UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour: Interview with Rachel Ward

The UKYA Extravaganza is a (sold out) event at Birmingham High Street Waterstones, organised by Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass. Today is my turn on the UKYA Extravanganza Blog Tour, which has been going since the start of February and will be ending next week, after the event itself.

On my blog today we have Rachel Ward, author of the Numbers trilogy and The Drowning and Water Born which we’ll talk a little about below.

So without further ado, here we go:


Hi Rachel, it’s great to have you hear on my blog today. You’re my first ever author interview and it’s even more special because it’s for the UKYA Extravaganza blog tour! I’m going to kick off by asking what you think is so important about UKYA?


Thanks so much for having me on your blog – I’m honoured to be your first author interview! When I started out ‘YA’ wasn’t really a thing, or at least it was just a thing in the USA. Over the last couple of years UKYA has definitely become a force to be reckoned with. It feels like a real community of writers, readers, bloggers, librarians and publishers and it’s a lovely thing to be part of. Writing in the UK is really strong and the UKYA label helps to promote that.

 

What are you most looking forward to about the UKYA Extravaganza event?


I’m ridiculously excited about the Extravaganza! It’s a chance to catch up with some old friends and to meet a lot of people – writers, bloggers, readers – that I’ve only ‘met’ on Twitter or Facebook. I think it’s going to be intense, fun and exhausting!

 

If you had to pick a book/series to encourage someone new to read UKYA, what would you choose and why?


Ooh, that’s so tricky. There are so many to choose from. The only YA (if that’s what it is) book I read before writing Numbers was Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. I’d recommend the His Dark Materials series to anyone. I’d also recommend anything by Kevin Brooks.

 

I recently read and reviewed your books The Drowning and Water Born, which both have water playing a rather sinister part in the story. What’s your relationship like with water?


Well, I used to be a keen swimmer, but I haven’t been to the local pool since I started writing Water Born! I only realised very recently that my relationship with water is probably clouded by falling backwards into a paddling pool and almost drowning when I was a tot. It’s one of my earliest memories. However I love swimming, so I should really get back to the pool …

 

There’s a big time gap between the events in The Drowning and Water Born. What made you want to write about Carl and Neisha again much later in their life, and why did you choose to do it from their daughter’s point of view?


I love writing sequels which skip to the next generation. It allows me to explore an idea from a different character’s perspective and I love finding out how life has worked out for my teenage characters as they become adults. I picked Nic for Water Born as I always have a teenager as my central character, and I was interested to see her view of her parents.

 

Is Water Born the end of Carl and Rob’s story, or can we expect to see a third book in the series?


Water Born is the end of the line for Carl and Rob.


If not can you say anything about what you’re working on at the moment?


I’m working on a detective story/thriller in space at the moment. I’m very excited about it. It’s got potential to be a really cracking story. I hope I can do it justice. I’ve done the first draft and now I’m playing with the plot and characters in a second draft.


Did you always want to be a writer or were there any other ambitions you harboured when you were younger?


Not at all. When I was younger I wanted to be a farmer or an estate agent. I only started writing in my mid-thirties on a whim really, to see if I could do it.


Do you find it easy when you’re writing a story or do you have to discipline yourself to get it all out on paper (or the screen, I guess)?


I’ve been a full-time writer for three years, and, to be honest, writing was easier when I had a day job. Although I was much more stressed and unpleasant to live with, I didn’t have any trouble settling down to write. I used to do 45 minutes every morning before waking everyone else up and going to work. Now that I’ve got more time, I have to set myself word targets e.g. 1000 words a day, in order to make progress. It’s also not easy translating the ideas in my head onto paper. The process of putting something into words is surprisingly frustrating, but fascinating.



I know you probably get this one a lot, but what advice would you give to an aspiring author?
A book takes a long time to write, so you’ve got to write about something you’re really interested in and with characters that you care about. Try and write every day. Have a notebook with you or make notes on your phone and write down descriptions of people or scenes you see when you are out and about. You never know when they’ll come in handy. Don’t be too obsessed about writing – have other things in your life too – and enjoy it!


And a few quick fire questions to round off with:

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth’ by Chris Hadfield partly as research for my book and also because I saw him speak last year and he was awesome. Before that I read ‘Five Children on the Western Front’ by Kate Saunders which I thought was wonderful.

Favourite book as a child?

I didn’t read as a mid-late teen, but my favourite book before I stopped reading was ‘Fly-by-night’ by K.M. Peyton. As a little child, I loved the Noggin the Nog books and ‘The Land of Green Ginger’.

Favourite writing drink and snack?

Coffee (either decaf or half and half) from my lovely coffee machine in the morning. Maybe a chocolaty treat to go with. Diet Coke in the afternoon with a sneaky Popchip or two. I was vegan for January and swapped chocolate for almonds and carrot sticks. I should probably do that again.


5 desert island books?
 
This is the hardest question! Why are you torturing me like this? Okay.
1. The notebook I kept as a sort of diary when my children were little, which records cute/horrific things they did or said, plus first words, etc.
2. The Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary because I could learn new words or use random words as a starter for stories, plus one of the compilers was my sister and I’m very proud of her
3. The complete works of Shakespeare. I’ve never got on with Shakespeare, but I suspect I’m missing out. Being on a desert island might give me the time to study him and try and appreciate him more.
4. A compendium of detective stories 5. Another compendium of great UKYA!

Favourite place to read?

I read in bed before I go to sleep. I’m very good at falling asleep, although I have the annoying habit of waking super-early, so sometimes it takes me a long time to get through a book. The sign that I’m really gripped by a book is when I find time to read during the day, curled up on the sofa with my dog or tucked into bed with a microwavable owl.

Any hidden talents?

Well, it’s not very hidden because I keep telling people about it, but I started painting last year and I’m really enjoying it. I also take lots of photographs of Bath when I’m out and about with my dog, Misty, and tweet them (@RachelWardbooks).

What fictional world would you love to live in?

 

I’d be very happy to live on the island in ‘The Summer Book’ by Tove Jansson for a while. I’m also fond (at least in theory) of cold, snowy places, so I’d like to spend time in the world of ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’ or ‘The Snow Child’ although I think the reality would be pretty harsh.
Thank you so much to Rachel for being here today, and to Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass for organising the UKYA Extravaganza. I can’t wait to see everyone at the event next week!
 
If you’d like to follow the blog tour or catch up on any posts you might have missed, all the bloggers and authors can be found in the picture below.
 
 

Book Review: If You Find Me (Emily Murdoch)

Publisher: Indigo

Pages: 314

Release Date: March 26th 2013

Summary (From Goodreads):

Carey is keeping a terrible secret. If she tells, it could destroy her future. If she doesn’t, will she ever be free?

For almost as long as she can remember, Carey has lived in the heart of the woods with her drug-addicted mother and six-year-old sister, Jenessa.

Their mother routinely disappears for weeks at a time, leaving the girls to cope alone.

Survival is Carey’s only priority – until strangers arrive and everything changes…

Review:

Man I seem to be on a role with good books lately. This one was just beautiful and I raced through it: it actually made me get up in the morning just so I could get on the bus to work and read some more. This book was a Christmas present, but it had been on my wish list because of its beautiful cover.

The characters in this book just sang to me. The characterisation was perfect, especially Jenessa, who managed to be highly expressive (and completely adorable) whilst barely saying a thing. Carey was a strong narrator, and while she sounded older than her years, it’s very understandable given the circumstances of her upbringing. Carey’s voice in the first chapter showed a lot about her character but I was glad that she decided to try and speak properly once in civilised company, as it could have gotten tiresome after a while (lots of dropping ‘g’s and such).

The little details in the book were the ones that brought it really to life for me. The Joseph, Patron Saint of Beans was mentioned often and was a great little addition that captured their whole life in the woods. The story flowed wonderfully, even though I did think that once they were found in the woods (very early on) there would be little story to tell. There is more to it than just them settling into a ‘normal’ life as it slowly builds towards revealing the secret that left Jenessa without her voice. But I found I didn’t necessarily need the drama: I was happy enough to watch them settle down and I was rooting for them so much. My heart sank a little when I realised the step sister was going to make life difficult for them because I felt they deserved a happy ending more than anyone else I’d read about.

I’ve seen a few people saying the story lacks credibility, as the social services procedures wouldn’t really go like that (the children should have been interviewed extensively about what happened to them, they wouldn’t have gone to live with the Dad straight away, especially as he’s not Jenessa’s father) but I think that’s a little pedantic. I didn’t want to read about that kind of process in great detail and I was perfectly happy to suspend my disbelief because the writing and characters were so worth it.

There are some dark issues in this book that, while aren’t described in too much detail, are hinted about enough for you to get the idea of the awful things that the girls have been through. Their bond as sisters is amazing (they would have been in my list of Top Five Sisters if I’d read it sooner) and I can’t remember a time when I wished so hard for a happy ending. Emily Murdoch weaves a beautiful, complex set of characters and is definitely one to look out for in the future.

My Verdict:

Copy of an art exhibit

Book Review: A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness)

Details:

Publisher: Walker Books
Pages: 215
Release Date: 1st January 2011
 
Summary (From Goodreads):

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Review:

Ah this book hurt my heart so much. I knew early on where it was going to end but I didn’t think it would upset me so much. I must stop making the mistake of reading these sad books on my way to work. No one likes a bus crier.

The combination of words and pictures in this book is just magical. I really admired the art style and loved the way the simple black and white drawings contained so much detail. They really brought the story to life, especially the monster: he looked fearsome but also sometimes comical, crouched down in Conor’s Gran’s living room.

But, even without the pictures, the story is easily brought to life by Ness’ deft descriptions and flowing prose. I have a real love for his writing and this book was no exception. The monster’s stories intrigued me and I loved the debate they provoked with Conor: they read like fairytales but also like real life, as it was never clear who was a ‘good guy’ or a ‘bad guy’, or who was right and wrong, something I’ve found in Ness’ books before and which intrigues me, as all too often in books things are black and white, rather than the different shades that occur in reality.

It’s easy to sympathise with Conor’s situation initially as it’s one many people have experienced, and all others dread. But, as the book progresses and the secret that lives in his nightmares is revealed, I found a whole new level of sympathy and understanding. It may not be something others are familiar with, but I am experiencing a similar situation myself. Horrible as it is, sometimes you do just wish everything could end. You know you’ll grieve and things will be awful for a while, but at least you’re not exhaustively clinging on to every last hope. It was refreshing to read about and did help me feel a bit better about my own situation, because the guilt that comes with those kinds of feelings can be overwhelming.

Ness has taken an original idea from Siobhan Dowd and added his own original touch and captivating language to create a story that will stay with you long after you’ve read it.

My Verdict:
 Copy of an art exhibit

Top Five… Book Titles

I’ve spoken a fair bit about buying books because I love their covers, so this week’s Top Five is books I’ve bought because of their titles. Along with the cover, the title is often one of the first things we see of a book, and a grabbing title can make the difference between picking a book up or moving on to the next one.
 
5.
 
2118745
The Knife of Never Letting Go
(Patrick Ness)
This immediately makes me ask ‘Why can’t you let go of the knife?’ Although it turned out to be far from what I thought it would be (I was guessing it was some kind of magical, possessing knife and I was very wrong) but the story was amazing and lived up to it’s interesting title.
 
4.

Memoirs of a Dangerous Alien

 

Memoirs of a Dangerous Alien
(Maggie Prince)
This is a golden oldie and has always been a favourite of mine. Again, it didn’t go how I expected it to (apparently I like that in my titles) but it was still a title that made me stop and think ‘I want to read that’ and add it to my wishlist.

 

3.
John Dies at the End
(David Wong)
This is moving away from my usual YA a little – I borrowed this one from my boyfriend – but as soon as I heard the title I knew I wanted to read it. Who gives away a major plot point and spoiler in their title? A genius, that’s who (a little gushing, I know, but it’s a very grabbing title).
2.
 

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 
(Ransom Riggs)
I’ll admit to being intrigued by the cover and the use of the strange photographs, but I just love the title for this book as well. It instantly says intrigue and makes me want to read it. I admit, the story didn’t go how I expected it to, but I still loved it.
And the winner is…
 

 

 


 
1.
 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
(Catherynne M Valente)
I don’t think anything can top that title.
This popped up on Amazon when I was buying something else and I added it to my basket immediately: it deserved that for being so epically titled. The others in the series are similarly named but this was the first that caught my eye. It also happens to be a very good book, so check it out 😉
I’d love to hear any other awesomely titled books that you’d recommend!

Book Review: Frozen Charlotte (Alex Bell)

 

Details:

Publisher: Stripes Publishing

Pages: 368

Release Date: 5th January 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

We’re waiting for you to come and play.

Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind…

Sophie arrives at the old schoolhouse to spend the summer with her cousins. Brooding Cameron with his scarred hand, strange Lilias with a fear of bones and Piper, who seems just a bit too good to be true. And then there’s her other cousin. The girl with a room full of antique dolls. The girl that shouldn’t be there. The girl that died.

Review:

I read this book in two sittings and absolutely loved it. It draws you in with a creepy prologue that sets up the events perfectly and then launches straight into the story: there’s no hanging around here, it’s pretty much suspense and weird happenings all the way through and it’s perfect.Sophie was a perfect narrator to guide you through the story. Her reactions to the events were very realistic, which I think can be hard to do when writing a modern ghost story. It’s so easy to be skeptical of events and a narrator who believed them too quickly would be jarring, but Sophie had just the right amount of denial and then slow realisation of the reality of her situation.

I loved each of the cousins for their unique characterisation and really enjoyed not knowing who to trust. I found Piper a little flat at first: she seemed to be a bit of writer’s convenience at first as she explained a lot of back story and mythology but she soon fleshed out and became one of my favourite characters.

And then the Frozen Charlotte dolls themselves. They are creepy as hell and the fact that they’re real made them all the more spooky. I love the idea of the author turning the old song and Victorian dolls into this wonderfully scary story. They were amazing villains and I actually felt afraid to leave my room when I finished reading late at night. I could almost feel their tiny cold hands on me and I was terrified of what they’d do to me in my sleep.

I’d thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys horror stories or is looking to try something a little different. It’s a thrilling journey with a fast pace and a lot of twists that will keep you guessing right until the end. Just don’t read it in an empty house in the dark as I did!

My Verdict:

Copy of an art exhibit

If you liked this, you might also enjoy The Haunting of Sunshine Girl

Book Review: The 100:Day 21 (Kass Morgan)

 Details:

Publisher: Little Brown
Pages: 320
Release Date: 16th September 2014
 
Summary (From Goodreads):

No one has set foot on Earth in centuries — until now.

It’s been 21 days since the hundred landed on Earth. They’re the only humans to set foot on the planet in centuries…or so they thought. Facing an unknown enemy, Wells attempts to keep the group together. Clarke strikes out for Mount Weather, in search of other Colonists, while Bellamy is determined to rescue his sister, no matter the cost. And back on the ship, Glass faces an unthinkable choice between the love of her life and life itself.
In this pulse-pounding sequel to Kass Morgan’s The 100, secrets are revealed, beliefs are challenged, and relationships are tested. And the hundred will struggle to survive the only way they can — together.

Review:

This book picks up pretty much where the last one left off, and is written in a similar format: jumping between different characters P.O.V and using a lot of flashbacks to tell back story.

I found the flashbacks more irritating this time round. It just felt like most of the important stuff had already been told in the first book and now the flashbacks were being used to illustrate points rather than give us insight. While some of the flashbacks were interesting, I kept thinking: if that’s the story you wanted to tell, why not start there, instead of constantly flashing back?

A lot of the tension seemed to have diffused now, which was strange considering the climax at the end of the last book. While I expected to find the 100 being attacked by Earthborns and Luke and Glass suffocating, everything seemed a bit calm when I expected panic and drama.

I found Luke and Glass’ story more interesting than the 100’s this time, as what was happening on Earth seemed fairly dull compared to what they were going through, which again, is strange because there was quite a lot happening down on Earth. I just found all the tension was erased by the constant back and forth romances and the insistent focussing on that. I understand if you dump a bunch of horny criminal teenagers together there’s going to be some sexual tension, but I can’t believe they’re so worried about who loves who rather than fears of attack or starvation or radiation poisoning.

While I still enjoyed this book, I think it’s a bit of an easy read: I’m in it more for the story than the writing and even the characters sometimes. It reads too simply and glosses over some of the finer details (and some of the larger ones) and that’s what really makes a good book. I can see why it’s been adapted to a TV show. It’s never going to be the height of great literature but I know I’ll still be looking out for the sequel.

My Verdict:

 3

Top Five… Couples

In honour of Valentines Day this weekend, my Top Five this week is Favourite Couples. I’m not the overly romantic type so some of these may be bitter sweet relationships! And I’ve added in some fan fiction for good measure 🙂
 
5.
 
Sonea and Akkarin by CartographerCaitlin
Picture by Cartographer Caitlin
Sonea and Akkarin – The Black Magician Trilogy (Trudi Canavan)
I’m going to admit that I can’t say much about this relationship: it’s been a really long time since I read the books and I’ve forgotten a lot of plot details, but I remember loving these two so much. At least this way there’s no spoilers for anyone (including myself – I want to read the books again as if it’s the first time!) I remember it from so long ago so I’m sure it’s worthy of a place here!
 
4.



Picture by Laurajanetolton

 

Sabriel and Touchstone – Sabriel (Garth Nix)
I’ve always loved the scene where Sabriel and Touchstone meet: there’s such an innocence and curiosity there that seems so genuine. Theirs is a relationship that develops slowly and doesn’t seem contrived: everything that happens occurs naturally and their relationship isn’t even a big focus of the book, which I appreciate. I also love being able to see them grown up in the next book, with an even stronger relationship despite all their trials.
 



3.
 
 
I Wished For Her - the-night-circus Fan Art
Picture by Greeneiris
Celia and Marco – The Night Circus – (Erin Morgenstern)
Celia and Marco are true star-crossed lovers: right from the beginning they are destined to be pitted against each other, and it’s infuriating when Celia doesn’t even know who her opponent is. But I think that the wonders they create for each other in the circus show an incredible love that can outlive their fate.
2.
 
Picture by Nick Morgan

 

 

Alyss and Dodge – The Looking Glass Wars (Frank Beddor)
It’s never an easy ride for Princess Alyss of Wonderland and Dodge Anders, son of the Captain of the Guards. Alyss is destined to wed the spoilt and rotund Jack of Diamonds and even if he were out the picture, Alyss could never marry a servant. When Wonderland is taken over by Alyss’ evil Aunt Redd, the childhood sweethearts are separated for almost 20 years and they both have a lot to work through when she returns. Still, they make an amazing couple and Alyss is very strong, inspiring woman.
And the winner is…
 



 
1.
 





Picture by Gtjiyeon
Will and Lyra – His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman)
I told you there’d be some bitter sweet in here! Lyra and Will’s relationship was one of the first that I really remember touching me from my younger days of reading, and it always stayed with me. There was something so natural and truthful about their relationship and the progression of it, whereas these days it often feels like relationship are just shovelled in for the sake of it (especially the dreaded love triangle!) This relationship was made more memorable by the sacrifice they made together (which I won’t spoil, in case you haven’t read it.
Wishing you all a Happy Valentine’s Day this weekend, whether you’re celebrating with someone special or enjoying a little me time 🙂

 

Book Review: Water Born (Rachel Ward)

Publisher: Chicken House

Pages: 273

Release Date: August 7th 2014

Summary (From Goodreads):

Nicola’s dad has been terrified around water for as long as she can remember, and will never come to watch her swim. But then Nicola starts to hear a voice in the pool which changes everything. When girls start drowning, who’s to blame? What secrets lurk beneath the surface?

Review:

I loved The Drowning but I loved Water Born even more. The stakes were higher, the pace was faster and it would work perfectly as a stand alone novel as well as a sequel.

I think the main thing for me with this book was how relatable Nic was as a character. This is probably quite a personal thing, but I struggled to relate to Carl in the first book as a young male with quite a poor family life. Nic, however, is a young female with a loving home and is also a competitive swimmer, which is something I did at her age.

Personal touches aside, I raced through this book. Rob’s spirit or ghost or whatever it is of him that is haunting water has survived since the last book and become even more malevolent. In his quest for revenge on Carl and Neisha for the events in the first book, he isn’t fussed about hurting others to get to them, including using their teenage daughter, Nicole.

This book is less of a mystery than the previous one, because early on I knew who Rob was and what he wanted. The tension came through his threats and ultimatum to Nic: girls are mysteriously drowning and accidents start happening to people he knows she’s angry with. I felt so awful each time something happened, for what it did to Nic and what I knew it was driving her towards. There were also a few twists and surprises that I wasn’t expecting to keep me on my toes.

The ending was satisfyingly sad (from someone who’s not a fan of the happily ever after stories) and it seemed an appropriate sacrifice to stop Rob. I did feel the last few pages were perhaps a little cheesy at first, but on reflection I found it sinister: if (trying not to spoil things here) this person is talking to her in the water, that means Rob still could too, or some of the other people who have died in water by his hand/influence. I’m wondering if it points to a possible sequel or if I’m just being paranoid!

This book was the perfect follow up to The Drowning and will give a more satisfying ending to those who want to discover what happens to Rob next.

I will be interviewing Rachel Ward as part of the UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour so if you have any questions you’d like to ask, leave a comment or drop me a message!

4

Book Review: The Drowning (Rachel Ward)

Details:

Publisher: Chicken House
Pages: 274
Release Date: April 29th 2014
 
Summary (From Goodreads):

What happens if you’ve done something terrible? But you can’t remember what. And you don’t know how to put it right …When Carl opens his eyes on the banks of a lake, his brother is being zipped into a body bag. What happened in the water? He can’t remember And when he glimpses a beautiful girl he thinks he recognizes, she runs away. Suddenly he knows he must find her – because together they must face the truth before it drowns them.

Review:

I was intrigued by this book as soon as I read the prologue. It was only a couple of pages but it draws you into the story so well you can’t help but be hooked.

The protagonist, Carl is left with amnesia after an accident that’s left his brother dead. His confused state is just another thing that pulls you into the story: information is leaked in dribs and drabs as it comes back to him. Small things like where he lives and who his neighbours are, and then much bigger things, like his relationship with his mother and, of course, the events that led to his brother drowning.

The book reminded me of a Kevin Brooks novel in the way that Ward handles the mystery so skilfully. Each time I though I’d figured out what had happened she’d let slip a little more information that would throw my theory overboard.

The characters were well developed and you get a great picture of them from just a few snapshots of information. And everything is just so vivid. The description of Carl’s house and his mother gave me such an image of the kind of poverty they lived in and the relationship they had and I empathised with him immediately.

I loved the relationship between Carl’s dead brother and water and thought it such a creepy concept. Imagine fearing water and having to avoid it, especially when living in rainy ol’ England. It’s so depressingly, terrifyingly impossible, and the inevitability of his encounters made it even scarier. I was also impressed at how individual each encounter was: it’s a real tribute to an author’s talent when they can write about the same basic thing (water in this case) over and over again and still make it fresh and interesting. It never felt like I’d already read about this: each time was new and beautifully described.

Overall, a really great read for any lover of YA – and I say that as I normally go for much more fantasy based books. But not one that I’d read in the bath…

I will be interviewing Rachel Ward as part of the UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour so if you have any questions you’d like to ask, leave a comment or drop me a message!

My Verdict:

4

Book Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter (Melinda Salisbury)

Publisher: Scholastic UK

Pages: 336

Release Date: 5th February 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court.

She’s the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favour of a doomed love?

Review:

I was lucky enough to receive this book from the author (through a competition on Twitter) Along with a copy of the book, I got a signed proof copy and some other lovely bits and pieces too.

I am drawn in instantly by the cover (the colours are just beautiful) and by the idea as well: the quote on the proof copy reads ‘I am the perfect weapon. I kill with a single touch.‘ Along with some hype that’s gone on around it on Twitter I was all set to read and love this book.

And that is exactly what I did.

Twylla, the protagonist, is well rounded in a way that I haven’t seen in many books lately. While being likeable and believable, she has real emotions and flaws that hold her back and have a major impact on her life and how she’s living it. It’s interesting to watch her develop over the book and eventually start taking some control for herself. I hope that in the sequels, (which I can’t wait for) we’ll see her growing into herself more.

The world creation is beautifully done. There’s a lot of information to take in but it’s drip fed slowly and steadily, with little reminders throughout the book so you never forget what world you’re in and what the rules are. Speaking of which – and without giving too much away – I admire a writer who can create and then break rules in the way that’s done here. It makes for great twists and turns in the book and really shows how clever you can be with your own world if you know what you’re doing.

What really made the world feel real and rounded was the mythos: the religion, the Gods, the fairytales. It’s just enough information to bring the world to life. I was really intrigued by the idea of ‘Sin Eating’ and would love to hear more about it. Twylla’s mother as the Sin Eater was an excellent character who both repelled and fascinated me.

I’ll admit to being the teensiest bit irritated by the love triangle that formed, not because it wasn’t believable and intense and everything, but because it feels like love triangles are almost mandatory in YA novels at the moment. But that’s only the briefest if niggles: it’s integral to the plot and has its own series of twists and turns. I love that, like Twylla, both contenders for her heart are deeply flawed and neither is the obvious choice or knight in shining armour that you might expect.

I’d say it’s easily one of the best books I’ve read this year (I know it’s only February but I’ve read a fair amount and only one other got five star). If you like a beautifully crafted world full of its own mythos, with an deep and intricate plot then this is for you. It stands well alone as a novel as well as the first in a series and it’s definitely one to read immediately.

My Verdict:

Copy of an art exhibit
Check out my soundtrack for The Sin Eater’s Daughter here