Review: “Kinslayer (Lotus War #2)” by Jay Kristoff


15773979Title: “Kinslayer”

Author: Jay Kristoff

Genre: Alternate Universe/History, Steampunk, AWESOME

Publication Date: September 17, 2013 (SMP/Macmillan – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: A SHATTERED EMPIRE
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.

☆: 5/5 stars – an absolutely awesome follow-up to book one!

Review: Because this book was more or less just as awesome in terms of all of the technical aspects of writing when compared to book one, I’m going to instead focus this review on one very interesting theme that I found ongoing throughout this installment of the series, and there will be some speculation if some of the finer aspects of that theme were intentional or not on Kristoff’s part. That being said, it’s no surprise that the followup to “Stormdancer” was awesome, but it felt like Kristoff grew a great deal between both books, and it shows. We’re moving more and more into adult territory with not only what actually happens plot-wise with Yukiko and company, but with themes and the like. And it’s a lovely thing to behold. If you’ve read “Stormdancer” and liked it, you’re going to love “Kinslayer”.

Continue reading

“A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Strange #2)” by Susan Dennard


13624584Title: “A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Strange #2)”

Author: Susan Dennard

Genre: YA, alternate history/parallel universes, zombies, steampunk, paranormal

Publication Date: July 23, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Following an all-out battle with the walking Dead, the Spirit Hunters have fled Philadelphia, leaving Eleanor alone to cope with the devastating aftermath. But there’s more trouble ahead—the evil necromancer Marcus has returned, and his diabolical advances have Eleanor escaping to Paris to seek the help of Joseph, Jie, and the infuriatingly handsome Daniel once again. When she arrives, however, she finds a whole new darkness lurking in this City of Light. As harrowing events unfold, Eleanor is forced to make a deadly decision that will mean life or death for everyone.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – a sequel that shines brighter than its first book!

Review: I think I can honestly say that this sequel(and what looks to be a middle book in a trilogy?) is stronger than its initial first book in this series. Seriously. “Strange and Lovely” builds upon everything set up in book one, but it also has a lot more tension (almost tension on every page), and we get more worldbuilding, more new awesome characters, and a sea change in everyone we got to know in love back in book one. If you’re looking for one of the best sophomoric efforts this year in YA, look no further than “A Darkness Strange and Lovely”.

Continue reading

Review: “Weather Witch” by Shannon Delany


Weather WitchTitle: “Weather Witch”

Author: Shannon Delany

Genre: YA, alternate universe/timeline, PNR, UF, steampunk, paranormal dystopia

Publication Date: June 25, 2013 (SMP – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided finished copy

Summary: In a vastly different and darker Philadelphia of 1844, steam power has been repressed, war threatens from deep, dark waters, and one young lady of high social standing is expecting a surprise at her seventeenth birthday party–but certainly not the one she gets!

Jordan Astraea, who has lived out all of her life in Philadelphia’s most exclusive neighborhood, is preparing to celebrate her birthday with friends, family and all the extravagance they might muster. The young man who is most often her dashing companion, Rowen Burchette, has told her a surprise awaits her and her best friend, Catrina Hollindale, wouldn’t miss this night for all the world!

But storm clouds are gathering and threatening to do far more than dampen her party plans because someone in the Astraea household has committed the greatest of social sins by Harboring a Weather Witch.

☆: 3/5 stars – a solid first book in a new series!

Review: Oh, “Weather Witch”. What to do with you? While absolutely awesome in basic concept, plot, and worldbuilding, I couldn’t entirely get on board with this book. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it – I did, and quite a bit. But I guess it’s another case of blurb seduction, but I just expected a whole lot more than I got. But it is a solid first book in a new series, and while I haven’t made up my mind as to whether I’m going to read book 2 yet or not, it’s still a great summer read, and a whole lot of fun. If you’re looking for something a little more original in your steampunk/alternate history PNR YA genre stories, definitely check out “Weather Witch”.

Continue reading

Review: Weather Witch by Shannon Delany


Weather WitchTitle: Weather Witch

Author: Shannon Delany

Genre: Historical, Alternate Universe, Steampunk, Paranormal

Publication Date: June 25, 2013

Source: Finished paperback from the publisher for review

Synopsis: In a vastly different and darker Philadelphia of 1844, steam power has been repressed, war threatens from deep, dark waters, and one young lady of high social standing is expecting a surprise at her seventeenth birthday party–but certainly not the one she gets!

Jordan Astraea, who has lived out all of her life in Philadelphia’s most exclusive neighborhood, is preparing to celebrate her birthday with friends, family and all the extravagance they might muster. The young man who is most often her dashing companion, Rowen Burchette, has told her a surprise awaits her and her best friend, Catrina Hollindale, wouldn’t miss this night for all the world!

But storm clouds are gathering and threatening to do far more than dampen her party plans because someone in the Astraea household has committed the greatest of social sins by Harboring a Weather Witch.

☆: 3/5 stars -Despite a myriad of problems, this is a lot of fun!

Delany’s werewolf series never caught my attention because werewolves don’t work well with me, but steampunk and Weather Witches? Now that sounded fun, especially after a copy of Weather Witch showed up on my doorstep and gave me the pretty-cover equivalent of puppy eyes. There’s a lot that needs improvement, but despite it all, Weather Witch is a really fun read and would be especially good for an airplane ride or similar trip.

Delany’s strongest suit in her novel is easily the ideas, especially the idea behind the Weather Witches. Their horrible treatment and how society is largely conditioned to be okay with it lends a little dystopian element to the novel, though it’s not strong enough to earn it the label. With a little more explanation of terms like Lighting Up, Drawing Down, and other ominously capitalized terms, the Witches could have been even more strongly characterized (though they’re pretty well-characterized as they are after the ultimate truth behind their origin is revealed).

I still have one question, though: if a Weather Witch is how the settlers made it safely to the New World and avoided being eaten by the vicious mermaid-like Merrow, why hate them so much and force them into slavery?

The society Delany builds is a little silly with its class system and how people say they’re Fifth of the Nine or another number to announce their class to others (First of the Nine being the highest, I believe), but the Victorian-esque society is an easy one to dive into thanks to its familiarity. Not even the sometimes-overwrought prose had the ability to shake me for long! What did shake me was how little time each POV got because there were simply too many POVs in this little book. Two of them really had my attention, but due to the split between those and the four or five others, they didn’t get all the attention they deserved.

Finally, I come to the characters themselves. Jordan’s story is the one most worth caring about because we’re never sure if she’s been framed or if she’s really a Weather Witch. There’s strong evidence on both sides and the eventual explanation of it? Pretty brilliant! I’ve got no clue if it’s even remotely possible, but due to the paranormal elements of it all, I’ll let it slide and take the explanation as it is. The Maker’s POV is predictable but still sweet. If only his relationship with his long-lost daughter had been incorporated into Jordan’s POV so we’d see their growing relationship through her eyes and have more time in her head…

Oh well! Besides all that, Rowen’s part of the story may have been the weakest. There’s not terribly much that happens in Weather Witch, but his story has the least progress of any of them. Jordan gets taken away, he kills a man in a duel, and goes on a journey to find and rescue Jordan. That’s all there really is to his and it’s not that necessary. Marion’s POV and his desire for revenge aren’t much stronger than Rowen’s sections, but they’ve got potential and there’s no doubt they’ll go somewhere delicious in the next novel!

It may sound like I didn’t like Weather Witch much at all, but it’s fun enough that I might keep an eye out for Stormbringer, the next novel in the series. Here’s hoping it trims down the POVs, focuses more on those few plot lines, and gives the characters the depth they deserve.

Review: “Legacy of the Clockwork Key” by Kristin Bailey


13629923Title: “Legacy of the Clockwork Key”

Author: Kristin Bailey

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Alternate History, Steampunk

Publication Date: March 5, 2013 (Simon Pulse – North America)

Source: Edelweiss Review Copy

Summary: A teen girl unravels the mysteries of a secret society and their most dangerous invention in this adventure-swept romance set in Victorian London.

When a fire consumes Meg’s home, killing her parents and destroying both her fortune and her future, all she has left is the tarnished pocket watch she rescued from the ashes. But this is no ordinary timepiece. The clock turns out to be a mechanical key—a key that only Meg can use—that unlocks a series of deadly secrets and intricate clues that Meg is compelled to follow.

Meg has uncovered evidence of an elite secret society and a dangerous invention that some will stop at nothing to protect—and that Meg alone can destroy. Together with the handsome stable hand she barely knows but hopes she can trust, Meg is swept into a hidden world of deception, betrayal, and revenge.

☆: 3/5 stars – a solid debut, but had quite a few issues with it.

Review: Okay, so, I love steampunk, and I absolutely love the very firm foothold it’s gained within YA/MG within the last few years. I also love alternate universe/history stories and anything with a secret society? I’ll probably read it. So you can understand why I was really excited about “Clockwork Key” – it has all of those elements. However, I was a bit disappointed – while this book is a very solid debut, for vets of the steampunk genre like myself, it didn’t feel very new or exciting. However, I do think “Legend of the Clockwork Key” is going to be a great introduction book for the genre for younger YA or older MG readers.

Continue reading

Review: “Emilie and the Hollow World” by Martha Wells


13665428Title: “Emilie and the Hollow World”

Author: Martha Wells

Genre: MG/YA, Steampunk, Alternate History/Universe, Adventure, Retellings?

Publication Date: April 2, 2013 (Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot – North America)

Source: NetGalley Review Copy

Summary: While running away from home for reasons that are eminently defensible, Emilie’s plans to stow away on the steamship Merry Bell and reach her cousin in the big city go awry, landing her on the wrong ship and at the beginning of a fantastic adventure.

Taken under the protection of Lady Marlende, Emilie learns that the crew hopes to use the aether currents and an experimental engine, and with the assistance of Lord Engal, journey to the interior of the planet in search of Marlende’s missing father.

With the ship damaged on arrival, they attempt to traverse the strange lands on their quest. But when evidence points to sabotage and they encounter the treacherous Lord Ivers, along with the strange race of the sea-lands, Emilie has to make some challenging decisions and take daring action if they are ever to reach the surface world again.

☆: 4/5 stars – not a bad YA debut from Wells! Can’t wait for book 2!

Review: Okay, so this one is a bit hard to really talk about, guys. As much as I loved the idea and the creativity and the re-telling of “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, there was one kinda big issue I had with this book, and one I’ve found that’s pretty consistent with adult authors making their YA debuts (for the most part). However, most of it was mermaids and rainbows, so I really enjoyed “Emilie and the Hollow World”, and I can’t wait for book 2, due out next year. If you’re looking for something that’s both a retelling and very original, give “Emilie” a try.

Continue reading

Review: “The Friday Society” by Adrienne Kress


5623269Title: “The Friday Society”

Author: Adrienne Kress

Genre: YA, Alternative History, Steampunk

Publication Date: December 6, 2012 (Dial/Penguin – North America)

Source: Traded-for ARC

Summary:  Set in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician’s assistant. The three young women’s lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It’s up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling too much attention to themselves.

Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures

☆: 3/5 stars – a really fun debut that girls of any age will definitely enjoy!

Review: This one was a fun read, guys. If you’re looking for a good, bubblegum book, this is definitely your read. For some reason, it had me harkening back to the 90s “girl power” thing, I don’t know why, but maybe it was our empowered heroines. While there were a few things that bugged me, overall I did enjoy “The Friday Society” and recommend it to those looking for a fun fantasy novel to while away an afternoon with.
Continue reading