Book Review: The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colours of Madeleine #2)

Title: The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colours of Madeline #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary, Magic, Young Adult
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: February 2014
Pages: 544
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Time slides around the world so strangely …

It’s not easy being Princess Ko. Her family is missing, taken to the World through cracks in the Kingdom, which were then sealed tightly behind them.

Now Princess Ko is running the Kingdom, and war is looming.

To help her find her family, she gathers a special group of teens, including Elliot Baranski of the Farms. He’s been writing secret letters to a Girl-in-the World named Madeleine Tully – and now the Kingdom needs her help.

Madeleine and Elliot must locate the missing royals, convince them of their true identities, and figure out how to unlock the dangerous cracks between the Kingdom and the World.

All before their enemies can stop them.

My Review:

One of the best things that has happened to me in the past two years of blogging is discovering Jaclyn Moriarty’s books. She has a beautiful way of telling stories and this second book in the Colours of Madeline series did not disappoint.

Elliot Baranski, a boy who lives on a farm in a Kingdom named Cello, and Madeline Tully, a girl from the world we know in a city called Cambridge, are still communicating though a crack between the Kingdoms. A broken TV turned art installation and a malfunctioning parking meter allow the two to pass messages to and fro from Cello to Cambridge. Madeline is still not completely sure she believes the boy is real and the tales he tells about colours harming and seasons with minds of their own – but she lets best friends Belle and Jack in on the secret. Elliot is entrusted by the Princess to try to work out how to use the crack to bring her family back… that is if they are even there to begin with.

I love the characters in this series. They’re as vibrant as the colours which wreak havoc in the realm of Cello. Madeline is inquisitive and unwilling to take things on faith. She needs to find things out for herself and disbelieves things – even things in front of her very eyes – without some kind of scientific proof. Elliot is almost her opposite. He gives his all for everything he does and doesn’t do anything half-hearted. His belief in his family and himself is strong and he would do anything, sacrifice anything, for his loved ones. Where Madeline is theoretically based, Elliot is physical and spontaneous. They work well off each other despite being worlds apart – both physically and metaphorically.

This book is a great addition to the series. Elliot being inducted into the Royal Youth Alliance causes much drama. He has to covertly carry out secret missions for the Princess whilst at the same time pretending just to be there for the sake of uniting the Kingdom. His liaisons with Madeline grow strained under the pressures of the missions but throughout it all they are there for each other. Getting to experience what the different parts of the kingdom of Cello have to offer though Elliot’s eyes was interesting and I loved the trip to the Lake of Spells. Cello is a world that is full of magic and yet it feels believable because of how similar it is to the World Madeline inhabits.

At over 500 pages, this is a long book but it never felt that way. I couldn’t wait to find out what was next for Elliot and Madeline and their friends. The plot took me places I wasn’t expecting and I enjoyed the journey. There are surprises and a lot of questions still to be answered. What happened to the Royal Family? Will they come back? Why are the cracks between the worlds? What’s the deal with the rebels? And whilst many of these questions were not either fully or partially answered – I felt so involved in the story that I didn’t mind not knowing.

The ending was one I wasn’t anticipating but perfect. That said – I’m incredibly eager to find out what Jaclyn Moriarty has next install for Elliot, Madeline and the people of the two Worlds they come from. I enjoyed every step in this novel and recommend the series for fans of well written and exciting young adult literature.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for the review copy. 

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Also by Jaclyn Moriarty:

A Corner of White (The Colours of Madeleine, #1)

A Corner of White (The Colours of Madeline #1)

Book Review: The Queen’s Choice by Cayla Kluver

The Queen's Choice

Title: The Queen’s Choice (Heirs of Chrior Trilogy #1)
Author: Cayla Kluver
Genre: Fantasy, Fae, High Fantasy,  Young Adult
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: 28th January 2014
Pages: 500
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
My life is no longer mine to control. By a single deed, I have become something more than I wanted to be.

When sixteen-year-old Anya learns that her aunt — Queen of the Faerie Kingdom of Chrior — will soon die, her grief is equalled only by her despair for the future of the kingdom. Her young cousin, Illumina, is unfit to rule and Anya is determined not to take up the queen’s mantle herself.

Convinced that the only solution is to find Prince Zabriel — who long ago disappeared into the human realm of Warckum — and persuade him to take up his rightful crown, Anya journeys into the Warckum Territory to bring him home. But her journey is doomed to be more harrowing than she ever could have imagined…

My Review:

The Fae Queen is dying and wants her sixteen year old niece, Anya, to be her successor. Ruling her people is not something Anya thought she would be doing and instead decides to venture into Human lands and find her wayward cousin, the Queen’s half-human half-fae son and true heir to the Chrior throne, Prince Zabriel. Misfortune favours Anya as she journeys through the human realm of Warchum but she needs to complete her self-appointed mission before it’s too late for the Queen and her son to reconcile.

Anya is a very interdependent and strong young woman. Having to face horrors with an alarming frequency but somehow she manages to emerge slightly damaged but still with a fighting spirit. She’s gone though so much and despite having lost so much somehow she has even more taken from her. She does tend to feel sorry for herself at times and whilst it’s entrely understandable, it doesn’t make her the most enjoyable character to read. This story really gets going once Anya meets Shea. Shea is every bit as strong as Anya but without the street smarts and a little more naive about the darkness of human (and fae) nature. The camaraderie between the two was a pleasure to read and I loved how they supported each other.

There is a lot going on in this book. A gorgeous pirate and his mischievous crew, faeries with an innate connection to the elements, political unease between the Fae and Humans, an adventure and a quest and a lot of hidden motives. And I enjoyed reading Anya’s journey throughout the Human realm. However I almost didn’t finish this book. I was a hundred pages in and I didn’t feel a connection to the characters and found the book to be a little convoluted and monotonous. The writing is very descriptive but a little long-winded. This book would have benefited from being a little more direct and to the point. I’m so glad that I didn’t give up because after the first 20% this book is great. It’s still a little slow at times but the characters Anya meets on the way and the way events play out were well worth it. One thing that surprised me was how much I enjoyed the romance – or lack there of. Anya is betrothed to a lovely young fae man but it doesn’t overwhelm the story. This is not just a book about a girl choosing the man she wants to be with. It’s about so much more. Duty to one’s people and family. Risking everything to do what you believe is right. And to never give up no matter what hardships have been bestowed upon you.

I’ve not read a Cayla Kluver novel before but I am delighted to have finished the Queen’s Choice. There are twists I didn’t see coming and have me eagerly anticipating the next books in the series. I have so many questions but they are the good kind of questions where I can’t wait to see just where Kluver is going to take Anya, Zabriel and the unrest between the two realms next.

 Thanks to Harlequin Teen and for the review copy. 

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: Taste of Darkness by Maria V Snyder

Taste of Darkness (Healer, #3)

Title: Taste of Darkness (Healer #3)
Author: Maria V Snyder
Genre: Fantasy, Magic, Young Adult, Last in a Series
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: January 2014
Pages: 458
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
She’s fought death and won. But how can she fight her fears?

Avry knows hardship and trouble. She fought the plague and survived. She took on King Tohon and defeated him. But now her heart-mate, Kerrick, is missing, and Avry fears he’s gone forever.

But there’s a more immediate threat. The Skeleton King plots to claim the Fifteen Realms for his own. With armies in disarray and the dead not staying down, Avry’s healing powers are needed now more than ever.Torn between love and loyalty, Avry must choose her path carefully. For the future of her world depends on her decision.

My Review:

The war for control of the Fifteen Realms is just getting started. King Tohon may be no longer a threat but there are many factions all vying for the crown. The Skeleton King with a passion for human flesh, Estrid’s forces and former rivals coming back out of the wood work, Avry and her faithful friends have their hands full. With a mutated version of the Plague back in the mix, Avry needs to stay strong and do whatever she can for the cause.

Maria V Snyder is not easy on her characters – they are living in the middle of a war and there are casualties to be had. Avry is trying to do the best she can to help Prince Ryne defeat his enemies and return the Fifteen Realms back to some sort of normality however, he is willing to do whatever it takes – sacrifice whoever he needs – in order to defeat the others. Avry is such a great character. She’s determined to do what is right for herself and doesn’t take orders very well. Her bickering with Ryne is somewhat reminiscent of just how  she used to banter with Kerrick in the first book and it’s nice to know that despite all that has changed, some things stay the same.

There is so much happening in this book. I was a little critical of Scent of Magic because I thought it felt like a bridging novel. And whilst I still believe that – it was worth reading to get to this book. As far as final books in a series go, Taste of Darkness is amazing. Things referenced in the first novel are re-addressed and everything that happened in the first two novels was leading to this moment. We get to see more about the different magic users and the extent in which some of their power and affinities effect them.

One of the things I’ve liked most about this series is Avry and her relationships with her friends – Flea, Belen, the Monkeys and Kerrick – and that hasn’t changed. As they grow older and wiser, their relationships have strengthened throughout all they have experienced. Avry’s romantic relationship with Kerrick is at times heartbreaking but these are two characters which bring out the best in each other and whilst they don’t always agree with each other, they do support one another’s decisions.

This is the first series by Maria V Snyder that I’ve read and I loved getting to experience the world she created and witness the battle of the Fifteen Realms. She’s a great fantasy author and I will definitely be reading some of her other books now that I’ve finished reading the Healer series.

 

 Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for the review copy. 

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Blog Tour: Captivate by Vanessa Garden

Button-long_captivate_final

Happy Friday the Thirteenth! On this very auspicious day I’m very honoured to be a part of the Harlequin Teen Australia blog tour for Vanessa Garden’s debut novel. Captivate. The cover is gorgeous and the book is a great read. Hope you enjoy my review and character spotlight on Miranda! 🙂

Title: CaptivateCaptivate
Author: Vanessa Garden
Genre: Mermaids, Paranormal, Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Date Published: January 2014
Pages: 304
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
In a glittering underwater world, nothing is as it seems…

For the past twelve months since her parents’ death, seventeen-year-old Miranda Sun has harboured a dark secret — a secret that has strained the close relationship she once shared with her older sister, Lauren. In an effort to repair this broken bond, Miranda’s grandparents whisk the siblings away on a secluded beach holiday. Except before Miranda gets a chance to confess her life-changing secret, she’s dragged underwater by a mysterious stranger while taking a midnight swim.

Awakening days later, Miranda discovers that she’s being held captive in a glittering underwater city by an arrogant young man named Marko…the King of this underwater civilisation.

Nineteen-year-old Marko intends to marry Miranda in order to keep his crown from falling into the sinister clutches of his half-brother, Damir. There’s only one problem. Miranda is desperate to return home to right things with her sister and she wants nothing to do with Marko. Trying to secure her freedom, Miranda quickly forms an alliance with Robbie — Marko’s personal guard. However, she soon discovers that even underwater, people are hiding dangerous secrets…

My Review:

A few days before the first anniversary of her parents’ death – and her seventeenth birthday – Miranda, her older sister Lauren and their grandparents holiday at their beach side shack on Bob’s Bay to try and escape. But during a midnight swim with Lauren, Miranda gets taken. Waking up in a mysterious place, Miranda is determined to get back to her family and her life. But a break out is not an option because Miranda has been taken to an underwater city known as Marin and she’s a very valuable asset. King Marko needs Miranda to save the city from his enemies and isn’t likely to let her go any time soon. Miranda’s only hope of escape is to hope that Robbie, the King’s personal guard, best friend and the very person who took Miranda in the first place, will help her return to her family. But with the dangers lurking below and Marin’s version of a sun memorizing her into forgetting her past, Miranda might be captive and captivated in Marin forever…

It took me a little while to get into this book and some time to warm to Miranda but once I did I loved getting to experience the world of Marin. The world building is one of its strengths and I thoroughly enjoyed learning as Miranda did about day to day life and the origins of the incredible underwater city. Whilst the citizens are not mermaids, I still liked the mermaid elements that we got to see.

Miranda is a character that I grew to like very much. Her bold personality and brave actions made her interesting to read and I wanted things to go right for her. She didn’t give up nor did she let her capture define or defeat her. I thought that she coped with her situation incredibly well. Her relationships with King Marko, Robbie and the other people of Marin were fascinating. I didn’t feel entirely convinced by the romance that bloomed between Marko and Miranda mostly because of the pacing but I do think they are a promising couple.

Captivate is a great start to what promises to be an interesting series. There are characters with some secrets and not entirely clear motivations, handsome love interests and a world that is nothing quite like any that I’ve read before. I’m glad I got to read this novel by Vanessa Garden and after the ending in Captivate am eagerly awaiting another instalment of Miranda’s Marin adventures.

Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for the review copy

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Character Spotlight!

Name: Miranda Sun

Nickname: Randy

Birth date: January 13th, 

Age: 16 (turns 17 during Captivate)

Appearance: Long chocolate brown hair, 

Family: Lauren (older sister), Nana and Pop (grandparents). Parents died on Miranda’s 16th birthday in a car accident. 

Personality: Miranda is brave, stubborn and determined. She believes she is dangerous to everyone she loves. She’s fiercely loyal and a fighter who will do what she can to protect her loved ones. 

Other Interesting Facts: 

• Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is her favourite book

• Can appreciate beauty of Marin despite her captivity there

• Feels inferior compared to her sister, Lauren, and lives in her shadow

• Is not the most graceful dancer

• Feels responsible for her parents’ death.

AUTHOR BIO

Vanessa Garden

A bookseller and Young Adult author, Vanessa loves nothing more than immersing herself in the exciting world of books. When she is not raving about her favourite reads with customers, or mentally casting actors to play the characters in her next novel, she enjoys hanging out with those she loves most.

Vanessa is represented by Helen Breitwieser of Cornerstone Literary Agency.

Author Links:

Novella Review: Blood Phantom by Rhiannon Hart

Blood Phantom (Lharmell, #0.5)

Title: Blood Phantom (Lharmell #0.5)
Author: Rhiannon Hart
Genre: Young Adult, Vampires, Fantasy, 
Publisher: Curtis Brown Digital
Publication Date: 9th December 2013
Pages: 15
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Life in tatters and far from home, Rodden Lothskorn struggles to cope with the harming menace and his own harming nature. When an offer of marriage reaches his friend, Prince Amis, Rodden discovers that the bride’s inhospitable homeland might contain one part of the harming poison he would dearly like to get his hands on. But if summoned northwards, will Princess Lilith bring something – or someone – he dreads most with her? Locked in a years-long struggle with the Lharmellins, Rodden senses the battle is only now about to begin.

My Review:

This short novella gives us a brief glance into Rodden’s life before Zeraphina. I’ve always liked Rodden and I’m so pleased that Rhiannon Hart gave us this short story from his point of view. From the castle as Amis’ best friend and advisor right up till finding Zeraphina and learning what she is – this is a great addition to the Lharmell series. Roddin is the same amazing character that I liked from Blood Song and Blood Storm but seeing the world from his eyes – just made him more well rounded and enjoyable for me.

At only 15 pages, Blood Phantom is just enough to whet my appetite and I am now eagerly anticipating the release of Blood Queen that much more! This remains one of my favourite series and I recommend this novella to all fans of Zeraphina, Rodden and Lharmell!

Note:

I have to say that I adore the new style of cover that Blood Phantom and Blood Queen (expected publication is April 15. 2014) have compared to those of Blood Song and Blood Storm. I feel like this darker theme are more fitting to the amazing story within their pages than the first two books – which whilst gorgeous never seemed to fit for me.

Blood Song (Lharmell, #1) Blood Storm (Lharmell, #2) Blood Phantom (Lharmell, #0.5) Blood Queen (Lharmell, #3)

 

Thanks to the author for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Book Review: A Wicked Kind of Dark by Jonathan K Benton

A Wicked Kind of Dark

Title: A Wicked Kind of Dark (The Minaea Chronicles #1)
Author: Jonathan K Benton
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, 
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Publication Date: September 2013
Pages: 267
Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Robert Duncan no longer believes in magic. A mysterious call about a blood moon, however, leads him back to the magical world of his childhood and to Luthien, the beautiful girl with flame-coloured hair, who he loved and lost.

As Robert unravels the secrets of his childhood, darkness enters his life and an ancient evil awakens. To have any chance of defeating the dark forces that would destroy two worlds, Robert must find Luthien before the rise of the blood moon. He must, once more, believe in magic …

A Wicked Kind of Dark mixes vast and spectacular fantasy landscapes with gritty urban reality. A must-read for people of all ages who believe in the power of imagination, and the importance of never losing touch with your inner child

My Review:

It starts with a phone call, mysterious graffiti and a name. Luthien.

Robert Duncan can’t remember six months of his life after his parents died in a tragic house fire. One day he gets a phone call from a woman screaming at him to help Luthien before it’s too late – the only problem is that Robert has never heard the name before… or maybe he has. Robert sees a painting of a beautiful flame-haired girl and knows instinctively that it’s her. The girl he’s supposed to save – his Luthien. With the help of Dennis and Arthur – former alcoholics who have been shown the way by The Sparkling Man – Robert starts to question the Winter of No Content, as he calls his half-year period of amnesia. Who is Luthien to him and why is Robert the only one who can save her?

Conceptually I loved this book. There’s a lot of mystery mixed in with a great dose of fantasy. The ideas of the twin souls and distant realms to be travelled to through the power of the mind are incredible. The world of Minaea and the creatures who inhabit it are interesting and remind me of other fantasy kingdoms I’ve read before – in a good way. I liked the adventure Robert went on and how the plot developed as the story went on. I enjoyed Benton’s use of language to paint the scene. I adored his use of colour at the start of chapter one.

Where this book falls down for me is whilst I liked the ideas, I found it fell down a little in terms of execution. There were many times when I found myself slightly confused as to exactly who certain characters were. I also think that Robert felt a little old – his ability to instantly believe the impossible felt more appropriate for the young boy he had been prior the Winter of No Content rather than the young man on the verge of adulthood that he is in present day. That aside – this is a great read.

A Wicked Kind of Dark is an interesting read with fantasy elements that also touches on social issues like homelessness and alcoholism. A great debut for author Jonathan K Benton, this first book of the Minaea Chronicles offers fantasy lovers an exciting read with fantastic ideas.

 

Thanks to Odyssey Books for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season

Title: The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1)
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: August 2013
Pages: 466
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

My Review:

I’m always nervous to read books that have a lot of hype surrounding them. I don’t want to feel let down and so it was with some trepidation that I started to read The Bone SeasonThe first in a seven part series, this debut novel by twenty-one-year-old Samantha Shannon is an adventure into a world similar but so very different from our own. The story begins in 2059, London with Paige Mahoney, a nineteen-year-old clairvoyant dream walker. Clairvoyants (or ‘voyants’ as they are also known as) are forced into the criminal underground or risk being caught and locked up by the Scion – the current ruling body of the continent.

Whilst she may be on the other side of the law, Paige has a nice set up. Working for Jaxon (Jax) Hall and breaking into other people’s minds from a distance for their secrets and information, Paige is safe from the reach of the Scion. That is until an incident causes everything to change. Paige gets captured and taken to the Tower. And things are just getting started.

There’s so much that goes on in this novel. The blurb doesn’t even begin to touch on Paige’s troubles. There’s an alien race known as the Rephaite who ‘feed’ on the voyants and need them to keep alive. Their way of life and their parasitical nature is simultaneously obscene and compelling. I loved how this book began. Paige is one of the good guys – despite working for an underworld lord like Jax and some of the things she has to do to keep alive throughout the novel. She’s intelligent and resourceful and well-intentioned. But she’s not a pushover and she does have her flaws. There were times when I felt like some of the circumstances around Paige were a little too fortuitous and convenient (like the length of stay in the Tower compared to others) but I understand that these things were essential for the overall big picture.

The other characters are just as interesting and three-dimensional as Paige. Jax – who isn’t seen very much in this first book but has so much potential – fascinated me. And then there’s Warden. He’s mysterious and it’s unclear as to what his endgame is just yet but you just know that it’s going to be worthwhile continuing reading to find out. There are a whole cast of other characters I could go on forever about. What I like most about them is that every character – human or Rephaite – has their own agenda. Be it world domination or just being alive to see the sunset tomorrow – Shannon has done an amazing job of bringing them all together in a way that feels right for each individual character.

As should be expected in the first novel of a long series is some world building – and there is a fair amount of it in The Bone Season. Whilst essential to help build the plot and understand the race who inhabit the universe that’s been created, there were times when I did start to feel a little overwhelmed with just how much was going on. That said – the Seven Orders of Clairvoyance, the mysterious Rephaite colony in Oxford and criminal syndicate in which Paige worked – are all beautifully created with a lot of depth and detail.

This is a long novel and I was impressed with the level of research that you could tell went into the story. I’ve heard people call this book a young adult novel but that’s not how I’d describe it. I think it’s an adult book which many teenagers would enjoy. It gets quite dark sometimes with Shannon treating the characters she created quite badly at times but there is still an element of hope. I can’t wait for the second book which Shannon is currently writing to be released and have high hopes of what is to come next in this series!

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Last night I had the pleasure of being apart of a panel that The Reading Room put together in order to conduct an online interview with Samantha Shannon. She was absolutely lovely, taking the time to answer all of our questions. I’ve posted the video below in case you want to check it out!