Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift – one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
Mixed opinion on that one.
Gorgeous cover, for starters. Also, pleasant writing, more sophisticated than what is usually found in books intended for the targetted audience (while this might be a bad point for some, I had no difficulty with the vocabulary, and enjoyed the use of less common words for a change).
Rachel Hartman created a world that quickly caught my interest. Among other things: dragons who can take on a human shape in order to understand humans and uphold a decades-old peace treaty, yet are alien to “emotions”, and even fearful of them; zealots on both sides of the fence, who would like nothing more than to see the treaty gone; knights who’re the only ones left with the knowledge of how to fight dragons. Moreover, I was quite fond of some of the secondary characters. Orma was interesting to read about. Abdo and Lars were definitely of the nice kind. Dame Okra and her reactions often made me smile. Glisselda was a pretty positive character, with a strong streak and appropriate reactions.
Alas, I wasn’t so thrilled about the main characters, who fell too flat in comparison. Seraphina could have been much more interesting if her reactions had made more sense; for instance, she spent her whole life hiding who she was, going on with a well-established daily routine, but then throws herself head first into the investigation (I wanted to tell her “Well, do you want to be noticed, yes or no? Because you can’t have both.”). The prince, well… Nice, but nothing to write home about.
The pacing itself was a problem. The first part of the book dragged for a little too long, before things started to pick up, and I also think that the end dragged as well, considering what it dealt with. In my opinion, it should’ve ended sooner, instead of on the love-relationship part. And here’s another problem for me: the romance. Seriously, why, why does it always have to be about romance and love triangles nowadays? The story would’ve worked exactly the same way, with the same things at stake (being accepted for who one really is, fear of rejection, etc.) had Seraphina found a *friend* in Lucian, and not a *love interest* (which, by the way, came out of the blue). It doesn’t help that said love triangle is a bit on the twisted side, going as it is behind Glisselda’s back.
Overall, a pleasant enough read, but that would’ve been better for me without the romance (which felt forced) and with more punch and logics added to the main characters.
Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour.
Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane – a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed.
For Eddie, it’s love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey…
If George Orwell had tripped over a paint pot or Douglas Adams favoured colour swatches instead of towels . . . neither of them would have come up with anything as eccentrically brilliant as Shades of Grey.
This is the first book I read by this author, so I didn’t know what to expect, but now I can say I was delighted. However, I would recommend to handle this story, especially its first half, with a fair amount of focus: the author hands out information about his world bits by bits, and one needs to be quite careful in order to understand how it functions. On the other hand, this means no, or very little info-dumps, which is something I always appreciate.
I really liked the illogical and somewhat humorous aspects of this book. In a way, it reminded me of the movie “Brazil” (which I loved). The society Eddie Russet evolves in is of the “dead-tech” quality, with regular “leapbacks” outlawing some machines, means of transportation and other implements, making things go backwards little by little; a lot of its regulations make no sense, but people comply just because those are the Rules, and after so many centuries of abiding by the latter, they just don’t know what else to live by.
The idea of a world based on colour perception is also something I found pretty interesting, not to mention that it raises questions: why are people able to see some colours and not others? Or not to see at night at all? Evolutionary speaking, it makes no sense—and here’s where the genius lies, and what makes me hope that an answer will be given in the upcoming sequel(s): who or what designed people to evolve that way? The whole lack of logics behind that actually has got a place in the bigger picture, and fits the nonsense aspect of Fforde’s world here.
Mixing dystopia with humour isn’t such an easy job, but I think the author did well here. Moreover, to me it may even be more efficient than “100% serious” dystopias, in that it better highlights the really dark aspects of such a society.
In a realm beset by natural disasters, only the magical abilities of the bonded Pairs—Source and Shield—make the land habitable and keep the citizenry safe. The ties that bind them are far beyond the relationships between lovers or kin—and last their entire lives… Whether they like it or not.
Since she was a child, Dunleavy Mallorough has been nurturing her talents as a Shield, preparing for her day of bonding. Unfortunately, fate decrees Lee’s partner to be the legendary, handsome, and unbearably self-assured Lord Shintaro Karish. Sure, he cuts a fine figure with his aristocratic airs and undeniable courage. But Karish’s popularity and notoriety—in bed and out—make him the last Source Lee ever wanted to be stuck with.
The duo is assigned to High Scape, a city so besieged by disaster that seven bonded pairs are needed to combat it. But when an inexplicable force strikes down every other Source and Shield, Lee and Karish must put aside their differences in order to defeat something even more unnatural than their reluctant affections for each other…
3.5 stars. Overall a pleasant and fun story to read. Don’t let the cover scare you away, even though it’s probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen in the fantasy genre, as far as published novels go.
I liked the concept of Source & Shield, the role they must fulfil in order to protect people from catastrophes. There are good sides as well as bad ones to such pairings: they’re respected, they get lodgings and food for free, they’re needed and know they help the world function in a better way… But some pairs have a dysfunctional relationship at best; if one makes a mistake, both get punished; and if one dies, the other dies too. An interesting aspect of the book was how it questioned the fundamentals behind the Source & Shield Service, gradually bringing the main character (and us readers) to realise how flawed it might me, at least on some points. Indeed, both Sources and Shields are recruited when very young, cut from their families, taught from that moment onwards to perform their respective roles—and are therefore injected with certain beliefs from the start. No need to develop more to see where this might be going.
Besides, while a little too theatrical to my taste, the villain actually made good sense when raising such points. Means and final goal? Bad. Rhetoric used to convince people? Not so bad itself, and hinting at many truths.
I was less thrilled about Lee, the narrator. I guess I expected something a little different. The blurb at the back of the book makes Karish appear as an unreliable character, full of heroics and prone to stunts and wild antics—and this is what Lee believes about him, and why she’s so annoyed as being Paired with him. The problem for me is that we don’t really get to see that, except for a couple of dialogues and parties that aren’t even so wild; most of the time, Karish actually behaves in quite reasonable ways (the less reasonable ones being the people fawning all over him). This in turn makes Lee seem very narrow-minded, voluntarily blinding herself, entrenched in her own ways, and refusing to give him a chance, ever. The whole relationship would have looked better if in the beginning, we had indeed been shown Karish behaving like an irresponsible young hero always seeking adventure and danger; or like a womanizer, with a different girl coming out of his room every odd morning. This would have make Lee’s predicament more believable to me.
Also, the world around the characters needed a little more building; but there are five other books in the series, if I’m not mistaken, so I hope such things will get developed in the next ones (which I’ll probably read, since I did enjoy the first).
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
And if I should die before I awake,
I pray the popular attend my wake.
Charlotte Usher feels practically invisible at school, and then one day she really is invisible. Even worse: she’s dead. And all because she choked on a gummy bear. But being dead doesn’t stop Charlotte from wanting to be popular; it just makes her more creative about achieving her goal.
If you thought high school was a matter of life or death, wait till you see just how true that is. In this satirical, yet heartfelt novel, Hurley explores the invisibility we all feel at some times and the lengths we’ll go to be seen.
Alright, what to start with…
I liked the cover. The packaging. The layout. The way the whole book is formatted. Actually, it’s what pushed me to buy it, since I found it at a low price at the bookstore. And… I guess that’s all? A perfect example of “don’t judge a book by its cover”.
This story could’ve been interesting, if only it had been carried in a different way. Unfortunately, things go down hill fast, very fast. The writing itself, for starters, is nerves-grating: lots of telling instead of showing, and resorting to so many adverbs that I stopped counting after chapter 2. The setting is that of a high school, but the style is at best middle school-level, and I’m not sure a high schooler would enjoy it—so I don’t have any idea about what the targetted audience was.
The characters came out as flat and cliché at their worst: all the cheerleaders are sluts, the Goth Girl, the jocks… If the whole book had been treated as a real parody, it may actually have been enjoyable; however, it fell in the middle, hovering between attempts at being funny and a more serious kind of story. And thus, the end result was a pile of clichés that weren’t even amusing. Parents and family are thrown out of the window with the assumption that “teenagers are so self-centered that they just don’t care about them once they’re dead”. Yeah, right, I so believe that. YA literature in general doesn’t bother about family much, but in this book, this trope is brought to its apex, and with a stupid reason to boot.
The story itself didn’t make much sense. The dead kids have to protect a house, but we’re never told why (as a reader, I would’ve liked to at least know, even if the characters themselves weren’t meant to). The living kids are allowed to hold a ball in a place that was pronounced unsafe, something that just doesn’t compute. Charlotte is supposed to be the girl nobody pays attention to, yet she’s bullied by the popular girls, which doesn’t fit much the “invisible girl” concept–such people are just ignored, not bullied. She’s also so shallow and selfish, with a definite streak of stalker, that there was no way for me to like her or empathize with her predicament; everything bad that happened to her, she brought upon herself, anyway. And let’s not talk about the pop-culture references. I’m all for cameos and insiders, except that those weren’t of much use here.
Again, it could’ve been a good story if it had really played on humour and clichés. This was the story I wanted to get; alas, it’s not the story I got.
You can learn a lot about someone looking through their hard drive…
Sixteen-year-old Jan Rose knows that nothing is ever truly deleted. At least, not from the hard drives she scours to create the online identities she calls the Shadownet.
Hobby? Art form? Sad, pathetic plea to garner friendship, even virtually? Sure, Jan is guilty on all counts. Maybe she’s even addicted to it. It’s an exploration. Everyone has something to hide. The Shadownet’s hard drives are Jan’s secrets. They’re stolen from her family’s computer recycling business Assured Destruction. If the police found out, Jan’s family would lose its livelihood.
When the real people behind Shadownet’s hard drives endure vicious cyber attacks, Jan realizes she is responsible. She doesn’t know who is targeting these people or why but as her life collapses Jan must use all her tech savvy to bring the perpetrators to justice before she becomes the next victim.
“Assured Destruction” is a story I enjoyed a lot, fast and easy to read. The first thing I liked was its heroine, Jan, who for a change isn’t your typical “unpopular nerdy girl” (as too often seen in YA novels), but actually has real technical skills, and puts them to use. She’s also flawed in more than one way, yet manages to learn from her mistakes—mistakes that could have dire consequences, and not for herself only. After all, she’s playing with people’s private lives, building her Shadownet.
By the way, I enjoyed the Shadownet idea, too. It has a lot of potential, and I can see several possibilities with such an idea, if the author decides to go on with it in the other books. (I don’t know if he will; I just like it when a book prompts me to imagine potential plot lines, challenges my imagination, and don’t just leave me “passive”.) I probably sit at the frontier between two worlds here, too: savvy enough myself regarding computers and internet security to understand the technical lingo without batting an eyelid, but not enough to spot if there were incoherent parts in how Jan do things… so I won’t judge the book on that. On the other hand, I think that even if you’re not familiar with computer science, said lingo is still depicted in ways that can allow you to understand what’s happening.
There are moments when I wondered about Jan’s reactions, though, because they seemed a little rushed, or not as clever as I would’ve expected. That said, she’s no action figure either, so perhaps there’s logics to her madness, so to say; and given her circumstances, simply putting the matter into the hands of adult figures wouldn’t cut it, indeed. At least she realizes she had made a mess of things, and tried to take responsibility by righting those in her own ways.
I wasn’t so thrilled about the love interests part. It seemed to me that they weren’t important to the story, that the latter could’ve been the same without them. Maybe it’s just me, because love triangles aren’t my thing anyway. Fortunately, said triangle doesn’t take too much room, and doesn’t detract from the story: Jan remains focused on repairing her mistakes, and doesn’t go around swooning over guys for 100 pages. Thank you, Mr. Stewart, for keeping her true to herself, and not going for the cliché girly behaviour.
Those quibbles put aside, the story mostly flowed without a hitch for me. I think it’s also a good theme for the YA audience in general, because it shows, through Jan, how internet and the use of new technologies has its downfalls. I’ve been able to see by myself, more than once, that younger people (I mean the 13-16 crowd mostly) aren’t all aware that what they post online could be turned into a weapon against them (=cyber-bullying). Somehow, “Assured Destruction” could very well be a story that would help such teenagers to understand, while not dumbing down things, and not doing it in a condescending, pompous and artificial way.Older posts »