Review: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

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Now I Rise by Kiersten White was a brilliant, dark, and brutal sequel to And I Darken. I always get a bit nervous that a sequel won’t live up to the first book: but this one slayed. Literally and figuratively.  Lada has never had any chill, but in Now I Rise, she basically has less than none. The book is a complex twist of wars and sieges, of triumph and loss, and it has so much character development that it just shines.

The story picks up where And I Darken left off: With Lada charging back to claim the Wallachian throne and become Prince, and Radu is still with Mehmed, pining for a love he will never be given until he ends up in the midst of the siege of Constantinople where he could very well die for his loyalty to Mehmed. It’s full of wars and battle and follows the siblings as they grow apart but severely miss each other, and also realise that Mehmed isn’t the golden perfect boy they always believed.

The characters are really the stand-out for this series! They are both clever and cunning, and Radu goes about it in an intellectual way while Lada uses force and brutality. Lada will cut her way to the throne and she empowers women and refuses to be underestimated, although she has to fight for every grain of respect.

Meanwhile Radu is just over here being small and perfect and pure. I absolutely adore him. He’s the kind of character who is so fiercely loyal and determined, but also hopelessly used by people he trusts — and it breaks your heart! I wanted more for Radu. He deserves better. But also his planning, cunning, and ability to never fail is absolutely astounding. I also thought his character development was stunning and well crafted.

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The book features a lot of the terrors of war and the price you pay to succeed. Either by capturing a city (for Mehmed’s forces) or getting a throne (for Lada and her rogue men). I love how it contrasted two types of battles! It’s not graphic with the gore, but it definitely makes sure you know this isn’t a pretty picnic. I also liked how it contrasted the two religions of Christianity vs Muslim. There’s no “good vs bad” here, as both religions are going to war for their Gods and thinking they’re doing the “right” thing…no matter how many innocents get slain in the way. I think religion is important to talk about in YA, so I’m glad the book focuses so much on them!

One of my favourite things too is how Radu and Lada thought of each other. They’re like half worlds away and they’re so DIFFERENT as people…but the spend a lot of time going: “Oh I miss [insert sibling here] but they don’t need me.” Both of them. Thinking this. They are silly little goats and I wish they’d work together!

I also appreciated the history of the settings! It’s not a 100% accurate historical retelling, but it is about Mehmed II and the fall of Constantinople. There are plenty of actual historical figures in the book, even if a lot of them have had some creative-license changes! So you can go in expecting to learn a bit, but also know this is a loose retelling. (Especially since Vlad the Impaler is actually a gender-swapped Lada.) And the details of the sieges and clothes and the first canons ever made were all stunning and just made the book so lush with details.

Overall, Now I Rise is a stunning sequel of stabbing and the darkness of humankind, all wrapped up in brilliant writing and winning characters! It has the kind of ending that leaves you screaming for the next book (um, how do we wait for next year…) and I’m desperate to see how it’ll all turn out. It’s fantastic and captivating and full of political and emotional intrigue.

Fantasy and Adventure – Novel Escapes

 

The golden age of reading begins when youngsters develop their reading confidence around the age of seven or so, and extends into their early teens where suspension of belief is still strong and stories featuring fantasy and adventure rate robustly on the their reading radars.

It is no wonder then that junior and middle grade novels are in such high demand. These three are definitely worth adding to your list.

Trouble and the New Kid by Cate Whittle and Stephen Michael King

Trouble first flew into Georgia’s life early last year. He stole their home inadvertently absconding with her baby brother, Godfrey. Since then, he’s barely been able to stay on the good side of the behaviour books, after run-ins with Mrs Jones and her cat, Tibbles in The Missing Cat. Now, Trouble is back in all his glorious dragon-green unruliness in, Trouble and the New Kid.

Continue reading Fantasy and Adventure – Novel Escapes

Review: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

9781743693544Legacy of Kings is basically a historical-fiction-fantasy with Alexander the Great’s childhood reimagined. Does that not scream marvellous and great (har har I couldn’t resist) things to you? IT DOES TO ME. It’s quite a dark gritty book. There is battle and blood everywhere and evil magic and snakes. Ugh to snakes. I’m a big fan of gritty fantasy, though, so I loved the darker tone and how it kept up the exciting fast pace.

Oh, did I mention it has seven narrating characters? I KNOW. SEVEN. I hesitantly say it’s “too much”, although I did like most of the characters. But a few seemed superficial to the story line…but I assume they’ll become important in later books.

A quick over view of these little narrators!

  • ALEX: Obviously. I mean, he’s THE DUDE, right?! But he has an unfortunately small story line. I loved his character and would’ve liked more from him.
  • HEPH: He was really easy to manipulate. Poor Heph. He’s Alex’s best friend…but their friendship really goes under fire.
  • OLYMPIA: This is Alex’s mother, and I appreciate that we do get a peek at her POV. She is a subtle “villain”. She got up to some seriously freaky stuff…like, terrifying. Snakes. SNAKES IN HER HAIR. I am terrified of snakes.
  • KAT: I wasn’t Kat’s biggest fan because she was super self-involved, never communicated properly, and was NOT loyal in the romance department. But she definitely had complex intentions and was interesting to read about!
  • JACOB: He is Kat’s little childhood sweetheart. Aww. Except, Kat rejects him right at the start so I felt rather bad for him the entire book.
  • CYN: She. was. AWESOME. I’m 99% sure she was a sociopath, and her manipulative and smooth talking skills were so captivating to read.
  • ZO: What is the point of Zo? It is a myth to me. She’s supposedly Alex’s “betrothed”, but she runs away, gets caught by slavers, is a general naive munchkin. I will be curious about where here story goes in the sequels!

I’m a huge fantasy nut, though, so despite the millions of narrators, I still couldn’t help but love the story! I adore grisly fantasy. And the story kept me captivated the entire time, I did not want to put it down. Plus fantasies are usually tiring to read…but I just found myself whipping through it easily! HUZZAH. The world building gets a big thumbs up too. It was interesting and lavish and I felt immersed, even though the book is only 430-pages long. The writing was just fantastic. There is also a gorgeously glorious map. To be honest, I think all books should have maps.

If you’re a fantasy fiend: Legacy of Kings is for you. It is! I had a few quibbles about the characters, but as I sit and stare at the book (as one does when finishing a novel) all I can focus on is what I adored. I wish I had book 2 right now. Hopefully it’ll have more of Alex’s story in there…because I want to see how this battle and strategy genius grows up. It’s such a unique premise, right?! Yay for historical-fiction fantasies!

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Pet Peeves

“I don’t have pet peeves, I have major, psychotic hatreds.”

– George Carlin

I had expected to be writing Part 2 of ‘The Myth of The Children’s Book’ for this post, but I had a little experience on the weekend that got me thinking about something else.

It was my birthday recently, and those who know me best gave me money for books, books themselves or book vouchers. Armed with the money and the vouchers, I traipsed into one well-known bookstore (that-which-cannot-be-named) and proceeded to the science fiction/fantasy section, as I had a particular book in mind – Heart’s Blood, by Juliet Marillier.

I like to think Australia has pretty much adopted Marillier, even though she was born in the picturesque Dunedin, New Zealand. I don’t know myself whether she refers to herself as a New Zealander, or an Australian, or perhaps a hybrid of the two nationalities. Either way, growing up in such a landscape appears to have a profound effect on one’s imagination, and the books of hers I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing so far (well, singular book: Cybele’s Secret) have such a wonderful ‘otherworldliness’ to them. Suffice to say I was looking forward to holding the much-anticipated novel in my grubby paws, and losing myself to adventure!

Except…it wasn’t on the shelf with all the other Marillier books.

My heart skipped a beat.

“Don’t panic yet”, I told myself, and quickly made my way to the nearest computer help. The title search yielded: “One copy, in store, Sci Fi/ Fantasy”. At this point an assistant happened to pipe up behind me and offer to help in the treasure hunt. We retraced my steps back to the shelf and scanned again. No luck.

“Sooorrry,” said the assistant (I felt he clearly was NOT sorry), and he finished with a smirk, “It obviously hasn’t been bought yet. Maybe it’s in [insert name of ubiquitous coffee shop that accompanies bookstore]”. And off he went.

Call it my inner capitalist, but I get this irritated little itch when I see a person ‘browsing’ through a book for a moment too long and then leaving the store without the book packaged and paid for. It’s the same feeling I get when I view a person flipping through a magazine at the checkout, only to put it back in the stand once their groceries start filing through. So you can imagine my distaste at this answer. No, not distaste – more like this intense fireball of rage that begins in the pit of my stomach and threatens to consume me and ALL IN ITS PATH – Dr Jekyll’s Mr Hyde ain’t got nothin’ on me.

My rage-addled brain was suddenly filled with visions of coffee slopped over pages 49-75, lovesick crumbs of friand cuddling together in the spine, forgotten flakes of filo pastry obscuring the author’s afterword. And worst of all, after the reader had finished his/her little dalliance, the book would lay on its back in the chair, discarded like an old rag.

My senses aligned with superhuman sensitivity, I sniffed my way to the coffee shop area. There he was: Edward Cullen-esque hair, a brooding temperament a la Heathcliff, poised over the coveted Heart’s Blood, lost in thought, pausing only to scribble furiously on the paper next to him. And there was coffee on the table. And a half-eaten sandwich! I was chomping at the bit by this time, ready to pounce. But then, all of a sudden, he stopped scribbling. Got out of his chair, brushed the invisible crumbs off his pant leg, and carried Heart’s Blood to the counter with all the gentle fondness and excitement of a green bridesgroom carrying his new bride across the threshold.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Oh readers, what a prince he was! It dawned on me that I didn’t care if there were sandwich crumbs inside the cover, and I didn’t care if he had ripped the pages with wild abandon to see what was going to happen next. All I cared about, was the fact that the book had found a home, and wasn’t abandoned. Unloved.

I was enlightened! I wasn’t some tyrranical book beast with a capitalist soul, I was a do-gooder for printed media!! It was a great day. We both went our separate ways – the prince and I – happy with our newly acquired purchases (I managed to find other books that interested me, once I had calmed down) and I was safe in the knowledge that somewhere out there, a Marillier book was being cherished.

So what have I learned from this little experience? That my irritation has limitations? Probably. That I can get help for my problem? Probably not. That I’m the Mother Theresa of the bookworld? Definitely.
Perhaps most importantly, I learned that I should have quashed my impatience and simply bought it online from the Boomerang Books website *exaggerated wink*.

Despite the fact that I am now revered in my own mind as a book goddess, there must be plenty more of you out there who feel guilty over your petty pet peeves. Well, no more, my friends! Revel in your pettiness. And know that sometimes, no matter how irrational the irritation, certain ‘unsavoury’ book attitudes can irk even the most patient of booklovers.

So, what book no-nos bring out your Mr Hyde?