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!

Early Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Early Review: Pure by Julianna BaggottPure by Julianna Baggott
Series: Pure #1
Published by Headline
Pages: 448
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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We know you are here, our brothers and sisters... Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Thoughts: I wanted to wait for this book to come out before I raved about it. Honest to God, I planned on waiting. Because, really, I loathe it when people rave about books that aren’t available for puchase. But in this case, I just couldn’t keep it all in. This book is fan-bloody-tastic, and I need to share.

Pure is quite possibly the most terrifying YA novel out there… which is saying quite a bit. The Hunger Games was terrifying, as was Blood Magic and The Replacement. But the very premise on which Pure is based is so horror-film terrifying that it has to take the cake as the scariest YA book I’ve ever read.

Ok, so how do I explain?

Well, Pure is set in a post-apocalyptic world. But unlike a lot of books, it isn’t set 50 years after the apocalypse – this end-of-the-world is in living memory. And the people suffering hurt all the more because they can remember the time when they weren’t in pain.

Pain, you ask? Well, that’s an understatement. Pure is set after a nuclear explosion has decimated the world. But the problem isn’t with the casualties of death, it’s with the pseudo-scientific effects of the radiation. At the time of the attack, people were merged with their surroundings. By surroundings I mean objects, animals, trees, dirt, and even other people. They fused together and everyone became, well, everyone else.

To say that this event made people less-than-friendly is an understatement. While the fused survivors are to be pitied, they are also the most fearful characters I’ve read in a long time. I found the whole premise utterly realistic and utterly haunting. Pure held me captive.

The reason, however, that Pure isn’t getting 5 stars has to do with the nitty-gritty character business. While I surprised myself by enjoying the multi-narrator style, there were things I found a bit too coincidental. Not to mention that some of the relationships in the novel felt rather… rushed. Unfortunately, these inconsistencies kept me slightly apart from the main characters. My hope is that I grow to understand them more in the next novels!

Bottom line? Pure is an original, steampunk-esque take on dystopian fiction. It’s the stuff of nightmares and you’re going to love it.

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Review: Matched by Ally CondieMatched by Ally Condie
Series: Matched #1
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 366
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Thoughts: Matched is one of those books suffering from so-much-hype-I-don’t-want-to-read-it syndrome. Every blogger out there has raved about the book, and as a result it took me a year to pick it up. Call it reverse psychology or whatever. But with the release of the sequel Crossed coming up, I knew I had to give Matched a shot. And – surprisingly – it lived up to the hype!

At its core, Matched is a romance novel. But like all good romantic stories, it is about so much more than just the romance. Its main message is an age-old one: Do not go gentle into that good night. The protagonist, Cassia, goes from being a girl who embraces the status quo to being a girl who refuses to give in. It is quite a dramatic change and the cause of the change is not just her newfound romance. There is a loss in her family, she has the things most precious to her taken away, and there are threats made against her two lovely parents. And, above all, there is the poetry. The beautiful, illegal poetry that tell her to not go gentle. It’s a message that resounded with me, and I think will certainly speak to teens.

Moving on to the characters – I can wholeheartedly say that I enjoyed them all. Both love interests were fantastic (a real coup for a teen novel). They were gentle, kind, and smart – they didn’t necessarily make you swoon, but they did fill me with the overwhelming urge to keep them safe. Safe, you ask? Well, while Matched is a very sedate dystopian novel (there aren’t people running about with guns and cattle prods), there is a danger present in the book that was just a scary as actual violence. The Society expressed their power subtly, by reducing your food portions or cutting down your trees. It wasn’t overt but it was constant. The effect was extremely unnerving.

I also enjoyed the integral role Cassia’s family played in the novel. Her parents were wonderful, supportive people, and her relationship with them was one of the healthiest I have ever seen in a YA novel. It was refreshing to read – especially since most teenagers actually do have good relationships with their parents!

My only complaint would be Cassia. While I didn’t dislike her, I found her to be rather bland. Every other character I felt something for, but Cassia felt like a blank slate for the reader to place themselves into the novel. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it kept me from truly connecting with the novel. Shame.

Bottom line? Matched was an extremely enjoyable dystopian novel. It’s the perfect book for people who wanted more romance in their Hunger Games!

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #1
Published by Scholastic
Pages: 374
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Set in a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called The Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed. When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdee steps forward to take her younger sister's place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

I adored The Hunger Games. I consumed the novel in less than a day, and suffered from acute post-amazing book depression. But since everything that could possibly be said about this book has already been said, I’m doing something a bit different for this “review”. I’m giving you a few book-a-likes: novels that, if you loved, pretty much guarantee that you’ll love The Hunger Games (and vice-versa!).

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Both Katniss and Graceling‘s Katsa have had lives that have made them extremely mistrusting, almost emotionally numb, and reliant only upon themselves.  And yet, despite their harshness and their talent for making things die, they’re easy to root for.  The only difference? Katsa manages to get through a lot of her issues in the one novel. It’s going to take Katniss a while longer.

Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Enclave deals with one of The Hunger Games‘ key issues: children killing out of necessity.  Enclave‘s Deuce also shares many of Katniss’ vulnerabilities: they would both sacrifice themselves for their families, and both are complete innocents when it comes to romance. Had Deuce been born in District 12, her name would have been Katniss (although Deuce does have much better control over her temper!).

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
This one is bit of a stretch, since I can neither say it takes on any of the sociological issues that The Hunger Games addresses nor that it’s protagonists have anything in common.  However, both of Katniss and Maya are fierce, fierce, fierce leading ladies.  If you want another novel with a tough-but-sensitive star, read The Gathering.

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
All that react-before-thinking that Katniss has going on?  Grimspace‘s Jax has that in spades.  And I’m not quite sure what it is exactly, but there was a certain vibe in The Hunger Games which reminded me all too strongly of Grimspace.  If you’re willing to take my word for it, give this Adult Sci-Fi novel a shot.

Bottom line? All the above books I gave 4.5 stars or higher, and would 100% recommend them.  I hope by comparing them to The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins fans will add them to their wishlist.  But if you were like me, who emphatically resisted all the hype surrounding this novel, I hope this post gave you some incentive to start reading Collins’ fantastic trilogy!

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