Showing posts with label historical. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical. Show all posts

Monday, February 27, 2017

[Review] A Darker Shade of Magic (#1) - V.E. Schwab: 19th Century London and Parallel Universes





In A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, Kell is one of the blood magicians who are gifted with the ability to wander between parallel worlds.

What intrigued me: Recommended by literally everyone.

Textbook writing and too many info dumps

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC certainly has a great base frame, but absolutely can't hide the fact that it doesn't quite know what to do with all that world building. Protagonist Kell is a smuggler, an adopted royal, a blood magician, and handles the correspondence between the four different Londons. To get that all inside your head, you'll already need a moment. The biggest problem is that there is so much about this world and so many specific rules, quirks, and things to know, that there is no way you'll have a good time reading this for the first time. Paired with incredibly factual and emotionless writing, it reads like a textbook. I was often torn between utter disinterest and sort-of fascination. 

I grew insanely frustrated the more I read because I simply didn't understand what was happening and why it was happening, and who the bazillion side characters are. A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC plays in this sort-of 19th century-inspired historical-ish world that has kings and queens and (sometimes?) magic. Ish. I say Ish because even after having read this I still don't get it. Usually you'd expect a novel to lay out the basics within the first 100 pages, but in A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, you'll still be wrestling with exposition on page 350 of 400. 

Clearly the idea is there and Schwab really tried to set up an original world, but half of it neither makes sense nor is comprehensible to the average first time reader. This is not the type of fantasy I enjoy - throwing words in made-up languages around and introducing so many different parallel worlds that you're constantly confusing everyone. 

One dimensional characters and predictability

Because Schwab so heavily puts the focus on the world building, the characters are absolutely suffering. Everyone in A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC is one-dimensional, not even the protagonist Kell has an ounce of a personality. It's a shame because you can tell that a lot of effort went into this. At the end of the day, I think this book is impossible to enjoy if you prefer your high fantasy to make sense and to form a connection with the fictional characters you're reading about. 

On top of all that - the plot is just very predictable and anti-climactic. Of course protagonist Kell must face the only other rare special snowflake blood magician in the book aside from him because of some barely-plausible plot convenience; and of course there is a mystery about his birth parents that we only get to solve if we buy the next two books. 


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC wasn't for me. From a predictable plot to confusing world building, to writing that I just don't like, this one is a clear miss for me personally.



Additional Info

Published: 24th February 2015
Pages: 400
Publisher: Tor
Genre: Adult / Sci-Fi / Parallel Worlds
ISBN: 9780765376459

Synopsis:
"Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped."(Source: Goodreads)

 Have you read A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC?

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

[Review] Timekeeper (#1) - Tara Sim: Steampunk and Time-Controlling Clocks | #ReadIndie

In TIMEKEEPER, time is controlled by clock towers in an alternate Victorian Era. When the clock towers start getting bombed, mechanic Danny grows curious.

What intrigued me: I heard about a bisexual character in this and immediately needed to get my hands on a copy.

Incredibly Original

TIMEKEEPER impressed me instantly with the rich world building. The second you open this book, you're sucked into the story, a Victorian-Era-inspired Steampunk world controlled by clocks. It sounds strange but works so well and is so delightfully refreshing and new. I've never read anything like this before.

As a Steampunk skeptic I was hesitant about picking this up, but Sim managed to convert me fully. TIMEKEEPER is absolutely not only a novel for fans of the genre, but also for people who'd like to try something different.

Lack of Urgency

The world building is the biggest strength but also the biggest weakness of TIMEKEEPER. A good chunk of the novel is spent feeding background information and letting protagonist Danny walk around to get a good look at everything that it has to offer. This leads to the premise quite quickly growing a little bit wonky. 
The idea with the clock towers getting attacked isn't necessarily the focus of it all and it did bother me because I felt like the story was deriving from its intended path a lot, in order to give the characters more screen time or to info dump. It just feels like urgency of the story just isn't addressed enough and that there isn't any real danger, else the characters would probably proceed more quickly or in the least with more caution.

The lack of urgency is probably due to the story's other plot line, mechanic Danny following in love with a physical manifestation of a clock tower he's repairing. It sounds strange and reads a little strange, too, it reminded me a little of those people who fall in love with inanimate objects. The concept is interesting, but I just didn't grow fond of it at all. Which is probably also due to the quite flat love interest whose only attribute is that he is incredibly lovely and adorable.



Rating:

★★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

TIMEKEEPER is a cute little story for steampunk-enthusiasts and those who like their romance fluffy and superficial. It stuns with fantastically diverse characters in leading roles (PTSD, bisexual, gay, POC) and a very innovative world.

What's #ReadIndie?



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 368
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: YA / Historical
ISBN: 9781510706187

Synopsis:
"Two o’clock was missing. 

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like steampunk?

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

[Review] And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1) - Kiersten White: Vlad the Impaler and a Badass Anti-heroine





In AND I DARKEN, the vicious Wallachian princess Lada and her gentle brother Radu are abandoned by their father Vlad Dracul to be raised in the Ottoman Empire.

What intrigued me: I absolutely love books about anti-heroes.

Fantastic Characters

AND I DARKEN doesn't read like a typical YA High Fantasy book. Don't let the blurb fool you, this isn't a story with dragons and magical creatures, this is alternate historical fiction, inspired by the famous Vlad Tepes. It's well researched, it's full of historical figures you might recognize if you're a history buff, and it's a pretty well-rounded book.

A huge portion of the book is spent on backstory, pages and pages telling us of Radu's and Lada's childhood to supposedly make us understand them and their choices better. I do have to say that the characters in AND I DARKEN are fantastic

The biggest strength of the novel is that it manages to create a realistic portrayal of nearly all of its characters, but sadly sometimes this comes at the expense of the narration. The writing is impeccable and White seamlessly manages to pull of multiple POVs without making it awkward at all. The fact that we get so much backstory does help with character establishment, but it also makes reading this equal a chore. The blurb promises the story of a vicious teenage princess, but the first 150 pages read like a family chronicle Game of Thrones style. I'm talking that part of Game of Thrones where Martin describes the ingredients of a sandwich for 3 pages.

Only for history buffs?

AND I DARKEN absolutely stands out within the genre, but I just wish there was more plot and more action to it all. White does not need so many pages to establish that Lada is brutal and mean and that Radu is a small ray of sunshine, I absolutely hated that there are so many time jumps. It makes getting attached to actual plot impossible when everything around them is constantly changing. I didn't understand the politics, I didn't really manage to create a basic understanding of who's fighting whom and why, mostly due to the story being told over the span of several years. 

It does read more like a family chronicle than a regular fantasy story. If you're not familiar with the actual history behind this story, I assume you'll feel similarly.

While I do appreciate to see something different in AND I DARKEN, I wish it was more dense, more focused on world building and less on the characters. At the end of the day this story just doesn't need to be half as long as it is. 


Rating:

★★½☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

AND I DARKEN is a very unique book with fantastic(!) characters, but the story just didn't grip me as much as I would have liked. I can certainly see many people enjoy this, especially if you're a fan of historical fiction, it's definitely a good read! Personally, if wasn't for me, I was looking for something more magical than historical.



Additional Info

Published: July 7th 2016
Pages: 498
Publisher: Corgi Children's
Genre: YA / Historical
ISBN: 9780552573740

Synopsis:
"No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point."(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read books by Kiersten White?

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