Book Tours: Starter Day Party for The Sunken

thesunkenbanner

I’m hosting the starter day party today for the book tour for dark fantasy “The Sunken”. I hope you enjoy the tour, and I’ll be reviewing the book on October 13, at the end of the tour.

Tour Schedule

September 13th: Starter Day Party @ I Heart Reading

September 14th: Book Excerpt @ Sunshine Book Promotions

September 16th: Author Interview @ Taking Time for Mommy

September 18th: Book Excerpt @ Realm Tramper

September 20th: Book Review @ Classy Cat Books

September 22nd: Author Interview @ Karen Greco’s Blog

September 24th: Guest Post @ Illusions of Intimacy

September 25th: Book Excerpt @ The Wormhole

September 27th: Author Interview @ Majanka’s Blog

September 29th: Book Excerpt and Giveaway @ Books and Tales

October 1st: Book Review @ All Sorts of Books

October 3rd: Guest Post @ Plain Talk BM

October 5th: Book Review @ Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock

October 7th: Book Excerpt @ I’m an Eclectic Reader

October 9th:  Author Interview @ The Single Librarian

October 10th: Book Excerpt @ Fantasy Book Lane

October 12th: Book Excerpt and Giveaway @ Books Direct

October 13th: Book Review @ I Heart Reading

About The Sunken

the_sunken_coverwebsmallTitle: The Sunken

Author: Steff Green

Genre: Steampunk Dark Fantasy

 In the heart of London lies the Engine Ward, a district forged in coal and steam, where the great Engineering Sects vie for ultimate control of the country. For many, the Ward is a forbidding, desolate place, but for Nicholas Thorne, the Ward is a refuge. He has returned to London under a cloud of shadow to work for his childhood friend, the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Deep in the Ward’s bowels, Nicholas can finally escape his strange affliction – the thoughts of animals that crowd his head. But seeing Brunel interact with his mechanical creations, Nicholas is increasingly concerned that his friend may be succumbing to the allure of his growing power. That power isn’t easily cast aside, and the people of London need Brunel to protect the streets from the prehistoric monsters that roam the city.

King George III has approved Brunel’s ambitious plan to erect a Wall that would shut out the swamp dragons and protect the city. But in secret, the King cultivates an army of Sunken: men twisted into flesh-eating monsters by a thirst for blood and lead. Only Nicholas and Brunel suspect that something is wrong, that the Wall might play into a more sinister purpose–to keep the people of London trapped inside.

Author Bio

steffmetal-steampunk-wedding-celebrant4Steff lives in an off-grid house on a slice of rural paradise near Auckland, New Zealand, with her cantankerous drummer husband, their two cats, and their medieval sword collection. The first CD she ever brought was Metallica’s ‘Ride the Lightning’, and she’s been a card-carrying member of the black-t-shirt brigade ever since.

Steff writes about metal music, her books, living off-grid, and her adventures with home-brewing on her blog www.steffmetal.com. She writes humorous fantasy under the name Steff Metal, and dark, dystopian fantasy under S. C. Green. Her latest novel, The Sunken, explores an alternative Georgian London where dinosaurs still survive.

Stay up to date with Steff’s books by signing up to her newsletter at http://steffmetal.com/subscribe, or like her Facebook page at http://facebook.com/steffmetal.

Book Review: Dream of the Serpent by Alan Ryker

18708587Title: Dream of the Serpent

Author: Alan Ryker

Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction, Dark Fantasy

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Cody Miller is on the brink of having it all: an MBA, a high-powered job in corporate finance, and the girl of his dreams. And then one mistake, one unfortunate accident, takes it all away in the blink of an eye. His future, his health and his hope—gone—up in flames, leaving him the victim of an unimaginably horrific injury.

Upon emerging from a coma, Cody discovers his life and plans have been shattered. As he struggles to find the strength to go on and a reason to live, he slowly begins to realize things may not be as they seem. His life has changed more than he could’ve ever imagined, but someone…or something…may be working beneath the surface…changing the world around him, altering lives and procuring victims…an ancient evil that hides in plain sight and destroys as it consumes.

To uncover the truth, Cody will have to forget everything he thought he knew about reality in order to salvage his sanity and save the life of the woman he loves.

How much would you give, how far would you go, what would you sacrifice, to save the person you love more than life itself? From deep within the flames, Cody Miller is about to find out.

Dream of the Serpent is more dark fantasy than horror, descending into the darkest breaches of the human mind, and giving us a choice. What if you could make things right? What if all the guilt you ever felt could be set straight? No matter what you did. Clean slate. Would you do it? All it costs is your soul.

Cody Miller is seconds away from having it all: the job of his dreams, the girl he’s always wanted, the life he imagined. But then said girlfriend calls him while he’s working in the kitchen of the restaurant he works at, and everything goes wrong. The fryer lights up, and seconds later, Cody is engulfed in flames. He survives, but what is left of him is a burned shell, continuously in pain, his body destroying him. His girlfriend won’t look at him anymore, overwhelmed by guilt for bothering him at the wrong moment.

She descends into madness and drugs, hanging out with the wrong crowd. She texts him, and send him emails that give him hope, but still he can’t really forgive her for what happened, or tell her it wasn’t her fault. But then, she vanishes, after mentioning something about a serpent.

Next thing Cody knows, he wakes up next to another woman with a whole new set of memories overlapping the ones he had about being burnt. These memories involve his girlfriend disappearing at the night of the party – the night he got burnt, in the other set of memories – and apart from missing her, he’s fine. His life is somewhat on track.

But as the memories struggle in his mind, he knows this isn’t his real life. And if ever wants to see the love of his life again, he’ll have to find out who or what the serpent is, and how she got involved with them. But what awaits him as he starts his search, is darker than anything he could’ve ever imagined.

Cody is a great character. He’s very human. When he has the accident, he’s angry with the world, and shoots his anger at everyone coming near, which seems like a very human reaction to me. I felt a lot of sympathy for him as he tumbles into a depression. But then, once he has the two sets of memories and notices something is wrong, he finds an immense amount of courage within himself, which I admired. His personality developed a lot throughout the book, and in a good way.

The plot was a mix of horror (although not a lot) and dark fantasy. The author has great imaginative skills, and manages to give vivid descriptions. When he described Cody’s burn wounds, I felt like throwing up. The words really make the picture come to life.

What I lacked a little though, was the sense of urgency. It seems like Cody dragged himself from spot to spot, and even when he wakes up with a new set of memories, and later on discovers his girlfriend is in terrible danger, there’s no real urgency. As if he has all the time in the world.

Apart from that, I really enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading more books by this author.

Series Review: The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix

47666104254247629

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: 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.

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.

Author Interview: Michael Lee

The Book

10775739Title: My Frankenstein
Author: Michael Lee
Genre: Retelling Classics, Fantasy, Gothic Horror, Historical Fiction, Dark Romance
Read my review for My Frankenstein.

In a small village in early 19th Century young Eva is enthralled by the new young baron, Viktor Frankenstein. Viktor promises to transform the traditional little town into a beacon of science and gives the book loving Eva access to his fantastic library. Eva becomes his student and assists him in a secret experiment, though she is kept in the dark about its ultimate aim. Soon after that Viktor introduces Eva to his “cousin” Adam. Adam is horribly disfigured with stitches running across his face. Viktor claims he is mute and simpleminded, but Eva takes pity on him and sets out to teach him to speak.…

What follows is a combination of tragic romance and classic horror as Eva is pulled between Viktor, who grows jealous and takes murderous steps to ensure his secret, and Adam, who possess tremendous strength and rage yet deep inside is innocent and vulnerable.

In his debut fantasy novel, Michael J. Lee retells the classic story by Mary Shelley as a dark romance with steampunk overtones.

Author Interview

1) As the title suggests, My Frankenstein is a retelling of the classic Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. What inspired you to write about Frankenstein?

Frankenstein is one of those stories that makes up part of my “writer’s DNA.” It’s a tale I grew up with. I was going to write about it sooner or later because I loved the story so much. And it’s a wonderful story that can find new applicability with the times. I felt the time had come to revisit the story with fresh eyes.

2) I liked the character of Eva. With her intelligence, fast learning skills and rather naive (at least at first) attitude, she seems a perfect fit for Viktor. Whereas the original “Frankenstein” novel barely even mentioned love or other emotions, why did you choose to bring a romantic twist to the story?

That’s what really made the story come alive, the emotions and deep feelings the characters have. What really kicked this story into high gear for me was remembering something an actor once told me, “You can’t hate someone you don’t give a damn about.” That element of love that Eva brings to the story is the real spark that brings the novel to life.

3) I have to admit that Viktor, despite his many flaws, was my favorite character. There is something darkly romantic and tragic about a scientist too advanced for his era. Who was your favorite character to write?

Viktor. Writing a hero can be fun but creating a dark character like Viktor and making him work, for me that is the heart of writing. In his own mind, he’s a hero not a villain. He has a reason for everything he does. That makes him an active character. He’s very much alive. And he just creates tension and drama. He doesn’t even have to do or say anything. Just having him enter the room makes the drama up a notch. A character like that is a joy to write.

4) Are you currently working on a new novel? If so, can you tell us something about it?

Yes I am. It’s called From Russia With Blood. This is also a tale close to my heart. Frankenstein is part of writer’s DNA, so is Dracula and so is James Bond. And I think the two genres are really tailor made for each other. The first drafts are done. I’m just working on fine tuning and editing the story.

Thanks for answering my interview questions!

Thanks for having me!

The Author

Michael Lee is a script consultant, judge and entertainment blogger for The Wrap.com and has lived in Detroit, Connecticut, Ohio and Los Angeles.
Visit his website.

Series Review: The Vampire Diaries & The Return Trilogy

      6602822 6544486 7007788 7002360

The Vampire Diaries is a Young Adult urban fantasy series created by L.J. Smith, and based on the lifes of the teenagers in Fell’s Church, who are constantly being troubled by supernatural dangers, ranging from vampires, like the notorious Damon and Stefan Salvatore, to werewolves, witches, Japanese fox spirits called Kitsune and other creatures that go bump in the night. Fell’s Church very own Homecoming Queen Elena Gilbert is the one usually in the center of everything, along with her boyfriend Stefan, his wicked brother Damon, and Elena’s own loyal group of friends: Meredith, Bonnie, Matt and sometimes even Caroline. Together they must face the evils that threaten Fell’s Church and the people they love.

In The Awakening, Golden Girl Elena develops a crush on the town’s newest student, Stefan Salvatore. Unknown to her, the latter is actually a daywalking vampire and she herself is the exact image of his long-lost girlfriend Katherine, who turned him into a creature of the night. Elena and Stefan start a relationship and he reveals the truth to her, but that is without taking into account his evil brother, Damon, who wants Elena for himself and wants to turn her into his Princess of Darkness. Threatened by an unfamiliar Dark Force, Elena meets an early death in The Struggle. But fear not, because in The Fury she awakens again, now turned into a vampire and a fellow creature of the night. Initially choosing Damon over Stefan, and while noticing strange occurances are happening in Fell’s Church once again, Elena’s undead life is full of trouble as well. Now the three vampires must team up again to fight the evil that is threatening their hometown…in the form of ex-girlfriend Katherine, who Damon and Stefan presumed long dead. At the end, it is Elena who sacrifices her life to save that of both brothers. Like any other self-respecting heroine, she returns from the death in The Reunion, albeit only a spirit who can talk from the grave to her wicca friend Bonnie. Now it’s up to Elena’s friends, without the great Queen of Town herself, to stop an even more powerful evil.

Ten years later, L.J Smith returns with a new trilogy as a spin-off for the original The Vampire Diaries series; athough only some days have passed in Fell’s Church, and the story of Nightfall starts where The Reunion left off. Elena is back from the dead – again – but now her merry pleasant life is being threatened by Japanese fox spirits, also known as kitsune. Unknown to him, Damon is being possessed by one of these fox spirits, and does all kinds of wicked things in their name, one of them is taking his own brother to a prison far, far away. Damon himself has no knowledge of the things he does when being possessed, and later on feels very sorry for ever doing them. In Shadow Souls, Elena, Damon and Matt travel to the Dark Dimension in the vain hope of getting Stefan back, who is held captive there by none other than the kitsune. When Matt goes back home, and Bonnie and Meredith show up out of thin air, it will need all of their friendship, courage and determination to get Stefan back.

6602822Title: The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle
Rating: 2 stars
Read the Review.

Elena: the golden girl, the leader, the one who can have any boy she wants.
Stefan: brooding and mysterious, he seems to be the only one who can resist Elena, even as he struggles to protect her from the horrors that haunt his past.
Damon: sexy, dangerous, and driven by an urge for revenge against Stefan, the brother who betrayed him. Determined to have Elena, he’d kill to possess her.
Collected here in one volume for the first time, volumes one and two of The Vampire Diaries, the tale of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.

Review Preview:I can’t begin to explain to you how much I despise the character of Elena Gilbert. She is egocentric, selfish, spoiled, annoying, self-absorbed, unreliable, and most possibly the worst friend ever. Golden girl, Homecoming Queen, I don’t care how many titles L.J Smith gives her; if I ever met someone like Elena in real life, I’d make her tumble down the stairs. Seriously. She reminded me a lot of that movie Mean Girls, and how she has even friends in the first place, is a mystery to me. That’s not to say that the friendships in these novels are all that realistic. They aren’t. You might as well switch Elena’s friend with wax dolls, and you’d get the exact same novel. Whereas Elena still has some personality – although not necessarily the most desirable personality in the world – her friends have absolutely none. Read more?

6544486Title: The Fury & Dark Reunion
Rating: 3 stars
Read the Review.

Elena: transformed, the golden girl has become what she once feared and desired.
Stefan: tormented by losing Elena, he’s determined to end his feud with Damon once and for all—whatever the cost. But slowly he begins to realize that his brother is not his only enemy.
Damon: at last, he possesses Elena. But will his thirst for revenge against Stefan poison his triumph? Or can they come together to face one final battle?
Collected here in one edition are the third and fourth volumes of The Vampire Diaries, a riveting conclusion to the tale of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.

Review Preview: Elena makes a far better and more interesting vampire than she did as a human. She is strong, confident, but lacks most of the less-desirable qualities that made her the Queen Bitch of the 1990’s. She doesn’t take advantage of her friends anymore – safe the brief encounter with Matt at the beginning of the The Fury – and she doesn’t get away with everything anymore. Somehow, she stopped thinking that becoming Homecoming Queen was the most important thing in her life, or that she needs to have the most popular guy in high school, and that she’s going to die if she doesn’t have him. Those are just some of the perks of being undead, really. She also develops a bond with Damon throughout The Fury, something I supported of course, and showed us a bit of her dark side. Her interesting, not mean-girl-in-highschool, dark side. Read more?

7007788Title: The Return: Nightfall
Rating: 3 stars
Read the Review.

Elena Gilbert is alive—again.
When Elena sacrificed herself to save the two vampire brothers who love her—the handsome, brooding Stefan and the sleek and dangerous Damon—she was consigned to a fate beyond death. Until a powerful supernatural force pulled her back.
Now Elena is not just human. She has powers and gifts that were bestowed on her in the afterlife. What’s more, her blood pulses with an overwhelming and unique force that makes her irresistible to any vampire.
Stefan wants to find a way to keep Elena safe so that they can make a life together. Damon, however, is driven by an insatiable desire for power, and wants Elena to rule as his princess. When Stefan is lured away from Fell’s Church, Damon seizes his chance to convince her that he is the brother she is meant to be with…
But a darkness is infiltrating the town, and Damon, always the hunter, is now the hunted; he becomes the prey of a malevolent creature that can possess him at will, and who desires not just Elena’s blood but her death.

Review Preview: Nightfall starts exactly where The Reunion left off, although the freshly returned and de-spirited (look at me, I’m making up words, L.J. Smith style!) Elena has made a launch back in time, and now has the physical abbilities of a toddler. She doesn’t speak, and only communicates in thought-words. For those of you who think that’s cute, think again. An eighteen year old acting like a baby is never fun. An eighteen year old who died, became a vampire, and then died again, acting like a baby is enough to cause me a great deal of distress. After several failed attempts of yours faithfully to rip Elena’s throat out – the only problem being she’s not an actual person, but rather a fictional character – I gave up and wailed in self-pity every time she did the tap, tap, tap noise under her chin. While Stefan is being the figurative Saint again, and not touching her in any way that would be inappropriate – because you know, she has the mental abilities of a three-year-old – Elena wants nothing more than for Stefan to hold her, kiss her, and do all those things adult do. What follows next is too horribl to describe in words. Read more?

7002360Title: The Return: Shadow Souls
Rating: 3,5 stars
Read the Review.

On the run…
Elena Gilbert’s love, the vampire Stefan Salvatore, has been captured and imprisoned by demonic spirits who are wreaking havoc in Fell’s Church. While her friends Bonnie and Meredith explore the evil that has taken over their town, Elena goes in search of Stefan.
In order to find him, she entrusts her life to Stefan’s brother, Damon Salvatore, the handsome but deadly vampire who wants Elena, body and soul. Along with her childhood friend Matt, they set out for the slums of the Dark Dimension, where Stefan is being held captive. It is rumored to be a world where vampires and demons roam free, but humans must live enslaved to their supernatural masters…
Elena will stop at nothing to free Stefan. Yet with each passing day the tension between Elena and Damon grows, and she is faced with a terrible decision: Which brother does she really want?

Back in Fell’s Church, Bonnie and Meredith have made some dire discoveries. They hastily try to follow Elena and warn her—only to be caught up in Elena’s most dangerous adventure yet.

Review Preview: Not only were the characters all over the place, but so was the writing. It felt like somehow three different writers had each taken turns to write sentences or paragraphs, and now those snippets were all thrown together. Some of the scenes were simply ridiculous and made no sense whatsoever, and some of the descriptions were so bad they brought me closer to crying than to laughing. What this book really needed, in all honesty, was an editor. I don’t know who edited it, or how many people edited it, but it desperately screamed for a professional editor to browse through the pages, fill in the missing gaps, tell the author what could be improved, etc. I somehow had the feeling that everything, from the writing process to the actual editing, was rushed. You can’t rush things like writing, or the result will be less than satisfactory. Read more?

Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: Shadow Souls by L.J. Smith

7002360Title: The Return: Shadow Souls
Author: L.J. Smith
Genre: Young Adult, Vampires, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins

Rating: 3,5 stars

On the run…
Elena Gilbert’s love, the vampire Stefan Salvatore, has been captured and imprisoned by demonic spirits who are wreaking havoc in Fell’s Church. While her friends Bonnie and Meredith explore the evil that has taken over their town, Elena goes in search of Stefan.
In order to find him, she entrusts her life to Stefan’s brother, Damon Salvatore, the handsome but deadly vampire who wants Elena, body and soul. Along with her childhood friend Matt, they set out for the slums of the Dark Dimension, where Stefan is being held captive. It is rumored to be a world where vampires and demons roam free, but humans must live enslaved to their supernatural masters…
Elena will stop at nothing to free Stefan. Yet with each passing day the tension between Elena and Damon grows, and she is faced with a terrible decision: Which brother does she really want?

Back in Fell’s Church, Bonnie and Meredith have made some dire discoveries. They hastily try to follow Elena and warn her—only to be caught up in Elena’s most dangerous adventure yet.

I’m feeling very confused over what I should rate this novel. On the hand, Shadow Souls is all about Damon and Elena, which makes me jump from happiness and be extraordinary pleased as their relationship evolves, on the other hand, this book reads like it was written by a very girly twelve-year-old fanfiction writer. But you know, writing style, plot and page-longth descriptions of dresses put aside, I did enjoy reading about Damon and Elena. And although the author beats Damon down until he’s just ‘a small little boy trapped in his own mind by none other than himself’ and Elena is clearly out of her mind with the ‘I love Stefan but you know, he’ll understand when I’m making out and sharing blood with his brother, right?’ crap. As far as humor goes, this novel is definately my top ten ever. I laughed from start to end. And I did enjoy myself more than I did when reading the previous novels in the series, plus Damon makes an interesting protagonist, even if he seems a bit out-of-character himself. So, that said, I decided on a 3,5. At least I didn’t feel like bashing Elena’s head in with an two-handed axe anymore, and although I still felt like staking Stefan over and over again, it could have been worse.

The story starts exactly where Nightfall left off, with Matt, Damon and Elena looking for poor little Stefan, who’s still tied in a cage, courtesy of the Kitsune. Because everyone thinks it’s terribly wrong to leave the Veggie Vamp (yes, that’s my pet name for Stefan) like that, they all go searching for him. Well not everyone, because at first Meredith and Bonnie stay behind. Good. For all I care, it was just Damon and Elena on a roadtrip, Veggie Vamp still tied safely to his prison house, and Mutt – excuse me, Matt – can do whatever he wants, as long as he’s not interfering with the Damon/Elena love scenes that are practically dripping from this novel. Matt, being the good little boy he is, does exactly that after he sees Elena and bad-boy-vampire Damon in a rather comprimising position. He returns to Fell’s Church, and all I could say was: good riddance: that menas more Damon/Elena love scenes coming my way. Unfortunately, Elena keeps reminiscing about the Veggie Vamp, and occasionally wonders if he could really forgive her for doing all those nasty, crazy and kissy things with his brother. But, confident as she is that Stefan really loves her, she is absolutely sure that he will. Because that’s what every normal boyfriend does when the girl who is supposedly the love of his life turns all snuggly with his brother.

Their roadtrip brings Damon and Elena to the Dark Dimension but – surprise, surprise – somehow Meredith and Bonnie manage to tag along. Once again, I had to surpress the emotion to grab a giant wooden stick and beat them all the way back to Fell’s Church. Add the fact that they always knock on the door at the wrong moments (especially Meredith…) and actually manage to say or do nothing significantly important or even remotely interesting, and you can understand why I was frustrated that they had to turn up as well. And all of that for Veggie Vamp.

Now, there’s a thing or two I ought to tell you about the Dark Dimension. First of all, humans are slaves there, meaning that Elena, Bonnie and Meredith have to be tied up to get in and pretend to be Damon’s slaves. If you thought this would lead to some witty comments from Damon, or sly remarks about their current position, think again. Unfortunately for us, Damon has lost a lot of his carefree humor and wit already. Secondly, somehow along the way Elena mistakingly thinks she’s still on Earth – where she can get away with absolutely everything – and does something that goes against all the rules of the Dark Dimension. Then there’s a fuss about that which lasts practically 100 pages, and is absolutely boring, uninteresting and unnecessary to the plot. Except that it introduces this woman – Lady Ulma – whose sole purpose in this novel, is to create dresses for the girls.

Trust me when I say that L.J. Smith actually spends about 20 pages describing how these dresses look like, what color they have, etc. Naturally, Elena’s dress is the simplest, but the most gorgeous one as well. I honestly felt like puking. For starters, I’m here for the action, the fights, the dialogue and character interaction. If you give me a wonderful description of something even remotely interesting, I will enjoy reading it. If you give me a 20-page-long description of what dress Elena and her sidekicks are going to were to some dance party, then I will feel the uncontrollable urge to grab the novel and pull those pages out. I’m sorry, but really? Maybe L.J. Smith has missed her career as a possible dress designer but I, along with at least 50% of her readers, couldn’t give a damn. If Elena wears a red dress, a blue one or a green one, she’s still going to look gorgeous. We know already. Get over it.

Then we get introduced to this new character, Sage. I think he’s a vampire, but I’m not sure since I completely missed when and how he even got introduced to the rest of our cast. I vaguely remember when Damon first spoke to him, but that just wasn’t interesting enough to actually register. But anyway, everyone say hello to Sage. He only shows up when everyone needs him the most, accompanied by a fox and a hawk – or two other pet animals, I don’t know, I don’t even know when they were first mentioned, where they come from or what their exact purpose is, and I was genuinely surprised to suddenly read about Sage and his pet animals. When the trouble is over, he dissapears again, only to reappear when he is needed. My mind was practically screaming Deus Ex Machina, except that somehow the other characters, in particularly Damon, would have managed just fine without Sage’s assistance, in my opinion. Maybe I’m just giving Damon too much credit. Oh well, you know, fangirlness and all.

Lets talk storyline and writing. The plot is practically non-existent. This book reads like the author had a faint idea of where she wanted to end up, then sat down and started writing, without stopping once in a while and wondering if the novel actually made sense. There are so many random events that seem useless, some even contradictory, and everything is all over the place. With everything, I literally mean everything. Some of the characters seem to have undergone complete personality changes: Bonnie being even more scared than I had thought possible, and uncapable of standing on her own two feet for even a mere five minutes – while I had great hopes for her after reading The Struggle, Meredith seeming as distant, unreachable and annoying as ever, and Matt turning into a noble hero who is doing just fine saving Fell’s church on his own. But that’s not where it gets really bad. What is really bad, is Damon and Elena. Sure, there’s tension and chemistry and love sparkles all over the place, but the Damon we see portrayed in this novel is so unlike the Damon we are used to, that I felt like I was being cheated. I wanted witty, snarky, interesting Damon back, who couldn’t care less about the fate of Bonnie, Meredith and the other tag-alongs. I wanted the fierce, powerful, headstrong Damon back. Instead, I got another lovesick puppy. Surely he plays the part a lot better than Stefan ever could, but that’s beside the point. Damon is turning more and more into his brother with every page you skip – and trust me when I say that’s a bad thing.

Not only were the characters all over the place, but so was the writing. It felt like somehow three different writers had each taken turns to write sentences or paragraphs, and now those snippets were all thrown together. Some of the scenes were simply ridiculous and made no sense whatsoever, and some of the descriptions were so bad they brought me closer to crying than to laughing. What this book really needed, in all honesty, was an editor. I don’t know who edited it, or how many people edited it, but it desperately screamed for a professional editor to browse through the pages, fill in the missing gaps, tell the author what could be improved, etc. I somehow had the feeling that everything, from the writing process to the actual editing, was rushed. You can’t rush things like writing, or the result will be less than satisfactory.

Even though Damon may not have been the Damon I grew to love and adore anymore, he was still the most interesting character by far. And Elena was a tad less spoiled, annoying and childish than she was in the other novels. Stefan was great where he was – out of the way, and although his speech was reduced to a minimum, only being able to say ‘Elena, I love you’ and things like ‘lovely little love’ (anyone else felt like they were slowly dieing when reading the last sentence?), it was a nice improvement from the other novels. Alright fine, let’s face it – I just don’t like Stefan. The other characters contributed little or nothing to the story, and the book could use with some more character interactions, editing and a 100 or so pages less. Putting that aside, I did enjoy reading the novel, and at least I didn’t feel like throwing it at my wall, or burning it anymore. Damon, even with his changed personality, makes a nice suitor, an interesting opponent in the game of love, and Elena is an all-too-willing victim. I loved how they were drawn to each other on all levels, physically and emotionally, in this novel, and how Damon finally got what he wanted. Or well, partly, but in any case, he did get plenty of hugs and kisses. Hopefully, in Midnight, Elena will realise the one she was meant to be with from the start, wasn’t Mr. Veggie Vamp, but the great, magnificent and utterly charming Damon Salvatore.

SPOILER: The ending. Can you say, oh my god? Does anyone else feel like lighting torches, joining a mob, and going after L.J. Smith? Did she really have to do that to the only interesting character she had left? She can do whatever the heck she wants to Stefan, Matt, Bonnie, Meredith and Caroline – even kill one, for all I care. That said, isn’t it odd that in about six novels, she hasn’t killed anyone yet? At least not anyone who didn’t return from the death (Go Elena….sarcasm, much.). But anyway, she can burn Fell’s Church to the ground for all I care, but stay the heck away from Damon. Not even that, she could torture Damon if she wanted, or hand him over to the Kitsune, or whatever. But making him human? Do you know how much that is torturing me? I mean: why? He was her last chance, and somehow I have the feeling she just threw it away.

I can sit here and go on and on about how bad Shadow Souls was, when truthfully, I did enjoy it more than the previous novels in the series. All that is courtesy of Damon though, and his undeniable chemistry with Elena. I may not be L.J. Smith’s number one fan, but I had fun reading this novel. Sometimes I laughed at the stupidity of hte characters, but that’s having fun too, I guess. But I tell you, when you want some mindless entertainment, or you want to spend some hours tucked behind a blanket reading something light and amusing, then Shadow Souls really is an excellent option. It’s like watching TV and suddenly stumbling upon an episode of Hannah Montana. Sure, it might not be your number one choice in the world, and it’s not the most-educated entertainment ever, but at the end, you’ll realise you’ve had fun and you actually enjoyed yourself. That is what Shadow Souls gives you.

Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: Nightfall by L.J. Smith

7007788Title: The Return: Nightfall
Author: L.J. Smith
Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult, Vampires
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: 3 stars

Elena Gilbert is alive—again.
When Elena sacrificed herself to save the two vampire brothers who love her—the handsome, brooding Stefan and the sleek and dangerous Damon—she was consigned to a fate beyond death. Until a powerful supernatural force pulled her back.
Now Elena is not just human. She has powers and gifts that were bestowed on her in the afterlife. What’s more, her blood pulses with an overwhelming and unique force that makes her irresistible to any vampire.
Stefan wants to find a way to keep Elena safe so that they can make a life together. Damon, however, is driven by an insatiable desire for power, and wants Elena to rule as his princess. When Stefan is lured away from Fell’s Church, Damon seizes his chance to convince her that he is the brother she is meant to be with…
But a darkness is infiltrating the town, and Damon, always the hunter, is now the hunted; he becomes the prey of a malevolent creature that can possess him at will, and who desires not just Elena’s blood but her death.

I was really dissapointed by this novel. Since the ten year hiatus between the original The Vampire Diaries series, and the newly released Return Trilogy, I had anticipated that the author’s writing would have improved, or at least would be more up to date with this new millennium. Unfortunately, her writing style, topics and the behavior of her characters, are still stuck in the 1990s, and I have little hope that she will make up for it in Shadow Souls. Oh well, lets get on to the review.

Nightfall starts exactly where The Reunion left off, although the freshly returned and de-spirited (look at me, I’m making up words, L.J. Smith style!) Elena has made a launch back in time, and now has the physical abbilities of a toddler. She doesn’t speak, and only communicates in thought-words. For those of you who think that’s cute, think again. An eighteen year old acting like a baby is never fun. An eighteen year old who died, became a vampire, and then died again, acting like a baby is enough to cause me a great deal of distress. After several failed attempts of yours faithfully to rip Elena’s throat out – the only problem being she’s not an actual person, but rather a fictional character – I gave up and wailed in self-pity every time she did the tap, tap, tap noise under her chin. While Stefan is being the figurative Saint again, and not touching her in any way that would be inappropriate – because you know, she has the mental abilities of a three-year-old – Elena wants nothing more than for Stefan to hold her, kiss her, and do all those things adult do. What follows next is too horribl to describe in words.

Since Elena is now somewhat of an angel, or a pathetic excuse for an angel in my humble opinion, she meets people by kissing them. Full on the mouth. And because she’s a beacon of innocence, people let her do just that, even when the one being kissed is none other than her ex-boyfriend Matt, or her ex-best-friend Caroline. The latter, being the only sane person who ever appeared in The Vampire Diaries novels, is of course repulsed by this, and reminds Elena of her past as the town’s slut. For some reason beyond my comprehension, everyone runs to Elena’s defense, and they eventually kick Caroline out of the house. For what? For telling the truth? This Elena hype is starting to go terribly wrong, people. Some common sense would do the population of Fell’s Church some good.

It’s clear right away that something is going on with Caroline, but instead of focusing on what exactly is wrong with her, everyone and their pet chihuahua turns their attention to Elena because she is…well, Elena. Everyone except Damon who, for some reason I can’t really grasp, doesn’t get to join in any of the Elena-related fun, for the millionth time now. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. Meanwhile, the town is being harrassed by two fox-spirits or Kitsune, who like to call themselves Shinichi and Mitsao. Japanse folklore legends? Check. Elena the Holy Saint? Check. Stefan The Delusional Veggie Vamp? Check. Matt The Pitiful Ex-Boyfriend? Check. Bonnie and Meredith The Wanna Bee’s? Check. Let the fun begin.

The Kitsune are having their fun possessing Damon and making them do whatever they want him to do, without his knowledge of course. Plus, they have a wicked and uncomprehensible sense of humor. Oh, and guess what? One of them, Shinichi to be exact, is interested in Elena. Wait? No kidding. The Queen Bee has another brainless follower, this time in a creature powerful enough to destroy the entire city. And once again, she didn’t have to do anything to get this sort of attention. Because you know, she’s beautiful and looks angelic. Who cares that she slept around with half of the town, or that she hasn’t got a single functional braincell? She’s pweeetttyyy.

While I was wondering what kind of message L.J. Smith is sending to her young and influential readers once again, I lost track of the fact that there is no actual plot in this novel. Sure, the Kitsune are suddenly taking over trees and entire forests, Damon saves Bonnie in a heroic attempt of doing the right thing and then he makes Elena and Matt do stuff that practically belongs in a vintage porn movie while being possessed by the Kitsune, but still…Where is the actual plot? It seems like everyone is doing all sorts of random things, sometimes even while being in each other’s way, but nothing ever adds up to anything. It’s like all the pieces are thrown all over the place, and the readers are left to reconnect them back together and form a, hopefully logical, story. The plot seemed a bit far-stretched and worn-out, like the author ran out of inspiration ages ago (which would be understandable, considering she kind of went over the edge with the ‘let your main character die and revive them again’ episodes) and this was something she came up with because she had to. The love between the characters, and with that I mean Stefan and Elena in specific, seemed forced, not natural and so five-centuries ago. If he said ‘my little lovely love’ one more time, I really was going to kill him, even if that meant torching the book.

So, what makes up for this plot-lacking novel featuring delusional characters with little personality and a love that is so boring I couldn’t see a single spark? Damon. Once again, he’s single-handedly holding up this entire novel. Even when he’s possessed by a malach and forced to do all sorts of sacrilegious things, he’s still the most interesting, enjoyable and strangely human character we see. Compared to Elena and the other Power Rangers, who are somewhat like wax dolls in my opinion, Damon is a sparkling fire that cannot be exstinguished by their dullness. And, putting the strange storyline and the somewhat awkward writing style aside, this novel isn’t all that bad. I had fun reading it, even if it was the sort of mindless fun you get from watching The Simpsons or some other comedy show on television. And you know, I can bash about the lack of plot, or the unbelievable House of Wax characters all day long, but in the end, I finished this novel in a single reading session, I didn’t get bored and I actually felt for the poor wax dolls as they were dragged half across town by the evil Kitsune. So maybe you shouldn’t mind my opinion, and just read it for yourself. It can’t be all that bad if they made a successful TV Series based on it.