Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. (goodreads.com)
This was another book I picked up on an impulse buy that I really hoped lived up to the things I’d heard about it. I tend to not have good luck when I do that, but thankfully the fates pulled through with AN EMBER IN THE ASHES.
It’s an engaging, vivid story with Laia who’s an incredibly real character, almost to a fault. At times she does get a bit too demeaning of herself and it got to be a little much. But luckily it’s not something that stuck around all throughout the story. It kind of dwindled out about halfway through when Laia realized she was pretty BAMF for what she was doing and started kicking her internal voice’s ass about it.
But I like how she didn’t start off BAMF. She grew into it. She was very much a real character, afraid and weak and not knowing what to do. She’d lived a life of oppression but it was something that was so regular it was little more than background noise until the monsters in the dark came after her loved ones. Then her tide started to turn, and she along with it.
I liked how Elias surprised me. Not so much his character, but his story. Or I should say how his story ended. No spoilers, of course, but I didn’t see it coming. I also really liked Helene and I wish she got more page time in the book. Maybe in book two? She was also a character who stayed true to her upbringing, like Laia. Only Helene started out as a BAMF and maintained that throughout, with some questionable moments scattered in the middle. She was a tricky one and I like where her story ended up. It made me a little sad but it was ultimately necessary. She, above anything else, made me want to get the next book.
I loved Tahir’s world too. Definitely very Roman. I was feeling that vibe. But it was also very much her own. It wasn’t just about copying Rome, but Tahir making this world her own. Yes, it centers around a lot of blood sport, but the supernatural element she weaves into it, the caste system she creates, the various sections of her world that we get to visit, it’s all very much her own and I feel it. It’s not so foreign it’s disorienting and requires huge amounts of info-dumps, but at the same time it had me staring around wide-eyed at the new world it plunged me into.
Absolutely engaging and enthralling, I look forward to reading book two. And then books three and four! Tahir hooked me in and I’m totally along for the ride now.
When a man in a torn trench coat warns college-student Evelyn Cheng that something evil is coming down the tunnel where their subway train has stalled, she is ready to write him off as crazy until the lights flicker and the terrifying creatures appear.
Through him, Evelyn discovers she is a seer and that a battle between good and evil is raging in New York City among her kind and the mysterious, otherworldly Elyuum, who seek to tighten their grip on the city.
Spanning multiple universes with a sprawling cast of characters, Evelyn and others must stop the Elyuum before they conquer all existence. (goodreads.com)
First I’ll start with the downers because they really pretty minor. I just kept catching things like wrongly-placed commas, incorrect use of further/farther, inconsistent use of toward/s and forward/s, etc. But aside from that it’s pretty well put-together and I didn’t find I was drawn out of the story at all with these little things.
Product placement was a little thick. A lot of brand naming going on. While I think it was done to provide the reader with an easy image it felt more like ad space. Something like this usually sticks out for me in books.
Lastly, I didn’t like where the book ended. The plot that was introduced at the beginning is not resolved by the end of the book, making THE SHADOW OF ALL THINGS mostly set-up. I don’t have a problem with series, of course, but each book in a series should be able to stand somewhat on its own, with elements linking one book to the next. Not be a Part 1. This felt very much like a part one.
With that being said, I didn’t want to fling it across the room when I was done, like I’ve wanted to do with other books that do the same thing. Probably because it didn’t end in the middle of the action and despite the plot not being resolved it didn’t feel like a larger manuscript with a random moment chosen as the chopped section. It ended on people settling into situations, into their circumstances, accepting what was coming. So there was something vaguely resembling a climax but it was kind of a fake-out. I didn’t feel all wound up at the end and left to hang. Let me put it that way.
I absolutely love the world Houston created. Very Cassandra Clare but, you know, good. Throw in some Diviners by Libba Bray and you have yourself a good feel for what this book will offer you. It takes place in the present and the myriad of characters it follows can all see behind the veil, so to speak. They see these horrible creatures that are effectively plotting to take over the world. Or the realm, I should say because SHADOWS deals with multiple dimensions.
New York in Houston’s world has a sort of layering quality. Thing A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by VE Schwab and her Londons, all the different types layered on top of each other and only people with certain abilities can access the different layers and travel between them. Except in Houston’s world those people are getting eaten by interdimensional creepers that leave skin sacks of their victims in gutters.
There’s really a creepy element to it that burrows in and makes you look around with narrowed eyes. What is REALLY going on around me? Houston gives good ambiance, sets a good scene, and plays with characters well. He flipped around between multiple points of view and he handled them all extremely well. Each scene change flowed into the next seamlessly and each character stuck out as their own entity, none of them blending together at all.
If you’re looking for something part horror, part maybe sci-fi, and all dirty New York you’ll find it in THE SHADOW OF ALL THINGS. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. Please tell me there’s a sequel . . .
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Outcast by the Druids for his devotion to the forbidden art of Magic, Bremen discovers that dark forces are on the move, led by the Warlock Lord, Brona. If the peoples of the Four Lands are to escape eternal subjugation, they must unite. But they need a weapon, something so powerful that the evil Magic of Brona will fail before its might. (goodreads.com)
Why do people like these ridiculously high fantasy books that just meander on and on and just drag on forever? I truly don’t get it. I can do beautiful writing. That’s never a problem. But something being overwritten is not the same as being beautifully written. One uses the right words in a melodic way, the other just uses too many words. Not the same.
So my interest in the Shannara trilogy came from the TV show. The TV show is a raging pile of trash that I love quite a bit. Since season two is coming next year I figured I’d try out the book. I’d already had THE ELFSTONES OF SHANNARA that I picked up at Phoenix Comic Con a couple years ago, but why not start at the beginning? FIRST KING is actually a prequel, not the first book in the trilogy. Not sure if that makes a difference to the trilogy readers, but I highly doubt that the style of writing in the prequel is going to vary much from the actual trilogy. Which is why I won’t be reading it.
It took FOREVER to read as the story outlined every moments in these characters lives in excruciating detail and I just wanted it to end. With a title of FIRST KING OF SHANNARA, the guy didn’t actually make an appearance until halfway through the story. My eyes were already crossed at that point.
I felt completely disconnected from everything going on. The battles were written at arm’s length, the characters were developed at the same distance and they all sounded the same.
I just don’t get it. Is this series popular because it’s what high fantasy is “supposed” to be? The thing is I actually liked the story and I would read on if I didn’t have to slog through such heavy-handed writing. I just can’t do it. It’s not even fun to read; it’s a chore.
Plus, and no surprise, it looks like MTV took quite a bit of liberties with the timeline and some of the characters. And I picked up the book because I wanted to find out what actually happened to the world to make our current society disappear and these elven people crop up. I got nothing. For a prequel it was surprisingly scant on pertinent world information. I got a lot of funky named things and places that are uber-fantasy names and all. But the characters only alluded to the fall of man and that particular world. No one went into detail. Considering all the “as you know, Bob” moments, you’d thinking SOMEONE would mention it. Nope.
Despite my better judgment I’m still intrigued as to how drastically the show differs from the book. It’s not much of a stretch to insinuate that it’s pretty big. MTV obviously wrote the show for a certain demographic, while the book was written for quite a different set of people. I’m okay with it. I can get sucked into the show far easier than I can this book. I’ll stick with that.
In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won’t allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate. As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty – her family and the estate she loves dearly – and desire. (goodreads.com)
So on the one hand I thought the world was lazy. On the other hand I ended up really liking the story itself. I’m not necessarily in the middle of this. Leaning closer to liking it than not, but it is hard to get past the world part of it for me.
The world: it read to me like Hagen wanted to write a story set during the Victorian era but didn’t want to do the research required in order to do that. So she pulled obviously Victorian things like a patriarchal society, corsets, snobbery, and tea and littered her world with it. Also mixed in were modern things like vehicles, iPad-type things, TVs, and the like. Also a feudal-like society with a ruling elite because no one in these worlds ever learns from history. *cough*peasantrevolt*cough*
It was just very weak to me. The world is ruled by nuclear energy, the likes of which are forcibly thrust onto the poor to change out and handle because screw those guys. The ruling class repeating to themselves that they’re HELPING the poor people by doing this and making them functioning members of society while rationing their food is hilarious. Of course it’s a comment on modern society. Kind of hard to miss that. But in a book where the world is very important, I’m just not impressed with it at all. Like I said: lazy. That’s the best way to put it.
On the other hand I actually really liked the story. It took some unpredictable twists and went down some pretty dark roads that I totally didn’t expect and I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Madeline ended up being incredibly realistic and relatable, especially when it came to helping the Rootless. David was the same way. Hagen shows the intention of the wealthy, their desire to help, but unwillingness to forfeit their comfort in order to do it. They’ll help from their plush living situations. Madeline struggled with that a lot. She didn’t want to leave Landry Park and spent a lot of time convincing herself that she could do more good from inside the estate.
Cara, I think, ended up being my favorite character, though. I knew from the beginning that there had to be a reason behind the way she acted, some kind of attention grab, playing some game, something. There had to be more to her than met the eye. And there was. She turned out to be just as multi-dimensional as Madeline and David and the three of them together make a rather dynamic trinity of characters that I look forward to following.
The story ended in a place that hooked me in. I’ve added the next book to my Goodreads Want list. I want to see where it goes and what the characters do with themselves. At the same time I’m still not a fan of the world, and that’s a big mark against the book in my eyes. So I’m not frothing at the face to get my hands on the next one, but I would like to read what happens next eventually.
Read LANDRY PARK for the story, not so much the world. The plot has a lot to offer and I was surprised how much I liked it by the time I was done reading it. But if you’re a world whore like I am you may be less-than-impressed from that perspective. It annoys me that that black mark is there on the book for me, but it is what it is. I look forward to reading more at some point.
Soter is a man who has been haunted by World War I. But when he’s sent to investigate the disappearance of Lionel Maudling, the owner of a grand country house whose heir may be accused for his death, he encounters a home that will lead him to nightmares he could have never imagined.
Maudling’s estate houses countless books of every sort—histories, dramas, scientific treatises. But none seems to offer Soter any hint to Maudling’s whereabouts, until he’s led to an arcane London bookseller where the reclusive scholar made his last purchase. What Soter finds at the end of a twisted maze of clues is a book like no other, with a legacy that will put everything he knows in danger… (goodreads.com)
This little story ended up going places I didn’t expect it to. Probably because I didn’t read the blurb. I just saw it was John Connolly and immediately snapped it up. I think it was a freebie from Simon & Schuster or something. Or I skimmed the blurb. Either way imagine my surprise when it ended up spiraling down the rabbit hole.
The voice is very quirky and old timey and harkened back to a more Edwardian era where things were PROPER and put together. And then the story dissolves into chaos as creatures start crawling out of the corners and the world flips itself on its side.
You really start to question your own perception of what’s going on in the story because when Soter checks back in with his handlers he finds out he’s lost chunks of time, like weeks. And I think his trauma from the war is meant to set him up as somewhat of an unreliable narrator. Maybe he has some PTSD and his view of the world is a little skewed and maybe he’s just not quite right. Maybe this case is pushing him over the edge.
Or is it?
The world seems to be mutating because of the opening of the book mentioned in the blurb and there may not be any undoing. The story got pretty dark about a third of the way into it and just spun into blackness after that. Took me completely by surprise because I started off not really enjoying the voice. It was a bit too much, a little too over the top. And then we fell off the top and I squealed with glee as poo started to hit the clawed fan.
A horrifyingly pleasant little story, THE WANDERER IN UNKNOWN REALMS. I think because the last, and only, book I read by John Connolly was THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS which was whimsical with an edge, which I loved. Maybe I was expecting the same thing here. Instead I got nightmares and I just loved it to pieces. I’m demented, yes. I’m okay with that.