Posts Tagged ‘ARC’

Extracted.jpg

“The first trip fifty years into the future showed a society and species advancing as it should. The second trip, to the same point and location, revealed a post-apocalyptic wasteland.”

About :

A young scientist creates a time machine and discovers that the word ends in 2111. He needs a hero—quickly. In a matter of weeks, three heroes are selected and “extracted” from their own times to save the world:

Safa Patel, a police officer stationed at Downing Street to protect the prime minister; “Mad Harry” Madden, special ops in WWI—before such a thing as “special ops” even existed; and Ben Ryder, an untrained civilian who has singlehandedly stopped two separate group attacks on innocents. And the training begins. Extracted is adult science fiction authored by R. R. Haywood and published March 1st 2017 by 47North.

Thoughts :

Haywood’s trilogy smashes together the sub-genres of time travel and post-apocalyptic fiction. That sounded too irresistible to pass up!

The first three chapters of book I, Extracted, introduce the three heroes by taking us through each one’s final, normal day—followed by his or her extraction. Visceral details enhance these “mini episodes” in strangely addictive and slightly uncomfortable ways: we enter the story in the midst of a fight between Ben Ryder and his fiancée, who are arguing about sex. It’s a dash of cold water right off the bat when Ben discovers that his fiancée has been cheating on him.

But Safa, one of the other heroes, suffers much worse than that in her current day-to-day life, and the crude, sometimes repetitive sexual details made her first chapter very difficult to read.

This in-your-face, very present and very character-driven style of writing brings a whole new level of intensity to the emotionally charged scenes of these first chapters (and to every emotional scene throughout the book), and although I cringed a lot, I sped through them. Some humor diffuses the tension, at times, although it occasionally feels forced and becomes wearyingly repetitive. (The descriptions in this ARC as a whole do get quite repetitive—some of that has hopefully been edited out of the finished copy.) This experience basically characterizes the whole book.

As I continued to read past these first three chapters, the plot never seemed to pick up and I soon realized that although the synopsis promises a world-saving mission, this first installment focuses entirely on characterization and team-building. It might be called a “training” book. “Extracted” is a preliminary, as if the publishers ripped apart one really big book to publish it in thirds. After the extractions, the heroes spend the rest of the book adapting to their new lifestyles and training to save the world. The characters refuse to accept the concept of time travel until 46%, and even then they don’t get started training right away. The specific nature of the training centers largely around helping Ben, the only untrained civilian among the three heroes, overcome the psychological trauma of the situation.

Overall :

I enjoyed the book, despite its problems. Extracted is a compelling, crude, and strongly character-driven “episode” of a new sci-fi time travel trilogy. It reads like a speed demon! Although I wouldn’t call the book “boring” (I definitely came to care about the characters), I will say I was disappointed that we didn’t get any of the promised world-saving action, yet. If the author steps up his pacing and cuts out the filler in book two, I think his style and killer premise have a lot of potential. I might wait for the reviews to come out before reading it.

Recommended To :

Anyone looking for a sci-fi time travel “training” book with strong characters. I haven’t gotten the chance to read Chuck Wendig yet, but from his blog, I gather that he writes using the same kind of searing, in-your-face style as this author, R. R. Haywood; that’s what this book reminded me of, although I think Wendig’s humor succeeds more often that Haywood’s.

Plot: 2.5/5
Characters: 4/5
Worldbuilding: 3/5
Writing: 3/5

***3/5 STARS

Note About Misogyny :

When I was writing this review, I noticed that a couple of reviewers are using phrases like “casual misogyny” to describe certain elements of the book and complaining that it only leaves two options for women: (1) Heroine! and (2) Slut! I’m not highly attuned to what might be considered sexist, but I personally didn’t get that impression. It’s a small cast with a tight focus on Ben and Safa, so that subject didn’t seem to fall within the reference of the book; I’m personally not bothered that Haywood doesn’t spell out all of the options for women. His portrayal of Safa did feel slightly “off” to me, but I could’t quite put my finger on why, so I just decided to roll with it and enjoy the story.

midnightcurse

“Whoever had forced Molly to kill her friends wanted her to get caught, go on trial and be executed before she had a chance to prove her innocence.”

About :

Scarlett Bernard is a “null,” a human who cancels out any magic around her. Her abilities come in handy on the job—she works to keep the magical world a secret from normal humans in the city of LA. She’s actually starting to enjoy her job, although she’s also enjoying the good life with her werewolf boyfriend, Eli, outside of work.

But duty calls when someone magically forces a vampire friend of hers into murdering 12 USC roommates. Scarlett’s job becomes twofold: hide the magical involvement from the humans and find out who wants to hurt her friend.

Nobody believes in the vampire’s innocence, but Scarlett is determined to find the real murderer with a little help from an old LAPD buddy. Midnight Curse is adult UF authored by Melissa F. Olson and published February 7th 2017 by 47North.

I was browsing Netgalley for a promising new series when I ran across Midnight Curse, first in the new “Disrupted Magic” trilogy. It wasn’t until after I requested the book that I learned about a previous trilogy starring Scarlett Bernard, but I jumped in anyway.

And Olson had me from the first line.

Thoughts :

Scarlett is at an art show with her boyfriend when she gets a creepy, blood-spattered SOS note delivered from her old vampire friend, Molly. The note asks Scarlett to come meet her secretly, so Scarlett blows off her boyfriend, hoping he’ll understand and let her handle it. After all, if she tells him, he has to tell his werewolf pack leader, and then the secret’s not so secret anymore.

But things careen out of control and soon, Scarlett finds herself running damage control on all fronts while still trying to uncover the real mass murderer—and their veiled purpose. The story unfolds in the perspectives of both Scarlett and her LAPD friend Jesse, and a fantastic first 50% ensues. Scarlett and Jesse keep the twisty mystery plot moving, interspersing their investigation with humorous one-liners, psychologically layered character dynamics and precise, interesting backstory and worldbuilding.

Because I jumped in without reading the earlier books, I worried that missing information would muddy the experience for me. But Olson integrates explanations smoothly without info-dumping. The worldbuilding becomes clearer with every page. A lot of the mystery developments do rely on past history and knowledge of Scarlett’s manifold abilities, but I still enjoyed the plot very much.

So with all this going for Midnight Curse, why did I rate the book at 4 stars instead of 5?

It’s largely due to a subjective reaction to one relationship arc that left me feeling bitter during the second half. Throughout the novel, we see the themes of relational control and abuse taken to different extremes, and I didn’t enjoy how it played out in Scarlett’s case. I’m not a huge fan of these dysfunctional relationships from hell, haha. [Highlight to view SPOILER: I struggled with Scarlett’s breakup because she kept running away from communication and playing petty games with Eli. Maybe if she had invited him along on one of her jaunts, instead of taking off with Jesse (whom she’s already developing feelings for), Eli could have understood her strengths or been part of her team or something like that. I don’t buy the irreconcilable differences crap because my husband and I are about as different as two personalities can get and we somehow manage to talk things out like adults. Going on six years of blissfully wedded life, I value faithfulness very highly in relationships, so Scarlett’s behavior irked me beyond what another reader might have felt.]

But I get the feeling that Olson wanted/needed to shake things up for the new trilogy, and my impression of Scarlett suffered without an understanding of the love triangle and character histories of the original series. She came across as very immature to me in this one isolated relationship. She’s a great protagonist in every other way, and in fact, a lot of readers enjoyed everything about the book (the overall Goodreads rating is super high—currently 4.27, wow!), including this arc. Your experience of this relationship arc seems to really depend on your emotional connection to the characters.

Overall :

So while Midnight Curse is a great UF, it left me severely cranky, haha. I probably won’t read any more about Scarlett because I try to avoid getting my heart ripped out; but I’d be down to read more by this author—I loved everything else about the book. I could see a lot of readers giving it five stars.

Recommended To :

I recommend this to readers looking for adult UF with a strong mystery, a fast pace and characters that don’t leave room for ambivalence. I think teens would love it, too, although there’s some language that parents might want to be aware of.

Thank you so much to Melissa F. Olson, 47North and Netgally for this great ARC. I really enjoyed it!

4/5 STARS

portalofathousandworlds

“I helped him advance on the staircase of worlds.”

A pretty euphemism for assassination, no?

About :

The Good Land lives for centuries at a time without serious threat to its traditions. Each dynastic emperor rules from The Heart of the World, unseen by the masses and advised by his eunuchs. Periodically, rebellions protest the power of the emperor’s “usurper” mother, who appears to rule the throne; fortunately for the ruling class, the only real competing power lies with “The Grey Helpers” of “The Houses of Joyful Departure”—you guessed it, an assassin’s guild 😉

But the emperor takes fearful notice when the Man of a Thousand Lives reappears, a man who is reincarnated cyclically through the ages to share the wisdom of the prophets about the Portal of a Thousand Worlds. This time, the Man of a Thousand Lives prophesies the opening of the Portal. As the auguries pile up, the powerful grow nervous, for the Portal always brings great changes to the Good Land. Dynasties end and natural disasters rock the land.

The changes rarely favor the powerful. The Portal of a Thousand Worlds is adult epic fantasy/alternate history authored by Dave Duncan and published February 14th 2017 by Open Road Media Science & Fantasy. Duncan also authored The King’s Blades and The Seventh Sword series.

Thoughts :

Portal of a Thousand Worlds feels like the sort of book that might take a lifetime to write—tightly plotted and cast, fully-developed in setting and characterized by the sort of raucous, racy and word-perfect humor that enlivens what might otherwise be considered a grim Chinese political fantasy.

The conflict between Emperor’s family and the rebels is the main focus of the book. Every so often, the focus slides back to the Man of a Thousand Lives (also known as the “Firstborn” or the “Urfather”) and his mysterious agenda; but basically every other narrator (and there are many) focuses on the palace intrigue. Most of the narrators are either nobility or Grey Helpers, and from them we learn delicious details of both palace life and the inner workings of the assassin’s guild. It’s like a very (very! Wonderfully! Atmospherically!!) Chinese Game of Thrones.

The story builds to address the climactic mystery of The Portal. Only rumors survive about its opening in centuries past, and nobody knows why. But everyone wants to know, of course—so they ask the Firstborn, who currently resides in the body of a fourteen year old peasant boy named “Sunlight.” But even he doesn’t know much—he always gets assassinated before the Portal itself opens.

So everybody watches and waits, anxious about the opening of the great portal.

My favorite part of Portal is the delightfully wicked and ever-present humor. Clever verbal gymnastics, situations that lurch sideways and riotous personality humor kept me giggling throughout the book. The Firstborn himself trademarks his own running joke, sharing hilarious anecdotes or reprimands about the confusion surrounding past philosophical teachings.

On top of the humor, surprises show up on every page. Tensions run high with conflicting character agendas, sudden tips in power, deaths, magics and all kinds of other ingenious plot twists. I was never bored. Certain portions could have probably been trimmed to shorten the book—I didn’t expect to take two weeks to read this ARC; but every page was honestly a pleasure to read.

The ending may disappoint readers who enjoy the concrete answers often found in a hard-fantasy like Brandon Sanderson’s stories; nevertheless, I found it to be profoundly touching and everything I didn’t know I wanted. I love the theme about how the passage of time can affect religion and public perception of religion. The religion also serves justice in a rather unique way…

The limitations of the female sex may also bother some readers. Life is unapologetically rough for all but noblemen (emphasis on the “men”), in this early 1800s-like Chinese fantasy. Women can gain only a little power, and only by birthing sons; as such, every female with a modicum of power spends or has spent time as a prostitute or concubine. If feminism is a touchy issue for you, you might consider the female situation anything from boring to grating; I took off half a star for the disturbingly obvious lack of strong, unique female heroines. But thankfully despite the limits on female power, I enjoyed the female characters as much as the heroes in this one. The range of personalities is both vast and entertaining. (My favorite character, Horse, grew up in a House of Joyful Departure where females get just as much opportunity and have just as much success as males. He is one of the few men who respects women outside the bedroom…and you might like where his arc leads, and what it promises for the future of the Good Land.)

Overall :

I thoroughly enjoyed Portal. The humor and inventiveness far outweigh any negative considerations. It’s billed as a Chinese Game of Thrones, which seems like a fair description. (You might take this with a grain of salt, as I’m only familiar with book 1 + season 1 of GoT.) Occasional short action scenes pop up, but mostly as humorous or dramatic beats. The book is much more about politics and power than about the magic or even the Portal, really.

Recommended To :

Anyone looking for a hilarious and political epic fantasy with a Chinese twist. Not recommended to feminists. Slight content warning for younger readers, there’s some violence and a loooooot of sex, haha. I don’t recall anything too dramatic, but sex is probably mentioned on every other page, in some form or another (often as a device of humor).

4.5/5 STARS

Thank you so much to Dave Duncan,  Open Road Media Science & Fantasy and Netgalley for this amazing ARC of Portal of a Thousand Worlds!

gildedcage

“Understanding slid into Luke’s brain and lodged its sharp point there…

‘We’re all going to do our slavedays.’

About :

Luke and Abigail Hadley live like normal teenagers all over Britain until their parents suddenly commit the whole family to their “slave days.” Every British commoner is forced to devote 10 years of service to the magically “Skilled” elite class that rules over Britain, a caste known as the “Equals.” At least the Hadleys manage to score a cushy group deal: all five will serve the richy rich Jardine family on their legendary estate of Kyneston.

At least, that’s what they’re told.

But when the bus arrives, Luke gets marked as “surplus” and sent instead to Millmoor, “Manchester’s filthy, unforgiving slavetown.”

Because in a “state of non-legal personhood,” you have no rights.

You are now chattels of the state.”

Gilded Cage was authored by Vic James and will be published February 14th 2017 by Del Rey Books.

Thoughts :

I requested Gilded Cage mainly hoping to read about the cool “Dark Gifts” of the series title (and based on Vic James’ exciting bio). But the meat of the first 50% focuses instead on the challenges you might find in a British drama. Maybe more like Downtown Abbey? With cruel lords and ladies making life miserable for their butlers, maids and slaves. (I haven’t actually seen much Downtown Abbey, as I don’t watch a lot of tv beyond Cops and 48 Hours, so this guess could be somewhat off.*) The publisher is clearly marketing the book to people who enjoy this sort of story, and I think the target audience would enjoy it more than I did.

I read to 50% before deciding to set it aside.

Why DNF?

The title Gilded Cage perfectly encapsulates the majority of narrative perspectives in this book: Abigail Hadley tells us of life Kyneston; her new masters, the Jardine men, also share their perspectives with us in the first 50%. The “Gilded Cage” refers mainly to a magical wall that surrounds the Kyneston estate, keeping slaves locked inside, although it may also refer to the British society at large that cages its commoners into servitude. So we spend a lot of time in this cage, reading the thoughts of both captors and captives.

This is unfortunate for two reasons: (1) The Jardine men are a largely despicable lot, and (2) Abi’s plot mainly consists of developing feelings for one of them. The plot summary suggests more to her plot, later in the book—she discovers the Jardine family secret and must decide whether to reveal it or not—but I didn’t get that far because I just couldn’t get into the story. The focus stays mainly on domestic and political troubles rather than magical, during the first half, and I had a feeling the focus wasn’t going to change.

But my main problems with Gilded Cage relate to the characters. First of all, I thought there were too many narrators for such a short novel. The first 50% cycles through enough narrators that I don’t remember who they were or how many I met. More importantly, none of the characters feel like authentic people (with the bare exception of Abigail, who feels like a legitimately moony teenaged girl). The Jardine men especially fell flat for me. I had a difficult time buying Silyen’s antisocial brilliance and everyone’s fear of The Young Master. I especially couldn’t believe that the violently angry Gavar cared most in the world about his baby daughter. No amount of Gavar’s POV could convince me of that, after he shot the mother while she held the child in her arms during the prologue. No caring father would do that. The unrealistic psychology and motivations of the Jardine men left me bored and unconvinced.

Luke Hadley is also unfortunately a very wooden character, although his scenes in the slave town of Millmoor are the most exciting to read. Luke takes part in a slave rebellion, and I enjoyed the action scenes in his perspective. Little things in his perspective did make the narrative lose credibility, though, such as when one character gets harnessed up and steps straight off a rooftop, instead of carefully lowering herself down. Ouch! That would give you quite a jolt and likely smash you into the side of the building. I would definitely not recommend doing it thataway.

Overall :

Unfortunately, Gilded Cage doesn’t appeal to the “Fantasy,” “Alternate History” or “British Mystery” parts of me and I couldn’t get into the characters. Very little surprised or interested me about the first 50%. The author focused on Abi’s romantic ambitions or the proceedings of the court of cruel lords when I was hoping for something more magical.

Recommended To :

Readers who like both YA and British dramas. From what the positive reviews are saying, readers appeared to most enjoy the “Britishness” of it. It does feel very British. Lots of class warfare. I can see the Dickensian influence, as another positive review remarked—but only in the class structure and relations. That particular comparison makes me a feel a little sick; Dickens is known for his characterization and this book has terribly un-lifelike characters.

Thank you so much to Vic James, Del Rey and Netgalley for this e-galley!

*In the comments, Maddalena @ Space and Sorcery kindly corrected my misconception about Downtown Abbey: apparently the house staff doesn’t get abused, which is a relief!

crossroads-of-canopuAbout :

The opening novel of Thoraiya Dyer’s “Titan’s Forest” series takes place in the world of a giant forest. Three realms live at different levels of this forest: “Canopy” claims the privileged position at the treetops, Understorey clings the boughs, and “Floor” settles in the shadows at the foot of the trees.

Crossroads of Canopy opens in Canopy, the most privileged of the three realms. Here, thirteen theocracies rule the Canopian citizens and interact through the usual ways of war, trade and peace. When a god or goddess dies, they are reincarnated into the body of a human babe. Unar lives in the Garden, a theocracy ruled by the goddess, Audblayin. Having run from poverty and barely escaped slavery, Unar plans to find glory by winning the position of Audblayin’s next bodyguard. But she becomes sympathetic to the slaves from the lower realm of Understorey, a complication that gets her into trouble with the Gardeners.

Then, suddenly, Audblayin dies. With her death, the magic that bound Unar to service and mandatory abstinence disappears, and new, overwhelming distractions get in the way of her plans…Crossroads of Canopy is fantasy published by Thoraiya Dyer. Published January 31st 2017 by Tor Books.

I requested this one immediately, when it popped up on Netgalley. Look at that cover. And the description?! Sounds amazing, right?

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into it and ended up DNFing it at 47%

Why DNF?

When I started Crossroads of Canopy, I expected political divisions among the theocracies, adventure among the trees and a sense of wonder about the gorgeous forest realms. I hoped for some interesting philosophy about the religions, perhaps debated among friends.

But this book focused on other things, and unfortunately I struggled to connect with the characters, who often provoked each other with hostile attitudes; also, most of the action felt uninteresting and incidental to the plot. The purpose of each scene got lost in Unar’s focus on other things, mainly her sexual awakening.

Following the death of the goddess’s abstinence magics, most of the cast seems fixated on sex and sexual organs—and we’re not just talking about during a few sex scenes. One minute, we’re discussing religions/climbing gigantic trees/social inequality, and out of the nowhere, we’re talking about male “organs” and lady “flaps” and unrequited crushes.

Some of this makes perfect sense and would have been fine, had it remained a minor distraction from Unar’s plans; but it goes overboard and we end up spending lots time oogling Unar’s love interest or exploring Unar’s theories about masturbation when meanwhile, we only know the names of three of Canopy’s thirteen theocracies.

Since Crossroads of Canopy is book 1 in a series, the author seems to be taking her time in exploring the world (and adding in sexual tensions and drama-rama to keep us interested) instead pushing forward with the plot. Unfortunately, while the descriptions did a great job portraying the social stratification, I felt like they neglected other areas of worldbuilding—although some of the imagery of the garden flowers blew me away. Clearly Dyer spent a lot of time developing the flora of her three realms. Check this out:

The exotic plot was filled with rare blue and bronze-colored grasses from the places where Floor met the edge of the forest. A messy hedge of maroon guavas, interspersed with purple sugarcane thickets, formed a semicircle around the western boundary.”

Overall :

The worldbuilding has lots of potential, if you find the style appealing, but the book just moved too slowly for my tastes.

Recommended To :

Reads who might enjoy slow worldbuilding through the eyes of a single narrator. Also, readers who really appreciate gender and racial politics might enjoy the book’s diversity enough to keep reading. A couple of Goodreads reviewers really enjoyed the book for that reason.

Thanks so much to Thoraiya Dyer, Tor and Netgalley for this e-arc!

futureshock

“No one wants to hire an underage, inexperienced, tatted-up Mexican girl. Even McDonald’s turned me down.”

About :

Elena Martinez has slipped through the cracks of California’s foster care system. Desperate for money and a future, she signs a contract with the corporate tech giant Aether in exchange for money and a college scholarship: time-travel to the future for 24 hours and bring back info about future technology.

The only catch? She can’t look into her own future. It might mess with her mind or keep her from returning safely home. If she just gets the technology and gets back through the time portal, she’ll be set for life.

Elena signs up and, of course, ignores the prohibition on researching her fate. But she doesn’t expect to find herself enmeshed in the mystery of a murder: her own. Future Shock is a ya science-fiction novel authored by Elizabeth Briggs and published April 1st 2016 by Aw Teen.

Thoughts :

Future Shock is perfect for romantic sci-fi junkies, and I flew through it despite a few worldbuilding and research goofs.

It starts off a little rough, even helped along by Elena’s strong, captivating voice. The problem is Elizabeth Briggs’ outdated description of the current foster system in California. To give Elena strong motivations and high stakes for accepting Aether’s offer, Briggs puts her in a desperate situation:

In two months I’ll be kicked out of foster care, forced out of my current home, and most likely will have to drop out of school…Once we turn eighteen, they’re done. The instant checks stop coming, we’ll be out on the street.”

Thankfully, I happen to know that this is no longer the case, although it used to be true. My husband works as a juvenile probation officer and he deals every day with kids who’ve been raised by the CA state system. They do have access to financial and college aid, now, after they reach the age of 18. Elizabeth Briggs is describing the system of a decade ago, in Future Shock.

But, hey, this could easily have been set a decade ago, and thankfully the story moves fairly quickly into more plot-relevant terrain. I raced through the story, from here on out, because the pacing never slows and the mystery just gets better and better.

After Elena signs on the dotted line, she and four other teens prepare to travel one decade into the future. They will arrive in the future Aether headquarters and have twenty-four hours to gather as much technology as they can. Sounds almost too good to be true…and Elena knows it. She’s a street-smart Latina and she asks good questions: Why teenagers? And why foster teenagers, at that? I very rarely found myself ahead of the technical thriller plot.

And within the first forty pages, we’re in the future! The teenagers are extremely, entertainingly proactive—wandering into shops and exploring the tech—and I love how Briggs imagines the future with lots of cool goodies and sharp edges. Driverless cars rule the road, and they appear to be a government monopoly, as other types of cars were made illegal several years before.

Unfortunately, a few notes ring false in this future world, such as the fact that prostitution appears to be legal, but cigarettes are banned. I think a future that legalizes prostitution will likely legalize more drugs instead of criminalizing more, although I could be wrong about that. CA did just make cigarettes illegal under age 21, so perhaps Briggs’ future LA is spot on, in this regard.

A few other sketchy points jumped out at me. For one thing, [Highlight to read SPOILER: a big plot points involves a cure for cancer. It’s a nice thought, but I sincerely doubt it’s medically feasible that we’ll find a generic cure for every kind of cancer. There are too many different kinds.]

Also, the author has apparently never watched Cops. In several action scenes, her cops seem to lack knowledge of basic police training and strategy. For example, in one instance, the police shoot at teenagers who are running away from them. This would be a major exception to police training, which teaches cops not to shoot at suspects who are running away. In several other instances, these teenagers escape situations in which police could have easily radioed in backup to contain the area. These oversights definitely neutered the action scenes, for me.

I was also hoping that Elena’s eidetic memory would play a larger role in the book. Considering how the whole first scene is built around her amazing memory, I was expecting more from that angle. Maybe book II will deal with it more.

But even when I hit hiccups or areas that could have used further development, I never wanted to stop reading Future Shock. The tech elements are a lot of fun, the pace stays in high gear and the mystery just gets better and better. Every chapter ends with terrific motivations to keep reading.

Overall :

If you just read fast and don’t look too hard at the deets, I guarantee you’ll have a good time with Future Shock. I do have high hopes for a high-concept series or trilogy. I loved the premise, the mystery, the Latina narrator, the lightning pace, the imaginative setting of a futuristic LA…I hope this series continues. It’s a good thing. I’ll probably pick up book II, at some point.

***3/5 STARS

Recommended To :

This can be a great, fast read for romantic-sci-fi junkies. For someone who has stuck mostly to Fantasy, this YA sci-fi thriller could be something really new and fun.

Thanks so much to Elizabeth Briggs, AW Teen and Netgalley for this e-ARC!

waer

“I forced myself to accept his help. I needed to regain my strength. I had not escaped Caerwyn to just like down and die.”

About :

Young waer Lowell Sencha and his family live in the sheltered, idyllic Gwyndhan Valley, where they can shift into and out of their wolf forms without fear of persecution from the prejudiced blood-purists residing in other parts of Oster.

But when a wounded female waer named Lycaea washes up on the shores of the valley river, everything changes. Lowell helps the renowned healer Moth Derry care for Lycaea until, suddenly, a powerful blood purist attacks the valley in a frenzied hunt for the waer girl. The two women convince Lowell to travel to Lycaea’s home-city of Luthan to gather allies against the blood purists. Debut standalone YA Fantasy by Australian author Meg Caddy, a personal mentee of Juliet Marillier. Waer was published March 1st 2016 by Text Australia and available in the US on Book Depository. Shortlisted for the Text Prize.

Thoughts :

In the tradition of Juliet Marillier, Caddy brings a legend to life and surrounds it with a lush world of tradition, travel and diverse cultures. Readers journey with the characters through the lands of Oster, discovering mythology, new terrain and the ins and outs of shape-shifting.

‘There are waer in the southern desert, near where Dodge Derry comes from. But they are…different from us.’

‘How?’

‘Much bigger, and more savage. They do not cook their kills, they take meat raw. And some other are not…born waer.’”

I wish I could quote half the book to you, just to prove how wonderful the travel-writing is; but rest assured, I got lost in this world and you will, too, if you read Waer. One of my favorite things about the worldbuilding is how tenderly Caddy builds Lowell’s shape-change religion (and, later, challenges it and everything it means to Lowell).

I burned a sprig of rosemary in the candle, and let the ashes fall into the water in homage to Freybug, born from a rosemary bush. Finally, I blew out the candle, sipped from the bowl and trickled some of the water over the stranger’s brow. It was a bitter brew, but all elements of life joined in the water. Drinking it was a giving of thanks.”

And the characters! If Tamora Pierce wrote in first person, she might write characters like these. Lycaea is a prickly new shape-changer. She has a complicated relationship with her Waer form, but luckily for her, Lowell, a believably perceptive and wholesome country boy, understands this.

It was clear to me from the beginning that she had her own distaste for our people, complicated by the fact she was one of us.”

Caddy develops the characters well enough that they have actual fights about things that matter. I wish I could quote one for you, but as with the travel scenes, it’s probably better if you experience them in the context of the story.

As for the plot, the twists didn’t surprise me, but Caddy still uses the main one effectively as a psychological expression of Lycaea’s internal struggles. And although one character is clearly a convenient plot device, the writing, characters and worldbuilding far outweigh an any problems with the fast-paced and straight-forward plot, especially for such a young author with her debut.

I just had such an emotional, immersive experience with this book, I can’t seem to care about anything else!

Overall :

What a fabulous surprise! This is exactly what I want, when I pick up a YA Fantasy. It’s so nice when YA—which has so much potential for emotionally impactful coming-of-age fantasies—gets the details right. I love everything about this book. An ungrudging five stars for Waer!

Recommended To :

Fans of Juliet Marillier, Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley. At the risk of sounding like the complete fangirl I am, I would say, were J. R. R. Tolkien writing in the modern YA field, he would write something like Waer. I can’t wait for my birthday, so I can buy this for my personal library. And when it becomes available on Amazon, I’ll be getting it for the teen section at my work! I can’t wait for Meg Caddy to publish something else!! Hurryhurryhurry….

Thank you so much to Meg Caddy, Text Publishing and Netgalley for my e-galley of Waer.

*****5/5 BRILLIANT STARS