blog about reviews writing

Monday, May 12, 2014

Allies & Assassins, Half A King, The City's Son, and Hunger Mini-Reviews

Allies & Assassins (Enemies of the Prince #1) by Justin Somper
Prince Anders, the ruler of Archenfield, has been murdered, leaving his younger brother, Jared, to ascend the throne. Sixteen-year-old Jared feels unprepared to rule the kingdom and its powerful and dangerous court, yet he knows he can rely on the twelve officers of the court to advise him. He also knows he can just as easily be at their mercy-especially when it appears that one of them may be responsible for his brother's death. Unable to trust anyone, Jared takes it upon himself to hunt down his brother's killer-but the killer may be hunting him, as well. Murder, betrayal, and intrigue abound in Justin Somper's thrilling YA series debut. Exploring the political machinations of the medieval court and the lives that hang in the balance, Allies & Assassins is a gripping tale of a teen torn between duty and revenge.
Released: May 27th 2014   
Pages: 496
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers   
Source: ARC received through Goodreads First Reads giveaway

Until I entered the Goodreads giveaway for this, I had never heard of it.  Still, it looked interesting--these types of YA high fantasy seem to be released less and less each year, so I always try to get my hands on as many as possible.  

We meet our main character, Jared, just as he is greeted with the news that his older brother is dead, thus making him king.  And so begins his struggle.  I liked Jared, as a character, and I found him believable.  Part of this connection was probably due to the fact that he reminded me so much of two other characters that are important to me--one being Jaron from The False Prince, who I love to death, and the other being Davi from my first novel, who I also love to death and a little beyond since I know how he dies sorry Davi actually not really it's my job to make you hurt but I digress.  

One thing I loved about this was that it genuinely kept me guessing.  Let's face it--it's getting harder and harder for books to do this to me.  The more I read, the more I figure out all the tricks that YA fantasy authors like to use.  Also, I'm an INTJ personality type, which means, among other things, I notice a lot, and analyze a lot.  Still, Allies & Assassins was a hard one for me to figure out, and I appreciate that.  

My only major problems were that it gets a little slow, and the typos.  It's almost 500 pages long, and at times, it dragged.  Still, though, it's not enough to knock it below four stars.  And then we have the typos.  It's one thing to have a few mistakes in an ARC, but this was excessive.  There was one probably every other chapter or so.  If a book has gotten to the ARC stage, shouldn't it be in a little better shape?

Overall, though, I enjoyed it.  It has likable characters and a plot that left me wanting answers (in a good way).  It gets a bit slow, and has so many typos, but these didn't detract too much from my liking of it.  

Similar Books: It features a main character thrust into an unwanted kinghood (is kinghood even a word?) like The False Prince and Half A King (I just linked a post to itself...I need to sleep.).  It also reminds me of Falling Kingdoms, The Demon King and even A Game of Thrones.

Half A King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie 
“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

Released: July 15th 2014    Pages: 352
Publisher: Del Rey             Source: ARC received through Netgalley

This is a book that you can judge by its cover.  Yes, it's a YA fantasy cover featuring a weapon, and you might have noticed that I'm getting sick of those.  Still, this one stands out, and I love the stark contrast of it.  And now I'm having nightmares of sword-snowflake blizzards.

The inside of the book is even better.  Like the book I read right before it, Allies & Assassins, the story opens just as our main character, Yarvi, finds himself unexpectedly the king of an entire nation.  And chaos ensues.  The betrayals start happening right away, and they grabbed my attention almost instantly.  From there, the plot didn't let up long enough for me to get bored or distracted, and even at the end, I was left wanting more.  

The true gem in this book is Yarvi.  He's another character that has the advantage of reminding me of one of my own main characters, which always helps.  Even without that, though, he feels so raw and real.  I could feel his pain and the nuanced personality that allows these feelings to shine through.  It's been awhile since I connected this much to a character.  He goes through so much in this book, and now all I want to do is give him a hug.  If I was a hugging type of person, which I'm not.  But the sentiment is still there.  The side characters in this book were also fantastic.  Nobody felt tacked-on, unnecessary, or too similar to the other side characters.  Each one is unique and just as three-dimensional as the main character.

Overall, I loved this.  At first, I was planning on giving it four stars, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that four doesn't do the job.  Sometimes, I read a book and love it initially, but my excitement over it soon fades.  Other times, I really like a book, but don't love it right away--yet the more it sits in my mind, the more attached I grow to it.  Half A King is of the latter group.  It's lovely, exciting, well-written and plotted, full of awesome characters, and even with a few genuinely funny lines.  Highly recommended.

Similar Books: It features a main character thrust into an unwanted position of power like The False Prince and Allies & Assassins.  It also reminds me of Falling KingdomsThe Demon King and even A Game of Thrones.  (Yes, I realize that I basically just copied this section from Allies & Assassins.  It works, though.)

The City's Son (The Skyscraper Throne #1) by Tom Pollock
Running from her traitorous best friend and her estranged father, graffiti artist Beth Bradley is looking for sanctuary. What she finds is Urchin, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London’s mystical underworld. Urchin opens Beth’s eyes to the city she’s never truly seen-where vast spiders crawl telephone wires seeking voices to steal, railwraiths escape their tethers, and statues conceal an ancient priesthood robed in bronze.

But it all teeters on the brink of destruction. Amid rumors that Urchin’s goddess mother will soon return from her 15-year exile, Reach, a malign god of urban decay, wants the young prince dead. Helping Urchin raise an alleyway army to reclaim his skyscraper throne, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when her best friend is captured, Beth must choose between this wondrous existence and the life she left behind.

Released: September 8th 2012    Pages: 480
Publisher: Flux                          Source: Library

This one is all over the place.  It has a cool premise, creating a mythology out of the dirtiest city streets and personifying everything on them.  Unfortunately, it doesn't follow through.  The worldbuilding comes at you too fast, leaving you a bit lost as to what is actually happening.  Some things that require explanations are explained, but often halfheartedly, and not really providing any answers.

The main character, Beth, would have been okay, if not for the fact that she didn't feel believable.  She adjusted way too fast to learning about the supernatural side of London, and joined the war against Reach for no obvious reason.  She takes everything in stride, simply accepting it as it comes along, as opposed to being appropriately shocked, as most people would be.  Urchin was a little more interesting, but I never felt like I got to know him well enough to connect with him.

The biggest problem I had with this book was the point of view switches.  Beth's point of view is in the past tense; Urchin's is in the present.  For no apparent reason.  It didn't help that the narration would occasionally become omniscient at any random point, breaking point of view rules whenever it felt like it.  For me, this made everything scattered, disjointed, and at times, just plain weird.  

This is more of a 2.5 star book for me, but I'm rounding up.  I didn't hate it, and it held my interest much of the time, when I wasn't trying to figure out what on earth was going on.  Still, Beth adjusted way too easily to everything, the worldbuilding was all over the place, and the different point of view switches were disorienting.  This looked so cool, but it didn't live up to my expectations..  I don't plan on reading the sequel.

Similar Books: It's an urban fantasy, with heavy emphasis on the urban, like Stoneheart.  It also reminds me of Touched, Wicked Lovely, and The Dark City, though I can't really say why, for any of these.

Hunger (Riders of the Apocalypse #1) by Jackie Morse Kessler
“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

Released: October 18th 2010    Pages: 177
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia     Source: Library

The reason I wanted to read this, more than anything else, was the fact that I'd seen this quote from this: "Thou art Famine, yo."  For some reason, I thought this was highly amusing at the time I added it to my to-read shelf (which was, admittedly, early 2011).  I still do find it amusing.

This book deals with some heavy subjects--anorexia, suicide, world hunger--and it handles them well.  It presents them in a realistic light without being heavy-handed or preachy.  I've never experienced an eating disorder, so I can't say if the characters were true-to-life or not, but their struggles seemed realistic to me.  I felt for them, and for anyone else with these issues.

You can interpret this book in two ways.  You could take it literally, in that an actual Horseman of the Apocalypse came to Lisa, and she became Famine.  Or, you could take her journey as a Horseman (Horsewoman?  'Horsewoman of the Apocalypse' is a mouthful.) as a metaphor for her struggle against getting help, and her thought process as she comes to this realization.  Or it's both.  Either way, it works.  It's a unique take on any of its topics, both anorexia and the Horsemen.  

I'm not sure how I feel about Lisa, the main character.  She felt real, but she also frustrated me.  I understand that maybe this was the point, to get the reader to feel Lisa's frustration with herself and others wanting her to get help, but still.  The side characters didn't stand out to me--they were there, and they served their purposes, but they weren't very likable or memorable.

This is a small nitpick, and has no bearing on my overall opinion of this, but the English rider in me has to say it.  The author seemed to make a point of specifying that Lisa mounted her horse (which was always referred to as 'it', by the hard is it to give the poor animal a gender?) from the right side.  It's standard to mount a horse from the left side.  Was there a reason for this, or was someone just misinformed?

I liked the book overall, for the most part.  It's closer to 3.5, but I'll round up.  Lisa frustrated me a bit, but I loved the concept of this, and it was carried out well.  It realistically depicts a real, current struggle among teenagers without holding anything back, while still putting a unique and interesting spin on it.

Similar Books: It smoothly blends reality and fantasy like Invisibility, Every Day, and Bruiser.

Note: The posting this month has been much more sporadic than I had expected, and I don't anticipate this changing until June.  (Which is why these are mini-reviews, and not full ones.)  I'm graduating at the end of May, so after that, the blog will (I assume) resume a more frequent posting schedule.  Please bear with me.  Until then, here's a GIF of the Barricade Boys on the barricade because...I don't know, I just wanted to post this GIF for no particular reason.  And because Barricade Boys.  And because it's currently the first GIF in my GIF collection.

Also, if there's anything you want to see me post about once summer comes, please let me know!  I'd love to hear it.  Or if you have any random questions...I have no idea what they might be, but go ahead and ask them in the comments.

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