Tag Archives: urban fantasy

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

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Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

This is less a review and more of an epic fangirl flail, because you guys, I have it bad. And not just for the snarky boy, Will, who is charming and beautiful but pushes everyone away. Of course, let’s face it, he had me at his line about how the person rescuing you is never wrong, “even if he says the sky is purple and made of hedgehogs”. HOLY BOOK CRUSH. But I love everyone, from Jem, to Jessie, from Henry to Tessa. 

Clockwork Angel is the first book in Clare’s Infernal Devices series, which takes place in the same Shadow Hunter world as her Mortal Instruments series. This is set a hundred or so years sooner and has some cool steampunk like elements, including an evil plot with clockwork automatons.

After Tessa Gray’s aunt dies, her brother sends her a steamer ship ticket across the Atlantic to join him in England. But when she arrives, she’s taken by two women called the Dark Sisters, who reveal to her that she has a very special power – she can shapeshift into anyone after holding something that belongs to them. Of course, they torture and abuse her and plan to marry her off to some mysterious Magister, at least until Will comes along to the rescue. Then she get caught up in the world of the Shadow Hunters, demon-fighters descended from angels, and a plot to destroy them.

The world building is immersive and vast, on par with people like Scott Lynch and Seanan McGuire. And that’s nothing compared to Clare’s detailed and incredible character creation. Everyone, even the minor characters, are fleshed out into real people, and it’s easy to imagine Clare could tell you their life stories if you asked. No one is one-dimensional. And even the most tragic of circumstances, like Jem’s, who is always sick, feel real and not forced.

Tessa herself is likable, smart, witty, and tough. She starts to rescue herself before Will interrupts and is perfectly capable of being clear-headed in sticky situations. And while she tries to determine her feelings for Will, who is hot and cold, she doesn’t spend pages and pages pining for him. It’s not annoying, is what I’m saying, when so often it can be in paranormal romance. Tessa is also fond of books but unlike, say, Bella Swan, she’s also constantly quoting from them, and trading snippets of poetry with Will, who pretends to think it’s all sentimental nonsense.

And let me declare right here, right now: Magnus Bane is basically amazing. He’s a flashy bastard but he rocks so hard.

Characters and world-building aside, the story is incredibly crafted. It barely has a dull moment. There’s action, mystery, and crazy plot twists that I didn’t see coming. I’ve already started the second book and I cannot get enough of it. So crap. I guess I’m a Shadow Hunter fan after all. My only complaint is that I wish I’d thought of it first.

Recommended for: People who like October Daye and Harry Dresden will find this similar but different enough that it’s still new.

Signing at Theatre Royal Stratford 26/05/2012: Cassandra Clare & Maureen Johnson [#1]

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra ClareThis is my vastly overdue post series concerning the above signing, for which I apologise. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this at the end of May. The London weather was beautiful and I was very lucky! The signing was organised through Foyles, a bookstore in London which I cannot recommend enough, as part of Cassandra Clare’s release of City of Lost Souls, the fifth book in her acclaimed Mortal Instruments series. This post will more than likely be one of two or three over the next few days, as I’m trying to make these accurate and an easy length to read in one sitting. I hope that you enjoy the posts.

The Q&A opened with an introduction from the ever-entertaining Maureen Johnson, author of The Name of the Star and 13 Little Blue Envelopes! Maureen felt the need to explore the theatre and introduce herself and Cassandra Clare from a balcony, which was a wonderful introduction. Needless to say, overall a genius plan and everyone was very excited to see both authors. Maureen also decided to gauge what type of audience we were from how loud we applauded for Jace and Simon (protagonists in Cassandra Clare’s books). Maureen is a hardcore Simon fan, which you will get to hear a bit more about later!

Ticket to see Cassandra Clare & Maureen Johnson

Cassandra Clare opened the talk with an excerpt of Clockwork Princess, the upcoming third instalment in The Infernal Devices. For those not familiar, Cassandra Clare has two ongoing series about the Nephilim, also known as Shadowhunters. They are ass-kicking, demon-slaughtering, risk-taking and outright fun characters. The modern-day series, set in New York City, is known as The Mortal Instruments. The prequel series, set in Victorian London, is called The Infernal Devices. Needless to say, I was very excited to hear what was in store for some of my favourite characters such as Will and Jem. The scene was a really interesting snippet between Will and his younger sister Cecily. I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t read the series at this point, but let’s just say that things stand to get a lot more complicated in the world of the Victorian London Shadowhunters. I’m very much looking forward to reading the book when it is finally released.

I took a lot of notes during the talk as a whole, so I’m going to be summarising below a tag as this will contain spoilers. Please note that these will not be word for word quotations as I couldn’t write that fast, they will be summaries of the answers given. I got spoiled for the most recent book of The Mortal Instruments, City of Lost Souls, while I was at the signing, which I really should have expected, as both series were being discussed fairly widely. Consider this your final warning! Here there be spoilers! 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.)

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Being a Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Kind of Sucks

Guess after 'True Blood's' success, they decided to scrap the cartoony covers.

Last week, the second to last installment of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Southern Mysteries hit shelves. I actually thought it was the final book and despite my gripes with the last few, I wanted to see how it ended. Deadlocked is a surprising improvement. The mysteries are actually suspenseful, some of the reveals were impressively shocking and unpredictable (but not way out of left field), and Harris is clearly starting to tie up all of her loose ends. If the last book is this good, the series will end on a high note.

The politics are still there, because you can’t change course mid-stream (or something; I am not a sailor) but there’s less of it, which is a relief. I’m sorry, but State Kingdoms? Sheriffs? Political power? Marriage contracts? What is that?

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: being a vampire in the Sookie Stackhouse universe royally sucks (no puns intended). Which is fine. There are plenty of books that make being a vampire seem awesome and god knows you can’t throw a rock in a bookstore without smacking a broody vampire in the forehead (double points for a Cullen). But still, I genuinely love vampires, and this world takes away everything about that’s awesome.

First, because vampires are “out of the coffin” they now have to follow mortal law. And apparently on top of that, they have an insane convoluted form of government that no immortal worth his salt would bother to follow. Vampires have to obey their makers. There are marriage contracts (I am still annoyed about that). It’s so stupid. At least in this book, Sookie agrees with me.

I’m going to quote myself here from a review I wrote two books ago on my old and now deleted blog:

Vampires are the ultimate escapism fantasy: to become a vampire is to have all of the strings cut. Vampires don’t have to work or go to school, they don’t have to stayed tied down to one city or even one continent, they don’t have to follow rules or laws (at least not mortal ones and most of them ignore the any rules other vampires try to impose). They can wear pink polyester and jaywalk in front of cops and chain smoke because they are free of all of mortal pressures, like traffic tickets and fashion sense and lung cancer. Vampires can run night clubs (it’s been done to death), they can do business and pay property taxes to avoid suspicion. But it’s a choice and if they want to go wear rags and live in a cemetery and kill passerbys, well, that’s their choice too.

And that is what these books lack to me. A sense of whimsy of the supernatural. Being anything, from a demon to a shapeshifter, has no appeal in this world. It’s the one case where I can see myself saying to a vampire, “No thanks. I’d rather stay human.”

Which doesn’t mean the books aren’t good. In some ways, it’s the most mind-blowing thing about the entire series. I do enjoy reading them (when they’re not weighted down too far with politics). They’re quirky and fun. But they’re really less for fans of vampires than for people who like mysteries that sometimes happen to contain non-human beings. That said, I wait with baited breath for the final book, and I look forward to whatever Harris does next.

Review: Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

"First, check your ammunition. Then, check your escape routes. Finally, check your hair." - Frances Brown

Verity Price loves ballroom dance so much, she’s moved to New York City to see if she can make it into a career, and works as a cocktail waitress to pay the bills. But as a Price girl, she’s also a cryptozoologist, a trained fighter, and a sworn protector of cryptids (monsters, ghouls, and the rest), so long as they don’t kill humans. Generations ago, her family broke from the fanatic Covenant of St. George, an organization whose motto is “if it ain’t human, kill it.” Since many cryptids are sentient and generally decent people, genocide didn’t really sit well with them.

One night, Verity runs across a member of the Covenant, Dominic, whose swallowed the Convenant Kool-Aid. Meanwhile, cryptids are vanishing. Lacking options, she has to work with him (or at least keep him from killing innocent people of all species), while trying to figure out what’s going on it the city.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire is everything fans could hope for: insanely detailed world-building, a thorough history of the Price family (including charts and quotes from relatives a the start of each chapter), and realistic character building. For example, Verity has piles of laundry on her couch and nothing in her fridge, and has to fight the Good Fight between shifts as a waitress. Oh, and there’s some very good sexual tension between Dominic and Verity. I admit, I’m a sucker for a bad guy who thinks he’s the good guy. Especially one who wears a duster.

And the mice. Oh, the mice. Aeslin mice are a kind of cryptid. Generations of them have lived with the Price family for, well, generations, and a splinter colony has followed Verity to New York. They’re very religious and they take the history and happenings of the Price family as gospel. It’s convenient for historical purposes, since they keep intricate records of whole conversations and events, but inconvenient when they have holy festivals every other day. They’re adorable and “Hail!” everything, down to Verity needing to buy new uniform socks. I want a colony of Aeslin mice, although I doubt my cats would appreciate it.

Full of unexpected twists, lots of action, and suspense, it’s a wholly engrossing read. Half-way through, I was reading it on my regular bus and was so absorbed I actually missed my stop and didn’t even notice til I was a few stops passed it. It’s the kind of book you can’t stop reading but at the same time don’t want it to end.

Also: McGuire includes an ass-kicking read-a-long playlist that I didn’t see til I finished, but she has awesome taste in music. Make sure to flip to the back before you start reading if you enjoy that sort of thing.

Recommended if: You liked Cherie Priest’s Cheshire Red series. You like bad-ass ladies who can kick ass in heels and never forget to bring a gun to a fight. Obviously if you’re a fan of October Daye. You’ve ever waited tables and know how hard it is to get your shift covered so you can save the world, again.

Hits Shelves: March 6th, 2012

Note: This review is of an ARC sent to me by the author.

Review: Hellbent by Cherie Priest.

Hellbent(If you’re interested, please see Tori’s previous review of the first book in this series, Bloodshot, before reading this review.)

Cherie Priest’s urbane, sharp and downright brilliant vampire protagonist Raylene Pendle is back in Hellbent. An accomplished freelance thief sometimes known by the name of Cheshire Red, with a more than slight case of OCD that’s kept her alive since the 1920’s, Raylene is often mistaken as male by multiple most-wanted lists. To paraphrase, far be it from her to remove heads from asses on this point. If you have to ask how much she charges, you can’t afford her; but if there’s one thing she can’t resist, it’s a good mystery. Raylene’s last escapade involving government experimentation on vampires left her with her two “pet people”, an incredibly charming blind vampire and a fabulous ex-Navy Seal drag queen immediately on her radar. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because this ride is about to amp up the entertainment value another few notches from the already brilliant Bloodshot.

I sometimes find that sequels drop off on the pace and quality from a promising first book, and end up being quite disappointing. Cherie Priest? Sincerely does not have that problem. I was as riveted by the second book as the first, thanks mainly to the entertaining and eclectic cast of characters. Raylene is now past the point of pretending that she doesn’t care about what happens to her “pet people”, Domino and Pepper, and has moved them into a new warehouse with her, alongside a certain blind vampire named Ian Stott (I should add here that I have a fairly large soft spot for Ian, much like Raylene herself). They are all under one roof (though in separate areas of it officially) and almost parodying ordinary domesticity, with frequent visits from professional tough guy Adrian DeJesus, also known as the glitzy and glamorous Sister Rose.

Sound too good to be true? Bingo, because it is. Things are never that peaceful for long.

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