with all kinds of creatures. Her family is another story entirely – they have a pretty rich history which I’m looking forward to learning more about in Book 2, and they are quite the characters in themselves – for example “Naga wouldn’t mind being called an uncle under the circumstances, and he was the family go-to guy for anything involving snake cults, largely because he was frequently their target. It was just that explaining why I had an extradimensional professor of demonic studies as an honorary uncle would take too long – especially since the uncle in question was a giant snake from the waist down”.

 

I also loved that Verity is a scientist and a dancer (#girlpower), and she doesn’t want to eradicate anyone who isn’t human. On the contrary – she strives to learn as much as possible about other cultures and to protect them from people like Dominic de Luca. Speaking of – I expected there to be romance between Verity and Dominic from the moment they fought each other for the first time, but I was pleasantly surprised at how their romance didn’t get on my nerves and didn’t distract from the main plot. I generally quite enjoy romances that go something like this – “The intoxicatingly mingled scents of sex and sweat perfumed the bedroom air, making me want to fight an army, dance a tango and take a long nap, not necessarily in that order”. The twists in urban legends used by the author were also quite interesting, especially the dragon twist (no spoilers, sorry!). I look forward to reading book 2 in the InCryptid series – I really want to learn more about Verity’s family and friends, and various monst… sorry, cryptids that populate New York.

 

“Discount Armageddon” is written quite well – there are some lengthy passages that provide intro to certain characters, but the overall tone of the book is quite humorous, so they were as much fun to read as the rest of the book – “Not all sirens are into the whole “sitting on rocky atolls luring sailors to their death” gig. At least one is making a pretty good living as a pop singer. She calls herself “Emerald Green”, pretends her hair is dyed that particular shade of seaweed, and refuses to book gigs in coastal cities unless they’re purely acoustic. Nature isn’t always destiny.”
Epigraphs before each chapter were another part I loved – “A proper lady should be able to smile pretty, wear sequins like she means it, and kick a man’s ass nine ways from Sunday while wearing stilletto heels. If she can’t do that much, she’s not trying hard enough”. Also, the book has a playlist of awesome songs at the end – I love when authors do this. My rating of “Discount Armageddon” is 8.5/10.

 

 
Dreamcast
Verity Price – Kristen Bell
Sarah – Cristin Milioti
Candice – Margot Robbie

 

 
Recommendations
You might like “Discount Armageddon” if you liked:
“The Immortal Empire” series by Kate Locke
“Parasol Protectorate” series by Gail Carriger
“October Daye” series by Seanan McGuire

 

Have you read the “InCryptid” series? What are your favourite Urban Fantasy reads? Gimme a shout in the comments! 🙂

Book Review: Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

tell wind fire

Favourite quotes

“Real grief is ugly and uncomfortable. People look away from grief the same way they look away from severed limbs or gaping wounds. What they want is pain like death on a stage: beautiful, bloodless, presented for their entertainment”.

“Happiness is self-sabotage, a mean trick that your own mind plays on you. It makes you careless, makes you lose your grip, and once you lose your grip, you lose everything. You certainly aren’t happy anymore”.

“People will come up with a hundred thosand reasons why other people do not count as human, but that does not mean anyone has to listen”.

 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

In the future, there are two New Yorks – the self-indulgent Light City ruled by powerful and ruthless Council of Light magicians, and the Dark city where dark magicians deemed too dangerous to live with the rest of the people are buried. Both races need each other to stay alive. Lucie Manette was born in the Dark city, but she managed to win herself a place in the Light city, amongst the elite, through careful manipulations and lies and becoming a symbol of the Light magicians’ mercy. The status has also helped her win the heart of Ethan Stryker – son and nephew of Charles and Mark Stryker, prominent figures on the Light Council. All is well, until Lucie uncovers a fatal secret about Ethan that involves a forbidden Dark ritual and a despised Doppleganger named Carwyn. Once Carwyn’s existence comes to light, the future of the Stryker family hangs by a Golden thread that’s becoming thinner and thinner as Carwyn’s revolutionary activities come to “Light”. The two cities are facing the threat of burning, and it is up to Lucie to save Ethan, Carwyn and bring about the end of the revolution.

 

The author of “The Lynburn Legacy” has created a retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”. Needless to say that the adventures of Lucie, Ethan and Carwyn are very different from those of Kami, Jared and the rest of the Lynburn legacy crew. Firstly, “Tell the Wind and Fire” is not a funny book – not that you’d expect a retelling of a Dickens novel to be funny. The book does certainly have enough familiar elements to be called a “retelling” – the two cities, the Revolution, the murders and the heroine who is perceived as the beacon of light (The Golden Thread) thanks to her hair and status. I did like how the author added magic into the mix to make this an urban fantasy dystopian, but I wouldn’t call the plot devices used in the book “groundbreaking”. We have seen them in “The Hunger Games”, “Divergent”, “Half Bad” and several other YA dystopians. There’s nothing wrong with the societal divisions tropes, but to be frank, I have read far too many novels that use it to be suitably impressed.

Another issue I had with “Tell the Wind and Fire” is the pacing. It started off really well by diving into action that involved death threats right away, but what followed is a large chapter of nothing but background information on how Lucie and Ethan came to be and how the Light and Dark city can’t function without each other. What follows is events not unlike the ones that transpire in “A Tale of Two Cities”, except the pacing is kind of all over the place, making it quite difficult to understand why characters (bar the exception of Lucie, thanks to the info-dump) act the way they do. A great storyteller, which I know Sarah Rees Brennan to be, would weave a story that makes us understand the characters and the plot, as well as the setting without random chunks of information thrown at the reader. I am honestly a little surprised – Brennan’s other books weren’t anything like that.

However, I can’t imagine that retelling a novel as massive and dense as “A Tale of Two Cities” was an easy job to do, and I’m not saying that the author failed to complete the task. It’s certainly a far better retelling of a Dickens novel than “Olivia Twisted”, for instance. However, I do feel that it is next to impossible to squish a plot of “A Tale of Two Cities” into 350 pages or so and expect excellent results. My verdict is that “Tell the Wind and Fire” has an amazing premise that could’ve been executed spectacularly if it were a series or at least a much longer standalone, with fewer info-dumps and more room to flesh out the characters. My rating is 6/10.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Tell the Wind and Fire” if you liked:

“A Darker Shade of Magic” by V.E.Schwab

“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J Maas

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

Have you read “Tell the Wind and Fire” yet? Do you have any good retellings of Dickens’ novels that you’d like to recommend? Do let me know!

Book Review: Zeroes by Scott Westerfield, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

zeroes

Favourite quotes

“Her parents didn’t understand that braille meant big clunky books that marked you as different, while audiobooks lived invisibly on your phone and text-to-speech gave you the whole damn internet”.

“It was a seriously dick move on the part of the universe: of everyone in this room, only he could see all those glimmers of awareness, feel them in his gut and as electricity on his skin. But the glimmers never found him in return, not in any group bigger than a half dozen people. That was what made him Anonymous”.

“She was the sunbeam – she was the sun, the source! She was full to bursting with post-crash power. She could see everything, feel everything, hold everything up forever if she wanted, let go anything she chose. Mega- or nanosized, she was master of it. She was a freaking Zero, man!”

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ethan’s Voice has landed him in trouble – again. All he really wanted was a ride home and what he got is all hell breaking loose. The Voice is a literal scammer – hence Ethan’s superhero nickname Scam. Well, actually it’s his Zero nickname.

What is a Zero, you ask? The Glorious Leader, a.k.a. Bellwether, a.k.a. Nate, chose the name “Zeroes” for a group of five teenagers who have superpowers. Except they aren’t your regular superpowers. Oh, they are cool and all, but they are also super lame. No laser eyes, no flying, no super-strength. These kids aren’t the Jessica Jones’ or Luke Cages of this world. They are just teens born in 2000 in Cambria, California. Last summer, the group fell apart, thanks to Ethan’s Voice, and now that the Voice has gotten him in trouble, the Zeroes have to reluctantly reunite to get him out of it. But can they work together again? And is there room for a sixth Zero whom Ethan’s Voice also gets in trouble during a bank robbery?

 

“Zeroes”. Starring:

Nate, a.k.a. The Glorious Leader a.k.a. Bellwether.

“He could see the shimmers of human interaction in the air. But his power was the reverse of Thibault’s – he could amp those connections stronger, especially at a crowded table. He took the joy of a big group eating good food after a successful mission and focused it, until it felt like he was the only other person in the world, shining his glorious light on you”.

This guy has the power of control. He is, quite literally, a control freak. He is able to focus the energy of a crowd on a particular subject (usually himself) and to manipulate it any way he chooses. He can make a crowd follow him, manipulate their emotions however he likes and make them believe what he wants them to believe. Advantages – he would make an awesome politician. Disadvantages – the power makes him kind of an asshole. At times, reading from his P.O.V. and even from other P.O.V.s about him made me quite uncomfortable. In fact, his power strongly reminded me of Kilgrave (Marvel), and the fact that Nate is just a sixteen-year-old kid made the effect even stronger. He is definitely an unreliable narrator and his motivations are quite unclear at times, both to the other characters and to the reader. It is quite obvious why he became the leader of the group, not least due to his power and charisma, but it is very unsettling to learn that he has a file on every member. On the one hand, he knows as much as the reader does about the ‘verse and why they have superpowers, so it’s understandable why he would want to learn more. On the other hand, however, it’s scary to think about what he could do with the information gathered and his power that can control the emotions of every other Zero. “Every power has a price” is a tagline of “Zeroes” and I feel that it is going to apply to all the Zeroes, but Nate the most.

 

Riley, a.k.a. Flicker.

“It took a while, even in the silence. But eventually her ears found the sound – someone breathing, soft and even. Someone she couldn’t throw her vision into, not even to find the sparkling rodes and cones of darkness”.

Flicker is a blind girl whose power is to see through other people’s eyeballs. I absolutely loved that the authors included a disabled character in the ensemble, and given her a very “unconventional” superpower. Being able to view a scene from every angle from the eyes of whomever Flicker wanted had come in handy for Zeroes during the events of the book, but it was also a dangerous power. Flicker had no control over what a person would be doing and could lose the “sight” at anytime the subject was asleep or had a bag over his head (yep, that happened on several occasions). Flicker was a lovely character who loved books and I could strongly relate to her love for fictional boyfriends – what bookworm couldn’t? Her past romance with Nate was hinted at, but I enjoyed reading about her relationship with another Zero a lot more – Nate’s superpower doesn’t bode well for relationships, I’m sure. Flicker’s P.O.V. was definitely one of the most interesting ones, and combined with her power, the effect was quite meta at times.

 

Chizara, a.k.a. Crash.

“Her reach was gigantic now, extending deep into the electronic forest of the neighbourhood around her. And she could hang on to everything, hold everything up, keep it moving. She was the world’s best juggler, juggling stars and roaring chain saws and balls of fire”.

Chizara was the character who was the most well-rounded and developed, in my opinion. Her power reminded me a little of Matthew Swift – she can crush electricity and any device or building that runs on it with the power of her mind. The internal struggle she experienced when she exercised the power at places like police stations and hospitals and went too far was shown very well in her P.O.V. The reader felt what she was feeling. Her narrative is probably one of the most emotional and engaging in the book (although I haven’t gotten to Anon yet), and there is a lot more to her character than just her superpower. The character growth she experiences does relate in many ways to the growth and development of her power, but she is probably the only Zero who doesn’t want to be a part of Nate’s group and can resist his influence. That’s probably going to lead to some more “interesting” encounters between the two in the later books in the series. All characters’ arcs are quite pivotal to the resolution of the plot, but Chizara’s arc ultimately turns out to be one of the most important ones in the end. Her struggle with her power and her fear of what it can do are explored very well, as I’ve already stated, and I can definitely see how her arc, which can traditionally be perceived as a villain’s, going to be anything but that in the later books, unlike Nate’s. The two arcs would be likely to be opposing forces at some point, and I am certainly looking forward to seeing how it would play out.

 

Ethan, a.k.a. Scam.

“The voice would get him into situations that only the voice could get him out of. Then he was stuck, listening and waiting. Letting it talk”.

Ethan’s power is not like the others’. His Voice knows the truth about other people and tells them exactly what they need to hear in order to serve Ethan’s interests. It works best in one-on-one interactions, whereas other Zeroes work best in a crowd. The Voice started speaking before Ethan himself could speak, which obviously resulted in a lot of issues. Ethan has the weakest control over his power out of all the Zeroes, and his Voice has gotten him in trouble a lot more than it helped him. The Voice tore Zeroes apart and brought them back together, albeit very reluctantly. The book starts with Ethan’s arc and the unfolding events that involve everyone else are majorly about him, but it never feels as though he is the main character, which was one of my favourite things about “Zeroes”. Having Ethan as the protagonist would be awful – he is a very whiny narrator and takes “doesn’t think before he speaks” to a whole different level. Despite his compelling backstory, he was the least interesting character of this installment.

 

Kelsie, a.k.a. Mob.

“Crowds were only good when they shared something. When they were united by a purpose or a beat. Then she could slip inside, be part of that something more”.

Kelsie is the newest Zero, and her power is somewhat similar to Nate’s except she moulds a crowd to feel and experience what she wants them to, make them feel better and more alive. Her backstory, unlike that of other Zeroes, has little to do with her power and a lot more to do with what she’s like as a character. Her P.O.V. is compelling and I feel that we’ve gotten to know her as a human character a lot more than a superhero. Ethan inadvertently makes her a part of his story arc and his and her narratives intervine the moment the Voice yells out her name to a bank robber’s face. The bank robber happens to be Kelsie’s father who tries his best to be there for her but is up to his ears in drug-related debts. The events that unfold following the robbery are largely about Ethan’s lack of common sense and control, but they also pull Kelsie in, and needless to say, she is quite happy to find others like her. I look forward to seeing what the newest addition to the team of Zeroes would bring.

 

Thibault, a.k.a. Anon.

“Wisdom tells me I’m nothing. But love tells me I’m everything”.

I saved the best, and the saddest, for last. Anon’s power is literally that – he is Anonymous. He is forgotten as soon as he’s out of sight. Forgotten by everybody. Including his family. Including his friends. Including hospital staff. Thibault “Teebo” is not invisible, but he might as well be. Tall, dark, handsome, smart, kind teenage boy has to survive any way he can – be it on the streets or squatting in hotel rooms and ordering room service because his family can’t remember who he is. He finally seemed to find his place in the world amongst Zeroes, but even they constantly forget that he exists. Nate’s file on him is the biggest one Nate has – Bellwether is clearly obsessed with Anon’s powers and the relationship between the two is definitely something that should be explored. His relationships with other characters is one of the many things that makes him the most interesting Zero. Whether it’s his strange friendship with Nate, his reluctant partnership with Ethan and Kelsie or his romance with Flicker, the interactions are wonderful to read about, and at times, heartbreaking. I absolutely loved how Flicker’s love for books and fictional boyfriends lead her and her sister to create a story of “a boy called Nothing” in order to re-create the few memories of Thibault that she managed to hold on to, and eventually to fall in love with the real boy called Nothing, who was really Everything. This is one of the few books where characters develop a relationship in a short amount of time and it is actually compelling. Relationships and interactions, were, however, just a minor faucet of what made Thibault the amazing character that he was. His backstory and ongoing arc of the book were emotional, gripping and they hurt. A lot. Thibault might be forgettable to the characters, and might believe himself to be Anonymous, but he is certainly the most memorable to the reader.

 

Out of all three authors of “Zeroes” I’ve only read one. “Afterworlds” by Scott Westerfield was one of my favourite reads of 2015, so I didn’t hesitate to request “Zeroes” when it became available on Netgalley. As you can see from the above ramblings of mine, the cast of this book is diverse, interesting and makes for some incredibly interesting interactions. Indeed, I felt that the first installment of the “Zeroes” series served more as an introduction to the ensemble cast and a chance for the reader to see how they would function in a typical action-y situation, as well as who they are and what we can expect from them in the future installments. The book was very fast-paced, bar the first couple of chapters, and sometimes it was so intense that I had to put down my e-reader and walk around for a bit. I certainly enjoyed the action, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy getting to know the characters even more. Superhero books can be a hit or a miss, and “Zeroes” was certainly a hit. There is a lot more to the book than just superhero action – the characters are incredibly well-written and fleshed out, which isn’t really that surprising given that all three authors are experienced YA writers. The cast is diverse – we have a Hispanic boy (Nate), a blind girl (Flicker), a Nigerian girl (Chizara), a French boy (Thibault) and a white boy and girl (Ethan and Kelsie). All of them come from different social backgrounds and have vastly different personalities. The P.O.V. switches were every few pages, and they were all third-person, but it was quite easy to tell who was narrating. None of them were too reliable, but each narrative was compelling and engaging in its own way. I think Chizara’s and Anon’s were my favourite story arcs, as you’ve probably gathered by now, but I’m certainly excited to see how Nate’s motivations and power would play out in his interactions with others in the future installments.

I would certainly be continuing with this series and I would love to see a TV adaptation of it. My rating is 8/10.

 

Dreamcast

Ethan (Scam) – Anton Yelchin

Kelsie (Mob) – Chloe Grace Moretz

Chizara (Crash) – Zoe Kravitz

Nate (Bellwether) – Jesus Zavala

Riley (Flicker) – Elle Fanning

Thibault (Anon) – Jeremy Kapone

 

Recommendations

You might enjoy “Zeroes” if you liked:

“The Affinities” by Robert Charles Wilson

“I Crawl Through It” by A.S. King

“Jessica Jones”

Have you read “Zeroes” yet? Do you agree with my dreamcast? Do let me know!

Book Review: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

steep thorny

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

There is a troubling undercurrent rumbling beneath the surface of the town of Elston, Oregon, and it’s particularly troubling for Hanalee Denney, a sixteen-year-old daughter of an African-American man and a white woman. Hanalee’s dad Hank was murdered last Christmas by a drunk driver, Joe Adler, and a few months later, Joe is out of jail and back in town. To add to the grief his return is causing Hanalee, the Ku Klux Klan is breeding fear and hatred across Elston in their attempt to “purify” Oregon of everyone who isn’t white, Protestant, American-born or heterosexual. Hanalee’s friends are abandoning her one by one, and her father’s alleged murderer is suddenly claiming that the man who actually killed Hanalee’s father is the town doctor who tried to save him and who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather. Does Hank Denney’s ghost, or a “haint” hold the answers Hanalee is so desperate to find? And will she be able to solve the mystery and to cope with the devastating results that she finds?

 

My readers probably know by now that I believe that it’s impossible for Cat Winters to ever write a bad book. “The Steep and Thorny Way” is definitely her best book to date – and the darkest. I’ve been known to spend hours in front of a Cat Winters book and finishing in a day. The same happened when I started “The Steep and Thorny Way” – thankfully, it was a weekend so I didn’t have to go to work. The novel is gripping. It’s devastating. And it’s honest and real. The emotions are very, very, real.

Winters’ fans know all about her talent to masterrfully convey the atmosphere of a setting in writing, and in “TSaTW” the reader can’t help but feel as though they are also a part of Elston, Oregon of the 1920s. Unfortunately, that setting has little beauty in it. It is very scary to think about the fact that the travesties described in the novel occurred less than a hundred years ago. Every page is saturated with despair and sadness of those times and thanks to Winters’ writing talent, the reader feels them as much as the characters. Hanalee, Joe and their  families are devastated by what is happening in their town, but they are the kinds of characters that don’t give up. Hanalee, for instance, is fully aware that there are few good things awaiting her in the future if she stays in Elston, but it doesn’t deter her from pursuing her dreams of becoming a lawyer. She is kind, smart and compassionate, despite all the atrocities American laws and Elston society put her through on a daily basis.

The novel is marketed as a retelling of “Hamlet” – one of my favourite works of Shakespeare. In a way, it is – you can see it in certain passages and characters. And of course, the murder most foul of the novel initially seems to parallel that of “Hamlet”. However, nothing is ever what it seems in Cat Winters’ books, and “TSaTW” is no exception. Given the setting, I knew that the solution to the mystery was not going to be a happy one – plus  “Hamlet” is a tragedy for a reason. It was, however, nothing I expected it would be and all the more devastating for it. Winters uses paranormal elements as plot devices quite a few times in her books, but they are only there to further highlight the devastation and the hatred that was a big part of those times. “The Steep and Thorny Way” uses these scary elements in a manner similar to “Hamlet”, but other than that, the fear we feel in this book comes from the villains that were very real. There is little need for additional fantasy elements – history provides us with enough source material for antagonists. Hanalee and Joe are in constant danger because of who they are – a biracial girl and a homosexual young man. Ku Klux Klan, eugenics and general prejudices not only prevent Hanalee and Joe from living carefree lives, but they make them constantly fear for their very lives. Things are somewhat better today than they were back then, but diseases like racism, xenophobia and homophobia are unfortunately still a very big part of our society. And this is why we need diverse books like “The Steep and Thorny Way” – to remind us that these disgusting things occurred not so long ago and that prejudice and discrimination are something to be fought on a daily basis.

“The Steep and Thorny Way” is emotional, gripping and absolutely amazing. I cannot wait for my next Cat Winters! My rating is 8.5/10. Once again, my only issue with Cat Winters’ books is the lack of sequels!

 

Favourite quotes:

“Hate is a powerful demon that worms its way into the hearts of fearful men”.

“I think love and wrong are two deeply unrelated words that should never be thrown into the same sentence together. Like dessert and broccoli.”

“Candlelight cast such a delicate beauty. It flickered with emotions and warmed one’s skin and soul”.

 

Recommendations:

You might like “The Steep and Thorny Way” if you liked:

“The Diviners” by Libba Bray

“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare 

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

 

Book Review: The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My review of the first book of the series can be found here.

We left Irene at the end of the last book just as she took on a permanent position of a “Detective” (Undercover Librarian) in one of the alternative Londons and she and Kai began working alongside their old friend Peregrine Vale. Things are going as well as they can be expected when you have a thirst for solving crimes, have taken the names of two very cunning heroines of classic literature (Irene Adler and Lady Winter) and your apprentice is a dragon. However, the fact that he is a dragon becomes quite problematic when he is suddenly kidnapped, probably by the Fae who are the sworn enemies of dragons. Unfortunately, this means that Irene has to turn to one of the least pleasant characters she knows – Lord Silver that we’ve met in the last book. He is as sleazy as ever, but he is somewhat helpful – apparently Kai’s been taken to The Masked City (Venice) for the purpose of starting a war with dragons. In short, the war would mean eternal chaos across all the alternates and all hell would quite literally break loose. Rescuing an apprentice is quite different to what Irene normally does – she usually steals books, not dragons! How much flirting, story-telling and sword-fighting would Irene have to do to free Kai and save the worlds? And would she ever simply get the chance to sit down and read a good book, which is what she’s wanted all along?

 

Irene, Kai and Vale are back in this installment and they’re as kick-ass as ever. “The Masked City” was one of my most anticipated sequels of last year but I’ve been saving it for New Year’s Day – it goes quite well with a glass of champagne and chocolates left over from Christmas, I have to say. It was quite lovely to be back in the world I began missing as soon as I finished the final page of “The Invisible Library”, and it was wonderful to see Irene again. Naturally, my major job envy hasn’t gone anywhere, although I had hoped for more time spent in The Library than I got at the end. Nonetheless, I love Italy, and Irene’s Venice was an excellent setting. This installment, for me, was less about wish fulfilment and more about enjoying a terrific action and adventure story. Indeed, “The Masked City” focuses a lot more on the action than the world-building, unlike “The Invisible Library”, but there was still a lot of room for character development and we learned quite a bit about certain aspects of the setting (well – settings).

The book’s central conflict is the war between the elitist nations of the Fae and the Dragons that’s been going on across all the alternates, as Irene learns. Lord Silver and the Guanteses (the Guantes’?) are the two sleazy villains that believe that the world quite literally revolves around them. The Fae are, however, much worse in that aspect. I’ve known quite a few people like that – they always believe that they are the protagonist of their own story and everyone else are just background characters. Silver and Lord and Lady Guantes are exactly like that, except their narcissism is amplified tenfold. The Dragons (Kai’s family) are less unpleasant, but they aren’t exactly warm and cuddly either.

These characters, and of course our favourite protagonists, are one of the best parts of the novel. I was also thrilled to see my favourite element of the last book – The Language – make a spectacular come back. At the start of the book, I was, however, quite exasperated with Irene’s excessive use of it and was waiting for it to blow up in her face. Revealing whether or not that’s what happened would be a very big spoiler though ;). It was good to see Irene make smarter decisions as the book progressed, and it was even better to see that “The Masked City” continues playing with tropes and somewhat breaking the fourth wall – a tradition that started in “The Invisible Library” and which I enjoyed immensely. “The Masked City” is quite self-aware in the way fans of this series would be familiar with by now and would certainly appreciate. We see this self-awareness in character development, the setting and of course, the research that Irene does in order to solve everyone’s problems.

“The Masked City” is a great sequel to a terrific first installment of the series, and I cannot wait to find out the title of the third, and hopefully not the final, installment of “The Invisible Library” series. My rating is 8/10.
Favourite quotes

“I just can’t stay away from a good library,’ she said, keeping to English. ‘It’s an addiction with me. Do you have the same problem?”

“‘Oh, I admit that not all stories have happy endings, but people prefer what they’re used to. If you were to actually ask them, nine out of ten would prefer a storybook existence to a mechanistic universe where happy endings never happen.”

“‘Most people don’t want a brave new world. They want the story that they know.”
Recommendations
You might like “The Masked City” if you liked:

“The Library of Shadows” by Mikkel Birkegaard
“Magic Ex Libris series” by Jim C. Hine
“The Great Library” by Rachel Caine
“Librarian” movie trilogy

Have you read “The Invisible Library” series? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Do let me know!

Book Review: Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2) by Libba Bray

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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My review for the first book in the series can be found here

 

Warning – this review contains spoilers

After falling in love with yet another book by Libba Bray in 2013, I spent the last two years yearning for the next installment and needless to say, I was thrilled when NetGalley approved my request for the ARC of “Lair of Dreams”.

The book picks up sometime after “The Diviners”, and our Evie O’Neill is now a radioshow celebrity, with a title “America’s Sweetheart Seer”. On the surface, she seems po-si-tu-te-ly thrilled with her new role, but as always, nothing is ever as it seems with Libba Bray’s books. Her fallout with “Unc” Will and Jericho isn’t helping anybody, and only Theta and Henry can see that. Or, and Sam Lloyd can too.

Life might be a party for Evie O’Neill but it’s completely opposite for the working class of New York. Not only are they faced with racism and xenophobia every day, but they are also becoming victims of a mysterious “sleeping sickness”. People just seem to die in their sleep and they never wake up. Since The Diviners are the current “trend”, they don’t have to hide anymore, but not everybody is so accepting of their abilities. Can they, with all the obstacles facing them, defeat the sleeping sickness or will they, too, fall into the lair of dreams and become mere ghosts of the New York City? Or will their past get them before they can even try?

 

I’ve waited for “Lair of Dreams” for a long time, and I’m happy to say that it sucked me in from the very first page. However, unlike “The Diviners”, which I read for 9 hours straight and finished in a day, the second installment took me a few days. Firstly, it’s quite a long book, even longer than “The Diviners”. Secondly, and I never thought I’d say this about a book by Libba Bray, “Lair of Dreams” felt long. Several pages’ worth of description added to the overall spooky atmosphere of the series, but there were times when I wanted to get to “the good stuff” faster. Fortunately, the pace picks up about 50% in, and it soon becomes clear that this book serves as a set-up for the third and fourth installments – which is excellent news, although I wish I didn’t have to wait another two years! But that’s the trouble with falling in love with a series – waiting is part of the package.

Was “Lair of Dreams” just as scary as “The Diviners”? No, but that’s not to say it was a boring ride. The villain wasn’t Naughty John’s level of creepy, but they were more compelling and just as interesting. One thing I’ll say for sure – I was quite scared to go to sleep every time I put the book down before bed!

I’ve said in my review of “The Diviners” that the atmosphere might be the best part of the book, but the characters are a close second. The good news is, Libba Bray spent quite a bit of time re-introducing us to most of our favourites and giving us more of their backstory. The most elaborate ones were Henry’s, Will’s, and Sam’s. We learnt a lot about them and the questions I had at the end of Book 1 were answered, to an extent, but now I have even more questions! Sam Lloyd, you said it – “Every time we get one answer it leaves us with twelve new questions”.

We are also introduced to a new member of The Diviners crew – Ling Chan, a half-Chinese half-Irish science aficionado who forges a close friendship with Henry and helps him find his old lover, Louis. I quite enjoyed reading her chapters and I’m looking forward to more of her interaction with other characters. Reading about the racism she faced was not pleasant at the slightest, but we should all remember – “we have rights as human beings“. History doesn’t paint a pretty picture, but let’s hope we can incorporate that quote into our daily lives and remember it well.

I do have one issue with character chapters in this book – my favourite characters from Book 1 had very few chapters. While Evie still remained the protagonist of the series, Memphis Campbell had only five chapters, if that. Based on my previous experience with Libba Bray’s books, I’d say that this means he’s going to die, and that would be absolutely awful! I loved him and his relationship with Theta, but given the ending of “Lair of Dreams”, the bliss might be short-lived. That’s what I want from the next installment – more Memphis and Isaiah! And the mystery of Blind Bill to be solved. And many other mysteries to be solved. And The Divinevengers to take down the new Big Bad and live to tell the tale. All of them.

“Lair of Dreams” was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and while it wasn’t as amazing as “The Diviners”, it was a great set-up to the big finales! I give it a rating of 8/10.

P.S.If you don’t want to know a major spoiler, please skip the next paragraph:

SPOILER The best thing I learnt from “Lair of Dreams” isn’t that Sam Lloyd is a better man than we gave him credit for. Nor is it that Uncle Will Fitzgerald is much more shady than I thought. It’s that I finally have confirmation that “The Gemma Doyle” series and “The Diviners” series take place in the same ‘verse! Read “Lair of Dreams” to find out more. END SPOILER

 

Favourite quotes

“For dreams, too, are ghosts, desires, chased in sleep, gone by morning. The longing of dreams draws the dead, and this city holds many dreams”.

“And dreams are like a library card, if you will, that provide access to this great archive of shared symbols, memories and experiences”

“We are a democracy, sir, and Diviners are evidence of that democracy and of the proof that all men and women are created equal. For these gifts have been given in equal measure to people of all races and creeds, regardless of sex, whether rich or poor”

 

Recommendations

You might enjoy “The Diviners” series if you liked:

“The Greaty Gatsby” by F. S. Fitzgerald 

“Daisy Gumm Majesty Mysteries” by Alice Duncan

“The Cure for Dreaming” by Cat Winters

“Supernatural” TV series

 

Have you read “The Diviners” series? Do you love Libba Bray as much as I do? Please let me know in the comments! 🙂