Elite by Mercedes Lackey

elite

4 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this work.

I love this new Mercedes Lackey series. Here is the link for my review of the first one.

Like a lot of Mercedes Lackey series, the first book is mostly used as an introduction to the plot and the world of the series. Now that we are on the second book, we get seriously into the meat of the story.

Joy has mostly gotten used to living in the city. The celebrity status of Hunters no longer surprises her, she has friends and has just managed to become an Elite. Even her romantic relationship is going well. Her uncle decides to assign her to patrol the sewers. Larger and stronger monsters have been sneaking into the city somehow and her uncle has a hunch they are going under the barrier.

Joy does end up finding newer and larger monsters, but also starts tripping over Psimon bodies. The first one or two might be coincidences, but soon it becomes obvious that something weird is happening. The Psimon command orders her point blank to leave it alone, but something murdering powerful psychics in the sewer is hard to put aside.

Adding to the trouble are increased attacks against the city, sightings of monsters that have never been encountered, and the possibility that Ace may still be gunning for revenge. The pacing moves along really nicely and we get to know the characters introduced in the first book a lot more.

This is a really good second book in a series. It follows and enhances the storyline the first has set up, while deepening the plot, adding some new problems and trials and leaving room for a good solid third book. It does not fall off or stagnate like a lot of second books do.

The one problem I have with quite a few Mercedes Lackey books is what a simplistic worldview they present. The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad and you can easily tell one from the other. There is really no moral relativism, or even an attempt to justify bad behaviour in a way that might be empathizable. The moral questions are never tough and the good guys always do what is right, whatever the cost may be. Because of this, they are excellent comfort books, but not that great if you are looking for a challenge. If I want to question my worldview or solve a philosophical quandary, these are not the books you go to. They are great for when you are sick or sad though.

This is a great second book and I think everyone who enjoys YA fantasy should take a look at this one.

 

 

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Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

ivory and bone

2 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this work

If I am putting all my cards on the table, I will admit I only ever saw the cover before I added this to my to-read shelf. I just assumed that this was a YA fantasy. It is not. It turns out this work is a historical fantasy, set before recorded history. I did not expect that!

Kol’s small tribe has just been contacted by a neighbouring tribe that has some girls his age! This is an unusually big deal as people in their part of the world have become few and far between and Kol’s family has been worried about finding wives for him and his brothers. Kol feels attracted to Mya, but her group has some historical grudge against Kol’s. A third tribe shows up that also has girls and more information on the rivalry. Lo is a lot more friendly than Mya and is sure Mya’s family is to blame for the past hurts. Kol is torn over which girl he likes more and whose account of the past to trust.

This book didn’t really click with me. The plot was just so concentrated on which girl this guy would eventually end up with that any of the other material about tribes fighting and their history gets pushed to the background. The setting and historical details are minimal and also not really important to anything. This was a very common plot that could have been put in any time period and any location without changing it at all.

I did not find the agonizing over girls to be very exciting, but I didn’t enjoy the family feud plot line either. I actually found some of the details confusing and was left with the nagging suspicion that I had missed something important. What I did catch struck me as somewhat silly and an unlikely cause for the amount of fuss that was being made.

I don’t have very much to say about this book besides complaining how bland it was. Neither the characters, nor the world stuck out in any special way. I don’t think I will be giving this to anyone.

 

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

three dark crowns

4 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this work.

In every generation three queens are born, but only one can rule. One will control the elements, one will control nature, and one will commune with death through poisons. When they come of age they give a display of their powers, meet their suitors and have a year to eliminate their rivals. The one left standing will be queen.

Arsinoe, Mirabella and Katharine each have their own obstacles to overcome on the way to the top. Arsinoe, the naturalist, has no powers to speak of, but her best friend is one of the strongest naturalists in generations. Arsinoe can’t help but being jealous that the one thing that might keep her alive has been gifted to someone who does not need it. Mirabella is clearly the strongest of the three, but is troubled by dreams of her sisters and is reluctant to kill them. Katharine, like Arsinoe, is very weak in her powers, but the poisoner faction of the kingdom has held the throne for so long they cannot imagine not being the power behind the monarch.

The story is told from 4 different viewpoints: each of the three queens and Arsinoe’s best friend Jules. I found this got a little confusing, as the internal voices of the characters aren’t that different and each has their own small cast of characters, so I would spend the first couple of sentences trying to get back into the head space of that character and remember who everyone was. The changes between voices were frequent, which wasn’t great, but I enjoyed the book despite this.

Most of the conflict is political. Different factions back different queens and vie for power. They are prepared to scheme and even cheat to make sure their chosen candidate wins. Added to the mix are outside suitors all trying to romance whomever they think will win and the queens trying to attract as much support as possible. Think Game of Thrones but with training wheels.

The set-up for the political system was a cool one: each queen has their own superpower and they get to use it to assassinate the others. Brilliant! Unfortunately, this book does not  get to that point, the actual combat will be in the second book. This book was an exploration of the political system and the personalities and powers of the queens. It was a good introduction to the series, but almost did not cover enough for an entire book. It left on a terrible cliffhanger.

This looks to be a really interesting series with a cool world, as long as you can put up with frequent changes to the narrative voice.

The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass

cresswell plot

4 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this work.

This one is super creepy in parts, partially because you can see this exact scenario actually being played out in real life. Castley’s father is convinced God talks to him, telling him that the Cresswell family is the only enclave of true believers left on Earth. Castley’s brothers and sisters are expected to follow their father’s “revelations” exactly, wearing homemade clothing, marrying each other when they come of age, and accepting punishments for infractions that include beatings and being locked in a hole in the ground. The 6 children were originally homeschooled, but worried neighbours made enough of a fuss that they were thrown into public school. Castley and her siblings are all social outcasts until Castley is partnered with someone who is halfway decent to her as part of a school project. She is just getting a glimpse of what life outside of her family could be like when her father starts acting more and more erratic, talking about how their entire family will soon be going to their true home.

I really enjoyed this book, despite it being quite scary. Castley is a very well written character that is coming to realize exactly how screwed up her family is, while still feeling a great deal of loyalty towards them. She is grappling with the fact that her father may not be infallible and, in fact, may be downright abusive, but reporting him would tear their family apart. It is a really heartbreaking portrayal of the types of decisions that abused children have to make when deciding what to do.

Castley’s siblings are a good spectrum of the ways kids can deal with abusive parents. One brother believes his father completely, and tries to follow his insane commands as best he can, though whether this is sincere belief in the “revelation” or a self-defence mechanism is hard to say. Another disobeys frequently. They all try and stay away from home as much as possible and seem to have lingering doubts about whether or not their father might be right after all, and that he is a true prophet instead of a madman.

The tension in this book builds nicely as the situation becomes more and more urgent. The children are starting to approach their 18th birthdays, when they can finally leave home and make their own decisions. The family relies on reclaimed trash sold at a farmer’s market to sustain them, and a run of bad luck means that the family is growing short on food. The father seems to realize his control over his family is breaking and begins to talk about returning his family to Heaven. No one in the family is quite sure how seriously he means that though.

This book was really hard to put down because you are not sure how far the situation is going to progress. There are some adults in the community becoming concerned, the kids are all being pushed to their breaking points and the dad is getting crazier. You know something is going to happen, but not what and from which quarter.

This was a suspenseful and engaging read. It really puts the spotlight on child abuse and religious fanaticism, and the importance of being kind to those around you since you do not know what their home life might be like.