Tag Archives: fantasy

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger coverI’m going to begin simply by stating that this book has the cure to whatever ails you. Whether it be work-related blues or sheer tiredness, you’ll start feeling better once you’ve cracked the cover and read the first few pages. I wouldn’t quite suggest it as a prescription, but anything with the wicked kind of humour that Soulless contains is perfectly fine by me.

Meet Alexia Tarabotti, self-proclaimed spinster with a pronounced predilection towards books and a dangerous turn for wielding a parasol to fend off unwanted advances. She has what one might call a slight social impediment: she was born without a soul, and as a result is considered preternatural – between the natural and supernatural worlds. What is especially interesting about Alexia is that due to being soulless, she is able to neutralise any supernatural powers that she comes into direct contact with (such as those of vampires or werewolves, for example). This of course causes a problem when Alexia defends herself against the attack of a vampire, left to the point of starvation and completely uneducated as to how to properly behave.

Armed with her sharp tongue and assertive nature, Alexia must find out why the vampire was left in such a state. In the meantime, she becomes slowly and quietly tangled in a political mess of both supernatural and scientific origin. This necessitates the involvement of the messy and magnetic Lord Conall Maccon, the Earl of Woolsey and Alpha of the local werewolf pack, who is also Queen Victoria’s agent in the matter for the BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry, a division of Her Majesty’s Civil Service). Alexia faces adversity in the form of improper behaviour, family dramatics, attempted kidnapping and things of a far darker calibre. The result of all of the above combined is a fantastic romp through Victorian England, with elements of steampunk and history laced through it. Add to this witty dialogue and the downright brilliance of the unresolved romantic tension between Alexia and Lord Maccon, and you’ve got an incredibly entertaining read.

Amongst this book’s many delightful points, I first feel compelled to praise Gail Carriger for creating such a brilliant female protagonist. Alexia might be soulless, but that definitely doesn’t make her dull. Her verbal fencing with Lord Maccon is simply wonderful, and I was immensely pleased to find a vast amount of it throughout the entire book. Secondly, while Alexia’s nature of being soulless/preternatural is used as an important focal point in the book’s plot, it isn’t constantly thrown into the reader’s face at the expense of all other development. Carriger has woven it in with the complexity of werewolf society, the difficulty of Alexia having to submit to a social climate that doesn’t necessarily suit her assertiveness and the major plot of what is occurring amongst the vampire nests to produce roves (the book’s reference to solitary vampires). The layers make the plot much richer, something which I couldn’t help but appreciate. I also really enjoyed the unique approach to vampires: the idea that only a queen vampire can make more of their kind lends a different angle to the established conventions of vampire literature. I thought that in context of the story, it was very well thought out. In addition to her very nicely crafted protagonist, Carriger’s secondary characters are most definitely worthy of praise. Lord Maccon is simply delicious; rough manners and attractive appearance to boot. Professor Lyall, Lord Maccon’s Beta in the werewolf pack, has a wonderfully dry sense of humour and the kind of arresting politeness that characterises a true gentleman. And last, but certainly not least, there’s the utterly fabulous and absolutely outrageous vampire Lord Akeldama; stylish, loud and genuinely a lot of fun in every sense of the word.

Additionally, the dialogue. Oh my, the dialogue. How can I possibly begin to describe what I loved the most?

Here, perhaps?

Lord Maccon was ever more enraged. “Who bit you?” he roared.

Alexia tilted her head to one side in utter amazement. “You did.” She was then treated to the glorious spectacle of an Alpha werewolf looking downright hangdog.

That, right there, is just a single sample of the glorious play on words that Gail Carriger is capable of.  That is one snippet of what runs through this entire book and makes it one of the best reads I’ve had thus far in 2012. I started and finished the book in one night, and purchased the second book in the series today. Please, if you’re suffering from the blues? Go and pick up this book. You won’t regret it.

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Review: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare coverTo follow from Tori’s previous review of Clockwork Angel, I have decided to review Clockwork Prince. I enjoy Cassandra Clare’s books as a whole, but The Infernal Devices have captivated me in a way decidedly different to The Mortal Instruments series. In a lot of ways, I find The Infernal Devices easier to relate to. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s very loosely based off Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, or because of the amazing steampunk elements that Cassandra Clare has included, or the connections that her characters have with one another…but whatever it is, it’s brilliant.

In the second book of the trilogy, Tessa remains at the Institute in London in the aftermath of her last encounter with the Magister. The challenges up ahead don’t look promising, with Charlotte and Henry’s position at the Institute placed in jeopardy and someone betraying them from the inside to the Magister, putting Tessa and those that she has grown to care for in danger. A distance has forced itself between her and Will after the events of Clockwork Angel, and she has slowly but surely grown much closer to Jem. Jem, incidentally, already charming and a favourite of mine, is absolutely wonderful in Clockwork Prince. Cassandra Clare really explores the shades of his character well, and some of his interactions with Tessa are absolutely breath-taking.

Tessa herself is really coming into her own and becoming far more sure of herself in terms of what she can say and do, growing into what she’s become and what she may yet grow to be. She is learning to wield her ability to Change into another person (shape-shifting), and she is also displaying willingness to fight against adversity. Tessa has lost her family and even parts of her own identity to get to where she is in Clockwork Prince. To possess the desire to fight against what besets her; despite her own uncertainty about her past and her future, combined with the tangle of her feelings for two very different boys is no mean feat. It’s a pleasure to behold her growth and spell-binding to read. I think Tessa is one of my favourite heroines of recent YA literature; because she is very unique in that she manages to think about what’s happening around her, without being utterly self-centred and considering only how it impacts her. Her exchanges with Jem are lovely and show something wonderful developing between them. Her scenes with Will are incredibly emotionally charged, because everything that he has done previously lies between them and still doesn’t manage to change how they very obviously feel towards one another.

There are some brilliant one-liners from Cassandra Clare as always, but my particular favourite is this one:

“Trains are great dirty smoky things,” said Will. “You won’t like it.”
Tessa was unmoved. “I won’t know if I like it until I try it, will I?”
“I’ve never swum naked in the Thames before, but I know I wouldn’t like it.”
“But think how entertaining for sightseers,” said Tessa, and she saw Jem duck his head to hide the quick flash of his grin.”

That little moment between those three really sums up what I love about their interactions as a whole. However, even taking Tessa’s indomitable nature into account and little gems like the above, the real star of this book is the scenes between Will Herondale and Magnus Bane. Not only does the reader get to see another side to Will, one that is broken and desperate and afraid, we also begin to get to know Magnus on a deeper level. Bearing in mind that Magnus is also in The Mortal Instruments series a century later, you really begin to get a grasp of how much loss Magnus has had to witness and experience, due to being a warlock. Whether it’s personal or watching someone else suffer, it isn’t easy for Magnus to observe and do nothing. Even when told that he can’t save everything and everyone, he responds, “One will do.” That really says a lot about Magnus as a character, and it’s a reason that he’s become one of my favourites in both series. Since warlocks are immortal, Magnus’ experiences also really give you a feel for what Tessa might be up against in the future. Additionally, I really liked seeing a more human side of Will, and this book fully explains his motivations and a lot of his general behaviour up until this point. It was a relief as a reader to have the explanation for that at last. I won’t spoil that part for anyone who hasn’t read, but let’s just say that if you don’t heave the same sigh of relief and sympathy? I’ll be very surprised.

Right, this next bit will contain spoilers. I’m placing it under a more tag, but if you come to this post direct, here is your warning! For those of you who close here, I will be waiting with breathless expectation for Clockwork Princess, though it makes me very sad to think that it will be the last book in this series. I can’t recommend this or Clockwork Angel enough.  Continue reading

The Fierce Reads YA Author Tour – Seattle, WA

Confession: before tonight, I had never, ever been to Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. It turns out it’s not actually way outside of town. It’s an easy SoundTransit bus trip (less easy because like an idiot I let my Orca card go empty, but that’s my problem). Anyhow, fun atmosphere, great staff, and I got to meet Flannery of The Readventurer, so that was neat. I will be returning there not to just buy more books I don’t need but for future author events.

The Fierce Reads tour is 4-6 debut authors who write YA. Also I’m totally using the following picture because all of the authors look “fierce” and not because I’m a crappy photographer who took photos with an iPad rather than my canon, which I did not want to carry:

SMIZING.

From left to right: Lish McBride, author of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer; Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder; Leigh Bardugo, author of Shadow and Bone; Jennifer Bosworth, author of Struck; Anna Banks, author of Of Poseidon; and Emmy Laybourne, author of Monument 14.

The presentation started with a book trailer for every novel and then a few words from the author about the book’s plot and where its inspiration came from. They went right to left, but I’m going to stick with this order and go in reverse. (Direct quotes are in quotations, otherwise I’m paraphrasing and/or summarizing.)

Continue reading

Book Review: Lord of the White Hell [Book One]

I was first introduced to writer Ginn Hale when I came across her book Wicked Gentlemen at a convention a couple years ago. I ate that book up quickly, and when I came across more books by her last year at the same convention, I was quick to grab them all.

I read book one of Lord of the White Hell while on my honeymoon, and again, finished it in a couple of days. This wasn’t just because I was lounging on an island and had nothing better to do – I just couldn’t put it down and my husband understood and played Puzzle Quest. Such a patient and understanding man he is.I am always looking for stories that show the way that two people are attracted to each other, and how they deal with that attraction. Though I was, at first, not sure if the relationship between Kiram and Javier would move in a way that I liked, I was quickly surprised with the way it went. I’m not a fan of the ‘oh i hate you/now i love you’ route that many stories take.

Kiram comes from a culture that approves of male/male relationships, and where women run the households and are the heirs. The Haldiim seem very earthy and slightly bohemian in their ways. However, Kiram has been sent to a Cadelonian academy, the first Haldiim ever to attend, where the culture is very different, and relationships are strictly reserved for men and women. This, of course, causes issues when Kiram finds himself extremely attracted to his upperclassman, Javier, from the very start.

But it isn’t as simple as that.

The only reason that Javier is assigned to be Kiram’s upper classmen is because of the supposed white hell that is within Javier, which is something that Kiram doesn’t believe in. It becomes quickly clear, though, that there is something different about Javier – something is within him that could kill him, or someone else, if not taken care of, and Kiram wants to figure out what it is.

I appreciated that this book didn’t have Kiram and Javier jump into a romantic relationship right away – that they realistically assessed the situation and knew that them being involved would have terrible repercussions for both of them in the Cadelonian society. Eventually they break through that, and it is the way they become close that I really enjoyed reading. There are many other twists and turns that happen throughout the story, and I liked the trials that were put in their path – again, it felt very realistic that these two young men would be put through some of the social constraints they were exposed to.

Book One of Lord of the White Hell is an exciting read, and Ginn Hale does an awesome job of getting the reader attached to the characters throughout the story – and throws in some crazy turns that I didn’t quite see coming, despite my attempts at guessing ahead (it’s a bad habit I’m sure).  Definitely a fun fantasy read, which i have already read twice. ^^

Anime Review: Romeo & Juliet

I started watching this show because the art was gorgeous – which is sometimes the first thing that gets my attention. After seeing the art, I thought it would be fun to cosplay – so of course I had to watch it. Also, I do admit to enjoying the play. I was in theater in high school and some of college, what can I say.Since this is anime, of course the story gets a bit crazy and spins off the original play, otherwise this wouldn’t be very original. There are dragon steeds [like a pegasus but with the tail of a dragon] and the entire city of Neo-Verona [which is floating btw] is held together by some sort of magic that requires the blood of Capulet women to survive.

Of course it does.

I watched this dubbed on Hulu, and at first I thought it might be a bit too over the top for me, with the crazy mystical changes and whatnot. Overall, I pretty much tried to just jump in and go with the flow of the show, despite some of the bizarre ideas that they used. I did like that Juliet was a strong young woman who didn’t stand idly by, but stood up against the monarchy that was destroying her city. Romeo was also a strong character, very caring and giving compared to his father, and together the two of them went through a lot during the show just to ensure the people of Neo-Verona could have a better life. Also a nice touch was that the characters spoke with a Shakespearean flair that I enjoyed.

Read more for some slightly spoilery chat!