Review: Horde by Ann Aguirre

Review: Horde by Ann AguirreHorde by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #3
Published by Feiwel & Friends on 2013-10-29
Pages: 432
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Enclave, Outpost

The epic conclusion to Ann Aguirre's USA Today bestselling trilogy. The horde is coming. Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they're not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn't run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade's love.

Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn't been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them. This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

Thoughts: I’ve been Team Aguirre for years now. She is one of my all time favourite authors and, unfortunately for the world, I think she is shockingly underrated. This woman excels in every genre she puts her hand to – be it urban fantasy, Young Adult, Romance or Science Fiction. Every time I pick up one of her books I remember that this? This is why I am a reader.

With that glowing praise in mind, let’s move on to Horde, the final book in Aguirre’s Razorland trilogy.

When I think back to the first book – Enclave – I see now that Aguirre had had this dramatic conclusion planned for us from the beginning. It seemed like a simple “zombie” apocalypse novel at the time and, while I adored it, I never could have foreseen Horde. I would never have predicted her creating such a complex universe, taking such a different view of strong women at the end of the world, or completely twisting the definitions of “good guys” and “bad guys”.

That is because I made the assumption that, as Aguirre was writing YA, she would stick to a lot of YA tropes. For instance, you don’t let your YA heroine take off on adventures that will last months, seasons, years… because then she won’t be a 16-year-old anymore. She’ll be a competent adult. Well, screw tropes. War takes a long time and, unlike Katniss, Deuce does not have a fully trained army sitting in the wings ready to start fighting. Deuce needs to build the world she wants to live in from the ground up.

It is a long slog (timeline-wise, Horde covers the longest period of the three books) and SO MUCH happens. Seriously, a LOT OF PLOT. *luxuriates in plotty-YA novel* Yes, it is a book about growing up. Yes, there is some romance. But mainly it is a book about re-establishing the human race. It takes TIME and PAGES, people.

I can’t say too much more, as my favourite aspect of Horde is an extremely spoilery plot twist. One that made me feel as though Aguirre’d read my criticism of Killbox (one of her adult Science Fiction novels) and decided fix the problem this time round.* I was punching my fist to the sky screaming “YES THIS” when I got to it… leave me a comment if you know what I’m talking about!

Bottom line: Horde is an EPIC, thought-provoking conclusion to a stunning series. I cannot recommend the Razorland series enough. Go forth and get the whole bloody trilogy in hardback. They’re worth every penny.

* Note that I am under no illusion that that happened but, nevertheless, am extremely happy to see that one of my favourite authors has readdress one of the few issues I’ve ever had with her writing. So… yay!

Review: Outpost by Ann Aguirre (+ Audiobook Excerpt!)

Review: Outpost by Ann Aguirre (+ Audiobook Excerpt!)Outpost by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 317
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Enclave, Horde

Deuce’s whole world has changed.

Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn't fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.

To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.

Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

Thoughts: I loved Outpost. It was rough, tough, gritty and glorious.

Ann Aguirre is one of those authors whose works I end up hoarding. I want to keep her books for “rainy days” because her work is flawless. But sometimes this hoarding can lead to me disliking a book, because I’ll have waited too long and end up not remembering a thing. I adored Enclave when I read it in 2011, but that was a whopping 2.5 years ago. Perhaps I wouldn’t fall back in love with Deuce and Fade? Perhaps I should have read this book last year when my memory was still fresh? *frets*

Luckily, this was not the case! Despite taking a 2+ year break from the Razorland series, I fell straight back into sync after only 5 or so pages. Aguirre does a great job at reminding you of previous events – using some strategic-and-short flashbacks and some seamless references – without making it feel like she is Reminding You (TM).

Anyhow, on to the book.

Deuce has started to work her way up my list of all time favourite heroines. She is courageous, kind in her own way and possesses a level of pragmatism that I envy. She understands those who hate her, though she won’t let them get in her way. She doesn’t let a bit of emotional turmoil stop her, and she certainly won’t let some man “own” her. She is also developing from the soldier she was trained to be: thinking for herself, and not accepting things at face value. This girl is a leader.

Deuce is also confident in her romantic feelings, thank god almighty. Yes, there is a “romantic triangle” of a sort in Outpost, but it is not a psychological triangle. Deuce always knows what she wants, which made me accept and even enjoy the wee bit of romantic tension that played out in Outpost.

Moving away from Deuce’s awesomeness, Outpost was also a fantastically plotty novel. We learn a whole lot more about the origins of Aguirre’s post-apocalyptic world and we gain some amazingly creepy insight into the “Freaks”. Just… OMG. I really, really, really need to know more. It kills me that there is only one book left in this trilogy, because I want a prequel, a sequel and a tie-in novel.

There was also a wealth of wonderful secondary characters and sub-plots in Outpost. A lot is going on in the background and we get to see peaks of it all through Deuce’s eyes. Aguirre has built a fantastically complex world; you can tell there’s a backstory behind every little detail. Now that’s my kind of storyteller.

Bottom line? This is my first 5 star rating of the year, and I’d give it six stars if I could. Brilliant book in a brilliant series.

Outpost Audiobook

Thanks to Outpost’s publishers, I am happy to be including an fabulous 10 min excerpt from the audiobook version of Outpost. Give it a listen!

Review: Killbox by Ann Aguirre

Review: Killbox by Ann AguirreKillbox by Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax #4
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 353
Genres: Science Fiction
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Also in this series: Grimspace, Wanderlust, Doubleblind

Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

And her tactics are needed more than ever. Flesh-eating aliens are attacking stations on the outskirts of space, and for many people, the Conglomerate’s forces are arriving too late to serve and protect them.

Now, Jax must take matters into her own hands by recruiting a militia to defend the frontiers—out of the worst criminals, mercenaries, and raiders that ever traveled through grimspace…

Thoughts: Killbox was… different. More than any of the previous books, Killbox was a war book. March, Jax, Vel, Dina, Constance, Doc – hell, everyone – is at war and there is no time for them to sit about thinking about what they want out of life. There’s a galactic threat on the horizon and selfishness is not the word of the day.

In other words, there was a lot of killing, training and marching in uniforms. Great stuff, in the plotty sense, but I felt as though it was a bit rushed. Months would pass in a couple of sentences and, as a result, it seemed as though Jax wasn’t interacting with certain characters. *cough* Vel. *cough* I know it was necessary in order to cover the various plotlines Aguirre had set out, but that didn’t make it all that enjoyable.

Also, I had issue with the Morgot. For the first 3 books, I considered them rather like Reevers (from Firefly) – pure, unadultered evil with no redeemable qualities. But there is one scene in the book that made me pause and consider think: hey, maybe these guys are open to parlay? And then suddenly the scene was over and my idea was never followed up on. Will it be covered in other books? I doubt it… but I hope so. I can handle pure evil, but I am not OK with simple assumptions about a species!

But on to my real issue with Killbox: March. March. God, I remember the days when he and Jax had me in tears – when just the word “March” made me whimper. Now, when I try to access those feelings… I find I have nothing to give. To be honest, I have grown sick of his man-angst. I am sick of his constant, “Oh Jax, I love you! But now I have to leave you as the fate of the world is in my hands (or so I think).” I get that he is a good guy. I get that he is a good soldier. I still care about him, but I really just want to hit him over the head and tell him to get over himself. Because this misery he insists on putting himself through? It is not good for Jax anymore. He isn’t good for Jax anymore.

Vel, on the other hand? He hasn’t wavered. He stayed true to himself and developed as a character – just as March did – and yet he has never abandoned Jax. Aguirre acknowledges this and, yes, she is clearly a fan of the Vel/Jax relationship… and yet there was a terrible lack of Vel in Killbox. Why, Aguirre, why? *sobs silently*

Bottom line? Killbox is the weakest book in the Jax series – although maybe if all the Jax/March misery had been written out of it, I may have enjoyed it more.

Review: Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

Review: Doubleblind by Ann AguirreDoubleblind by Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax #3
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 310
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Grimspace, Wanderlust, Killbox

Sirantha Jax isn’t known for diplomatic finesse. As a “Jumper” who navigates ships through grimspace, she’s used to kicking ass first and taking names later—much later. Not exactly the obvious choice to sell the Conglomerate to the Ithtorians, a people whose opinions of humans are as hard as their exoskeletons.

And Ithiss-Tor council meetings aren’t the only place where Ambassador Jax needs to maneuver carefully. Her lover, March, is frozen in permanent “kill” mode, and his hair-trigger threatens to sabotage the talks—not to mention their relationship.

But Jax won’t give up on the man or the mission. With the Outskirts beleaguered by raiders, pirates, and the flesh-eating Morgut, an alliance with Ithiss-Tor may be humanity’s only hope. Which has Jax wondering why a notorious troublemaker like her was given the job…

Thoughts: There were so many things I loved about Doubleblind, I hardly know where to start. While this was an unmistakably Jax book, it was extremely different Aguirre’s previous books. There was less action and a lot more talking. And while that may sound anticlimactic, it was, if anything, even more nerve-wracking than guns-blazing action. Why, you ask? Because it was all politics – old-school, world-saving negotiations with assassination attempts and violent demonstrations. It was The West Wing on crack in space. It was glorious.

And to top it all off, all this glorious political action took place on Ithiss-Tor. When I first read Grimspace, I was rather floored by the entire book… but Vel just knocked my socks off. He only appears in the last, say, 50(?) pages of the book and in that time became one of my very favourite characters. So getting to visit the home-world he left behind? Well, nothing could have made me happier.

In Doubleblind, Aguirre reveals a lot about the Ithiss-Tor, Ithorian culture, and – best of all – Vel’s past. If I hadn’t loved Vel before, Doubleblind would have sealed the deal. He is such a noble, loyal, brilliant individual – and his relationship with Jax is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. He cares about her so deeply, in a way that completely defies traditional values. He’s an alien – an insect-like, long-living, practically Vulcan alien. And yet, I adore him. You will too.

Doubleblind also includes an extremely traumatised March. This is not at all the man we met in Grimspace: he’s senselessly violent and pretty much soulless. Aguirre handled his changed interaction with Jax spectacularly – although, I admit, my attachment to the two of them together began to wane in this book… I’ll just leave it at that.

Bottom line? Best book since Grimspace. Pick up this series if you love 3D characters and complex plots.

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Review: Enclave by Ann AguirreEnclave by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 259
Genres: Dystopian YA
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Outpost, Horde

In Deuce's world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed 'brat' has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms.

Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember. As a Huntress, her purpose is clear--to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She's worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing's going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade.

When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce's troubles are just beginning. Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn't like following orders. At first she thinks he's crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don't always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth.

Thoughts: Some authors are just born better than others. Call it a natural selection or literary Darwinism, but I have found it to be one of those undeniable facts. They sit a cut above their piers, and make you glad to be a reader. Enclave is the third Ann Aguirre book I’ve read, and it confirmed what I suspected: she is one of those authors.

In case you were wondering, Enclave is a zombie apocalypse book. There are a lot of dead bodies, a few crazy!backwards!gangs, and people who will try to eat you. But that being said, it is a very different take on the whole thing. In fact, I could probably go into a whole spoiler-filled debate about whether or not Enclave should be called a zombie apocalypse book… but you’ll have to read it to see what I mean.

Okay, so on to the goodness. I absolutely adored the two main characters – Deuce and Fade. For starters, both of the characters are basically adults.  Life has made them grow up fast, and there’s little time to sulk about it.  A century ago, it was completely normal to raise children at the age of 15 – so it’s only logical that we’d fall back into the habit post-apocalypse. Both Deuce and Fade have embraced their responsibilities and are all the stronger for it.  Deuce rather reminds me of Rose from the Vampire Academy series (only about 15 years more mature) in the sense that she puts protecting others first. It’s inspiring to read and I hope more YA authors (*cough* and adult authors *cough*) consider writing more responsible!mature!characters. As Enclave proves, they can be just as entertaining.

Even though there is some romantic tension between Deuce and Fade, there are many more important things that take precedent (like survival, and whatnot). Not to mention the fact that, despite being hardcore warriors in their own right, they are pretty innocent when it comes to the whole romance business. It’s a different world, and that kind of intimacy is something that couldn’t stay alive. As readers, of course we know what to look out for, but seeing characters who do not even know what a family is… well, watching them start to develop one on their own is amazing.

Aguirre also hits on a few issues that I think some people will really be… um… shocked by? That’s not the right word… let’s just say she includes a few plot twists later in the book that may have you up in arms. We have all gotten rather accustomed to some things being labeled as badbadbad – unforgivable under any circumstance. But sometimes self-preservation is more important than justice – occasionally a person can do evil things for an apparently good reason.

I’ll leave you to ponder that one.

Bottom line? Ann Aguirre will rock the YA world. She absorbs you into her novels and pulls twists out of places you didn’t even know existed. I’ll be buying the hardcover.

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