Our Dark Duet by V.E Schwab – Book Review.

Title: Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity Book 2)

Author: V.E. Schwab

Rating: 3/5

Fantasy: Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult, Fiction, Adventure, Teen Fiction


Last year, I got the chance to review the wonderful kick off of the Monsters of Verity series, This Savage Song on my blog, and I loved it!

So when Titan Books sent me the sequel and conclusion to this series (without even requesting it, so a huge thank you to Titan Books for keeping me in mind), I was thrilled. Obviously, I had to do a reread of the first book, and I fell back in love with the world that Schwab created, along with the badass characters that she wrote about.

Without giving too much away, Our Dark Duet is set six months after the big climatic end of This Savage Song, and the world of Verity is thrown into chaos. With the monster issue really becoming a problem, and war between human and creature becoming an inevitable reality, we follow as our protagonists battle to save their cities along with themselves. August has become the leader he never really wanted to be, and Kate has become the hunter she always knew she could become. But when a new monster comes into a fold – a monster that seems unstoppable, uncatchable but reaping devasting power, Kate and August are thrown together again in a battle that will determine the real winners. Lives will be lost, blood will be spilled and sacrifices will be made9781785652769.

Our Dark Duet shows real character growth, as both August and Kate have to deal with relationship issues from newcomers, along with having to confront demon’s from their past. Schwab has maintained this easy flow of writing that I commented upon in the first book, and she has once again made the story very readable and addictive from the first page.

With a new monster coming into the fold, this gave the novel a much-needed kick that I was hoping it would have. This Savage Song did leave the story
off with a good cliffhanger, but I didn’t think it would be enough for the entire book to be based around, as I felt it would’ve weakened the storytelling. So to have a brand new nemesis mixing with the older ones became very effective.

However, I do have some criticisms about this novel. I felt the solution to the new monster’s death was a bit rushed and didn’t feel as strong as it could’ve been, along with the speed of the final battle. There were also character’s who seemed relatively important at first, and then really disappear without a trace. Having them come back into the narrative would’ve been a cool little reminder for me.

But this was a good conclusion for the Monsters of Verity series. I’m definitely going to be looking out for more from this author.

Our Dark Duet is out on the 13th June – preorder now.

Angels of Music by Kim Newman – Book Review

Title: Angels of Music

Author: Kim Newman

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Alternative History, YA, Teen Fiction

Rating: 5/5


One of my favourite fantasy authors has always been Kim Newman. I discovered him a couple of years ago, when I first started getting into The Gothic, and devoured his alternative history version of the Dracula tale – Anno Dracula – and I loved how he retold the canon in new and imaginative ways. Luckily, I was sent his newest book for review, and I knew from the front cover that I would love it.

angels_music_final_2Angels of Music is a retelling of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera tale (note, very different from the Lloyd Webber musical), and follows the plot of The Phantom running detective/crime fighting underground syndicate made up of talented female agents who solve the crimes that the higher levels of society would like to keep out of the public eye. Basically bohemian Paris’ Charlie’s Angels. The toxic underbelly of Paris is revealed, and with automatons, vampires and mass murderers running riot through the city, it only takes one spark of a flame to ignite a terrifying series of events.

Angels of Music reunites some of Newman’s best loved characters, with Kate Reed and Irene Adler coming into play as one of The Phantom’s agent ‘Angels’, and gives mini stories throughout the novel that links together at the end.

Written in the traditional Newman style of different historical characters coming into play throughout the text, and different historical events being retold to fit the narrative, it felt like coming home to an old friend, and not forced or false at all. I also find myself Googling these events, just to read the real history.

I really enjoyed the different Angels, and with the plot moving forward in a linear fashion, girls leave and get replaced with others. All in all, Newman wrote 18 different Angels, all with different characteristics and back-stories, which provided an interesting read. None of them felt really left out and rushed, and none of them really seemed repeated. I particularly liked THE JAPANESE LADY and the vivacious CLARA.

All in all, this is another brilliant novel from Kim Newman. It hasn’t faltered in quality at all, and I love that he’s gone into another Gothic figure of interest and completely put his own spin on it.

Angels of Music is out now.

On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher – Book Review.

Title: On the Other Side

Author: Carrie Hope Fletcher

Rating: 4/5

Fantasy: Fantasy, YA, Teen Fiction, Contemporary Romance


It takes a lot for me to get excited about a book so much to pre-order it. So far, my pre-order history has mainly consisted of the Harry Potters, and that has been a lifelong love. But with Carrie Hope Fletcher, I’ve rushed to bookshops to get my hand of my copy, and happily put a deposit down.

I’ve loved Carrie’s YouTube videos and West End Performances for years, and after loving her self-help book, All I Know Now, I was very excited to hear t25744542hat she was publishing her first fiction novel. And by now, I can happily say, I wasn’t disappointed.

When Evie Snow dies at the grand age of eighty-two, she is surrounded by family and remnants of a pretty happy life. However, when she attempts to get in the door of her personal heaven, she is stopped. Evie’s soul isn’t light enough to pass through the doors, and she has to unburden herself of three deep secrets that she has carried around with her for nearly sixty years. Now Evie has to go on a journey through her life, and on her way, she learns more about her own life, and the love she lost, more than she knew was possible.

Firstly, can I say I loved the premise. The idea of personal heavens has always attracted me since I read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Having a space where you feel you more comfortable and happy is such delightful thought. Fletcher has also obviously given a lot of thought into how she perceives a personal heaven, and how a soul must be unburdened from past strife to fully embrace it. I also loved how she dealt with the state of limbo, and how people adapt with their human deaths. The story featured a lot of magical realism which was fun and sweet to read, and it reminded me a bit of the worlds that Studio Ghibli create.

The love story was very sweet, and fairly powerful. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried in public whilst reading one particular moment, and I thought she captured the essence of first love and attraction very well. In my mind, Fletcher also incorporated people’s sexualities and preferences well in this text. The novel touches on homophobia well, and stories of ‘coming out’ is also dealt with grace and sensitivity. As the novel features bisexual, pansexual and gay characters, I feel that it fits well in with the contemporary YA market.

The story also has a deeper plotline. Despite dealing with lost love, it also deals with family issues and a strong-minded female protagonist who has to sacrifice a lot to help others. I really admired Evie Snow (the protagonist) as she decides to reject her parents controlling ways, and take control of everything for a time.

The characters were well thought out. Like I said, I enjoyed reading and learning about Evie Snow. Vincent Winters was a particular favourite too, as he was so sweet and thoughtful. To me, it was obvious that Fletcher had taken a lot of inspiration from her life, and even her and friend’s appearances, but it didn’t dampen or change the story. I also admired James Snow, for his kindness towards Evie.

The plot was also structured well, and I wasn’t bored when reading it. It sped through at a reasonable pace, and featured touching storylines. I liked how each of the secrets were split up in their own segments, and how they featured people that meant a lot to Evie. It was fairly-well written, but featured some metaphors and similes that were obviously targeted for a younger audience, and probably not a twenty-two year old Masters student.

However, this was warmhearted, whimsical read that I thoroughly enjoyed. To be honest, I didn’t want it to end, and will happily pick it up at a later date.

On the Other Side is out now.

Information –

 

Waterstones

Amazon

Author’s website

Author YouTube channel

Author’s twitter.

 

Top 5 Books- Fantasy Sagas

Now, I’m a girl who loves a good fantasy series. Fantasy books and television series can transport you to new worlds, and through the characters you grow to love, or hate, you can witness political backstabbing, murders, battles and mythical beasts.

So, in this Top 5 post, I thought I’d give my favourite fantasy book sagas, for any readers who have yet to stumble upon this genre.

1: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R Martin.a_song_of_ice_and_fire_by_ertacaltinoz-d9fzd8e

I’ve actually done a full review of this book saga on my blog, so I won’t go too in-depth here. So what I will say is this book saga is excellent and intricate. Wars, old grudges and bloodlust makes for very interesting reading, and the saga has been made into an award-winning television series. I would rate this a very obvious staple choice if you want to read any fantasy at the moment.

2: The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss.

the_kingkiller_chronicle_one_and_twoWith two novels published in this soon-to-be trilogy, this saga is a favourite of mine. The story-telling is good, the plot is highly enjoyable and the fact of it being somewhat of a biography for the main character, a mysterious figure known as Kvothe, makes me love it more. I have read and reread this story, and I still find it as enjoyable as when I first picked it up. If you like high fantasy, excellent writing and a host of unique characters, I suggest this.

3: His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman.51sf-9svtul-_sx319_bo1204203200_

This is a book series you just have to read. And don’t be put off by the bad adaptation of the first book. His Dark Materials really transcend all age ranges and different audiences. Featuring alternative worlds, witches, polar bear warriors and battles with God and religion, this saga is not only brilliant at world-building, but the writing is easy enough for young teenagers to understand.

4: 200px-thewayofkingsThe Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson.

Once again, I’ve done a review on the first book here, but this series really deserves to be on this list. World-building in this series is done masterfully, and if you like battles, magic, different cultures and history, then you’d like this series. The characters are complex and well thought out, and I never felt bored when reading this ornate world.

5: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien.

I doubt there could be a fantasy book list without this saga. Written in the 1950s as a sequel to The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings revolutionised the world olotr111f high fantasy and epic fantasy and has been influenced authors for years to come. The books are atypical of Tolkien’s florid and highly descriptive writing style, and follow the story of the destruction of the One Ring by the Hobbit, Frodo Baggins and his comrades.  So I would say, if you’re looking for the ultimate of ultimate fantasy novels to read, why not try this? You can’t be worse off. And then watch the movies.

So here are my top 5 choices. I doubt there are any shockers on here, but if you have any comments or queries, just send me a question.

 

 

A Girl Called Alice by Christina Henry (Essay) – The Nightmareland Blog Book Tour

(Below is an essay written for the Nightmareland Book Blog Tour by Christina Henry for the promotion of her Alice and The Red Queen books. Big thank you to Christina for allowing me to be involved in this unique idea, and all those at Titan Books. Enjoy!)

A GIRL CALLED ALICE by CHRISTINA HENRY

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is a tale beloved by millions, so embedded in our cultural memory that nearly everyone can conjure up an image of Alice – from the original story, a film remake, a game or one of many re-imaginings done by assorted authors through the years.

Alice has taken on the quality of myth, a character no longer bound to her creator or origin story but a modern-day legend open to interpretation like those other contemporary fairy tale figures from Neverland and Oz.

Many people have never read the original Alice but feel as though they have, because so many qualities about the Alice story have entered our shared lexicon – falling into a rabbit hole, for instance, is a phrase that’s taken on a meaning and life of its own quite apart from the original story.

And images from the story – the disappearing Cheshire Cat who leaves his smile behind, the Mad Hatter and the tea party – have become a kind of shorthand, s
hared experiences that make us feel like we’ve all been part of Wonderland for a very long time.

I asked my son why everyone loves Alice, and he immediately answered, “Because there’s adventure. And magic.” I think these are exactly the two qualities that attract children and adults to this story time and again.

There is something enchanting about a world that you can fall into, where there is adventure but somehow never any real danger (despite all of the Red Queen’s blustering about taking off Alice’s head I never worried, as a child, that such a thing would actually happen), and where magical things occur with matter-of-fact regularity.

Then there is Alice herself. She’s very pragmatic throughout the story, in a way that makes everything else real. The famous quote about believing six impossible things before breakfast was actually said by the White Queen in response to Alice’s remark that “one can’t believe impossible things.”

This is fairly astonishing given that Alice has already seen and done more impossible things than most people, but it’s her clear eyes that make her such an attractive character. Alice is very firmly rooted, and that fact roots the story as well. When a fantastic world has this kind of steady grounding it’s easy to believe in talking caterpillars and disappearing cats.

Alice Blog Tour Banner#2 (1).jpg
Tour dates and relevant blogs to visit!

This Savage Song by V. E Schwab – Book Review.

Title: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity Book 1)

Author: V.E. Schwab

Rating: 4/5

Fantasy: Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult, Fiction, Adventure, Teen Fiction


 

The world of Young Adult fiction is a hard category to break into if you’re an author, and equally hard to wade through if you’re a reader. There are categories within sub-categories within sections within communities etc, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming at the choice.

But, to me anyway, there always seems to be one theme and one consistent subplot through these stories, and that is of romance. And to be honest, this has become overused, over-tired and irritating. Especially when it drives the narrative, and without it, the story wouldn’t work.

So when I was sent this book to review by Titan Books it felt like a breath of fresh air. As when I picked up and devourted  This Savage Song, it had all the promise and familiarity of a well-written YA fantasy novel, but without all the use or plot-need of fated romances or even love.

In This Savage Song,  we are set into the world of Verity, a divided city where the violence of the streets has started to creat and manifest itself into real and grisly monsters. Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to this city, and both have their own agendas and ideas on how to survive in this dangerous world. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants of his side pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his father – but his curse is to be what the humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn fathis-savage-songmilies at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive when the streets are safe, and the monsters no longer want to lurk in this shadows?

What I liked about this book is the easy flow of writing and the fact the plot never seems to dip or just go slow. The action is fast-paced, continuous and keeps you hooked from page one until you close the book. I haven’t read any of Schwab’s other books, but I’ve heard they’re equally as entralling. The two main characters were also fleshed out well. I felt that although August was my personal favourite, due to his selflessness and overall wish just to be human, Kate was also interesting. Schwab went indepth with her character, and by slowly exploring her weaknesses to the readers and the characters, she felt so real, and living through a mask.

The world-building was good in some parts. I really enjoyed the use of violence actually creating monsters, and how different levels of violence impacted on which sort of monster would manifest. I also enjoyed the political views of Callum and Henry, as they deal with the creatures in different ways. The end was also good to tease the reader for the next book. However, sometimes I needed clarification over which secondary character was which, and I would have loved to find out more about the history of the city and how the monsters came to be. I felt that a map of the city would’ve been useful, as I couldn’t really orientate myself as I was reading.

But one thing I did love was how it was just a good, well-written fantasy novel. When reading it I was so glad over the lack of romance, as another author could’ve easily put it in and just made it about two star-crossed lovers. Kate and August are just allies and friends who were trying to make the city better. Romance was never needed, and I didn’t miss it.

All in all, this was just a good urban fantasy novel. The writing didn’t annoy me, the characters felt three dimensional, and the premise was good and it didn’t failt to deliver a good story. It did help me revisit my fondness of the YA genre, and did give me some faith that not every book has to feature romance. So I’d heartedly recommend this novel to any fantasy fan.

This Savage Song is out June 7th – Buy it here!

 

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone by G.S Denning – Book Review


Title: 
Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone

Author: G.S Denning

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Alternative History, Fantasy, Mystery, Detective Fiction, Retelling, Supernatural


When it comes to Sherlock Holmes, there have been dozens of reimaginings and retellings of the famous figure.  Whether it be young Holmes, modern day Holmes, American Holmes or Robert Downey Jr Holmes, we’ve seen Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters been changed and rejigged for different audiences.

So when I was sent Warlock Holmes for review, I wasn’t surprised that another author had given our favourite consulting detective a new story and a new life. But what I was surprised about was how much I enjoyed this crossover.untitled203_1

In the original stories, Sherlock Holmes was a genius whose deductive skills were unparrelled and his mind was virtually unchallenged by regular people. Warlock Holmes, on the other hand, is an idiot. A good man, yes. A font of archane and witchy powers, who communicates with demons, devils and otherwordly creatures, yes. Yet his deducing skills rival that of a knat. So when he meets and subsequently befriends the brilliant Doctor Watson, they make an unlikely but excellent duo. And with the help of the nilistic vampire Inspector Vladislav Lestrade and actual ogre Inspector Torg Grogsson, Holmes and Watson go through a delightfully ‘weird’ version of London and solve mysteries.

This book reimagines six of Sherlock Holmes most popular cases (excluding Baskerville) and puts the occult spin on each one. And through each one, the writing is easy, fluid and comedic. Denning sticks to the original stories quite well, which gives the stories a good standing to fall back on. And with the addition of fantastical creatures, it just adds more to the text, rather than take anything away.

Throughout the text, Denning has swapped the dynamic between Holmes and Watson, yet it doesn’t lessen the relationship between the two men. I actually love the more idiotic and dim Holmes, as he does excel in the occult-ish sense, but lets Watson take the lead. The author also has put a fair bit of slapstick and quite silly comedy throughout, but as this wasn’t meant to be a serious retelling of the Sherlock Holmes saga, I felt like it didn’t make it feel too childish.

As a whole, the book is easy to read and very enjoyable for Sherlock Holmes fans. With Moriarty cropping up as a malevolent spirit who possess Warlock on occassion, and then coming to quite a dramatic ending, I actually found myself eager for the next book. Denning has left it with a marvellous cliffhanger, and to be honest, has written such a good retelling, it almost makes it feel believable.

All in all, a funny and lighthearted retelling of Conan Doyle’s stories, and a must-read for fans.

Warlock Holmes is out on the 27th May 2016 – Pre-order it here!

 

The Way of Kings: Part One (The Stormlight Archives) by Brandon Sanderson – Book Review.

Title: The Way of Kings: Part One (The Stormlight Archives)

Author: Brendon Sanderson

Rating: 4.5/5

Genre: High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, World-Building, Action, Adventure, Mythical, Alternate World


 

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”

In recent years, the genres of High and Epic Fantasy has gone through a resurgence in popularity and interest, and attracted more of a public and mainstream status and audience. Through film sagas like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, and into television shows such as Game of Thrones, Beowulf and even the children’s favourite, Merlin, the sub-genre of High Fantasy has moved into public consciousness and shown off its talents of world-building, alternative realities, epic battles and mythical creatures.

I’ve always been a fan of fantasy novels, but apart from reading 513o1fxkp8l-_sx324_bo1204203200_the obvious Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire series, I’ve never actually ventured into reading really high fantasy. But when I was sent Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance books (the third and the fourth books in The Stormlight Archives), and was intrigued by the back covers, I knew I had a new winter read on my hand. So I bought the first volume, The Way of Kings, and when I got this tome of a book of nearly 1,000 pages, I knew I was in for some serious world-building and character exploring.

(Quick sidenote: In the UK, The Way of Kings has been split into two halves, due to the absolutely massive size of the book. But without realizing it, I bought it in one complete volume of over 1,000 pages. This review will be on The Way of Kings in its entirety, rather than limiting it to having two reviews for both halves).

Roshar is a land of harsh climates, fierce battles and raging conflicts. The country is frequently decimated by fierce tempests, which have not only shaped the geography of the land, but also its people, and there are wars fought and won over the capture of territories, spoils, and pieces of weaponry known as Shardblades and Shardplates – which make the wearer near-invincible and impossibly strong. The narrative primarily follows three plotlines – Kaladin (the ex-soldier turned slave), Brightlord Dalinar (ex-war hero who is feared to be going insane) and Shallan (ex-noblelady who turns to crime and nefarious deeds to get her family back to a higher rank), and how they all navigate Roshar’s tempestuous landscape, torn warzones,  fragmented cultures and spiritual beliefs. The novel also deals with the typical high-fantasy tropes of drawn-out battles with swords and weapons, mythical beasts, battles between good and evil and quests of high significance.

Now, like I’ve said before, the only high fantasy novels I’ve read have been Tolkien and George R.R Martin’s creations, so I really didn’t know how I was going to get on with these extreme levels of fantasy. But I was pleasantly surprised over how readable and enjoyable I found this book. Yes, it is very high fantasy, and at some points it can be fairly muddled and confusing – personally, I found the descriptions of the religious beliefs to be somewhat convoluted and appear to be too thought out and confusing – but for the majority of the time, I adored the world-building and the attention Sanderson put into his characters, and bringing the world to life.

The characters were readable and enjoyable, and I found as we moved through the pages, their backstories were unraveled slowly, so we could fully appreciate and see how they react to events and circumstances. I particularly liked Brightlord Dalinar, whose apparent insanity is an interesting read, as we see it from Dalinar himself, but also his comrades and family members. Shallan was also very interesting, as she had a lot of choices between good and evil to deal with, and her relationship with her tutor, the King’s heretic sister, Jasnah was one of intrigue and tension. The characters are also never put forward as being perfect, but flawed and entirely human in that respect. What I did find interesting was how social hierarchies were dictated by the colour of a persons eyes, and how ‘light-eyes’ were always higher up, no matter how good or bad this person was. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that particular story arc progresses during the rest of the books.

the_way_of_kings___cover_by_michael_whelan_by_arcanghell-d4ky8hlAs in most fantasy series, there are a great deal of warzones and fight scenes. And Sanderson doesn’t disappoint with his descriptions of the battles. Yes, they are bloody, but not explicit. And with the addition of the Shardplates and Blades, the battles reach new heights of intensity and skill. Sanderson has also included layers of technology, magic, science and Other-ness throughout the story, so there isn’t really any point when anything seems too out there or farfetched.

So, did I enjoy this book? The answer is a definite yes. I have read another story by Sanderson called Steelheard, which I did find good, but I found this book to really surpass that. This has been an excellent attempt at high-fantasy, as he not only excels at world-building, but also at just giving characters a voice and storytelling. At some points it is a bit confusing, and the first third of the book isn’t the fastest moving, or most dynamic part, but all in all, I did enjoy it. Fans of Tolkien and George R.R. Martin should definitely read this. At the moment, I am reading the second book in The Stormlight Archives, and I’ve heard that this is going to be a ten-book series. And truthfully, I cannot wait.

But, let me know what you think! I’d love to hear feedback.

Links:

To buy Part 1 of The Way of Kings: Click Here (Waterstones/Amazon)

To buy Part 2: (Waterstones/Amazon)

Sanderson’s website – Click Here.

 

 

 

Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire – Book Review

Title: Egg & Spoon

Author: Gregory Maguire

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Children’s Books, Children’s Literature, Fairytale, Fantasy, YA, Modern Fairytale, Adaptation, Historical Literature.


“Think of egg and spoon. If there is an egg, well, fine. You eat. Unless you use your spoon to hold the egg out of my reach. Does being in possession of a spoon give you more right to the egg?”

When the author is man who wrote Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror, Mirror, and who has carved himself a spot in the genre of revising and writing novels inspired by children’s stories, I was expecting great things when I picked up Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire. The blurb promised me a tale of weaving ‘together of Russian folklore, mythical creatures and fantastical characters’ and I was also intrigued by the cover art featuring typical symbols of ‘Russia’ – a Firebird, a Russian stacking doll and Saint Basil’s Cathedral. So, I bought it and read it in under a week. And yes, this is a modern fairytale with a interesting blend of Russian folklore against a 20th century historical story. And when you have the figure of Tsar Nicholas II arguing wi20708810th Baba Yaga, the Slavic witch, what more do you want?

This story follows a few plot lines, but mainly focuses on the tale of misidentity and a sort of Prince and the Pauper-scenerio. We start off with a monk being jailed, and relaying the story of when two worlds collide and the aftershocks of such a collision. Elena Rudina lives in the provincial and highly impoverished Russian countryside with her dying mother. Her father has been dead for years, and one brother has been conscripted by the Tsar into the army, whilst the other has been taken as a servant. Elena is desperate for a chance to start a new life. And when a train breaks down just outside her village, a train carrying a noble family destined for Saint Petersburg and an audience with the Tsar himself, Elena finds herself befriending a passenger. Ekaterina, or Cat, is of noble birth and standing, and despite initially finding Elena an amusing pastime, the two girls become firm friends. But after a freak accident concerning a Faberge egg, Elena and Cat’s lives become switched. And from a discovery of the firebird’s egg, and Cat stumbling upon Baba Yaga in her house perched atop of oversized chicken legs, this story sets the scene for a magical adventure across the wilds of Russia and The North.

So, what did I love about this book? The story is highly vivid and the writing is rich in imagery and description. Maguire certainly knows how write a fantastical world, and how to make it feel even realistic. As a Russian historian, I loved the time period in which it was set, and Maguire incorporation of Slavic and Russian folklore figures. Both Elena and Cat were girls who grew up and changed as the book progressed, and they became more likable, as Cat becomes humbler whilst Elena becomes more assertive. And the figure of Baba Yaga – a very popular supernatural being from Old Russian tales – becomes easily one of the favourites, as her no-nonsense view on the world is refreshing, especially when it helps cut down the fairytale element.

linnunjalka-talo

Image courtesy of http://lisasvensk.wordpress.com

The book also has some very life-affirming and positive messages. There is emphasis on family values, not losing yourself, and being open to different cultures and not narrow-minded. But the most obvious message comes in the form of the Ice Dragon. Towards the end of the book, Elena, Baba Yaga, Cat and others travel to the North Pole to visit an ice dragon, who cannot sleep due to humanity’s complaints and overwhelming needs, and is subsequently melting the ice with his fire. And if this isn’t a clear message about global warning, then I don’t know what is. But after the children assure the ice dragon that they would cut down on their own greed, he seems to fall asleep. To me, this is such a clever way of writing about anti-materialism and being more mindful of the planet’s needs. And for younger readers to read this, and perhaps take it in without realising it, it certainly has that moralistic ground that fairytales always have a base in.

But I did have some criticisms over this story. For a start, the plot can be very convoluted at times, and sometimes seem very long-winded. Not much happens in the first third of the book, and despite the action picking up later, this long-winded introduction does affect it in the long run, as it made it sometimes hard to follow, hard to read and just hard to digest. I also disliked Baba Yaga’s references to modern-day culture. She mentions Kool-Aid, Cheerios and musicals that were written long after tsarist Russia, and despite her stating that her magical powers allows her to travel between time periods, it completely lost the Imperial Russian feel of the book, and made the writing feel awkward.

But all-in-all, I did enjoy the book. The end was fairly satisfying and neat, as it brought the stories all together in one large fairytale mismatch, and all the characters parted after a period of growth. With a good mixture of both fictional and real historical characters, Maguire brought to life a well-written and overall fairly good piece of fairytale fun, and despite it being marketed for Young Adults, I would say that ages of 10+ could read, and enjoy it with ease.

But let me know if you’ve read Egg & Spoon! And what are your thoughts on modern/traditional fairytales?

The Silent History by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett – Book Review

Title: The Silent History

Authors: Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett.

Rating: 3.5/5

Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Dystopia, Adult Literature, Contemporary Fiction, Social Media Literature.


“Let the unknown be unknown. The things we need will reveal themselves in time.”

Thanks to the lovely people at Nudge-book.com, I was sent this book as a gift, alongside my main review text (link to that right here). And when I read the blurb and little insider summary of the book’s history, I was instantly intrigued.

The Silent History was originally published and serialised through an award-winning app, and released little by little as field studies and testimonals. It focuses on the tale of a generation of children born without speech, without language and without any obvious means of communication with the outside world. These are called ‘The Silents’. So instantly, the children are labelled under various terms31b3rhddlpl-_sy344_bo1204203200_
– a blessing, an epidemic, a freakshow, a scientific miracle, or just outcasts. The story is told through 120 individual testimonals, ranging from parents of ‘silent’ children, to doctors, friends, leaders and random observers, and it narrates how the children were first diagnosed, and how, through the years of 2011-44, these children grew into a world that saw the ‘silents’ change from being freaks of nature and into something far more powerful.

Now, I had my copy sent to me in a paperback book format. So I cannot review this as how it was originally published, as I didn’t have, or was even aware of the app. So, I apologise in that sense. But, after reading it, I can see how amazing this would have been as a novel-by-the-way-of-an-app. I have gathered through my research that there are even parts of the book that I haven’t been able to access, due to the user interaction that only the app can provide, which adds another level of this story completely.

Whilst I was reading it, I noticed there are definite touches of Sci-Fi, fantasy and even end-of-the-world in this book. With the ‘silents’ being diagnosed, humiliated and labelled an epidemic and then basically marginalised by the rest of society, there is a real sense of isolation and tension throughout the stories. With the use of first-hand and oral recordings of the silents history, it felt very World War Z, and the scenes of the motely groups of silents banding together was highly reminiscent of the zombie genre (think countless scenes in The Walking Dead) so I thought that the whole idea of discrimination was done really well.

With the people of the narrative, I also thought these were written extremely well. The authors could definitely explain human emotions, especially when said humans were at their limits. There are sections, like Theo (the manic, overprotective father) and his silent daughter, Flora, which does show postivity and family bonds, but not traditional sense at all. The most amusing character was either the straightforward Francine or the manic, cultish Patti, as they brought humour and a sense of realness to the crazy world they ipadiphone-33203a116f049163aa165def8aeb2a65lived in.

So yes, I found the premise and the writing was of a very high level. The original writers of the app and stories had clearly thought this out. But for me, the real problem was the translation of app-to-book. Like I said, I can definitely see how this would have worked as an app. It would have been so interesting, as the characters and stories would have been slowly given out, so the story would have been kept fresh and intriguing. But that doesn’t really work on paper. I was interested for 3/4 of the way through, but then it started to lose its focus and the ending wasn’t satisfying enough. Some characters just seemed to disappear without any proper farewells, and I did have to push myself to actually finish. Maybe due to how it was written or delivered, there were some parts were the narration felt slow and the big climax was disappointing to say the least.

But honestly, I think that is due to how it was changed from app to book. It does go to show that how stories are told originally really makes all the difference!

So unfortunately, I cannot give this a 4/5. The premise was fantastic, as was the writing. But it just didn’t work as a book. Not to this reviewer anyway.

But let me know! Have you ever read or used The Silent History app/book? How does it compare?

Once again, huge thank you to Nudge for sending me this.

Links:

To buy the book – Waterstones/Amazon

Website – Click Here