Sunday, 22 November 2009

Immortal edited by P.C. Cast

"In Immortal: Love Stories With Bite, edited by New York Times bestselling author of the House of Night series P.C. Cast, seven of today's most popular YA vampire and contemporary fantasy authors offer new short stories that prove that when you're immortal, true love really is forever.
Rachel Caine (the Morganville Vampires series) revisits the setting of her popular series, where the vampires are in charge and love is risky
Cynthia Leitich Smith (Tantalize) gives us a love triangle between a vampire, a ghost and a human girl, in which none of them are who or what they seem
Claudia Gray (Evernight) takes us into the world of her Evernight series, in which a pre-Civil War courtesan-to-be is courted by a pale, fair-haired man whose attentions are too dangerous to spurn
Richelle Mead (the Vampire Academy series) brings us the tale of a young vampire on the run from the rest of her kind, and the human boy who provides the getaway car
Nancy Holder (the Wicked series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) immerses us in a post-apocalyptic New York where two best friends are forced to make a choice that may kill them both
Kristin Cast (the House of Night series) introduces us to a new kind of vampire: one with roots in Greek mythology, and the power to alter space and time
And Tanith Lee (Black Unicorn) shows us what happens when a bright young woman with some supernatural savvy encounters a misguided (but gorgeous) young vampire"
Here is a short review for each of the eight story in this great little anthology.

1. Haunted Love by Cynthia Leitich Smith 4.5/5 - great short story! Little bit different being from the perspective of a guy instead of the girl, but the characters are well done for a short story.
2. Amber Smoke by Kristin Cast 1/5 - I am not a House Of Night fan, but as that is a joint effort with her mom, I wondered if this could be better. It's not. It, like HON, has the potential to be really good. But the protagonist is far, far too self centered and shallow. Didn't like her at all.
3. Dead Man Stalking by Rachel Caine 3/5 - A Morganville Vampires short story told from Shane's perspective. Typical Morganville stuff, good but not great. And I wonder about how much someone who's not read any of the Morganville books before would get out of it. Still, liked it.
4. Table Manners by Tanith Lee 4/5 - fun story! Not spectatular, but it is great fun and made me smile. Really intereting ideas too!
5. Blue Moon by Richelle Mead 4/5 - great short story. Would have loved more though! Doesn't have as much strength as her Vampire Academy series, but I would love to read more set in this world.
6. Changed by Nancy Holder 4.5/5 - excellent short story with great Characters. Feel so bad for Jilly, but by the end you've got to love her strength too.
7. Binge by Rachel Vincent 5/5 - one world: Wow. Amazing story. Fantastic characters that you can relate to easily. Would love to see more from these particular characters, but will settle for the second Soul Screamers book (same world) in the mean time.
8. Free by Claudia Gray 4.5/5 - different, intriguing story. Really liked it though. Will check out her Evernight series after reading this.

Overall, really great young adult anthology with the stories from Richelle Mead, Rachel Vincent, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Claudia Grey all being fantastic. And with the exception of the story from Kristin Cast, the rest aren't far behind. An anthology well worth having for Rachel Vincent's 'Binge' alone, but the rest make it better value ;) 9/10

Friday, 13 November 2009

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Magic Study is the second book in the Study trilogy. So as usual, some unavoidable spoilers for the previous book. Read this at your own risk...

"Completing her apprenticeship could prove deadly...

With an execution order on her head, Yelena has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth. With only a year to master her magic - or face death - Yelena must begin her apprenticeship and travels to the Four Towers of the Magician's Keep.

But nothing in Sitia is familiar. Not the family to whom she is a stranger. Not the unsettling new facets of her magic. Nor the brother who resents her return. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her rare powers, a rogue magician emerges - and Yelena catches his eye. Suddenly she is embroiled in battle of good against evil. And once again it will be her magical abilities that will either save her life...or be her downfall."

After discovering the truth of her heritage Yelena has been exiled from Ixia, the land she calls home, to escape an execution order. There she faces a family she doesn't remember, a land she doesn't remember, a way of life she doesn't understand and people who hate her before even meeting her. She doesn't have her friends or her beloved with her and is having to trust master magician Irys, despite barely knowing her either.

Yelena struggles to find a place in Sitia. The more she tries to do what she believes right, the more trouble she finds herself in with the first master magician, the brother who despises her and Sitian residents in general. And then a rouge magician begins to close in on Yelena whilst an Ixian delegation (including a few old friends) is around and Yelena has to figure out quickly how to master her magic, and who she can trust to help her out.

This second book shows us a different side to the world Ms. Snyder has created. Sitia is very different to Ixia, where magic is forbidden, and the contrast is really interesting. Here we learn about different types of magic, what is and isn't allowed, how the world is divided in to different sections and the difference between clans.

As the story unfolds we get to see some great character development with Yelena as she finds out how much power she has, how to use it and adjusting to her new life. We're also introduced to some great new characters and get some more depth on some favourites from Poison Study. Yelena grows up quite a bit in this book, being yanked out of the familiar and learning to stand on her own feet, and when she needs to ask for help.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, just as much as Poison Study even though it's quite different because of the setting. This series has a soft strength to it that makes it compulsive reading, but not a on-the-edge-of-your-seat gripping nature. Which makes a very nice change to most of what I read. I like how Yelena isn't the most confident girl around, yet has this huge heart to help others. And I like how her confidence is growing, but not at the cost of that goodness. Just giving her the extra strength to step up when she needs to, to speak out and help more. But her growing confidence also doesn't mean she becomes unfeeling towards the growing dislike and fear of her among the Sitians. She doesn't like it, and it makes her uncomfortable. She's not perfect and she's affected by the way people are around her, not always in positive ways. Another plus point. Overall, a really great read and I'd highly recommend this series. 9/10

Sunday, 8 November 2009

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

SPOILER WARNING!! Usual thing, no real spoilers for the book itself, but some sizable spoilers for the first book. Read at your own risk ;)

"With her mother in a coma and her father hellbent on destroying the world, Clary Fray is dragged deeper into New York City's terrifying underworld of werewolves, demons and the mysterious Shadowhunters. Discovering the truth about her past was only the beginning. Now the fate of the world rests on Clary's shoulders, but can she master her new-found powers and control her feelings for a boy who can never be hers?"

City of Ashes is the second book in the Mortal Instruments series. It picks up just after the events of the first book, City of Bones.

Having learnt the truth of her heritage, and that the boy she's fallen for is actually her brother, Clary struggles to keep positive and moving forward. Her mom is in a coma with little chance of recovery, her best friend wants more than she can give, her brother (Jace) is going off the deep end having discovered the truth about his heritage (and Clary may be the only one who can reach him), facing the Inquisitor (a Shadowhunter who seems to have a personal interest in destroying Jace). And, oh yeah, all hell is breaking loose (literally) as Valentine, her father, tries to create a war that will destroy all underworlders, and anyone else who gets in the way, including his kids. Creating the war means recovering the rest of the Mortal Instruments, and turning them to his own dark uses, something Clary, Jace and the rest of the team will do anything to stop.

Like Bones, Ashes is told in third person, but although most of the book is still Clary's 'perspective' there is a lot from Jace's as well, and a few other characters. The different perspectives help to tell the story pretty well, giving a good look at various aspects of the world. This second book sees Clary and Jace discovering still more about their heritage and the introduction of several new characters adds to the world nicely.

There are time though, where the plot felt a little sluggish. And there is also the odd word that feels like the authors picked up the thesaurus to add more interesting words or something, instead of the normally simple narrative, which doesn't work particularly well. On the plus side, despite the aforementioned occasional sluggishness, the plot felt a little tighter than the first book. And the simple narrative works to create a book that's a bit of a lighter read (despite the length) or just easier for young teens to get on with.

There aren't many real surprises here. Most of the things that happen you can see coming a ways off, the 'subtle' hints really aren't. And the things that are more of a surprise as to what actually happens, you knew something was going to happen, so the impact isn't so big. There was one moment that really surprised me. Near the very end there is a conversation that takes place that shows real maturity and reality, surprising and impressing me. The lack of surprises do take a little away from the books, but overall I still enjoyed the book. There is a lot of foreshadowing for the next books, though of course I need to read it to find out if it really is or not, but I'd be more surprised if it wasn't. The series may not be fantastic, but it makes for good lighter reading and I still enjoyed the book, though not quite as much as the first for some reason. Still worth a look. 6/10

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Bound To Shadows by Keri Arthur

SPOILER ALERT!! There aren't real spoilers for Bound To Shadows itself, but there are big spoilers for the previous book. Wouldn't read this if you haven't yet read Deadly Desire!

"At a local vampire club, someone is beheading the clientele, and the peace the Guardians are meant to maintain is getting shaky. Human and vampire fatalities escalate and Riley Jenson - a rare hybrid of werewolf and vampire - finds herself struggling to make sense of the murders and, in particular, her main suspect: the club's owner Dante Starke and his powerful sexual aura. And if things weren't bad enough, she's also torn between her love for Quinn and her connection with the unpredictable werewolf Kye - her soulmate. With the city on the verge of all-out war, Riley must not only capture the killer, but choose between the man she loves and the man she's destined to be with."

Bound To Shadows is the 8th and penultimate book in the Riley Jenson, Guardian series. It took this series a while to grow on me, but now I'm hooked. I was looking forward to this book with ideas of what I thought could happen, and what I'd like to see happen. I got neither. This book took me completely by surprise. Several times in fact. And the ending? Never, never saw it coming 'til I was there.

Six months after discovering top hit man (and werewolf) Kye Murphy was her soulmate, Riley's still trying to forget him. They haven't seen each other in that time and Riley and Quinn, her vampire lover, are closer than ever. But soon after beginning her latest case Riley finds Kye back in her life. And determined to make her his anyway he has to. But with vampires being beheaded all over town for no obvious reasons, and by some unknown supernatural being, Riley has no time for his promises, or threats.

This book is very well done, and very shocking as I've already said. But on the lighter side, there are some fantastic moments with Riley's twin brother Rhoan, and his mate Liander. And with psychic Dia and her daughter Risa too.

In the previous book I really liked Kye, and although I no longer hated Quinn, I still wasn't a fan of him. Here...well, you should read to find out what happens for yourself. I will say that in some respects this book is too sharp a 180 turn on Deadly Desire. With Ms. Arthur maybe trying a little too hard to make us hate a certain man. But at the same time, it still made sense. This man, seems quite different here to what we've seen before, but I think those changes are part of the point. Part of why what happens at the end happens.

Overall, technically I'd have to give the book 10/10. It's well written with a tight and interesting plot, not to mention a shocking, sad but awesome ending, and some great character development. But, I can't help feeling a little disappointed with this the direction the series has taken with this book. It's not bad, just very different to anything I would have predicted based on earlier books. As I've said already, the shift feels a bit too sharp and sudden. I can understand why it's happened the way it has though. And the shocks were out of the blue and brilliant. The ending is going to have lasting, and massive, consequences for Riley, both personally and professionally and I can't wait to see how she handles them.

Rating: 8/10