Book Review: Eternal Seduction (A Darkness Within #1) by Jennifer Turner

5586134Title: Eternal Seduction (A Darkness Within #1)
Author: Jennifer Turner
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Dark Fantasy, Adult, Vampires
Publisher: CreateSpace, Self-Published
Publication Date: October 8th 2008
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Rating: 4 stars
I reviewed this book as a part of a book tour. Review copy provided by the tour organiser.

After living on the streets of New York for over a decade, Logan admits her perceptions might be a little skewed. But twisted or not, there’s a satisfying irony in watching a well dressed vampire stand in the middle of a ghetto alley, windblown trash scraping circles near his feet. What she finds even more intriguing, is waiting for him to decide if he’s going to kill her.
Kerestyan hasn’t made up his mind. As the Lord of New York, he can’t let a drug addict, whose memories are packed with knowledge of vampires, run free in his city. It’s not the first time he’s been in this situation with a human, it’s just the first time he’s come face to face with one who doesn’t seem to care. And that’s what makes the decision so difficult.
What horrors could you witness before you went numb? How long would it take before you felt that way? What could make you care again?
Logan’s answers are simple: the worst humanity has to offer, almost thirty, and something she never expected.

Logan Ellis is the protagonist of this original and innovating book about vampire romance. It would be an understatement to say that Logan isn’t like your typical heroine, which makes her all the more interesting. She’s a passive character, traumatized up to the point that she just lets things pass her by unnoticed, even when topics as alarming as her own possible death are referred to. She genuinely doesn’t care, not about herself – her survival skills are greatly lacking, to say the least – her surroundings, the conditions she lives in, or the world around her. She’s a homeless drug addict without any real future waiting ahead of her. She adapts remarkably fast to altering situations, but feels no real emotion towards anything. Except when you mention to her that she should stop taking drugs. Then you get an emotion, although not a very good one. She basically has the personality of a zombie, walking through life so uncaring about herself or her surroundings that she’s not really living life. She’s practically on the verge of being a vampire herself, if you look at it that way. The interesting part though is that for Logan, it isn’t just an act, like I’ve seen countless of times in young adult books (this is not young adult, by the way, just searching for a reference) but which is basically just the main character acting touch and cool. Here, it’s not the case. At the roots of Logan’s numbness and her inability to actually live, are real traumas waiting to resurface any time now.

At her core, Logan is a traumatized, messed up young woman who struggles to take hold of her life and who, although claiming to take full responsibility for the way she’s living right now, has run away from her home years ago, and hasn’t stopped running ever since. Her taking-responsibility-act is just what the word says: an act. Deep in her heart she has issues she cannot come to terms with, and she has traumas she cannot deal with. Although saddening, this is what makes her interesting. She’s unlike most paranormal romance heroines, in the sense that she has real traumas rather than just a messed-up personality. A shrink would love tog et his hands on her, but unfortunately, she’s stuck without a shrink but with one insanely hot vampire. I guess that’ll have to do.

Kerestyan Nelek (difficult name, you have to admit that) is totally the opposite of Logan. For starters, he’s confident, strong, powerful, protective over those he cares about and he’s used to getting his way. Life itself seems to bend just so he can get his wishes. He’s also extremely handsome – no kidding – and did I mention that he’s a vampire? And a very old one at that? As far as luck goes, Logan can count herself lucky for running into this particular vampire the night she sees some fledgling vampires fighting in one of New York’s abandoned streets. Kerestyan is immediately intrigued by this thirty-year-old woman whose aura’s so dark and brooding the fledglings mistakingly ought her to be a vampire servant, and who acts so untouched by the events unfolding in front of her. On the one hand, he should kill her because she knows too much, but on the other hand he simply can’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he offers Logan a choice. It’s a choice that’ll change her life forever.

After we meet Kerestyan and travel with him and Logan from the gutters of New York to Kerestyan’s luxurious home, we are thrown into the world of of the paranormal, supernatural and increasingly scary. We learn that Kerestyan is the Vampire Lord of New York, and that he’s one of the last descendents of a millennium-old vampire bloodline created by Lord Stefen Nelek. Although Kerestyan seems quite alright, his brother Odin is quite the opposite. Sarcastic, mean and sometimes downright rude, it’s obvious that he cares a lot about Kerestyan and doesn’t want the latter to get hurt because of a heroin addict. Kerestyan’s sister Trinity is an interesting character as well, although I myself much preferred Odin. Trinity is dominating, confident and rather manipulative, but all in all, she’s likeable once you get past that. Anyway, if Odin ever gets himself a book, I’m totally getting that one. He deserves it.

I loved the unique way Jennifer Turner describes the vampire society. The hierarchy is very present, but it’s not just ‘every man for himself’ or ‘vampire royals and common vampires’. There’s an entire system in place, which feels unique, innovating and refreshing. It’s dark, mystical, scary and sometimes even downright terrifying, but it’s above all, very entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed entering this new and dark side to New York and other major cities in the world, with vampires practically ruling society and making sure humans don’t notice them. I loved the idea of clans battling each other, or cooperating on a rather loose basis. I’d love to learn more about this well-designed world and the characters living in it.

I also liked the character of Vouclade. I think there’s more to him than meets the eye, and I liked how he was so protective over Kerestyan as well. Lord Nelek was an interesting persona as well, although he did function a bit like a ‘deus ex machina’ when revealing Logan’s fears, weaknesses and traumas, and then made her practically forgive herself. I wasn’t too fond of that, but overall, I liked him. Very scary, uberpowerful vampire who’s been around since the beginning of time. I’m all for that.

One of the major comments I have about this book works two ways. Let me try to explain. The romance itself develops slowly, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Logan and Kerestyan’s attraction seems honest and real, and it takes a lot of time before Logan can admit to herself that she might have feelings for the alpha vampire. On the other hand, their sexual relationship doesn’t take that long to develop. Before I very well realized it, I was reading a hot and heavy scene involving both characters. It was a bit too early in the story to introduce this, in my opinion, and I found it quite shocking and not all that believable. I was releived to see both characters return to their original positions afterwards, and let things develop more slowly. I get writing paranormal romance, especially for an adult audience, and I understand that you need to have some ‘sexy stuff’ included for your audience to enjoy your book. I just don’t understand why in every book, regardless of whether the two main characters initially like each other or not, they get in bed with each other within the hundred-or-so first pages. I’d like to see a self-respecting heroine for once, who does not have sex with guys she barely just met. Granted, this does fit Logan’s personality as being an emotionless drug addict who cares little about her own body, but it still didn’t feel right.

If you’re a fan of sexy paranormal romance, then Eternal Seduction is a great choice. It doesn’t only offer romance, but it has a decent and captivating backstory, interesting characters with real-life problems and issues, humor, impressive world-building and some really hot scenes. I loved the pairing, and I’d like to read more about Logan and Kerestyan – although, if I’m being honest, I’d prefer to read more about Odin first. Jennifer Turner has a unique narrator’s voice that I thoroughly enjoyed as well. I recommend this to all adults who enjoy paranormal romance.

Monthly Round-Up Post: May and June

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In May, I reviewed twelve books.

  1. Angelology by Danielle Trussoni – 3.5/5 stars
  2. The Poisoned House by Michael Ford – 3.5/5 stars
  3. My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond – 4.5/5 stars
  4. These Hellish Happenings by Jennifer Rainey – 4.5/5 stars
  5. Rook (Allie’s War Book One) by J.C. Andrijeski – 4/5 stars
  6. Seven Sorcerers by Caro King – 4.5/5 stars
  7. The Alchemist’s Daughter by Katharine McMahon – 3.5/5 stars
  8. Die For Me by Amy Plum – 4.5/5 stars
  9. Endlessly by C.V. Hunt – 3.5/5 stars
  10. Random Magic by Sascha Soren – 4/5 stars
  11. Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism by David Nickle – 4/5 stars
  12. Wither by Lauren DeStefano – 4.5/5 stars

In June, I read and reviewed twelve books.

  1. Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson – 5/5 stars
  2. Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury – 4/5 stars
  3. The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird – 4/5 stars
  4. Quest of the Demon by M.L. Sawyer – 4/5 stars
  5. Camelot Lost by Jessica Bonito – 5/5 stars
  6. The Truth about Dating, Love and Just Being Friends by Chad Eastham – 4/5 stars
  7. Possession by Elana Johnson – 4.5/5 stars
  8. The Keening by A. LaFaye – 4/5 stars
  9. Sabriel (The Abhorsen Trilogy #1) by Garth Nix – 4/5 stars
  10. Lirael (The Abhorsen Trilogy #2) by Garth Nix – 4.5/5 stars
  11. Abhorsen (The Abhorsen Trilogy #3) by Garth Nix – 5/5 stars
  12. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma – 5/5 stars

Series Review: The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix

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The Abhorsen Trilogy written by Garth Nix tells the story of two separete kingdoms: The Old Kingdom, situated in a medieval era, where ancient magic is practised daily, the risen dead roam the earth and century-old prophecies might be fulfilled, and Ancelstierre, set in what can be compared to our 1920’s with technology, weapons and an army to protect the Wall separating both Kingdoms. In book one, Sabriel, we meet the only daughter of the current Abhorsen who, guess what, is called Sabriel. After the latter finds out her father has been kidnapped by one of the Dead, she vows to rescue him. In a desparate attempt to do so, she travels all the way to the Old Kingdom, learns more about her inheritage than she oughts possible and finds true love in the form of Touchstone, a Prince of the Kingdom who has been missing for over two centuries. With the aid of Mogget, a charismatic and sarcastic Abhorsen familiar who looks like a cat, Sabriel must stop this evil from rising and from destroying the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre. But the price might be very high…

In the second book in the series, Lirael, we meet with a daughter of the Clayr who is already in her late teens and has not yet developed the ability to See the future. Frustrated and lonely, Lirael accepts a job in the Clayr’s library, where she opens doors that should have stayed locked, discovers century-old secrets and creates a being of free magic called The Disreputable Dog. A companion a lot more loyal than Mogget, The Disreputable Dog aids Lirael in her quest to become a true daughter of the Clayr. Althoguh that might not be her destiny after all…Meanwhile, on the other end of the world, in Ancelstierre, we meet Prince Sameth, the youngest child of Sabriel and Touchstone. Although trained to become the future Abhorsen, Sam is terrified of the Realm of the Dead. He feels left out and useless, but when his friend Nick is supposedly travelling to the Old Kingdom and might fall in the hands of an evil necromancer called Hedge, Sam knows he must help his friend at all cost. Even if that means facing his fears. Armed with none other than Mogget, heaps of courage, and a handful of luck, Sam goes on his quest and meets Lirael along the way.

The third and final book in this series, Abhorsen, follows our two heroes Lirael and Sameth as they try to save the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre from impending doom in the form of The Destroyer. With an epic battle that would put the Harry Potter series to shame, the old clash of good vs. evil displayed in all its raw glory, our heroes have to depend on themselves and each other to save the day. But, there is always a price to pay…

The Abhorsen Trilogy is an enthralling, rich and refreshing epic fantasy series that cannot be forgotten on the bookshelfs of every self-respecting fantasy fan. Although aimed at young adults, the dark themes like death, suffering and pain are suitable for a mature audience as well. Garth Nix shows his many strengths: strong narrative, excellent character-development, impressive world-building skills, a unique magic system and a fast-paced, action-packed adventure that doesn’t slow down for one moment. The Abhorsen Trilogy is sheer brilliance.

1042542Title: Sabriel (The Abhorsen Trilogy #1)
Publisher: CollinsVoyager
Publication Date: May 6th 2003
Review: Read my review for Sabriel.
Rating: 4 stars

Who will guard the living when the dead arise? Sabriel is sent as a child across the Wall to the safety of a school in Ancelstierre. Away from magic; away from the Dead. After receiving a cryptic message from her father, 18-year-old Sabriel leaves her ordinary school and returns across the Wall into the Old Kingdom. Fraught with peril and deadly trickery, her journey takes her to a world filled with parasitical spirits, Mordicants, and Shadow Hands — for her father is none other than The Abhorson. His task is to lay the disturbed dead back to rest. This obliges him — and now Sabriel, who has taken on her father’s title and duties — to slip over the border into the icy river of Death, sometimes battling the evil forces that lurk there, waiting for an opportunity to escape into the realm of the living. Desperate to find her father, and grimly determined to help save the Old Kingdom from destruction by the horrible forces of the evil undead, Sabriel endures almost impossible challenges whilst discovering her own supernatural abilities — and her destiny.

Review Excerpt: There isn’t much I can say about The Abhorsen Trilogy that hasn’t been said before. With his books Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen, Garth Nix crafts a dazzling, strong and compelling fantasy series with highly original concepts, entertaining and genuine-sounding characters, and one of the first series that successfully combines epic and dark fantasy, featuring both a magical Old Kingdom, necromancers and the rising dead. Garth Nix’s cleverness as a writer shows as he manages to create both an instantly addictive plot and an alternate world that seems both halfway familiar but also unsettingly strange. Read more?

47629Title: Lirael (The Abhorsen Trilogy #2)
Publisher: CollinsVoyager
Publication Date: September 1st 2004
Review: Read my review for Lirael.
Rating: 4,5 stars

Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr. Abandoned by her mother, ignorant of her father’s identity, Lirael resembles no one else in her large extended family living in the Clayr’s glacier. She doesn’t even have the Sight–the ability to See into the present and possibly futures–that is the very birthright of the Clayr.

Nonetheless, it is Lirael in whose hands the fate of the Old Kingdom lies. She must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil–one that opposes the Royal Family, blocks the Sight of the Clayr, and threatens to break the very boundary between Life and Death itself. With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog to help her, Lirael must find the courage to seek her own hidden destiny.

Review Excerpt: But scratch Lirael’s ignorance and Sameth’s irrational fear. Scratch the evil necromancers Chlorr of the Mask (although I did find her interesting) and Hedge. Because that’s not what makes this book great – although it helps a fair share. It’s Lirael’s ventures into the library, which is an impressive example of world-building skills alltogether with its many secret rooms, its hierarcy of librarians, and its ancient secrets waiting to be unlocked and The Disreputable Dog – a creature of magic more ancient than the Kingdoms itself that make this book interesting. Read more?

47666Title: Abhorsen (The Abhorsen Trilogy #3)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 3rd 2005
Review: Read my review for Abhorsen.
Rating: 5 stars

Orannis the Destroyer has been freed…

And only Lirael, newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, has any chance of stopping it. She and her companions — Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget — have to take that chance. If Orannis’s unspeakable powers are unleashed, it will mean the end of all Life. With the help of her companions and a vision from the Clayr to guide her, Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the Destroyer — before it is too late…

Review Excerpt: At the verge of total destruction, the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre have to rely on these two heroes, their sidekicks, and occassional appearances of Sabriel and Prince Touchstone and other familiar characters. We’re thrown right into the action, and see the events unfold before the final countdown. Of all the books in The Abhorsen Trilogy, this one is no doubt the most fast-paced, action-packed and glued-to-your-seat one. The pace does not drop for one single second, the feeling of dread, fear and a soon-to-come climax never dissapears, and it feels like everything just clicks into place. Read more?

Book Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

8349244Title: Forbidden
Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Genre: Drama, Young Adult, Sensitive Topic, Romance
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 28th 2011
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Author Website
Rating: 5 stars
Review copy provided by S&S Galley Grab.

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

Forbidden is one of the most shocking, seemingly disturbing and life-changing novels I have read in my entire life. I loved it from the beginning till the very end and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone, despite the sensitive topic. It is definately not for younger readers though. I think from age 16 and up this book is appropriate, but not for a younger audience.

The book is told from two points of view. The first narrator is Lochan, a seventeen year old boy who struggles to talk to people he doesn’t know, is brilliant in written assignments but too nervous to speak in front of a class, and hardly has any friends. His life at home isn’t all that wonderful either, with his mother always going out with her boyfriend Dave, getting home drunk and passing out on the couch or worse, not going home at all and spending entire weeks over at Dave’s, abandoning her children, and putting the oldest two – Lochan and his sister Maya – in charge of the entire household. Maya is the other narrator. She’s Lochan’s sister, only about a year younger than he is, and his best friend in the entire world. They’ve always felt more like best friends than like brother and sister, and with the added responsibilities of taking care of their younger siblings Kit, Tiffin and Willa, Lochan and Maya rely on each other more and more, practically taking the role of Mom and Dad in the household. With their positions changing, so do their feelings for each other and by the time they realise it, they have fallen in love with each other. The only problem is that their love is illegal…

The only other book I’ve ever read that dealt with a brother/sister relationship is Flowers on the Attic by Virginia Andrews. I thought that book was beautiful, and I could understand why Cathy and Christopher eventually turned to each other for the love and affection they so urgently needed. The situation in Forbidden is a bit the same like the one sketched in Virginia Andrews novel: a messed-up situation at home, two older siblings forced to take care of their younger brothers and sisters. I have to admit though, out of the two novels, I liked Forbidden the best, mainly because while I could understand the relationship in Flowers on the Attic, I did not approve of it. On the other hand, in Forbidden, I could both understand and approve of the relationship. Of course it is not something I would encourage, but in this case the loving relationship Tabitha Suzuma sketches in her novel is so heart-felt, so honest and so caring that I could do nothing else but support for them.

Lochan and Maya are two of the most interesting, heart-warming and loveable characters I have ever met. I instantly felt sorry for Lochan with his problem of talking to stranger, and their endless list of responsibilities at home made me feel sympathetic towards both of them. I also loved their interactions with their siblings Willa, Tiffin and Kit. Although the novel focuses primarily on Lochan and Maya, the other siblings are featured a lot as well, and I loved every single one of them, and instantly felt for them. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult the situation must have been for this entire family, with a missing father and a mother always drunk or spending time at her boyfriend’s house. I do think it is plausible in such situation, that two siblings might find themselves feeling more for each other than society allows. Lochan and Maya realized their feelings towards each other early on in the novel, but their first reaction was one of confusion and trying to hide what they felt, which I think was the most natural reaction possible. But as their feelings increase and it gets harder and harder not to respond to them, they eventually give in. By the time I got at that point in the novel, I could understand why, and I knew that their love, no matter how wrong or disturbing, was real nevertheless. I was actually rooting for the star-crossed lovers at that point. It was a revelation.

Now, I’m not in the perfect position to speak my mind about sibling incest, mainly because I don’t have any siblings. I don’t exactly understand how much love one can has for a brother/sister and at what point it turns out to be too much. In general, I am of course opposed against the idea of siblings falling in love with each other and worse, starting a sexual relationship. But on the other hand, I would like to keep an open mind. I would like to believe that if it’s about two adults (or almost adults, like Lochan and Maya) and it is consensual, that it then doesn’t necessarily have to be wrong. I hope no one tries to kill me now, but I can’t honestly say after reading Forbidden, that it’s wrong by default. It will probably be in a whole lot of cases, and if siblings were ever to have children, the chances of them being deformed or handicapped are very high. That’s genetics and DNA telling us that it’s wrong. Society is telling us that it’s wrong as well, as have all cultures since the beginning of time. But get rid of what genetics and society tells us, and look at the true, profound and loyal love Lochan and Maya have for each other. It might not be right, but in my opinion, it isn’t exactly wrong either.

I’ve heard about this case in France a couple of years ago, about two siblings who had been seperated at birth. They never knew each other nor did they know they had a sibling out there. About twenty years later, they meet, connect on a deep emotional level, and fall in love. They even get married. And then, they find out that they’re actually siblings. But they love each other – they’ve even married each other. I remember that we had big debates on television and all then about whether or not these people should be allowed to stay married, and in which cases sibling incest might possibly be allowed. A bunch of hypocrites, conservatives and generally stubborn-minded people spoke their mind about the relationship openly. But my opinion is, that it’s none of our business. Those people were two adults who fell in love, consented with a relationship and even marriage, and then just because they happen to be siblings, all of that is thrown out on the table, their love is reduced to something awkward and disturbing, and society decided to take the choice for them. Why? Who gave society the power to declare who we can and cannot love? I know my point may be a bit controversial, but I find it true in this case as well. If Lochan and Maya both love each other, and if they both want to have a physical relationship, then why would it be society’s business?

I sincerely hope nobody kills me for stating my opinion here. I never really thought about the subject till after reading Forbidden and deciding that I really cannot say anything else about Lochan and Maya’s relationship apart from the fact that I found it very clear that they loved each other, that Lochan treated Maya far better than boys that age usually treat their girlfriends and that I believe their love to be pure. So who am I to judge pure love? Understandably, the issue of Maya still being a minor is added in the novel as well. But minors can have sex. Sixteen-year-olds can consent to having sex with their boyfriends/girlfriends, and no one in today’s society will care. Court can argue that Maya perhaps had no idea what the consequences of her consent would be, or that she was too young to decide about such things, but if we’re all honest we all realize what the consequences of said things are, and that at sixteen we are quite capable to decide about such things. On the other hand, I do know that most of sibling incest relationships are not consentual, at least one party does not want it, and that law officers are forced to take action against that. But if they are over sixteen, in peculiar circumstances, and they both want it – then why not?

I’m pretty sure people are going to kill me by now, but anyway. Forbidden really made me think about the subject, and it’s wonderful when a book does that. I would like to applaud the author for her immense courage for writing an entire novel based on a tabboo subject, and aimed at young adults nonetheless. Also, I would like to say to everyone that you shouldn’t let the sensitive topic or the amount of pages discourage you to read this book. The writing style is fluent, beautiful and enough to pull you in from page one and not bore you till the very end. I read it in one reading session of about three hours, so you know that means it’s definately good, interesting and suspenseful. The way Tabitha Suzuma deals with the sensitive topic is careful at first, a bit timid and some basic exploring – like Lochan and Maya’s relationship in the beginning – but then she dives all the way to the care of it. Even if you’re not exactly open-minded, Forbidden is worth a try. It will certainly make you think about things twice before stating your opinion.

Book Review: Abhorsen (The Abhorsen Trilogy #3) by Garth Nix

47666Title: Abhorsen (The Abhorsen Trilogy #3)
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 3rd 2005
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Rating: 5 stars

Orannis the Destroyer has been freed…

And only Lirael, newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, has any chance of stopping it. She and her companions — Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget — have to take that chance. If Orannis’s unspeakable powers are unleashed, it will mean the end of all Life. With the help of her companions and a vision from the Clayr to guide her, Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the Destroyer — before it is too late…

I already reviewed the first two books of this trilogy, Sabriel and Lirael, and I have to say that out of all three of these books, I enjoyed Abhorsen the most. It’s like everything finally comes together in a great climax: the characters are well-defined and familiar, so we don’t have to get to know them all over again, which brings us straight into the action. Finally we learn why Prince Sameth is scared of the Realm of the Death, why he never wanted to be an Abhorsen, and what the heck he is if he doesn’t fit into that pattern. With the return of my favorite two characters, The Disreputable Dog and Mogget, the charismatic but often incredibly sarcastic cat, and their more prominent roles in this book, we finally learn more about the true nature of Free Magic and why everyone involved is actually…well, involved. The ending has epic proportions and would look great on the big screen.

At the beginning of Abhorsen, we meet up with Lirael and Prince Sameth who’ve set off to rescue Nick, Sam’s old friend from his previous school in Ancelstierre, who unfortunately has had a fragment of The Destroyer placed in his heart, which results in him being the “vessel” of The Destroyer. Under the command and watchful eye of necromancer Hedge, poor Nick – who will now be forced to believe in the magic he claimed was non-existent – is leading the search for two silver hemispheres hidden deep beneath the earth. Each of them holds half of the essence of The Destroyer, and when put together, they can unleash the ancient creature of evil and potentially bring doom to the entire Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre as well. Lirael has finally come to terms with the fact that she’ll never See the future, and is instead learning how to ring the bells like a true Abhorsen does. They fight off Gore Crows, Dead Hands and other memorable creatures on their quest towards Nick – and their quest to save the entire Kingdom. Eventually the battle is brought from the Old Kingdom to the heart of Ancelstierre, where – quite literally – all hell is about to break loose.

Lirael has really grown a lot as a character over the course of the previous book, and this shows especially at the beginning of Abhorsen. Gone is the timid, scared teenager who is devastated over not belonging to the family of the Clayr in the way that she cannot See. Meet instead, our new Abhorsen, ready to challenge even the most fearsome creatures of the Realm of Death in a duel, and ready to fight until the very end. Confident, reassured, intelligent and unnaturally quick to learn the ways those Abhorsen bells work, Lirael is a crafty and skillful opponent. Except that for the numerous Dead unleashed, she’s only a small glitch in the path towards destruction. Sameth has done a lot of growing up as well. Finally finding his place in the world as Wallmaker, and finally realizing why he is the way he is, has done him a lot of good. He no longer doubts himself or his choices in life, and he isn’t worried about the fact that he’s not Abhorsen-material anymore either. It seems as though finally these two youngsters have found their place in the world, and have realized who they truly are inside. And not a moment too soon, because in this book there isn’t a lot of time left to ponder about emotions, life choices and fears.

At the verge of total destruction, the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre have to rely on these two heroes, their sidekicks, and occassional appearances of Sabriel and Prince Touchstone and other familiar characters. We’re thrown right into the action, and see the events unfold before the final countdown. Of all the books in The Abhorsen Trilogy, this one is no doubt the most fast-paced, action-packed and glued-to-your-seat one. The pace does not drop for one single second, the feeling of dread, fear and a soon-to-come climax never dissapears, and it feels like everything just clicks into place. A lot of unanswered questions are explained – some are left unanswered though, leaving room for a possible second trilogy or series – and the ending is cataclysmic to say the least. It’s a battle the size of which can only be compared with the battle at the end of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy or at the end of the Harry Potter series. Epic in proportions, the ancient good vs. evil contradiction, and of course, there’s always a price to pay for victory…

Once again, it was Mogget who made the day for me. He is by far the most interesting and loveable character in the entire Trilogy, and Abhorsen is no exception. He has a sarcastic and cynical sense of humor, his loyalties are questionable the say the least, his intentions are not always the right ones, but it’s those little facts, like never knowing whose side he’s really on – probably his own, in the end – that make him all the more entertaining. If Garth Nix ever decides to write a book devoted to Mogget, I’d be the first one in line to buy it. I’m also thinking about starting a Mogget fanclub, complete with T-shirts and cat bells. Donations are welcome and of course, encouraged.

I would also like to applaud Nix’s magic system, which is explained in greater detail in this final installment in the series. While a lot of authors treat magic as a “deus ex machina”, Nix has a well-constructed, metaphysical magic system that is both impressive and unique. His world-building skills, although already shown through the first two books, are even more prominent in the final volume. His characters are well-developed, easy to relate to, and at all times entertaining. He highlights old but often forgotten values like loyalty, friendship, courage, determination, and the value of family, but he also portrays that sometimes these come at a very steep price. Although claimed as being ‘young adult’, I reckon that because these books deal with things like death, loss and severe suffering, they are aimed at an older public, 16-17 and older. I would recommend this final volume in one of the most breathtaking, innovating, enthralling and vivid series to every fantasy fan out there. The Abhorsen Trilogy is sheer brilliance, and I hope Garth Nix shows that brilliance in his other works as well. I am definately impressed.

In My Mailbox (13) / Mailbox Monday (22)

mailbox

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here). This month it is hosted by Bluestocking.

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

In My Mailbox

Hey everyone! Sorry I was gone so long for this meme. Thank university and exams (boooooo!), but they’re done now, and I have a feeling I did pretty well. So, since it’s been a while, I’ve received tons of stuff in my mailbox! Yay!

             

Title: The Forbidden Game #1 – #3 (Omnibus)
Author: L.J. Smith
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Dark Fantasy
Review copy purchased by yours truly on my shopping spree after my first uni exam.

To capture the love of Jenny Thorton, Julian–a visitor from a dark world–draws Jenny and her friends into forbidden games; the contest for a human soul. The prize is Jenny’s freedom. The stakes are all of their lives. Jenny’s friends are determined to help her win. But Julian is the master of the Game. Jenny’s most desperate fight will be with him, this eerily handsome boy with electric blue eyes. He knows her deepest secrets, her darkest fears. He has almost infinite power. And the only thing he wants is for Jenny to surrender to him–body and soul…

Title: Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception (Books of Faerie #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Young Adult, Faeries
I purchased this book in Dutch. The Dutch title is ‘Heartbeat’, which is no Dutch at all, but is actually English. They do that now all the time, for instance Fallen by Lauren Kate has the title ‘Fallen’ in Dutch, but the next book in the series has a translated title. I don’t get why they do this, especially if they don’t keep the original English title. That’s just confusing.

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. She’s about to find out she’s also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin. An equally hunky—and equally dangerous—dark faerie soldier named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre. Sworn enemies, Luke and Aodhan each have a deadly assignment from the Faerie Queen. Namely, kill Deirdre before her music captures the attention of the Fae and threatens the Queen’s sovereignty. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. Deirdre had been wishing her life weren’t so dull, but getting trapped in the middle of a centuries-old faerie war isn’t exactly what she had in mind…

Title: Passion (Fallen #3)
Author: Lauren Kate
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Angels
Review copy purchased by yours truly. I can’t wait to read this one! Yay!

“Every single lifetime, I’ll choose you. Just as you have chosen me. Forever.”Luce would die for Daniel. And she has. Over and over again. Throughout time, Luce and Daniel have found each other, only to be painfully torn apart: Luce dead, Daniel left broken and alone. But perhaps it doesn’t need to be that way. . . .
Luce is certain that something—or someone—in a past life can help her in her present one. So she begins the most important journey of this lifetime . . . going back eternities to witness firsthand her romances with Daniel . . . and finally unlock the key to making their love last.
Cam and the legions of angels and Outcasts are desperate to catch Luce, but none are as frantic as Daniel. He chases Luce through their shared pasts, terrified of what might happen if she rewrites history.
Because their romance for the ages could go up in flames…forever.

Title: Evermore (The Immortals #1)
Author: Alyson Noël
Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Purchased by yours truly.

Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever can see auras, hear people’s thoughts, and know a person’s life story by touch. Going out of her way to shield herself from human contact to suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste…
Ever sees Damen and feels an instant recognition. He is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy, and he holds many secrets. Damen is able to make things appear and disappear, he always seems to know what she’s thinking—and he’s the only one who can silence the noise and the random energy in her head. She doesn’t know who he really is—or what he is. Damen equal parts light and darkness, and he belongs to an enchanted new world where no one ever dies.

Title: Shield (Allie’s War, Book Two)
Author: J.C. Andrijeski
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Dystopian, Romance
Review copy provided by the author. I’ve read the first one in this series, and can’t wait to get started on this one!

“And they say Death will live among them in the guise of a child….”
Grappling with her new identity as “Bridge,” a being meant to herald the end for all of humanity, isn’t even Allie’s biggest problem. She’s also coping with a whole new set of rules around her seer marriage, as well as the power-hungry Rook she helped put in the White House, who is currently doing his best to start a war with China.
Then the boy appears. A sociopath with all of the energetic markings of Syrimne, a highly dangerous telekinetic seer who killed thousands during World War I, he doesn’t appear to have aged in one hundred years.
Worse, he thinks Allie belongs to him.

Title: The Poppet and The Lune
Author: Madeline Claire Franklin
Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.

An original fairy tale about a patchwork girl and a boy who cried wolf…and became one.
The witch who made the patchwork girl died before she could give her creation a name. Stitched together from the remains of the villagers’ dead children—whose memories still live in her flesh—and held together by a ring made of moonbeams, the patchwork girl is a spell as yet unfinished. She can never be what her parents wanted her to be: a replacement for the children they’ve lost. So when the poppet grows up, and grows tired of being a disappointment, she decides to embark upon a journey through the Everwood Forest in search of her real name.
In the forest she meets Faolin, a newly made wereman (a man trapped as a wolf except during the full moon) running from the beasts who killed his father, and stole his throne as Wolf King. He joins the patchwork girl on her journey, and she promises to assist him in his own quest to become human again and return to his fiancée. Together, they face the dangers of the forest, forming an unlikely bond as their paths wind together: Faolin running from his destiny—the patchwork girl in search of her own—both of them bound by moonlight.
But Faolin, afraid of the beast he has become, has known all along what he must do in order to lift the curse and return to his fiancée-in fact, it is the very reason he sought out the patchwork girl to begin with. But now, since he’s come to care for the girl unlike any other he’s known, it’s the very reason why he must leave her: to protect her from himself.

Title: The Eagles of Peenemünde
Author: Vincent Formosa
Genre: Historical Fiction
Review copy provided by the author.

May 1944, The eve of the invasion of Europe. An ambitious American reconnaissance pilot was tasked with a simple mission: fly over a secret enemy installation, take some photographs and fly home. However…things are about to become a lot more complicated, as they are matched against a remorseless enemy who will stop at nothing to get what they want from them.
A dedicated German test pilot finds old demons returning with a vengeance, and their loyalty is tested to the limit. It’s not easy making a decision that goes against everything you’ve ever known.
Alone and isolated, they are about to discover that in a world at war, friends can be found in the most unlikely of places.

Title: Shattered Wings
Author: Bryan Healey
Genre: Drama, Romance
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the book’s website.

John holds the American dream: A man he loves, a beautiful little girl, a suburban home and a well-paying job… And then a sudden layoff brings about unexpected financial and emotional strain. As he struggles to find new work, a growing sense of despair triggers a relapse into alcoholism and causes him to face his demons of addiction, discrimination, and regret as he tries desperately to recover before it’s too late…

Book Review: Lirael (The Abhorsen Trilogy #2) by Garth Nix

47629Title: Lirael (The Abhorsen Trilogy #2)
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: CollinsVoyager
Publication Date: September 1st 2004
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Rating: 4,5 stars

Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr. Abandoned by her mother, ignorant of her father’s identity, Lirael resembles no one else in her large extended family living in the Clayr’s glacier. She doesn’t even have the Sight–the ability to See into the present and possibly futures–that is the very birthright of the Clayr.

Nonetheless, it is Lirael in whose hands the fate of the Old Kingdom lies. She must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil–one that opposes the Royal Family, blocks the Sight of the Clayr, and threatens to break the very boundary between Life and Death itself. With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog to help her, Lirael must find the courage to seek her own hidden destiny.

Fourteen years have passed since Sabriel deveated the evil lurking behind The Ninth Gate in the first book in the series, but still there are powers of darkness at work in The Old Kingdom – powers so ancient and devastating that this time, the powers of the Abhorsen alone might not be enough to deliver the kingdom from evil. With Sabriel running off on Abhorsen-duties and King Touchstone working around the clock to keep the kingdom in check, and re-establish old orders long forgotten, it might be up to their children to fight evil this time.

Prince Sameth, the youngest child of the most famous Abhorsen and her equally-famous husband, is taking classes at Ancelstierre and exceeding in all expectations, except those placed on him as future Abhorsen. After a trip to the river Styx gone bad, Sameth is deadly terrified ever to enter the Realm of the Dead again. Unwilling to let his mother, his ancestors and the entire Kingdom down, he tries to hide his fear, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the Kingdom, we meet Lirael. She’s a daughter of the Clayr, one of the important magical families of the Old Kingdom. She is separated from extended family by her strange looks and what’s even worse, her unability to See. Unlike the other Clayr, Lirael has no power to see into the future and, it seems, she is unlikely to ever gain it. What Lirael does have is cleverness and curiosity and an unmistakable talent for magic. However, that doesn’t mean that Lirael isn’t insanely jealous over the other Clayr for being able to See, and that she still feels like an outsider in her own home. Her only refuge is the library. Filled with knowledge and dangers (both remembered and forgotten), the library is a place of seemingly endless proportions. Exploring the library, Lirael’s magical abilities grow and she even forges a companion from Ancient Magic, The Disreputable Dog.

With the dangers of Chlorr of the Mask and the necromancer Hedge lurking about, the Old Kingdom may just have to face its greatest adversaries up till now. But although these two are bad enough on their own, there might be an even greater and more terrifying evil behind them. And Prince Sameth, his best friend Nick and Lirael are right in the middle of it…

It was obvious from the start that Lirael, the main character of this book, has a lot more personality traits going for her than Sabriel. With that, I don’t mean that she’s a more interesting character per sé, she just leaves a more memorable expression in your mind. Why? Because whereas I was convinced the first book in the series, Sabriel, was clearly directed towards an older audience than the book’s apparent genre (young adult), it’s obvious that Lirael is much more like a whining teenager than Sabriel could ever be. And even though I found her at times annoying, and I wanted to slap her across the head on multiple occassions, she isn’t as untouchable, stony and all-mighty powerful as Sabriel was. Don’t get me wrong, Sabriel had issues as well, but she was practically an adult by the time her story started, and in any case she managed to behave herself like one. Lirael on the other hand, is a prime example of how any ordinary teenager reacts to not feeling wanted in her own home, of not being like everyone else, to being an outsider.

Putting that aside though, Lirael is a real crybaby as well. So she doesn’t See and she hardly fits in with the other members of the Clayr. But even when trusted upon with ancient secrets, even when being able to practice such advanced Magic that she manages to create/summon The Disreputable Dog, Lirael still continues to whine and whine and whine. She even thinks about ending her life, because nothing in the world could be more important than Seeing something. It doesn’t once cross her minds that she can do things the other Clayr could never dream of, or that she’s pretty special in her own way. Also, did I mention that she’s remarkably beautiful? So beautiful that people she doesn’t know come to talk to her from the other side of the Clayr’s dining room. Whereas other people would atleast try to have a pleasant conversation, or behave politely, Lirael could care less about other’s feelings, and she doesn’t care about boys admiring her. Why? Because she can’t See. And if you can’t See, in Lirael’s world, then you can’t be pretty/intelligent/nice to hang around with/interesting/special either. That’s how short-sighted the girl really is. She might be more memorable and easier to relate to than Sabriel, but she’s immature and ignorant as well.

Fortunately for us, the reader, she does turn around as the story progresses. Sure, she wasn’t exactly as grateful as I would have liked her to be when she discovered more about her ancestors and her purpose in life, but hey – it’s whiny teenager we’re talking about here. She wouldn’t be grateful if her life depended on it. She loves The Disreputable Dog but hardly realizes what a trustworthy, loyal and strong companion he is. Like everything in her life, she doesn’t respect him/her (what is the dog? a female or a male? I have no idea) the way she should, because he/she didn’t help her to See. Well, boohoo. That’s kind of like saying: everyone in my family is a mime player. If I have no talent whatsoever to be a mime, than everything else in life doesn’t count. Not even if I have the brains and skills to create something that travels faster than the speed of light, or if I can become President of the United States. You know, because I’m not a mime and everyone in my family is a mime. Suuuure, Lirael. Sure. Saving the Old Kingdom vs. being your average, ten in a dozen Seer is so much cooler. Please grow up already.

Prince Sameth has a couple childhood-issues of his own to deal with, but they make him interesting rather than whiny. He struggles with his responsibilities as the next Abhorsen, since he’s terrified of travelling to the Realm of the Dead ever since getting attacked there by an opponent far stronger than he. Instead, he loves to build things. Anything. And he’s actually pretty good at what he does, because his displays of craftmanship are often looked upon respectfully by others who see them. By his own family not so much though. Whereas Lirael doesn’t fit in due to something she had no choice in, Sameth purposefully chooses not to belong to his family. It’s not that he wants it though, it’s that his choices in life, mostly his fears, prevail him from doing what his family expects. Lirael is too ignorant to see the other choices life has given her besides being a Seer, Prince Sameth sees the choices but is too afraid to choose one of them. Teenagers nowadays…Why I liked Sameth more was because his problems seem less due to his own ignorance than to his position and fears. He’s a Prince for god’s sake. Cowardice doesn’t suit the royal blood well, and yet that’s exactly what Sam encounters while venturing to the Realm of the Dead. His own cowardice. The struggle between Sameth and his own fears is an interesting one, a coming-of-age story that’s quite inspiring and puts a lot of thoughts on your mind.

But scratch Lirael’s ignorance and Sameth’s irrational fear. Scratch the evil necromancers Chlorr of the Mask (although I did find her interesting) and Hedge. Because that’s not what makes this book great – although it helps a fair share. It’s Lirael’s ventures into the library, which is an impressive example of world-building skills alltogether with its many secret rooms, its hierarcy of librarians, and its ancient secrets waiting to be unlocked and The Disreputable Dog – a creature of magic more ancient than the Kingdoms itself that make this book interesting. A character of great intelligence, courage and determination, The Dog is also witty, hilarious and highly entertaining. Not as much as Mogget though, who makes another appearance in this book (by far the best scenes, if I’m being honest) and who is still captured by a sleeping-spell causing him to sleep at least fifteen hours a day. I think I might just start a Mogget fanclub soon. Anyone feel like joining?

If you asked me whether I liked Sabriel or Lirael more, I’d have to say that I prefer Lirael. Maybe not for the characters or their incredibly interesting personalities (notice the sarcasm?) but because there weren’t so many things to explain in this book. Whereas in book one, the author still had to introduce us to the world of Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom, the various ways magic is practiced here, the duties of the Abhorsen and their use of enchanted bells, we already know that by the time we venture into book two. Less explaining to do, more action and dialogue to enjoy. I also enjoyed the fact that whereas Sabriel could be a stand-alone read, Lirael really isn’t. By the end, I couldn’t wait to grab the next book in the trilogy, Abhorsen, and devour it completely in one reading session.

As usually, Garth Nix’s writing style is spot-on. He develops his characters nicely, and even if I find some of their personality traits down-right nauseating, that doesn’t mean that they’re not well-developed, or that they don’t go through some sort of growth-process. Lirael is a fast-paced, action-packed sequel to Sabriel, and exceeds the first novel in the Abhorsen Trilogy in both storyline and plot development. The world we are presented with, from the frosty mountains of the Clayr to the Royal Palace where Sameth resides, is rich, compelling and enthralling. I cannot wait to venture into the world of the Old Kingdom again, and do some more exploring. Recommended to all fantasy fans bored of the elves/humans/dwarfs war triangles, and up for something new and refreshing. The Abhorsen Trilogy will not dissapoint.

Book Review: Sabriel (The Abhorsen Trilogy #1) by Garth Nix

1042542Title: Sabriel (The Abhorsen Trilogy #1)
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy
Publisher: CollinsVoyager
Publication Date: May 6th 2003
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon

Who will guard the living when the dead arise? Sabriel is sent as a child across the Wall to the safety of a school in Ancelstierre. Away from magic; away from the Dead. After receiving a cryptic message from her father, 18-year-old Sabriel leaves her ordinary school and returns across the Wall into the Old Kingdom. Fraught with peril and deadly trickery, her journey takes her to a world filled with parasitical spirits, Mordicants, and Shadow Hands — for her father is none other than The Abhorson. His task is to lay the disturbed dead back to rest. This obliges him — and now Sabriel, who has taken on her father’s title and duties — to slip over the border into the icy river of Death, sometimes battling the evil forces that lurk there, waiting for an opportunity to escape into the realm of the living. Desperate to find her father, and grimly determined to help save the Old Kingdom from destruction by the horrible forces of the evil undead, Sabriel endures almost impossible challenges whilst discovering her own supernatural abilities — and her destiny.

A wall is the only thing seperating Ancelstierre, a mostly human-inhabited town with technology, electronics and weapons (although one can hardly use any of those things in such close distance to the wall) from the Old Kingdom, a place where strange monsters terrify little children, ancient magic is still practiced often, and necromancers can bring the dead back to life. It’s also the place where Sabriel’s father, the Abhorsen – which is not exactly a name, but more like a rank – is still residing, making sure the dead do what they do best: staying dead. Although the job subscription might sound interesting and honorable at first, it’s a tiring task that brings the Abhorsen from the one end of the Kingdom to the next, and often keeps him away from his daughter.

On recommendation of her father, Sabriel attends a boarding school in Ancelstierre. Although magic is not commonly practiced there, it is at her school, and every single student knows who she is. The daughter of the Abhorsen, destined to be Abhorsen too one day, to learn the Book of the Dead by heart and to spend her entire life chasing dead people on the River of Death and putting them back to rest. But on the day before her scheduled meeting with her father, it is a servant of Death who comes to visit her instead. The only possible conclusion is that Sabriel’s father is in great peril, probably kidnapped or defeated by one of the Higher Dead.

Now, with no one left to stand between the world of the living and the world of the death, Sabriel is the only left who can don the bells of necromancy and use the ancient secrets of charter magic to stop the walking dead from overwhelming the Old Kingdom. Because one of the most powerful entities from the Realm of the Dead has escaped, and he’s out to take revenge, and to reclaim what was once his. The Old Kingdom, and possibly Ancelstierre as well.

There isn’t much I can say about The Abhorsen Trilogy that hasn’t been said before. With his books Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen, Garth Nix crafts a dazzling, strong and compelling fantasy series with highly original concepts, entertaining and genuine-sounding characters, and one of the first series that successfully combines epic and dark fantasy, featuring both a magical Old Kingdom, necromancers and the rising dead. Garth Nix’s cleverness as a writer shows as he manages to create both an instantly addictive plot and an alternate world that seems both halfway familiar but also unsettingly strange. Every day events are colored with references to a most dark past, creatures that once roamed the Old Kingdom, and magics so ancient and strong that they could change the world forever. The plot hardly stops to catch a breath, and I felt quite surprised when I turned the final page. Not that everything hadn’t wrapped up nicely – it had, up to some point, which can be expected from the first book in the trilogy – but because I was surprised that I had already finished reading.

One of the best things about this book, is the distinction between the world on one side of the wall, Ancelstierre for example, filled with technology, cars, etc. and cosely resembling England in the 1930s, whereas the world on the other side of the wall, The Old Kingdom, still dwells in the middle ages and is the setting for magic, ancient bloodlines, prophecies and epic sword-wielding heroes. The world-building is nothing if not impressive, and I must admit that I loved everything Garth Nix introduced: from the island of the Abhorsen, to the Realm of the Death, to the Perimeter in front of the wall. He manages to provide his readers with an impressive amount of information in a short period of time, without ever going overboard or letting the plot slow down.

Sabriel is unlike any fantasy heroine I’ve come across in literature. She’s no damsel in distress or fierce warrior woman or almost-invincible sorceress. In fact, she’s a young adult who happened to inherit some wicked powers and is still struggling to make them work as they should, and who, on top of that, needs to rescue her father from the Realm of the Dead. She acts and behaves not like your average fantasy character – full of courage, determined, grown up beyond her years – but as a real human being would do: devastated, scared, but with the knowledge that, if anyone is to rescue her father, it will have to be her. Which involuntarily brings her to a position of responsibility, although her eighteen-year-old self would love nothing more than to stay as far away from those responsibilities as possible. She’s intelligent enough to know when to stay and fight – and not foolishly courageous as some fantasy heroes, who in the end have to rely on a deus ex machina to deliver them from their perils – and when to run as far away as possible as fast as possible.

I have to admit that the other characters, especially Touchstone, Sabriel’s prince-in-distress (it’s nice to switch a damsel for a prince for once) are a bit flat. And ‘a bit flat’ might be an understatement. I was occassionally worrying, especially the fifty first page Touchstone made his appearance, if he had any personality at all. It reminded me faintly of fairytales, wherein we get to follow the prince from page one, as he goes through trial after trial to save his beloved princess, who we only meet briefly because she’s locked up in an enchanted tower (castle/hidden by a dragon/sleeping a hundred years/a kitchen maid/insert whatever you like) and all we know about her is that she’s beautiful, fair and good-natured. Except here Sabriel is the brave and intelligent prince, and Touchstone is the princess, whose only mentionable character traits are that he’s fairly good-looking and he spend a couple of centuries turned into stone. So maybe that’s enough to make someone loose their personality alltogether, but I highly doubt it. For all I care, Touchstone could have never turned human again, and Sabriel could have just brought him along in stone-shape for the rest of the book, because he would have an equally charming personality (none whatsoever) and he would have done equally important things for the plotline (none whatsoever). Also, it was a bit too coincedental that Sabriel just happened to stumble upon the only living (well…turned into stone, but you get my point) prince of the Old Kingdom just then, and just happened to reinstall monarchy as a side-effect of her adventure. Yeah, right.

But whereas Touchstone has the personality of a bumblebee, there is one person (well, not exactly a person…) who makes up for any personality traits the other characters seem to be lacking. So much even that when Garth Nix would decide to write a novel focused on this character alone, I would literally run to the nearest book store to purchase myself a copy. It’s like in Raymond E. Feist’s The Riftwar Saga books, where all characters are pretty decent and fun, but there’s one character – in that case, Jimmy The Hand – who stands out so much from the others, because he’s intelligent, hilarious, cunning, mischievous and everything that makes him so much more interesting than all the other characters. The Abhorsen Trilogy has such a character as well, although it doesn’t come in the form of an actual human being here. Mogget, the touch of brilliance in this book, is not a human, but a cat. Or at least, he’s a being crafted from Free Magic and trapped into cat form by a collar. Where his true allegiances lie – with the people who bound him to his animal form, the Abhorsens, who he has served faithfully for thousands of years (but only because he had to) – or with the dark side, is a question that’s not answered in this book, and that leaves the readers guessing. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Whether Mogget is doublecrossing Sabriel, whether he has his own secret agenda, or whether he’s actually pretty decent and has grown to like The Abhorsens (or at least Sabriel and her father) remains a mystery, but it does not do anything for Mogget’s coolness. It only adds to the depths of his character. He is hilarious, intelligent, witty, sometimes even downright mean, and I love him all the more for it. A nice bonus is that he’s just so cat-like in his behavior. Sure, he talks, he gives sly remarks to Sabriel when she appears to ask stupid questions, and he has occassional comments about Prince Touchstone, but he also cries for fish all the time, and he bites people to get their attention. You can’t tell me that’s not cat-like.

One of my only concerns with this book though is that it’s promoted as being a young adult fantasy book, but it does rank pretty high on the age-list to be strictly young adult in my opinion. There are no sex scenes or anything, and it doesn’t really get beyond the occassional kiss, but that’s not what’s bothering me in the age-range choice for this book. What bothers me, is the dark subject matter this book deals with. Alright so, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows is pretty dark too, and that’s young adult-oriented as well, but still I can’t help but feel like they’ve missed the mark here. It’s obvious that when Garth Nix wrote this book, he wasn’t aiming it at young adults either. Sure, his main character is barely eighteen years old, but he doesn’t once hesitate to raise the dead from their early graves, to make them bounce around like ragdolls, or to write blood and gore into every scene that could possibly need it. The subjects he addresses are dark and serious as well. The obvious focus point of this book is life and death, the borderline inbetween, the afterlife and everything after that. He doesn’t take death as a laughable subject in his book (the zombies are NOT hilarious, they’re rather scary in fact, death is not the key to some immortal life filled with happiness and joy) and I can’t help but think that this book was aimed more at adults from the start, and was never intended for a young adult public. Nowadays, publishers often think the only reason to promote a book as being ‘adult’ is when there are very graphic sexual scenes in it. Newsflash, that’s not the case. Talking about death and the afterlife, and imagining hordes of zombies taking on the main characters of a book, can be equally disturbing to youngsters as a sex scene in a book. Just saying.

Sabriel does not dissapoint. It’s epic fantasy, but with an entirely new layer added on top of it. There’s something in it for everyone: romance, the occassional drama, a well-developed and thought-through magic system, most impressive world-building mixing elements from the previous century and from “standard” medieval epic fantasy, entertaining characters and one of the most brilliant and well-crafted characters I’ve ever read about. I recommend this book to all fans of epic and dark fantasy, and to everyone whose ready to try out something new. Even if you’ve given up on the fantasy-genre alltogether, convinced that after reading Tolkien you’ve read it all, you still should give Sabriel a chance.

Book Review: The Keening by A. LaFaye

7571249Title: The Keening
Author: A. LaFaye
Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult, Drama, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication Date: April 1st 2010
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Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by publisher through Netgalley.

Born into a family with artistry in their fingers, Lyza laments that her only talent is carving letters into wood. That is until her life is turned upside down when her mother succumbs to the influenza pandemic of 1918, which is devastating their small coastal town in Maine. With her mother gone, Lyza must protect her eccentric father, who runs the risk of being committed, especially now that he claims he’s waiting for the return of his dead wife. Can Lyza save her father and find her own path in the process?

Lyza’s father is a peculiar man, blessed with the ability to create the most beautiful cravings in wood, and cursed with a feeble mind, often forgetting things as normal as eating, sleeping or other everyday activities. All her life, Lyza’s been used to his behavior, and although she occassionally worries about his strange habits, she isn’t overly concerned, as long as her mother is around to bring her father back to the right track. However, with the influenza pandemic tormenting numerous villages on the coast, Lyza’s family is not left unharmed either. After nearly succumbing to the illness herself, Lyza makes a miraculous recovery, which makes her all the more sensitive to the harm the sickness has caused her community. But then, without any proper warning, her mother gets ill as well. As her mother dies from the illness she survived, Lyza is the only one left to take care of her father.

It proves not to be an easy task, with her father expecting the swift return of his dead wife and insisting on waiting up for her practically every evening. But he does try: he prepares food for Lyza, he protects her as well as he can, etc. As the true nature of her father’s condition slowly reveals itself to Lyza, and old, banished memories resurface, she learns that her father might not be crazy after all.

The Keening starts with a haunting and eerie occurence, namely Lyza seeing a dark shape in her bedroom on the day a funeral march passes by her house. As the mood is set, even though the next couple of chapters deal with Lyza’s family life and her father’s peculiar illness, the book never really loses that haunting and eerie tone. Even while reading scenes from Lyza’s day-to-day life, I was always expecting for something to pop out of the closet, as to speak, or for something scary to happen. That said, the fact that these events didn’t really occur, but that I kept anticipating them, made this book read more like a thriller than anything else. I kept waiting for the bomb to drop and when it finally did, I was certainly not dissapointed. I had expected it, but I was actually quite releived when it dropped – I couldn’t have made it through another fifty pages without any secrets revealed.

The book is written in a dream-like, translucent tone of voice, which is very peculiar, but only adds to the eerie atmosphere set from chapter one. The author mentioned that this book came to her in a dream, and I think that’s very plausible, considering that it reads a bit like that as well. I enjoyed the writing style and although I must admit it might not work for every genre or every book, it certainly fit this one.

Lyza is one of the strongest, most determined and intelligent book characters I’ve ever come across. Even while looking in the face of death, she does not back down. She has the courage and determination most of us can only dream of, and she manages to be there for her father, even when she herself is nearly breaking down. On numerous occassions, the most important one being the death of Lyza’s Mother, The Keening brought tears to my eyes. Part of that was due to the gripping, truthful way the author manages to capture the character’s emotions and the situation at hand, and it was also partly due to the fact that I liked Lyza’s mother so much. I had grown to like her over the course of fifty-or-so pages, and I didn’t want her to die just yet. She made an interesting character, a mother through and through, wise, caring, thinking about everything and always being there for Lyza to rely on.

I loved the fact how The Keening mixed paranormal and supernatural occurences with historical fiction. At the beginning of the story, Lyza loved her father, but she couldn’t really understand him. I’m glad their relationship got better as Lyza, bit by bit, uncovered the secrets related to her father’s life before he met her mother, and the reasons why he is still acting so peculiar now and then. It was heart-wrecking to see her fight to not let her father get taken away from her. I have to admit that I liked the last fifty or so pages best, when Lyza discovered what exactly her father’s secret was. I can’t say that without giving away too much spoilers, but I can say that everything suddenly makes sense then, and that what I had been anticipating from page one (although by then I didn’t know what it would be yet) turned out to be even more scary than I imagined.

If you enjoy horror, not the bloody gore-type horror, but the slow, eerie atmospheric horror that struggles its way into a book, and keeps its presence there from page one till the very end, The Keening is definately a nice choice. I enjoyed reading the book, I loved the characters, and I thought it was great that, besides a scary story, this book offers so much more. It offers a family in peril, a disease slaughtering entire villages, an emotional roller-coaster, and the slight possibility that maybe the supernatural has something to do with it. A great and entertaining read.

Book Review: Possession by Elana Johnson

8337087Title: Possession
Author: Elana Johnson
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Drama
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 7th 2011
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Rating: 4,5 stars
Review copy provided by S&S Galley Grab.

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them…starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous–everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Vi is a Goodie, which basically means that she lives on the Goodgrounds, plugs in for transmissions from The Thinkers every night (she doesn’t really, but that’s beside the point), that she follows all the rules The Thinkers come up with, and that she certainly doesn’t run off with a boy in the middle of the night, not even if he happens to be her Match. When Vi does exactly the latter, she is caught and transported to a prison. But it’s not like Vi to give up that easily. When The Thinkers tell her she’s going to be transported to the Badlands, but she’ll be tagged first, Vi isn’t about to let them get away with that. Fortunately for her, her cell mate Jag seems to have the same idea. Together, they manage to escape, and to find their own way to the freedom of the Badlands, and probably the way to each other’s heart as well. But as Vi begins to fall for Jag, she is also forced to question his trustworthiness, and that of her best friend and Match, Zenn. With two guys in her heart, each of them on opposite sides, Vi has to make a choice. Will she let herself be controlled? Or will she be the one doing the controlling?

I love the dystopian genre, although I have to admit that there’s still a long list of YA Dystopian novels I should probably read. I’ve read The Hunger Games and Wither, but that’s about it. Possession is another Dystopian novel, and I must admit that although I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed The Hunger Games, it came fairly close. Possession is original, fast-paced and it focuses on the balance between Good and Bad – and the blurry line inbetween – on what it means to be controlled or to control others, and what that can do to a person. It asks the most prominent question of all: if we are controlled, day and night, by others – be it through transmissions, reading thoughts or mind manipulation, as is present in Possession, or some other way – how can we still be an actual, genuine human being then? How can we be human if we cannot think for ourselves? And how far are we willing to go for our freedom of mind? What and who will we sacrifice to be released from said control? The people we love? Would we be prepared to control others in exchange to longer being controlled ourselves?

It is a vital and important question, and the fashion in which Elana Johnson answers it, is most humbling for our kind. Vi starts off as the heroine-type we’re used to: she’s one of the few people willing to think for herself in a generation where people let others do the thinking for them, she refuses to listen to the transmissions from the Thinkers every night and she’s a rebel enough to hang out with a guy – and even kiss him! Although this behavior might not sound extremely rebellious to us, it is instantly recognised as an act of rebellion in Vi’s world. A world seperate in Goodgrounds and Badlands, where the Goodies are continuously forced to think as The Thinkers order them to, and at least the Baddies preserve some freedom. Freedom enough so guys and girls can walk in hand in hand and wear whatever clothes they want, instead of having to cover up most of their body to prevent direction sunlight – which the Thinkers swear is deadly. Vi is the rebellious hero, an outspoken and stubborn girl, with a strange affinity for techtricity, which is everywhere in the Goodgrounds. I didn’t find her personality all that original, but I liked her, and I found this kind of hero very fitting for the time of story. She had a nice sense of humor, and although she had a soft spot for long and unnecessary inner dialogue, I couldn’t help but root for her anyway.

While in prison, Vi meets Jag Barque, a fellow rebel but from the Badlands, with tanned skin and a mischievous smile to make him all the more appealing. Plus, Vi needs to share a prison cell with him. As the two of them start to get along, mainly because Vi admires Jag’s hair and he admires her, they form an alliance and manage to escape together. Jag is a likeable character, although he’s a bit stereotypical as well. He’s your typical bad-boy-with-a-good-heart character. He has the appearance and rebellious side of every YA novel’s bad boy, but he has a heart of gold and instantly falls for our main protagonist. They even have an own language: “Vi speech for… and Jag speech for,” which is probably the most annoying part of the book in my opinion. It just made the storyline drag. Anyway, apart from that, there are a couple of traits that make Jag more authentic than he might seem at first. He’s more heroic and brave than he appears, he has his own agenda, and he might not be that trustworthy after all. I enjoy characters who are not all good or all bad, and who have their own purposes and reasons. It’s fun trying to find out what drives a character, even if it isn’t clear from the beginning. That’s probably why I like Jag as a character: he’s multifacetted, I didn’t really know what exactly to think of him, and he made me laugh every now and then. I could easily understand why Vi would fall for him. He is the living image of freedom in a world where she’s only known control. He portrays everything she ever wanted to be, but was too afraid to be.

But then there’s Zenn. Vi’s Match, and a Goodie, and initially the reason why Vi ended up in prison to begin with. He’s the only person Vi really trusts, the only true friend she’s ever known, but as the story progresses, Vi cannot be sure of this anymore. It seems quite likely that Zenn had an agenda of his own as well, and that he might not always have had her best interests at heart. As she loses her faith in Zenn, Vi practically loses her faith in humanity, uncertain of who she can trust anymore now. She faces some heart-wrenching decisions, one of them being to help Zenn or not to help him, even if it turns out he may have betrayed her (I’m using vague terms not to spoil anything). But what can I say about Zenn? He might not be the most trustworthy fellow out there, and we hardly see him in this book – he gets a lot less screen time than Jag does, which is blatantly unfair in my opinion – but I’m Team Zenn all the way. Even if he may have betrayed Vi somehow, he always chose her interests above his own, and he didn’t act out of his free will, and if he did, it was to protect her. I can’t really explain why I like him more than I like Jag, especially since we don’t get to know him all that wel in this book, but somehow I do. Maybe it’s the mysteriousness. Maybe it’s the sense that I had while reading that when she needed it the most, Vi could always count on Zenn. Or maybe it’s just because I hardly knew anything about him, and I wanted to. Or maybe it’s because I instantly made the connection in my mind between Zenn and another character from an entirely different series, namely Zero from Vampire Knight. Alright, they have nothing in common but a Z in their name, and a four-syllable name. But when I imagined Zenn, I pictured Zero in my mind. I don’t care if they don’t look the same based on their description. From the moment I first read his name, I totally and completely adored Zenn, and this didn’t dissappear as I kept on reading. So, I’m Team Zenn all the way.

Possession is a rather long young adult novel, at just over 400 pages, but it doesn’t feel that long while reading it. The characters are interesting, the storyline is fast-paced and action-packed, the setting is absolutely breathtaking in its authenticity and originality. I have to admit that I loved the characters and I adored the dystopian setting, the mention of techtricity and Vi’s possible affinity with it, the notion of Goodgrounds and Badlands, Goodies, Baddies, Thinkers and Rangers. The entire world felt new, innovative and refreshing to me. Although I was a bit wary at first at the world-building, because it seemed so different from our own world and so much had to be explained, I grew to like this world, and the endless possibilities it offers in terms of potential adventures, upcoming wars, etc. But what I loved the most, was the conflict at heart of the book.

At its core, Possession is not about a dystopian world or about a girl falling in love with some ‘bad’ guy. It’s about betrayal, trust and breaking that trust. It’s constantly about being controlled or being the one in control. Control is everything. Freedom is practically non-existent. Your friends, family, your own parents could turn against you. Or they could be ripped away from your life from one day on the other, murdered or dissappeared, like Vi’s sister and father. Everything depends on having control and being in charge. The Thinkers are the ones in control: they set the rules, they decide who gets to live and who needs to die, they say what’s right and wrong. The Goodies and sometimes even the Baddies are the ones being controlled. From page one till the very end of this book, Vi is fighting for that control. She wants to be able to control herself and her own actions, and not be controlled by The Thinkers. She wants her mind to be her own, and she doesn’t need mind manipulation or some Thinker’s voice in her mind telling her what to do. But from the moment Vi struggles for that control, everyone else is struggling to take her control away from her. It’s all a game of who can be trusted, and who controls who.

The only remark I had while reading this book, was that the storyline was confusing at times. Sometimes nothing happened for several pages besides inner dialogue (unfortunatley, Vi’s inner dialogue isn’t all that interesting) and then plenty of stuff happened in only a couple of pages, leaving me confused and forcing me to reread entire paragraphs to actually understand what was going on.

Possession is so much more than a young adult Dystopian novel. It’s a suspenseful thriller, a praise for our most basic and significant human ability: our freedom of mind, and a girl’s continuous struggle to keep hers. It’s about resistance and rebellion against submission, and individual’s need for freedom against a society’s need for law, order and control. It’s about all the things we come across in our own society nowadays, but expanded, enhanced, and all the more breathtaking and suffocating. There’s a thin line between how we are nowadays controlled by the media and the government and between how Vi and her fellow citizens are treated in this book, with even their minds being controlled by others. The potential truth of this future is what is so utterly mesmerizing, shocking and confrontational. I would recommend it to all fans of dystopian novels, and to everyone who’s ever wondered what would happen if we got to the point where governments, media and other sources could somehow control our minds as well. Possession is an excellent read.