Wednesday 25 February 2015

Book Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons

My Musings
I loved Kagawa's Iron Fey series and the world she built for them so was seriously looking forward to Talon. This was a new series entering into the world of Dragons. Loved the opening premise of Ember and her brother Dante being put into the world of humans to climatise themselves to the human world. Their world as a proper dragon hidden because of the Order of St George that were dedicated to hunting them. It started well. I like Ember the rebellious young dragon who can't wait for her summer of freedom. But big holes started to pop up. There was no explanation to how these enormous dragons survived apart from as humans. How did they evolve to become humans in disguise? There was lots of technology and military style descriptions. Both sides being trained to fight and lots of descriptions of fight scenes. I s this to appeal to boys and girls? Then there was Garret the soldier from St George who, of course falls for Ember not realising she is the dragon he is supposed to be after. Then there is Cobalt the rogue dragon who wants Ember to escape Talon's clutches before they make her into an assassin hunting her own kind. Guess what he also has feeling for her. Enter the usual formulaic love triangle with good v. bad boy. Sigh. I am not going to lie I found this book a little boring. It does have potential. Ember is a great heroine but the boys are 2 dimensional and there is too much fighting and not enough story, layers, depth.

I just couldn't connect with these characters the way I connected with Iron Fey. It really felt like a rerun of Vampire diaries with Dragons. I will read the second Rogue to give it a chance but this felt rushed and underdeveloped. Very disappointed but will still say give it a chance. Won't blow you away but if you have a  thing for dragons and bad boys might hit the mark for you.

Final thought. It would have done better hitting the childrens market rather than aiming for the YA market. Really felt similarities with the military angle to The Brilliant Changeling series by Steve Feasey. If Kagawa didn't have a few banal sexual references in it (for the sake of it, including swear words) this would have worked better for a younger audience.

I would suggest reading The Iron Fey series by Juliea Kagawa before reading this. I have a review of the last of the series below.
Review of Iron Traitor by Kagawa

Monday 9 February 2015

Book Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas


Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien's only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan's Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King's Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan's biggest threat - and his own toughest enemy.
While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?
This third novel in the Throne of Glass sequence, from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, is packed with more heart-stopping action, devastating drama and swoonsome romance, and introduces some fierce new heroines to love and hate. Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.

My Musings

Maas throws her fans a real curve ball when the book starts with Celaena in another country, alone and surrounded by strangers. It is assumed we remember exactly what happened in the last book (read 9 months ago) so we're just to carry on the story with no helpful reminders. Clearly my memory is not that good as I was a little lost especially with such an array of new characters to contend with. If I hadn't loved the last two books so much I may have given up. DON'T DO THAT!

The plot soon falls into place and new and old characters collide. Celaena's current dire situation of being exiled from court with magical powers she can't control is made worse with the introduction of Rowan. The warrior fairy prince whose job is to begrudgingly train Celaena so she can meet her aunt, The Fairy Queen and get some answers about her past. I LOVE Rowan's character and the whole love/hate relationship between them both. Their relationship is brutal and painful. Two warriors who's loathing slowly melts into a true friendship and maybe more. Their journey is spellbinding and heart wrenching and I fervently hope Maas has not put Rowan in there as a red herring, he's just too good a character. But her relationship with Chaol ( who seemed to mope throughout the book) is unresolved while Dorian just continues to grow in stature.

The story becomes more focused while flitting back to Dorian and Chaol who seems to have faded into insignificance and becomes less attractive as opposed to the other new additions like Aedion, Celaena's cousin, definately adding a bit of spice.

An additional story of a group of evil witches focusing on a young witch called Mab peppers the book. I assume that she will be significant to the destiny of Celaena as Maas clearly wants us to know her history but I found it irritating as if I was reading a mini book inside the main story. I skimmed parts just to get back to Celaena and Rowan.

The end of the book finishes on a traumatic knife edge.(NO SPOILERS) Characters are split and their destiny is unknown. I can't wait for the fourth book but hope the Maas takes pity on her readers and gives us a tiny overview or what went before in the beginning of the next after waiting a year for it to come out.

Especiall as Maas is writing a brand new older fantasy series which could mean the gap between books gets even wider. Even though this book started with a bit of a hiccup, it was minor and continues to be an AMAZING and ADDICTIVE series. Role on September for Queen of Shadows.......

If you like this read my book review for Sarah J Maas second book in the series 
Crown of Thornes

Sunday 1 February 2015

Book Review The Iron Necklace by Giles Waterfield


"The wedding of Thomas, an idealistic German architect, and Irene, an English artist, brings together the Curtius and Benson families. But their peace is soon shattered by the outbreak of war in Europe. While Irene struggles to survive in a country where she is the enemy, her sister Sophia faces the war as a nurse on the Western Front. For their brother Mark, diplomatic service sees him moving between London, Washington and Copenhagen, all the while struggling to confront his own identity. Against a backdrop of war and its aftermath relationships are tested, sacrifices are made and Irene and her siblings strive to find their place in an evolving world."

My Musings

The book opens gently at a wedding between an English and German family pre WW1. The scene is set like a fly on the wall commentry dropping in and out of the different groups to introduce the reader.  A quick snapshot of the type of people we are to read about. After setting the scene the book continues with very short chapters on each of the three main protaginists as they navigate their lives and loves against the backdrop of a World War that sets their families on opposite sides. 

This was the main problem for me. The writer has a lovely style but just as you were getting into the story of one character you were ripped away to read about another and then again and again....
If this was a short novel this may have worked but it is very long and to expect the reader to keep up with such a fragmented story and to remain interested is too much. It is a shame as Waterfield has a great deal of talent as a writer but its almost like he has a tiger by the tail and lost control. Either that or showing off his own cleverness.The plot, while not incredibly complicated , just irritated me that at the start of each short chapter you have to remember what the next character was up to two chapters ago. At one point i did seriously consider skipping chapters about the nurse to get to the ones about Irene , the artist and Mark, the diplomat. But even that is difficult as one characters story is shown through alternating letters. I am exhausted just thinking about it.

On the positive side and from a psychological viewpoint it is fascinating. The English woman in Germany when at war, family and friends who find themselves on opposite sides. Also more personal struggles are touched on. 

I feel it was overly ambitious and should have been shortened and not so bitty. A shame as I really should have enjoyed it a lot more. It would have been good for a bookgroup to discuss if it wasn't so long.