Category Archives: Adventure

Book Review: Half the World (Shattered Sea #2) : by Joe Abercrombie

3.5
half a world

 

 This review contains major spoilers from the first book in the series. Those who are yet to read it, should skip this review. 

The first book ended with Yarvi becoming the minister and thus the right hand to the King of Gettland. He chose to leave the ambition of becoming a King in favour of breathing. Plus, he knew he could do so much better from a position where he was operating from behind the curtain all the while wielding the real power.

In my honest opinion, Half a King was a very apt title for the first book. Notwithstanding the fact that Yarvi does not actually sit on the throne, it is an indisputable truth by the end that Yarvi with his new position will hold half the strings that run the kingdom of Gettland.

In consideration with the first book in the series, Half The World clearly begins after an unannounced period of time has passed, by which time Yarvi has settled himself very well in his new role. FurtherHalf The World  portrays Yarvi thriving. Previously, he was used to scorn and used to be laughed at as he was “half a man”. But now, he is observed with awe as well as wariness. He is now famed to be:

“a deep cunning man”.

Yarvi is seen calculating the odds of winning the battle against those who threaten Gettland’s survival. He observes and assesses the need to put things in motion and so he gets things moving. If he needs to get his hands dirty, he has no qualms about it.
Yarvi is never to be let down. He is persistent and smart enough to change tactics when it is needed in lieu of failures. He acts ruthlessly and takes some cold-blooded steps but he has already realised that a wise man has to often speak the bitter truth but a smarter man has to make the cruellest of choices. It is quite clear that his character operates and thrives in different shades of grey.
Abercrombie puts Yarvi into the mould where he is seen indulging in what would most commonly be called “backseat driving”. And if the ride doesn’t go his way, he has planned for contingencies upon contingencies.

But Half the World is hardly only Yarvi’s story. The author introduces the readers to two new characters: a prickly natured girl named Thorn and a brave but calm warrior Brand.

Thorn has had a difficult time proving herself in the male-dominated society. Her father was a great warrior before he perished and she had a yearning to become a warrior herself since she was a kid. Now, in her teens she unwittingly ends up murdering a fellow trainee and is therefore sentenced to face death. When Yarvi offers her a chance at life, she readily accepts. Yarvi ensures that Thorn is then transformed into a lethal fighter, her killing instincts, the very reason she was doomed is then turned into the reason for her survival and then glory.

Brand’s righteous heart has always landed him in trouble but he cannot live with a heavy conscience. Knowing Thorn is innocent, he tries to save her. Every good deed is punished, so is his. His reward entails the crushing of all his hopes for the future-for a better life by his comrades. Yarvi then takes Brand under his wing.

This novel sees Yarvi, Brand and Thorn on a mission to find allies to aid them in the upcoming war against half the world.

I was suffering through a reading moratorium brought about by life getting in the way of things. I was not sure that I would be able to accord this book with the concentration or time it deserved. But as soon as I picked up this book, I forgot all my worries and was completely at the author’s mercy. I found the opening scene powerful. It was a good strong opening which ensured that the reader would not only be able to sympathise with Thorn’s miserable situation, but also be concerned regarding her future.

Unlike its predecessor, this novel employs multiple POVs which in my opinion serve to enhance the quality of the narrative. The subtlety with which the narratives are handled ensured that I could easily distinguish between the voices of two different characters, for which the author deserves praise.

I admire the fact that the author draws his characters with a number of flaws. Thorn possessed a number of them. In addition to that, Thorn doesn’t lose her pride quite unlike Yarvi who learned to be humbled during his struggle to survive. Due to this, the journey she makes from an impatient and insolent girl to a somewhat-wise woman was a very interesting one.

Brand’s character can be well understood from Yarvi’s words:

A man who gives all thought to do good but no thought to the consequence… that is a dangerous man.”

Indeed the old saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” comes true for Brand. He does take the moral high ground in comparison to his peers but he is never a hypocrite. His journey from a boy to a man is the outcome of an exposure to the depravity of the world he lives in. The glorious war is nothing but the tyranny of the rich and mighty on the poor and the weak. Once Brand has a glimpse of the heartbreaking reality, he emerges the stronger for it. His development leaves him an even more balanced and wiser man. He acknowledges that he might be a brave warrior however his soul yearns for a peaceful life.

Abercrombie further instigates a romance between the two that quite frankly was not really required. On the other hand, Thorn and Brand’s romance isn’t neat and clean. It has its share of awkwardness associated with adolescence. The insecurities and angst is handled nicely and on the whole it is a nicely woven twist in the story. Surprisingly, it specifically adds to the ending with Thorn and Brand choosing such different places for themselves in the world.

Set in a post apocalyptic world, this story is fast-paced. The gritty truth of the pitiful life aboard a vessel during war times is revealed without any unnecessary profanities by the ones who suffer through it. On one hand, apart from the well-written battle scenes, nothing much happens in this book. On the other hand, the political intrigue and the diplomatic games take the front seat. Not at all complying with what is expected, this novel brings up some friends for the protagonists who are much welcomed and unexpected but at the same time dishes out Yarvi’s confrontations with some old enemies. Abercrombie pitts the brain versus brawn in this book and just like the last time, he doesn’t underscore brawn at all.

This book has driven characters and is held by a focused narrative. There are a few similarities that it shares with the first one. Thorn, very much like Yarvi is seen fighting against the odds. Previously, Yarvi’s naivety was questioned, this time it is Brand’s goodness. Very much like the previous book, a lesson is learned at each step of the journey, and of course, this book also involves a voyage like the previous one. It also remains true to its depiction of the harshness of war and a disillusionment with it. Like the last time, there were a lot of twists that I didn’t see coming. In fact, most of the book is unpredictable, apart from one major plot move, which I was sadly able to guess. Still, I enjoyed the book thoroughly. On a side note, I would definitely suggest a re-reading of the previous book before picking up this one though, to better re-acquaint oneself with the world and re-emerging characters. It would definitely double the enjoyment.

 Half the World is a marvellously written book. I couldn’t rest before I finished it. It didn’t drag when not needed and served as a remarkable middle instalment to this series. I am all prepped to read the next one and I am glad that the last book is coming out in July and I won’t have to wait long.

For my review of  Half A King (Shattered Sea #1) click here .

Advertisements

A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

4.5

a darker shade of magic

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. 

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped. (Goodreads)

***** I received an ARC copy of this book from Titan Publishers. This is an Honest Review*****

This is my first Schwab book and it is a fascinating, multidimensional setting of three Londons, which are unique for being the point where three geographically differing worlds overlap. This is a wholly original and refreshing new story with an air of antiquity to it. The story, its complexity, the flavour and atmosphere of the overlapping worlds pull you in from the first page. The world building is remarkable and the prose is nuanced and lyrical.

The characters are satisfactorily complex. Not extraordinarily so, but enough to delight in. Kell is a Traveller – a rare species of people capable of travelling between the three worlds. Worlds of differing amounts of magic, technology and life. He wears a unique coat and acts as messenger for the Red Crown. (I will admit, I really liked Kell’s coat and loved whenever the parts about it came.)

Lila is a cross-dressing thief who aspires to be a pirate. To have an independent and free life with no shackles, no restrictions, no bonds. There’s a stimulating balance to him, and common sense that is welcome in both. The rest of the main characters comprise of the Red Royal Family which includes Prince Rhy, the closest person to Kell; the current rulers of White London and their Traveller and messenger Holland; and a bartender and owner in Grey London.

Kell and Holland particularly, are the truly complex characters of the book. They straddle the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, weak and strong. Lila is refreshingly independent whose ambitions are not put on hold for anything or anyone. However I wish there had been more interactions with Rhy, the prince. His relationship with Kell and personality are all seen through Kell to significant depth, but I wish there are had been more, to get a sense of him as a reader. Especially considering the developments that take place because of him.

The length of the book didn’t faze me, only made me eager to know what would happen next. Kept me on my toes, so to speak. Yes, it takes its sweet time to progress and has a leisurely pace, yet I never felt impatient with the story or for the end to come, nor did I despair over how much was left to read. The thought in my mind was – What will happen next? How will the story move forward? Where will it go? And what will happen once we’ve reached there?

Explaining this without giving details is difficult, but I will say that I did not expect the ending. I am ambiguous about it. On the one hand I expected it to end on a cliff-hanger, especially since it was apparent that there will be sequels. But that did not happen. The danger which I expected to continue into the next one was temporarily halted with the resolution of the part of the story and struggle that this book dealt with. I also did not particularly care for the Rhy-Kell plot in the second half.

I felt the writing slackened towards the end, especially considering the standards of the first three quarters of the book. Suddenly things happened swiftly and not smoothly. It came across as rushed. All the pent up tension and anticipation was not fully and satisfactorily carried through, did not match the build-up. At the end I felt – That’s it?

Other than that, A Darker Shade of Magic is a remarkable story with a mystical charm and I can’t wait for more of the worlds and their stories to unfold. And I will definitely be reading more of Schwab’s works in the future.

a-darker-shade-of-magic1


Book Review: The Revenge of Seven (Lorien Legacies #5) by Pittacus Lore

4gem

22619745

The fifth book in the I Am Number Four series. The Garde have suffered an unbearable loss. Number Five has betrayed them. Eight is gone forever. Ella has been kidnapped. The others are now scattered.

In Chicago, John makes the unlikeliest of allies: Adam, a Mogadorian who turned his back on his people. He has invaluable information about Mog technology, battle strategies, and weaknesses. Most important, he knows where to hit them: their command base near Washington, DC. During the assault, however, John and Adam learn the unimaginable truth: it is too late. The Mogadorians have commenced their ultimate invasion plans.

With a front-row seat to the impending invasion, Ella finds herself in the hands of the enemy. For some reason she’s more valuable to them alive, and they’ll stop at nothing to turn her.

Meanwhile, Six, Nine, and Marina make their way through the Florida Everglades, hot on the trail of the traitorous Five. With the development of a new Legacy, Marina finally has the power to fight back—if her thirst for revenge doesn’t consume her first.

The Garde are broken and divided once again, but they will not be defeated. As long as one still stands, the battle for Earth’s survival is not lost. (Amazon)

Writing a review for the fifth book in a series can be tricky. But, assuming and hoping that whoever reads this will have read the rest of the books, let’s begin. This was one of the stronger books in the series in terms of writing, character appeal and story. The Rise of Nine and The Revenge of Seven are the best books for me. The Power of Six was mostly irritating because of John, and The Fall of Five was predictable. It was so obvious that Five was not to be trusted that there wasn’t anything left for me to enjoy. Also, Eight died in it. Enough said.

To start with I have an issue with the titles of the books. After the first one, none of the books have had much relation to their titles. With The Revenge of Seven, when you also consider the cover blurb, you expect the book to have Seven’s POV and revolve around her grief and pain over Eight’s death which drives her to take revenge on the Mogs, especially Five, and really kick ass with her new legacy. But nope, the reality is far from it. She barely had a presence other than to be a silently threatening (not) person, who behaves more nun/priest like as the novel progresses. I have a suspicion she’ll actually return to a convent, considering her behaviour in the end, which is not cool. I loved the way her character was introduced in the second book. I much preferred her narration over Johns’ then. This time she was the least favourite because she did nothing but brood.

Moving on, this was a good book, with plenty of action and laughs, along with parts in between when the story progresses and you learn more about Setrakus Ra and Ella. And there’s also the highly anticipated union of all the members especially Adam and Four, which was the best. My favourite character is Adam, and I loved his presence and involvement in the plot. He had a final showdown with his dad, and I’m glad he got that closure and officially moved on as his own person.

Six and Sam didn’t have much of an impact considering one of the POVs was Six. I didn’t like the direction her relationship with Sam took. For once I preferred John and Sarah, though I was still really happy when she went off the picture. In the previous books she and John have been the most annoyingly space-occupying parts. The focus on romantic relations is a bit much when there’s so much more that could’ve been happening; friendships are the better part of this series.

The strongest and most enjoyable scenes were the ones with Ella, Adam and the last few chapters. The tense atmosphere and impending doom you feel when Ella spends time with Ra, and the invasion, was great. Five’s repentance didn’t do much for me, since in the other book and novellas also I felt nothing for him. He’s the one character who failed to evoke any emotions other than complete distrust and dislike. I felt that there could have been a little more focus on Marina and Nine in terms of their grief and her forgiveness.

And the ending, OMG the ending. It was awesome and crazy and typically a cliff-hanger. But the kind you love and hate simultaneously because you’re left open-mouthed at the developments, and horror that it ended in the middle of something so massive and fantastic! I can’t wait to read what happens in the, hopefully, last book. I hope it’s long and written like this one where the focus is on more important things than teenage relationship angst. This was a very exciting and fulfilling book for me, and there are things I can’t wait to find out, like:

I’m pretty sure there’s even more to the Ra-Lore-Ella scene, but what will it be? And that Ella will be the end of Ra – Yay.

Who is GUARD?? Can’t wait to find out in Mark’s novella.

What of Sam? Who else? And what of the rest of the Guarde, and Ra with the pendants and chests?

Ultimately, I just hope Adam, Ella, Sam and the Chimeras don’t die.

 


Book Review: Half a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie

4

Half a King - Joe Abercrombie

What a book! This was my first attempt at reading a book by Joe Abercrombie. And I am hooked to the series now!
I rarely pick up YA novels, but I picked up this one without knowing the genre. I was interested due to the cover, the blurb, the title – you get the idea. Anyway, I began reading this novel expecting there to be an undervalued hero (lets face it – assumptions are bound to be made), and I expected him to prove himself as soon as he got a chance. My expectations were turned to dust.

Story begins with the protagonist, Prince Yarvi. He is the youngest son of the royal family, and in everyone’s opinion, he is deformed. It is indeed a fact that one of his hands is not formed like the other. And so, he has borne the scorn of everyone since he has been a kid. It obviously does wonders for his self-confidence. Hence when the crown is thrust on his head, it does not favour him with any dignity or power. Soon afterwards, he is forced to take an oath to avenge the deaths of his father and brother. His sentiments:

He had always been weak, but he never felt truly powerless until they made him a king.

The story seems deceptively predictable. While reading the beginning, I had a sinking feeling that this would turn out to be another story about a man who is kicked down all his life, and then grows a backbone at the end, or survives due to a simple trick up his sleeve. Thankfully, I was wrong. Yarvi is wise, and his spirit isn’t completely broken. He prefers peace over war and knows the difference between killing a warrior and killing innocents. Bloodshed and fighting has never enthralled him. But a King must get his hands dirty at times and he must make hurtful decisions when required. Yarvi lacks these qualities. He was never required to have them, and nobody bothered instilling these into him. So when the mantle is his to take, he is not equipped to do so. Due to this, he is betrayed, and almost killed. The only reason he survives is because his enemies consider him dead.

Then begins his journey. His first thought had been vengeance, but now he fights for his survival. And he doesn’t fight with a sword, rather, he fights with his will, to live. He suffers living through muck and has his spirit broken badly. He faces fears he never thought existed. At last, survival instincts kick in, and from there on, things get better. But it happens slowly and gradually.

The friends which Yarvi finally makes are more due to circumstances than choice. However, these are the trustworthy ones, unlike those usually formed in palaces. The long journey home, with friends, makes a major portion of the book. But it is not overwhelming or boring at any point. The author doesn’t introduce any fantastical monsters, because there are plenty of enemies and plenty of hard times as it is.

Things come full circle at the end. Yarvi does come back to his kingdom, to claim his rightful place. But how it comes to happen, is a story worth reading. That is not all. The plot is peppered with twists. Anytime there is a lull, you can bet another twist is coming to rescue you from the boredom.

Half A King is set in a somewhat neo-viking world. It has kingdoms and dangerous barren lands, towns and villages, Kings and High Kings, Priests and Ministers, Slavers and Pirates. Religion is a strong vein pulsing through people, but even there they seem somewhat divided. The Gods and Elves share a story when it comes to religion, and both are remembered quite often. The world building, even with the details is simple and easy to understand.

Yarvi’s character grows throughout the book, and this development is beautiful to see. Yarvi had all the brains, he just needed the polish. But it is only after the veneer of safety and protection is taken away that his wisdom comes to the forefront. He survives a lot, purely due to his wisdom. He is helped slightly by Lady Luck, but that is a rare occurrence.

The other characters in the novel are painted with a double-edged blade – one of them would be friendly to you, another would cut you. It is quite surprising and quite good to see the transformation in Yarvi’s point of view towards certain characters. When at his weakest, Yarvi is finally able to channel the skills which he saw in his family and found lacking in himself. And this brings confidence in his stride.

I saw the first betrayal coming through, and was able to predict a few minor events in the book. But the larger picture I was never able to predict. Yarvi, it seemed to me, did have the properties to become a good king. A different kind of king perhaps, but a good king. Yet he definitely lacked the confidence and the muscle power. Once his suffering comes to an end however, Yarvi comes to a few realisations. One of them is that it is a dark world and he has to bend so that he doesn’t break. His maturity is shown in his actions and words:

When you are in hell,” murmured Yarvi, “only a devil can point the way out.

But this is the point where another twist takes the plot in a completely unforeseen direction.

There are insignificant details distributed throughout the text. It can be surmised that these are merely to fill the gaps, or act as an immediate bridge to another conversation. However, these insignificant details came together later, to contribute significantly to the larger picture. The author even created a few loopholes purposefully, just to ensure an airtight story later when he ties them up. In short, a brilliant hand at work.

Most significantly, I liked the portrayal of politics in the novel. It is done with a subtle touch, yet its importance cannot be undermined. The narration is simple, yet impactful. The author employs minimal fantastical elements, if any. The way the whole story comes to an end, the way the plot inside is revealed to the reader at the end, is classic on its own. The dialogues are good, and add to the pleasure of reading a good story. My favourite words:

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.

Overall, a great read! I am eagerly anticipating the twists the next book will entail.


Book Review: The Trouble with Demons (Raine Benares #3) by Lisa Shearin

4

The trouble With Demons

Caution: Do not read this review if you haven’t read the previous novels in the series. Review full of spoilers from Book  2.

At the end of Armed and Magical, Raine had been able to solve a some of her problems, but few still remained unsolved. One of those unsolved problem is Sarad Nukpana, who is unrelenting in his efforts of mind manipulation and another is a 1000 year old dead man come back to life-Rudra Muralin, the previous bond servant to the Saghred, who is eager to resume his previous position (eliminating Raine in the process). When a portal to hell is opened on the island, it is easy to guess that Rudra is the mastermind of this deadly game. Rudra’s plan is simple, he makes a deal to accomplish his goals, with the Demon Queen. She has her own interests in the Saghred and some lively plans for it. Raine, therefore, has to save her neck and the Saghred. In the meantime, she also has to capture a mysterious KEY to Saghred’s lock, before anyone else gets to it.

Demon infestation, though not an original idea, is wonderfully portrayed without it being even slightly boring or predictable. I had not expected such an addition to the story.

The previous book had led Raine through events with a pace of a rollercoaster ride. There had been an attempt at Justinius’s execution, everyone suspected Piaras for it, and he almost got sacrificed at the altar of the Saghred(again).  The aforementioned incidents had Raine rethinking her decision to stay on the Isle of Mid. However, since she still needed a way to break her connection with the Saghred, she chose to stay on Phaelan’s ship rather than enter the gilded cage again.

Raine’s decision to stay on the ship is peaceful to her mind somewhat, but it cannot keep her away from trouble. This time trouble comes in the form of demons. On a shopping trip, she tries to save a man from dying at the hands of invisible-blue-naked-demons, only for the public to misunderstand her as the murderer. Raine isn’t much bothered though. Being a member of the Benares family, she is well equipped to take it in her stride.The Saghred does not look at the demons as enemies, which means Raine is almost helpless against the danger. When she takes an impossible form of help from Tam to save Talon and Piaras, she realises her problems haven’t even begun yet.

We see Tam, Mychael and Raine bound in a magical bond and we see Raine’s amazement and despair at it, because this bond endangers all three of them. But right now there doesn’t seem to be a way out. And no one has the time to bother. Tam has to find the demon portal and close it, Mychael has to save the residents and students at the Isle, and Raine is too busy trying to counter Rudra’s plan and saving Saghred.

The story has a good beginning. It starts exactly where the previous book had come to an end. The depiction of demons is ludicrous at first and lethal later, to ease the readers into the book. With Phaelan and Vegard at her side, Raine is ever ready to take on trouble, and that is what she inevitably runs into.

The emergence of demons also cause Talon and Piaras to be caught in middle of a battle that is not theirs. Taltek Balmorlan and Carnades Silvanus are eager to intervene and gain control of the situation. But that is not the end of their ambition. We also see Raine protecting Carnades  and warning him of danger, but again it is a futile good deed. Especially because he is blind in his hatred and would readily condemn Raine and her friends to execution, given a chance. I honestly think that Raine shouldn’t have bothered. But we are made to understand, she cannot help her conscience anymore than Carnades can help being an evil, pompous idiot.

***SPOILER ALERT***
Sarad’s mind control, exhibited in all its glory to blackmail Raine, forces Raine and Mychael into taking preventive measures. But even those few steps lead to further revelations for Raine (and through her, for the readers).
****SPOILER ENDS***

I picked up this series with all the books in my hand, so I didn’t have to wait a whole year for the next book to come out.Which meant I read the series back to back. So one thing was annoyingly clear to me. It was the repetition in the narrative. Raine provides the explanation for the current situations and introduces the characters to us in great details. This explanation was there in the second book as well and I found the repetition irksome in both the books.

The rest of the narrative is good and has the same fast pace that the previous books in the series had. The suspense in the story is good too.  The stand which Piaras took against the demons (with someone at his side) at the end is not only depicted well, it is chucklesome, which comes as a nice surprise. The three-way bond between Tam, Raine and Mychael had originally given me a feeling of dread. I expected the things to slide into hot and nasty waters then, but things were handled neatly, with no fuss. The ending is good too, though slightly expected yet unforeseeable.

The Trouble With Demons has a lot of unexpected springing on us and a lot of the expected (yet unanticipated) happening before our eyes. Altogether, apart from a few tiny misses, it is a book I thoroughly enjoyed.


Book Review: Armed & Magical (Raine Benares #2) by Lisa Shearin

4

Armed & Magical - Lisa Shearin

Caution: Do not read this review if you haven’t read the first novel in the series. Review full of spoilers from Book 1.

I picked up this book immediately after I finished the first one in the series. I liked it even more.

Previously, Raine had decided to accompany Mychael (the hot-hot dude in authority) and her (not by blood but equally dear) younger brother Piaras to the Isle of Mid where the Conclave resides. It could not be avoided because Raine is now connected to the soul-sucking evil rock Saghred. However, as soon as she steps on the isle of Mid, her guard needs to be up.

An unexpected and deadly event forces her to display her enhanced magical abilities in public, only to realise that she has unfortunately succeeded in attracting even more attention than that which can be handled. Armed and Magical shows Raine using her new-found extraordinary (for her) abilities. These had been enhanced due to her previously small contact with Saghred.  But that’s not all. Many people, some of them from the Conclave and Isle of Mid, want Saghred’s power for themselves. They envy her and fear her connection with the Saghred and the power that she can wield with it. Many would prefer her dead and buried. For her protection, she is accommodated at the citadel, where the Saghred is kept under lock and key. Raine is surrounded by so many Guardians, she is almost like a prisoner herself. But that’s not all.

Students have been going missing. They have no connections with each other but the kidnappings do not seem random. After Piaras unintentionally paints a target on his back, Raine is forced to fight against impossible odds to unravel the mystery behind the kidnappings.

First of all, what genuinely surprised me was the time frame of the two novels. The first novel has a time span of few days, almost a week, if you include the journey to Isle of Mid. The second novel’s time frame is the week next to it. No gaps at all. The story is fast paced from the beginning to the end with adequate breathing moments.

I liked the addition of a few secondary characters (Vegard and Talon) but was slightly disappointed that a few of the characters from the previous novel were missing. I had hoped to read more about them. But again, the author didn’t seem to require them, so she disposed them off rather than making them hanger-ons. On the other hand, poor Piaras is repeatedly dragged into trouble alongside Raine. However, to me it seems that the author has made a team of Piaras and Raine. When trouble comes calling, somehow or the other, they end up together.

Raine has her own problems too. She wants to get rid of Saghred but cannot discover a way which will leave her alive in the interim, and adding to that is the pressure of Saghred’s evil hunger and manipulation.

***SPOILER ALERT (Book 1 & 2)***

Previously, when Sarad had blackmailed Raine, she had tricked Sarad into becoming a victim to Saghred’s hunger. Now, utilising Saghred’s connection to Raine, Sarad has been chatting from inside the Saghred with Raine. So Raine has to fight Sarad’s interruption even in her sleep. Needless to say, she is scared of losing her mind to either the rock or to Sarad, she believes either option equally unhealthy.

***SPOILER ENDS***

I admire the author’s skill. Even when things turn extremely serious , without any witty dialogues whatsoever, the author always succeeds in making you laugh. This series reminds me of  the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. Lisa Shearin’s writing style is very similar and almost as good.

The romantic angle has its own share of twists. Tam shows up but he has been keeping secrets. And though Raine is attracted to him, the Saghred is ready to side with Tam wholeheartedly. His black magic calls to Saghred and vice-versa. Meanwhile, Mychael and Raine continue to be drawn towards each other, and its a sexy and amusing evolution.

I shockingly liked the portrayal of the existing tension between these three. No angst, no heavy confusion. Raine has hardly any time to ponder over her love life and both Tam and Mychael are men of honour and behave in the same manner. It is a clean and short depiction which could have been messy but is handled marvelously well.

One small thing though, I still prefer Phaelan (Raine’s cousin) to the heroes. I used to avoid pirates but looking at his intelligence and loyalty, and his sense of humour, that dude had me much more interested in him than in Tam or Mychael.

Raine also encounterd some first class obnoxious a**holes ( like Conclave’s mage – Carnades). I found him amazingly short-sighted, selfish, a bigot  and exceptionally stupid. I could go on and on, but that’s not the point . The point is that the story and the characters can stoke up the reader’s emotions pretty well. Raine has the power and skill to dispose them off, but she is a better person than that. Naturally, it comes back to bite her.

I really have to give credit to the author. Her depiction of evil is classic. From the very first novel, any time Sarad Nukpana enters the frame, it can make your hair stand on end. It is so neatly and so lethally done, it is beautiful.

Taken as a whole, the characterisation is well done, the narrative is delightful and easy enough to visualise, the snappy banter among the characters is amusing and the suspense is good enough to keep you on your toes, to say the least. It has a good ending, which makes it clear that more is to come but it is time to take a breath before you plunge into another Raine Benares adventure.


Book and Movie Review: Holes by Louis Sachar

 

  4.5               4gem

Holes-Book Cover        holes_movie

Stanley Yelnats is an overweight teen who is one day wrongly accused of stealing a pair of shoes donated to an orphanage by a famous baseball player. No one believes him when he says they fell on him from the sky. Stanley’s family has always suffered from bad luck, which they believe is due to a curse brought about by his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather”, Elya Yelnats. Sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention centre for boys, and which is in fact a desert, Stanley has no choice but to tough it out. Character building at Camp Green Lake is achieved by digging holes in the desert exactly 5 feet deep and wide every day.

Stanley meets a group of fellow juvenile convicts; the head counsellor Mr Sir who has recently quit smoking; Mr Pendaski, counsellor of D-Tent and referred to as Mom by all the kids; and the mysterious Warden. As days go by, Stanley comes to find that there’s more to the task of digging holes than character building, and that the lake hides some long lost secrets.

The plot consists of multiple story lines across many generations. There are snippets of stories spread between Stanley’s, which seem to make no sense, but eventually start coming together in delightfully complex ways. Every action and inaction of the past has a ripple effect on the future. It’s a clever story with good, believable characters. The descriptions are vivid, making it easy to imagine everything; produce strong visuals. Stanley’s dry humour keeps the novel interesting and holds attention. It’s a fun, profound, compelling book where you’re never given too much or too little information.

Over the years I’ve read this book multiple times and its charm has not yet worn off. A whimsical story that deals with themes of friendship, courage, racism, fortitude and destiny. Holes always has been, and always will be, one my favourite novels.

The film adaptation of the book was released in 2003. It was directed by Andrew Davis (Code of Silence, Under Siege, The Fugitive), starring Shia LaBeouf as Stanley Yelnats and distributed by Buena Vista.

The movie is as close and true to the novel as it’s possible to be. There are a few changes but none that take away from the story, evident in Sachar’s screenplay and involvement in the film. The actors are wonderful, especially Jon Voight as Mr Sir and Sigourney Weaver as The Warden.

The plot is well woven and comes full circle. The shifting times and stories are well portrayed. It’s a movie anyone can watch and enjoy – good for the whole family. One of those works which stay true to the original story and are better for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Movie Review: The Croods

2.5gem

croods_movieposter

Released in 2013, The Croods is a 3D computer animated film set in a fictional prehistoric era. It features the voices of Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman and Clark Duke. Produced by DreamWorks Animation, it’s directed and written by Kirk DeMicco (Racing Stripes, Space Chimps) and Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch, How To Train Your Dragon)

The Croods are a family of cavemen who spend all their time either fighting for survival or holed up in a cave. All their neighbours fell prey to some predator or equally unfortunate incident, leaving them the sole survivors. The family consists of Dad, Mom, their three kids and Dad’s mother in law. Dad is the natural leader, a superstitious, overprotective man who’s obsessed with his family’s safety. Everything new and different, curiosity and fun are BAD and result in death. On the other hand you have the eldest daughter Eep, who’s desperate to explore, experience new things, and live as opposed to existing. The Croods’ lives are turned upside down when their cave is destroyed due to massive natural changes (Pangaea splitting into different continents). Here enters a new character in their life, Guy, an intelligent but lonely nomad who’s a little ahead on the evolutionary scale in terms of brain power; and his pet sloth cum pants holder Belt, who has a flair for the dramatic. The rest of the movie is about this motley group’s search for a new safe haven and the experiences of life along the way.

Visually the movie is stunning. There are a new range of animals in this historic world, an imaginative mix of present day species. The action sequences are wonderful, especially the hunting scene at the very beginning is fantastic.

Story wise the movie is weak and a mash up of other animated films, with average dialogues. Not the most remarkable work from DreamWorks. The humour is slapstick which eventually becomes boring and annoying. The movie is filled with stereotypes and clichés, like the Father/Protective Parent and the rebellious daughter angle. It also underperforms in the emotional department. Though the creatures are imaginative, some were ill conceived and discomforting.

The movie has three good points: the first being the animation. The second is the well captured struggle and discovery of new things – the father’s wariness, Eep’s fascination and everyone’s uncertainty. Thirdly, the scene of Eep’s discovery of fire, and the way she tries to understand it is portrayed beautifully.

********SPOILER********

Eep’s infatuation with Guy, though predictable, was not respectable, since initially she proved to be a strong, independent girl who wanted to learn new things and explore the world she lives in, instead of living in fear, in a cave, for days at a time. That part was pushed to the side-lines as she turned into an obsessed, teenage fan to the rock star like Guy.

*******SPOILER END********

The beginning of the movie is good, the ending is ridiculous and stupid. It’s a film only kids can enjoy; adults would, at the most, find it amusing. If not for the ending, I would’ve given it three gems.