Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas

cv_a_court_of_mist_and_furyAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

Disclaimer: Please do not read this book unless you are experienced in extreme emotional rollercoastering. I suggest you buckle in tight, because A Court of Mist and Fury will take your breath away.

To start with, if you have not read the first instalment of Sarah J. Maas’ new fantasy series, A Court of Thorns and Roses yet, what have you been doing with your life? Stop reading this and go and find it immediately. You can thank me later.

For all the old-timers, you are in for a treat because Feyre is back but this time she is High Fae… and not adjusting well. Tamlin has taken overprotective to a whole new level and Feyre finds strange comfort in the company of Rhysand, High Lord of the Night Court who she once couldn’t stand. After saving the land in book one, Feyre now faces an even bigger challenge in learning to save herself.

I believe it is a rare feat to find a second book you love better than the first. Second books are a sly species that tend to draw out the plot much longer than necessary just because the first book was a hit. This one however is clearly a breed of its own because although I would have laughed if you had told me pre-ACOMAF that I would like it better, you would have been absolutely right. Maas truly knocks it out of the park with this one.

One of the most satisfying things in books is a bit of good old character development. And Feyre’s transition from a Bella Swan into a Katniss Everdeen is about as satisfying as it gets. Broken and terrified to stand up for herself at the start, she walks out of this novel like the powerful ninja-warrior you always wanted her to be. And can we just talk about the title. A Court of Mist and Fury. I mean come on, I’m not advocating judging a book by its title here, but how intense is that?

If you thought you loved the characters in the last book you will love these ones even more. Rhysand and Feyre are kind of the best combination ever. Endlessly witty and cheeky but somehow still raw and vulnerable, they make the book what it is. The sass is so real I couldn’t get enough of it. Days after reading this book, the characters are still running through my mind while I wonder desperately what will happen to them next.

Irresistible, heart-pounding exhilaration, A Court of Mist and Fury is hands down my favourite book of the year so far. I went in expecting great things and somehow it was better than I ever could have imagined. I can’t wait to see how Maas will bring it with the next one.

Reviewed by Alex Thompson
As part of the Allen & Unwin YA Ambassador review team.

A Court of Mist and Fury
by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 9781408857885

Book Review: Dreaming the Enemy, by David Metzenthen

cv_dreaming_the_enemyAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

Dreaming the Enemy by David Metzenthen is a poignant novel, posing meaningful questions about the effects of war. Metzenthen’s ability to empathise with the suffering of his characters makes for a thoughtful story, which captures the pointlessness of the Vietnam War and its permanent imprint on the minds of those involved. This book is crafted with elegance – quite simply, everyone should read it.

Johnny Shoebridge was conscripted to fight in Vietnam, where he lost his two best mates and the better part of himself. Now, having returned to Australia, he is left with a build-up of smothered emotion and not enough words to convey it. As he attempts to clear his head, by driving to an unknown destination in the Australian countryside, Johnny finds himself kept company by an imaginary Viet Cong fighter, whom he names Khan. Despite their differences and bone-deep hatred, Johnny quickly finds that Khan is one of few with whom he can relate. Exposed to open hostility from some locals for being involved in the Vietnam War, Johnny meets Carly, another outsider frowned on by society. Damaged by her past, Carly too can understand Johnny in a way most others cannot, as he grapples to find the sweet side of himself he lost in the jungles of Vietnam.

Johnny is trapped: by his memories, society’s expectations, his lost friends whom he cannot let go of and Khan, who pursues him relentlessly. Ultimately, he is trapped within the depths of his own mind, but the question is: can he find his way out? Just because he is out of the jungle, does not mean he is out of the woods.

Metzenthen poignantly captures the ceaseless struggle our servicemen are exposed to long after they have left the battlefield. Some might suggest the book is difficult to keep up with as it flicks from past to present to imagination, however, this is in keeping with Johnny’s head and the confusion that follows him. This is a truly well-crafted novel which shines a harsh light on government accountability (or lack thereof), society’s quick-to-judge nature and most importantly, war’s inevitable scars. Metzenthen poses the reader some poignant questions, which will leave you thinking long after the last page.

This book is in a league of its own, making the Vietnam War accessible to younger readers. It is thoughtfully crafted and forces the reader to empathise with people whose problems are almost too significant to truly understand. Dreaming the Enemy is succinct, crafted and powerful – it is highly recommended!

Reviewed by Lydia Whyte
Provided as part of the A & U Ambassador Programme

Dreaming the Enemy
by David Metzenthen
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760112257

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski

Available now at bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_winners_curseI find that when reading a novel, it is very easy to become complacent. Even the best of written text can grind you into a rhythmic lull – you need not actively think, but you can allow yourself to wander with the novel. This was not the case with The Winners Curse; the first book in the Winner’s Trilogy, by Marie Rutkoski.

The Winner’s Curse tells the tales of Kestrel, the general’s daughter, and Arin, a beautiful young slave bought by her. They live in a society that demands that everyone must enlist in the military, or, if you’re a female, get married. Kestrel does not wish to do either, despite having many eligible, and not-very-eligible bachelors up for the asking. Arin is the one she wants, and she can’t have him.

Arin, however, has his own secrets, of treachery toward his masters, and plans to gain freedom for his people, the Herrani. It’s a thrilling, fast-paced read that leaves you breathless, but admittedly, slightly confused at the complexity. You cannot relax while reading The Winner’s Curse, you need to be thinking of the different relationships, status changes of the characters and ideas that are presented, so unlike the New Zealand culture. Rutkoski herself said that she based the book off the Greco-Roman period ‘after Rome had conquered Greece and enslaved its population’, which is indeed what happens in this thrilling novel.

Despite being a slightly challenging read, it flowed brilliantly, and all presented ideas were clear and logical. It was a simply stunning read, and I am very excited to read the next two installments.

All in all, The Winner’s Curse is a wonderful read and is well worth challenging your mind with. However, if I had to fault something, it would have to be the confusing nature of the final scenes – read it, and see what I mean.

Despite that, I am proud to call myself a fan of the Winner’s Trilogy.

Reviewed by Jessica Rayner
Supplied as part of the Allen & Unwin Ambassador Programme

The Winner’s Curse
by Marie Rutkoski
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN 9781408858202

Book Review: Mutant City, by Steve Feasey

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

Mutant City ticks all the boxes for me with a fast-paced plot, good hooks and a punchy storylinecv_mutant_city

I found Mutant City by Steve Feasey to be a surprisingly enjoyable mix of a science fiction doomsday and some believable throws to real world scenarios.

As you start reading the book you are quickly introduced into a grim and distressing lab in which children are held captive and experimented on by the government – not unlike the stories we hear about from animal welfare groups about how we treat the animals we use for testing on products.

A sense of relief is brought about when we realise that ‘Silas’, the strange man entering the laboratory soon after our story begins, has incapacitated the authorities supervising the horrific treatment of these children and is a friend there to rescue the children.

The story then skips thirteen years into the future when the children who escaped the confines of the lab so many years ago are now threatened as they begin to realise the effects of those experiments so many years ago.

Steve Feasey uses effective hooks in every chapter to enthral and draw readers deeper and deeper into his delicately woven masterpiece. Mutant City is a fast-paced and intriguing book that I will definitely be reading again who knows how many times.

As a reader I can be incredibly picky, I know what I want from a book and can get quickly bored if I don’t get it. However, Mutant City ticks all the boxes for me with a fast-paced plot, good hooks and a punchy storyline which is similar to my all-time favourite series ‘Virals’.

Review by Ishan Brailsford
Supplied as part of the Allen & Unwin Ambassador Programme

Mutant City
by Steve Feasey
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN 9781408865088

 

Book Review: Queen of Shadows, by Sarah J Maas

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

‘Be prepared to lose yourself in the most dangerously captivating series ever.’cv_queen_of_shadows

Sarah J Maas’s writing has never let me down. Her books, filled with elaborate, twisting plotlines and the best-developed characters, seem to come with a guarantee of being unputdownable. Queen of Shadows was no exception.

Queen of Shadows  is the highly anticipated fourth book of the ‘Throne of Glass’ series. In this book, Aelin Galathynius returns to claim what is rightfully hers, embracing her destiny as the Queen of Terrasen. Gone is her past self: Celaena Sardothein, the enslaved assassin trying to hide from her past. This time round, it is Aelin who returns to Adarlan and she does so prepared to fight for her friends, her people and her country. Yet, her evil foes are not as weak as she would like them to be (Of course, since one of them is the King of Assassins and the other, the King on the Glass Throne). The only question is, will Aelin be able reap vengeance from her previous masters or will she be the one to pay? Read it to find out and once again, be drawn into our favourite badass heroine’s story as she battles for the greater good.

Although I preferred the intrigue and romance of the first and second books more, I nevertheless enjoyed Queen of Shadows with its brilliant characters, vivid fantasy universe and racing plotline. If you are looking for a book with a strong, sassy female protagonist, a heart-pumping narrative and a beautiful yet dangerous fantasy universe to lose yourself in, then look no further than Queen of Shadows.

Warning: I advise you to wait until the weekends to read this book because once I picked it up, I found myself unable to put it down.

Reviewed by Elinor Wang, as part of the Allen & Unwin Ambassador programme.

Queen of Shadows
by Sarah J Maas
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN 9781408858615