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!
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.
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!
The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her.
[Note: I've edited this summary, as the official version has spoilers for the end of the book! #Fail]
Thoughts: It is an absolute TRAGEDY that I am only now writing this review. Tragedy, I say, because Scarlet is everything I’ve ever wanted in a YA novel and you’ve all had months not knowing that. Fortunately, you can go out now and get it. Right now. Go on. I can wait.
Got it? Good. Now we can talk.
You see, I normally have serious issues with the Red Riding Hood retellings. Despite liking Cinder, I had been apprehensive about how the story would play out in Scarlet. But, without spoiling the novel for you, let me just say this: Meyer’s portrayal of Wolf and his pack makes me want to send her gold stars. No really, actual gold stars. If anyone has her address, I’ll send them now. It was genius.
The strength of this book is in its characters: Scarlet‘s heroine is independent but extremely loyal to her family. She’s tough and worldly, but not so hardened by life as to stop loving. She reminds me of Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs’ novels – which is quite the compliment, I assure you. As for the Wolf in the tale: he has the right mix of violent-and-distrust-worthy and worthy-of-redemption. So many authors strive to write bad boys and just end up pissing me off. Marissa Meyer, I am happy to report, is not one of those authors. Wolf is a victim in this tale; albeit a victim that can rip your throat out.
Scarlet follows directly on from Cinder and, because of that, it follows more than one POV. This can at times mean serious confusion and reader fatigue… but not in this case. The action was easy to follow and the transitions between narrator only heightened the tension. The only critique I have is that, well, I don’t particularly like Cinder as a character and so wasn’t too interested in what she had to say. Her chapters unfortunately dragged my rating of this book from 5 to 4.5 stars.
Besides my dislike of Cinder’s character, one of my biggest peeves from Cinder was the predictability of the plot – something I am happy to report Scarlet has none of. While I could certainly tell that none of the characters were quite who they said they were, I didn’t know what to expect. Scarlet‘s plot twists and turns had all the oomph I love. There were leaps from moving trains, fights in empty theatres and kidnappings galore – but, best of all, I didn’t see any of them coming.
My goodreads updates for your amusement:
Bottom line: Scarlet is a brilliant, brilliant book. Even if you weren’t impressed by Cinder, you’ll love it.
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
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 center 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.
Things I liked about Cinder:
It was only loosely based on Cinderella. Cinder wasn’t a “sit back and wait for my fairy godmother” character and actively rebelled against her family.
The universe had fantastic potential. It was very futuristic – complete with cyborgs, flying vehicles, and aliens on the moon – and yet it also seemed quite historic – with a royal family, a hideous plague, and terrible human rights.
Prince Kai. I have never been one to swoon over a prince, but this prince? He was everything you could possibly want from a monarch: reluctant to rule but feels obligated to do the best job he can, genuinely cares about his subjects, and has no real prejudices towards people of lower classes. I wholeheartedly approve.
Things that made me roll my eyes:
The big “mystery”. Mystery… hah! Within about 10 pages I had worked out the book’s big secret – so I spent the rest of the book hoping that someone would wise up and just say it out loud before I killed them all for their stupidity. Unfortunately, is wasn’t revealed until the end of the book – and revealed with dramatic flair it did not deserve.
Cinder. While she did have quite a bit of gumption, I found her self-loathing for her cyborg nature to be extremely tiresome. I wanted to just slap her and say “I get it, you’ve had a hard knock life, but just accept the fact that you don’t deserve it and DO something about it!” In a way, it was rather like a slave believing that they are property… something I cannot possibly accept in a protagonist, although I am sure it is possible in real life.
The lunar queen. If one-dimensional were a country, she would be its queen. And, hell, I think she’d enjoy it. Queen Levana was a simple “Big Bad” and absolutely nothing else. Instead of finding her scary, I found her rather cartoonish.
And, again, the “mystery”. Seriously, this really bugged me. I mean, I get that this book was aimed at teenagers but it wasn’t aimed at oblivious idiots. I mean, c’mon…
In short, Cinder is good. Quite good indeed. But it isn’t the miraculous novel that some reviews have made it out to be. It has significant flaws and is clearly a debut novel. I just hope that Meyer does a better job with the sequel…
Bottom line?Cinder is an enjoyable sci-fi novel with a well-incorporated fairy-tale at its heart. But is it the best thing since sliced bread? No, it is not.
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.