Review of Rook by Sharon Cameron

By: Sharon Cameron
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

My Thoughts:
I loved Cameron’s debut duology and was certain that I’d love this book as well because I love her writing style so much. I was right! Rook was another wonderfully imagined story with a historical feel. You can tell that Cameron researches the time period she’s deriving inspiration from and utilizes her knowledge in really unique and wonderful ways.

Rook was told in third person which doesn’t always work for me. I tend to lose a bit of my connection to the characters when told this way but after a slightly slower start I was immersed and really entranced with Sophia. She was head strong, brave yet she wasn’t perfect by any means.

I really enjoy Cameron’s approach to her romances. They never overshadow the storyline and yet they are swoon-worthy. I shipped the couple in this book even though I was never certain of who I could trust 100%. All the characters seemed to have so much they were hiding from each other and it being told in third person really helped keep the mystery of everyone’s motivations.

In high school The Scarlet Pimpernel was one of my favorite assigned reading so I loved that Cameron took bits of that story as inspiration and also tied it into this story. It was done beautifully and hopefully it’ll encourage folks that haven’t read Pimpernel to read it. Another great element that came as a surprise for me was that Rook was set in an apocalyptic world. I didn’t know that going into this one (I rarely read summaries if I know I love the author already). Cameron really took a great approach to a world that has had to restructure and sees the past as a mystery and something to fear.

So, the writing worked for me, and I loved the characters and their interactions. The storyline was gripping and I wasn’t able to predict the outcome so why only 4 stars? Well, my only issue was that the pacing felt off to me. The beginning and end were much slower to me than the middle section and though I was invested in the story the ending felt overly long. This could be a mood thing for me and I’d be interested to hear if you had that same issue if/ when you read it. Regardless, it is a book worth reading.

Final Thoughts:
Rook was another strong novel from Sharon Cameron. I loved her original take on an apocalyptic world as well as her characters. Though the story was full of interesting mystery the ending did drag for me.


Review of The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

GirlatMidnightCoverThe Girl at Midnight
By: Melissa Grey
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Gift

My Rating:

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

The Story:
I was obsessed with reading The Girl at Midnight and did everything in my power to obtain a copy. It took months but eventually a wonderful friend sent me a copy and I dropped everything to read it immediately. I think it is safe to say I had some pretty high expectations. And, I think that might have been a tiny disservice to the book.

Was this book entertaining and overall a great book? Yes! I really did enjoy it. I felt that Grey’s writing was very strong and well done. I loved her descriptions and felt that her prologue especially was brilliant. Have you seen those comparisons to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and The Mortal Instruments? I typically hate to compare novels or see similarities but I couldn’t help seeing them with this book.

The tone and urban feel was very much in the style of Laini Taylor’s series which I appreciated because I love her books so much. It didn’t feel copied if that’s what you are worried about. But it really did bring  Karou to mind especially for the first half of the book. There was a relationship that really felt like TMI to me and because of these similarities I did keep thinking back to those other books. I’m not sure if that bothered me or not but it did distract a little bit.

Back to the book at hand, The Girl at Midnight had a really wonderful moderate pace that was incredibly enjoyable to read. It wasn’t rushed but no sections really dragged. I adore that it took real settings and added a magical dimension and entire races of beings that existed outside of the normal person’s awareness. I really do love books that take this approach to magic because it allows me to peek around my own life and pretend to see little bits of magic.

The Characters:
Grey really created a likeable cast of characters that all interact wonderfully and have some stellar dialog. I loved the humor and emotions she was able to invoke within her characters. Echo was an easy main character to enjoy because she was wonderfully flawed but also so kick-ass. I loved her sarcasm and really did hope for her to succeed. The side-characters were wonderful and all so varied from one another. I found myself loving them just as much as I loved Echo.

I didn’t know going into this book that there were bird people and dragon people (yeah, I know the Avicen are mentioned in the summary but who reads those?). So much win there. I have been loving the bird-people trend in YA lately (Challenger Deep, Magonia and this book). Who doesn’t need giant birds with glorious feathers running around? I adore the visual I get when imagining what they might all look like. And really, anything to do with dragons wins in my book. I will say that the dragon people are a bit underutilized in their dragon-ness but I’m hoping for much more in the follow-up.

Final Thoughts:
I was a tiny bit distracted by the similarities I could see with some other well known books but at the same time The Girl at Midnight really took some of my favorite aspects and wrapped them up into a new and impressive storyline. I’ll be checking out more from Melissa Grey and this series.

Review of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes
By: Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: ARC
Source: Borrowed from Jon from Bookish Antics then was gifted a copy from the lovely Stacee at Adventures of a Book Junkie

My Rating:

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Vow your blood and body to the empire.

My Thoughts:
From the moment I saw the cover and read the summary of this book I fell in love. I made it my mission to somehow get a copy to read and thankfully a wonderful friend was nice enough to lend me theirs. Even from the first page I knew my instant attraction to this novel was going to blossom into love. Tahir’s writing was clean, crisp, descriptive and incredibly emotional.

This book was epic in storytelling and scale. There are so many intricacies and depth to the characters and world. I felt that it was all explained simply and with little to no info-dump. This was a pretty miraculous fete since this was a complex world. As the story unfolds you begin to see more and more about the world’s history and why things are divided by class as they are.

This novel touched on enslavement, murder, duty and honor. I was impressed that Tahir was able to show so many aspects of her world with just two view points, Elias and Laia. The story alternates between the point of views every chapter giving the reader a look into both sides.

The characters really drove the story for me. I felt Laia’s pain and drive to save her brother from imprisonment. Her struggle seemed real to me. I felt that her drive mixed with her guilt gave her character an appreciated depth. The level of character growth she experienced over the course of the novel had me loving her even more and cheering for her. Elias was such a complex character and I tended to enjoy his POV just a tiny bit over Laia’s. I loved both but I felt Elias’ voice to be a bit more compelling because of his immense guilt and struggles with his duty vs. what his heart wants.

The world that Tahir has created was brutal and hard to read about in many sections. There are mentions of rape, abuse and all the ugly elements of what some humans are capable of. I found it disturbing, but for me, it didn’t detract from the story but helped to cement my hate for the Empire.

So far it hasn’t been announced if there will be a sequel and if there isn’t I’ll be distraught. The book works as a standalone but it left so much unanswered that I need to read more about. I must have more from these characters and world.

Final Thoughts:
I had really high hopes for An Ember in the Ashes and was not disappointed at all. This book is a favorite and I’ll be reading anything Sabaa Tahir writes. Hopefully, the next thing I read from her will be the sequel.

Still not convinced? Check out Alyssa at The Eater of Books! review

Review of Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

By: Maria Dahvana Headley
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

My Thoughts:
I saw that beautiful cover and that tag line by Mr. Neil Gaiman and was sold on wanting (needing) to read Magonia. Gaiman wrote, “she writes like a dream” and I’ll say he was spot on. Immediately upon starting this book I was impressed by Headley’s writing style. Her main character, Aza, has such a unique voice. She is cynical, maybe a bit bitter (?) yet completely likeable in her manner of handling all the problems she’s been thrown–and wow what a problem she had.

I can confidently say that until reading this book I’d never considered how it would feel to be suffocating. Through Headley’s writing I felt short of breath and really could understand Aza and her viewpoint. It was beautifully done, elegant, heart-breaking but not so melancholy I didn’t want to read it.

Magonia flip flops between Aza and Jason (the best friend). I really loved both of these characters but I think I enjoyed reading from Jason’s view a tiny bit more (this became true even more as the novel progressed). I loved the workings of his mind and how he had strange tics that set him apart from any other character I’ve read. Also, he deals with something mid-way through the book that I recently experienced in my own way so I was very emotionally impacted by his POV.

I completely and utterly loved the first third of this book. I really can’t think of how Headley could have created a stronger start for me. I was mesmerized by her prose, descriptions and story. There came a moment…a big moment, where the story location changed and our main character became aware of her true nature. Once this took place my adoration lagged a bit.

The descriptions of Magonia (the place) and the sky-ships were vivid and I could very clearly imagine what was occurring but certain things, though inventive, seemed a bit on the cheesy side for me. I sort of loved it but at the same time I didn’t. That’s completely unclear I know. This book was just so delightfully strange I can’t help but love it to some degree but at the same time I wasn’t nearly as into the middle to end of the novel.

Though the people of Magonia are described well I wasn’t able to emotionally connect to them (or their plight) as well as I would have liked either. We don’t get a whole lot of information about them beyond the face value since they are all side characters. As for the romantic element- it was very slight but I could see the makings of a possible love triangle. Though, I can’t really say since who knows where the series will go next.

Even though I had a few problems this book was so unique, creative and just plain strange. It held my interest without fail. I think this one will be incredible for some readers and others might struggle with just how strange it is. For me, I think I loved it. Reading it felt like opening my mind which is always a plus.

Back to the strange elements…I wish I could go into detail about the birds, the sharks, the clouds, the UFOs referenced from history but that might spoil your reading experience.

Final Thoughts:
As time passes and I think back on this book (that is still very much part of my brain) I am convinced I enjoyed it even more upon reflection. I am convinced I’ll be rereading it at some point (not that long from now I suspect). It’s the type of book you can escape into because Headley’s descriptions and imagination are immensely unique.