Leviathan by: Scott Westerfeld

Summary:

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

The Review:

This book has been on my TBR for a long time, and I finally picked it up last week, and now I am kicking myself wondering why it took me so long to read this book.

The story is set within an alternative historical take on World War II, with a lot of steampunk elements to it. It makes a few changes such as hanging how the war started. Instead of an assassination it was a poisoning of the Archduke and his wife that started the war. Now Alek is on the run from those who want to kill him, especially with him being an heir to Austria-Hungary.

With the elements of World War I, was really good. Westerfeld added the Clankers vs. Darwinists twist to the story. I really liked the design of the Clankers, they reminded me a lot of the AT-ATs from Star Wars, and it still felt like it was built in World War I. The Darwinists has vehicles lead by animals. Seeing the designs in the book really made it easier to be pictured in my head.

Alek, is one of the main protagonists, and while he is prince, he doesn’t come across as snobby and he always wants in on the action. Throughout the book he is of course on the run, and trying to figure out what happened to his parents. Deryn is another protagonist. She dresses up like a boy in order to join the army. She is very brilliant, and she reminded me a lot of Herminone with a little bit of Mulan in her. I like how you see the war from her point of view, and I also like seeing the Darwinists and their ships. She spends a majority of the time training with them.

I also really like the supporting characters. Count Volger is a great father figure to Alek after his parents die. Dr. Nora Barlow is a British scientist who has a great personality and is very brilliant.

The world building is also really good. Scott Westerfeld does a good job at presenting us with a World War I, with a lot of great steampunk elements to it, and it doesn’t feel like it was out of date, which is a real danger when dealing with steampunk set in the past. It also provided a lot of elements and information about World War I without feeling as if it was info dumping.

In the end, Leviathan was a very good read, that takes Alternative Historical fiction and mixes a lot of steampunk and science fiction elements to it. Both characters are extremely well developed and the plot has you turning the page at every turn.

Grade: 5/5

 

A Gathering of Shadows by: V.E. Schwab

Summary:

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

The Review:

Earlier this year, I had the great pleasure of reading and loving A Darker Shade of Magic, so of course I wanted to continue the story and the characters of both Kell and Lila.

The story picks up four months after the events of the first book and both Kell and Lila are on their separate ways. Lila is a pirate with her own crew on the Night Spire and is aided by Captain Alucard Emery, who acts as a mentor towards Lila throughout the book. Lila also begins to develop her magical abilities and Emery tries to get her to channel her new abilities.

Kell is back with Rhy and their brotherly bond is stronger, especially after being bound to him at the end of the previous book. You really see how they are bounded to one another and it makes their relationship a lot stronger and see each as brothers. But Rhys’s parents, the King and Queen still see Kell as a servant, which also affected his relationship with Rhy. The book added a lot of Rhy chapters, which really aided in his character development, and seeing the Kell/Rhy relationship from his perspective.

The main plot of the book is dealing primarily with the Essen Tach, a magical tournament, which pits magicians from different Londons against one another. Both Lila and Kell spend a majority of the book training for that tournament and both have different reasons for entering. It is because of that tournament they were finally reunited.

Both Kell and Lila spend a majority of the book apart from one another, which was one of my main gripes with it, mainly because I love both of them together, but I think it was needed to further develop them separately. But I did like the scene when Kell found out he was fighting Lila in the middle of the fight.

I also really liked the concept of the Essen Tach tournament, and you got see many of the different Londons and how magic is used in those Londons. There was also the development of Holland, while it wasn’t a huge shocker that he was still alive but he spent most of his time planning his return. even though his chapters were very brief it did explain a lot about his character. Also the climax was also really good and it had so many twists and turns. It also had a really a really good cliffhanger, that makes me so excited to read A Conjuring of Light.

It would also feel like I am repeating myself with how great the writing. But the writing was extremely well done, and VE Schwab keeps proving why she is one of my favorite authors. Every word she makes is extremely well done and she also does a good job at keeping the pace up. I was never bored when reading the book.

In the end, Gathering of Shadows was a really good sequel, and while it was not as plot driven as A Darker Shade of Magic, it did a good job at developing characters that I already love and also the world it is set in.

Grade: 4.5/5

Fate of Flames by: Sarah Raughley

Summary:

Years ago, everything changed. Phantoms, massive beasts of nightmare, began terrorizing the world. At the same time four girls, the Effigies, appeared, each with the unique power to control a classical element. Since then, they have protected the world from the Phantoms. At the death of one Effigy, another is chosen, pulled from her normal life into the never-ending battle.

When Maia unexpectedly becomes the next Fire Effigy, she resists her new calling. A quiet girl with few friends and almost no family, she was much happier to admire the Effigies from afar. Never did she imagine having to master her ability to control fire, to protect innocent citizens from the Phantoms, or to try bringing together the other three Effigies.

But with the arrival of the mysterious Saul—a man who seems to be able to control the Phantoms using the same cosmic power previously only granted to four girls at a time—Maia and the other Effigies must learn to work together in a world where their celebrity is more important than their heroism.

But the secrets Saul has, and the power he possesses, might be more than even they can handle…

The Review:

If you saw my Top 5 Wednesday: SFF Books on your TBR, then you know that this book was on my list, mainly because of the premise which states “Pacific Rim meets Sailor Moon” two of my favorite things.

I would described this book as a two hour pilot to a TV show, in which it has a lot of world building and setting up characters and their arcs. With it’s world building it is set in a world in which “phantoms” attack and it is the job of the Effigies to stop them. There is suppose to be four Effigies at a time and a new one becomes active after one dies. It kinda reminded me a lot of Buffy in that sense.

Maia was a very good protagonist. I like that at first, she is very starstruck by the other Effigies and acts like a fan girl when she first meets them, especially her first encounter with Belle. She was very smart and know what was going on. With her as a main character a lot of the info dumping is done through her which made it seem more natural rather than boring.

The other Effigies; Belle, Lake and Chae Rin, were also great characters, you really felt as if they were a team. Also individually they were all great as well. If I were to pick a favorite it would definitely be Lake, mainly because she is a singer and I also love her attitude. I kinda wish that I got to see more of them together. Hopefully future books will give them more development because I really like the characters.

The book does a good job at setting up the world it is placed in and the conflict it was. The Effigies work for the Sect, who basically train them and sets them up on missions. They pretty much reminded me of SHIELD.

I thought the main villain, Saul was a bit under developed. While you do see why he did what he did, I kinda wish it was a bit fleshed out more. I think it will be fleshed out more in future  books.

I thought the action was also very well done. While yes, most of action takes place in the beginning and the end, it was extremely worth and all I kept picturing was Pacific Rim monsters being attacked by the Sailor scouts. I also picture the phantoms sort of like the Kaiju from Pacific Rim

In the end, Fate of Flames was a very good first book. It did a good job at world building and setting up the characters. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Grade: 3.8/5