Book Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Touch of Power

I’ve yet to read all of Ms Snyder’s work, but I’m starting to wonder if she’ll ever be able to surpass her first novel, Poison Study. Like many of her readers, I can’t help but compare her later fantasy books with her first one. And in the case of Touch of Power, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d read it before. Characters, relationships, the basic storyline, even specific scenes, were all very familiar. Touch of Power is a bit like reading an early version of Poison Study, one that’s nowhere near as well written or developed.

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life…

Touch of Power definitely has an intriguing set up: fifteen kingdoms decimated by a plague. A Healer’s Guild that has been completely destroyed, its Healers hunted down and executed, a school where future leaders are sent to hone their skills in diplomacy and manipulation, magicians, death eating plants (a subplot I still don’t quite understand). What’s disappointing is that we learn little else beyond this. Touch of Power is the first book in a trilogy, so I wish more time had been set aside to allow the reader to actually experience some of these places instead of learning of them through a brief character conversation. The world building in this book is pretty vague and light on detail.

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Book Breakup: Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts

 

Sword of Light by Katherine RobertsI feel particularly bad about not finishing this, since Templar kindly sent it to me for review, and it seems like the kind of book I probably would have enjoyed as a kid. I’m not going to rate it, because if I did based on my own enjoyment it would pretty low and I don’t feel that is exactly fair, given that I not only didn’t finish reading this, but that I’m also roughly fifteen years older than the intended audience.

I have read and thoroughly enjoyed a lot of junior fiction, but this one, for whatever reason, just didn’t click for me. The writing was just too simple and I found the characters un-engaging. Unfortunately I couldn’t warm to the heroine. She was the kind of character who is incredibly naive yet thinks she knows best and basically causes a lot of bother for everyone else along the way. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, I found her bossy and difficult to like. This is quite a long book for its age group and I personally found the story slow going.

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Book Review: Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

Publisher: David C. Cook

Published: 1st February 2011

Format: Kindle E-book

Genre: Historical Romance,  YA

Recommended Reading Age: 12+

Rating: 6/10

Amazon/Goodreads

What do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world? 

Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Betarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives among the romantic hills with their archaelogist parents. Stuck among the rubble of the medieval castles in rural Tuscany, on yet another hot, dusty archaeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds…until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces. 

Suddenly Gabi’s summer in Italy is much, much more interesting.

Waterfall looked like a safe bet – judging by the many 5/4 star reviews I’ve seen. It also looked like my perfect kind of book – historical setting, a heroine transported back in time, manly men with swords and so forth.

So I’m kind of sad it turned out to be an average read for me.

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Book Review: Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Books

Published: 4th August 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Genre: Supernatural, Paranormal, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 8/10

Amazon/Goodreads

’17-year-old Lila has two secrets she’s prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she’s been in love with her brother’s best friend, Alex, since forever. Or thereabouts.After a mugging on the streets of South London goes horribly wrong and exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust – her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organisation called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they’ve found them. Trying to uncover the truth of why her mother was killed, and the real remit of The Unit, Lila becomes a pawn in a dangerous game. Struggling to keep her secrets in a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realises that she is not alone – there are others out there just like her – people with special powers – and her mother’s killer is one of them…’

I’ve been very lucky lately in that I’ve read several very good books in a row recently, which doesn’t happen often. I bought Hunting Lila purely because I hadn’t read a single negative review. Even the Goodreads ratings are overwhelming positive, which is pretty rare. After reading it for myself, I’m not at all surprised it’s so popular, Hunting Lila is a fun, flirty read and looks like it could become a great series.  Continue reading

Book Review: Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin

Publisher: Corgi Children’s

Published: 2nd June 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Genre: Historical, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 14+

Rating: 7/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘Zarita is used to basking in the pampered lifestyle being the only daughter of the town magistrate affords; she is free to roam the town as she likes, consort with the son of a nobleman and spend her days studying the arts. Saulo’s family have fallen on hard times, and when his father is hanged for an assault on Zarita he did not commit and Saulo is hauled off to be a slave at sea, Saulo swears revenge. But when Zarita’s mother dies in childbirth, and the formidable and frightening Inquisition arrives in the area, a curtain of suspicion and brutality comes down on her old life for good. Saulo may believe that Zarita is his sworn enemy, but in a time when the whole of Spain is in turmoil, are him and Zarita each other’s only hope of survival?’

Prisoner of the Inquisition is good choice for those who enjoy historical fiction. It’s rich in detail and Breslin really captures the atmosphere of the time, the religion, the politics, the ins and outs of everyday life, as well as life at sea in the 1400’s.  Continue reading

Book Review: Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Publisher: Gollancz

First Published: 29th September 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 432

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 6/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘Princess Elisa is a disappointment to her people. Although she bears the Godstone in her navel, a sign that she has been chosen for an act of heroism, they see her as lazy and useless and fat.

On her sixteenth birthday, she is bartered off in royal marriage and shipped away to a kingdom in turmoil, where her much-older and extremely beautiful husband refuses to acknowledge her as his wife. Devastated, Elisa decides to take charge of her fate and learn what it means to bear the Godstone. As an invading army threatens to destroy her new home, and everyone at court maneuvers to take advantage of the young princess, Elisa becomes convinced that, not only is her own life in danger, the whole world needs saving. But how can a young girl who has never ridden horseback, never played the game of politics, and never attained the love of a man save the world? Elisa can’t be sure, but she must try to uncover the Godstone’s secret history before the enemy steals the destiny nestled in her core.’

Fire and Thorns turned out to be an awkward book to review. I started of loving it and quickly got sucked into the story, but by the end of the book I had lost interest. I’m aware my lower rating of Fire and Thorns is in the minority, but I was disappointed by how little I was actually invested in the story. 
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Mini Book Review: Dragonfly by Julia Golding

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Published: 1st may 2008

Format: Paperback

Pages: 398

Genre: Fantasy Adventure, Romance, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 11+

Rating: 6/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘Princess Taoshira is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil ac Burinholt in order to unite their lands. And he’s not too pleased either. They hate each other on sight. So when she and Ramil are kidnapped, they fear there’s no escape – either from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing and imprisonment? And will the people they meet on their adventure – including a circus strongman, a daring rebel leader, a sinister master of spies and the best female fighter they have ever seen – help them or betray them to the enemy…?’

This is definitely a book for younger readers. I say that because the narrative had an edge of simplicity to it, as well as the characters, who were likeable, but child-like in their actions and dialogue. Dragonfly is the sort of book I would have eaten up at 11, as an adult, while I still love the genre, I was looking for more. Continue reading

Book Review: A Tangle of Magicks by Stephanie Burgis

 

‘After her antics in A Most Improper Magick, Kat Stephenson is back to cause more chaos! Stepmama drags the family to Bath to find Kat’s sister a new suitor. But, unknown to most of its gossipy visitors, Bath is full of wild magic. When Kat uncovers a plot to harness this magic in the Roman Baths, she finds her brother Charles is unwittingly involved. Kat must risk her newfound magical powers as she defies the Order of the Guardians to foil the plot and clear her brother’s name.’

A Tangle of Magicks, I’m happy to say, is even more enjoyable than, Kat, Incorrigible, the first book in this refreshing children’s series by Stephanie Burgis (my review of which, can be read here).

I was swept up in Kat’s latest adventure from beginning to end – in fact I finished it in one sitting. Best of all, the characters I grew to love from the first book are all back; we finally get to know a little more about Charles, Kat’s older brother; and see Kat and her father set out to rescue him when he gets in a spot of magical trouble of his own!

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Book Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

 

‘Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she’s a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.’

What can I say about this book. I bought it on a whim without knowing anything much about it (apart from one positive review I vaguely remembered reading a while back) – it reminded me of The Knife of Never Letting Go with a similar style of narration and the synopsis sounded great (cage fighting anyone!) so I picked it up. I’m so so glad I did as I think it’s been one of my favourite reads the past few weeks. I’ve seen a lot of people have bought a copy in this weeks IMMs so I thought I should get my review up!

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Mini Book Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Books 1-3) by Lemony Snicket

 

‘Dear Reader,

If you have not encountered the Baudelaire orphans and their unhappy tale before, I am not sure you should be reading a volume which contains not one but three tales of misery and woe. From the very first page, Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire, three charming and quick-witted youngsters, are pursued by bad luck and horrible experiences. Even the brief moments of happiness in their lives swiftly dissolve into misfortune.

The very book you are holding includes within it’s depressing pages a greedy and impolite villain, cold porridge for breakfast, a deadly serpent, a trip to Peru, hungry leeches and a doll named Pretty Penny.

I have pledged to bring these tragic tales to the public, but you are free to put this book down at once, and look for something more cheerful, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket.’

This is a fantastically unique series for younger readers. Snicket actually becomes like a character himself, as he narrates the unhappy tale of Violet, Klaus and Sunny – possibly three of the most unstereotypical YA characters you will ever read – as though talking directly to the reader. Continue reading