Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix
Sabriel (The Old Kingdom #1)
By Garth Nix
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift from Micheline of Lunar Rainbows Reviews

To Sum It Up: As both the daughter of a necromancer and a necromancer herself, Sabriel has had a rather unconventional upbringing. Now eighteen, she’s still not quite prepared to assume her father’s title as the Abhorsen, but Sabriel has little choice when her father disappears and is believed to be in very great danger. To find him, Sabriel must journey into the unknown of the Old Kingdom, where all sorts of evil beings created by Free Magic await. Sabriel fears that these creatures are responsible for whatever has befallen her father, but she’s determined to find him.

Review: Sabriel is one of those books that lingered on my TBR for who knows how long and now that I’ve finally moved it to my Read shelf, I have to wonder why I didn’t pick it up sooner.

I admit to finding the world a tad confusing at first. Sabriel’s quest to find her missing father, Abhorsen, begins in Ancelstierre, where our protagonist has spent most of her life. I think I’d expected more of a medieval setting for some reason, but Ancelstierre seemed rather modern. This wasn’t an issue, but it did take me a bit to get a grip on the magic system. Sabriel practices Charter Magic as opposed to Free Magic, which, as its name seems to imply, isn’t bound by rules. On the other side of the Wall that separates Ancelstierre from the Old Kingdom (I couldn’t help thinking of the Wall from A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones here, LOL), Free Magic has been used to raise the Dead, and they take all sorts of grotesque forms. While the differences between the two types of magic become evident, I still thought a little more explanation would have been helpful here.

My tiny hiccup with the world-building aside, this was a tautly paced, wonderfully written novel. I loved the imagery that Garth Nix’s prose evoked, even when said imagery scared the hell out of me. Necromancy plays a huge part in the novel, and Nix totally delivers with the thrills and chills. The Dead seemed all too real, and every time they got too close to Sabriel and her companions, my heart skipped a few beats on their behalf.

Despite Sabriel being eighteen, the novel feels like a coming-of-age story in a way. Sabriel is a skilled necromancer (a good necromancer, one who puts spirits to rest, not one who raises them for an army of the undead), but there’s still so much she doesn’t know. All these years, she believed her father’s name was Abhorsen, and now she learns that he is the Abhorsen, a title that Sabriel must now take on, along with all of its burdens. Sabriel is more than equipped for the responsibility, though; she’s such a steady character, resourceful when questing solo but also willing to accept help when it’s offered. And help in locating her father does arrive in the forms of a sassy cat and a young man awakened after being suspended in time for 200 years.

Mogget is a talking cat with snark to spare. His biting commentary provides some of the book’s most humorous moments. Don’t assume that Mogget is merely the comic relief, though; there’s much more to this feline, I promise. As for Touchstone, the third member of Sabriel’s group, my heart went out to him for losing about 200 years of his life because of some extremely powerful magic. What he hasn’t lost, however, is his guilt over an event in the past that continues to reverberate throughout the present-day Old Kingdom. Although Touchstone struggles to avoid dwelling on the past, he also realizes the urgency to Sabriel’s mission. As much as I still would have enjoyed this book even if Sabriel had continued journeying alone, the addition of her two very intriguing companions was most definitely welcome.

I ended up becoming so engrossed in Sabriel’s tale that the ending arrived all too soon. Seriously—I wasn’t yet ready to say goodbye to this brave young woman who owned everything that life and death threw at her. I’ll certainly be visiting the Old Kingdom again and look forward to discovering more of its secrets.

All in All: A good necromancer? Yes! Sabriel is quite a unique fantasy anchored by a very grounded heroine with formidable inner strength and magical talent. Definitely recommended for fantasy fans.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fandom Mashups (67)

Fandom Mashups is a feature hosted by Lunar Rainbows Reviews. There's a different scenario each week, and you choose a "dream team" of five characters from five different fandoms whom you think are best suited for the situation.

This week's topic is:
You've stumbled onto THE ONE RING (WHAT THE HELL FRODO?! You had ONE job!) and now you need to take it to Mount Doom to destroy it. Who do you choose as your own Fellowship of the Ring?

  1. Aelin (Throne of Glass): Because I always take Aelin along on these types of missions, LOL.
  2. Harry Potter: If Harry could find and destroy the horcruxes, he's got this.
  3. Aang (Avatar: The Last Airbender): Aang is just an all-around great guy to have on your team for quest-type adventures.
  4. Kell (Shades of Magic): Kell also has some experience dealing with troublesome objects, plus he could stash the ring in his special coat for safekeeping.
  5. Sabriel (The Old Kingdom): Being a necromancer (a good one), not much rattles this brave lady. She's journeyed into the unknown before and knows how to keep her wits about her even under pressure.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (138)

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts and Lunar Rainbows Reviews. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Which Books Would You Recommend to Dumbledore?

I always have fun with this topic because I get to do one of my favorite things in the world—recommend books, LOL! I really hope that Dumbledore would enjoy these:

  • Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter by Alison Hansel: It's Harry Potter + knitting! Dumbledore would probably be much better than I've been at working through the patterns in the book; I've only knit one hat in like the 6 years since I've had the book, LOL.
  • The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater: The wonderful friendship that is the centerpiece of this series reminds me a lot of of our beloved trio, plus there's some paranormal stuff going on. What's not for Dumbledore to love?
  • Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab: I think Dumbledore would totally get a kick out of both Kell and Lila from Shades of Magic and their thrilling, time-traveling adventures that also feature elemental magic.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)
By Victoria Schwab
Greenwillow Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Kate Harker and August Flynn’s families stand on opposite sides of the divide between the two halves of their city, a city teeming with lethal monsters. Kate’s ruthless father offers paid protection from the monsters to those in North City who can afford it, while August’s father is rumored to be sitting on a massive weapon that could destroy Callum Harker’s hold on North City. As their fathers edge closer to leading their territories to conflict, Kate and August find themselves somewhere in the middle and discovering that there’s a fine line between being human and being a monster.

Review: I am so glad that I read This Savage Song soon after reading Victoria Schwab’s superb adult novel, Vicious. At the very beginning of This Savage Song, there’s a quote from none other than Victor Vale, one of Schwab’s Vicious protagonists. It’s an apt quote, too, about humans and monsters, which lie at the heart of This Savage Song.

The monsters in this book are all kinds of scary and fall into three types: Corsai, Malchai, and Sunai. The Corsai and Malchai are truly the stuff of nightmares with their claws and teeth. While the Sunai come the closest to passing as human in appearance, they’re capable of stealing human souls—with only a song. August Flynn, one of the book’s two protagonists, is one of three known Sunai. The adopted son of Henry Flynn, the human leader of the southern half of a city left divided by a territory war, August struggles with who—and what—he is throughout the novel. Yes, he’s part of a family with human parents and a Sunai brother and sister. But August is also capable of mass destruction, a secret that must remain hidden from Henry Flynn’s nemesis Callum Harker, the iron-fisted ruler of North City and the father of Kate Harker, our other main character.

Kate is a no-nonsense young woman. We’re introduced to her just as she’s about to set the chapel at St. Agnes Academy on fire. Her goal is to get expelled and sent home to V-City and to her father, who’s been shuffling Kate around from school to school for the past few years. Kate finally gets her wish and is allowed to return to North City, although it’s not exactly a warm welcome that greets her arrival. Still, she’s determined to prove to her father that she’s very much the daughter of the man who sells protection from the monsters to those willing to pay for it.

For me, the center of this book was the connection that develops between Kate and August. I’m struggling a bit here to find the right word to describe what’s between them. Refreshingly, there aren’t any romantic undertones to it. The two are drawn to each other’s company when they shouldn’t be, given the enmity between their fathers. In fact, August is sent to Kate’s new school to keep tabs on her, but some thrilling—and chilling—plot twists find them both running for their lives—together. Schwab is just so good at writing deep story lines. She’s also brilliant at writing characters who aren’t exactly good but aren’t exactly bad, exemplified here by a monster with a conscience who doesn’t want to give in to his nature and go dark.

The only teensy hiccup I ran into with this book was grasping some aspects of the world-building. I was expecting a little more backstory to the origin of the monsters and the cataclysmic event known as the Phenomenon, but the novel is very much focused on the present and not so much on how we arrived here. I became so invested in the characters, though, that I was OK with not having all the answers to my questions about the world. Other readers, however, might want those details about the past filled in.

Vicious left me thinking about it for days after finishing it, and This Savage Song has lingered in my mind in a similar fashion. Victoria Schwab’s take on monsters is very unique, and this is definitely the kind of book that you need to experience for yourself. As I was writing this review, I had a hard time putting into words specifically why I enjoyed the book so much. I just got lost in the story, driven by two fantastically written characters. So in short, I really, really liked This Savage Song because . . . I just did.

All in All: Victoria Schwab is a storytelling virtuoso, and here she brings together monsters and music for one hell of a rockin’ concert.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Fandom Mashups (66)

Fandom Mashups is a feature hosted by Lunar Rainbows Reviews. There's a different scenario each week, and you choose a "dream team" of five characters from five different fandoms whom you think are best suited for the situation.

This week's topic is:
FIGHT CLUB! For some reason, you've decided to start up your own Fight Club. Who's going to be a part of this ass-kicking and painful endeavor?

So I ended up with an all-female team this week, and believe me, I wouldn't want to mess with any of these ladies individually, let alone working together as a single, unstoppable unit:

  1. Aelin (Throne of Glass): I wouldn't actually want to be her opponent, LOL. I'd just hope to pick up a few of her badass fighting techniques.
  2. Black Widow: With all of her training, Black Widow would make sure that we could take on anyone!
  3. Arya Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones): Not only is Arya lethal with a sword, but she's also trained with the Faceless Men in stealth and other deadly arts. A girl knows how to take care of herself.
  4. Lila Bard (Shades of Magic): Lila has a lifetime of street smarts and a knack for handling knives in her arsenal, along with burgeoning elemental magic. Think twice about taking on this pirate.
  5. Rose Hathaway (Vampire Academy): Rose is one of the fiercest characters I've read about, and she's never one to back down from a fight.
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