Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare is the first in The Dark Artifices, a new Shadowhunters series set around the Shadowhunters Institute in LA.  It focusses on Emma Carstairs and her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, characters introduced in City of Heavenly Fire, the final book in the Mortal Instruments series.  This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 and I LOVED it.  The setup for Lady Midnight was one of the things I enjoyed most about City of Heavenly Fire and it more than lived up to its promise. I devoured this 700+ page book in less than a day.

What I liked

The characters.  Although Emma is a smart, engaging kickass heroine, I found my sympathies being drawn more to Julian – his struggles and challenges spoke to me even more than Emma’s.  I was also very interested that this time we meet some Shadowhunters who do not necessarily fit the mould of young teens, perfect in mind and body who embody the ideals of the Clave.  Particularly interesting to me was Tiberius, who is clearly on the autism spectrum.  I thought it was wonderful how he was shown to make a significant contribution to our protagonists’ quest even if it wasn’t always by going out and fighting demons.  I am interested to see how the Clave tries to handle him in the future.  We also have Mark Blackthorn, who, although technically a Shadowhunter has been strongly influenced by his time with the Fae.  In both these cases we clearly see how Shadowhunter society in general is not very accepting of those who do not fit a specific mould.

The Law.  The Law is a major theme in this book, specifically how to handle a law that seems harsh or unfair.  This is symbolised by two Latin phrases “Sed lex, dura lex” – the Law is hard, but it is the Law – and “lex malla, lex nulla” – a bad law is no law at all.  This refers mainly to the law against helping the Fair Folk, and this is used to hinder our protagonists in their quest.  We see attempts to get around this law both by diplomatic means and then by less open methods.  Of course this theme also applies to the law against parabatai falling in love, which is also a major issue for our protagonists.  All in all, it didn’t leave me feeling very positive towards the Clave and Council.  I look forward to seeing how Julian and Emma and their friends change their world for the better.

The world.  I really don’t need to say much here.  Clare’s world is absolutely phenomenal and fascinating.  What was particularly interesting this time was seeing a post Dark War world.  The struggle with Sebastian has left its mark and even five years later, the results can still be seen.  We learn of new, elite Shadowhunters and processes that have been put in place as a result of the War – processes that aren’t necessarily for the best.  I’m not sure if Clare was aiming to reflect our modern post 9/11 world in this, but that is certainly what it made me think of.

What I didn’t like

Bland, boring antagonist.  I wasn’t especially engaged by the antagonist – however, I suspect that the real villain of the piece was intended to be the rigid, inflexible attitude of those in charge of the Shadowhunters and the climate of fear that seems pervasive.  I would imagine we’ll see our heroes come into direct conflict with that later on in the series.

I gave Lady Midnight five stars out of five – when is the next book due out?

five-stars

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare – Review was originally published on Canadian eReader

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab is the second in the Darker Shade of Magic Series which centres on Kell, an Antari magician who has the ability to move between different worlds, and Lila, a young woman from “our” London who has ended up in Kell’s magical home world.  I really enjoyed the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, and was very much looking forward to this next instalment.  I LOVED this book and am happy to recommend it.

What I liked

The characters.  Right from the beginning, Lila had me chuckling along with her sassy attitude and I sympathised with Kell and Rhy as they tried to come to terms with the events of the previous book.  Some new characters are introduced, notably Alucard Emery.  This is a particularly interesting new addition as both our protagonists have very different attitudes towards him.  This leaves the reader somewhat torn about how to feel about him.  He’s rather a mysterious characters – It’s clear that he’s a lot more than just the pirate – excuse me, privateer – that he claims to be.  I really hope we learn more about him in subsequent books.

The romance.  The relationship between Kell and Lila was so cute and beautifully done, especially given how little time they actually spend interacting with each other in the book.  There were so many adorable instances of Lila thinking things like “oh, that guy’s hair is almost the same shade as Kell’s”  or Kell’s seeing something pretty and thinking of how much Lila would enjoy it.  Of course, if confronted both would vehemently deny being in love.  A clear case of showing, not telling.  Brava Victoria.

Interesting pacing.  As the book blurb indicates, a significant focus of this book is the Element Games, a magical equivalent of our Olympics.  Yet, they do not provide much dramatic tension.  They are generally non lethal, and the outcome of winning is little more than achieving bragging rights.  In fact, until about 85% of the way through the book very little actually happens.   Towards the end, it was very clear that this story would not be self contained in the way that the first one was, and that I would have to prepare for a cliffhanger.  The wonderful thing, however, is that I really didn’t care.  I was having too much fun following these two crazy kids and their mixed signals romance and the magical world in which it takes place.  The last few chapters of the book really speed things up though and I can’t wait for the next book.

What I didn’t like

Lack of variety in the Element Games.  Each level of the competition follows the same format. I would have welcomed some changes in structure for the subsequent bouts.  Also I did have to suspend my disbelief at certain participants.  Did Stasion really think he could compete at Olympic level with his limited experience of magic?

Despite those minor gripes, I adored A Gathering of Shadows and it gets a well-deserved five stars out of five from me. 

five-stars

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – Review (minor spoilers) was originally published on Canadian eReader

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard is the second in the Red Queen series and continues the story of Mare Barrow and her struggle to end the oppression of the non superpowered Reds by the Silvers.  

When we left Mare at the end of Red Queen she was not in a good place, both in a practical sense and emotionally.  She feels betrayed by those she cared about and many of her allies are lost or alienated.  Nevertheless, she focusses herself on the goal of rescuing those who, like Mare, are of Red heritage but display Silver abilities.  

Although that is the goal of the book, the focus is far more on Mare’s psychological distress as she attempts to come to terms with what she has experienced as well as what is expected of her.  The title is clearly a metaphor for Mare; she is a weapon, but is very fragile and could easily be shattered.  In this respect, Glass Sword is faintly reminiscent of Catching Fire or Mockingjay which also deals with the protagonist’s PTSD.

What I liked

Vulnerable protagonist.  I enjoyed that the main character is struggling to deal emotionally with the situation in which she finds herself – it feels more realistic and relatable that young teens who seem to breeze through their crises.  Mare’s psychological trauma was well written and was a natural and logical progression of her circumstances.

Some interesting plot developments.  There were a few plot developments in the novel which were unexpected and reengaged my attention at times when it was flagging.  

Strong premise.  I really enjoyed the main premise and worldbuilding in Aveyard’s world.  The Red/Silver conflict and the addition of the newbloods made for gripping reading.

What I didn’t like

Bland characters.  Yes, I know I said that Mare’s vulnerability made her more interesting, but despite that, the characters in Glass Sword are still rather bland, typical YA heroes/heroines.  Perhaps I am being unfair here; I have just started A Gathering of Shadows by Victoria Schwab and within a few paragraphs, Lila Bard had already leapt out of the page and had me completely engaged in her story in a way that Mare never did. 

New characters not fully developed.  Some interesting new characters were introduced in Glass Sword such as Nanny, Cameron and Nix, but none of them were given enough page space to be developed fully.  That is perhaps due to the first person point of view and Mare’s own emotional struggles, but I would have liked to have seen it handled better.

Despite these issues, I did enjoy Glass Sword and gave it three and a half stars out of five.  I will probably read the final book whenever it comes out.

three-half-stars

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – Review was originally published on Canadian eReader

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken is a young adult fantasy novel, the first in a duology, marketed as a treasure hunt through time.  It focusses on the characters of Etta, a young 21st century woman and Nicholas, a black man from the 1700s, both of whom have the genetic ability to travel through passages in time and space.  They embark on a journey through time to locate the astrolabe, the series McGuffin, in order to prevent its falling into the hands of the Ironwoods giving them power to change history.

What I liked

The time travel system.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.  It was very well thought out and the rules and limitations were well explained.  Often in fantasy it’s the limitations on magical powers that make them most interesting and generate the most interesting stories.  At the risk of spoiling the novel I won’t say too much more, but this aspect was very well done.

The character development.  Writing believable and consistent characters is one of Bracken’s strengths.  I could easily believe the characters actions and reactions based on what they’d already experienced.  

The social commentary. Having two characters whose race or gender has historically deprived them of power and placing them in situations where that is emphasised was inspired.  It leads to some scenes that are both funny and poignant.  

The writing and the pacing.  This was excellent – the story kept moving along at a brisk pace with the tension managed expertly.  It’s amazing what a deadline can do for plot pacing!  Of course, I hadn’t expected anything less from the writer of The Darkest Minds series.

What I didn’t like

The romance.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the relationship between Etta and Nicholas.  What irritated me though was the fact that they allowed it to overshadow everything else.  They were on a very tight deadline and yet they still took a lot of time out to enjoy each other’s company.  Focus, people!

Bland characters.  I will say I enjoyed the situations in which the characters found themselves more than the characters themselves.  Yes, they did have a few moments of awesome, and yes, their character development was realistic, but I wasn’t particularly engaged by them.  

All in all I really enjoyed this book and gave it four out of five stars.  I look forward to Wayfarer, the conclusion of the story.

As an aside, if you enjoyed Passenger, I would strongly recommend you check out Kerstin Geir’s Ruby Red trilogy. This explores a very similar premise of time travel, but the heroine is much more fun and sassy than Etta.

four-stars

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – Review was originally published on Canadian eReader

Now that 2015 is almost done, it’s time to review my reading year.  Thanks to GoodReads, I have a very good idea of how I did.

I had set my reading goal at 75 books, and I completed 87 with a total of 29,110 pages.  This is a little lower than the last few years, but I did enjoy many of these books in audiobook format, which does take longer.

The shortest book I read was Two Tales of the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne which had a total of 39 pages, and the longest was Voyager by Diana Gabaldon which weighed in at a hefty 870 pages.

I read some pretty amazing books this year.  So without further ado, in no particular order, here are the books I enjoyed most.

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb is pretty much defaulted to my top books list because I am so, so invested in the characters of Fitz and the Fool and their unconventional friendship.  Of course I was going to soak up every nuance of their continuing tale.  Hobb would have had to really mess it up for me not to like it. Fortunately, she produced a wonderful continuation to their story and I loved it.

You can see my full (spoilery) review here.

The Martian by Andy Weir The Martian by Andy Weir is perhaps the most unexpected entry in my top books so far.  This is because it is very much out of my usual genre(s).  For those of you who have not  heard of this, it’s a science fiction adventure about an astronaut who is accidentally left behind on Mars and how he has to use all his skills to “science the &^$% out of things” to survive.  Although there is a strong emphasis on the science side of things, it is beautifully blended with the personal and you can’t help but root for our hero’s survival.  At one point I was seriously tempted to text my friend to ask if he did survive, but I managed to restrain myself. Watney’s story is told primarily in a first-person journal style and the writing is very accessible.  I listened to this in audiobook format, which was a wonderful way to get into the story.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan GraudinWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin was one of the books which really got under my skin this year.  It is an alternative history set in a world in which the Nazis won World War II. We follow our protagonist, Yael, who is a death camp survivor, and her mission to kill Hitler.  This mission hangs on the fact that Yael’s experiences in the death camp gave her the ability to change her appearance to look like any other woman.  I cannot explain why it got under my skin so much – perhaps it was because the protagonist was so beautifully written – a real blend of kick ass heroine and vulnerable young girl.  My full review can be read here.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell From time to time a book will come along in which plot, character, pacing, worldbuilding and writing come together to create something wonderful. For me that book was Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Carry On is a follow up to Rowell’s Fangirl – Carry On is the final book in the series about which our fangirl protagonist is obsessed. I should point out that it’s not necessary to have read Fangirl before reading Carry On.

I will admit that initially I wasn’t too interested in reading Carry On. Fangirl was one of the few Rainbow Rowell books I did not finish. However some glowing reviews encouraged me to reconsider and I’m very glad I did.

Carry On follows the final school year of Simon Snow, a Harry Potteresque Chosen One, destined to save the magical world from the Insidious Humdrum. As well as the impending confrontation with the Humdrum, Simon must also deal with his growing feelings for his vampire roommate Baz. The book is a perfect blend of humour, romance, adventure and wonderful character moments and I highly recommend it.

I gave Carry On a resounding five stars out of five.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a young adult adventure story imaginatively told through a collection of documents. We follow Kady and Ezra as they are forced to flee their planet after it is invaded.

Now, I’m going to say something I don’t often say; PLEASE don’t buy this book in ebook format. Pick up the hard copy instead. Because formatting is an intrinsic part of the story, the ebook is often scanned images rather than text. This means that you lose all the advantages of using an ereader – font size adjustment, searching for example. More worryingly, when I tried to read it on my iPad, a significant number of these images were missing, meaning I lost a whole chunk of the story. I only noticed this because I was following along with the audiobook at the same time. The images were present in the Kindle, but I found the text very small and sometimes difficult to read. So do your eyes a favour and skip the ebook in favour of the hardback.

In an ideal world, you would experience this book in both hard copy and audiobook format. The audiobook is narrated by a full voice cast and is absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend it. However, by listening to the audiobook alone you miss out on the formatting of the book which also adds an extra dimension.

Although the unusual format is one of the key attractions of this book, the story itself more than holds its own – I was enthralled by Kady and Ezra’s dilemma, and the ending is fantastic. It really made me anxious to read the next book.

I gave Illuminae four stars out of five.

OK confession time;  I couldn’t wait to start reading Queen of Shadows before writing my Heir of Fire review, so this is going to be a joint review of both books.

For those of you unaware, Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows are the third and fourth books respectively in Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. It is  YA fantasy series with a kickass heroine and great worldbuilding.  If you’ve not yet started it, I highly recommend checking it out.

I listened to both books within a fairly short space of time and loved both of them.  Because Queen of Shadows builds upon and develops characters and plot points raised in Heir of Fire, they are excellent to read together.  Many of the cliffhangers in Heir of Fire are also resolved, which is very satisfying.

What I liked

Character development.  We see lots of wonderful character development in our main character, Celaena. When we rejoin Celaena at the beginning of Heir of Fire, she is in a pretty dark place emotionally, reeling from the events of previous book Crown of Midnight.  Throughout Heir she along with new character Rowan works to get her mojo back.  This is a significant chunk of the book.  Such a wonderful character arc.

Her success is expressed in the change of name from Celaena to Aelin in Queen – she has accepted her identity, her past and her powers and is going to use them to kick ass.  Incidentally, I had no issue whatsoever with the name change – Maas has written the character consistently and her “voice” remains the same whether she is “Celaena” or “Aelin.”

Given how much she has progressed in Heir, Aelin’s character development does stall a lot in Queen – the focus is more on kickassedness and achieving the goals she set for herself at the end of Heir.  Personally, I was actually far less engaged in Aelin’s story in Queen because of this.

In Queen, the character development is expressed far more through the character of Manon, and I absolutely LOVED her chapters.  Given the choice between reading about Manon or Aelin in Queen I was far more involved in Manon’s struggles.  I loved how her relationship with her wyvern, Abraxos and with her Thirteen and Elide, caused her to rethink the values and attitudes with which she has been raised.  The Manon we leave at the end of Queen is not the Manon we meet at the beginning of Heir and it was beautiful.  I fully expect to see Manon work to bring down the Matron in the next book.  

Strong female friendships.  There are some pretty cool female characters in the Throne of Glass world; Aelin, Manon, Lysandra, Elide, Asterin to name a few.  Each of these are strong women in their own right, but when they get together thrones will fall, names will be taken and asses will be kicked.  Our characters are stronger and are changed for the better (cue Wicked medley) because they knew each other.  Things would have turned out very differently if it weren’t for the bonds between these women and Maas writes these friendships beautifully.  

Promises delivered.  In Heir, Maas set out some very clear expectations about what was going to happen in Queen and she delivered.  What we expected to happen did happen, which adds up to a very satisfying book.  It didn’t always happen the way we expected, and often there were many unexpected obstacles in our protagonists’ path, but the expected confrontations took place, goals were achieved and people were saved.  

Intriguing minor characters.  We met some new and interesting minor characters.  I was particularly touched by Asterin’s story and I’m really interested to see where Elide’s path takes her.  I have very strong suspicions about young Evangeline and her “citrine” eyes.  It appears yellow eyes have some power over the Valg, so I’m curious to see what part she plays.

What I didn’t like

Promises delivered.  Yes, I know I had this in my what I liked list.  In some ways though, I felt too many loose ends were tied up.  Our characters, other than Dorian, are in pretty good shape.  I was almost left with the feeling that, if the series were to end here, I’d be quite content.  Certainly there are a few open plots for the next book, but nothing that had me thinking I have to have book five NOW.  I’m not certain that that’s altogether a good thing given there are two more books to go.

The Aelin/Manon confrontation.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved that Aelin and Manon finally met, and I loved the developments that came out of their confrontation, but I just didn’t buy how it ended.  Aelin’s thought processes just didn’t ring true. Sorry.

Despite these slight misgivings, I loved both Heir and Queen.  I gave them both 4.5 stars out of five.

five-stars

One of the books I was most anticipating this year was Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Quest, which was released on August 11th and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  I found it impossible to review this book without mentioning some minor spoilers, so I will hide the spoiler part of the review.

To summarise though I loved this book.  Fitz and the Fool are one of my favourite literary partnerships and I loved reading the continuation of the story.  This is the second in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, following on from Fool’s Assassin.  The first book was a slow burner, if still very enjoyable, focussing more on character development than action.  This followup is more action oriented and is a wonderful read.

I gave Fool’s Quest five stars out of five and would thoroughly recommend it to any Hobbs fan.  For those new to Hobbs, start with Assassin’s Apprentice (but be aware it’s a slow starter but well worth it)

The rest of the review may contain spoilers and my speculation for book three, so click through only if you have read the book and/or want to be spoiled.

(more…)

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – ReviewThe Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Davina Porter
Length: 18 hrs and 10 mins
Genres: Dystopian, New Adult, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne’s rating:

four-stars

The Invasion of the Tearling is the second in Erika Johansen’s YA Tearling fantasy trilogy.  It continues the story of young queen Kelsea Glynn as she prepares to deal with the aftermath of her actions in the first novel, The Queen of the Tearling.

I’ll start this review by stating that I hadn’t actually intended to continue with this series, given that I had significant issues with Johansen’s worldbuilding and character development in the first book.  However, I recently read the book blurb which indicated to me that Johansen was taking clear steps to address some of the issues with the worldbuilding at least and so I decided to give the series a second chance. 

What I liked

Additional point of view character.  For this second outing, Johansen has added a second point of view character, Lily.  Lily is a woman from the pre-Crossing era who has a strange connection with our protagonist, Kelsea.  Through her eyes we learn more about the history of the Tearling’s founding and what led William Tear to strike out to begin his utopia.

I absolutely loved Lily’s story and, personally, I was far more engaged with her plight than Kelsea’s.  These sections were wonderful both from a plot point of view and character development.  Throughout, I really found myself rooting for her.  This section of the book reads more like a dystopian novel than the traditional fantasy of Kelsea’s section, but it worked very well.  

It should be noted that Lily’s section deals with some issues which are far grittier and more adult than those generally found in young adult or even new adult books, and was written in a more adult manner.  Lily is notably older than Kelsea and is in a different life stage.  It could well be that’s why I connected more with her, as I too, am older than your average young adult protagonist!

Lily’s character development was beautifully written.

Kelsea’s romantic life. Often in YA, this can be a particularly problematic area, with the romance either subjected to the inevitable love triangle or so overblown with stars and rainbows it becomes intolerable.  I get it.  First love can be awesome.  Too often though YA authors portray it through rose-tinted spectacles.  Johansen’s portrayal of this part of Kelsea’s life felt grounded in reality and was excellently written.

In general I found Kelsea more consistently written in Invasion of the Tearling than she was in Queen.  I particularly enjoyed how the connection between her and Lily played out.

The pre-Crossing history.  The promise of learning more about the founding of the Tearling was what drew me back in to give this series a second chance and Johansen certainly made good on that promise.  I loved what we got, but I’m not one hundred percent convinced, though, that she has allayed the concerns I had from the first book.  I still can’t see the logic in why Harry Potter survived the Crossing but the internal combustion engine didn’t.  We still have a lot to discover, so I’ll suspend final judgement on this aspect until after the final book.

What I didn’t like

Additional point of view.  Yes, I know I had this listed in part of my Likes; let me explain.  The two main point of view characters are in different worlds, and are at different life stages and more, importantly, are written as such.  It feels almost like two completely separate books, and I’m not certain that they are targeting the same audience.

The audio narration.  I had a bit of a problem with the audio narration.  The book is narrated by Davina Porter, who, don’t get me wrong, does a great job.  My issue is that she is best known to me as the narrator of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  Ms Porter has a distinctive voice and half the time I kept expecting Jamie Fraser to come sauntering into the scene.  That was my personal issue though and it may not be one for you.

In summary then, I found Invasion a stronger book than Queen of the Tearling.  That’s not to say it’s perfect by any means.  I’m still not completely certain Johansen can pull together a completely cohesive overall story arc by the end of the trilogy, but I’m invested enough that I want to read book three to find out.

I gave Invasion of the Tearling 3.5-4 stars out of five.

    four-stars

    The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – ReviewThe Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
    Also in this series: The Bone Season
    Format: Audiobook
    Narrator: Alana Kerr
    Length: 16 hours and 28 minutes
    Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Dystopian
    Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
    Evelynne’s rating:

    four-half-stars

    The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon is the second in her dystopian fantasy series – it is the follow on to The Bone Season which I have read and reviewed.  It follows straight on from the ending of The Bone Season and deals with the aftermath of the events of that novel.  I will say straight off that I enjoyed The Mime Order much more than the series opener.  Much of the heavy lifting in terms of worldbuilding has been done – although there is naturally much more to learn – so Shannon is able to concentrate on weaving a strong narrative.

    What I liked

    Very strong narrative.  For me this worked very well in this book.  Our protagonist has a clear, logical goal towards which she is working – the uniting of the clairvoyant underworld to provide a viable opposition to the Raphaim – and while there are lots of twists and turns in the way, it remains the backbone of the story.  Personally, I was invested in this plotline and enjoyed watching it coming to fruition.  I also felt Shannon kept the plot moving on briskly and had me wanting to keep turning the pages.

    Engaging protagonist.  The more time I spent with Paige the more I liked her and was invested in her goals.  She is clearly a smart cookie and I look forward to continuing her story.

    Mix of genres.  I enjoyed that the novel crossed quite a few genres.  We had the dystopian fantasy (which took a bit of a back seat this time), a murder mystery, mafia crime novel and a bit of romance.

    Audiobook narration.  I listened to The Mime Order primarily in audiobook and once again Irish actress Alana Kerr took on narration duties.  I really enjoyed her interpretation of the book and will certainly continue to follow this series in audiobook because of her excellent narration.  Here’s a sample:


    http://samples.audible.com/bk/adbl/020334/bk_adbl_020334_sample.mp3

    What I didn’t like

    Lots of jargon.  This was one of my biggest gripes about The Bone Season and that continues in the sequel  After a while I gave up trying to work out what kind of clairvoyant particular characters were and where they stood in the clairvoyant hierarchy.

    The relationship between Paige and Warden.  I really couldn’t get behind this relationship at all in this book.  As Paige’s friends kept pointing out to her, Warden did keep her captive for several months and exercised the power of death over her.  I just didn’t feel that his aid at the end of The Bone Season justified the level of trust Paige placed in him.  I keep thinking Paige, sweetie, jump online and do a quick Google of Stockholm syndrome please.  It’s also very clear that the way their relationship developed in The Mime Order is going to come back and bite them on the butt very, very soon.

    All in all I really loved The Mime Order.  I gave it four and a half stars out of five and will certainly continue with this series.

     buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

    four-half-stars

    Fairest – Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer – ReviewFairest – Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer
    Series: The Lunar Chronicles #0.5
    Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
    Format: Audiobook
    Narrator: Rebecca Soler
    Length: 6 hours 36 minutes
    Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
    three-half-stars

    Fairest – Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer is a prequel to her fairytale reimagining series The Lunar Chronicles.  It provides the backstory to series antagonist Queen Levana Blackburn of Luna.  If you are new to The Lunar Chronicles, PLEASE don’t start with this book – go read Cinder, Scarlet and Cress and then come back to it.  It will be more engaging in that way.

    This book is a very focussed character study of Queen Levana and how she turned from a naive, self absorbed young girl into the tyrant our heroines are trying to depose.  There is little in the way of worldbuilding or major plot development.  It remains mostly confined to the Lunar Royal Palace.

    What I liked

    Character development.  This is the focus of the book and is excellently done.  We follow Levana’s progression from a self absorbed, naive young girl to the vicious despot of the later books. I appreciated how each step and decision she took along that path was small and logical at the time but each developed her character as it turned out to be.  I found her an interesting character, and at many points she gained my sympathy for what she went through.

    Character cameos.  Many of the characters from the later books made cameo appearances as their younger selves.  Even if they weren’t specifically named as such it was great fun to spot Cinder, Cress, Kai and other characters.

    Audiobook narration.  Once again narration is provided by Rebecca Soler who did the narration for the other books in the series.  She does a brilliant job of capturing the characters’ voices and I hope she continues for Winter, the final book in the series.

    Here’s a sample:


    http://samples.audible.com/bk/aren/001819/bk_aren_001819_sample.mp3

    What I didn’t like

    Very expensive for such a short book.  This book is really a novella – barely 272 pages or 6 hours and 36 minutes of audiobook – and yet is was priced comparatively expensively.  I paid the price but a bit more resentfully than for other books.

    No chapter breaks.  The book is written in one long narrative unbroken into chapters.  Now, I am a working woman and I don’t have the luxury of settling down to long chunks of several hours’ reading.  For me, the chapter breaks are valuable to give me a good place to stop.

    Not Whispersync for Voice compatible.  In other words, the ebook and the audiobook didn’t sync.  Combined with the lack of chapter breaks, it made switching between ebook and audiobook a very frustrating experience.  If you’re only enjoying the book in one medium this won’t be an issue for you, but I did contribute to my lack of enjoyment.

    Less engaging protagonist.  Yes, Levana is a fascinating character and yes, I enjoyed learning about her backstory.  However, it cannot be said that she is immediately likeable or engaging in the way that Cinder, Scarlet and Cress are.

    Less humour.  One of the fun parts of The Lunar Chronicles is the banter that is exchanged between our main characters.  This was missing from Fairest – Levana’s Story.  Thinking back, it’s because in this book we spend very little time with characters who actually like and respect each other.  This book contains the first few chapters of Winter, which I listened to, including a scene on the Rampion and I immediately felt “yes, THIS is the Lunar Chronicles I know and love!”

    To summarise, while I enjoyed Fairest – Levana’s Story, for me it wasn’t a must-read part of The Lunar Chronicles.  Certainly, it shouldn’t be the first book you read in the series.  It does provide an interesting expansion to the series though.

    I gave Fairest – Levana’s Story 3.5 stars out of five.