Book Review: Traitor to the Throne (Alwyn Hamilton)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Faber and Faber

Pages: 512

Release Date: February 4th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

This is not about blood or love. This is about treason.

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince’s message has spread across the desert – and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl’s instinct for survival. For the Sultan’s palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper’s nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive… But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani’s past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.

Review:

I was lucky enough to have this granted as a wish on NetGalley (just like the first book!), so big thanks to them and the publisher for the opportunity to read it.

I loved Rebel of the Sands last year and was itching to get my hands on the sequel. It’s been a while since I read the first book and it did take me a little while to ease back into the world and characters. I couldn’t quite remember who everyone was or what had happened, but luckily there’s a little recap and character guide at the start of this book, which I appreciated. More sequels need that!

The book plunges straight into the action, which threw me a little a first but I soon got into the swing of things. My gripe was that I couldn’t figure out how much time had passed since the last book. Worse, some big stuff had gone down between Amani and Jin and we weren’t privvy to any of it: it all happened between books and we just saw the fallout of it. It was a bit frustrating, but I still loved their relationship.

After seeing Amani discover her powers in the last book, way this book explored the Djinni powers and rules. Having to obey orders under certain circumstances, being unable to lie, powers of disguise and illusion: it all makes for one fascinating read with so many twists you could never tell where it was going next.

I love the intrigue and intricacies of the court, the relationships there and the balance and fight for power, trying to figure out who was lying and who could be trusted. It’s so different from the dessert world and rebel camp of the first book but I still enjoyed it, even if I did miss Amani having a gun in her hand. She proved that she was capable of looking after herself without any weapons or powers at all, and that just makes her all the more dangerous and awesome.

While I did miss some of the characters from the last book – Jin, Ahmed etc – who don’t appear as much, there were some amazing new characters and the return of a few I didn’t expect. I won’t spoil those here but man, I learned to love/respect a character I didn’t think I could! The book was full of myth and stories too that really bring the world to life: I can fully believe this is a real, functioning world and not something made just to tell this one story. It has history and depth and I just want to disappear into it.

The best part of the book was Amani’s relationship with the Sultan. For someone who was built up as evil in the last book… I weirdly kind of liked him. And that’s what made him so dangerous. Even Amani found herself coming round to his way of thinking sometimes and that’s what made him so formidable: he was persuasive and somehow made you crave his approval.

The ending was so incredible. It was the perfect climax of thinking their grand plan was going to work and then seeing everything falling around their feet. My heart was actual pounding as I finished the last page and I can’t believe I’ll have to wait a year or more for the sequel. Write fast, Alwyn!

If you’ve not picked up this series yet then do it now, it’s unlike any YA I’ve ever read and I can’t get enough the characters and the rich, beautiful world.

Copy of an art exhibit

Please Don’t Say ‘Teething’

From around 6 months, babies generally start getting their first teeth. Obviously this can vary wildly: some babies are born with teeth, some remain gummy for their first birthday. Little Moore looks like he’s going to make it past 1 with no signs of teeth.

It doesn’t bother me. Obviously they will come eventually, and in the meantime it’s a blessing if anything: I’m still breastfeeding and haven’t had to go through the painful ‘don’t bite Mummy’s nipple with your new teeth’ phase that my sister had to go through.

What does bother me is how every single thing he does makes people tell me with self assured conviction that he is teething.

At 5 months he was insanely dribbly – we had to change bibs every hour or less to stop him from soaking through his clothes – and relatives, friends, even complete strangers told me he was very definitely teething.

At 6 months when he started chewing on everything he could get his hands on, they reassured me we’d see teeth any day now.

If he slept badly, had a whingey day, had a sore bum or stuck his fist in his mouth, everyone would say he was teething. Even people who don’t have kids of their own seemed very confident in the fact.

Now, at nearly 11 months, there’s not a single tooth stub in his mouth.

What annoys me is the way people say it, as if they know best and I’m an idiot. What annoys me even more is that at some point they’ll be right. One day a tooth will pop through and they’ll say, ‘I told you he was teething’. Because if you keep repeating it, it’s eventually going to come true.

It’s just a little pet peeve. But I might bite the next person who tells me he’s teething.

Rant over 🙂

Book Review: Fir (Sharon Gosling)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Stripes Publishing

Pages: 384

Release Date: February 9th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

We are the trees. We are the snow.

We are the winter.

We are the peace. We are the rage.

Cut off from civilization by the harsh winter of northern Sweden, the Stromberg family shelter in their old plantation house. There are figures lurking in the ancient pine forests and they’re closing in. With nothing but four walls between the Strombergs and the evil that’s outside, they watch and wait for the snows to melt.

But in the face of signs that there’s an even greater danger waiting to strike, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish reality from illusion. All they’ve got to do is stay sane and survive the winter…

Review:

I love the Red Eye series of young adult horror books – when I first started reading these they were something really different for me and I loved it. 2 years on and I still get excited when a new one comes out – with this one I was lucky enough to get an invite only download on NetGalley, so thank you so much to Stripes for the copy!

The setting for this book is very creepy. Isolation is a big thing in horror and Fir does it perfectly: the Stromberg family move to an old plantation house in  a forest, cut off from civilization by distance, no internet, and harsh winter weather. The group of children studying the trees there leave for winter after a tragic accident and the family are left with just the creepy old maid Dorothea for company.

The novel built atmosphere well, not only with the isolation but the heavy presence of the trees and the unease as the family grows distant and starts to fall apart. The dad is determined to stay put and make things work, the mum is increasingly depressed and the child keeps seeing wolves and children outside in the snow. Dorothea tells them about the varulv, a forest spirit fused between a human and a wolf.

My main gripe with the book was that I didn’t connect with the main character. They were snarky and moody and quite typically teenage, but I didn’t feel they had much in the way of redeeming qualities. While I liked the story, I didn’t like their story, if that made sense. I got part way book and realised I didn’t know if they were a boy or girl, I couldn’t even remember their name. I thought that was me not reading it properly, but the more I read the more I realised this was on purpose. I won’t say why because I don’t want to spoil it, but this was one of my favourite parts of the book once I understood what was going on.

The ending was a bit frustrating in its ambiguity. After all the tension and fear, I wanted a bit more from the climax. I’m usually a fan of ambiguous endings but this was one I wanted to see more of. Still, I suppose it’s better to be left wanting more!

This was a really creepy book to read during winter – I only wish England had more snow to really match the atmosphere!

4

Book Review: Heartless (Marissa Meyer)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 464

Release Date: February 9th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Review:

I’ve mentioned this a few times on my blog before, but I’m a big Alice in Wonderland fan. I’ll read anything remotely to do with it, so when I saw this on NetGalley, I couldn’t pass it up. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Heartless tells the story of Cath, the future Queen of Hearts, although it’s hard to see that at the start. I liked Cath, and that kept me reading as I wondered what the hell could have happened to her to turn her into the Queen of Hearts that we all know. She leads the book perfectly: she’s not interested in marrying the King for power, as her mother is.  No, she wants to open a bakery with Mary Ann, her servant and close friend. This is another thing that I’d never thought of before but makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t she want to bake, it’s in the rhyme, right? The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer’s day. There loads of these kind of things woven into the book and it shows that Meyer really did her research and it just makes the book.

Cath didn’t want to marry the King, and I can see why, but I have a weird soft spot for him. He’s just so childlike and silly, it made him great to read. No, I wouldn’t want to marry him if I was in her shoes, but to read he was fab. Instead, Cath falls for the Jest, the new Joker; he’s funny and charming and has a mysterious past, all the things you want in a love interest. He shows Cath things in Wonderland she doesn’t get to see as the daughter of a Marquess, including – of course – a tea party with Hatta (who’s not yet mad).

Wonderland is brought to life beautifully, with a lot of characters that you know and love from the original story. My favourite was the turtle: I guessed early on that he’d end up as a mock turtle somehow, but I’ve always wondered how that happened. I also loved the story with Peter Peter. I came across that rhyme in a book with Little Moore recently but somehow didn’t twig he was going to be the Peter from the rhyme. I loved that the little girls who live in the treacle well played an interesting part in the book: it’s another tiny part of Wonderland that Meyer has fleshed out and made her own.

I seriously enjoyed this book and I know I’ll be recommending it to everyone., Wonderland fan or not. There’s enough of the original in here for fans to enjoy but what really makes the book is her own inventions and twists that bring Wonderland to life.

4