Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Reckoners #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: September 24, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
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Summary from Goodreads:
There are no heroes.
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.
But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.
Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
Let’s talk about that boy…
All praise Brandon Sanderson for giving us one of the best male narrators in YA fiction. David is a breath of fresh air in a sea of Katniss and Tris wannabes. Maybe it’s just that I’ve become tired of the dystopian girl who has to meet a cute boy to help her cope with her depressing world, but it was nice to have a main character who took it upon himself to try and make his world better.
In the prologue, we meet David as a young boy, who goes through a harrowing experience while at the bank with his father. Two of the Epics – humans with superpowers that developed after an event called Calamity – get into a brawl with disastrous consequences. David spends the next ten years studying Epics in search of a way to defeat them, taking notes and forming theories.
So about those Reckoners…
David is not the only one who wants to take down the Epics. Imagine if people started developing limitless powers, and couldn’t handle the God complex that followed from that? This is David’s world, where Epics rule with iron fists while the rest of the country falls into chaos and poverty.
The Reckoners are a guerrilla group that work to secretly eliminate Epics. They have no real presence – they don’t publicize their efforts, and they haven’t been able to take down any of the really powerful Epics that would draw much attention. David wants to join up with them to share his research and bring down the Epic that took everything from him.
The mystery of Steelheart…
The problem is that although David knows that Steelheart can be hurt, he doesn’t know how. In the bank, as a boy, he witnessed one bullet that managed to make Steelheart bleed. When David joins the Reckoners they set out to try and figure out what was special about that bullet, that gun, or that moment that made him vulnerable.
And one of my favorite aspects of the book was that I could never quite figure it out. Most of the main characters have a different theory about Steelheart’s weakness, and they all feel convincing. The deeper they get in their plot to try and overthrow him, the higher the stakes become for getting the answer right. If they can’t find the answer before the showdown they are setting up, they’ll all be killed. This is a win or die scenario, and it was completely gripping to read.
If you want action…
…then this is the book for you. If they don’t make this into a movie, then the world is majorly missing out. The action scenes are crazy intense – chase sequences, guns, and explosions galore. The Reckoners have to meet with seedy black market weapons traders and sneak into heavily guarded buildings. Their headquarters are in a forgotten layer of underground tunnels, and the final showdown happens in one of the most iconic buildings in Chicago (or Newcago, as it’s known in David’s world).
It was the breakneck pace of the action that kept me turning the pages as fast as possible. I tore through this book and found it unbelievably hard to put down. Unfortunately, the pacing didn’t leave much room for explanation of the world. I felt there were a lot of pieces of information that we didn’t get which would have been helpful to understand how Newcago operates or how the world got to this point. No one seems to understand Calamity or how it led to the Epics, and even though it has only been ten years, I expected just a bit more information.
I’m hoping that information comes in with the next book in this exciting and promising new series. I adored David and can’t wait to see what’s in store for him and the rest of the Reckoners.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Author: Gillian Shields
Series: Immortal #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: August 4, 2009
Genres: Gothic, Young Adult
Source: Book Swap/Trade
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Summary from Goodreads:
Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies, housed in a Gothic mansion on the bleak northern moors, is elite, expensive, and unwelcoming. When Evie Johnson is torn away from her home by the sea to become the newest scholarship student, she is more isolated than she could have dreamed. Strict teachers, snobbish students, and the oppressive atmosphere of Wyldcliffe leave Evie drowning in loneliness.
Evie’s only lifeline is Sebastian, a rebellious, mocking, dangerously attractive young man she meets by chance. As Evie’s feelings for Sebastian grow with each secret meeting, she starts to fear that he is hiding something about his past. And she is haunted by glimpses of a strange, ghostly girl—a girl who is so eerily like Evie, she could be a sister. Evie is slowly drawn into a tangled web of past and present that she cannot control. And as the extraordinary, elemental forces of Wyldcliffe rise up like the mighty sea, Evie is faced with an astounding truth about Sebastian, and her own incredible fate.
Gillian Shields’s electrifying tale will dazzle readers with suspense, mysticism, and romance.
For some reason, I don’t read very many gothic novels, even though when I do read them I love them. Is it that there aren’t many of them written? Are they just not flashy enough to compete with their dystopian brethren? Or do I just not keep them high enough on my radar? This gothic beauty has been languishing on my TBR for a long time, and I’m kicking myself for not getting to it sooner.
Immortal had everything going for it – sweeping romance, eerie moors, haunting ghosts. In the first 100 pages, I was enthralled. Evie arrives at Wyldcliffe, only to be nearly run over by a dark, mysterious, and handsome (naturally) boy on a horse. It was a scene ripped from Jane Eyre, that gothic novel to end all gothic novels. I was anticipating the love story to come and finding the secrets hidden in the passageways of the boarding school.
Around the midpoint of the book I realized that I needed to adjust my expectations. Evie isn’t really haunted so much as she experiences visions. She has odd dreams and keeps seeing a girl who looks like her lurking around the school, but she’s never really frightened by any of it. This means, of course, that I was never scared as a reader, either. It took a lot of the fun out of Evie’s trips down musty passageways and out onto the moor to meet up with Sebastian.
Sebastian, the boy from the horse, runs into her again late one night after Evie has snuck out to get some air. They begin to meet up nightly, and Evie falls in love. I guess. Well, she says she falls in love, but I certainly didn’t get swoony over it. This was one romance that just wasn’t for me.
Throw in some witchcraft…
You see, the book intersperses Evie’s story with excerpts from Lady Agnes Templeton’s diary from 1882 to 1884. Agnes, the daughter of the owners of Wyldcliffe manor, writes about her friend “S.” who introduces her to the Mysticke Way. “S” is kind of a jerk, and as they unlock their mystical powers (witchcraft, though no one in this book wants to call it that), he gets worse.
SPOILER ALERT! (I think, though it seemed pretty obvious to me.) View Spoiler »I mean, clearly, “S” is Sebastian, right? So I’m reading all about this douche from the past who treated Lady Agnes like complete garbage…and then I’m supposed to be happy that Evie is falling for him? Nope. Not going to happen. « Hide Spoiler
The witchcraft bit doesn’t really come in to play for Evie’s story until late in the book, at which point she has to rush to understand her role in the history of Wyldcliffe much too quickly for my taste.
Hurry! The end is nigh!
Once Evie finally starts to put together the pieces of the large and obvious clues in front of her, there are only a few chapters left. She has so much to learn and do, which gets rushed into a couple of scenes, only to build to a climax that is resolved so quickly and lacks so much (or any) confrontation that it feels too easy.
Instead of wrapping things up with a genuine conflict between Evie and some badass witches in this story, it seems like the author left that for the next in the series. What a letdown! I would have liked to have seen more of Evie developing her own powers and working with her friends. I would have liked to have seen her then use those powers in a manner that actually accomplished something instead of seeming to delay the conflict for a bit.
Still, I’m only really complaining because overall I really enjoyed the book. I liked the mystery of Lady Agnes and “S” and how it all tied in with Evie. I loved the setting (boarding school!) and the isolation of this old manor on the moor. I tore through this book – devoured it – to find out what would happen next. It was thoroughly engaging, even if it didn’t turn out to be quite the book I wanted it to be.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Author: A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered #1
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release date: January 1, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl's pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers - precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother's mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice's tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice's mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
Alice in Wonderland is one of those tales that is so pervasive you feel like you’ve read it, even if you haven’t. Though I have never read Lewis Carroll’s classic book, I probably watched my old VHS tape of this ridiculously cheesy 1985 TV miniseries about a hundred times. I’ve seen the Disney version and the Johnny Depp version. And I’ve loved them all.
This modern take on Alice’s story imagines our protagonist, Alyssa, as a descendant of the Alice who lived and inspired Carroll’s stories. Along with a similar name, she is in line to inherit the psychological madness that is passed from female descendant to female descendant. Her mother is locked in an asylum, and Alyssa tries very hard to convince herself that she can’t hear the voices starting to appear in her head. She’s a cool skater girl into art and bugs and other Things That Are Dark And Twisty.
The coolest thing about this book is the brilliant display of imagination on the part of author A. G. Howard. I only wish I could think up stuff this vivid and exciting. When Alyssa goes down the rabbit hole, we get a version of Wonderland that is fresh and new without being unfamiliar. Carroll’s characters pop up, but in different forms than you might expect. I don’t want to spoil the fun of discovery, but I will say that the White Rabbit is not just a rabbit – he’s much creepier than that.
If you’re tired of love triangles, consider yourselves warned. Alyssa is into the boy next door, Jeb, and while in Wonderland starts to fall under the spell of the difficult and dark Morpheus. Morpheus acts as a sort of guide and childhood friend of Alyssa’s on the Wonderland side of things, while Jeb is her friend and protector on the reality side. Morpheus is certainly the more interesting and mysterious of the two, but his sketchy motives later in the story made me not like him as much.
If I had one complaint about this book, it’s that those motives, and the plot, got a little confusing toward the end. I had a hard time following what was happening because the history was so rich and complex. The politics of the Red Queen and White Queen and Morpheus’s place in the middle of all of it overwhelmed me, and I’m still not entirely sure I absorbed it all. I kept having to go back and re-read sections to track who supposedly did what and to what end, and what they really meant when they did them, versus what everyone else thought they were doing.
Did you get that? Yeah. Me either.
Fuzzy plot or not, this was a really enjoyable story. I loved seeing such a cool concept from a debut author, too! I picked this one up at the library because I couldn’t find it at the store, and the cover is absolutely stunning. The text is a beautiful dusty purple color. Normally I’m not a fan of colored print in books, but for some reason this really worked for me. If you’re in the market for a beautiful book for your shelf and want to support a debut author with a fantastic story, I recommend this one.
Rating: 4/5 stars