YA Review: Rule of Wolves

Title: Rule of Wolves
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

Even more Grishaverse! Even more Nikolai! Even more Zoya! Even more Nina!

I’m so happy that the paperback edition of ‘Rule of Wolves’ has finally arrived, and I’m thrilled to have had the chance to read the end of the story that began in ‘King of Scars’.

The poison of The Fold is spreading, throughout Ravka and beyond. No one can predict where the blight will strike, leaving cursed dust in its shadow and wiping out crops, towns, and people. The Fjerdan army is massing on the northern border, and the queen of Shu Han is plotting her own moves against Ravka. Threats to the King and his people are growing, and Nikolai has few places to turn for support.

This book follows the fallout from the events of ‘King of Scars’. Nikolai and Zoya are constantly on the move, calming unrest in Ravka, directing troops on the front lines, and seeking diplomatic solutions to their disastrous situation. A mission to Shu Han attempts to minimise the threat from the queen, and Nina’s undercover work in Fjerda becomes more dangerous as she finds herself entangled with the Crown Prince and the inner workings of the Ice Court.

Where the first book developed each character’s story, focusing on Nikolai’s attempts to keep his curse concealed, and to forge a political partnership to protect Ravka, ‘Rule of Wolves’ is a much more strategic book. Reading it is like watching a very clever game of chess, as each country and player seeks to out-manoeuvre their neighbours, and find a way to increase their power and influence in the world. It’s a nail-biting plot, with constant twists and surprises – including a moment when I couldn’t decide whether to cry or throw the book at the wall, and a moment of air-punching brilliance near the end.

I loved the relationship between Nikolai and Zoya, struggling to keep their feelings hidden for the sake of Ravka, and each other. The roles of King and General ask so much from the characters, and their bravery and constant self-denial was heartbreaking to read. Yes, Nikolai is still my book boyfriend. I adore him – his quick wit, his refusal to give up hope, his acceptance of his role, and his sincere but impossible feelings for Zoya. He’s a wonderful character, and I hope we see more of him in future Grishaverse books.

While the plot is shaped by political decisons, there are plenty of fantastic action sequences, and several heart-stopping events that keep the pages turning. I loved the story (in spite of the book-throwing and tears), and the ending, while unexpected, is big enough and bold enough to complete the duology – while setting up for a new story, which I can’t wait to read!

I have adored all the Grishaverse novels, and I’m already wondering what happens next.

Have you read Rule of Wolves? What did you think of the story? And what about that ending? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Escape From B-Movie Hell

Title: Escape From B-Movie Hell
Author: MT McGuire
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

Cover art for 'Escape From B-Movie Hell'

What do you do when your best friend tells you he’s an alien, proves it, and then disappears? Student Andi Turbot heads to her next lecture, then home to heat up some leftovers for dinner. She doesn’t expect to meet more aliens in her kitchen, or to find herself transported to their ship, abducted, and subjected to a telepathic interrogation. Finding out about the impending destruction of the earth is not what she had in mind for the evening – and neither is discovering she’s a powerful telepath.

On the plus side, she is reunited with her friend – only now he looks a bit like a lobster with seven long eye stalks and a coating of slimy goo. His human form was a telepathic projection, and his Gamalian form will take a bit of getting used to. As will the task ahead – escaping from the brig of a Gamalian ship, avoiding capture, and saving the world.

I read this book in one sitting. Once I’d started, I couldn’t put it down. Everything I love about MT McGuire’s writing is here – humour, action, brilliant and imaginative world-building, and an absolutely compassionate approach to the question of what it means to be human, and what it takes to do the right thing. It’s a beautiful balance of laughter, friendship, loyalty and bravery, and recognising that no one is all bad, and no one is all good. There are bad guys and good guys, but plenty of shades of grey, and the author has a keen eye for the comedic moments when two cultures – and two species – meet. The action scenes are vivid and immersive, and the tension towards the climax of the story had me absolutely on the edge of my seat.

Andi is a refreshing character. She’s studying Art Restoration and Museum Studies, but in her spare time she’s a stand-up comedian. Her take on the events of the book is always coloured with humour and compassion, alongside a genuine fear for the safety of the Earth. Her friend Eric is the kind of being you’d want to go on an adventure with. Reliable, brave, and always willing to listen to Andi’s suggestions, he’s both a companion and protector, and her guide to the weirder aspects of Gamalian culture. I particularly enjoyed the character development of Doge Sneeb, a really interesting alien bad guy whose backstory develops in unexpected ways over the course of the book.

This is a proper B-movie romp with giant aliens, a constantly twisting plot, and a very satisfying conclusion. Great fun to read, and a fantastic way to spend a sunny afternoon in the garden.

Escape From B-Movie Hell is published as adult SciFi, but is suitable for a YA audience.

Have you read Escape From B-Movie Hell ? What did you think of Andi’s story? Who was your favourite character? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

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YA Review: Double Cross

Title: Double Cross
Author: Bruce A Hanson
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

This was a fun read. Three Canadian teenagers on a winter break discover a valuable historical artefact on a snowmobile outing. Excited by their find, the friends soon discover that they are not the only people interested in its history – or its value. Their investigations lead them into unexpected danger as they are forced to decide who they can trust, and who might be hiding a deadly secret.

Double Cross might be a short book, but I was hooked from the first page. The teenage characters are beautifully written – I knew within a couple of pages who they were and what to expect from each of them. As the story progressed, and the three of them faced fear and danger, their personalities shone through. I loved their friendly banter, and the way they could joke with each other even when they found themselves in mortal danger.

The adult characters are similarly well crafted. I particularly loved Aunt Irene, fearless investigative reporter and host to the friends on their holiday. She came alive on the page, providing both energetic adventures and a grown-up grounding – making sure everyone remembered to eat, and asking the right questions at the right times.

As a Brit who has worked and studied in Canada, I enjoyed the specifically Canadian details. The descriptions of the winter landscape were gorgeous, showcasing the cold, crisp beauty of winter woods in snow. The snowmobile sequences and details of the Hudson’s Bay blanket made me smile, along with the historical references in the story.

It’s a quick read, but with its sparkling characters and exciting plot, Double Cross will drag you in, heart pounding, and keep you guessing until the end.

Double Cross will be published on July 29th.

Have you read Double Cross? What did you think of the story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

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YA Review: The Stranded

Title: The Stranded
Author: Sarah Daniels
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

Refugees from a war-ravaged Europe have been stuck at sea for more than forty years, confined to the cruise ships that were supposed to bring them to safety. A fractured US refuses permission for them to come ashore, fearful of the weaponised virus that might lie dormant in the bloodstream of everyone on board. On the Arcadia, desperate passengers live their lives in the ruins of ballrooms, crew areas, restaurants, and empty swimming pools. Rival gangs maintain a fragile truce, overseen by a sadistic administrator from the Federated States, and the current captain of the ship. Passengers fall in love, start families, and educate their children within sight of the shore, with no hope of reaching land. It’s a brilliant dystopian premise, and a gripping read.

The story follows Esther and Alex, teenage passengers who were born on the Arcadia, as they train to be medics. The top students in their class will be allowed to go ashore to complete their training and begin new lives. Esther and Alex are planning to marry on board and leave together, finally completing their families’ journeys across the Atlantic.

Esther’s older sister, May, is working towards her own escape, as a member of the military cadets. If she keeps out of trouble, she will be recruited into the on-shore military, and given the chance to make her own new life on land. But her friend Nik is part of the resistance, and while May tries hard to protect her family, it is only a matter of time until Esther and Alex find themselves tangled in gang rivalries and rebel plots – everything they need to avoid if they are going to make it off the boat.

Narration is shared between Esther, Nik, and Hadley – the deliciously nasty administrator who is desperate to impress his superiors enough to earn a placement on land. As Esther’s experiences develop her understanding of the politics of the Arcadia, the reader learns along with her, and the complexity and fragility of her position in shipboard society become dangerously clear.

As the story progresses and the plot twists kick in, we follow the narrators through acts of friendship and bravery, heartbreak, betrayal, and adventure. The action sequences are tightly written and exciting, and there are no guarantees of safety for any of the characters. Esther and Alex are respected for their medical knowledge, and it doesn’t take long for their skills to be in demand.

I loved everything about this book – the excellent dystopian premise, the characters and their relationships, and their adventures as they try to make sense of the events of the story. Hadley’s narration is deliciously nasty, Esther struggles with the path she must follow in order to leave ship life behind, and Nik is doing his best to maintain his precarious position on board while protecting the people he loves. The ending is a cliffhanger, and I’m looking forward to the next book. I’m hooked!

The Stranded will be published on July 21st.

Have you read The Stranded? What did you think of the dystopian setting? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Four (Divergent #4)

Title: Four (Divergent #4)
Author: Veronica Roth
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

It’s been ages since I read the Divergent Trilogy – devoured it, in fact – but I never got round to reading Four. Following a recommendation from my YA-reading niece (thank you!), I finally completed the series – and I’m very pleased I did!

The final Divergent book contains four short stories, along with three pivotal scenes from the trilogy, all narrated by Four/Tobias. It’s a great insight into a favourite character’s perspective, feelings, and back story.

In ‘The Transfer’, Four tells the story of his Choosing Ceremony, and the home life that led him to transfer from Abnegation to Dauntless. His journey deliberately shadows Tris’s transfer in ‘Divergent’, but gives another perspective on why someone might leave their community to start a new life in another faction. It adds depth to his background and motivations, and provides new glimpses into the politics and dangers of life in Dauntless.

‘The Initiate’ develops the political insights as Four works to impress his instructors, hide his responses to the simulations, and find his place in his new faction. It’s another story that shadows Tris’s journey, while introducing political elements from her trilogy. Definitely a page-turner.

‘The Son’ explores Four’s inner conflicts as he navigates life in Dauntless while coming to terms with his own background. Turning away from his father, the leader of Abnegation, has consequences he hadn’t expected as Four repeatedly finds his loyalties challenged.

In ‘The Traitor’, Four’s experiences of the politics of Dauntless come together with his doubts about his loyalty and personal safety. We see his side of the developing relationship between Four and Tris, and witness the agonising choices he must make to protect the people he cares about.

In the three bonus scenes, it is a joy to see events from Divergent through Four’s eyes, and to read about his first impressions of Tris when she arrives in Dauntless to begin her training.

I’m so glad I read this book. Jumping back into the world of the Divergent trilogy was like meeting up with old friends, and the new perspective only added to the wonderful worldbuilding, and my sympathy and understanding of the characters.

Have you read Four? What did you think of Four’s side of the Divergent story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Wolf and the Water (Deluge #1)

Title: The Wolf and the Water (Deluge #1)
Author: Josie Jaffrey
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

Inspired by the legend of Atlantis, The Wolf and the Water is the exciting first instalment in Josie Jaffrey’s first non-vampire fantasy series.

Kepos is an isolated city, surrounded by impassable cliffs and the Eastern Sea, and protected by a high wall at the head of the valley. The Priests maintain the wall – the barrier, they say, between the valley of the living and the souls of the dead. Kepos is ruled by the Dekocracy, ten aristocratic families who share control of the wealth, power, and politics, from the respected Tauros clan to the tenth-level Glauks. Their children are expected to marry into other aristocratic families, and raise their status if they can.

Kala has two disadvantages in Kepos. She’s a Glauks – the lowest of the Dekocratic families – and her damaged leg means that she walks with a cane. The other Dekocrats would have disowned her, but her father refused. Instead, he taught her to read, and recognised her intelligence and humanity. Everyone agrees that she will never be able to marry. As a disabled girl from Glauks, she knows that none of the other families would allow the match. She spends her time in her father’s library, or escaping to swim in secret, sustained by her relationship with Melissa, one of the Glauks slaves.

When Kala’s father is killed, everything changes. As his only child, she is the Glauks heir, and a possible marriage partner for the younger son of another family. Her mother’s remarriage casts doubt on her status, and brings a cruel stepfather into her house – along with a new step brother and sister who both embrace Kala as a full member of their family.

But Kala is preoccupied with solving the mystery of her father’s death. She suspects the priests, and her questions bring her closer to the wall that protects everything she knows. Is it really holding back the souls of the dead, or is there something more dangerous behind it? Discovering more about her own family only raises more questions about Kepos, its place in the world, and the threat building behind the wall.

It’s a complex story, with plenty of effective worldbuilding and character development. Kala is a sympathetic protagonist, and following her journey from rejected child to Glauks heir and beyond is an emotional experience. Her relationships – with Melissa, with her mother, and with the new members of her family – are vividly drawn and entirely engrossing. She faces constant danger from the other Dekocrats, and constant uncertainty about her own status and safety, but her determination to survive matches her determination to find a place for herself in Kepos in spite of her disability.

The action and the tension build throughout the book, coming to a heart-stopping climax as Kala puts the pieces of her story together. The books ends on a spectacular cliffhanger, opening up enticing possibilities for the rest of the series. I can’t wait for book two!

Have you read The Wolf and The Water? What did you think of Kala’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Break Out (Supernatural Prison #3)

Title: Break Out (Supernatural Prison #3)
Author: Aella Black
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

In book three of the Supernatural Prison series, Phoebe and Xander focus on uncovering the secrets of the organisation that locked them up for having superpowers – and on the origins of those powers.

Lansing Prison continues to be a cruel and dangerous place. Inmates with diverse superpowers fight each other in gladiatorial-style combat as their fellow prisoners cheer them on, encouraged by the warden and the guards. Xander finds himself trapped between the sadistic warden and his parents, who might have the power to get him out – if he can contact them. When Phoebe’s secret powers are revealed she must tread a careful line between keeping the warden happy, protecting her friends and family, and making sure she can live with her decisions.

Phoebe’s friends continue to provide the heart of this well-written series. Their relationships and loyalty to each other are inspiring, and it was a pleasure to pick up the book and find such sympathetic and rounded characters waiting. There is a romantic element to the story, but it is not the driving force of the plot. The strong friendships, and surprising betrayals, are essential to the reading experience. It’s a refreshing approach to writing a YA Dystopia, and I really enjoyed all the books in the series.

Have you read the Supernatural Prison series? What did you think of Phoebe’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Power Up (Supernatural Prison #2)

Title: Power Up (Supernatural Prison #2)
Author: Aella Black
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

In book two of the Supernatural Prison series, Phoebe, Xander, and their friends are picking up the pieces from the end of book one, and finding their feet in a new and dangerous environment.

Phoebe and her friends thought Leavenworth Prison was bad, but now they have to learn to survive in Lansing. Gone is the kind warden, access to the library, and protection from the most violent and deadly superpowers. Instead of keeping the teens with benign powers segregated from those whose powers can kill, all the teens with powers are locked up together following their evacuation from Leavenworth. The friendship group is splintered, new cellmates bring new threats, and a figure from Phoebe’s past complicates everything.

Regular testing of inmates’ powers at Leavenworth was particularly distressing for Phoebe, whose ability to come back to life was tested repeatedly by the doctors monitoring her abilities. At Lansing, it’s not the doctors killing her under laboratory conditions, but her fellow inmates in staged fights. The prisoners are paired up to pit their superpowers against each other – and when Phoebe is in the room, it’s a fight to the death. She quickly learns that a doctor inventing new methods of execution is nowhere near as traumatic as the threat of a violent death from someone she believes to be a friend, and that no relationship is the same after a murder – even if the victim has the power to recover.

While the cruelty of the superpowered fights is the driving force behind the story, Phoebe’s friendship group is the reason to keep reading. Once again, their interactions, personality clashes, and support for each other hooked me in and kept me engaged with the plot. Phoebe and Xander share the narration in alternating chapters, giving an insight into their feelings for each other, and a wider view of life in Lansing Prison. It’s an exciting story, with action and trauma neatly balanced with strong friendships and sympathetic characters.

Once again, the action builds towards the end of the book, and after the dramatic finale I moved straight on to book three. More great YA, with memorable characters, strong friendships prioritised over romance, and a well-paced plot.

Have you read Power Up? What did you think of Phoebe’s story? How do you fell about the characters’ lives at Lansing? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Lock Down (Supernatural Prison #1)

Title: Lock Down (Supernatural Prison #1)
Author: Aella Black
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

When Phoebe Atkinson survives a fire that should have killed her, she finds herself locked up in Leavenworth, a prison for teens with supernatural abilities. Some of the powers are deadly – super strength, werewolf shifting – while others are quirky – a girl who can talk to birds, a telepath, a boy who can change the colour of objects. Phoebe’s power is the opposite of deadly. When she dies, she comes back to life.

Prison life is boring and frustrating. There’s an exercise yard, a rec room and a library, but no education, no way out, and no views of the outside world. For most of the inmates, regular testing of their powers is uncomfortable and annoying. For Phoebe, is means dying over and over with no guarantee she will always wake up.

Phoebe is a sympathetic and relatable character. She does well at school, she is trusted as a babysitter, and she has been supporting herself since her father’s disappearance. No one knows that she’s living alone – her mother left years ago – and she is completely unprepared for the restrictions of prison life. To survive, she needs friends, and protection from the gang of violent bullies.

The author gives Phoebe a warm circle of friends, each with a distinctive personality and superpower. Her interactions with her fellow inmates make her life easier, and form the basis of the story. I cared about Phoebe and all her friends, and I found their conversations and relationships realistic and engaging. The arrival in the prison of Phoebe’s crush from school complicates the dynamics of the friendship group, while his skills give their mostly harmless powers the boost they need to consider breaking out.

This is an engaging story, packed with well-drawn characters and effective world building. I was hooked from the start (the prologue is absolutely gripping!), and as the story unfolded I found myself completely invested in Phoebe, her friends, and their escape plan. I won’t spoil the ending, but when I turned the final page I headed straight to download book two. This is great YA, and I want to see where the story goes from here!

Have you read Lock Down? What did you think of the story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Fourth Species (Tomorrow’s Ancestors #3)

Title: The Fourth Species (Tomorrow’s Ancestors #3)
Author: AE Warren
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

I’ve been waiting to read book three in this intriguing series, and I’m happy to say that I enjoyed coming back to the world created in the first two books.

After a future climate disaster, humans have created a superior species using genetic engineering. Unenhanced Homo Sapiens are held responsible for the historic damage to the planet and forced to make reparations, while the elite use their genetic knowledge to hold onto power and bring back extinct species. The first two books of the series are centred around Elise – a an unenhanced Sapien – and the newly resurrected Neanderthals she works with. Book three is told from the points of view of three different women with vastly different roles and experiences of the world they share, giving the reader a deeper insight into the politics and dangers at every level of society.

Elise, exiled from the official settlements, is working as a spy. Her team gathers information on the activities of the enhanced Potior and Medius classes, risking their lives and freedom to protect Uracil, their secret base. Twenty-Two is one of the Neanderthals rescued from zoo-like conditions and integrated into life in exile. Genevieve is a genetically enhanced Medius in Adenine, working to improve her social standing while she passes secrets to agents from Uracil. Together they shape the story, bringing different perspectives and insights into the events of the book.

It’s an effective structure. Elise and her team travel between the official bases, infiltrating the settlements and picking up information vital to the survival of Uracil. Twenty-Two is concerned with earning the trust of the people around her after the events of the second book. Her chapters are centred in Uracil, offering close observation of the personalities and politics of the secret settlement, and a front-row view of the dramatic events of the story. Genevieve’s chapters bring the view from the top of society, giving the reader a glimpse behind the scenes of the official settlements, and the cut-throat politics of the ruling Potiors.

There’s danger, action, adventure and excitement. There’s heartbreak and loss alongside community and determination. There’s manipulation, disappointment, and a few plot twists along the way. It’s a mid-series book, so there is no resolution to the story, but the ending sets the scene for the final book in the series.

I can’t wait to read it!

Have you read the Tomorrow’s Ancestors series? What did you think of The Fourth Species? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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