Book Review: Borne of Sand and Scorn

reviewcover-borne of sand and scornTitle: Borne of Sand and Scorn [Forgotten Lands 0.5]

Author: Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Steampunk, Western, Novella, Romance, Post-Apocalyptic

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Death favors no one.

In the bustling industrial cities of Victorian America, soot clouds darken the skies, plaguing citizens with black lung. Rich or poor, young or old, no matter their station, no one is able to escape the life-threatening disease, and the West family is no exception.

Overcome by death and sickness, the Wests flee to the New Territories for refuge, only to discover more devastation. Wind and drought ravage the land and no one is safe. No place on earth is untouched by the Shift.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I loved Borne of Sand and Scorn by Lindsey Pogue for what it was – a prequel to the Forgotten Lands series. Here’s the thing: I’m not a fan of novellas. I think they’re too short to enjoy, and because they’re so short, authors often try to do too much too quickly. Unfortunately, this book didn’t live outside that realm – the romance between Lizzie and Brandon moved far too quickly to be realistic, and as an avid romance reader, that bothered me. That being said, I can understand why it was done that way, I just don’t like it.

Aside from this, the only other complaint I have is that I caught a few typos, but nothing so bad as to ruin the book for me. I think, for the most part, the story was well written, and it has that same atmosphere and description to it that Dust and Shadow has that I absolutely adore.

I think my favorite part though, as odd as it will sound, was the opening scene. As awful as it was for the character, it was certainly impactful, and it really set the stage for the type of storytelling the author is so good at.

If you enjoy westerns or post-apocalyptic stories, I’d certainly recommend this – but I would throw in the caveat that you should read the first book of the series before you endeavor to read this prequel. You’ll understand what’s going on a lot more, and you’ll get more enjoyment out of meeting the characters.

Book Review: Spellcaster

reviewcover-spellcasterTitle: Spellcaster

Author: George Bachman

Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

In a turn-of-the-century England steeped in steampunk and magic, Christine suffers in ways no sixteen year-old should and that no doctor has been able to cure. That’s because the excruciating pains and high fevers slowly destroying her body aren’t triggered by a physical cause but by visions of a youth calling to her while fleeing a mysterious man who means to take his life. This could hardly be happening at a worse time, when she and her beautiful older sister Allison are making their début in high society, like other wealthy socialites seeking matches with impoverished aristocrats.

Christine becomes convinced that to stop the visions she must somehow save this youth. But first she has to find him, and since she’s seen him only in visions, she needs someone who’d know how to locate him using the paranormal. Unfortunately, the authorities have driven underground all but one of England’s occultists, Lady Kinloss, and the reason she isn’t hiding is the only reason she would help Christine, something she wants in return. Christine must convince Allison to marry Kinloss’s lover, one of those poor aristocrats, so that the illicit pair can share her part of the family fortune.

If Christine doesn’t stop the visions by saving the youth, her illness will eventually take her life. But to do what Lady Kinloss wants is to betray Allison to a lifetime of misery. Can Christine lead her sister into a bad marriage if doing so is the only way to save her own skin – literally?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get very far into Spellcaster by George Bachman. I think the major issue I had with this book, was that it was desperately in need of a thorough editor.

There were some really odd word choices and awkward sentence structures (re: “longish neck” and “Those of us who did this were me always…” or “…boats run by male and female athletes…”). Sometimes paragraphs took up entire pages on their own. To compound this, the narrative was thick and wordy, and… Well, just felt like it was trying too hard.

By the end of the first chapter, I didn’t feel like I’d really learned anything about the main character, and I’d learned way too much about every single other character at the same time. There was no differentiation in what information was provided to the reader based on what was actually important to the story.

Eventually, I got bored. I really think this book suffers from a lack of a good editor. It needs to be trimmed down to what is actually necessary to the story and cleaned up so that the narrative flows well and is easy to read. Right now, the narrative is just too tangled to enjoy. On a personal level, as someone who works as a copy editor, it’s just not enjoyable to try and slog through.

Book Review: Clockwork Princess [Infernal Devices 3]

 

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Title: Clockwork Princess [The Infernal Devices 3]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Steampunk, Historical

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

London 1873 shape-shifter Tessa Gray 16 is engaged to Jem Carstairs 17, dying of addiction to demon drug, all bought up by evil Mortmain. The “clockwork prince” controls an army of automatons to abduct Tess, kill the Shadowhunters, and blackmail Charlotte Branwell, head of London Institute. Will and Tessa hide their love, for love of Jem.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Absolutely beautiful. The Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare is a masterfully written end to a trilogy that will remain on my keeper shelf for years to come. It seems that often these days authors are pushed to extend series well past their breaking point, adding book after book as long as there are readers to buy them. It’s a growing trend that often leads to a drawn-out meandering death for a series–and though I dearly love the characters in the Infernal Devices Trilogy, I think there could have been no better point at which to end it.

Just as with the first two books, the narrative was expertly written to be clear and fluid. I sunk into the world as if it were the only one that existed and didn’t come up for air until the last page was turned. I never felt rushed or prodded along. I never felt the need to roll my eyes, or frustrated, throw the book at a wall (as I often do with YA fiction). This series was truly beautifully written, and in my opinion, even better than Ms. Clare’s other series: The Mortal Instruments. I simply could not get enough of these books.

This addition to the series was both heartbreaking and endearing. I will admit that I nearly broke into tears near the end. It was tragic, and yet full of hope in the final pages of the book, and it felt like I were seeing old friends again as the story wound down and began to close the gaps in the both series with small tidbits and glimpses into what became of the characters. I refuse to give spoilers to this series because I want everyone to experience it as I did. I was pleasantly surprised by Tessa’s actions in the final battle with the Infernal Devices, and surprised again at how the story closed out, but endlessly grateful for the choices the author made in wrapping up the series.

I finally learned to love the secondary characters, even weak Henry and musical Bridget (I finally learned her name and remembered it!) who filled the pages with endless sonnets of tragedy and death. It’s going to be a long time before I find another series I love as much as I did this.

I would highly recommend this series to anyone who even remotely likes Cassandra Clare’s work. Even if you just vaguely enjoyed the Mortal Instruments, I think you’ll love this series. It is so much better, and so much less frustrating–and if you haven’t read her other work, pick it up anyways. It is F A N T A S T I C.

Book Review: Clockwork Prince [Infernal Devices 2]

 

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Title: Clockwork Prince [The Infernal Devices 2]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Romance, Steampunk

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when it becomes clear that the mysterious Magister will stop at nothing to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.


With the help of the handsome, tortured Will and the devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal and fueled by revenge. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa is drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa answers about who she really is? As their search leads to deadly peril, Tessa learns that secrets and lies can corrupt even the purest heart.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have fallen in love with this series. I genuinely liked The Mortal Instruments series by Ms. Clare, but it was only when I started the Infernal Devices series that I truly began to appreciate Ms. Clare’s ability to write convincing fiction.

In the Mortal Instruments series I was endlessly frustrated by the manufactured love triangle between Clary, Jace, and Simon. That may have something to do with my great dislike of Simon, but nonetheless, a love triangle is only convincing if all the parties involved are equally favored by the reader. In this series, that is clearly evident.

For once, I am torn. I really like Tessa as a heroine, and equally, I am drawn towards both Jem and Will. I honestly can’t tell you which one I favor more. They’re both such tragic characters, and both so good and loving in their own way that I can’t help but feel saddened by the situation Tessa has found herself in. On the one hand I think Will has much more passion than Jem, and despite his brooding, sometimes cruel personality, I do like him. I can understand that his standoffishness is a mechanism to keep people at arm’s length. Equally, Jem is a truly caring, kind boy who unfortunately, has a short lifespan ahead of him. Both are so desperately in love with Tessa, and unfortunately, Tessa loves them both as well (even if she’s not always willing to admit it). I have an inkling that perhaps Tessa is meant to be with Will in the end (and we’ll see if I’m correct) but the thought of her leaving Jem makes my heart break for them. I am so glad I am not in her shoes.

This second installment of the Infernal Devices trilogy was every bit as good as the first book. It’s been awhile since I’ve come across a group of characters that are so easily likeable and tragic–and none of them have come across as ridiculously over dramatic, two dimensional, or annoying. Though there are some characters I maybe don’t feel as close to (What’s the new cook’s name? I honestly can’t remember – though I love her tawdry murder-filled songs!), I can’t pick out a single character that really got under my skin as with Ms. Clare’s other series.

The characters are so full of depth and true human emotion, I find it hard not to fall head-first into the world building of this story. Maybe it’s the romance of the Victorian era, the stunning characters or the thrilling plot, but I can’t seem to put this series down.

This is a short review because I honestly don’t have anything negative to say about this book. I’d happily recommend it to anyone, and I’ll definitely be reading it again and again!

Book Review: Clockwork Angel [Infernal Devices 1]

 

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Title: Clockwork Angel [The Infernal Devices 1]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Steampunk, Paranormal, Romance, Historical

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by –and torn between–two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

As an avid fan of Ms. Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments, it will come as little surprise to my usual review readers that after having finished the 5th book the series, I set about obtaining the author’s other series–set in the same world I might add–The Infernal Devices. This series comes as a bit of a prequel to the other, setting it’s time period in the Victorian era of England, rather than present-day New York.

I wasn’t sure when I started this series if I was going to like it as much as the Mortal Instruments, but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I’m also very glad that I picked up this series second, because if I hadn’t, I’d probably have ruined myself for the other series. Honestly, I liked Clockwork Angel almost more than half the books in the other series.

I found the characters in Clockwork Angel a lot more compelling, and a lot less annoying, than those of The Mortal Instruments. Yes, there were plenty of brooding teenagers and a couple of secondary characters that weren’t my favorite, but overall I found the characters in this book a lot less taxing.

Tessa, in my opinion, though perhaps a lot more demure than Clary, and certainly less forward-thinking, is in my opinion, a much stronger character. She doesn’t jump into the fray making rash and immature decisions. When she jumps in it’s to save others, even if it means sacrificing herself, but she always thinks before she leaps. Despite her lack of shadow hunter blood, I admire her tenacity given the situation she’s found herself in.

Unfortunately (and maybe not so much so), Will Herondale is broody in a very similar fashion to his descendant, Jace. Though less whiney (so far), he’s dark, mysterious and grumpy (with just a tinge of endearing humor)–their archetypes seem to be very similar, and that’s both a pleasant, and unpleasant surprise. Look, I get it. Broody can be sexy, but there comes a point where it’s just tiring. Will and Jace both very closely straddle that line. I will say though that I did appreciate Will’s penchant for literature and his softer side, which we occasionally got to see in this first book. I only wish he didn’t resort to being cruel and standoffish when he feels the need to push people away.

Jem, on the other hand, was a real gem. (haha see what I did there?) I really enjoyed his character. He was polite, friendly, and endearing in a way that Will wasn’t. He seemed to fully embrace Tessa as an addition to the institute and their ragtag family, even crossing over into that muddy area of romance in some small ways. I honestly don’t know who I’m rooting for the most. Brilliantly played Ms. Clare.

Jessamine was tragic. I wanted to dislike her at first–much like I first disliked Isabelle in the other series. But where Isabelle was simply standoffish, Jessamine had a complexity to her character that made my heart break. She was very well-written, and I can’t wait to see how her character progresses through the series.

There were other characters I truly enjoyed (Sophie, Charlotte… etc.) and some not so much (Agatha… who I barely remember, and Henry… weakest male character I’ve read in awhile), but overall, I really liked the cast of characters presented in Clockwork Angel.

As for the writing itself, the narrative was clean, error-free, and grammatically correct. The pace jumped along at a jaunty speed and I never felt rushed or bogged down with flowery prose. I quickly became absorbed in the world-building, narrative, and dialogue, and never found myself rolling my eyes. Though, I did burst into laughter for several minutes during a particularly hilarious quip from Tess. Bravo.

Overall I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. I’ll certainly read it again, and I’d love to recommend it to anyone who likes Fantasy, Paranormal, YA, or Steampunk. It was a great read and I will definitely be delving more into the series.