The Eternals by Clover Donovan

the eternals

1 out of 5 stars.

This is a self-published book and boy does it ever show. I got through it, but just barely.

My first problem is just one of spacing. This book does not have proper paragraphs and I never realized how distracting that could be until now. A couple pages in I thought the book was written in free verse poetry because of the weird, choppy short paragraphs. It turns out it is not poetry, just an author who does not use spacing well.

The action in this book moves way too quickly and descriptions are non-existent. Something that would take most authors a chapter to describe takes a page, cut down to the barest of descriptions and glossing over anything the characters might be feeling. You never get any sense of time or place because they are ignored. Emotions, if they are mentioned at all, get dealt with in a sentence and then the plot moves on. You have to read everything very carefully because a character can be introduced in a couple of sentences and that is all you will get of description. This reads like a high school writing project of someone in a hurry and unaware that writers usually use adjectives.

The final really large flaw is that the story is not fleshed out. Not just in terms of descriptions and details, just that the plot is so simple and short. Going over the story afterwards in your mind, you realize that there are no twists or turns. There is nothing unexpected to capture your interest. Boy meets girl, they run from bad guys for a very short while, bad guys immediately find them and then girl tries to make a sacrifice. It has as much complexity as a picture book and it goes by so quickly there is no time to get to know the characters, much less start to care about them.

This was amateurishly written and very disappointing. It was less than $2.00, but I still want my money back.


The Shadow Queen by C.J.Redwine

shadow queen

4 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC.

I tend to not really like rewrites of Snow White. She was always one of my least favourite princesses, partly because the Disney version is so dull, partly because, in the original, she gets taken in by the same trick 3 different times. Not the sharpest knife in the princess drawer. This version is really quite good and does some interesting things with the story.

Lorelai is a princess in hiding, ever since Queen Irina seized the throne. Irina is slowly draining the land of it’s vitality in order to increase her own power, and draining the life out of her subjects to harvest their magic. Lorelai must regain her throne before there is nothing left of her kingdom to save.

Kol is a dragon prince suddenly thrust into power when his family is killed. His land is being overrun by ogres, and magic is the only way to stop them. To stop his kingdom from being overrun, he must make a deal with Irina. He expects to have to hand over gold, but the price demanded for her help is Lorelai’s heart. Since he has a taste of her scent, he is on the hunt. But killing an innocent, even to save a kingdom, is harder than he thought.

I like how proactive Lorelai is and how she has power of her own. It is a good change from the very simpering and simple Snow White of Disney. She is strong and powerful and has magic. She will fight.

The evil Queen having to suck citizens dry to replenish her magic yet still slowly being killed by it is a nice twist on magic. There are only a few series that have magic use being lethal to the wielder, and I tend to enjoy them. It seems to make a more balanced universe if untold God-like power comes at some sort of a cost. The Queen doesn’t have much of a backstory, but that can come as a novella later if the author is willing.

Thanks to “Seraphina” and Rachel Hartman, I have a fond attachment to shapeshifting dragons, so the Prince is a good character. Dragon anatomy and emotions are touched on ¬†and the interplay between Kol and Lorelai develops into a nice relationship.

The pace was quick and exciting and the ideas behind the rewrite were novel and interesting. I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait for the next one to be released.

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

reign of shadoss

3 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC.

This actually starts off really reading like a rewrite of Rapunzel. A girl is kept safe from the outside world in a tower in the middle of the forest. She longs for freedom but her guardians insist she stay safe and cloistered in her fortress. Her solitude and boredom are broken when a mysterious boy stumbles into her lonely solitude.

While this is a good premise, the book very quickly became just another YA fantasy with nothing special to distinguish it. The dark, moody love interest and the spunky/independent protagonist are just so standard. Most of the emphasis is on a relationship that develops too quickly and for all of the wrong reasons. The rest of the plot is just something I have read time and time again.

Besides the premise, there really was nothing special or memorable about this book. The characters did not have unique voices, the writing was not special in any way, and the setting and plot could have been copied from any one of a hundred other YA novels. Maybe I am just in a bit of a bad mood, but this was just so humdrum and unremarkable that I would not really bother recommending it. It was not awful, just so standard.

The Secret Fire by C.J Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld

secret fire

3 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this work.

Sacha’s family is cursed. Each firstborn male in his line will die exactly on his eighteenth birthday. While unfortunate, this means that, until that time, Sacha cannot die. Taylor thinks she is ordinary until she starts showing signs of magical powers. Taylor’s teacher is forcing her to be Sacha’s tutor, but their relationship turns out to be much more complicated when Taylor discovers she is the only one who can break Sacha’s curse.

The first part of the book where a depressed Sacha is making money by exploiting his inability to die I found very insightful. In a lot of books, when a protagonist finds out they have superpowers, they immediately use it to do something noble. I think that it is perfectly reasonable to expect a depressed teenager with immortality to use it for something stupid like trying to buy a motorbike. I also thought the character of his mother, desperately trying to hold her family together and pretend nothing is wrong, was well done.

The second half of the book, when it gets down to the real business of fighting the evil that will be released upon Sacha’s death, was much more typical of a YA fantasy of this type and I found it less enjoyable. The plot went from a clever and introspective look at how real people might deal with a death sentence combined with a superpower to a very standard good-against-evil style novel.

I guess I was hoping the book would go on and explore Sacha’s character more. He is at once blessed because he can cheat death, and doomed to die early. He becomes surly and despondent, which is a reasonable way to react. Taylor and Sacha could have really explored the emotional nuances of not being able to die and begin trapped by a definite termination date.

I loved the first part and liked the second part. I just wish all of it had been as engaging as the beginning.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff


5 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this book.

It is not even funny how much I enjoyed this book. It is a fantastic mix of science fiction and horror.

Kady and Ezra’s planet has just been destroyed by a rival mining company. All of the survivors are crammed onboard 3 ships and running for safety. Then people on one ship start getting sick and the AI starts to malfunction.

If you ever wanted a zombie novel set in space, look no further. Illuminae is exciting, compelling and sometimes heartbreaking from beginning to end. Kaufman and Kristoff do an especially good job building tension throughout the book, as things go from bad (planet destroyed) to worse (people getting sick) to even worse (AI malfunctioning as insane sick people swarm ships). I had to read this book in one sitting because I could not wait to find out what happened.

Just as a stylistic note, this book is peppered with graphics and pattern poetry. The story is delivered through IM texting style writing, military-style observations from camera recordings of action, sometimes told through the perspective of the AI, and through various graphics, like posters for movies and hand-washing. It is visually interesting throughout and all the different bits and pieces of narrative style add to the mounting tension and confusion as the conditions aboard the ship rapidly deteriorate.

Kady and Ezra are really fun characters to read, with their romance being full of sarcasm, legitimate concerns over safety, fights, and, finally, a really sweet romance with two people who do not want to live without each other. Most of their communication is IM, complete with emoticons. I got quite a few giggles out of some of the pithy dialogue and really enjoyed their banter. Kady is also a great character because she is a tech genius and I love seeing female characters in untraditional roles, like tech-geek and hacker.

This is the second really horror-style science fiction I have read (the second being 172 Hours on the Moon) and being in space just makes things scarier. Reading Illuminae felt a lot like watching Alien for the first time. There is no place to run out in space and that makes things a thousand times creepier.

The plot was fast paced, several twists caught me by surprise and I started empathizing with the characters really quickly. This is one of 2015s best books.