The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Horwitz #BookReview #ChildrensFiction

Title: The Wingsnatcherswingsnatchers1
Author: Sarah Jean Horwitz
Series: Carmer and Grit #1
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details:  April 25th 2017 by Algonquin Young Readers

Genre(s): Children’s (middle grade); Fantasy; Steampunk
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

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A stunning debut about a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess who must vanquish the mechanical monsters that stalk the streets and threaten the faerie kingdom.

Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly.


Review

The Wingsnatcher’s is the first book in a series featuring Grit the one-winged faery princess and Carmer, a (failing) magician’s apprentice who live in two very different worlds but have one thing in common – they are both in need of help. And so they make a pact to help each other and become firm friends along the way.

I loved the premise of this book and the story itself did not disappoint. Horwitz has created a fantasy world that is both adorable and edgy. Some will fall in love with Grit and her plight of being a one-winged faery, a disability she has accepted and overcome, and others will love Carmer and his ambition of being this great inventor but who feels a loyalty to the hopeless magician who took him under his wing.

Together, the unlikely duo try to discover who is attacking faeries, and win the invention competition as Carmer’s livelihood and future is at stake.

I really enjoyed the dynamic of these two characters, and their dialogue was great. I also really enjoyed Steampunk elements of the story; there are these demonic mechanical cats who were genuinely scary so I’d bear that in mind when giving to a younger child – I loved them though.

Great action, great descriptions and interesting characters; I just thought the pace was a tad slow, and that the book didn’t need to be over 300 pages, especially considering the target market.

unicorn rating 3

 

 

The Almost King by Lucy Saxon

almostking

Title: The Almost King
Author: Lucy Saxon
Series: Take Back the SKies #2
Edition: Digital ARC, 400 Pages
Publication Details: June 2nd 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre(s): YA; Steampunk
Disclosure? Yep! I was provided with a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

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In the second book in this sprawling saga, Aleks is the youngest of four brothers, each with his future predictably mapped out. But Aleks wants more than a life in his father’s shop. So when he hears his parents worrying about money, he decides to save them the cost of his keep by running away.

Aleks joins the army—but when that doesn’t answer his problems, he breaks the law and deserts. Wanted and alone, he heads north, where he stumbles into love, adventure, and a skyship he might be able to call home . . . if he can evade the soldiers pursuing him.

Prepare for another sweeping adventure by nineteen-year-old Lucy Saxon in a series that seamlessly blends genre elements and a compelling contemporary voice.

Review

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Take Back the Skies considering the very mixed reviews it got, and I knew I’d need to continue with the series after a surprising, infuriating ending, so I was pretty thrilled to get approved for the second book.

The Almost King is set in the same world, but isn’t a continuation on Cat’s story,to my dismay. I was dying to know what that crazy ending was all about, but nooooooo!

However,The Almost King is about Aleks, the youngest boy in a large family who feels like he’s always in his older brother’s shadow and wants to do something that will set him aside from them.

Alexs’ solution is to join the military, which we know from Take Back the Skies is not as it seems.

I’m gonna throw it out there, the start of this book was written terribly. It was wooden, felt disjointed and was just very writing 101. I had expected the first book to be like that but it wasn’t, so I was really disappointed that this one was.

But saying that, it got much better after a chapter or two, and I really enjoyed it. I longed for it to meet up where the first book left off but I think it’s kind of more intriguing that it didn’t.

So all in all, I found this book to be a mixed bag, but I’ll deffo be looking forward to the next instalment.

unicorn rating 3

(Out Today!) Skyships, Pickpockets, and a Whole Lot of Lies…

take
Title: Take Back the Skies
Series: Take Back the Skies #1
Author: Lucy Saxon
Edition: e-book, 496 pages
Published: June 5th 2014 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy; Steampunk
Disclosure? Yep, I received a copy via the author/publisher in exchange for an HONEST review.

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Purchase

Catherine Hunter is the daughter of a senior government official on the island of Anglya. She’s one of the privileged – she has luxurious clothes, plenty to eat, and is protected from the Collections which have ravaged families throughout the land. But Catherine longs to escape the confines of her life, before her dad can marry her off to a government brat and trap her forever.

So Catherine becomes Cat, pretends to be a kid escaping the Collections, and stows away on the skyship Stormdancer. As they leave Anglya behind and brave the storms that fill the skies around the islands of Tellus, Cat’s world becomes more turbulent than she could ever have imagined, and dangerous secrets unravel her old life once and for all . . .

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Take Back the Skies. I’d read a few unfavourable reviews, and found out that the author is only 19, 16 when she started writing the novel, which I realise I shouldn’t let sway me before even opening the book, but of course it does!

Then I started reading, and it was good. Really good! I was hoping to skim-read it because I’ve fallen behind on ARCS/reviews lately, but I found that I didn’t want to skim it at all, I wanted to savour it.

Take Back the Skies is a fast-paced, well written, fantasy-adventure. Protagonist Cat, is a loveable, head-strong character who I instantly felt invested in.

We follow her as she runs away from her snobbish, government father who wants to marry her off for status, to the skyship Stormdancer where she meets a colourful array of characters who soon become Cat’s family. Once in the skies, it quickly becomes apparent that things in Anglya and the surrounding islands are not as they seem. The war seems to have ended, so why are all the teenagers being ‘collected’ to go to war? Where are they?

Seriously guys, I really loved this. There was a lot of action and intrigue, and I think the world Saxon built is great. There was a lot of characterisation too, so even though Cat hadn’t known the crew of the Stormdancer very long, it felt OK how close they became. There is a cute romance between Cat and Fox, a hot orphan who likes to get his guns out – in both senses of the word – but it did start to feel a bit Twilight-y on some occasions where Fox was telling Cat that he’s no good for her and she should choose another. And also Cat thinking that he couldn’t possibly like her. Yawn.

Once they’d gotten over that though, and decided to be together, I liked that it wasn’t all Cat thought about. There was no ‘omg he kissed me and it felt amazing and I want to touch him all the time’, it was pretty much wham, bam, thank you maam (they’re wasn’t actually any ‘bamming’, don’t get your hopes up).

Cat, Fox and the rest of the Stormdancer crew were intent on outing the government and finding out what was happening to all the kids, and once they do, there’s definitely a sense of look what you’ve got yourselves into. I really enjoyed the conflict between high-society and the commoners, and the sinister operations of the government – I wasn’t expecting that plot at all.

However, I can’t wrap this up without talking about the ending. No spoilers I promise, but it was just bad. End of. There was no need for the Epilogue at all, nothing was resolved, and I only hope that the outcome makes more sense in the second book.

I’m tempted to give it 3 Unicorns just because of the ending, but the rest of it was so good, so I won’t. Any book that makes me GASP deserves 4 Unicorns.

unicorn rating 4

Take Back the Skies is available from Waterstones in Limited 1st Edition Hardback, and Paperback from today.

Currently Reading:

Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxton

takeCatherine Hunter is the daughter of a senior government official on the island of Anglya. She’s one of the privileged – she has luxurious clothes, plenty to eat, and is protected from the Collections which have ravaged families throughout the land. But Catherine longs to escape the confines of her life, before her dad can marry her off to a government brat and trap her forever. So Catherine becomes Cat, pretends to be a kid escaping the Collections, and stows away on the skyship Stormdancer. As they leave Anglya behind and brave the storms that fill the skies around the islands of Tellus, Cat’s world becomes more turbulent than she could ever have imagined, and dangerous secrets unravel her old life once and for all …

I started this last week but I’ve had next to no reading time of late 😦 However, my first impressions are good ones! I know it’s all most people are talking about, but I can’t believe Saxon is only 18 and started writing this book when she was 16. It certainly doesn’t read like it’s written by a sixteen year old so far!

I have high hopes for this steampunk, fantasy adventure.

Goodreads
Purchase (limited Hardback 1st Edition & Paperback available)
Available to pre-order now, or buy from the 6th June.

Rereads Challenge Review: Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) by Phillip Pullman

REREAD

north

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him.

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights…

I’ve always thought of Northern Lights as one of my childhood favorites even though I had only read it twice. The last time was probably when I was about 16 – almost 15 years ago (EEEEEK) – so it was long due a reread. Added to that, I went off on an adventure of my own in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland, so I thought it would be the perfect book to get me excited about it.

Unfortunately, the beginning of the book felt more like a chore this time round. It’s funny how you always remember the good parts (Lovely Lyra, the badassness of Iorek Byronison, the magical descriptions of the arctic and the Aurora) but forget the bad parts (the slow pace and drawn-out plot).

But thankfully, my disappointment didn’t last too long. I’m pretty sure the reason I fell in love with this book when I was younger wasn’t just the fantasy, magical elements of it, but Lyra herself. She’s such a great protagonist. She’s inherently good and powerful but she doesn’t know it. She has no idea of her potential but runs on the simple instinct to do what’s right and to help the best she can. In the beginning her only motivation is to save Roger and a longing to explore the north, but little did she know where it would lead her.

I probably missed a some of the underlying themes in this series the first time round. It’s infamous for being anti-religious (or at least void of Christianity) much like the Narnia books are infamous for their not-so-subtle Christian themes, but that wasn’t what was new to me this time around. I’d somehow missed the onslaught political and racial commentary.

Also, it’s totally Steampunk, right?

All that aside, by the middle of this, I was hooked again, I stopped peeling back the layers and just enjoyed the story of a plucky girl and her daemon (oh how I wanted my own daemon growing up – OK I still do!) on a thrilling adventure to the arctic to save her best friend and find out the truth about the family that disowned her.

And it’s dark, really dark – with the human experiments, kidnappings and gory deaths…

And as he said that, the Aurora flickered and dimmed, like an anbaric bulb at the end of its life, and then went out altogether. In the gloom, though, Lyra sensed the presence of the Dust, for the air seemed to be full of dark intentions, like the forms of thoughts not yet formed”

Perfect!

I’m so glad I can still call it a favourite.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: Nope, I own it.
Title: Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1)
Author: Phillip Pullman
Details: Paperback, 399 pages
Publication Date: October 23rd 1998 by Scholastic Point (first published 1995)
My Rating: 4/5

The Verdict: Soulless – Gail Carriger

Cheap clothing is no excuse for killing a man! Click to view on Goodreads
Cheap clothing is no excuse for killing a man!
Click to view on Goodreads

Synopsis: First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire – and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

As I mentioned before, I don’t really know anything about Steampunk. Other than the fact that it’s everywhere at the moment, I like the clothes but would never be able to pull it off and that there seems to be a whole lot of what I can only describe as gold binocular type goggles and mechanical Blimps, or Glassicles and Dirigibles as I now know them to be (see, learning). That being said, I actually really enjoyed that element of the story. It brought a new dimension to your average ‘Paranormal Romance’ genre.

Soulless is basically a sort of Victorian mystery-cum-paranormal-romance in which Miss Alexia ‘I’m the one with no soul’ Tarabotti accidentally kills a feral, unregistered vampire with her parasol. Oh, how very uncouth! This results in her spending more time with Lord Maccon of BUR – The Bureau of Unnatural Registration – whose job it is to investigate such improper occurrences. Chaos and an unlikely romance ensues. Obviously.

After the initial LOLs from the almost farcical “Victorian” language Carriger uses,(can you image a vampire saying ‘she is trying to make a funny’? No, me neither) there’s actually a lot to like in this book. Lord Maccon for one. Hot, Scottish (‘of all barbaric places’) Werewolf type who I like to picture as Simon from Biffy Clyro:

Simon 'Sexy Jesus' Neil AKA Lord Maccon.
Simon ‘Sexy Jesus’ Neil AKA Lord Maccon.

AND we later come across a character named Biffy! Coincidence? I think not!

The fact that pale girls with some flesh on their bones are the desirable ones is also a confidence booster, good work Victorians. And well , it’s all pretty funny really. I’m still not entirely sure if I was laughing at it, or with it. Probably a bit of both, but either way it brought a smile to my face.

I made some really in-depth review notes for your perusal:

Don't call him your mistress!!!
Don’t call him your mistress!!!
Excellent Vocab!
Excellent Vocab!
Angry-sticking-up-for-his-but-not-his-woman-hot-Werewolf-action!
Angry-sticking-up-for-his-but-not-his-woman-hot-Werewolf-action!

I’ll definitely have a go on the next in the series! I give it 4 Unicorns. (Out of 5 Unicorns, BTW)

Soulless is published by Orbit.

A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves and Parasols?

I’m in one of those moods where I can’t decide what I want to do: Go out; stay in; watch something; read something; do some housework…I’m annoying myself!

So I just picked up Soulless by Gail Carriger which I’ve had lying around for months and from the first chapter all I can say is LOL. It’s already hilariously bad, which by the way, is one of my favourite genres. Is this Steampunk? apparently it is…I can’t say I really understand the whole Steampunk thing but nevertheless I have a feeling that this is going to be either complete trashy brilliance or absolute utter bollocks.

See for yourself…

To put the pudding in the puff: she had retreated to the library, her favourite sanctuary in any house, only to happen upon an unexpected vampire.

She glared at the vampire.

For his part, the vampire seemed to feel that their encounter had improved his ball experience immeasurably. For there she sat, without escort, in a low-necked ball gown.

Oh, and now the vampire is dead. That was quick. (Not a spoiler – it’s in the blurb!)

We have also just encountered Lord Maccon, a (probably) hot werewolf with a scottish accent. Pretty much anyone with a Scottish accent is hot, right? And now I’m picturing Fit Hemsworth in Snow White and the Huntsman. Nice.

I’m not sure why I’m only reading books with Lords in lately, or for that matter only ones with young ladies in exceptional attire on the covers.

You just wait for my The Selection/Elite rant…just saying.