Book Review: The Mime Order, by Samantha Shannon

Available in bookstores nationwide.

I acv_the_mime_orderm a fan of this series, which began this time last year with The Bone Season, and carries on now with The Mime Order. The alternate universe that Samantha Shannon began building in The Bone Season comes to fruition in this, the second part of a seven-book series.

First – if you haven’t yet read it, do read The Bone Season first. This book is certainly not one of those part-of-a-series-but-stands-alone deals – everything about the first book is integral to building the action in the second book, which is centered on the concept of freedom.

Our heroine, Paige ‘The Pale Dreamer’ Mahoney is rejoined as she successfully (though not without drama) leads a group of sighted humans out of the prison-city of Sheol I, based in old Oxford. These humans each have different paranormal gifts, one of the most highly-regarded of which is Paige’s gift, as a dreamwalker. Sighted humans are deemed unnatural by the order of Scion, which is the name that London goes. Scion began after the reign of Edward VII, who was blamed for opening the door to the unnaturals through a seance gone wrong.

I can understand why fantasy writers are absolutely fascinated with the idea of London having hidden depths. With that much history, and that many ancient buildings, it is a city begging to have alternative worlds built into it. Shannon has built this world very expertly. There are machinations within machinations, with new discoveries about how Scion works within the underworld and at a higher level, every page you turn. These details do not overwhelm the plot, butadd to them, as with any good world-building. I feel like this book is so good due to a really great partnership between Shannon and her editors. As with any good editor, you can’t see them, but you can feel their influence.

Paige is a wanted criminal, her face on every screen in Scion. Along with this, she has been fingered in the murder of the Underlord, Haymarket Hector, leader of the Unnatural Assembly. Hector acted as king of the unnaturals’ cohorts, and his death leaves a vacuum at the top which must be filled according to custom, by a scrimmage – a magical fight, often to the death for many participants.

Since she has returned, Paige has been searching for a way to make changes – to alert the other sighted humans to what has been happening beneath their noses in terms of the imprisonment of their kin and their gifting to the Rephaim as food and servants; and to ultimately change the rule of Scion, to allow gifted humans to walk freely among regulars. Her mime-lord, Jaxon Hall, refuses to let her talk, and she finds his control over her difficult to go along with, especially as she grows to realise that the way he manages them is constantly through self-interest – usually to amass further fortune.

I wanted Jaxon to be a better person, possibly because Paige wants Jaxon to be a better person. Like her, he came from nothing; but unlike her, this makes him more determined to stay above this nothing he came from, without any interest in allowing others to do the same. His talent is as a binder – any spirit whose true name he inscribes on his skin must remain by his side and do his bidding. The reason for Jaxon being the way he is will be explored in future books in the series I suspect, as he certainly has secrets that will add to the playing out of the plot.

I urge you to read this series if you enjoy dystopic fantasy. My review of The Bone Season is here. Start with the first in the series – then by all means, carry on. There is word that the first book is being prepared to become a movie by Andy Serkis and his production company, Imaginarium. If this is done well, I can see this series growing to be as big as The Hunger Games.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

The Mime Order
by Samantha Shannon
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 9781408857410

Book Review: Cattra’s Legacy, and Donnel’s Promise, by Anna Mackenzie

cv_cattras_legacy

Both of these books are available now in bookstores nationwide. 

Risha’s tale begins in the mountainous village of Torfell, shortly after her father’s death. Her life is about to change, and not necessarily for the better, as she is forced to leave her home and begin a journey across a perilous countryside, following the legacy of a mother she can barely remember.

It took me a while to warm to the story. The characterisation and writing style is very rich, vivid and lyrical, but for the first part of the journey Risha’s role in it is fairly passive. After making her initial decision, she then basically becomes caught up in it, events forcing her along with them. We are introduced to a large cast of characters − some of which have mere passing roles, others of which we will learn more of later.

Once Risha began to take control of her own life, to make decisions for herself, she became a much stronger character and from then on the tale became a far more engrosing one. There are some truly tense moments here and I enjoyed watching her develop friendships and establish relationships without any of the over-exaggerated romance-fluff so prevalent in teen novels. There are some hints of in which direction her heart may lead her, but that is precisely what I would expect from a 15-year old girl.

The final section of the book gets more heavily into the politics of the various kingdoms, and with quite a large cast of characters with conflicting views, some of it is likely to go over the younger reader’s head, but it builds to a fine crescendo and a nail-biting finale.

Overall, a skillfully woven tale of a young girl, who starts as a well-educated but naive lass, and develops into a somewhat more canny young lady.

Cattra’s Legacy
by Anna Mackenzie
Published by Longacre Press
ISBN 9781775533184

cv_donnels_promiseDonnel’s Promise

A strong follow-up to “Cattra’s Legacy”, this instalment establishes Risha as a worthy player in court politics. It has a better pacing, and she plays a more pro-active role in this volume, as she sets out on a tour of Havre with a small company, only to find themselves ambushed and thrust into the middle of a potential political uprising. Through their combined quick wits, and the support of loyal friends and subjects − including some we were introduced to in the first book − Risha must win back what is hers by right.

Risha is an admirable character, and many of the females are portrayed in bold, active roles. Whilst there are hints of potential future romance, the fact that this lies secondary to Risha’s personal growth leads power to the story and portrays her as a stronger role model to her teenage audience. I enjoyed both books, this one especially, and am eager to see where Risha’s journey takes her next.

Donnel’s Promise
by Anna Mackenzie
Published by Random House NZ 
ISBN 9781775535461 

Both books are reviewed by Angela Oliver 

Book Review: Awakening, by Natalie King

Available in bookstores now. 

When Zelie Taylor moves with her family to cv_awakeningNew Zealand, she has no idea how drastically her life is about to change. She is suddenly surrounded with strangers, can’t stop thinking about the charismatic Otis Hayes, and is trying to move on after the sudden death of her mother. Zelie’s first week in New Zealand has been a hectic one, but things are about to get a lot stranger…

Fragile Kate Hearn certainly doesn’t seem like a witch at first; and yet all of a sudden, she has tricked Zelie into retrieving a pendant from the icy depths of Lake Tekapo. This is no ordinary pendant, however – inside it lives the mind and soul of a seventeen-year-old boy from 19th century Europe. By the time Zelie has tried on the pendant on Kate’s orders, it is too late to go back. A spell has bound Zelie’s life to the life inside the pendant – and if she takes it off, the boy inside will die.

Several things become quite clear over the next few days; first of all, Tamas is not going to be easy to ignore. Just as confused as Zelie is, he demands news about the modern-day world, exhausting her mind as he scavenges for information. Then there’s the problem that Tamas sees everything through Zelie’s eyes, completely invading her privacy. This means never being alone at any time, and at first Zelie can’t stand it. She is desperate to get rid of the pendant – and Tamas – as soon as possible…all she needs to do is wait until he is strong enough to survive without her. But Tamas is no ordinary boy – it soon becomes obvious that he has powers even stronger than Kate’s.

Zelie is slowly drawn into this bewildering world of magic, and realises that when the time comes, Tamas will no longer need her. Will she be able to forget about the brave and witty soul that she has known for what seems like years? Or will Zelie never be safe from the magical dangers that sweep around Lake Tekapo? Only one thing is certain as Zelie tries to decide what the right thing to do is – nobody can be trusted, and nobody is safe…

Awakening by Christchurch author Natalie King is a novel for young adults that will thrill and inspire, intrigue and mystify. An addictive fantastical romance, readers will find themselves reading for hours on end as the complex relationship builds between Zelie and Tamas, and as they try to identify the true villain who is hidden in plain sight. This book is certain to become a huge hit with New Zealand teens, as it is sophisticated yet never dull. Unpredicable and filled with both relatable and eccentric characters, Awakening teaches readers that they needn’t go looking far to find their own adventure.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

Awakening
by Natalie King
Published by Penguin Books NZ
ISBN 9780143570790

 

Book review: The Selection: By Keira Cass

This book is in bookstores now.

I was very hesitant about reading The Selection after sifting threw some overseas reviews prior to getting the book myself. I went in head first expecting to be disappointed with yet another over the top teen romance book, but to my surprise I was totally captivated and you would have struggled to tear the book from my grasp. There was never a right time to take a break and put the book down, constantly wanting to know what was beyond the next page and what was about to unfold in the country of Illea; I was on the edge of my seat shushing those talking amongst themselves in the same room, and managed to finish the book within five or six hours.

The Selection is a story set after World War 4 where Illea has changed immensely and is divided into castes, the “ones” being those of royalty and the “eights” being the homeless and less fortunate. The story follows the life of America Singer a “five” who is secretly dating Aspen from a lower caste then herself.

When the monarchy decides to hold a selection in order to find prince Maxon a bride, America is pushed by her mother and Aspen to apply for one of the thirty-five spaces, for a chance to become princess and a better life for her and her family. After thinking she would never be selected she is surprised to hear her name announced on TV as one of the chosen few, and is moved into the palace to compete against the other girls for Prince Maxon’s heart.

Thinking she could never fall in love with the prince, America is surprised to find herself wound up in the centre of a love triangle when Aspen becomes a palace guard and is stationed at her bedroom door for safety. What had me on the edge of my seat was when the rebels were introduced into the book. There are two lots of rebels – the Northerners and Southerners  – who try to invade the palace endangering the monarchy, the girls and everyone else residing there.

A very addictive book, that you just won’t be able to put down or stop visualising in your head. It constantly drags you in, making you want to read more and to know what happens next. This novel is packed with enough romance,drama and suspense without being over top, a great spin on Cinderella meets The Bachelor, I would be very excited to read any of the other books Kiera Cass has planned for the future.

I must add that the only disappointing part for me was the final page that lead me to realise this was the first installment of three books and I would have to wait until book two was released to once again sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation of whats to come next.

Reviewed by Jessica Moore.

The Selection
By Keira Cass
Published by HarperCollins
ISBN 9780007466696

Book review: The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King

This book is in bookshops now.

A story, within a story, within a story, The Wind through the Keyhole takes a side journey away from the Dark Tower saga and into a lighter more personal view of Roland.  It takes in his formative years through the first story flashback to the start of his career as a gunslinger and branches into pride, courage, patience, grief and thinking outside the box with a dash of myth, legend, fantasy and magic thrown in.  Roland and his travelling companions are forced into shelter from a “starkblast” leading Roland to tell his own story around the fire while hunkered down.

The first story branch leads us to the start of Roland’s career as he is sent on a mission by his father to track down a mass killer. (Can’t give the story away) and meets the recently orphaned Bill Streeter, a somewhat younger version of Roland, and enters a to and fro relationship which asks and answers questions about his own relationship with his father.  This leads Roland into a role of more of a mentor and father figure and he tells Bill a story.

“The wind through the keyhole” is the internal sub story (fairy tale) within and is established in the forest village of Tree.  This sometimes dark story takes you to a realm in a long post-apocalyptic feudal setting, which slowly dawns on the reader, and moves on into the adventure of Tim, and his quest and the mystery man in black.  Interwoven into Tim’s journey are lovely touches of the worlds of Merlin (Maerlyn), Asimov, Oz, Wonderland and others beautifully stitched together into a learning and growth experience for the main character and anyone who wants to go along for the ride.

We all look forward to a good ending to a book and again without wanting to give too much away each and every reader should finish this book with a great feeling of satisfaction.

This book does stand alone as an independent novel and tends to make you want to get involved in the greater story of the Dark Tower, which I have not read but now will.  The writing style was light and easy, and changed with the telling of each tale, depending on the age of the listener, propelling the reader to find out what the resolution of each will be.

This book was a captivating read with a lot of surprises along the way.  It should not be considered a book for children but more for the light fantasy adventure reader. If you want to find out what a billy-bumbler is or who or what is Daria……  Go for it.

Reviewed by Julia Leathwick

The Wind Through The Keyhole
by Stephen King
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
ISBN 9781444731712