Passenger (Alexandra Bracken, 2016)

passenger.jpg

Why did you choose this book?

Partially for the premise, but primarily for the cover.  So stunning!

What’s it about?

Teenage Etta steps onto the stage at the Met for her first solo violin performance with a full orchestra.  As she begins to play, she is interrupted by overwhelming feedback only she can hear.  Another musician grabs her and pushes her through a portal, where she awakens in a ship’s cabin with a frantic battle and roaring cannon fire overhead.  To give you the basic premise, the head of the travelers is a ruthless grandfather-type-figure who is holding Etta’s mother hostage and will harm her unless Etta returns in a week with an astrolabe that can be used to further his power.

Bracken has a fascinating premise in these books.  Essentially, there were four families of “travelers” who could use passages throughout the world to travel through both time and space.  These four families have now been consolidated into one under the power of “Grandfather.”  The passages are an intriguing idea.  The passage in the Met of 2015 leads to 1776 Nassau.  Passages only connect two times and places, however, so to get to, say, mid-1500s Damascus, travelers would have to take multiple specific passages.  It’s mind-boggling, especially because travelers have to keep track of their movements to avoid crossing paths with themselves.

Categories

Fantasy, teen, time travel

Other recommended reads?

Although it doesn’t have daemons, the portals in this book reminded me of those in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.

Review

I started to lose interest toward the end, but it’s a smart and engaging fantasy.  I appreciated the fact that there were no magical powers and the passages were the only fantastical element.  It was also an intelligent read for teenagers and didn’t over-simplify, though I certainly wish that the characters had spent more time getting immersed in many of the eras to which they traveled.  The second book is due out next year and is entitled Wayfarer.

Up next?

Hot Attraction by Lisa Childs

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Court of Fives (Kate Elliott, 2015)

court of fives

Why did you choose this book?

I love a good YA fantasy novel.  Elliott has also written several adult fantasy novels and I thought this could be a good way to find out whether or not I like her as an author.

What’s it about?

In this world there are elite Patrons and second-class Commoners.  Jessamy’s father is a Patron who has become famous for his skill in commanding forces on the battlefield.  Her mother is a Commoner.  Her parents cannot get married for fear of ruining her father’s career, and the mixed blood of Jessamy and her sisters makes them somewhere between the two social classes.  It also means that they need to behave.

The family’s fortunes abruptly change when the family’s aristocratic benefactor dies and a new one takes over.  He stipulates that Jessamy’s father must marry a Patron of his choosing and disown his family.  Jessamy must move to the benefactor’s stables and begin competing in the Fives (more on that later).  The rest of her family faces an unknown fate and Jessamy must try to save them.

The Fives are an obstacle course competition around which society revolves.  Some people make money and become famous through competing.  Jessamy is passionate about the game.  The outer ring of the course consists of four obstacles, with a competitor starting on each one.  Trees is a vertical test with climbing posts, Traps is a series of high-above-the-ground nets/ledges/trapezes, Pillars is a maze, and Rivers is a series of moving stepping stones over flowing water.  After completing all four, the competitors must do Rings, which involves spinning loops, some with inner rings spinning at different speeds.  The first to finish all of them and scale the victory tower wins.

Categories

Teen, fantasy

Other recommended reads?

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.  It’s young adult fantasy with a series of tasks the protagonist must complete.  It was one of my two favorite books of 2015 and the sequel, A Torch Against the Night, comes out later this year.

Review

I really enjoyed the Fives.  That being said, I felt that there could have been a bit more world-building.  Some of the characters, like Kalliarkos, were very underdeveloped.  I felt like all I knew about him was that he was the romantic interest and a prince.  I did enjoy that while some magic was alluded to, this wasn’t a novel packed with magic like so many fantasy novels are.  It was a different take.  I’ll read the rest of the series, but I’m not sure I can give this book a glowing recommendation.

Up next?

Violent Ends

Glass Sword (Victoria Aveyard, 2016)

glass sword

Why did you choose this book?

Because the rest of the series has been amazing!!!!

What’s it about?

Please see my previous post to learn about the amazing magic system in this book.  In short, Silvers (the ruling class) have magical powers.  Reds do not.  Until Mare Barrow appears, no Red had ever been known to have powers.  At the end of Red Queen (SPOILER ALERT), the kingdom has fallen into the hands of the evil second son, Maven Calore.  His older brother, Cal, and Mare are on the run.  They have joined forces with the Scarlet Guard and are on a mission to find other Reds like Mare with never-before-seen abilities, and to create an army to take down Maven and his evil mother, Elara.

Categories

Teen, fantasy

Other recommended reads?

The new series by Sabaa Tahir is another fantasic teen fantasy read.

Review

Oh my goodness so good!  That’s not to say that the book was perfect.  I think I should have reread Red Queen first.  But you find yourself rooting for Mare and Cal throughout the book, as well as constantly curious to find out about the new abilities popping up throughout the kingdom.  There were a couple of betrayals that shocked me, and it ended on a cliffhanger that left me uber frustrated and flipping pages to be sure there wasn’t more on the endpapers.  So good!

Up next?

This is a two-part answer.  If I decide to finish it, Ronald Feinman’s Assassinations, Threats and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama.  If I don’t, Court of Fives by Kate Elliott.

Cruel Crown (Victoria Aveyard, 2016)

cruel crown

I’m officially terming this my official week of awesome cover art!  Seriously!

Why did you choose this book?

I read the first in the series, Red Queen, last year and absolutely loved it.  In preparation for the release of the second book in the series, I thought it was time to read the prequel novellas, especially since they were released in print and in a combined volume in January.

What’s it about? 

Note on world-building: in this world there are two blood types: red and silver.  Reds are just like you and I, but silvers have magical powers.  There are, for example, silks (superspeed), whispers (mind control), magnetrons (control of metal), etc.  The silvers are the ruling class, while the reds have been the peasantry.  But the protagonist of the main series, Mare Barrow, is a red with a new power: she can control lightning and electricity.

The first novella focuses on Queen Coriane, the mother of the heir to the kingdom, Cal.  Coriane was a singer, meaning she could use her voice to control others (though unlike a whisper, she needed eye contact to do so).  This novella describes her life up to her premature death.

The second novella focuses on Captain Farley, one of the leaders of the Scarlet Guard.  The Scarlet Guard is composed primarily of reds, and aims to overthrow the silver ruling class.  The novella describes Farley’s missions prior to meeting Mare.

Categories

Teen, fantasy

Other recommended reads?

This series was one of my favorites last year.  Another amazing fantasy series for teens?  An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. The second novel in that series will come out this summer.

Review

I probably should have reread Red Queen before diving into this volume (I couldn’t remember who Capt. Farley was), but it was still good.  Not as good as the main books in the series, but good.

Up next?

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures (Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater, 2015)

pip bartlett

Why did you choose this book?

Any good librarian will brush up on literature for every age group.  This is a JFIC pick for middle-grade readers and I think younger me would have snatched it up and devoured it immediately.

What’s it about?

The story takes place in a world just like ours, except that in addition to normal animals, magical creatures roam the world.  Pip Bartlett is a young girl who loves these creatures, but seems to be the only person who can communicate with them (no adults believe her, however).  The majority of the book involves issues with Fuzzles, small fluffballs considered pests due to their ability to burst into flame at the slightest provocation.

Categories?

Juvenile fantasy

Other recommended reads?

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede.  A very different premise, but an equally intriguing series for kids with a love of magical creatures or just creatures in general.

Review

I thought it was a good read, though I personally will not read the rest of the series.  Pip was an enjoyable character and I really liked the fact that the magical creatures she encounters don’t fit the mold.  For example, the unicorns were not the wise and majestic figures they are in so much other literature.  Instead they were either completely vain and self-absorbed or paranoid and anxiety-ridden.

Up next?

Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason