Godsgrave by Jay Kristof

godsgrave

5/5

I received an ARC of this work.

Wow, am I enjoying this series. It is an amazing fantasy read with a fantastic sense of humour and a gritty realism that is borderline impossible to ignore. I cannot add it to my library which is exclusively for junior high students (and this is definitely an adult read), but I am going to bully all of my friends into reading this.

Mia Corvere is the daughter of a rebel and the rest of her family was slaughtered during the attempted coup. She was rightfully upset and decided to spend the rest of her life getting revenge on the main figures in charge of the executions of her mother, father and brother. Since they are all very highly placed in the government, it will not be a simple job, but there is a group of highly trained assassins who do take on apprentices. In the first book, Mia manages to make it through the training and become accepted into the ranks of killers. The second book begins with her starting on her final path to retribution.

The winner of a gladiatorial contest is congratulated, in person and unarmed, by one of her targets. To enter, Mia must sell herself into slavery and be purchased by a noble house that wants to compete. Then she just has to kill every other contestant in an Ancient Romanesque bloodbath. Being a trained combat expert will help, but she will not be given her choice of weapon and is still just one girl.

For those who loved Hunger Games and Red Rising for their life or death combat scenes and action, this reads quite similarly. You have a smaller crew of distinct characters that form relationships and temporary alliances, knowing that all friendships and bonds are going to end by having to kill each other later. As a reader you are always on your toes, never really knowing who is going to die next and who is going to stab whom in the back.

What really sells this series, though, is how funny life and death, betrayal and blood can get in the imagination of a skilled author. The text is peppered with hilarious footnotes that have a Terry Pratchett/ Jonathan Stroud sarcasm and wit to them. It gives you a breath of fresh air between battles and eviscerations.

The book reads a lot like Scott Lynch, in that you have a great combination of funny and serious fantasy without the character having to save the world. So much of our science fiction and fantasy has the plot revolving around saving the entire planet/universe/species. It is rarer to find one where the protagonist is trying to do something personal. It may have larger political implications (in this case murdering the head of a country), but that is not the main focus. Mia just wants his head. The collapse of the state thanks to her actions is not a concern of hers. She is self-absorbed enough to not care about the wider fallout of her plans. She wants what she wants and that is as far as her attention really goes.

It is also very refreshing to see such a bloodthirsty character. Too much of YA has characters that want to do what is right and make sacrifices for love/saving something. Mia is just ignoring friendships and people and love and cutting down everything in her path. It makes it a more interesting read to not be guaranteed the actions that other characters might make. Mia might choose to kill a friend or screw somebody over or she may not. Her vicious nature makes her harder to predict.

I adore this series. It was really hard to put down and I was alternatively giggling and close to tears. A must-read.

 

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Tarnished City by James Vic

tarnished city

4 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this work.

This review will contain spoilers for the first book, the Gilded Cage.

This book is just as good as the first in the series, which is fantastic since so many series have a notedly not very strong second book. This one reads very well.

The rebellion fomenting against the skilled upper class is growing and all of the main characters are connected to it in some way or another. Luke, placed in a slave camp, is a member helping with regular protests. His sisters Abi and Daisy are slaves in the manor house of one of the old ruling families where one of the sons (Gavar) has been tasked with squashing the rebellion. The eldest brother of the family has unparalleled powers and his goals and alliances are completely unknown, and the youngest is definitely sympathetic to the unskilled, but since he has no powers, he does not count for anything. The father of the noble family wants complete power, but so does Gavar’s fiancĂ©.

The whole plot is a web of alliances and interests that it is difficult to find in other YA books. Most books for teens tend towards simplified plots with clear and straightforward lines, keeping the twists and turns down to one or two large ones at the end. To find the intricacy that this book offers you usually have to go to adult fantasy or science fiction, like Game of Thrones. I loved what it offers young readers in terms of complexity.

The family is thrown back together, which means the relationships grow and change. The characters evolve in ways that does not always happen in YA fantasy and I love how familial relationships are emphasized in these books. It is not just romance. It is parent and child, father and nanny, brother and sister. The characters are complex and their motives get explored well.

While not revealing too much of the plot, this was a great and solid addition to the series. We get to know the characters even better and start to question some of the stuff about them that we learned in the first book. Definitely read this.