Review: Temeraire by Naomi Novik

Review: Temeraire by Naomi NovikTemeraire by Naomi Novik
Series: Temeraire #1
Published by Harper Voyager
Pages: 352
Genres: High Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Throne of Jade

When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

Thoughts: This book was absolutely, positively lovely. It’s elegantly written, in that detached-yet-emotional style I’d attribute to Jane Austen (in other words, Novik adopts a style that ordinarily makes me yawn). But, despite the style, this novel really really worked for me. Novik doesn’t go out of her way with flowery text – instead she keeps true to the Napoleonic period she is writing in, and allows the characters to speak for themselves.

And what characters. Laurence is not exactly the warm and cuddly type. His strict, rule-abiding nature (along with his tendency to be outraged by the slightest breach in protocol) at first made him rather hard to relate to. He is a product of his environment – a symbol of the age, and whatnot. But as he grows closer to his dragon Temeraire and meets the fascinating cast of characters that make up the Bristish aerial fleet, he starts to loosen that stiff upper-lip of his. It was wonderful to see him come loose, while keeping all the gentlemanly qualities with which he was raised.

I also loved the aerial fleet. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but I had been afraid that they would be the same upper-crust and bigoted types that made up Britain’s historic armies. That’s one of my main problems with historical war novels – even though I know they are depicting things in a certain way in order to be historically accurate, that doesn’t make it PC. Novik had the advantage of being able to logically insert a more “modern” group of armed forces into history.

But what really carries this book is the bond between Laurence and his dragon Temeraire. It is an extraordinary, beautiful relationship that made me gush more than any romance could have. It’s a difficult relationship to describe, as Novik’s dragons aren’t pets but neither are they “equals” to the humans that become their captains. Since they can speak, they can become a captain’s best-friend as well as their constant companion. There’s little room for family or relationships when you captain a dragon, yet you would want for nothing.

I found myself thinking about this book whenever I wasn’t reading it. Imagining what the characters were getting up to, and dreaming of their future endeavors. It was a rare pleasure.

Bottom line? If you’re looking for detailed fantasy/alternative-history novel, Novik is a must. If you’re looking for a fantastic novel about dragons, Novik is a must. If you’re literate, Novik is a must. Just don’t be put off by the formal style!

Review: The Mage in Black by Jaye Wells

Review: The Mage in Black by Jaye WellsThe Mage in Black by Jaye Wells
Series: Sabina Kane #2
Published by Orbit
Pages: 326
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Red-Headed Stepchild, Green-Eyed Demon, Silver-Tongued Devil

Sabina Kane doesn't have the best track record when it comes to family. After all, her own grandmother, leader of the vampire race, wants her dead.
So when she arrives in New York to meet her mage relatives, the reunion puts the fun in dysfunctional. Not only is mage culture completely bizarre, but everyone seems to think she's some kind of 'Chosen' who'll unite the dark races.

Sabina doesn't care who chose her, she's not into destiny. But the mages aren't Sabina's only problem. In New York's Black Light District, she has run-ins with fighting demons, hostile werewolves and an opportunistic old flame. Sabina thought she'd take a bite out of the Big Apple – but it looks like it wants to bite back.

Thoughts: I absolutely adore Jaye Wells.  Her writing, her characters, her blog – everything.  She writes snarky-but-serious urban fantasy that is violent but amusing.  It is a flawless combination that can hook even the most skeptical of UF fans. Honest to God, if I could only read one urban fantasy author for the rest of my life – it would be this one.

Mage in Black picks up right where Red-Headed Stepchild left off. Wells introduces a dozen new characters within the first few chapters – including Sabina’s long-lost twin and her vampire ex.  Both of these characters has serious potential to make me hate them – I mean, really, how could I like a competitor for Sabina’s attention when she has the sexy hexy Adam after her?

That I loved both of these so-easy-to-hate characters?  Friggin’ awesome.  Her sister is adorable and her ex is – frankly – swoonable. (despite being slightly sociopathic – but hey, on Slade it was hot).

Everything I loved about RHSC was in this book – especially the humour!  Demon/Cat!Giguhl is back in action – complete with inappropriately violent funnies (Rule #1! You do not talk about Demon Fight Club!).  There is also a ton of Sabina Kane character development.  She is still the gritty, distrusting and jaded Sabina from RHSC – the words “emotionally traumatised” have nothing on this girl.  But she is fundamentally good – or, well, at least not-evil – and watching her start to get that was amazing to read.  I am relatively certain that one day she will have a rock-solid moral code.

Until then, this is the Sabina we get to enjoy:

“Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to satisfy your need for blood without harming anyone.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?”
– Chapter 6, The Mage in Black

One of the things I love about Wells’ writing is that the humour is just so natural.  It doesn’t feel like she is trying to write a “funny” book – instead, she’s writing a book with funny characters.  That’s how the series manages to remain an oh-so-serious!UF/Horror novel and not a chick-lit paranormal comedy.  Wells can make you want to cry and then have you in hysterics a few pages later.

Even though I gave RHSC 5 stars, I’d say this book is even better than the first.  5.5 stars, if you will.  Ok, there’s not as much Adam (*woe is me*), but the villain was 100x more badass and Sabina’s character development goes into the sky-high levels of awesome.

Bottom line? The Mage in Black is gritty, bloody, painfully tragic, kick-ass and hystericalGO BUY IT.  And then lament the fact that the third book in the series, Green-Eyed Demon, doesn’t come out til March 2011.

Give this book to a boy!  If you are looking for male-friendly UF, try Jaye Wells on an unsuspecting guy.  Unlike a lot of UF out there, Sabina has no one-twu-wuv waiting at home.  And no one could claim Sabina was at all “girly” about her feelings.

At least, not without getting their ass kicked.

Review: Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Review: Grimspace by Ann AguirreGrimspace by Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax #1
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 320
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Wanderlust, Doubleblind, Killbox

As the carrier of a rare gene, Sirantha Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent which makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. Then a crash landing kills everyone on board, leaving Jax in a jail cell with no memory of the crash. But her fun's not over. A group of rogue fighters frees her…for a price: her help in overthrowing the established order.

Thoughts: I loved Grimspace so damn much, which obviously made this review nearly damn impossible to write!

Let’s start with the lead character, Jax.  Jax is seriously kick-ass, but God, is she far from perfect. We meet her at her lowest: she’s grieving, vaguely suicidal and – unknowingly – a bit spoiled.  Jax is the corporate-gal who needed to lose everything to see what assholes her employers are.  So while she goes through some pretty horrific trauma in Grimspace, it helps her “grow up”.  She doesn’t doesn’t truly change, per say, it’s more like she grows into herself.

It is fabulous to read, because honestly, who doesn’t love some good old-fashioned character development in their fiction.

Grimspace is filled with non-stop twist and turns.  Space battles, crazy alien planets and new enemies at every port – kicking ass and running like hell.  I am in love with the verse.  I’m also in love with Aguirre’s writing style.  She managed to turn the whole tale around half a dozen times without making the book bi-polar.  In retrospect, it was one of the most coherent novels I’ve read – although it seemed out of control (in a “Dude, that’s crazy awesome” sort of way) while I was reading it.

I also want to go on a fangirl rant about March, who was one of my all-time favourite male characters.  Ann Aguirre writes what I consider the ideal “bad boy”.  I use that term lightly, because what I actually mean is this:

Bastard. But I don’t mean it. […] I wouldn’t trade March for someone nice. Well, I don’t mean that like it sounds. March is a good man, just not a nice one. Does that even make sense?
Chapter 33 – Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

March is a good man but he can be cruel.  In fact, he is constantly struggling to keep from letting his cruelty take him over.  And that ever present instability?  It is exactly what makes him exactly the kind of hero you love to learn to love.  He isn’t easy and he isn’t kind, but he always has his heart in the right place.  There’s a fine line between a honest and cruel, and Aguirre straddles it perfectly.

Grimspace is labelled “Sci-Fi Romance” by some, and while it has a seriously epic romance… I think I’d keep it off the romance shelf.  Grimspace follows zero romance rules: it does not centre around a single relationship, has a heroine with more than one “tru wuv” and forgoes the whole dual-POV.  And considering the strong, mystery-filled, dangerous world Ann Aguirre creates in Grimspace – I think it would be a shame to read it solely for a romance.

Bottom line? READ THIS BOOK.  It has intergalactic global corporations and human trafficking, lesbian mechanics and scarred strippers, adorable bog aliens and unionised!bounty hunter aliens.  It’s brilliant.

Summer Shorts – Ode to Edvard Munch by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Summer Shorts is a weekly feature on Dead Book Darling, reviewing great short stories every Saturday through July-August 2010.

Ode to Edvard Munch by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Caitlin’s Website / Goodreads / Librarything

Rating: 5 stars
Featured in: The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance

Thoughts: Ode to Edvard Munch is an elegant, literary story.  It may be only 10 pages long, but it felt epic.  Breathtaking, heartbreaking and all sorts of things I can barely describe.  Beautiful.  Terrifying.  Horrific. 

Kiernan is one the most artistic writers I have ever read.  She reminded me of one of my favourite authors, literary fiction writer Javier Marias – and that is certainly not a compliment a dole out lightly.  I’ve re-read this story a few times since I first picked it up, and each time I notice something new to swoon over.

All I can do is give you a sample of her style.  I spent most of this story drawing hearts around passages – here’s one of my favourites:

“This was the hall of my mother,” she says. And now I see the corpses, heaped high between the smoky braziers. They are nude, or they are half-dressed, or they’ve been torn apart so completely or are now so badly decomposed that it is difficult to tell whether they’re clothed or not. Some are men and others are women and not a few children. I can smell them even through the incense, and I might cover my nose and mouth. I might begin to gag. I might take a step back towards the stairs leading up to the long corridor and the bloodless desert night beyond. And she blinks at me like a hungry, watchful owl.

“I cannot expect you to understand,” she says.

I cannot explain or describe the plot of this story – if I tried I would only belittle its content.  I can tell you that it is narrated by a male pianist and features a female vampire who sits on benches in central park.  We never learn their names, and we certainly never see their relationship progress to anything I would call a “romance” – but with Kiernan, there’s no need.  They will remained etched in your memory because of it.

Bottom line?  Quite possibly the most beautiful piece of UF I have ever read.  Caitlin R. Kiernan has just jumped to the top of my MUST WORSHIP list.

The Reckoning Release Day! (+ Review)

Today is the release date of THE RECKONING BY KELLEY ARMSTRONG! Yay! This is the final book in the Darkest Powers trilogy, which started with THE SUMMONING and THE AWAKENING.

You’ll probably have noticed from the layout (and my incessant squee posts) that I am a huge fan of these books. While most people got into YA because of the Twilight books, I got into the genre because of this series! The books are action-packed, and far too easy to devour. And they are packed with paranormal beasties: werewolves, necromancers, ghosts, evil!humans, and witches, oh my!



The Summoning Summary: Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Yes, like in the films. The problem is, in real life saying you see ghosts gets you a one-way ticket to the psych ward. And at 15, all Chloe wants to do is fit in at school and maybe get a boy to notice her. But when a particularly violent ghost haunts her, she gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. Her seemingly crazed behaviour earns her a trip to Lyle House, a centre for ‘disturbed teens’.

At first Chloe is determined to keep her head down. But then her room mate disappears after confessing she has a poltergeist, and some of the other patients also seem to be manifesting paranormal behaviour. Could that be a coincidence? Or is Lyle House not quite what it seems…? Chloe realizes that if she doesn’t uncover the truth, she could be destined for a lifetime in a psychiatric hospital. Or could her fate be even worse…? Can she trust her fellow students, and does she dare reveal her dark secret?


♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review! The Reckoning (Darkest Powers #3) by Kelley Armstrong

The Reckoning Release Day! (+ Review)The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Darkest Powers #3on 2010-04-06
Pages: 400
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Only two weeks ago, life was all too predictable. But that was before I saw my first ghost. Now along with my supernatural friends Tori, Derek, and Simon, I'm on the run from the Edison Group, which genetically altered us as part of their sinister experiment. We're hiding in a safe house that might not be as safe as it seems. We'll be gone soon anyway, back to rescue those we'd left behind and take out the Edison Group... or so we hope.

SPOILERS for the first to books. But most are rather vague… if you aren’t a hard-liner, you should be fine!

Thoughts: It is so damn hard to write reviews for books you love, so I apologise in advance for the incoherence! I had been holding my breath for a year waiting for The Reckoning to come out. The first two books in the series were absolutely fantastic – action packed with a very subtle romance tension that made my stomach flip. So needless to say, getting my hands on the last of the Darkest Powers trilogy as exciting as getting a new Harry Potter book as a wee girl.

Where to start?  Well, Armstrong successfully managed to include plot twists and turns I was completely unprepared for.  Considering I had had a year to think it over, I thought I had a pretty good idea how this book would go.  I was so wrong!  The action was violent, sudden, and unexpectedly terrifying – and intensely emotional.  Chloe and Derek had to do some things they really weren’t ready for, and it pained me to read what Armstrong put them through.

Only that angst?  Made it the book all the better.

We also got a great look at Tori’s character.  She was such a villian in the first book in the series, but The Reckoning has really made me like her.  Apparently she can be just as good a friend as she can be an enemy (not that she’d ever admit to liking any of these losers!)  Armstrong includes some very subtle hints at what lies beneath her bitchy exterior – Tori engrossed in The Count of Monte Cristo was one I was not expecting.  I would love to read more about her in Armstrong’s next YA books!

I am not going to comment too much about the romantic triangle in this book – other than to say it plays a much bigger role and is dealt with extremely well.  If you hadn’t picked up these books because of their lack of romance, well, you should have.  Read all three at once, and you won’t be lacking for a thing.

And how about the ending?  Well, The Reckoning really does feel like the end of a trilogy – but not the end of a series.  There are still plenty of questions left to explore, and plenty of characters you will want to hear more from.  I was left totally satisfied, but also ludicrously excited about Armstrong’s next trilogy!

Bottom line? The Reckoning is the best book in an amazing trilogy and I would give it ten stars if I could!

OMG I’ve finished it!  What now?  Armstrong is going to be publishing a new YA trilogy in the same verse, and Chloe should be featured in it (just not as the protagonist!)  She also confirmed that she will be writing more books from Chloe’s POV – but we will just have to wait a while.  To hold you off, read Kelley Armstrong’s short story Dangerous.  It is from Derek’s POV set prior to The Summoning – explaining how he and Simon ended up in the Lyle House.