16 February 2014

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor

Karou is a 17-year-old art student living in Prague, but she is also an errand-girl for a monstrous chimaera named Brimstone, who collects teeth for a living. For the past 17 years, her two lives have been balanced between normality and teeth, but now Brimstone is sending her on more errands than ever, and the doors to his shop, to a place between two worlds, are being marked by beautiful humans with winged shadows. Lying at the heart of all this is a dark secret, and Karou is about to find out exactly what it is, and why she has everything to do with it.

This third-person narrative centres wholly around Karou, our protagonist. We find out everything as she does, and wow, is there a lot of suspense because of that. The best part about the reveal is that you really are not expecting the truth, and when it comes, there is a wealth of information, not to mention a whole storyline we were previously only dipped in and out of. While you may have a vague sense of the truth, the reality is so much more complex than you would have expected, and it ties up all the loose ends exquisitely.

Character-wise, Karou is extremely likeable, and so is her tiny friend Zuzanna. Akira, the male lead in the story, takes much, much longer to accept, and even now I am unsure if I am totally on his side. The same can be said for Brimstone, but there may be a lot more to learn about this character.

The book is rich in its' description and in terms of depth. Truly, I do not think I have read a better reveal. However, on that point I have to admit it is a really a book of two halves. The beginning is quite slow to start, with everyday cares and not a lot of action, then it builds up in suspense and action until the second half, where the plot barely moves at all. Instead, it provides an enormous flashback into the past of the characters. While the construction of the book utterly makes sense, you can't help want the present to have pushed on more than it did, especially in terms of Karou's feelings. Luckily, the second book, Days of Blood and Starlight, is out now, so we can carry on reading. I am expecting a lot more action and a lot more present storyline in this next book.

All in all, it is a very enjoyable, fantastical and beautiful read that will keep hope alive in all of us. Young Adults will love it for the sheer imagination of the ideas and for the wonderful way that love, hope and war coalesce in the story. 9 out of 10.

PS: All the covers are awesome for this, but I'm using the UK ones to show you. And I added the Novella at the end too because the cover is lovely.

15 February 2014

Shades of Milk and Honey - Mary Robinette Kowal

Jane is a plain country lady with an extraordinary talent; she can work magic. She can create images and effects by folding a kind of magical tapestry, she just picks up a thread from the ether and works it into reality. Her sister, Melody, is beautiful but not nearly so talented in the use of glamour, instead of working on herself she spends her time chasing men. Everything is as normal until the roguish Captain Livingston arrives, along with the mysterious famous Glamourist, Mr Vincent, whose work captivates Jane,

If you love Jane Austen, you'll appreciate this slightly magical take on the Regency world. There are so many likenesses between this book and Austen's work, such as the two sisters being quite like Elinor and Marianne from Sense and Sensibility, brooding male leads, handsome captains and the inevitable scandal. A fair bit has been taken from Pride and Prejudice, with the most striking one being Jane's parents being a lot like the Bennets in terms of character.

The story, if you have read books or watched film adaptations of Austen's works, is actually fairly predictable, especially once you realise how similar it is to Pride and Prejudice. And it is fair to say that if you were to compare the dimensions of each character, you would find that Austen's are more developed. However, it is a small book, and no doubt the characters you would want to know more about will be discussed in other Glamourist Histories. Despite this, the book is a quick and enjoyable read. The talk of glamour as such a commonplace thing is very interesting to read, and the way it has filtered into normal life is nice. It does not change their lives as much as it could have, but there is something good about the fact that the author has not differed too much from the regency setting, otherwise there might be no point in setting it there.

As for the characters, Jane and Mr Vincent were drawn very well, particularly our heroine, who was everything a good Austen protagonist should be. However, I would like to know more about Mr Vincent's life, and I thought that their romance was rushed nearing the end of the book, as if she suddenly liked him. There also is no description of Mr Vincent; something I would have liked as it was difficult to imagine him. Melody, the Ellsworths and the Dunkirks are all well-drawn, however, more description would have been a good addition.

As to the story, it didn't take long to get into it, and although some parts were slow, it kept a good pace throughout. The climax was really good and very exciting, with the plot seeming to propel the reader closer and closer to finale. At this point you cannot stop reading and was quite unlike any Austen novel, despite the fact that the circumstances that it arrived in were extremely similar.

This story is a fresh take on a classic style of literature, it is light, magical reading and is a great way to introduce teenagers to Regency and Austen. 8 out of 10.

10 February 2014

Clockwork Angel - Cassandra Clare

Tessa has just lost her Aunt, who she has been staying with, and now she is on a journey to England to live with her brother, who has promised to support her. What she doesn't know is that she is about to be captured and learn about abilities that she never knew she had. She will be pulled into a shadow world that is more dangerous than she ever expected, and she will do things she never thought she would.

Commonly thought of as the prequel series to The Mortal Instruments, this was my first encounter into the Shadowhunter Chronicles and I loved this steampunk turn of events. I understood the Shadowhunter world quite well thanks to the recent film adaptation of The City of Bones, but nothing could have prepared me for the amazing way that Clare captures each setting and each character. The human elements that are weaved into this very clever story are wonderful, but really the action and the way the tension builds in the story are the best parts.

Tessa, the protagonist, is a feisty American in a thoroughly British setting, and it shows, with rather amusing consequences. She grows unimaginably as a character, and I will adore seeing her start to fight more and to use her power in ways much like in the climax of the book. Clare has a knack for making her male leads quite unlikeable, and this can easily be said for Will. I hope he will redeem himself soon because at the moment he's making a pig's ear out of it, and giving no explanation (something I can't wait to find out about). And that is the thing about Clare's writing. There are so many questions you want answered and she doesn't give them to you at once, she has played out the story and left room for it all to flow into another two books, where the stakes will get even higher.

I cannot wait to get reading the next book, and to finish the series so that I can also read the Mortal Instruments. I've been told that the world that Clare creates gets even better!

9 out of 10


9 February 2014


Based on The Snow Queen, Disney's Frozen follows the story of two princesses, one of whom is born with an extraordinary power; to manipulate and create snow and ice. One day, Elsa accidentally hits her sister, Anna, with her powers and only through the powers of a few other, more earthy, magical creatures, does she survive. Elsa is forced to confine herself and to have any memories of her power wiped from her sisters mind so that she may learn to control her powers, but she just keeps getting stronger. Years later, Elsa is made Queen and the palace gates are opened once again, but things go terribly wrong and Elsa is forced to flee when her powers are revealed. Anna, our heroine, goes out in search of her, and along the way finds three rather eccentric companions; a man who sells ice for a living, a reindeer and a walking, talking snowman. The rest is exactly as you'd expect from Disney; a bit of action, a bad guy or two revealing themselves (quite unexpected actually), a lot of love and a big happy ending.

Once again, here is Disney teaching children about the healing power of love. But this time it isn't love's kiss that breaks the spell, this time it all comes down to family (and a fair bit of determination). I love that aspect, as romance is actually given a back seat and sisterly affection takes its place. Love really does conquer all, but this film is telling us that it doesnt need to be the romance we are so used to being depcited in Disney films, and that is very refreshing.

The storyline is very nicely laid out, with some great scenes, my favourite of which is the one where Elsa builds her palace, and also the confrontations between the sisters. The songs are nice, with some truly excellent singing courtesy of Kristen Bell and Broadway Legend Idina Menzel. We've all heard about the true excellence that is 'Let It Go', and wow, is it amazing, but Anna's song 'Do you Want to Build A Snowman' is actually really good too.

There is one thing that really takes your breath away though, and that is the absolutely stunning scenery, supposedly based on Norway (I've never been so I have no idea how realistic it is). The scene where Anna and Kristoff meet Olaf is beautiful, and many shot feature a landscape that wouldn't be out of place in the Alps. The whole thing is wonderfully detailed, even down to the houses of the town and the flurries of snow created by Elsa.

Here are some wonderful examples:

The kids will adore the singing, the adventure and the snowman, and adults will appreciate the fact that the story is a good one that they can sit through without becoming bored... until you've seen it a dozen times, then I give you permission to leave the sofa.

9 out of 10.