Rosie Reviews: The Forever Ship by Francesca Haig

The Forever Ship

Title: The Forever Ship

Author: Francesca Haig

Publisher: Gallery Books

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Dystopian

Source: NetGalley

Review

Francesca Haig’s The Fire Sermon trilogy has easily been one of the best series I have read this year, so much so that I did something I rarely do and read the second book almost immediately after finishing the first. Now, I have had the chance to read the third, and final, book in this trilogy: The Forever Ship. It did not disappoint.

In this book, the stakes are even higher; with Cass’ visions of fire moving ever closer to being reality and the freedom of the Omegas as a people growing ever more scarce. I loved that Haig does not shy away from the hardship of war; the reality of starvation, violence and death is never far from the surface and the themes of oppression, war and power resonate throughout. Yet, for all the bleak atmosphere, there is hope, and this is one of the reasons why I could not stop reading. I needed to see the characters survive and I wanted to see that hope bear fruit.

Speaking of characters, there is something about the way Haig writes which makes each of the characters step off the page. It was brilliant being back with Cass, Piper and Zoe. Even Zach’s increased presence in this book helped keep me interested, particularly in the ethical and moral arguments he presents. We also get to see more of the secondary characters, and even some new ones. Yet, for the large cast of people in this story, each one comes across as real, so much so that if I close my eyes, I can almost see them. It is the way they’re written which makes this world so much more real and, as a result, so much more terrifying.

While the second book captured more of the history of the world and setting up for this final book, The Forever Ship does a peculiar trick of both expanding outwards and inwards at the same time. We learn more of Elsewhere, and the world which exists beyond that which Cass and her team have only known. Yet, at the same time, we are seeing more exploration at an individual level – we’re seeing the views of the people that live in this world while also learning more about the characters we’re following.

All in all, I thought this was a brilliant ending of the trilogy. It stayed true to the core of the first book yet also allowed the reader to experience entirely new feelings and adventures while joining Cass and her friends on their journey. My only main issues are that, at times, the novel does struggle a little with pacing and the ending did not quite work for me, although I can see and appreciate why Haig ended it as she did.

If anyone is interested in starting a new dystopian series, particularly one which will make you think and leave you emotionally reeling at the end, then this is one I’d heartily recommend.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35011657-the-forever-ship

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Forever-Ship-Francesca-Haig/9781476767208/?a_aid=rosienreads

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Rosie Reviews: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Beautiful Ones_cover image

Title: The Beautiful Ones

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Thomas Dunne Books

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Take the Belle Époque and then mix in some romance, a fair amount of scheming and a touch of telekinesis. The result is The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This book is a tale of a girl who dreams of romance, a man who longs to find his love of years gone by and a woman who sacrificed her own happiness for her family’s fortune. This novel is told mostly over the period of two grand seasons, where everyone is in the city, going to balls and courting. Only this time, there is the added bonus of ‘talents’: people with telekinetic gifts who are looked down upon by those without.

I will admit, this book was not entirely what I was expecting based on the blurb I read. I was expecting the telekinesis to be a much larger part of the book than it was and indeed, in some parts I forgot it was actually a feature of the novel. Instead, The Beautiful Ones focused primarily on the relationships between the three main characters, and their own personal development as the story went on. Even though this was not quite what I was expecting, I think the novel was probably better for it.

When I first started reading this book, I made the mistake of reading it on the bus to work. The introduction of the characters and their actions during the first part of the novel had me smiling and chuckling to myself as I read (cue the weird looks from fellow commuters). Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s treatment of the characters is beautiful, particularly in the first half. Each one is fully layered, with their own plans and designs, that you never know quite who to you want to come out on top. Personally, Nina was my favourite – her naïve vulnerability, rebellious nature and hidden strength were rather endearing, particularly as she found herself caught up in the schemes of Hector and Valerie. Unfortunately, the second half did lose a little of the character complexity as it started to focus more on the romance and plot, but it was still entertaining and heart-warming (if a little frustrating in places) to read.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you’re in the mood for a more modern Jane Austen with a little bit of telekinesis added in for good measure. While I don’t tend to enjoy romances, the book is a delight to read. The characters are a clear strength, especially when they are at their most deceptive, but the story and prose were equally as enrapturing.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33380869-the-beautiful-ones

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Beautiful-Ones-Silvia-Moreno-Garcia/9781250099068/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Rosie Reviews: Superhero Comics by Chris Gavaler

Superhero Comics

Title: Superhero Comics

Author: Chris Gavaler

Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: NetGalley

Review

Superheroes are everywhere nowadays; it is near impossible to go into town and avoid seeing something superhero-related, be it a toy, a DVD or even a logoed shirt. That being said, I am not complaining. Superheroes have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember; yet, despite that, the comic side of the superhero world has mostly been a mystery to me. When I saw Superhero Comics on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it.

I will admit, I don’t often read non-fiction. I find it hard to get into and hard to stick to. However, Superhero Comics managed to keep my attention throughout most of the book and I found myself completely fascinated by what it had to say. The book essentially covers three main topics: the history of comics, the social and cultural context of comics and the actual structure and formatting of comics.

Of these three categories, the first two were the ones which particularly interested me and it would be an understatement to say I learnt a lot. The book goes back to before the dawn of heroes to explore what it was that led to their appearance in the world; then, from there, moves forward, going through the various ages of comics before investigating how comics have evolved based on the cultural and societal pressures of the time. This includes superhero roots in the KKK and Nazi ideals, the ups and downs of comic popularity and even tackles why female heroes are drawn the way they are. The chapter which stuck out to me the most was the one which covered female and LGBTQ+ representation, whereas the final part of the book, where it starts to analyse various artist techniques and comic book structure was a little difficult for me to get into.

My main concern with the book was, simply, for a book about comics there were not that may pictures. As someone who has yet to be fully initiated into the world of comic books, a lot of the references were lost on me and so it would have been helpful to have examples of these mixed in with the text. Towards the end, when Superhero Comics was talking about the appearance of comics, this did change a little, although the fact I was reading on a kindle did make it difficult to flip back to the images when they were being discussed. This meant a lot of what was being described ended up being lost on me.

Overall, Superhero Comics is a fascinating read for anyone even mildly interested in the comic book world. It is clear and, for the most part, the terminology is described so that a layperson could understand. The pages are filled with facts that I had not even considered (such as why DC and Marvel are the only companies to use the term ‘superhero’) and, for those just getting into comics, there is also a key text section which covers the main, defining comics of each era – a great place to get started. I recommend this for anyone who is interested in comics, even if you aren’t necessarily an avid comic book reader yourself.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29565879-superhero-comics

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Superhero-Comics-Bloomsbury-Studies/dp/1474226345

 

Rosie Reviews: Blood and Stars by Jaime Lee Mann

Blood and Stars

Title: Blood and Stars

Author: Jaime Lee Mann

Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers

Genre: Middle Grade/Children’s Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Blood and Stars is the fifth book in Jaime Lee Mann’s Legend of Rhyme series. It continues Ariana and Asher’s story started in the first book but also expands the universe out to follow multiple other story-lines, each one connected but not necessarily in the same time period. As such, it reads very much like a collection of short stories, before bringing them together in the finale. This format works particularly well as the individual stories are quite different; but my favourite part of the way the novel has been written is the fact that each section begins with a poem (rather befitting of the series’ name).

The poems are a rather enjoyable method of summarising key information relevant to the following section and provide some hint as to what is to come. This was particularly useful for me as I have only read the first two books in this series so was missing a large amount of plot. Despite that, and with the help of the poems, I was able to follow the book reasonably well. There is a glossary and family tree at the end which also helped provide key information of past plot points but, as I was reading on the kindle, I did not get to it until I had already finished the book.

As I mentioned, there are multiple story-lines within this book. We have Ariana and Asher who must come to terms with their destinies, Calla who is bound in a dying slumber and her only hope being her evil sister Elora, the mermaid Teagan who is determined to find her parents and Grimblerod who longs to be reunited with his one true love. As you can imagine, a lot happens in Blood and Stars but Jaime Lee Mann does an excellent job of keeping hold of all the various threads and tying them up neatly at the end of the book. At no point do you feel lost or overwhelmed, or even frustrated by cliff-hangers.

Even though this is a novel for younger readers, it is very much readable by anyone – the novel is easy enough for children to understand, but there is enough occurring within the pages to keep you interested. The world Jaime Lee Mann has created in this series is fascinating, with so many facets that you feel like you could keep on exploring it forever.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35482735-blood-and-stars

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Stars-Legend-Rhyme-Book-ebook/dp/B073VSBCQM/ref=sr_1_2

 

Rosie Reviews: Yesterday by Felicia Yap

Yesterday

Title: Yesterday

Author: Felicia Yap

Publisher: Headline

Genre: Mystery & Thriller

Source: NetGalley

Review

Yesterday by Felicia Yap was just the novel I needed to break me out of a reading slump. The concept was refreshing, fascinating and added whole layers to the story while the characters were deplorable yet you ended up rooting for them regardless.

It is a thriller, set in world divided in two: those who can remember the day before (Monos) and those who can remember two days before (Duos). Due to their limited memories, the Monos tend to be treated as second-class citizens and marriage between Monos and Duos are both rare and frowned upon. As well as this, people can only remember their lives by writing ‘facts’ down in their journals, to be gone through the following morning. Add a murder to the mix and you have the recipe for a compelling novel about memory, society, fact and fiction.

There are four principal characters in Yesterday, all of which have their own point of view. Mark is a famous Duo novelist running for a political seat whose position stems heavily on his advocacy of mixed Mono-Duo marriages, being in one himself. Unfortunately, his Mono wife, Claire, feels inferior to him and unhappy in their marriage as a result of their memory differences. Enter Sophia, a woman who has just been released from an asylum after 17 years, who claims to have full memory capacity and blames Mark and Claire for ruining her life. Finally, we have Hans who is the detective tasked with solving the central murder of the novel, and whose whole career rests on the fact everyone thinks he is a Duo when, in fact, he is a Mono. This combination of characters makes for an intriguing cast, with conflict, emotion and revelations appearing in nearly all their interactions.

All in all, despite the characters and the intrigue surrounding the central mystery, what really drew me into this novel were the questions it raised around fact vs. memory. Hans, being a Mono, must solve the case in one day in order to be fully aware of all the facts. These facts, however, are mostly defined by what other characters have written down, and people could write down anything. The inability to remember gives people license to change the past but also allows that past to be taken away from them.

The novel itself isn’t perfect. The society is difficult to get your head around and the characters are very difficult to like. I also didn’t enjoy the ending and, if I were to read this novel again, I will probably stop reading before the epilogue, which just felt a little bit unnecessary and added a reasonable amount of confusion when it should have been rounding everything off. However, the writing and concept of this novel did capture my attention and, ultimately, Yesterday was the perfect novel for helping me to get back into reading.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33140164-yesterday

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Yesterday-Felicia-Yap/9781472242228?a_aid=rosienreads

Rosie Reviews: Magpie’s Song by Allison Pang

Magpie's Song

Title: Magpie’s Song

Author: Allison Pang

Publisher: Indie

Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Magpie’s Song is a fun, steampunk-esque novel about a girl with a clockwork heart who finds a dragon. In this novel, Allison Pang creates a world plagued by a mysterious rot to which only the even more mysterious moon children are immune. The girl with a clockwork heart is one such moon child. Raggy Maggy, orphaned and defined by her distinctive white hair, is a member of the Banshee clan, forced to scavenge for snacks in order to survive. The discovery of a metal dragon in the scrapheap, however, leads Maggy down a road of conspiracy, discovery and betrayal.

The novel itself is the first in a series and, as such, it involves a lot of world-building. We, as readers, are introduced to the social structure, the impenetrable meridian and those that live in its shadow. Unfortunately, this set up means that it does take a good two-thirds of the book before the main story kicks off. That being said, a lot does happen during those first parts, helping to set up the novel with action as well as description; as Maggy is forced from her normal, everyday life into playing a part for plan we’ve only seen the surface of.

Nothing feels completely safe and plenty of questions are asked, some of which are answered but some we will have to wait for the sequels. What is particularly interesting is the mystery which revolves around Raggy Maggy; the mystery of where she comes from and the reason for her clockwork heart.

Maggy, as our lead character, is reckless and also prone to mistakes, but she also has a heart. These traits make her an endearing lead. It is strongly implied, but never actually stated, that she is bi- or pan-sexual (and, indeed, there are a few diverse characters in this book). Those she teams up with are also quite distinct: Ghost, who lives up to his name; Lucian, the careful doctor with a hidden side and Molly, the harsh brothel-owner and scrap-dealer. Each contributes to the novel in their own way and each feels integral to the plot.

This novel does have a dark side, one with death, torture and hopelessness, but Pang handles it well, keeping the novel’s heart even when things take a turn for the worse. As such, it can be enjoyed by people of most ages (although it is more orientated towards teens); the writing is easy to understand and helps the story flow. If you enjoy steampunk novels with action, mystery and compelling characters, then you may enjoy this book too.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35428398-magpie-s-song

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Magpies-Song-Pang-Allison/9780998534312/?a_aid=rosienreads

Rosie Reviews: Darien by C.F. Iggulden

Darien

Title: Darien

Author: C. F. Iggulden

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Genre: Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

C.F. Iggulden is a well-known historical fiction author; Darien is his first foray into fantasy. It revolves around the city of Darien, where powerful magic is a thing of the past but remnants remain in objects and as knacks in a few select people. The novel follows a number of these gifted people as they all converge on the city for Reaper’s Eve. By morning, everything has changed.

Plot

The novel follows multiple point of view characters, and so covers a wide range of plots and sub-plots. Ultimately, however, all the threads come together to shake the foundations of Darien’s ruling class. It is a novel in two parts and, ultimately, I much preferred the first part of the novel and felt it could have ended when part one ended. The first part is, admittedly, slow in places, but it does a brilliant job of capturing the magic of the world and introducing the characters, all the while building to the climactic scene where all the threads come together. The second part, unfortunately, just did not work for me – by the time I got to it, it felt like the novel was nearly over. Instead, I was  to embark into another extended climactic scene. It almost felt like it could have been a sequel if expanded slightly.

Characters

As I’ve mentioned, the first part of the novel does a brilliant job of introducing the characters. Of them all, Elias and Nancy stood out to me as the most interesting, two sides of a coin. One only wanted to save his family while the other was purely motivated by revenge. Unfortunately, once the novel hit the half-way mark, I felt like the characters lost a little bit of what made them special in order to allow the more battle-filled scenes to occur. The two female characters, while brilliantly crafted, were also subjected to romances which felt both forced and sprung out of nowhere.

World/Setting

That being said, Iggulden’s experience with historical fiction has led to creation of a world which feels deep-rooted in the novel as well as our own world. I felt I was present in the novel from the beginning, experiencing everything alongside the characters. The set-up of the city felt like you could walk the streets. The only trouble I could find with this was that Darien is supposedly the heart of an empire, yet it felt more like an individual, solitary city than an empire. Even so, it was a city which jumped off the page and I have a feeling that we will see more of the empire in future books.

Final Thoughts

While it is not going to a be a favourite book of mine, I did enjoy Darien. It captured a world built on magic, but where only remnants survive. It introduced me to a number of intriguing characters. It’s also a novel with spectacular writing style – Iggulden can write incredibly well. The novel wasn’t perfect and I was not particularly hooked throughout but I think there is enough in it to make me curious to read the next book in the series.

Darien is out now.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33245839-darien

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Darien-C-F-Iggulden/9780718186463?a_aid=rosienreads