Thursday, 30 September 2010

BR: Demon Thief

Demon Thief by Darren Shan
4 of 5 stars

Second part in the Demonata series, and to be bold, even better than the first. In Lord Loss the writing sometimes was very short, in little sentences. That didn't bother me at all, but in Demon Thief the writing is improved a great deal. The dialogue flows more, it reads away so easily.

In this part our narrator is Kernel Fleck (Darren has an interesting choice of names!), a bold boy that can see shards of light floating in the air. There is nothing much to say about the plot without giving anything away, but it comes down to this: by some gross horrible accident he ends up in the universe of the Demonata.

The story in this book is set before Lord Loss, so we meet a younger Dervish, which I thoroughly enjoyed. We get to meet our favorite monsters Vein and Artery again, and pay a nice visit to good old Lord Loss. In this book it struck me that Lord Loss isn't actually that bad for a demon master. I wonder if that was the intention. I mean, he is like a walking corpse and has no heart, but because of that he isn't hate bearing either. Strange thought.

Darren Shan is a genius. For a young writer he has accomplished so much. In some way I like his Demonata series better than his Cirque du Freak series. The universe he creates is brilliant, the gloomy feel his books leave behind is amazing, and I truly adore his characters. I mean, they all have such a good heart, and have to go through such hardship you can't but feel for them. I want them to finally get their happy ending. A bitter sweet kind of happy ending. Like one that makes you cry but deep down you know that this was how it supposed to turn out.

Can't wait to see what new horrifying adventures Darren Shan will torture us (in a very good way) with next!

Monday, 20 September 2010

BR: The Summoning

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
4 out of 5 stars

Amazing. This is young-adult as it should be. It isn't written in a condescending petty way, but challenges us as reader, without the gory details and sex.

I'm a great fan of Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series, and I was afraid I would be disappointed with her Darkest Powers series, like I was when I read Kim Harrison's YA-book. And I'm very proud to say, I was not. This is a great book for both young adults and the well, not so young adults.

Our protagonist, Chloe, is a necromancer. She can see ghosts. And that scares the shit out of her, so when she freaks out at school because a melted janitor-ghost pursuits her, she is put in a group home, Lyle House. And finally, FINALLY the main character understands, the best way to get out, is to fake it! I can get so incredibly annoyed with the stupidity of people in books, like in Fingersmith (by Sarah Waters), where the girl that is put in an asylum, keeps telling the doctors the truth. While it sounds crazy. Don't they get that the doctors think they are mentally ill and won't listen, especially if you totally freak out and struggle and scream the whole time?! I am so glad that Kelley Armstrong has finally created a main character with BRAINS.

Apart from portraying a likeable, realistic fifteen year old girl, I also have to give the author credit for evoking a quite sinister, spooky (no pun intended) atmosphere. I always love writers that make you feel uncomfortable, without going into all those gross and horrific details. Sometimes a setting and a feeling is enough to get afraid. Laurell K Hamilton should learn a lesson from this. There doesn't have to be a lot of blood and some intestines meandering around. It is nice to read something where you don't find yourself saying "this author must be totally messed up in his head". Sometimes the horrors they come up with are just freaky.

It's fast paced and interesting, just like we are used to from Kelley Armstrong. I would surely recommend this to anyone that needs a breath from all the freaky psychopaths out there and likes some suspense.

Monday, 13 September 2010

BR: Bloodmaiden

Bloodmaiden by Christine E. Schulze
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This review was written for: The Romance Reviews

There have been countless dragon stories in the fantasy genre. We have seen them in all kinds of different colours and shapes, and we have seen them with all kinds of different personalities. Still, Bloodmaiden manages to give us an alternate view on this overused theme.

The story is set in the world of Sulaimon, consisting of four dragon dynasties, in which dragons live in harmony with the people they protect. But in the dragon dynasty in the north, in the land of Tyrnan, the dragons ask horrible sacrifices of their people. And a young couple, Crisilin and her husband Chalom, have been chosen to fulfil the frightening ritual. By a twist of fate they are able to escape from their certain death, and get the opportunity to free their people for ever. We follow them on their quest to collect the four Aria, parts of a magical song that have been created so the dragons will never abuse any human being.

This book is truly beautifully written. The way the author describes the world, the way she chooses words and makes them flow. It draws you in, makes you feel what the characters feel. There are many sad stories in this book, and I really felt for those characters. But herein lies the biggest flaw too. In some passages we see such amazing writing, but then we have to fast-forward to the next event and the next environment with other characters. There just isn't enough time to enjoy it.

This story is incredibly fast paced, too fast paced even. We jump from kingdom to kingdom, travel at an inhuman speed, get all important events and plot twists dished up right after each other. There is just no time at all to get to know our travellers, to enjoy the fantastic world that is created in Bloodmaiden. It does keep you at the edge of your chair once the story sets off, but sometimes you need to catch a breath as reader. It sometimes gets a little bit too overwhelming, too much information in one time.

This also showed in the narration and the interaction between our couple. The events are described pretty accurately, but we seldom hear what Chrisilin, our first person narrator, feels, what she thinks about it. And this feels like such a waste, because we have seen how amazing Mrs. Schulze can write, and what she could have done with it, but just didn't. Our couple never talks, the only interaction we see is them holding hands or sleeping in each others arms. Sometimes Chalom throws in a "Are you alright, love?" and that's it for deep conversation that chapter. I did buy their love for each other though, there certainly is a bond between them. Sometimes we get a peek into their carefree past, and then they truly shine together.

Another little annoyance I had while reading this is that Chrisilin refers to our world. She once compares something to a roller coaster, or calls a palace "Chinese looking". How is this possible when she lives in a totally imaginary place? She tells us her aunt has told her about other worlds (including ours, apparently) but then forgets to mention how this different-worlds thing works. It felt like something the author didn't think through well enough.

This book has so much potential. If it had been longer and more extensive this would have been one of my favourite books. It has everything, but everything crammed in too few pages. I'd love to see what happens when Mrs. Schulze takes her time to write a book. This is a promising author I would keep my eye on in the future!

Monday, 6 September 2010

BR: Once Dead, Twice Shy

Once Dead, Twice Shy (Madison Avery, #1)Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison
3 out of 5 stars

Once Dead, Twice Shy was.. disappointing. Maybe I shouldn't have such high expectations, but Kim Harrison's urban fantasy series about Rachel Morgan are one of my favourite series of all time, so I was expecting to absolutely be in love with her YA books as well.

This isn't a bad book, not at all. It was entertaining, the heroine was incredibly likeable (which is quite an achievement in a YA novel without making the protagonist seem too mature), and the plot was fast paced. I really liked Madison's quirky nature, and even her purple hair. Josh seems like a nice guy and is a great love interest and I would like to see where that goes.

It just felt like there was something lacking in this story. Usually Kim Harrison has such deep characters, and this felt so flat. I hadn't read the short story from the Prom Nights from Hell book, so I had no idea what happened before this book. The whole angel/reaper/timekeeper-lore is is pretty complicated, so it was too much to just try to interpret the little information given in the dialogue. Harrison should have included the short story, or should have eased us into the story a little bit more, introducing us to the reapers and telling us what happened, because if you had no clue, just like me, that you have to read the anthology first, you feel like you're totally missing out.

One thing I did like was the fight between "choice" and "fate". The different between dark and light angels is not that one is good and the other is bad, but the ongoing struggle between choice and fate. In the end, both aren't good but not bad either. I would really like to see where that goes. It gave the story much more meaning, and not the usual black/white contrast. Sometimes grey is the best option. 

Kim Harrison still is a great writer, she has a great imagination, the plot wasn't predictable, the descriptions clear, the dialogue flowed like it should and the characters are likeable. The lack of detail disturbed me. But for the unsuspecting reader this still is a nice book. I'd say, read it, but do not expect a YA Hollows.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

BR: Dead Witch Walking

Dead Witch Walking (Rachel Morgan/The Hollows, #1)Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reread this for a challenge. This is the book that got me into urban fantasy. Before that, I had only read epic fantasy, and I had no clue there were so much more kinds of fantasy there, just waiting for me to discover them.

Rachel is an IS (Inderland Security) runner, but lately things aren't really working out for her. She hasn't had a good run in weeks. So, at again a horrible tag she decides to quit. But she takes the best runner the IS has, Ivy Tamwood, a living vamp, with her. The IS, not so pleased with this, puts a price on her head. So now Rachel has to do everything to avoid being killed by fairy assassins and other evils...

This book is plain awesome. All supernatural beings came out of the supernatural closet during "the Turn", when the whole world was in chaos because of a virus that spreaded through tomatoes. Now, the "Inderlanders" live next to humans, but there is still a lot of suspicion and distrust.

Our protagonist, Rachel Morgan, is an earth witch, and a kick-ass heroine. She can defend herself quite well without her charms, and it feels great to have a heroine that can take care of herself. She is a bit ignorant, but she has her pixy and vamp partners to keep her out of trouble.

We see her grow in Dead Witch Walking from a I-can-do-all-of-this-by-myself-attitude to accepting that sometimes, you just need your friends, and you have to trust on other people. She is still not completely comfortable with living with a vampire that craves her blood, but we see definite progress.

All characters are so complex and have their own lives and problems. This series has one of my favourite side-characters ever: the tiny pixy Jenks, with a not so tiny attitude. His straightforwardness is hilarious. He just makes my day any time.

The story is incredibly fast paced, everything takes place in a couple of days, and there is so much going on. There are a lot of questions unanswered but there wasn't a big cliffhanger ending. There is a lot of stuff left for the rest of the series, and I can't wait to reread those as well.