Tag Archives: Jay Kristoff

Mini Reviews of Recent Reads – Part II

As promised, here is part two of my mini reviews of books I read during my blogging break.


Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

godsgrave

Conquer your fear, conquer the world

Mia Corvere, destroyer of empires, has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry do not believe she has earned it.

Her position is precarious, and she’s still no closer to exacting revenge for the brutal death of her family. But after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it is announced that Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself into slavery for a chance to fulfill the promise she made on the day she lost everything.

Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold, secrets are revealed and the body count rises within the collegium walls, Mia will be forced to choose between her loyalties and her revenge.

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how Kristoff could possibly manage to follow up the story of Mia Corvere that began in Nevernight (and which you do need to read first), but he’s managed it.

Godsgrave is as brilliant and bloody (possibly bloodier?!) than the first instalment, and takes some unexpected turns.  Some questions are answered, and others are posed.  I cannot wait for the third instalment, Darkdawn, which is released in September.  Honestly, you just need to read this series.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


One Way by S. J. Morden

one way

There’s a murderer amongst them, and everyone’s a suspect… 

Frank Kittridge is serving life for murdering his son’s drug dealer, so when he’s offered a deal by Xenosystems Operations – the corporation that owns the prison – he takes it.

He’s been selected to help build the first permanent base on Mars. Unfortunately, his crewmates are just as guilty of their crimes as he is.

As the convicts set to work on the frozen wastes of Mars, the accidents multiply.

Until Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all…

One Way is the love child of Andy Weir’s The Martian and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  Sound odd?  Trust me, it works.

In order to cut costs, a small group of convicts is selected and trained to build the first, small base on Mars.  Each has a skill that will contribute to the scheme, but they are all convicted felons, and this makes the group dynamics extremely interesting as they need to work together, but with little trust between them.  And when things start to go wrong, it doesn’t take long for them to start blaming each other…

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


Origin by Dan Brown

origin

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever”. The evening’s host is his friend and former student, Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old tech magnate whose dazzling inventions and audacious predictions have made him a controversial figure around the world. This evening is to be no exception: he claims he will reveal an astonishing scientific breakthrough to challenge the fundamentals of human existence.

But Langdon and several hundred other guests are left reeling when the meticulously orchestrated evening is blown apart before Kirsch’s precious discovery can be revealed. With his life under threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape, along with the museum’s director, Ambra Vidal. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

In order to evade a tormented enemy who is one step ahead of them at every turn, Langdon and Vidal must navigate labyrinthine passageways of hidden history and ancient religion. On a trail marked only by enigmatic symbols and elusive modern art, Langdon and Vidal uncover the clues that will bring them face-to-face with a world-shaking truth that has remained buried – until now.

Harvard professor Robert Langdon on the run with a beautiful woman?  Surely not 😉

I enjoy this series.  Five books in, and Brown still keeps them interesting and different, and I love the opportunity to explore a different city in each novel.  I did feel that Origin didn’t have quite the same focus on symbology and puzzles as the previous novels, which is an element that I’ve particularly enjoyed in the series, but this was still an entertaining ride, even if I did have my suspicions as to the culprit relatively early on.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

the history of bees

In the spirit of Station Eleven and Never Let Me Go, this dazzling and ambitious literary debut follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees – and to their children and one another – against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis.

England, 1851. William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive—one that will give both him and his children honour and fame.

United States, 2007. George is a beekeeper and fights an uphill battle against modern farming, but hopes that his son can be their salvation.

China, 2098. Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao’s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident—and is kept in the dark about his whereabouts and condition—she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him.

Haunting, illuminating, and deftly written, The History of Bees joins these three very different narratives into one gripping and thought provoking story that is just as much about the powerful relationships between children and parents as it is about our very relationship to nature and humanity.

I absolutely loved The History of Bees, a novel I purchased when it was released late last year.  Alternating between the three narratives, Lunde gave each character a unique voice, and I loved seeing each story progress, and discovering the links (other than the obvious) between them.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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My Favourite Books of 2016

2016 has been another excellent year for books.  Here, in no particular order, are my favourite novels that were published during 2016 – clicking on the title will take you to my review.


Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Morning Star

Darrow is one of the Reds whose job it is to make Mars habitable for humans.  The mining they undertake is dangerous work and life expectancy is shockingly low, but the Reds deem it a worthy sacrifice – it’s for the good of the human race, after all.

But then Darrow discovers that it’s all a lie – Mars has been habitable, and inhabited, for years.  The Reds are just slave labour, mining elements for an elite caste of humans – the Golds.  And so Darrow, with the help of a shadowy organisation called the Sons of Ares, infiltrates the Golds in order to take them down from the inside.

Morning Star is a fitting conclusion to an outstanding trilogy.


The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola

The Unseeing

Inspired by real events, The Unseeing tells the story of Sarah Gale who has been sentenced to death for the murder of Hannah Brown.

Pleading her innocence, her case is assigned to Edward Fleetwood, who has a limited amount of time to investigate.  Yet Sarah is reluctant to speak, despite her sentence, and so it falls to Edward to discover the truth behind Hannah’s murder.

The Unseeing is Mazzola’s debut novel, and is perfect for fans of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites or Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace.


Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants starts with the discovery of a giant metal hand – thousands of years old, yet technologically superior to anything that we could manufacture today, and follows the investigation into what it is and where it came from.

Epistolary in format, Sleeping Giants is told through a series of interview transcripts conducted by a somewhat sinister nameless interviewer, allowing the reader the follow the investigation as well as seeing the implications that the discovery has.

Part sci-fi, part thriller, this is an outstanding novel and I can’t wait for book two – Waking Gods – which will be published in April 2017.


Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker

Anatomy of a Soldier

Anatomy of a Soldier is the highly inventive début novel from Harry Parker, and focuses on Tom Barnes, a soldier fighting in an unspecified war who is injured by an IED.

Told out of sequence, and from the perspective of a series of inanimate objects, the reader is gradually able to piece together the events that led to Tom’s injury and his recovery.

I think it will be a long time before I stop raving about this novel – I can’t recommend it enough.


The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman

A new virus is sweeping the globe – a virus that ultimately results in the spontaneous combustion of the host.

When Harper Grayson discovers the tell-tale markings on her skin, she is forced to run away from her husband, and falls in with a camp of fellow sufferers, including the Fireman of the title.  There, she begins to learn more about the virus.

I really enjoyed that this novel was told from the perspective of the sufferers, rather than the healthy few who are seeking a cure / to exterminate those who have contracted the virus in the way of so many other end of the world novels.

The Fireman is a thoroughly brilliant novel, and I loved every page of it (which is good, because it’s huge!), this is a wonderfully complex novel that will appeal to fans of The Passage.


A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows

In A Gathering of Shadows, we return to Schwab’s brilliantly imagined four parallel Londons, and pick up the story of Lila, Kell and Rhy some four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic.

Predominantly set in Red London, A Gathering of Shadows focuses on the build up to the Essen Tasch – the elemental games – something akin to the Olympics for magicians.

I love everything about this series – the world building, the characters, the magic, the writing – and I can’t wait to read the final instalment – A Conjuring of Shadows – which will be published in 2017.


The North Water by Ian McGuire

The North Water

It is 1859, and the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaling ship, is about to set sail for the hunting grounds of the Arctic sea.  Patrick Sumner is an ex-army surgeon who has joined the crew as the medic for the voyage.  Also aboard is harpooner Henry Drax – a drunk and savage brute of a man.

As the journey gets underway, it becomes clear that the purpose of the voyage is not quite the straightforward whaling mission that it has been made out to be, and what ensues is a thrilling tale of intrigue and action in the harshest of conditions.

Longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, this is a bleak and unsettling novel and I absolutely loved it.


Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight

Mia Corvere is sixteen years old, and, after six years of training, she is to be admitted to the Red Church – a secretive organisation of assassins.  Whilst adept at many of the skills this requires, she has additional motivation, as she seeks to avenge herself on those who hanged her father as a traitor, who threw her mother into a prison and who sentenced the ten-year-old Mia to a death that she narrowly managed to avoid.

But training at Red Church will not be a straightforward affair – only four of the inductees will become ‘blades’, competition is fierce and there’s no guarantee that she’ll survive the training process.

With a richly imagined world and an innovative magic system, Nevernight is a great start to a new trilogy.


The Empathy Problem by Gavin Extence

The Empathy Problem

At 32, Gabriel Vaughn seems to have it all, and has very little time for those who haven’t achieved as much as he has.

But then he is diagnosed as having a brain tumour.  Situated deep in his brain, it’s inoperable.  And he begins to notice a change in himself. Whereas before he could remain aloof, detached and uncaring of the general masses, he is now beginning to feel all sorts of new emotions, and begins to see that his lifestyle isn’t as rich as he once thought.

The Empathy Problem is a beautiful and heart-warming novel, and firmly establishes Extence as one of my favourite authors.


The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone

the-hatching

The Hatching is an end of the world novel in which an ancient species of spider, one that has long lain dormant, is now causing havoc.  Told from a variety of perspectives, the reader is able to see how the spiders spread and the ensuing chaos, as well as the investigation into how to stop them.

This is a compelling read and highly entertaining, and I’m really looking forward to the sequel, Skitter, which will be published in 2017.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight

Rating: ★★★★★

Nevernight is the first novel in a new fantasy trilogy from Jay Kristoff, and I was thrilled to be sent an advance copy for review.

Mia Corvere is sixteen years old, and, after six years of training, she is to be admitted to the Red Church – a secretive organisation of assassins.  Whilst adept at many of the skills this requires, she has additional motivation, as she seeks to avenge herself on those who hanged her father as a traitor, who threw her mother into a prison and who sentenced the ten-year-old Mia to a death that she narrowly managed to avoid.

But training at Red Church will not be a straightforward affair – only four of the inductees will become ‘blades’, competition is fierce and there’s no guarantee that she’ll survive the training process.

In Nevernight, Kristoff evokes a richly imagined world, detailed in the places, people and their beliefs.  Much of the detail is passed along through the use of footnotes.  I liked these (if you don’t mind Pratchett’s footnotes, you should be fine here) – they added commentary and explanation without hindering the story, and many were humorous and had me chuckling.  For what is a relatively bloodthirsty work (you don’t get to be an assassin without a little bloodshed, after all) the novel maintains a tone of humour throughout which adds some light relief between some dark scenes.

I found the magic system used in Nevernight to be highly original – something I don’t get to say often.  Magic isn’t widely used (is, in fact, largely believed to have died out), but where it is utilised, it comes at a price.  Imagine having the ability to change the flesh of others – to heal, and make them beautiful, but for your own flesh to become ever more repugnant and repulsive every time you used this skill.  Such is the nature of magic in this novel.  Whilst helpful, it’s certainly no easy way, and I found this idea of a trade-off to be fascinating and refreshing.

As with the world building, Kristoff has also provided a rich cast of characters, all with their own motivations and back stories.  Somewhat unusually for the genre (although this is becoming less true), it’s the women that stand out in this novel.  There are male characters, but it’s the ladies that were the focus, at least for me.  And this is particularly true of Mia, who I found to be a fascinating character.  Feisty and temperamental, she has lots of bad habits but is ultimately driven to succeed, even when the odds are against her, and there were parts where I had to read on to make sure that she’d get out of whatever situation she landed herself in.

Like many novels, there are aspects of Nevernight that reminded me of other works – A Game of Thrones and Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind spring to mind – but there is plenty in Nevernight to set it apart from both these and others.  This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Nevernight will be published on 11 August by Harper Voyager.  Many thanks to Katie Sadler for providing a copy for review.