Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Crown Of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas - Book Review

Title: Crown of Midnight
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: 15th August 2013
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★★

"A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached. It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend."

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie...and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

This is the second book in the series, and contains some spoilers for the first book in the series, Throne of Glass

In a nutshell: SO much character development, awesome assassin action that was missing in the first book, betrayal, treachery, secrets and revelations galore.

I have had this review in progress for about a month, and for the vast majority of that month, it only contained the words ‘SO GOOD’ (capitals necessary) Needless to say, I loved this book, but writing about it was such a struggle. Why? Because I cannot express how amazing it is. Crown of Midnight is an enormous improvement on Throne of Glass, every character, every plot point, every element of the series improves so completely. While I didn’t dislike Throne of Glass, there were definitely parts which left more to be desired and Crown of Midnight rectifies every questionable part of Throne of Glass, dare I say it… perfectly.

Once again, Maas rolls out strong, well developed characters and this time, an even stronger plot line, with all the assassin action that Throne of Glass was lacking. There first half of the book follows a similar vein to Throne of Glass in a more calm and relaxed fashion, more focused on character relationships, but in the second half, the plot and the action really get under way. There’s mystery, devastation, betrayal and a whole load of secrets, action and magic.

The character development is outstanding. Dorian in particular grows so much as a character. In Throne of Glass, he came across as a frivolous, one dimensional character, who seemed to have little purpose other than being a love interest, however he completely turns around in Crown of Midnight, to the point where he became one of my favourite characters.

He becomes more likeable, develops a personality away from Celaena, and embarks on his own personal journey after uncovering a life changing revelation. It is clear these revelations are important to the overall storyline of the series but not much is revealed in this book! a clever move from Maas as this really builds up the anticipation for Heir of Fire!

Lastly, my favourite improvement to Dorian is that he becomes a much more admirable character. He finally gains the courage to vocalise his objections to his father’s imperialistic plans, something that in Throne of Glass he was quite reluctant to do and gets seems to get more involved in the more political side of life, as you would expect from a Prince. Dorian's reluctance really irritated me in Throne of Glass and I was so happy to see him grow as a character!

As for Chaol and Celaena, their relationship becomes more explosive in more way than one! In fact, explosive is a good word to describe some of the events and character reactions throughout the book. Celaena maintains her role as one of my favourite female characters and another, previously unseen, more savage side of her comes through as she struggles with her loyalties. Maas expands on both character’s backgrounds and back stories as well the general world building. Although the world building isn't the most expansive, it’s enough and adequately depicts the world in a way that is easy to envisage.

A real twist is thrown in at the end, and it changes everything. It forced me to re-evaluate everything that’s happened over the course of the series and the anticipation for Heir of Fire is high! Overall, Maas crafts a sublime instalment in the Throne of Glass series, complete with awesome assassin action and insanely amazing character development. 

(P.S Chaolaena forever)

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Monday, 1 September 2014

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey - Book Review

Title: The Girl with All the Gifts
Author: M.R Carey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: 6th June 2014
Genre: Horror/Post Apocalyptic
Rating: ★★★★★


Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

This review is quite vague as I wanted to avoid spoilers and those turn of events which make the book so much more exciting when you're not aware of them before reading! 

In a nutshell: A refreshingly unique twist on the classic zombie, thrilling yet poignant tale, intense relationships, strong characterisation, and zombie action.

The Girl with All the Gifts encompasses everything you could want in a zombie novel.

It’s post-apocalyptic, thrilling, enigmatic, and action packed but at the same time, explores the complexities of humanity, compassion, and mortality through a cast of well-developed characters. The Girl with All the Gifts has easily become one of my favourite novels, as Carey manages to writes a novel which is thrilling and packed with refreshing zombie action, yet manages to be poignant and moving at the same time.

The characters are very well developed and the relationships between most characters are intense in different ways. Each character develops wonderfully and although they seemingly start out quite archetypal, (the military guy, the civilian, the scientist, etc.) they develop their own unique personalities and become so real and believable throughout the course of the novel. 

The use of third person narration, with each chapter being told from the perspective of a different character really works well, allowing an insight into each character’s motivations, back stories and flaws, which have an overall impact on their decisions throughout the novel and give them a lot of dimension. 
The character dynamics and intense relationships, centering around ten year old Melanie, and unique twist on the classic idea of zombies really makes this novel so compelling and unique.

The story is a classic tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world and the zombie twist really keeps it interesting and prevents this novel from falling into the predictable post-apocalyptic category, rather, it’s exciting, interesting and thrilling! The zombie infection is described with such detail that it is both terrifyingly and fascinatingly believable. The Cordyceps fungus (which is real and actually effects ants and other insects!) is such an interesting way for a zombie apocalypse to start. Before reading this novel, I was familiar with Cordyceps however Carey explains it straightforwardly and even references a real documentary by David Attenborough which I happen to have watched before and it was nice to see it referenced! (Would recommend a watch!)

The action in the novel is not so much that it overpowered the story, and it’s not a story based solely on violence and action, rather it’s a blend of awesome zombie action combined with a gripping story of survival in a post-apocalyptic world. I found some parts towards the beginning of the novel a little slow but once the story gets going, it really gets going. I don’t want to spoil anything but notable mentions to the ending!

On a slightly side note, I found that this novel quite similar to the PlayStation 3 game, ‘The Last of Us.’ Both explore intense parent-child relationships, both use the Cordyceps fungus as the cause of the zombie outbreak and both take place about twenty years after the initial outbreak, dealing with humanity coping in a post-apocalyptic world. Essentially, they are both emotionally charged, action packed zombie stories and if you enjoy one, I think you will really enjoy the other!

Overall, Carey crafts a gripping post-apocalyptic tale of survival in a zombie wasteland with a twist, which is uniquely thrilling yet poignant and dreary yet hopeful. In short, it’s thought provoking and moving with a superb dose of zombie action and I wholeheartedly recommend this book!

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