The Thousandth Floor

Man, that opening. What a hook. I thought it was going to be cliche. I thought I was going to have this shining example to hold up to say “Never try to hook your reader with this sort of thing…”

And then I read this WHOLE BOOK trying to figure out that hook, because it intrigued me. It worked really well, with this ensemble cast. All you know is that the character it’s speaking about is female. You don’t even know if she’s a major player. All you know is that she’s about to die, and you want to figure out who in the hell she is.

I’ll agree, no hesitation, with other comments I’ve heard/read about this book, that the characters can be pretty shallow. I think when you’re dealing with an ensemble cast and your book isn’t anywhere near as long as an A Song of Ice and Fire tome, you’re going to have to delve a little less deep just to cover the main storyline. Did I still care about the characters? Sure. They’re pretty fascinating. It all unfurls in a sort of soap-opera way. A futuristic soap opera all about teenagers. They all have desires and conflicts and different living situations that complicate things.

Everyone is a bit overdramatic, though it feels pretty authentically teenager. Throw in all the drugs and alcohol, and I have no hesitation believing it. There are a lot of female protagonists, which was great. Actually my favorite character ended up being the one male protagonist that we get POV chapters from. Watt, and his special friend Nadia, are fascinating to me. I think McGee ended up nailing that circumstance and those interactions so well that Watt/Nadia will be the reason I keep reading these books. The other characters are interesting, but Watt/Nadia were compelling.

While avoiding spoilers, I do have to say that the ending wasn’t what I expected, and I really wanted it to go a different way. I can see why it was necessary, sort of. And I’m not complaining that I’ll get to read more of Watt/Nadia since this isn’t a stand-alone book. But I think it ended the way it did because the author really wanted a second book (or maybe her publisher did?) and she needed to set things up in such a way that there was plenty to keep writing about. Except, I could definitely see plenty to keep writing about if things had gone the way I wanted them to, in the end, rather than the ending that was written.

Still, that could be the ending that was intended all along, and if so, it isn’t necessarily a bad one. There’s definitely setup for book two, and motivation to keep reading if there are characters in play that you care about.

The futuristic elements of the book were handled well, I thought. It’s a different sort of world these teenagers live in, and it adds a lot of interesting and compelling dynamics to the story. I’ll be picking up the sequel, once it’s released.

Advertisements

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Reading plays is always a bit strange for me, especially when I can clearly see the gaps where a really good actor would fill in all the empathetic parts and bring everything to life.

If you’re looking for another Harry Potter novel, you should just go read all the Harry Potters. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world again for a quick read and don’t mind so much that it doesn’t follow the same format and isn’t quite as tightly controlled as the original books—then you’ll love this. Maybe not quite as much as I loved watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, since we did that recently. But, still. Die-hard HP fans basically have to read this play.

The plot is, dare I say it, similar to the season finale episodes of Season 5 of My Little Pony. Time travel changes the world and we need to go back and fix it and we learn we shouldn’t have meddled at all in the first place, sort of thing.

Harry plays a somewhat important role in this story, though of course his son Albus takes center stage. I really liked that Albus was friends with Scorpius. It feels like fate, and closure, of sorts, though it creates all kinds of problems for the parents, obviously.

This is a quick read and worth your time if you grew up on HP like I did. It’s no Harry Potter novel, but it gives us a little bit more of that world.

A Torch Against the Night

Second books in a trilogy are sometimes lackluster. NOT SO WITH THIS BOOK. It doesn’t feel like a bridge between books one and three at all. This feels like an action-packed amazing continuation and escalation of the original story.

Elias and Laia and Helene—they are such beautifully-wrought characters. I can’t get enough of Elias and Laia, and getting to know Helene was supposed to be sort of tedious, right, because she’s all pious? Except NO WAY could Tahir’s writing ever be tedious. Every chapter was engaging and lovely.

The mythos woven into this story, the magical powers and legends, they build up at just the right pace. You never feel like she’s infodumping, and you always get the next bit just when you want a little bit more to keep you guessing.

Settings, perfect. Story, perfect. Well, okay. There was one thing I saw coming before it happened, but I think that was just because I was shipping a particular pairing so hard that I wanted to believe I was right about this other thing…and even then, I only guessed a small portion of what it actually was, and the greater truth was big and momentous.

All the feels, in this book. ALL OF THEM. If you haven’t read An Ember in the Ashes, start there, and DO NOT STOP until you’ve finished this one and are waiting as eagerly for the third book as I am. Seriously. Do it.

The Kiss of Deception

I really enjoyed the style of writing in Morrighan, so I was excited to read this novel, which happens generations later in the same changed world. I feel like I could understand the geography and different groups of people better having read the novella first.

I’m not going to lie—the plot is a little too convenient. Of course one of the people who finds Lia after she runs away to a small little town is her betrothed. Of course he falls in love with her. I do really appreciate the way the narrative was written, though, keeping you guessing which guy is the prince and which the assassin. That’s pretty clever, and it was mostly done well.

I enjoy Lia’s fiery spirit. I can respect someone who runs away from an arranged marriage, believing there aren’t any other options open to her. And she redeems any immaturity she has with her actions later on. All in all she isn’t the most deep character I’ve ever read, but still plenty enjoyable. Honestly, things are set up for much more intrigue at the end of the first book. I’m interested in reading the second book because now I want to see what happens, and who exactly this assassin guy is.

I was a little surprised that we follow her friend/lady in waiting’s story almost as closely. And I think it was way too convenient that she witnessed something out in the plains, where a certain character she knew just happened to show up in the big wide wastes of the friggin midwest (trying not to give away any spoilers here, so sorry for the vagueness).

Despite my small gripes, though, I still really enjoy this writing style, and the interesting world that Pearson has crafted. It’s nice to find a blend of post-apocalyptic and sort of courtly-tinged adventure story. I think the best part is Lia discovering more about the magical power her people are supposed to possess. That’s intriguing and I’m excited to find out more about it as the books progress.

This would be a great read for a younger audience, mostly female teens, who are into suspenseful, slowly-unfolding romance. You’ve got to like love triangles, too—I know a lot of people are tired of them as a trope, but I think this one is done pretty well and in a different sort of way.

Emmy & Oliver

The premise of this book is different and fascinating. How many kids have one of their closest childhood friends kidnapped?

Emmy is sweet and authentic. She feels so much like a real person, with complexities and passions. Robin Benway did a fabulous job writing her (and this story, in general).

I don’t visit realism much, since speculative fiction is my one true love, but when I do I want the story to be executed just like this one. There’s a sweetness and a purity to Emmy and Oliver, captured so well among the swirling confusion of modern times. It reminds me of Rainbow Rowell’s work, so fans of hers should definitely read Emmy & Oliver if they haven’t already.

I also have to commend Robin on her execution of the child-parent relationships. I think she absolutely nailed it, and her adult characters were actually interesting and fun to read, rather than boring, unimportant, or nonexistent like they might be in a lot of other YA.

Definitely would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA, especially YA realism and fans of Rainbow Rowell’s work.

Immortal Fire

YOU GUYS.

OH MY GODS.

This book is better than I expected. Considering how much I absolutely LOVED the first and second ones, I was already expecting a lot.

Yes, the action is well-paced, the story structure is one of the most masterful I’ve read in ages. The characters are interesting and complex and so, so worthy of all the praise ever. But the arcs, you guys. The character arcs. The things they learn. The things that happen to them!

I seriously could never do this book justice, talking about it. When I’m this excited about a book, people tend to think I’m exaggerating or just being dramatic for kicks. So I’ll stop overselling this one and just say that it absolutely enriched my life to read it, and gave me all the achingly sweet and painful and inspiring feels. Read it or you’re missing out.

Dark Tempest

Okay, real talk: I wanted more of this book as soon as I finished listening to it, so I went back to halfway through and listened to the second half again. I wasn’t ready to move on to the third, because that’s too close to the end of the trilogy, and I never want that to happen. So I just listened to more of Dark Tempest again. 🙂

I’ve already recommended these books to a bunch of people, and I’m not even done reading them. I want more of Emi and Shiro. This story is SO good. The characters are deep and well crafted and intriguing. The mythos is woven in so well.

I think my favorite thing about this second book in the trilogy was the pacing. There’s this amazing balance between despair and hope that Annette Marie handles so beautifully well. It’s truly impressive. The midpoint had me on the absolute edge of my seat, ignoring everything in the real world until I found out what happened next. The thing is, with more time left in the books, you think she couldn’t possibly kill off the major characters. Except you don’t know that she won’t, and you start to get really really scared that she will…

It’s pretty fabulous, the way she keeps you guessing. The suspense is thrilling, the payoff at the end of battles always gives me the feels, even while circumstances are set up for the next big battle, the next potential death. I’ve rarely seen pacing this wonderful in any book.

Now, the next bit that I want to say has some spoiler potential, so do me a favor and go read the book, then come back to read the rest of this review. I just have to comment about it, because it’s refreshing and wonderful. But I don’t want to spoil anything for you—and you don’t want anything to be spoiled, either, so do yourself a solid and don’t read the following until you’ve finished the book!

*****

*****

*****

*****

*****

You know in Star Wars, how Han Solo basically corners Leia before he kisses her, and that’s supposed to be sexy because he’s a big strong man she can’t say no to? Or in Indiana Jones, where he literally pulls a woman toward him with a friggin whip and forces her into his arms? Well, those are pretty good examples of societal sexist microaggressions. Somehow we started promoting the narrative that ignoring a woman’s resistance was sexy. That’s shitty and awful and creates all kinds of weird and disturbing conflicts in a girl’s mind. Srsly. SO. It’s no surprise that my favorite fucking line of this entire book is: “Do you want me to move?”

I mean, how amazing is that? How AWESOME is it of Annette Marie to weave in this layer of CONSENT between Emi and Shiro? Seriously the sexiest thing ever. Remember all the feels you got when you read the line in the first book: “Do you promise?” I remember all mine. It was epic and aching and wonderful. But “Do you want me to move?” is better. Different emotions, different subtext. I consider it a fucking victory for all women. So thank you, Annette Marie, for writing that so well. You’re awesome. ❤

Goldenhand

Nix has really upped his narrative game with this one. Goldenhand came out so many years after the original books, I didn’t think he was ever going to revisit this world. Man am I glad he did.

Once you start reading this book, you see why he wanted to write Clariel, too. Reading Clariel isn’t super necessary if you want to enjoy Goldenhand, though. You’ve already read Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen, so you already want to spend more time with the characters (and if you haven’t read The Creature in the Case yet, go do that before you dive into Goldenhand).

It’s tough to follow up a trilogy ending where they literally save the universe, of course. And somehow, Nix does it with style. He employs switching POV chapters, and introduces new characters that are just brilliant and endearing. Lirael and Nicholas are kind of adorbs, and I’m so so glad we get to spend more time with Lirael, because two books with her definitely wasn’t enough.

Sameth has matured in a really wonderful way. We get the promise of it near the end of Abhorsen, and we get to really see how it’s unfurled in Goldenhand.

There’s new magic in this, and new lands north of the Old Kingdom that we haven’t visited before. We get to explore more of Lirael’s past, as she uses her Remembrancer skills and through a message passed down through the years.

The villain in this book is probably the most complex and interesting one yet. I won’t say she does it for me quite the same as the Destroyer, because that was one badass, inexorable villain. But Chlorr of the Mask is interesting and has a lot of depth to her, which makes for interesting conflict.

If you enjoyed any of the previous books in this series, you should read all the way through to Goldenhand. If you enjoy good fantasy, with well-wrought characters, an intelligent magic system, and a fully realized world complete with history and landscape, then this is definitely a book for you.

The Creature in the Case

This is a lovely, compelling short story that takes place in the Abhorsen universe. Chronologically, it happens between the events of Abhorsen and those of Goldenhand. It follows Nicholas Sayre, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like him enough to care about this story. Thankfully, Nix provides enough interesting situations, endearing awkwardness, and fast-paced action to help you fall for Nicholas.

This story is definitely worth reading. It should be read after Abhorsen and before Goldenhand, in particular by those who love Lirael’s character from the original trilogy.

Abhorsen

There are some people who don’t enjoy the progression that happens in some trilogies, where the first novel is sort of the introductory conflict, the second novel deals with even bigger events like the fate of the world, and the third novel deals with the fate of the whole friggin universe. If you’re that type of person, you might not like these books. You should still read them, of course, because they’re fantastic. But, you’ve been warned.

This third installment to the original “trilogy” (now expanded with the new sequel Goldenhand) definitely escalates to the “save the universe” level. It does it so organically, though, that you really can’t (or shouldn’t, anyway) complain.

We get more Sabriel and Lirael and Sameth, all good things. There’s more Mogget and Dog. There are new, interesting characters that you want to love. There are secondary characters that we’ve already met who grow more prominent. There’s suspense and more time spent in Death and the best villains yet.

This isn’t a light, magical story. This trilogy (or series, now) is dark, and heavy. It’s supposed to be. And it earns it. It earns the weight, and seriousness, and still gives you all the feels.

Again, Mogget is my absolute favorite. I’ve said that three times now in these reviews. You really get to the meat of it in this book.

Fans of Sabriel and Lirael have to read this book—it’d be silly not to. It’s a beautiful closure to the conflicts started in the previous books, and heralds in a brief respite for our characters before we get to jump in to Goldenhand.