Monthly Archives: January 2012

Eon by Alison Goodman

Sixteen-year-old Eon has a dream, and a mission. For years, he’s been studying sword-work and magic, toward one end. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye-an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.

But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.

When Eon’s secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic…and her life.

 

I’m a sucker for warrior girls masquerading as boys, I’ll just say that first. Probably because of Tamora Pierce’s  Lioness Quartet, which I read and loved way back when I was a tween. Actually, reading this book kind of made me want to go back and revisit Alanna’s story. But Eon first!

Eon takes place in a world full of Asian inspired myths and legacy. The Chinese Zodiac animals in this book are manifested as dragons. Each year a different dragon ascends, choosing one apprentice to share their power with, thus making them a Dragoneye. The competition to be chosen is fierce, since being a Dragoneye brings money as well as power. Eon is a dark horse in the race to be chosen because he is a cripple, a sign of bad luck in this world. No one expects Eon to be chosen, but his Master is intent on making it happen as a way to save his household from decline. Pressure! Eon’s Master is the only one who knows he is really a she, having saved Eona from working in the rice fields years earlier. Eon has worked hard ever since, not only at becoming a good candidate, but at stripping away Eona’s femininity.

I really enjoyed this book. The world was very strong and I liked how clear and detailed the ritual of the Dragoneyes were. I also like that this book delved into what it really means to live as a member of the opposite sex and the tolls that can take. Eon is not just a girl acting like a boy, she actually feels the need to become Eon. By the time this story begins Eon thinks of himself in boy terms, referring to Eona as his shadow self and pushing that self farther away at every opportunity. Discovery would mean death, not just for Eon but for his Master as well.

Lady Dela (a man who lives as a woman) is a nice contrast to Eon, showing how important it is to live as your true self, no matter what the dangers. Eon is a great main character, but the secondary characters really stood out for me as well. Lady Dela, Ryko and Rilla in particular. I also enjoyed that even the “good” characters weren’t simple. Sexism is pretty much the norm here and Eon knows that even people she considers friends might turn on her if they knew the truth.

I did have a few quibbles, of course.

1. The big twist concerning the nature of the mirror dragon and why Eon can’t seem to find her power seemed obvious me right from the beginning. This made it really frustrating when Eon persisted in doing the worst things possible to bring this power out. I wished that it had either been less obvious or Eon had been less dense in that particular area.

2. Eon’s Master creeped me out, just sayin’.

3. While I was interested in what was happening, this book moved a bit slowly for me at times. It got off to a great start but started to drag in the middle. Fortunately it picked back up at the end.

Despite these small drawbacks it was definitely a fun read and I’m looking forward to the next book!

Eon on Goodreads & Amazon

 

 

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In My Mailbox #1

1289/1279

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by The Story Siren.

This is my very first edition of IMM, but I think it’s something I’ll try and keep up with since it’s a great way to feature the books I’m looking forward to reading. I’m not lucky enough to actually receive these books in the mail, but I do have a wonderful library that I visit weekly. Here’s my pile for this week.

Pirate King by Laurie R. King (Goodreads & Amazon)
Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang (Goodreads & Amazon)
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (Goodreads & Amazon)
A Million Suns by Beth Revis (Goodreads & Amazon)
The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff (Goodreads & Amazon)

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Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.

It’s all a fake.

At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?

But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—

Are about him.

Gosh. This book was frustrating. I wanted to like Witchlanders so much better than I actually did. It had all the makings of a very enjoyable read; good premise, interesting world history, compelling character interactions and a super secretive witch coven. Sounds cool, right? Unfortunately it never came together for me.

I felt like the description for this book was awfully vague, so I didn’t really know what it was about when I started. From reading the jacket description you would never even know that there are TWO main characters! That’s kind of a big thing to leave out. Also it make’s you think there’s some romance, which there’s not. However, I can see where this would be a hard book to summarize since the plot moves in many different directions.

Ryder is just a simple farmer, helping support his family. Well, kinda. In truth Ryder’s life is far from simple. He has two younger sisters to watch over and, ever since his father died, his mother’s been on a downward spiral. She’s addicted to a plant called Maiden’s Woe that she swears helps her see the future. Mabis left the witch’s coven in the mountains years ago and raised Ryder to scoff at magic and tales of the Goddess, but now she’s casting bones and foretelling danger. Everyone thinks Mabis is crazy, but Ryder doesn’t know what to think. Could there really be an enemy assassin hiding in the mountains? His people haven’t been at war with the Baens for years, but when strange creatures attack his village Ryder starts to think maybe his mother’s prophecies were right.

Falpian is a young Baen, staying in the mountains near the Witchlands with only his dog for company. His father has sent him there to mourn for his twin brother. Falpian and his brother were meant to be great magicians. Their bond should have allowed them to sing, giving them a power great enough to stop a man’s heart with one note. But, despite being twins, they never came into their power. Falpian feels like more of a disappointment to his family than ever, until he discovers that his father has sent him on a mission.

Things That Worked

The World Building: I really liked this setting. The Baen and Witchland places and people are distinct, each with their own mythology. They have their own customs, stories and gods. They’re both very different and you can see why two such places would have a history of violence.

Ryder: I really liked Ryder. I liked his devotion to his family and how stubborn he was and his resistance to following others. He didn’t always know what he wanted, but he didn’t let other people boss him around.

The Dog: Apparently I am a sucker for animals even in books. Bo is an awesome sidekick and he seemed to have a better understanding of what was going on than his master did most of the time.

POV: It was a bit distracting switching from Ryder to Falpian’s POV so often, but I think it worked because it was important to the plot. I also really liked how different these two characters were.

Originality: A fresh idea is a wonderful thing. There are a lot of recurring themes floating around out there, and lots of authors manage to put their own unique spin on things and create wonderful stories. But it’s nice to stumble into a world where the plot doesn’t feel familiar.

Things That Didn’t

The World Building: Yes I know I said I liked it, but I also didn’t. The mythology was very well fleshed out, but I found myself wondering what lay beyond these two countries. There had to be more to the world, right? I mean, the Witchlands and the Bitterlands aren’t even divided by any water. The focus area in this story seemed very small. I didn’t need in-depth details of other locations, but I would have liked to know just a bit more.

The Pace: I think I was a hundred pages in before anything important happened. I like a good set up, but it shouldn’t take so long that your reader loses interest. It took me much longer to finish this book simply because nothing in the first half of it made me look forward to picking it up again.

Falpian: Ok, I didn’t hate Falpian, but his narration annoyed me much more than Ryder’s. Falpian is just kind of a whiner. He is compelled by duty to do things he feels might be wrong, things he really doesn’t want to do, but he goes ahead with it anyways because… well, I couldn’t really figure out why, that’s the problem. I normally like conflicted characters, but I just couldn’t figure out what Falpian was so conflicted about. I liked him best when he was interacting with Ryder because it was when he was most believable. Their relationship was the most interesting thing about the book, but the book ends just as we start to see more.

It’s kind of hard to review this one without giving anything away because the plot unfolded so slowly. I guess all I can say was that I liked the idea and it wasn’t badly written, but it left too many things unanswered and wasn’t exciting enough to hold my attention.

Witchlanders on Goodreads & Amazon

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Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas’s life.

Oh boy, what to say? I started this one after two very disappointing reads, so I was really hoping to break my streak. I was hooked by the very first line. I mean that literally too. I read the first line, chuckled, and immediately felt like I was going to enjoy this book immensely. And I did.

Cas isn’t you’re ordinary boy. First of all his full name is Casio Theseus Lowood. Secondly, he hunts the dead. Cas and his mom live their lives constantly on the move so he can hunt down violent ghosts and dispatch them. I think one of the things I liked best about this book was that, even though the events are extraordinary, Cas’s voice stayed real. Most of the time his humor and actions pretty much lined up with what I imagine a teenage boy might say or do in these circumstances. When the characters were having a conversation, it sounded like something I would actually hear people saying; swears, corny jokes and all. When your book’s about a teenage ghost hunter who has physic friends and might be in love with a ghost, it’s nice to have something familiar to ground you in reality. Makes it more believable.

And then there’s Anna. I’m pretty much a wimp when it comes to ghost stories so I was a little worried this would keep me up at night. Anna is certainly scary when we first meet her. She’s all-powerful and murderous and that’s shown in rather graphic ways. But it’s also clear from the beginning that there’s more to her. Anna’s fear factor fades pretty quickly once you find out more about her past, though she remains a force to be reckoned with.

I was happy to see that this is going to be series because there are a few loose ends that would look alarmingly like plot holes if this was a standalone book. I kind of wish they’d been addressed in this one just for the sake of tidiness, but I’m happy to have something else to look forward to.

On a side note, I think this cover is gorgeous. I’m pretty consistently disappointed with cover art these days. I am soooo tired of the photos of pretty models dressed in evening gowns, maybe because when I first started reading YA the covers were mostly artwork. Some of them actually look a little cheesy now, but I still find them more interesting than most things I see on the shelf today. But this cover is an exception. I actually kept flipping the book over to look at it every now and then as I was reading because it just did such a good job of capturing the image in my head.

So, to sum things up: Good book, heartily recommended. Was the perfect antidote to the less than stellar books I had been reading, yay! Although the next one I read was awful…boo. Oh well.

Anna Dressed In Blood on Goodreads & Amazon


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The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

When you read a lot of YA books (like I do) sometimes they all start to feel the same after a while, even some of the good ones. The Girl of Fire and Thorns felt really different to me and I liked that.

Princess Elisa was chosen at birth, marked with a stone set into her navel. The Chosen are destined for great deeds, or so the legend goes. Beyond that Elisa has few details as to what her destiny really is. She’s married to a stranger at sixteen and leaves her home to join her husband in his palace, only to find that he hasn’t actually told anyone he’s married.

Elisa is not what I expected. In a book infused with magic and secret plots and adventure she is what grounds the book. She starts off perceiving herself as weak and finds her strength slowly. She struggles with weight and body image, but not in a way that distracts from the overall storyline, it’s just part of her character growth . I really liked that. It wasn’t the main focus of the story, but it made her relatable and real.

This whole story felt very grounded to me. It didn’t move along super fast, but it definitely held my interest the whole way through. The one slightly negative thing I have to say is that I never got emotionally caught up in the story. Sad things happened, but once they were over I realized I hadn’t even been phased by them.

Overall I found this to be a unique story with a very distinct voice and I quite enjoyed it.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns on Goodreads & Amazon

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Divergent By Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Truthfully, I wasn’t interested in reading this book the first time I saw it. It wasn’t that long ago that I read The Hunger Games and the jacket description for Divergent just sounded a bit too similar for me. Fast forward to a few weeks later when I’d read several glowing reviews and my boyfriend was telling me he’d heard about a YA dystopian book HE wanted to read… that changed my mind.

Divergent starts off as Beatrice is faced with the decision, not only of what she wants to do for the rest of her life, but who she wants to BE. She’s been raised in Abnegation, surrounded by people who devote themselves to others. Selflessness is the name of the game if you belong to Abnegation, but Beatrice has never felt like she quite fits in there. Instead she is drawn to Dauntless, a faction that is pretty much on the complete other side of the spectrum. People in Dauntless are brave to the point of recklessness, unconcerned about the safety of others or themselves. It doesn’t take long for the reader to realise that Beatrice will soon be joining the ranks of the Dauntless.

I’m definitely glad I ended up reading Divergent. It’s well written, fast paced and I really liked the main character, but I did have a few reservations. The world is complex, but we don’t get to delve into that very much. It’s kind of an implied complexity that I found really frustrating. I know there are more books coming, but this is the set-up so it kind of seems like the best time to really immerse the reader in all those little world building details. There are good ideas here, but I wanted more explanation.

It was interesting to listen to my boyfriend’s comments on this book. He read it before I did, so I knew some of his thoughts about the characters and plot before I started. He’s more of a sci-fi reader, not really into much YA. I wasn’t too surprised when he mentioned not being a big fan of the more romantic parts, but I was a little surprised to find myself feeling the same way. I didn’t dislike it, but it disrupted the flow for me. I was drawn along for the more action packed portions and caught up in the intrigue and then the relationship centric scenes seemed like a time-out from all that, instead of fitting into the overall story line. There was a lot of focus on touching hands and shivers and “what is he thinking? does he like me?” I am aware that I am in the minority here. Four seems to have a lot of fans, and I am very much willing to feel differently when I read the second book, but he felt flat to me.  I could see the twist coming about who he really was from the very beginning of the book. I was a lot more interested in Tris’s interactions with the other initiates. Those sparkled more for me than the romance.

In the end, this was an enjoyable read, but because of the similarities to Hunger Games it suffered at times. I read HG first and it’s one of my all time favorite series. It’s been a launching pad for SO many new dystopian books, and I think that’s a great thing, but it also means they have a lot to live up to. Divergent holds its own, but it’s not making it onto the favorites list for me.

Divergent on Goodreads & Amazon

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The Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

Holy angst, Batman! It’s the first thing to be said about most of Cassandra Clare’s books, that’s for sure. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all about the angst. it’s a lot of fun sometimes and I totally don’t mind getting swept up in the drama. I guess my only problem with the angst in Clockwork Prince was feeling like I’d read it all before.

Note: There may be some minor spoilers. Like so minor I’m not even sure they could be considered spoilers unless you’d never heard about these books before.

Book two picks up not long after Clockwork Angel left off. Tessa is still living in the Institute with the Shadowhunters, still drawn to Will despite his apparent lack of interest in her, and still trying to figure out the mystery surrounding the Magister and her own heritage.

Looking back I feel as though not a whole lot happened in this book, but the pacing is so good that I didn’t really notice while I was reading. It’s more character driven, with lots of interactions taking place at the Institute, broken up with the occasional investigative field trip. The love triangle that’s set up in Clockwork Angel really takes off in this book so it makes sense that a lot of time is devoted to the emotional state of the three main characters. What state is that exactly? You guessed it, angsty.

Will, of course, is the center around which all emotional turmoil swirls. He’s a complete jerk at times, and at others he shows surprising care. It makes for a completely bipolar facade behind which lies the real reason for all his bad behaviour. He’s over the top in many ways, but I still found myself liking Will. I think it was his immaturity and dramatic ways that won me over because it made him seem very much his age. I’m not saying that all seventeen year olds are like Will, but his youth is what made me believe all the highs and lows that his character goes through, sometimes at breakneck speed.

Perhaps because I found Will to be an easy character to understand, I was rather frustrated by Tessa’s complete inability to do so. It’s true that Will gave her a pretty harsh brushoff in the first book, but this time around his facade is cracking. Will shoots her so many meaningful glances that at times I just wanted to shake Tessa every time she was “confused” by his actions. Dude likes you, seems pretty obvious to me.

Jem is actually the only character who isn’t very angsty, but that’s probably only because he isn’t aware of his love triangle status. I liked Jem. He seems nice, but I find that I don’t have very much else to say about him. I’m interested to see what happens with him in the next book.

The secondary characters really stood out in this book for me. Sophie and Magnus especially. I found myself wishing I knew more about them.

That kind of brings me back to my one major problem with this book; haven’t I read about these characters before? There are some major differences from Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, this is true. But Will and Jace are SO similar in SO many ways that it kept stopping me in my tracks. There are some other themes that kept popping up as well: love triangles, ancestry confusion, emo self-sacrifice… those are the biggies. Unfortunately that last one is something that made me want to throw my book against the wall when Jace did it, and it’s only slightly better with Will.

There are definitely things I like about this series (and the Mortal Instruments series). If I didn’t care at all I wouldn’t be bothered by the flaws, but there they are and I can’t help but notice them.

The Clockword Prince on Goodreads & Amazon

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