Category Archives: angels

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Outside by Ada Hoffmann #Brainfluffbookreview #TheOutsidebookreview

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The cover of this one caught my eye – and the fact that it is an Angry Robot book by a female author unknown to me. So I was delighted when I was approved to read it…

The Pride of Jai was supposed to be humanity’s greatest accomplishment—a space station made entirely by humans and their primitive computers, without “divine” cyber-technology provided by the sentient quantum supercomputers worshipped as Gods. And it was supposed to be a personal triumph for its young lead scientist, physicist Yasira Shien, whose innovative mathematics was key to the reactor powering it. But something goes wrong—placing Yasira in the sights of angry Angels, the cyborg servants of the Gods…

I’ve tweaked and streamlined the very chatty blurb, but this original, dystopian science fiction adventure features brilliant Yasira Shien, who happens to be on the autistic spectrum and gay. I liked the main protagonist, whose autism was convincingly depicted throughout, especially when she was in difficult situations – which happened a lot, especially when everything went to hell in a handcart on The Pride of Jai. Her emotions around Tiv, her lover, are clearly strong but curiously limited in the manner in which she thinks of her and describes her – but that also chimes with her being autistic. Her mentor, Dr Talirr, also one of the main characters, is also autistic but more profoundly affected than Yasira in that she struggles to connect with anyone – except Yasira, and even then she finds it very difficult, except in a time of ultimate crisis, to reach out to her. I thought it heartening to have two major characters so atypical and I think Hoffmann has brilliantly depicted them.

In contrast to the two main human protagonists is the main antagonist, Akavi. He/It is a cyborg angel charged with preventing the Outside – a fractured quantum-like reality that twists and warps our own space-time continuum and anyone unfortunate to get caught up in it – from breaking through. And when the Outside does manifest, Akavi has the task of hushing up the whole incursion. This cyborg has been designed to interact effectively with humans, persuading them to trust and rely on him, all the while well aware that if he doesn’t sort out the problem, he is likely to be effectively killed. As he is immortal, this is a very big deal – and in comparison, human lives are of little consequence, so he doesn’t mind if a number of them are killed in the process. Although no one wants to provoke mortals into rebelling again as the last time that happened, the war was messy and killed far too many of them. Besides, the cyborg angels need humanity.

If you’re thinking this is an intriguing set-up, you’re right. Overall, I really enjoyed the twists and turns of this ambitious sci fi adventure, which effectively raised questions such as – what is it that makes us human? What is the nature of reality and how do we define it when it starts fraying at the edges? And how do we ultimately define ourselves? Highly recommended for fans of intelligent science fiction adventure featuring atypical protagonists. While I obtained an arc of The Outside from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Demonic Arctic Expedition – Book 4 of the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry

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I had previously read and reviewed the prequel to this series, Brink’s Unfortunate Escape from Hell, so when I was approached by the publishers and asked if I would like to read and review this book, I thedemonicarcticexpeditionimmediately agreed.

Fast-paced, action-packed and funny, perfect for reluctant readers. The Demonic Arctic Expedition is the fourth in a series of MIDDLE GRADE books for fantasy-adventure loving readers. This book contains a scowling demon, an ancient weapon, an adorable Hound of Hell, a sort of angel, a dragon, an ordinary boy and an extraordinary castle. And a not so cuddly polar bear…

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest addition to this reading series, designed to enthuse reluctant readers. As an ex-teacher, I have a clear idea of what books will persuade a book-shy youngster (usually a boy) to pick something off the shelves. It cannot be too long; the print has to be reasonably large and clear without looking ‘babyish’; the vocabulary cannot be too wide-ranging and there needs to be plenty of word repetition without making it obvious; there needs to be lots of action and loads of pace. So does Mulberry succeed in ticking all these boxes? Oh yes.

In addition, she also has provided an entertaining Prologue in the first person narrative of Jack, the main protagonist for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the previous books, so our reluctant reader isn’t tipped into the middle of an adventure and left floundering. Essentially Jack and Brink are on the hunt for gold, which leads them to the Arctic where they believe there is a great hoard so they can pay off the Collector, who is on their trail looking for the money Hell charges for hiring out a demon, namely Brink.

Yes… the plot is every bit as surreal and whacky as it sounds. There is also an enchanted sword and a dragon, who spends most of the time coating the dungeon in dragon snot as he has a cold, which he has given to the guardian angel… Mulberry has a trick of pulling in all sorts of classic characters and themes from fantasy and subverting them in her Skycastle adventures.

There isn’t huge depth of character as action and pace are king here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about Brink or Jack – there is an edge of anarchy in these stories that means I’m not completely sure where they are going to end up and I certainly didn’t see the outcome of this particular story coming. Mulberry does exactly what it says on the tin – and if you have a child between 9-12 who isn’t overly enthusiastic about picking up a book, consider this one.

8/10

2016 Discovery Challenge – How Did I Do?

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After reading Jo Hall’s post here, I decided to join this challenge and set myself the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women authors I’ve not previously encountered. For a variety of reasons, 2016 proved to be my best reading year, ever. So I actually read and reviewed 45 books by women I haven’t read before. There were so many great authors in that group and my top five are included in my outstanding books of 2016 – see here. So I want to feature my top five very near misses in no particular order:-

Radiance by Cathrynne M. Valente
radianceI enjoy being a Netgalley reader – it pushes me out of my comfort zone every so often. I’m not sure I would have picked up this offering if it hadn’t been on offer, given the description was a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own. Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

For starters, this is a novel with a fractured timeline, so the story skips around and is told in a mixture of interviews, gossip and through extracts of old classic film, among other narrative modes. Therefore you need to pay attention. Initially I wondered what I was getting myself into – for the sheer oddness of the world wasn’t anything I was prepared for, given that I’m allergic to reading any kind of blurb. Was it worth the effort? Oh, yes.

 

Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone
The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the machinationsendless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race. A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself. Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

I also read and reviewed the second book, Counterpart in this intriguing series. There are indications that Stone is still feeling her way – this is, after all, her debut novel and the machines weren’t particularly vividly drawn – but I have never read a book where the issue of cloning has been so thoroughly and emotionally examined. Despite its flaws, this one has stayed with me.

 

The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
thefetteredflameThe Fettered Flame is a genre-bending fantasy novel that continues the saga of two dying worlds, plagued by their own unique struggles for power. Follow the journeys of Cor – a woman striving to understand her powers of magic and how the connect to her past, Atesh – her contemplative dragon companion, and Jwala – a dragon plunged into a rebirth of ancient ideals. The Fettered Flame is the second instalment in the Shkode trilogy: a quirky and modern take on dragons and wizards, exploring themes of identity, prejudice, violence, compassion, and the ways we are all connected.

I was sufficiently impressed to seek out the first book, The Banished Craft, in this science fiction/fantasy mashup. The blurb may sound a bit gushy, but it is spot on. This is epic fantasy with a sci fi twist and I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment when it is released as I love the characters and Bell’s quirky, insightful take on the world she has created.

 

Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. rosemaryandrueAfter getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

I loved McGuire’s writing and went on to read her wonderful novella Every Heart a Doorway. One of my promises to myself is to continue reading more of the Toby Daye series in 2017.

 

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alywn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsMortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk, but things don’t go according to plan…

Hamilton’s punchy, accomplished writing grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go until the end of this adrenaline-fuelled ride. Amani is a feisty heroine who attracts trouble like iron filings to a magnet and I found this one really hard to put down until it was finished and am very much looking forward to reading the sequel.

 

Given I nearly doubled the target number of women authors I read and reviewed, should I increase my goal for 2017? I’ve decided against doing so. One of the reasons why 2016 was such a bumper reading year was because I wasn’t writing. Editing and rewriting, yes – but I wrote nothing new. So reading became a refuge that I don’t normally crave so intensely as diving into a new world of my own for the first time tends to thoroughly tick that box. Therefore, I shall launch my 2017 Discovery Challenge with the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women writers previously unknown to me. And if I have half as much joy in the coming year as I’ve had reading this year’s offerings, I shall be very happy, indeed.

What about you? Did you set yourself any reading challenges in 2016 – and if so, how have you got on? Do you intend to continue them into 2017?

Discovery Challenge Books I Read in 2016
1. The Puppet Boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver
2. Truthwitch – Book 1 of the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard
3. Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
5. Heart of Obsidian – Book 12 of the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh
6. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
7. Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
8. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
9. The Sector – Book 1 of the Non-Compliance series by Paige Daniels
10. Brink’s Unfortunate Escape from Hell – Prequel to the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry
11. The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
12. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
13. Cinder – Book 1 of the Luna Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
14. Bright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep
15. A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott
16. Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts saga by Colleen Oakes
17. The Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight
18. The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling
19. Banished – Book 1 of the Blackhart trilogy by Liz de Jager
20. The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
21. Change of Life – Book 2 of a Menopausal Superhero by Samantha Bryant
22. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
23. Speak by Louisa Hall
24. Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders
25. Machinations – Book 1 of The Machinations series by Hayley Stone
26. Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell
27. Shift by Em Bailey
28. An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
29. Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
30. The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee
31. The Changeling by Christina Soontornvat
32. The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
33. Aveline – Book 1 of The Lost Vegas series by Lizzy Ford
34. Escapology by Ren Warom
35. So Many Boots, So Little Time – Book 3 of the MisAdventures of Miss Lilly series by Kalan Chapman Lloyd
36. The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery
37. Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb
38. A Darker Shade of Magic – Book 1 of the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
39. Synners by Pat Cadigan
40. Renting Silence – A Roaring Twenties Mystery by Mary Miley
41. Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the Stars duology by Tessa Elwood
42. Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton
43. Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of the Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
44. The City of Ice – Book 2 of the Gates of the World series by K.M. McKinley
45. Graveyard Shift – Book 10 of the Pepper Martin series by Casey Daniels

Friday Faceoff – The first Noel…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s theme is angels, so I have chosen The House of Shattered Wings – Book 1 of Dominion of the Fallen series by Aliette de Bodard.

 

thehouseofshatteredwingsThis is the cover produced by Gollancz August 2015. I love this one. I think it is one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen, as well as accurately depicting the slightly mysterious and disturbing tone of the book. So it’s my favourite of the covers here.

 

thehouseofshatteredwings1This is the cover produced by Roc in August 2015 for the hardcover edition. Once again, I think it is a lovely effort – while it may not quite achieve the shimmering awesomeness of the Gollancz cover, the flaming feathers against a night sky is a haunting, beautiful image.

 

thehouseofshatteredwings2This edition is also published in August 2015 by Gollancz – and I’m not quite sure why… It is also a paperback edition, same as the first cover. While there’s nothing wrong with the cover or the design, it certainly feels like the downmarket version of the first offering, given it has lost the fantastic rainbow effect and raised stippling of the feathers that gives the original cover its wow factor.

 

thehouseofshatteredwings3This is the CD edition, produced in August 2015 by Blackstone Audiobooks. Yet another excellent cover, this design features a gothic arch so typical of many Parisian churches. I also think the font on this edition works very well.

All in all, while this penultimate set of 2016 covers might not exactly bristle with Christmas cheer, they are certainly lovely and otherworldly… Do you agree with me – which of these covers is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – The Heavenly Host…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week we are looking at covers featuring angels. I have gone for the first book in Kate Griffin’s fabulous Matthew Swift – A Madness of Angels. Though these blue, electric angels aren’t anything like the ones we are used to…

 

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This offering was published by Orbit in 2009. I love it. I’ve always thought the covers produced for this fantastic series were beautiful and effectively capture the dark splendour of Griffin’s extraordinary prose. There is so much going on in the etched detail running through the lightning effect behind Matthew’s head, it is subtle as well as very eye-catching.

 

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This is the paperback version produced by Orbit, also in 2009. It is an effective cover, using the same themes, but without the central figure and coruscating light surrounding him.

 

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This edition was published in 2011 by Editions Eclipse – and as you can see the French have gone for a really hardcore version of Matthew. As it happens, I think it nicely captures his mood when he’s resurrected and he isn’t ever known for his soft fluffy nature…

My favourite is the first offering – partly because it adorns the book I acquired at the first Fantasycon I attended – and partly because it is an awesomely good cover. Do you agree?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Ghoul King – Book 2 of the Dreaming Cities series by Guy Haley

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When I requested this one from NetGalley, I wasn’t aware that it was a novella or part of a series. However I’m glad about that, because I probably wouldn’t have chosen it otherwise, which would have been a shame.

theghoulkingThe Knight, Quinn, is down on his luck, and he travels to the very edge of the civilized world – whatever that means, any more – to restock his small but essential inventory. After fighting a series of gladiatorial bouts against the dead, he finds himself in the employ of a woman on a quest to find the secret to repairing her semi-functional robot. But the technological secret it guards may be one truth too many…

I’ve recently read The City of Mirrors, Justin Cronin’s post-apocalyptic tale of a ruined America struggling to cope after a plague of cannibalistic creatures that were once human – see my review here. This adventure has many similarities – set in a post-apocalypse America where nests of vampire-like ghouls lodge in derelict buildings. The difference in The Ghoul King is that surviving humanity is ruled by fearsome angelic beings, who decree that no technology is allowable for any reason – and back up that edict with terrible punishments.

The fact I hadn’t read the first slice of this adventure didn’t matter – I was quickly swept up into the action, following Quinn as he was plunged in the middle of an action-packed quest. Haley writes with pace and economy, managing to pack a great deal in a short amount of time. I didn’t particularly bond with Quinn, but then I don’t think we’re supposed to. However, I really liked Jaxon, the healer driven to rebel as he finds himself treating patients who are dying of illnesses entirely preventable – if only he had access to some of the old, forbidden knowledge. The story is told in first person viewpoint as Jaxon is interrogated by the authorities.

There are some interesting twists along the way  and the ending satisfactorily tied up the story arc, while leaving a couple of dangling ends in readiness for the next instalment in this desperate, ruined world. I have found myself thinking about it at times, while supposedly working on something else, which is always a sure sign that a book has ticked all the boxes. If you are a Justin Cronin fan, then consider tracking down this bite-sized post-apocalyptic world – it is worth it. I received an arc copy of this novella from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 21st June, 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
6%: He zooms forward so quickly I lose sight of him. I stumble back from the magicbitterwoods’ edge, my heart in my throat as he appears before me, his face close to mine. His hands jut forward as though to grab my shoulders, but he is as ephemeral as a spectre, and they pass right through me.
“Your name!” he shouts, breathless. “Your name, tell me your name!”

BLURB: Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from. And then this ghostly winged man starts to appear to her – and nothing is the same, again…

I’ve significantly tweaked the blurb, because once again, it insists on telling one of the major plotpoints in the narrative that I think is far better experienced as a reader. This book is an interesting approach to the slew of fairytale retellings we’ve seen appear – a story that weaves a path between a number of them… It is a tale of loss and longing and Maire’s struggle to recall who she is and what has happened to her. I’ve really enjoyed reading it and my review will be appearing shortly.

Review of The House of Shattered Wings – Book 1 of the Dominion of the Fallen by Aliette de Bodard

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I’d like to claim I tracked this book down because the book blogging sites I frequent were all recommending it, which they did. But the truth is – I took one look at the scrumptious cover and immediately knew I had to read it.

Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a houseofshatteredwingsburnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital. House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls. Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, a alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…

Madeline, Silverspires’ overworked, failing alchemist who is haunted by fear of the past; Isobel the newly fallen, who was attacked by Phillipe, a gang member with a chequered past – these three characters are at the centre of this gothic, post-apocalyptic mystery. Each of them are marked by what has happened in their pasts, even if they cannot fully recall what it was. All the houses are scrabbling to hold onto their power so they can continue to repel the hungry, dispossessed Parisians eking out an existence amongst the magic-scorched ruins.

de Bodard’s evocation of this wrecked landscape and the yearning for past glories is vivid, giving this book a broken sense of what was and will never be, again. Not that the narrative hangs about. Right from the moment Isabel crashes from Heaven and lands on Silverspires’ territory, the action kicks off – often brutal and surprising, but always engrossing.

As well as capable of providing a memorable backdrop for her action, de Bodard’s strength is providing complex, troubled characters, none of whom are particularly likeable or easy to empathise with – they are all too damaged, or so suffused with magic and age to be able to immediately identify with them. However, they are also absolutely riveting and despite the small, unfriendly font I found myself reading long into the night to discover what would happen next. And plenty did…

The narrative arc is very well handled – I can understand this book’s popularity. Though the setting and character complexity are reminiscent of literary speculative fiction, the pace and narrative tension is all you could wish for in a genre read, which is fine by me. The result is an extraordinarily vivid read, brimming with atmosphere and action that builds to a strong climax and a shocking denouement. I’m delighted this offering is part of a series and will be looking out for the next book, The House of Binding Thorns, due out next year.
10/10

Review of Dreams of Gods and Monsters – Book 3 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

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I really enjoyed the other two books in this series – read my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone here. Would this, the final book in the series, bring this gripping story to a sufficiently satisfying ending? Because, given the scope and epic tone of this adventure, the conclusion needs to be a resounding finale and anything less simply won’t do.

dreamsofgodsandmonstersOnce upon a time, an angel and a devil pressed their hands to their hearts and started the Apocalypse. When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and in the skies of Eretz… something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

You see what I mean? This isn’t a book that is able to end on a whimper – it has to go out on a bang. So does Taylor deliver? Oh yes. Her larger-than-like style encompasses betrayal, brutality, double-crossing and vengeance, as well as convincingly portraying the searing love between Akiva and Karou, which is a lot more difficult to successfully achieve than she makes it look.

Taylor niftily introduced new plotlines into each book featuring new characters, alongside the main protagonists we had already bonded with, which could have ended in a muddled mess in less capable hands. And in this book, we meet up with Eliza, plagued with nightmares of terrible creatures since she was a child. I really enjoyed following her journey and trying to work out exactly where she would fit into the overarching narrative. What this did, during most of the book, was give us a human scale for the immense, world-changing events that were sweeping through Earth and Eretz – and no,  I didn’t see the plot twists coming that pulled the story into the finale. Another favourite character is Akiva’s grim half- sister, Liraz, whose journey throughout the series has interestingly mirrored Akiva’s own narrative arc. Taylor’s skill in handling her progression to her final position in the book demonstrates both her adept writing and her innate understanding of these epic, feral characters she has created.

While there isn’t quite so much of the blood-soaked brutality that characterised Days of Blood and Starlight – see my review here – there is still plenty of full-on action. And once again, the humorous interchanges between Karou and her bestie Zuzana provided some light relief – even if the jokes are somewhat mordant.

But the more I think about all the elements that go towards that finale, there isn’t a dangling thread, or a misstep that has me wincing – it is all satisfying resolved, for good or ill. However whatever you do, don’t pick this book up if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of the first two in the series. Taylor provides sufficient clues that you won’t be left adrift, but even so, this series deserves to be read in the correct order.
10/10

Review of Days of Blood and Starlight – Book 2 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor

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The first book Daughter of Smoke and Bone – see my review here – was recommended by fellow blogger and author, Sara Letourneau. It blew me away with the quality of the writing, the sheer vividness of the world and the storytelling with the plot twists that I didn’t see coming. Would I enjoy the second book as much?

daysofbloodandstarlightOnce upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying. Once the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness. This was not that world.

I turned from the first book, humming with excitement and shock at the ending – and found myself initially slightly adrift. The opening chapters are a little fractured and Taylor didn’t devote any time in rebonding us with the two main protagonists and star-crossed lovers. I’ll be honest – I was a bit disappointed. However, the excellence of the writing continued to draw me in and I soon became drawn into the story, once again. Taylor’s prose style is poetical and doesn’t hold back – her epic tone could so easily be overblown, verging on parody if she wasn’t as gifted as she is. It gives her apocalyptic world, wracked with war, a tragic, almost operatic edge.

The characters are similarly larger than life. The war weariness and grief suffered by both Akiva and Karou are so bitingly depicted, I could all but taste it. For as the war becomes ever more bitter and bloody, at what point do they abandon their duty to their fellow fighters and own species – and commit the ultimate betrayal, namely treason? Karou is particularly caught, as without her the embattled chimaera don’t have a chance. Not a state of affairs that their leader, the savage wolf leader, Thiago, at all relishes.

I really enjoyed the fact that neither side is the ‘good’ side, or the ‘bad’ side. Both angels and chimaera are capable of acts of dreadful savagery and yet, there are warriors on both sides who also show mercy. It is the leaders on both sides who are the savages – particularly the ghastly Emperor Joram, who I loved to hate. As Karou is battling with these weighty matters, the chirpy humour she displays in Daughter of Bone and Smoke has been knocked out of her, so until her two friends Zuzana and Mik pop up, there isn’t much light relief. Himself has struggled to get through this book because in the depths of February, he has found it a rather bleak read. There are also high levels of violence, and while there is nothing gratuitous, the hefty mood music created by prose highlights the senselessness of the slaughter. However, I was pulled along by the power of the story and the vividness of the characters.

This is a powerful story that will reverberate with me for a while – but whatever you do, don’t start this series with Days of Blood and Starlight. In order to do justice to the story arc you really must get hold of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but if you have read it, then do track this one down and if you do, persist with it – it’s worth it.
9/10