Young Adult

Audiobook: The Dragons of Dorcastle (The Pillars of Reality, #1) by Jack Campbell

23379243Details, Please (Publisher’s description)

“For centuries, the two Great Guilds have controlled the world of Dematr. The Mechanics and the Mages have been bitter rivals, agreeing only on the need to keep the world they rule from changing. But now a Storm approaches, one that could sweep away everything that humans have built. Only one person has any chance of uniting enough of the world behind her to stop the Storm, but the Great Guilds and many others will stop at nothing to defeat her.

Mari is a brilliant young Mechanic, just out of the Guild Halls where she has spent most of her life learning how to run the steam locomotives and other devices of her Guild. Alain is the youngest Mage ever to learn how to change the world he sees with the power of his mind. Each has been taught that the works of the other’s Guild are frauds. But when their caravan is destroyed, they begin to discover how much has been kept from them.”

So what?

While searching for something new to listen to I saw an advertisement for a book written exclusively for Audible and thought that it might be interesting. It’s depicted as a new epic fantasy saga and is written by Jack Campbell who already has a fan following with his many military science fiction/ space opera novels.

The Dragons of Dorcastle is about a world where Mages and Mechanics get to throw their weight around and treat everyone who is not in their guild like trash. It’s not even like the two major guilds get along, in fact the Mages and Mechanics hate each other. There is a lot about Mages not understanding technology and the Mechanics not understanding or believing in Magic. Each guild perpetuates lies and rumors about the other to the point that nothing said about each has any real truth. Any contact between the two is not encouraged and to a certain point could mean death.

It is with this knowledge that Mari, a Master Mechanic, and Alain, a Mage run into a conflict where both reluctantly have to work together; Mari being on a caravan that Alain is contracted to protect.

This book was interesting. At first I was not really paying attention until I became aware that, hey this is actually good… I really liked Campbell’s world and how he described the Mages. They are described as being taught to not display or feel any emotion and reminded me of robots. I’ve never read about mages like that.

It’s kind of steampunk and it’s just neat to see a world where mechanics and magicians are so important and are in conflict. Also a plus is that both protagonists are likeable in their own way, with Alain being brutally honest and not quite sure about the gamut of emotions he is experiencing, and Mari trying to live and fight for respect in a world where she is being looked down upon from every angle. There is a mystery and it’s fun trying to figure out what and who is behind all the trouble.

Perhaps I liked this book not just for the world building, but also because there is some romance. In The Dragons of Dorcastle the romance it isn’t trying to knock you over the head all the time. It’s mostly just sweet awkwardness here and there amidst the plot.

Having never read any of Jack Campbell’s science fiction books I don’t really know what to expect of his writing, but I think it is great that he wrote this YA fantasy. He did a really great job and I will definitely look into his Lost Fleet series.

Now, this is an Audible exclusive so I don’t think this is even published as a physical book. You can probably only hear it through Audible. If you already have an account I think it is worth a credit. If you are not sure then check out some more reviews before buying or getting a membership. Also check your local library to see if they carry the audiobook.

It is worth noting that MacLeod Andrews does a great job narrating and his voice is not irritating in the slightest. Audible lets you listen to some of it before buying.

The Dragons of Dorcastle Published December 2nd 2014 by Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 hrs and 27 mins

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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Details, Please (Publisher’s description)

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

So what?

High Fantasy! I went on this kick last year trying to find recent YA, high fantasy books, and it was much harder than I thought. Sometimes with that genre I feel the book can drag on and on, but I didn’t feel that way with this book. Also as a plus there wasn’t an abundance of fight scenes or dream sequences that I usually associate with them. It is also neat that Seraphina is a musician and assistant to the court composer.

As for the world building there are a lot of customs and philosophers that are mentioned that just add to the book. It’s pretty cool when people ask who your psalter saint is, but what would you do if your psalter saint was a heretic? Another thing about this book is that it would be best if you kept a dictionary near you while reading. Can you tell me what ‘perspicacity’ means? I didn’t know and had to look it up, among other words…but that’s good, right?

If you are a fan of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey you might like Seraphina. It mostly reminded me of the same spirit as Dragonsong and Dragonsinger though. So check it out on July 10th.

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Hardcover: 464 Pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (June 7, 2011)

A lot of times when describing some of my favorite books to people I end up noticing a pattern of violent girls in them. Then I’m bashfully shy and seriously considering my tastes when they look at me like I’m demented. In my mind a lot of fictional girls fall under this edgy category but recently there’s Katniss, Katsa, and now Saba.

Details, Please

The incident that changed Saba’s life? That’s easy. Five horsemen came and took her twin away (Lugh.) The only clue she has is their birth on midwinter’s day. Why wasn’t she taken as well? On her way to find her brother she is caught and forced into a life of cage fighting where she must fight for her life nightly. With the help of some girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks she formulates a plan to find her brother and free herself. There’s also a guy named Jack who always happens to be in the wrong bar at the wrong time, but comes in useful by knowing where Lugh is held. Along the way she realizes the situation is a lot bigger than just finding her brother.

As a word of warning: some people don’t like the narrative style which is told from Saba’s point of view, and since she is uneducated there is a lot of misspellings mostly spelled phonetically. Her language is simply a product of her environment. Here’s a passage:

Because everthin’s set. It’s all fixed.
The lives of everybody who’s ever bin born.
The lives of everybody still waitin to be born.
It was all set in the stars the moment the world began. The
time of yer birthin, the time of yer death. Even what kinda
person yer gonna be, good or bad.
If you know how to read the stars, you can read the story
of people’s lives. The story of yer own life. What’s gone,
what’s now an what’s still to come.
Back when Pa was a boy, he met up with a traveler, a man
who knew many things. He learned Pa how to read the stars.
Pa never says what he sees in the night sky but you can see it
lays heavy on him.
Because you cain’t change what’s written.
Even if Pa was to say what he knew, even if he was to warn
you, it would still come to pass.
I see the way he looks at Lugh sometimes. The way he
looks at me.
An I wish he’d tell us what he knows.
I believe Pa wishes he’d never met the traveler.

Personally the plot was strong enough for me to overlook this, and after awhile It didn’t even bother me.

So What?

It’s an intense read. I mean a good portion of the book is Saba being a cage fighter and earning the name “Angel of Death.” She’s such a raw girl, and her having a raven companion just adds to her enigmatic persona. What makes her character so likeable despite being so prickly is her immense love and determination to find her brother. Constantly she fights giving in to fear, and I think that is something most people can relate to. If desert pirates and cage fighting wasn’t enough trouble there’s also the Tremors element with giant worms with claws that come out at night to hunt for food. It’s like a desert Odyssey with people trying to survive in a world full of violence and crime.

Overall

If you like dystopian novels with strong chicks then by all means read this. And for those who have already read, am I the only one who likes DeMalo? Let’s hope his moniker doesn’t speak of his character.

Chime By Franny Billingsley

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Dial (March 17, 2011)

Briony Larkin deals with self hatred all the time. She believes she’s bad because after all her name comes from a poisonous vine. Plus, villainous creatures in the swamp refer to her as their mistress. She’s been told that no one is to know of her being a witch. So when an engineer and his son come to drain the swamp that is vital to her sister’s protection she must face the difficulty of revealing her secret to save her twin.

This book is difficult to review. Was it mysterious? Did it keep me guessing? Was it different? Yes, yes, and yes, however I wouldn’t say I liked this book. It’s odd to say, but I think it was the writing style that threw me. There were parts where Briony would randomly break into weird little poems. They were kind of nonsensical to me. I guess if you were seeing a movie you’d imagine those parts as being eerie and creepy and it would work,but reading those parts were just annoying to me. The reading flow just seemed hindered.

Another problem for me was too much action would take place in the swamp, and I would be lost as to what just happened. I guess because Briony is such an unreliable narrator and guarded, we the reader only know so much, and what we do know gets confusing.

Rose is her identical twin who seems a bit slow, but in reality is pretty smart.That is one good thing about this book though. The characters are well fleshed out and despite being confused, I felt sympathetic towards them. As the book goes on you’ll probably go through three of four different scenarios of what could have happened and that was a bit fun.

Towards the end it was more exciting, but the first half just complicated the experience for me. 

Overall the book was just okay to me, but all over the net the reviews are just glowing with praise. So maybe it’s just not my cup of tea, maybe it will be yours.  Judge for yourself.