Posted on June 30, 2021 by Justin Bowers - Book Review
Eight years ago I picked up this book with book with one of the most interesting premises I’d run across: a criminal who steals thoughts and information from peoples’ minds, and operates under an oppressive regime where people with her sorts of gifts are imprisoned and executed.
Little did I know that this was just the tip of the iceberg for young Paige Mahoney. Over the next few years, books 2 and 3 were released with the tale of Paige’s exploits growing exponentially. After book 2, I was really convinced that Ms. Shannon didn’t like Paige very much, and book 3 pretty much cemented that.
Then came the gap. Paige Mahoney had just gotten out of an absolute horror of a situation, and book 4 was just “coming soon.”
Boy was the wait worth it. The Mask Falling opens with Paige and Arcturus (Warden), escaping England and ending up in a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris. Paige is in really rough shape, but has been taken in by the mysterious Domino Program; who want to use her abilities and skills to help subvert Scion control. While she has been told to stay put and heal, Paige also wants to leverage her position of Underqueen to gain audience with the Court of Miracles — the voyant syndicate of France — to continue her own flavor of assault on Scion, and, hopefully, learn the fates of many of her friends.
This one is a real rollercoaster, but I often found myself giving Paige the ol’ “What the hell are you doing?!?!?!?”
Paige’s stubbornness is definitely her biggest weakness. Sure, her bond with Arcturus definitely affects her judgement sometimes, but it is Paige’s unwillingness to accept compromise that really seems to put her in all the pickles in The Mask Falling. Especially when things get wacky, and, boy howdy, they get wacky.
One thing about this series that I greatly appreciate is Ms. Shannon’s boldness in worldbuilding. The Scion Citadel of Paris is absolutely nothing like the Scion Citadel of London, yet she could have used the uniformity of Scion to make them far similar. Details like this, and her amazing obsession with tweaking language (definitely read the afterword about how she tweaked Scion French) show a masterful attention to what makes each location, and subsequently culture, unique.
I dearly hope we don’t have to wait too long for book 5.
Posted on June 29, 2021 by Justin Bowers - Book Review
** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review **
Oh poor Galadriel Higgins. El’s affinity for super destructive magic, her desire to be semi-anti-social, and her torn feelings for one Orion Lake really put her in an interesting spot coming into her senior year at the Scholomance.
Now that graduation is upon El, she has set it in her mind that she will get out as many students as possible. As she begins to enlist more and more of the student body in her seemingly hare-brained plans, they all begin to understand just what a powerhouse El really is. To make matters worse, it appears that the school is beginning to turn on her.
I absolutely love this series, and was super excited to be given the opportunity to tackle an early copy of book 2. The Last Graduate really does take off right where A Deadly Education ended, and Ms. Novik has really honed her masterful craft of deft first-person narration. El really is the embodiment of snarky power, and the wide variety of characters, each with their own foibles, really make for an enjoyable experience.
There is so much more I would love to gush about this book, but I would give away far too much.
Once this book drops, I’ll definitely be picking up the audiobook. Anisha Dadia did an absolute masterful job with the first book, and I really can’t wait to hear her doing book 2.
Posted on June 11, 2021 by Justin Bowers - Book Review
I’ve been mulling over how to approach a review for this amazing piece of fiction. Ms. Steifvater’s work is often very transcendent, but Mister Impossible just takes the cake.
The Dreamer Trilogy, follow up series to the wildly popular Raven Cycle, is focused on seminal “bad boy” Ronan Lynch and a wider exploration into his dreaming powers.
Where Call Down the Hawk set up the situations surrounding the current storyline — introducing the Hennessys, Bryde, the Moderators, etc. — Mister Impossible is more an etheric epic poem. Very quickly the deep dive into the ley lines, the quest for understanding around sweetmetals, and the indomitable personality that is Bryde, folds this novel into a dreamy story state that often doesn’t seem at home in the waking nor the dreaming world.
Per usual, the writing and character development are absolutely top notch. Ms. Steifvater always has a unique perspective on how to present scenes and situations, and Mister Impossible is a perfect example of this. There is suspense, humor and drama all present with a undertone of surrealism that just builds and builds and builds.
As the larger direction starts to unfold, there are still plenty of twists and turns that Ms. Stiefvater takes us down in a masterful execution of really looking at what the definition of humanity really is.
There is an unveiling towards the end of the book that I would absolutely love to make a parallel connection to a popular culture stalwart, but I’m just not the type of guy to spoil a storyline with one phrase. I will say that I am totally shocked and cannot wait to see how everything plays out in book three. That being said, I can’t believe I now have to wait for freakin’ book three!
I wanted to recognize special kudos to the amazing Will Patton for the audiobook of this manuscript. Mr. Patton is a remarkable performer who has breathed life into all of these two series of books. His tone and inflection definitely bring something to the table that enhances the experience.
Posted on June 10, 2021 by Justin Bowers - Book Review
I feel like I was well into my adult years before truly appreciating the warmth and familiarity of fables, fairy tales and folklore. I find this funny because in my life and studies as a young man, I was very much entrenched in several very rich cultural traditions of story telling and lore.
Regardless, the genres now hold a very dear place in my heart and Ms. Poston really scratches that itch with Among the Beasts & Briars.
This is the tale of the Kingdom of Aloriya: a place of perfect wonder with no drought or disease, and a happy population looked over by a magical royal bloodline to prevent the horrors of the woods from overtaking them.
Our protagonist, Cerys, is the daughter of the Royal Gardener and best friends with the soon to be queen: Princess Arwen. Cerys also hides a very special gift that should only be able to be wielded by the royal family: she can do magic.
As Arwen stands ready to be coronated Queen, things get really interesting as the monsters and magicks of the woods attack. Escaping with barely her wits and the magical crown of Aloriya, Cerys runs into the woods to attempt to find the hidden city of Voryn and possible help from the magical Lady of the Wilds.
This story has some incredibly tense moments. There are some major themes of trust and bravery, along with what I read into a xenophobia. With a storyline that relies heavily on the impending doom of Cerys — and her traveling companions — being overtaken by the horrors in the woods, the story gets a little stress-y, but in that “I’m just going to keep flipping pages” way.
The thing that makes Among the Beasts & Briars so great to me is the consistency with which the story and settings develop and unfold. I love a good book with a map in the front because that tells me that the author has thought about the bigger aspects of their created world, and possibly considered what the ramifications of their storytelling might wreak on the bigger picture.
Most importantly, and it really takes a good portion of the novel to get there, Among the Beasts & Briars is a story about redemption and trust. Yes, there is some predictability in how the story unfolds, but that, for me, is a comforting aspect in a fairy tale. The dawn after the harrowing night is the reward.
I really do hope Ms. Poston has some more stories hidden in the depths of Vaiyl. I feel there is so much more potential.
Posted on June 9, 2021 by Justin Bowers - Book Review
I’m not really sure why I never got around to reading this wrap-up of the Archived duology. Two years ago I read book one and then flitted off to something else before picking up number two.
Boy was that dumb.
The Unbound continues the story set up after the hyper-dramatic end of The Archived. Mackenzie Bishop is still a Keeper trying to keep violent Histories in their place, but The Unbound adds the bonus of poor Mac having to start her junior year at Hyde School: a very posh and very small private school where she knows absolutely no one (or so she thinks).
When people Mac glances into start disappearing, she and Wesley start digging into what could possibly be going on. All this along with Keeper work, school work, and juggling new friends.
Then it all starts to get really interesting, and we are all left to wonder if Mac might be losing her mind.
The marvelous thing about The Unbound is that it immediately picked up right where The Archived left off. Even though I had a two year gap between reading the two books, The Unbound just flowed perfectly in to place.
The main reason for this is that Ms. Schwab truly is a master of her craft. Her ability to quickly build and establish fantastical worlds with multi-dimensional characters is really an amazing gift. Rather than rest on the laurels of an amazing set of characters introduced in The Archived, Ms. Schwab expands the tableau with another smattering of very well-developed individuals; fully formed with charisma and depth. Basically, The Unbound is everything perfect about The Archived with an added bonus of all the toppings.
I would really love to have more Mackenzie and Wesley adventures in the future, but we’ll just have to see what happens.