Ironskin – Tina Connolly

Ironskin.kindleBook one of Ironskin. First published October 2nd 2012 by Canvas

Genre: Steampunk / Fantasy

Note: This review contains spoilers

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a “delicate situation”—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

I’m so glad this book popped up on my Goodreads feed. I was a bit put off by the fact it was based on Jane Eyre *cue A-Level Literature flashbacks* but I’m happy I stuck with it. Even though it has quite a few elements of Jane Eyre in it, Connolly spins her own story around it merging the original elements and her own additions really well. I like the theme of beauty as well as the price of beauty that runs through the book.

Jane is an ironskin, a victim of the Great War with the Fey. She has a Fey curse on her cheek that infects those around her with Rage. Because of this, she must cover her cheek with an iron half mask as iron is the only thing that can contain the curse. Her curse makes it hard for her to find work, until she comes across a carefully worded advert for a tutor. This is how she meets Mr. Rochart and his young daughter Dorie.

Unlike in Jane Eyre, in Ironskin Jane’s duties as a governess/tutor to Dorie are quite central to the plot. Dorie appears to be Fey-cursed like Jane, even though she has no visible scar. Jane’s job is to help her with these abilities, which isn’t easy with a reluctant Dorie and Mr Rochart being mysterious around the house. The story is mostly concerned with the mystery behind Dorie’s Fey abilities, as well as Jane’s efforts to help the girl with her powers.

Jane is a great character – a strong willed, independent woman determined to make her own way in the world despite the difficulties she faces being an ironskin. Her sister Helen offers her an easy way out; move in with her and her soon-to-be husband, but Jane much prefers to stand on her own two feet. She’s cursed because she joined her brother in a battle against the Fey, when they came out of the forrest to attack her village. Her brother died and Jane was cursed, but she still fights to find her place in this new post-war society. 

Jane and Rochart’s relationship is slow to build, and it came a bit like a shock to me when he (inevitably) confesses his love for Jane. I felt Jane and Dorie’s relationship was built up far better. Rochart spends most of his time sulking and being mysterious, then all of a sudden throws a party and then he sulks some more. I understand that being a mysterious artist is kind of the point, but I felt we needed to see just a little bit more of him in order to become invested in his and Jane’s relationship. I found his work far more interesting than him. He’s basically a plastic surgeon for the elite, utilising Fey magic to make his clients beautiful.

My main complaint about Ironskin is that the world building is quite confusing. We’re told there’s been a Great War against the Fey but the how and why isn’t really explained and at times I found the concept of the Fey hard to grasp. This was a bit disappointing, as I was quite interested in this new way of depicting the Fey. I’ve now read book two, Copperhead, and it does a better job answering those questions, so I’m happy to see the series has evolved nicely. Also, because of it being based on Jane Eyre, I kept picturing the wrong time period. Again, this was better written in Copperhead – perhaps the city as a setting in the second book helped set the time period better.

Score

 6.5/10

Recommended to…

I don’t read much Steampunk, so I had to ask my sister for recommendations after this. She said the book made her think of A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray and if you’re interested in the Steampunk element, Soulless by Gail Carriger is a good follow-up book.

Followed by…

Copperhead  

 

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Weekend – Christopher Pike

Weekend - Pike

Guest review by Kristian Elliott.

First published June 1st 1990 by Hodder Children’s Books.

Genre: Young Adult Thriller

Note: This review contains spoilers. 

“The sun is out. The beach is beautiful. The sea is perfect. And for nine friends this weekend in Mexico is a dream vacation. But that dream turns into a nightmare by a mysterious plot for revenge.”

I was recommended Weekend after hitting a wall while writing a short story about some teenagers on vacation at a mystery house. I’m glad that I came across this as it’s helped me considerably in terms of how to build tension and suspense.

This group of friends have all gone on vacation to visit their sick friend, Robin, who was poisoned at their last party. Someone mixed insecticide into her drink. Now, a dialysis machine is the only thing keeping her alive. It’s clear that one of the friends on vacation poisoned her, and when strange things start to occur, they realise someone is trying to avenge Robin.

Pike does an amazing job with the dialogue between characters. There is plenty of humour and you get a real sense of their teenage antics. The characters are vivid and Pike portrays their angst and guilt in a way that the reader reciprocates. This is particularly at its strongest when Shani divulges all the terrible things Leda did to embarrass Kerry during her cheer rally. The incident led to Kerry being teased and bullied around school for being a slut. Leda also stole Kerry’s boyfriend. Then there’s the big reveal where we discover it was Kerry who poisoned Robin, by accident: she wanted to poison Leda. Essentially, the victim created another victim. What Pike does best throughout this book is create suspense, and  slowly reveals the mystery in a fast-paced manner.

The main issue I had with this story was the way in which the group of friends punish Kerry for poisoning Robin. It didn’t feel realistic. Flynn’s role in particular irked me: he seemed too perfect and too good to be true. Good looking, no problem with that. So amazing with a hand gun he can shoot a rattlesnake in half several yards out, just before it bites someone on the leg; maybe that’s possible. Pretends to be a psychopath obsessed with avenging Robin so that he could get all the confessions from the group – makes some sense. He’s Robin and Leda’s long lost brother who just to happens to be able to donate a kidney to Robin and save her life – really?

Regardless, this was an enjoyable read.

Score

7/10

Recommended to…

I recommend this book to lovers of YA Thrillers. If you’ve read any of Pike’s books before and enjoyed them, then you’ll love this. Sticking with the theme of friends on vacation, I recommend reading Oblivion Road by Alex McAulay.

I’m new to reading Christopher Pike and this was only his second novel. I’ve heard that he’s the master of fast-paced thrillers in YA. So I’m going to read the highly rated The Last Vampire series next, also by Pike, which I’ll review.

Cinder – Marissa Meyer

CinderBook one of The Lunar Chronicles. First published January 1st 2012 by Feiwel & Friends.

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Note: This review contains spoilers.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the centre of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I’m a sucker for all things fairytales. So, of course, the minute I saw the beautiful cover and read the blurb I was hooked. Cinderella as a cyborg? In futuristic China? Bad guys that live on the Moon? Hell yes. I was immediately drawn by the concept. 

Cinder is an original take on a familiar and well known fairytale, but the story is unique and it’s easy to forget it is based off Cinderella at points. The story depicts Cinder’s struggles as a cyborg without memories of her childhood. She meets prince Kai when he comes to her mechanic shop to fix one of his androids. Their relationship grows from Cinder being starstruck to a tentative friendship with a lot of banter. I like how they are not thrown together immediately, but are given time to develop feelings. 

Cinder as a character is very relatable. She’s hardworking and no push-over. Her problems and insecurities only make her stronger. When she finds out she’s immune to the illness that’s plaguing New Beijing, she works with Dr. Erland to find a cure which takes a lot of courage. 

Cinder also has a great supportive cast. My favourite character has to be Iko, a small ‘defective’ android with a cheery personality close to that of a teenage girl. I found her amusing, and she’s Cinder’s best friend and biggest supporter. Her relationship with her adoptive family is also well-drawn and you can see the love she holds for her younger step-sister, Peony. Her stepmother Adri is a horrible, horrible human being, but at the same time you can see that she loves both her daughters and acts so horribly towards Cinder because she’s afraid of Cinder’s negative impact on what remains of her family. 

The introduction of the Lunars – a colony, turned monarchy, who live on the moon and have creepy powers – makes Cinder more than just a fairytale retelling. Queen Levana is a great villain. She’s a strong ruler, manipulative and ruthless. You never know what she’s hiding under her projected illusion of beauty. She’s trying to secure an alliance with Earth through marriage to Prince Kaito, Crown Prince of the Eastern Commonwealth. Queen Levana is threatening war if an agreement isn’t reached, leaving Kai and Cinder’s growing relationship in a precarious position. Her role as a villain grows in the following books, Scarlet and Cress and she’s a link that ties quite a few of the main characters together.

I really loved this book. It has enough elements of the original tale to be a retelling, but the author makes the story her own. All the elements introduced lead nicely into the following books of the series – which I read as soon as  managed to get my hands on them. I am looking forward to book four, Winter, which is out next September!

Score

8.5/10

Recommended to…

Lovers of fairytale retellings. Another of my favourite Cinderella-based novels – with more Asian influence – is Shadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriott. Of course, I also have to recommend Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire – author of Wicked – which is one of my all-time favourite retellings.

Followed by…

Scarlet

 

Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder

PoisonStudy

Book one of The Chronicles of Ixia. First published October 1st 2005

Genre: High Fantasy 

Note: This review contains spoilers

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

I got this lovely collection for Christmas and they have sadly been stuck on the shelf under the rest of my to-read pile since then. They came highly recommended by my sister, so I eventually put them at the top of my reading pile and managed to get through almost three books in a week! I’m currently on Fire Study and looking forward to seeing where Yelena’s journey will take her. But that’s a story for another post…

IMG_4117What can I say about Poison Study? It gripped me right from the beginning. The narrative style is deceptively simple; the language very readable and easy to follow. At the beginning, the lack of description was more noticeable (probably due to the last book I was reading making use of more flowery language) but as I got into the story I noticed it less. I found the stark use of language mirrored the Ixian way of life, although I’m not sure if this was the author’s intention.

The idea was original: it was the first thing that drew me to this collection. I’d never read about a food taster before: I’d read about assassins who used poison as a preferred weapon, but never about the person standing in between the target and the would-be-murderer. The set-up of the condemned murderer being offered a chance at survival reminded me a bit of Throne of Glass, another reason I was drawn to the story.

The country of Ixia was well drawn. The military regime was easy to picture, with everyone wearing uniforms to denote their place in society. The country is run by the Commander and his appointed Generals, who each have control of a sector of Ixia. Yelena is put under the care of Valek, the Commander’s right hand and spymaster. Valek quickly became one of my favourite characters. He’s an intelligent, deadly assassin, and seems to be one of the few people who doesn’t underestimate Yelena. I loved how their relationship was slow to build, letting the reader come to love him at the same time Yelena does.

We don’t learn much about Yelena other than what she feels necessary to tell us. Even though though the novel is written in the first person Yelena remains guarded. She is very straight forward in her narration. Her thoughts do come through at points but they don’t colour the narration. I actually had to go back and double check what point of view Poison Study was written from, as I was convinced it was close third person. I felt we learnt more about Valek through Yelena’s eyes than about Yelena herself. However, having read the second book, Magic Study, Yelena’s growth as a character is more noticeable. The secondary characters, Yanco and Ari, quickly became two of my favourite sidekicks. The scenes with them show another side of Yelena: slightly softer and fun-loving. 

I really enjoyed this book; it’s a different kind of fantasy than I usually read – less magic, but more political intrigue. 

Score

9/10

Recommended to…

The set up of the story reminded me of Throne of Glass, with a slightly less deadly heroine. If you enjoyed the ‘poison training’ aspect, you might enjoy Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Followed by…

Magic Study

Someone Else’s Fairytale – E.M. Tippetts

SomeoneElse'sFairytale

Book one in Someone Else’s Fairytale. First published December 6th 2011.

Genre: New Adult Romance / ‘Chick Lit’

Note: This review contains spoilers.

“It’s not my fairytale. It’s not anything I ever wanted. It’s the last thing I’ve ever wanted. I hate crowds. I don’t want to be the envy of every other woman on the planet. I never dreamed of being with a guy with flawless good looks. This is someone else’s fairytale.”

So far I’ve read the first two books in the series, and I’m really looking forward to the third. I think I like this book more after having read Nobody’s Damsel. Someone Else’s Fairytale  lays the groundwork for the following books quite nicely.

The story follows Chloe Winters as she navigates an unexpected friendship with Jason Vanderholdt, one of the hottest actors in Hollywood. It sounds like a generic boy meets girl, but Tippetts adds a touch of crime to the novel – a genre that becomes more central to the second book. It’s also not as straight forward as the description would have it seem. Jason and Chloe have a long journey to discover each other’s happy ever after. The story takes a detour in the form of Chloe’s friend Matthew, and for a while you’re not entirely sure what guy she’ll pick.

One of my favourite things about the book is Jason’s family and the bond Chloe forms with them. The Vanderholdts are scene stealers, and as soon as they were introduced I wanted to see more of them. They’re loud and funny and don’t care about Jason’s celebrity status. They take to Chloe immediately, even helping her when she needs legal help – both of Jason’s parents and his brother are lawyers.

The eye-catching cover is deceptively cutesy, as the story delves into some serious topics. Chloe was a victim of a violent crime at a young age, and against all odds, she survived. I like how this doesn’t define her. Chloe is a well-rounded character. However, it does influence her when it comes to pick a career and she’s studying to become a forensic scientist. She values her independence, and one of her struggles in the novel is to learn to accept help from others. 

I really enjoyed this book, so much so that I immediately bought the second as soon as I finished it. Even though the premise is fairytale-esque, the story is real and relatable. Chloe seems reserved and can be frustrating at times, but she feels like a real person which is what I enjoyed the most about this book.

Score

7.5/10

Recommended to…

Suitable for fans of modern fairytale retellings – but with a twist! There’s enough crime in it (and more in the following book) to appeal to crime-novel enthusiasts. V is for Virgin by Kelly Oram is a good follow-up book, leaning towards the Young Adult spectrum. Also Teen Idol by Meg Cabot if you like the normal girl meets movie-star aspect.

Followed by…

Nobody’s Damsel

Killing Ruby Rose – Jessie Humphries

Killing.Ruby.RoseBook one of Ruby Rose. First published May 1st 2014 by Skyscape.

Genre: Young Adult Thriller/Suspense

Note: To view spoilers, highlight the white text.

In sunny Southern California, seventeen-year-old Ruby Rose is known for her killer looks and her killer SAT scores. But ever since her dad, an LAPD SWAT sergeant, died, she’s also got a few killer secrets.

I have to admit, in this case I did judge the book by its cover and the main reason I bought it was because it was so pretty to look at. I even let my sister read it first without arguing about who had dibs. She devoured it and urged me to read it so that we could discuss it, which piqued my curiosity. My sister – much like me – is very vocal about books she loves and we recommend them to each other so that we can properly discuss and dissect the nuances of the text.

So, of course, I HAD to read it ASAP.

Killing Ruby Rose was so much more than I expected. I was ready for some watered-down Veronica Mars type story but Killing Ruby Rose took a turn in an unexpected direction.

The story was more gritty than I expected it to be. Ruby has real issues and the therapy part of the story felt real. Her issues weren’t brushed over, but addressed and incorporated into the story. The plot itself didn’t pull any punches. Some things,like when Ruby has to ally herself with a rapist, were hard to swallow but the way the dilemma was presented made you understand why Ruby made the choices she did.

One thing that did frustrate me was Ruby’s inability to put some things together. She’s meant to be very smart and she’s been stalking her targets for a while, compiling information to build a case, yet she can’t see what is in front of her. It could be understandable at points – especially for the bigger plot twists – because she is under a lot of stress, but some of the things seemed glaringly obvious and it was a bit disappointing that the reader could put the clues together and the amazing Ruby couldn’t.

The romance with Liam was well-written, and at no point overwhelmed the story: it was a thriller to the end which I liked. He was supportive of Ruby and with her every step of the way. However, some of the other supporting characters needed more development, like Ruby’s mother. We got told that she was cold and unloving and left to rely on Ruby’s assessment of her. We learnt more about her dead father than we did about the people surrounding Ruby, and although he is an integral part to Ruby’s development, it was a bit disappointing to have a well-rounded main character surrounded by two-dimensional ‘extras’.

The conclusion wrapped up enough questions to not leave you feeling cheated out of answers and enough open for a sequel. I’m interested to see how Ruby’s new living situation pans out and how the revelations she faces about her past affect her future.

Score

7/10

Recommended to…

Fans of Veronica Mars or other crime shows. The Gallagher Girls series is also a good choice if you want something more lighthearted but with teenage girls still kicking ass – this time as spies, not vigilantes.

Clueless Dogs – Rhian Edwards

Clueless DogsGuest review by Kristina Adams.

First published by Seren Books, 2012.

Clueless Dogs explores the human condition from life, to illness, to death, and an array of emotions in between. The book begins with a child at parents’ evening, in the appropriately titled ‘Parents’ Evening’. We meet a character with an overactive imagination but a distaste for studying. This continues with the grotesque ‘The Hatching’, describing a bug emerging from its cocoon and beginning its life of destruction.

We then move on to illness, with poems like ‘Broken Lifeboat’ – a powerful poem, viewing a dying parent from the perspective of a child playing with her dolls, describing the cushions as ‘Pillow sharks [lying] in wait’.

The collection continues with more poems about life, death, and illness. ‘Bridgend’ is about teenage deaths and suicides in a small town, where they’re ‘dropping like flies’ and nobody knows why. The use of this cliche fits in with the rhythm and conversational tone of the poem, and ‘flies’ rhymes with ‘suicides’ at the end of the next line. However, this seems out of place for a poet with such a talent for description, and is not necessary as there is no rhyme scheme.

The children are dropping like flies
in my home town. Nineteen suicides
in no time at all. Nanna would have called it
a Biblical curse. Others are guessing
it’s some kind of fashion
and hanging is all the rage.

‘Going For A Light’ is a narrative poem about a retired miner, who is crippled by an explosion. He loses a lung, and part of his stomach, but continues to chain smoke. He becomes a ballroom dancer, using his compensation to buy a dance hall. It is not the only narrative poem in the collection, but it is one of the most vivid, talking of someone surviving a near death experience, only to fade away through illness several years’ later.

Always something rolling round in his mouth,
never words though, not till he started dying proper
and we got into a halo round his armchair,
tobacco tin on his lap, his old face back.

There’s a break from the saddening, as the collection segues into the nostalgic. We hear about memories, and the quirks of the human condition, such as the ‘self-made man/the seller of houses’ who can’t enter his home unless someone else is in. The nostalgia continues throughout the middle of the book with three poems named after childhood.

The poem in which the title comes from, ‘Outcast Hours’, observes people who are waiting patiently – or not so patiently – in an airport. The title ties in well with the rest of the collection, comparing us all to wandering dogs, either with no aim, or with the aim of following everyone else.

Wheel-footed suitcases scurry
about me like clueless dogs,
flip flops tick-tock
on the polished rink of the concourse.

The penultimate poem, ‘Pest Controller’ has the poet talking to a pest controller about the poetry that she writes (in between graphic descriptions of her rodent problem). ‘What kind of stuff do you write?’ he asks. ‘Love poems, the dark side,’ she replies. ‘Then you don’t know what love is.’ She does indeed explore the dark side of love. The banality that can come with long term relationships, such as in ‘Quotidian’; the jealousy that we can have for a close friend in ‘Polly’; one night stands in the cleverly arranged poetry quartet of ‘Strangers’, ‘Eyeful’, ‘Sea of Her’ and ‘After’, and long-distance relationships in ‘Skype’. Edwards examines the human condition in an honest, sometimes brutal, way. She sees her characters for who they are, not who the world wants them to be, presenting them in a relatable, sometimes humorous, way.

Score

9/10

Recommended to…

Anyone with a dark sense of humour or that’s a fan of Philip Larkin.

The Lucy Variations – Sara Zarr

Lucy VariationsFirst published January 1st 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Coming of Age

Note: This review contains spoilers.

Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.

That was all before she turned fourteen.

Now, at sixteen, it’s over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. (more)

I’ve only read one other book by Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl (which I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would) but I decided to give The Lucy Variations a chance. I saw it on my tutor’s shelf and the lovely cover made me ask to borrow it. 

The Lucy Variations is beautifully evocative. I particularly love the descriptions of the music and the piano playing. However, my favourite part of the book is Lucy herself.

She’s such a brilliant character. She’s flawed, emotional and very real. You want her to succeed, and you feel her pain every time her family pushes her aside. Her journey of self-discovery is real and relatable. She’s a sixteen year old girl who feels her best years are behind her. The relationships in the novel are really well written. The Beck-Moreau dynamics are complicated and yet Zarr seamlessly introduces you to their lives.

The whole family is driven, pushing both Lucy and her brother Gus to be the best. Lucy’s grandfather is an imposing figure, the head of the family and from the moment you learn about their strained relationship you want to know more. Death doesn’t seem to faze them. When Gus’ piano teacher dies during a lesson, they casually set out to find a replacement.

This is where Will enters their lives. Even though Will is Gus’ piano teacher, he takes an interest in Lucy’s musical career – the one she has given up. He pushes her to look inside herself and analyse what she wants. Is it to perform? To simply play again? It’s his questions about her refusal to sit at a piano and play that set the story in motion.

Her strange relationship with Will becomes the centre of the story. It is this relationship – a mix of friendship, admiration and perhaps love at some point – that allows Lucy’s character to slowly unfold. The relationship is slightly mirrored by Lucy’s relationship with her young literature teacher. They are not physical relationships, but Lucy’s attraction to older creative men is part of her character to the point where she’s blind to her friend’s feelings for her. Lucy seems to be reaching for what she can’t have for most of the novel, so I’m glad that by the end she found a balance of sorts and grew into herself.

The book is written in the third person, which I find works very well for this story. It lets you take a step back and see the whole picture rather than having the narrative fully coloured by Lucy’s perspective. I doubt we’d have been able to appreciate the other side to her family’s character if we had been in Lucy’s head all the time. But as Lucy grows, so does her family. Her relationship with her brother is strained at times due to Lucy’s blind selfishness, something the reader can appreciate thanks to the third person narrative. Gus is suffering from the weight of Lucy’s decision to stop performing, and coping as well as he can. The brunt of the Beck-Moreau’s expectations have been transferred onto him.  It’s enlightening to Lucy to finally realise and see herself in Gus.

In conclusion, The Lucy Variations is a powerful coming of age story about a girl who walked away from her family’s expectations and has to learn how to deal with the consequences. 

Score

7/10

Recommended to…

Lovers of Sarah Dessen and/or Sarra Manning – basically any writer named ‘Sara’ or similar it seems. The musical element reminded me of Just Listen, another powerful coming of age novel. I’d also recommend Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols, another novel which includes music and going against family expectations. 

Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

Throne of GlassBook one in Throne of Glass. First published August 2nd 2012 by Bloomsbury.

Genre: Fantasy

Note: To view spoilers, highlight the white text.

“My name is Celaena Sardothien. But it makes no difference if my name’s Celaena or Lillian or Bitch, because I’d still beat you, no matter what you call me.”

Throne of Glass revolves around Calaena Sardothien, an eighteen-year-old assassin serving a life sentence in the salt mines of Endovier. That is, until she is dragged before the Crown Prince and his Captain of the Guard. Prince Dorian offers her a chance at freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

I’ve read many conflicting reviews about Throne of Glass, and they all hinge around one fact: whether you like Celaena or not.

Personally, I loved Celaena as a character, which might be why I devoured the book in record time. She’s arrogant, petty, self-obsessed, judgmental, sometimes emotional and vulnerable. She’s obviously not written to be liked, which makes me like her more: she feels real and relatable. Calaena is, after all, an eighteen-year-old girl. You have to expect her to act her age at some points. The downside to this was that sometimes she could be too perfect. I wanted to find just one flaw which is why I burst out laughing when Chaol told her she snored like a bear.

The first chapter – in the mines – had me hooked. I wanted to know what crimes an eighteen-year-old girl could have committed to end up in such a dire situation. I was also drawn to her blood-thirsty nature, not many young female characters are like Calaena and it was a welcome change. I love that she can be ruthless in one moment and then turn around and gush over a pretty dress the next second. The competition was interesting to read about, but I was disappointed there weren’t any more women involved in it.  At times it didn’t feel like a competition, so much as a means for Calaena to show off how talented she was. I never once doubted that Calaena would end up winning the competition. Her training sessions with Chaol, however, did add to her character and at those times she didn’t feel as perfect or arrogant as in other parts of the novel.

I liked the introduction of the Wyrd and the deeper mystery surrounding the glass castle. It added another layer to the story you can see leading into the following books of the series. As for supporting characters, I was glad when Nehemia was introduced as such a strong female character, and love her development in the next book. She seems to ground Calaena, becoming very central to her life. The villains seemed too obvious, which was a shame. There was so much potential for a well constructed antagonist. At times , I felt that the book was just a set up to the following novels in the series. The king could’ve been built up to be more threatening. I hope that in the following books we get to see an eviler side to him. For now, he just seems to sit on his throne plotting and give both Calaena and Dorian the creeps.

I’ve read many complaints about the love triangle. I didn’t find it that distracting myself – there wasn’t that much focus on it. I found there to be a nice balance between the competition and the romance, and the eventual outcome of the ‘triangle’ felt quite organic to me almost to the point that I didn’t even consider it a triangle.

I’m really glad my sister placed the books on my table and nagged me until I read them. I immediately started Crown of Midnight once I’d finished.

Score

7.5/10

Recommended to…

Lovers of fantasy involving some political intrigue, and also fantasy with strong female characters. If you enjoyed Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, this is a good follow-up series. Also check out The Assassin’s Curse if you enjoyed Throne of Glass.

Followed by…

Crown of Midnight

Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

Dark PlacesGuest review by the voice behind The Writer’s Cookbook, Kristina Adams.

First published May 5th 2009 by Shaye Areheart Books

Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller

Gillian Flynn is most famous for writing Gone Girl, but she’s also written two other novels: Dark Places and Sharp Objects.

Dark Places tells the story of Libby Day, a twentysomething whose life changed forever when she was just seven: her mother and two sisters were killed on the same night, and her brother got the blame. She’s spent her whole life living on the money donated by kind-hearted citizens, but twenty years later that money’s run out. She agrees to speak to a club that are fascinated by her family and convinced that her brother is innocent. Libby, on the other hand, has spent twenty years insisting that he’s to blame. Can she be persuaded to the contrary?

Style                                                                           

The story is told from three perspectives: Libby, her mum and her brother. Libby’s perspective is in the present day whilst her mum and brother tell of the events leading up to That Night. I found some of the parts told by Libby’s mum and brother slow, but they were necessary to the story and discovering what happened. A lot of it is information that is vital to the reader that Libby must find out on her own or can never know.

Characters

Libby is a dark, dark person. When something triggers her PTSD or depression she refers to this as her ‘dark place’. For anyone with depression or PTSD she’s a very relatable character, and for anyone without it’s an insight into how the mind of someone with either condition works. That being said, I would be very careful reading this if you yourself are in a ‘Dark Place’ – I find dark books very difficult to read when in a dark place myself.

Opening

I found the book slow to get off the ground, but I decided to give it a chance, reminding myself that it wasn’t Gone Girl (which I’d read first). It doesn’t immediately grab you, but it is worth sticking with because there are some truly crazy characters and there’s a twist at the end.

Plot

The plot is intricately weaved with a twist or two, just like in her other books. I did predict part of the ending, but I don’t know if that’s due to writing style or me reading more crime novels.

Score

7/10

Recommended to…

If you enjoyed Gone Girl or Sharp Objects, I’d recommend this book. Likewise if you’re into crime, mystery, thriller or drama, or a fan of Tess Gerritsen. Gillian Flynn is classed as a crime writer but what she really writes about is the brutality of relationships that many people are scared to think about, let alone write.