City of Bones by Cassandra Clare + A Ranting Movie Review.

256683The Mortal Instruments, Book One

442 pages

Published March 27 2007

Clary thinks she is just an ordinary teenage New Yorker. But after a crazy experience in an underage nightclub, where she saw one guy stab another guy, her whole world starts to change. Her mother disappears, her mum’s friend Luke (who has always been like a father to Clary) refuses to see her, and, to top it all off, she starts seeing things that she never could before.

Her new ‘friends’ (the people she saw in the nightclub fight) are Shadowhunters, who fight and kill demons. She learns that pretty much every story is true: vampires, werewolves, faeries, mermaids, pixies, warlocks – they all exist.

But where exactly does Clary fit into this strange, new world?

 

This was my second reading of City of Bones – I’ve read the first three, but needed to refresh before I read the rest of the series. I remembered that I found it hard to get through the first book, but the next two were more readable. Rereading it, I found it just as hard to get through. It’s strange, because in theory, this book has everything – cool urban setting, danger, hot boys, monsters, amazing creatures, a bit of mystery, a Shadowhunter homeland that mundanes like us know absolutely nothing about, an evil guy who everyone thinks is dead, a shock at the end, etc, etc, etc. Despite all of this, it seems like something is missing. It’s a little dry, maybe. I found myself procrastinating and putting off reading it. It took me the best part of a week to finish, which is a long time for me. But like I said, I’m pretty sure that the next two books are better. And, there was definitely a lot of really cool stuff going on here. There’s a fair bit of world building and back-story to get through.

The shock bit at the end is pretty effective, but (if you’ve read the book you’ll know what I’m talking about) kind of redundant, because you just know, in that way that justice and fairness to all will prevail in the end, that it will probably be turned around again in the next books anyway. Also, I didn’t find the ending to be very exciting. It was a bit drawn out and flat. I don’t think that Valentine, the bad guy, was set up the best way that he could have been. He wasn’t very ominous or scary. It also doesn’t help that I couldn’t help but compare him to Voldemort from Harry Potter (it’s the ‘V’ names, mainly, but there are other similarities), which isn’t very fair to poor old Valentine, but there you go.

That sounds like a lot of negative stuff. But there’s plenty that I liked, even loved, about this book. For example, I love those series that just throw all mythical creatures in. That makes sense to me. I mean, if vampires and werewolves exist, why not faeries and trolls and all the rest? There’s a lot of scope there, lots of things to be explored. It’s excting.

If you like supernatural series, then definitely read this (if you haven’t already – it was released a fair while ago!). And if like me, you struggled with the first book, read on because the next ones (Books two and three, I can definitely vouch for) are better.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.13/5

THE MOVIE ADAPTATION:

In one word, terrible. I actually turned it off before it got to the big finale. And I’ll watch anything – I immensely enjoyed such movies as Sand Sharks and  Jack and Jill (!). It got to the point when I just couldn’t take anymore. I’ll probably watch what I missed one day, but I just couldn’t hack it that night. I wanted to scream at the screen! But since it was late, I simply hissed my abuse at the screen, so as not to wake my sleeping family members.

You see, they chop and change everything. The events from the book are just all over the place, and some of the included ones have been majorly altered so they aren’t as meaningful anymore – like with the demon in Clary’s apartment. Then there’s new stuff that really doesn’t add anything to the plot, in my opinion. People who read the book are seeing the movie for a reason, you know? They’re probably not gonna appreciate it when important things are left out so that new things that must’ve seemed exciting to the moviemakers can be put in, at the expense of the movie’s entertainment.

It’s just a big, dumb adaptation that’s about as subtle as a brick through your front window with the words “I’m a brick being thrown through your front window” written on it. Everything is shown, and information is fed to you right away, rather than little breadcrumbs that keep you wondering, like in the book. There’s no mystery or suspense.

I would recommend this movie to approximately no one. Die hard fans will probably either love it or be offended on behalf of the book, like I was.

Legend of the Oceina Dragon by J.F. Jenkins.

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Book One in The Dragon Saga.

Kindle Edition, 187 pages

First published February 21st 2011

Tai lives on a small island where water dragons fly overhead and there are priests who communicate with them. Every eight years, a sacrifice is made to one of the dragons. A pure young woman of their choosing will be presented to the dragon for, it is thought, consumption. The truth? Those dragons can turn into men, and the girl they choose becomes their bride.

Darien has been watching Tai from afar for years, hopelessly falling in love with her. Once they are married, Darien takes Tai to the mainland, far from her island home. She can never return, as everyone thinks she is dead, and the dragon’s secret must be kept hidden. Tai is unimpressed with being forced into a marriage with Darien, but promises to stick around – at least for a little while.

Darien’s father is the Great Dragon Lord of the Water, and seems to be grooming Darien to follow in the political ways, so Darien keeps having to leave his new bride to attend meetings with his father, much to his despair. Still, Tai seems to be thawing towards him. But what will it mean for the couple when the fire dragons threaten the water dragons?

This was such an amazing idea for a story, and there are so many cool aspects involved as you read it. The flaw, for me, is that it seemed kind of rushed and jumpy. Also, I wish that the world building had been more developed – Legend of the Oceina Dragon was set in modern times, which interested me, as the idea of a small island being protected by dragons with a whole dragon related religion just seems so opposite of modern. I wanted to explore that some more, but this book, at least, didn’t quite deliver.

Still, I feel like this series will get better as it goes on, so I am going to read some more and see how it goes.

My rating: 3/5

Goodreads rating: 3.67/5

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

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Book One of the Gentleman Bastard Series.

719 pages

Published 26th June, 2006 by Spectra

Locke Lamora became an orphan at a very young age. He was raised by a ‘gifted con artist’ with several other kids. As adults, they are a band of thieves who run elaborate schemes to cheat money out of the rich (in Camorr, this is simply not done – Locke and his fellow theives are in a class of their own). They are the Gentlemen Bastards.  Serious trouble arises when a new enemy enters the scene. Everything that Locke Lamora holds dear is at stake. He vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game – or die trying …

The Lies of Locke Lamora is one of the many novels that I bought when I was first introduced to adult fantasy. It’s on all the ‘best fantasy’ lists and it’s not hard to see why. Fantasy novels like this always challenge me because they are so rich and long and they demand so much more of me than a two-hundred-and-fifty-page-high-schoolish-dilemma. As much as I love the young adult genre, it’s good to be challenged sometimes. Reading something like this is like flicking some kind of imagination switch in my brain to ‘on’.

Who doesn’t love a band of thieves who run elaborate schemes? But wait a second, what is this ‘Revel’ thing around the hundred page mark? The rich folks of Camorr are on boats, preparing to watch criminals fight (get eaten by) sea creatures for entertainment. There are men getting pulled apart by a devilfish and warrior women fighting jumping sharks. Jumping Sharks! I officially love this book.

Jumping sharks aside, I love watching how the plot unfolds and everything comes together. Some of the stuff that happens is so crazy but ingenious – and very fun to read about. Locke and his mates are great characters, as are their enemies. I enjoyed reading about the city of Camorr itself, learning how the system works and wondering about those  alien towers from whatever civilisation came and fell before them.

It’s a seriously good book.

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.

images-2647 pages

First published July 25th, 2006 by Tor Books

The Mistborn series must have sat on my shelf for over a year before I got around to reading the first book. A guy from work recommended them to me. He seems to have really good taste in fantasy – he also got me onto The Name of the Wind – so I probably should have had more faith in him and got onto these books sooner. No matter. It’s done now.

Mistborn: The Final Empire is so good. It’s about a group of skaa(lower class people) rising up against their oppressors and overthrowing the empire.

One thousand years ago, the world was green and lush with flowers and sunshine – unfortunately, there was a darkness threatening the land. One man – the hero of ages – attempted to fight back against this evil, but he failed. The world is now bleak – vegetation is all a yucky brown, there are regular ash falls, and the nefarious Lord Ruler – a supposed god – runs the show with the help of his ministry Obligators and the creepy, seemingly indestructible Inquisitors.

Kelsier is a half-skaa (half nobleman) who survived the Pits of Hathsin – a place no one has ever managed to escape from before. He’s also a serious allomancer – a mistborn (more on that later) . He gathers up a crew of thieves and mistings for his rebellion.

Vin is another Mistborn. She’s a street urchin, basically. She grew up with her brother, who constantly belittled and abused her, making her the suspicious, skeptical little thing that she is now. Before Kel found her, she was working in a thieving crew, with only an inkling of the power she possesses.

Together, and with the help of Kel’s group of mistings, they set out to destroy the Lord Ruler’s regime . . .

Allomancy is the ability to ‘burn’ different metals (that you’ve ingested) to enhance senses, make you stronger, faster, etc; also, you can ‘push’ or ‘pull’ on metals outside of your body. You could use a coin as a weapon by ripping it through someone’s body, for example. You can even fly. Most allomancers are only mistings: they have one of these abilities. But Kel and Vin are Mistborns, meaning that they have all of them. I’m afraid that I haven’t explained all of that very well – but trust me, it’s all very cool.

I love the world that Brandon Sanderson has created here. He answered a lot of questions and tied up most of the loose ends, but still left a few little things out there. I want to jump straight into the next book and discover it all!

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore.

Hardback, 539 pages

Published May 1st, 2012 by Dial

IBSN: 9780803734739

Third book in the Graceling Realm series.

When we last saw Bitterblue back in Graceling, she was very young, recently orphaned, and the new Queen of Monsea. Now, she is eighteen, and spends her days signing paperwork and witnessing the odd criminal trial, while her advisors do all the real work.

Monsea is still in a sort of confused hazy state, due to King Leck’s evil reign. It’s not until Bitterblue begins sneaking out of the castle at night that she realises that her advisors (who were also around in Leck’s days) hide the truth of her Kingdom from her. One illicit after hours trip has shown her more than all her well planned, advisor approved tours of Bitterblue City.

She also meets Saf, his friend Teddy and their two sisters. Using an alias, she becomes a friend to the two boys, and grows even closer than that to Saf.

Bitterblue yearns to heal her hurting kingdom. But to do that she must first uncover the truth. What was her father, King Leck, really up to? How many of his crimes were physically committed by him, and how many did he force others to commit? Are there still loyal Leck followers out there, itching to get at Bitterblue?

Bitterblue was great. It is the third book in this series, and possibly the last. It ties up Leck’s loose ends quite well. It was interesting, because he is kind of at the centre of all three books – the first and third more so, but he still features quite prominently in Fire – without actually being a main character (or even alive, some of the time!). He’s sort of like a theme, rather than a character, if you get what I’m saying.

I enjoyed reading from Bitterblue’s point of view. She’s the queen, but she’s surrounded by people who do all her work for her and basically control, or at least manipulate, all her actions. It’s no wonder she started sneaking out. It’s not an entirely original concept (see Disney’s Aladdin for starters), but it’s a golden oldie.

My copy is in hardback, and it is seriously beautiful. There’s a heap of bridge drawings and maps in the back, as well as these gorgeous pictures for each part (part one, part two, etc – to be clear!). I don’t know if the paperback is as nice or not, but I am in deep like with my copy.

Read this if you’re a Graceling Realm fan (obviously), but also if you’re a general fantasy fan. I don’t think it’s essential to read the series in order. Go for whichever order you please!

 

Fire by Kristin Cashore.

Paperback, 461 pages

Published January 25th, 2011 by Firebird

IBSN: 9780142415917

Book Two in the Graceling Realm series

Monsters are beautiful, brightly coloured creatures with a taste for other monsters and an alluring power over non-monsters. There are monsters in every species. Cat monsters, raptor monsters, horse monsters, bug monsters. Fire is a human monster, the last remaining human monster in a land teeming with other kinds of monsters. She is very beautiful, with the ability to control humans to varying degrees of success (depending on their mind strength). All her life, she has seen herself as a true monster – an evil thing – because of her father, Cansril (who was evil and used his powers for bad) and because of the way people see her.

Prince Brigan, for example, sees Fire as her father’s reputation. Back in the day, Cansril and King Nax – Brigan’s father – used to stomp around the kingdom together. Cansril led him to some very dark places in his search of entertainment, I suppose. The next high, etc. That was a long time ago, and both men are dead now. But Fire is left with the burden of Cansril’s reputation. And Brigan, when they meet, hates her deeply.

Meanwhile, the land is heading to war, with rebel leaders aching to take the throne all over the place.

Ever wondered what lay on the other side of the Seven Kingdoms in Graceling? Want to know more about the origins of the evil king Leck? Then read Fire, a companion novel  (with a splash of prequel) to Graceling.

I must admit that I wasn’t as enthralled with this as it’s predecessor, but I still really enjoyed it. I love the premise of the monsters. Kristin Cashore once again created another female lead character who is a bit of an outcast. Unlike Katsa though, Fire is not particularly strong or powerful (note that she has the capacity to be powerful, she just isn’t, in the beginning at least).

Her romance with Brigan is set up really well, because they have these entwined pasts and are kind of enemies. So I was thinking, “okay, this is going to be awesome”. But in fact, when the romancing came around, it wasn’t very climatic. Which could be seen as a negative, but when you take into account that how they got together was probably  much more realistic, then it’s kind of a positive.

It took me a very long time to read, which in my case is often the kiss of death for a book, but I do really love Fire. I think it took me a long time to get through because I’ve been sick (the kind of sick where reading sounds lovely, but holding a big book for long periods of time seems unfathomable, so you just watch movies instead) and working a lot.

So far, this series has proven to have great world building, awesome and inspiring characters, and a general feeling of ‘mm, I’ll like some more of that, please’ when you finish one of the books. I can’t wait to crack open Bitterblue. 

Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

 

ImagePaperback, 370 pages

Published September 3rd, 2009 by Gollancz

IBSN: 9780575085305

Katsa is a strong, independent woman, who kicks serious butt. She has a strange graceling – a gift – that enables her to kill people very well. Her uncle, King Randa, takes advantage of this, essentially using her as a trained attack dog – someone who travels around and threatens or kills his enemies. Katsa resents this, and has founded a secret council, who’s job it is to undermine and ruin her kings nasty plans.

It is during one of the councils missions to rescue Prince Tealiff – the father of the Lienid KIngdom’s King –  that Katsa meets Po, who is also graced, but with fighting (I’ll just tell you now – he is the love interest (and a good one, at that!)). But who kidnapped the elderly prince? and why? Katsa’s council work on unravelling the mystery, while Katsa plans of leaving her Uncle Randa’s court, and his power over her.

So, the gist of a graceling: it’s basically an ability that some people have. It can be anything: fighting, swinging from trees, baking, reading minds, etc. A graced person can be identified by their two different coloured eyes, which settle in months after birth (your baby’s born like any other baby, but watch those eyes – that baby may just turn out to be a graceling soon!). I love this premise, by the way. Kristin Cashore follows through with it fantastically.

There is such beautiful imagery in Graceling. An awesome kings and queens type backdrop. This is a lot of fun to read. I will go one step further and tell you that it’s a delight to read. I don’t think I could fault it if I tried – not that I would want to! The characters are great, the story (which expands and changes from what you gather from the blurb), the setting – everything is great! Listen to me: I’m gushing! See the exclamation marks?!

Wait, I do have one problem, and that lies in the quote on the front cover that mentions Twilight. Ugh. I like Twilight. I love The Hunger Games. But I have an issue with the way that critics always say: ‘read this if you liked [insert name of latest young adult book/series to hit the big time and get a movie deal here]’. I wouldn’t mind it if the two books are actually similar (I recommend books in this way as much as I can), but saying Graceling is for fans of Twilight is a joke, because they are so different. They are literally worlds apart. I suppose that these critics mean well – getting the non readers to read more books by mentioning the books that non readers happen to read (if that makes sense). Generally, I ignore quotes such as these, but it remains a pet peeve of mine.

So check out this amazing, rich, adventurous, fantasy. Especially if you enjoy books like the Narnia series, or P.C. Cast’s Goddess series (particularly the first book, Goddess by MIstake, and the two young adult companions, [who’s titles I seem to have forgotten]). Or if you enjoy fantasy in general, or even if you haven’t dabbled in fantasy much, read it anyway.