Sunday, March 31, 2013

Discussing Game of Thrones: Intro Post

The new season of one of our favorite TV shows, adapted from one of our favorite book series, premieres tonight, and we couldn't be more excited! We thought it would be fun to do a weekly recap/review/fangirl post (mostly fangirling) for each episode. We're going to try to film a few vlogs for this too, time permitting. We're also going to be a week behind the current episode with our posts, so we won't be discussing tonight's episode until next Sunday. This is mostly because Ally's parents wouldn't be too enthused with the idea of her shooting a vlog/writing a blog post at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night when she has to be up at 5 a.m. the next morning for school. We're looking forward to sharing our thoughts on this season and hope to chat with fellow GoT fans!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Center Stage March 2013 Character Spotlight

Center Stage is a monthly feature hosted by Ginger-Read Reviews, in which we highlight a character from the books we've read in the past month.

March 2013 Center Stage Character:
Malachi from Sanctum by Sarah Fine

Sanctum by Sarah Fine

I knew from the second that Malachi appeared in Sanctum that he was going to be my character of the month. At first he seems all deadly killer warrior, not that there's anything wrong with that. At all. As you get to know him, though, you see that he's also kind, compassionate, and completely self-sacrificing. Malachi's past is heartbreaking, but he's managed to channel tragedy into strength. I just love the complexity of his character.

I don't think any description of Malachi that I can come up with is adequate, so here's a much better portrait of him from Lela, the protagonist of Sanctum, in Chapter 8 of the novel:

"His features were smooth and unlined, and yet somehow still carried that air of ferocity and defiance I'd observed before. The deep voids of his eyes were surrounded by thick, black lashes and full of confidence and threat. It was as if he'd already assessed my weaknesses and ticked off all the possible ways to kill me, so now he could relax and be friendly. His was not a soft face, but it held a harsh, dangerous sort of beauty. Dangerous being the operative word. I reached out carefully to shake his hand, like I might pet a viper or a shark."

Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: Sanctum by Sarah Fine

Sanctum by Sarah Fine Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands #1)
By Sarah Fine
Publisher:
Amazon Children’s Publishing

To Sum It Up:

Lela Santos has not had an easy life. She’s grown up in a series of foster homes as well as spent time in a juvenile detention center. At last, though, the future seems to be looking up for her; Lela is now in a stable home and planning to attend college with her best friend, Nadia. But Lela’s heart is shattered when Nadia commits suicide, and Lela begins having visions of her friend in a hellish place that is all too familiar to her. Determined to find Nadia, Lela searches for her among an entire city of desolate souls and is willing to sacrifice anything in order to rescue her friend.

Review:

I originally borrowed Sanctum from the library, and I’ve never been so sad while returning a library book in my life. I felt like I had separation anxiety or something; this novel was that amazing. I lasted about two days before I broke down and purchased my own copy.

Sanctum is such a stunning debut novel that it’s hard to absorb that it is a debut novel. The original world, the take on heaven/purgatory/hell, the dialogue, and the characters are all outstanding. The characters are especially so. This is a novel with a very dark subject—suicide—yet there’s a strong message of hope in its pages, too. Sarah Fine is also a child psychologist, and I think this really informs her writing. Characters aren’t given tragic pasts just to give them tragic pasts. Their suffering is ingrained in their souls and continuously drives their thinking and actions. I’ve read quite a few books that appear to tackle tough issues, but you don’t always see the long-term effects on the characters. These topics are handled in a superficial, cursory manner in an attempt to add weight to the story and are all forgotten by the time the protagonist achieves a happy ending. Sanctum is an entirely different species. Fine’s characters always remember what they’ve been through, but not in a self-pitying way. You clearly see how they’ve become the people you’re reading about and why they make the decisions they do.

I loved Lela from the start. Unlike some other female protagonists whose tough words aren’t backed up by their actions, Lela is the real deal. Her courage and determination to brave whatever exists beyond the Suicide Gates in order to save her best friend, Nadia, instantly put her on my list of favorite heroines. Lela can also be very stubborn and at times rushes headfirst into situations, but her flaws remind you that she is a human being, capable of vulnerability. She’s such a strong character, yet without appearing too perfect.

The place in which Lela must search for Nadia is a kind of limbo for those who have committed suicide, though it’s not too far removed from hell. Lela has actually glimpsed it before, having once attempted suicide herself. The food here is free, but it’s rotten. Hardly anyone speaks to each other because most of the inhabitants in this city are too wrapped up in their own melancholy to notice one another. The streets are also stalked by the Mazikin, evil spirits that possess human bodies while the human souls go to the Mazikin version of hell, which is infinitely worse. The city’s Guard works tirelessly to eliminate the Mazikin and is captained by one incredible young man named Malachi.

Malachi. Where to begin talking about this lethal warrior whose pure heart made me melt? Malachi is equal parts swoon-inducing and formidable badass. He reminded me a lot of Valek from Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study in that I-Will-Kill-You-with-a-Single-Look kind of way. Like Lela, Malachi has known so much pain in his life; they’ve both persevered, and together, they’re even stronger. I am guilty of one of the very things I loathe in books—Insta-Love—because it was impossible not to fall in love with Malachi at first sight. And if that makes me a hypocrite, well, I’ll iron a capital “H” onto my shirt and wear it proudly.

I loved everything about Sanctum, from the story to the romance to the depth of all of the characters, even the minor ones. I must be turning into a softie in my old age because I felt the urge to cry in a few places, not necessarily because I was reading something sad, but because the writing was so beautiful. This book is stellar, and my puny review can’t even begin to do anything resembling justice to its brilliance.

All in All:

A very big thank you to Katja at YA’s the Word for recommending Sanctum to me. I devoured this book and will absolutely be buying the sequel as soon as it’s available. No traumatic library returns this time!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Requiem by Lauren Oliver Requiem (Delirium #3)
By Lauren Oliver
Publisher:
HarperCollins

To Sum It Up:

With the government determined to wipe out the clusters of resistance that have cropped up across the country, the Wilds have become a dangerous place for Lena and her companions. They are constantly on the move, trying to avoid the government patrols that now regularly sweep the rugged terrain in search of rebels. Meanwhile back in Portland, Lena’s former best friend, Hana, now cured of amor deliria nervosa, prepares for her wedding. Her fiancé will soon be mayor, and it seems that Hana is about to embark on a fairytale life. The reality of her situation couldn’t be farther from that, though. It’s freedom from exactly that kind of life that Lena is fighting for, no matter what the cost.

Review:

Requiem ranters, I feeleth thy pain. The conclusion to the Delirium series eerily reminds me of how I felt after reading the final book in Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy. The middle books of both dystopian series had thrilling build-ups that made you expect, and even look forward to, a ton of action in the finales. Both Reached and Requiem failed to deliver on their promises, though. I’ve always liked the Delirium series more than Matched, which made Requiem all the more disappointing.

Requiem felt very meandering to me, in a “Hey, let’s just see where the story takes us!” kind of way. Maybe that’s because Lena and her compatriots in the resistance spend so much time roaming about in the woods arguing about where they should head next. They eventually settle on a destination, but not after I’d already been bored reading about their daily routine of setting up their tents, starting a fire, collecting food and water, blah, blah, a routine that I had to continue reading about throughout the novel.

I thought Lauren Oliver’s technique of dividing the previous book, Pandemonium, into “Then” and “Now” chapters chronicling Lena’s arrival in the Wilds and her present day mission for the resistance movement and converging the two timelines was just brilliantly done. I do not, however, have the same enthusiasm for the alternating points of view in Requiem. This time, Lena shares narrating duties with her former best friend, Hana, last seen in Delirium. Hana has been cured and is set to marry the soon-to-be mayor, Fred Hargrove. While the idea of reading from the perspective of someone who has undergone the procedure was novel and I give Oliver credit for continuing to be ambitious with her writing style, I just didn’t find Hana’s chapters interesting. Her fiancé was cartoonishly evil; there was no depth to him whatsoever. I didn’t find Hana all that likable, either, especially once her big secret was revealed. Then I kind of hated her. I remember reading the stilted dinner conversations between Lena’s aunt and uncle in Delirium and even between Lena and her cured sister. The lack of emotion was chilling. Although Hana isn’t a lifeless narrator, it’s still not easy reading from her cured POV, either. I get that Oliver wanted to juxtapose rebel Lena and cured Hana’s stories, but it just didn’t work for me.

For a series built around the freedom to love, there wasn’t much revolting, resisting, or rebelling going on until almost the end of the book. And there was one word beginning with “R” that was conspicuously lacking in the novel: romance! Lena’s little love triangle conundrum was referenced a few times, but it certainly wasn’t the focal point that I’d expected it to be. Speaking of Lena, I was disappointed with her character in this one. Where is the Lena from Pandemonium who helped Julian Fineman escape the New York City subway tunnels and who beat the crap out of anyone who messed with her? Well, she’s not the Lena who’s in Requiem, that’s for sure. This Lena is sort of mopey, freezes up during a tense situation more than once, and just doesn’t have Pandemonium Lena’s fire.

I feel like I skimmed most of Requiem because it never really engaged my attention. Because the previous books had ended so memorably, I’d hoped that an unforgettable conclusion would salvage Requiem for me. Nope. I’m not one for rah-rah inspirational messages, especially as a final impression. The strength of this book, as it always has been throughout the series, is Oliver’s writing, and so I’m giving this three stars. If I were basing the rating on how much I enjoyed the book and the amount of closure it gave, two and a half stars would be more accurate.

All in All:

Although I’ve never been a diehard fan of this series, I was invested enough to find Requiem a rather large letdown, particularly Lena’s character regression. Everything that I loved about the second book, Pandemonium, was missing here, from the action to the romance to the kick-ass version of Lena. This wasn’t the finale that I’d envisioned, but that’s just me.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3)
By Cassandra Clare
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books

To Sum It Up:

Although the Shadowhunters of the London Institute are no closer to finding their enemy, Mortmain, they know that it is only a matter of time before he strikes. Tessa is the key to his plan to exact revenge on the Shadowhunters, and she must be protected at all costs. Unfortunately, the Consul refuses to believe that the threat of Mortmain and his clockwork army are imminent, and he denies the Institute’s request for support in the battle to come. When Mortmain finally decides to make his move, it is Will alone who must save Tessa, for Jem’s health has taken a turn for the worse. Although he is reluctant to leave his parabatai’s side, Will races to rescue Tessa before Mortmain unleashes his automatons to obliterate all of the Shadowhunters.

Ally's Review:

Clockwork Princess has left me an emotional wreck. I don't have the motivation to continue on with my boring life without Will and Jem waiting for me at the end of the tunnel. By the Angel, how can I read another book after this perfect one? Clockwork Princess is unrivaled in its glory. If I ever needed therapy for the end of a series, it should most definitely be for this one. I honestly do not know how to go about reviewing a book like this. I will do my best to organize my fangirling into a seemingly coherent string of thoughts.

Jem. Will. Jem and Will. Will and Jem. Ah, these two boys make the whole series for me. For so long, my life has revolved around them. I love Jem and I love Will. That's the thing about them—you can't love one without loving the other. Their friendship kills me. I can't put into words how moving their relationship is. Jem would easily lie down and die for his parabatai, and Will would do the same for Jem. In this book, more so than the others, the trauma of Jem's impending death and Will not being able to follow him where he shall goest is present and intense. Knowing Jem and Will, you know that Tessa can't and won't be the reason for tearing them apart. I used to think that their inseparability was stronger than steel; the realization that death is stronger than the strongest steel is heartbreaking.

Tessa, Tessa, Tessa. This girl! Tessa is such a great protagonist. I commend her for her heroism. I love how Tessa relies on her head more so than her abilities and bodily strength. Not everyone has the power to shape-shift or has unwavering strength and stamina—everyone does have a brain. It makes Tessa easier to relate to. I love how she loves books and connects to the story, losing herself in the characters much like I do. Most of all, I love how she loves Will and Jem, both of them equally. Tessa never disappoints. It's hard to dislike any of Clare's Infernal Devices characters—even Gabriel Lightwood.

The other characters were just as great. Charlotte and Henry are so cute! It was adorable watching them opening up after discovering their true feelings for each other. Henry and his tinkering become more visible this go-around, thanks to the lovable Magnus Bane. Magnus and Henry team up together to work on new technology for the Shadowhunter world. It was lovely to watch their growing friendship. A new character introduced was Cecily Herondale, Will's younger sister. At first, I expected to dislike her for plotting to bring Will out of the Shadowhunter life. That wasn't the case. Cecily was refreshing and reminiscent of the girly yet badass Isabelle Lightwood from The Mortal Instruments. Now, Sophie and Gideon. Their sweet side-romance was so endearing. It was a nice diversion from the more prominent and intense storyline.

Another aspect I love about Clare's books (besides Will and Jem) is that she completely drags me into the story she’s created. I've never wished to take part in a story as badly as I want to in this case. When people ask me about my prospective career paths, I want to say Shadowhunter. I crack Will puns when I'm surrounded by people who haven't read the series. I've acquired an unexplainable fear of ducks. Needless to say, this series has taken a tight hold of my life. Now that it is over, I have little Jem, Will, Tessa, Magnus, Charlotte, Henry, Gideon, Sophie, and even Gabriel holes littering my heart. These little holes add up.

Clockwork Princess is a book that I couldn't read fast enough. You can only read so fast, and I was recklessly racing towards the end. Now that I've reached the end, I don't want to be here! I want to go back to the beginning and forget everything. I want to meet Will and Jem all over again. I want to relive the story all over again. I need to start over because then perhaps it won't hurt so much; it won't seem as definite. I read this quote the other day by the famous Dr. Seuss: “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” By the Angel, I'm trying to apply this piece of wisdom to this situation, but it's so hard.

All in All:

What can I say? The Infernal Devices was my whole existence—now that it's over, I'm going to need time to recover. The ending of a series has never hurt as much as this.

Lee's Review:

From the moment that I read the last sentence in Clockwork Prince, I knew with one hundred percent certainty that Clockwork Princess, the final book in a series that I love beyond measure, would leave me shattered. And yet, here I sit, two days after some marathon reading sessions that commenced on a late Thursday night and concluded late Friday/early Saturday morning at 2:30, still at a complete, total, and utter loss for words. Even if I wait a few days to try and write this review, it’s not going to get any more coherent. What follows, then, isn’t so much a review as it is an outpouring of the myriad emotions that I continue to feel despite having had some time to process my thoughts about this book. That’s precisely the problem—I can’t process my thoughts about this book!

While my initial reactions upon finishing Clockwork Princess ran the gamut from shock to euphoria to sadness, the overriding emotion was astonishment. I am in absolute awe of how Cassandra Clare plotted this novel and how she tied the entire series together. My God. Although not everything that happened in Clockwork Princess came as a surprise, the path that led to an outcome wasn’t always what I’d expected. And then there were the twists that completely blindsided me and sent my head into a spin so frenzied, I had to put the book down so I could collect my scattered senses. I don’t think a book as ever sparked such intense feelings in me before. Just about every line of dialogue uttered by Will, Jem, and Tessa cut right through me. Oddly, though, I’d thought that I’d cry my way through this book, but for the most part, I managed to stay dry-eyed. I think I was just too stunned and in quite a bit of denial while I was reading. I finished this book at 2:30 in the morning, caught a few hours sleep, and proceeded to begin sobbing as soon as I woke up. It seems that everything that I’d read hit me all at once.

Obviously, every aspect of Clockwork Princess was outstanding to me, but I’d like to make special mention of how exquisitely Clare described Jem’s violin playing. I’ve always found it difficult to discuss music with words; I wish that I had Clare’s gift for bringing it to life with prose. There’s one scene in particular that is so beautifully written and incredibly moving; it became an instant favorite the moment I read it.

What I will always remember about this book and the series as a whole is its theme of the transcendence of love, whether it’s romantic love or the fraternal love that Will and Jem have for each other. How love, in the truest sense of its definition, transcends even time. How love means accepting another person’s flaws and putting that person before oneself at all times and without a second thought, like a reflex. How love is unconditional. In this case, there are three people who understand what it truly means to love: Will, Jem, and Tessa. They are tied so inextricably to one another that it’s impossible to imagine one without the other two. And that’s what I think makes this love triangle superior to all the others I’ve read about in YA. I do not doubt that these three characters would do anything, including die, for each other. I’ve seen too many love triangles in which a female protagonist thinks she’s in love with two guys at the same time. To me, qualifying “I love so-and-so” by putting “I think” in front of that statement signifies you’re not sure. I believe that it’s possible to care deeply for another person, but when it comes to using the actual word “love,” I don’t like seeing it thrown around casually. I believe that saying “I love you” to someone is equivalent to telling that person you love him/her with every single subatomic part of your heart and nothing less. And whenever Will, Jem, and Tessa use the word “love,” I believe they mean it with all of their hearts.

The Infernal Devices has also always emphasized a love of books that has resonated with me since Clockwork Angel. When I read this series, I immerse myself completely in this world. I can’t view these books from a reviewer’s perspective at all; as I’m reading, the last things on my mind are plot, setting, tone, etc. I love these books for the pure happiness they bring me, even when they make me cry. They remind me why I love reading so much in the first place. For a while, I’m lost in another time where good must find a way to triumph over evil and angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, and warlocks exist and a young man’s fear of ducks makes me laugh. Seeing this series end breaks my heart; saying farewell to it is like watching your best friend walk away for the last time. The luxury of having books for best friends, though, is that they’re always only a read away; all you have to do is go to your bookshelf for an immediate reunion.

All in All:

Just brilliant. Abso-freaking-lutely brilliant.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2)
By Cassandra Clare
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books

To Sum It Up:

Following their deadly confrontation with the Magister’s clockwork automatons, the Shadowhunters launch an exhaustive investigation into his past as they desperately try to locate him. Charlotte’s leadership of the London Institute hinges on success; if the Shadowhunters fail to uncover the Magister’s whereabouts, Will, Jem, and Tessa may find themselves no longer calling the Institute their home. The three soon learn that not only has the Magister concealed himself very well, but he also seems to have anticipated every avenue they would explore in their search for him and has taken preemptive action against them. With the Council’s deadline fast approaching, the Shadowhunters must discover a way to overcome the firm upper hand that the Magister currently holds against them.

Review:

Having reread both this and Clockwork Angel now, I must say, they’re just as riveting to read a second time as they were originally. In fact, I think this is a series that only gets better with each successive read. There are quite a few books that, at the time I’d finished them, I pictured myself reading over and over again. When I look back at them now, I can’t say that anymore. I can with certainty, however, envision rereading The Infernal Devices multiple times and discovering something new to love about the series each time. Once again, Clockwork Prince made me laugh, broke my heart, and kept me up reading late into the night, and I relished every page.

I first read this when it was released in December, 2011, about six months after reading Clockwork Angel. Even with the time gap between the books, slipping back into the world of the Victorian-era Shadowhunters was effortless; it was like no time had passed at all. The first chapter opens with a lovely scene between Jem and Tessa, in which the two pay a quick visit to Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey on their way to a Council meeting. Charlotte and Henry’s ability to run the London Institute has been called into question following the attack on the Institute by the Magister’s clockwork automatons. Well, it’s Charlotte’s fitness to lead that’s under scrutiny here, as everyone knows that Henry is pretty much co-head in name only. Charlotte is given two weeks to produce the location of the Magister, or she’ll likely be removed from her position. The search for the Magister drives the novel, which is as superb as its predecessor in every single way. There’s thrilling action, treachery, Will’s humor, and heartbreak so painful that it shredded my heart all over again even though I knew to expect it this time.

Numerous were the times while reading Clockwork Prince when I felt as though an invisible fist had seized hold of my heart and was trying to squeeze it to a pulp. James Carstairs has to be one of the sweetest, kindest characters I’ve ever read about. The courage and dignity with which he accepts his fate just render me speechless. I want so badly to see him happy, to somehow make things right for someone whose inherent goodness deserves so much more than the cruel hand he’s been dealt. You know you’ve made a lifelong friend out of a book when you get this emotional about one of its characters. In the case of this series, I get ridiculously emotional about almost all of the characters.

Jem and Will are opposites in so many ways, and this was especially evident in how each tugged at my heart. Jem, the epitome of chivalry, made it flutter, while Will, in one particularly gut-wrenching story line, shattered it. Will, who’s hiding a secret that has forced him to push away just about anyone who has tried to care for him, hits rock bottom here, and it’s agonizing to see. Even when a glimmer of hope appears, Will’s happiness is short-lived because it comes at the cost of denying the happiness of another. The emotional turmoil in this book was just unbearable at times, this being one of those times.

Tessa, too, finds herself swimming in stormy thoughts. She has to come to terms with what her brother, whom she still cannot completely bring herself to hate, has done. She receives some possible clues to what she is, but they don’t add up. And, worst of all, she might be that which divides two boys who love each other like brothers. Tessa bears it all pretty well, considering how much she’s grappling with. The Institute has truly become a home to her and its residents like a family, and Tessa doesn’t hesitate to throw herself in the path of danger to help them however she can.

Clockwork Prince is one insane ride of emotions that does not quit until the final printed word. And this is the middle book in the series! The middle book! There’s still one more to go!

All in All:

Yep, I loved this one with all my heart, too.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (31)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's an opportunity for everyone to share the new books that we've acquired.

All three of us were beyond excited to finally get our hands on Clockwork Princess this week!

We also decided to make a spur of the moment trip to the library. For the first time since we began going to our local library regularly about a year ago, we walked there. What is usually a 3 minute drive took about half an hour on foot walking the bike/hiking trail that passes right by the library. Our little adventure was a lot of fun, plus we got exercise, saved some gas, and weren't tempted to borrow more books than we wanted to carry home.

Ally's Books:

Borrowed:

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
The City's Son by Tom Pollock

Gifted:

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Lee's Books:

Borrowed:

Requiem by Lauren Oliver
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Bought:

Sanctum by Sarah Fine
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
Les Misérables Blu-Ray

Melissa's Books:

Borrowed:

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Gifted:

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

What did you add to your shelves this week? Please link us up!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1)
By Cassandra Clare
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books

To Sum It Up:

In 1878, Tessa Gray leaves New York to join her brother in England. Little does she know that danger awaits her in the form of the Dark Sisters, who take Tessa captive and force her to use the shape-shifting power she had no idea she possessed. The sisters claim to be preparing her for her marriage to the mysterious Magister, the head of the equally mysterious Pandemonium Club. Fortunately, Tessa is rescued by the Shadowhunters, beings with extraordinary abilities that aid them in their primary purpose—to protect the world from demons. Tessa agrees to assist the Shadowhunters with their investigation into the Pandemonium Club in exchange for their help in locating her missing brother. She also hopes to discover why she is able to do what she can because not even the Shadowhunters have encountered someone with her power before.

Review:

I first read Clockwork Angel almost two years ago after reading books one through four of Cassandra Clare’s modern day Shadowhunter series, The Mortal Instruments. At the time, I preferred Clockwork Angel over the TMI books, and rereading it has only solidified that opinion. Many times over. I just love the combination of the Victorian London setting and the world of the Shadowhunters. Everything that I love about the latter—their angelic origin, their superhuman abilities, and their badass demon-killing skills—is seamlessly integrated into a time period that I’ve always found fascinating. With so many of my favorite bookish elements present here, Clockwork Angel really can't put a foot wrong in my eyes. And it doesn’t.

Reviewing this book following a reread feels a little weird to me, maybe because I already knew what was going to happen as well as what to expect from the sequel, Clockwork Prince. Plus, it’s a challenge for me to write about why I obsess over this series so much. It’s one of those things that simply is. So, I’ll try to keep my gushing to a minimum, but I guarantee nothing.

For me, one of the biggest differences between The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments is the heroines. I like Tessa much more than I like TMI’s Clary Fray, who makes rash decisions once too often for my liking. Tessa has a steadier head on her shoulders. Although she receives the worst welcome ever upon her arrival in England, she finds a way to survive yet another day in the horrible Dark Sisters’ house. If anybody had a reason to lose herself in her sorrows, it’d be Tessa, but she doesn’t. Once she’s freed from that nightmarish place, she’s wary of being used again for her shape-shifting power, this time by her rescuers, the Shadowhunters, and is reluctant to accept any charity from them. Clare gives her heroine a nice balance of character traits; Tessa is strong and independent yet not unrealistically so for a young woman of that time period.

Whereas I’m not all that interested in all of TMI’s secondary characters (the roster of which seems to expand with every installment), I’m quite attached to the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. They truly are like a family. I love how eccentric yet brilliant Henry is. I admire Charlotte for her courage and strength. In name, she and Henry co-head the London Institute, but while Henry spends all his time tinkering with his inventions, it’s really Charlotte who oversees the day-to-day operation of the Institute. Not everyone in the Clave likes the idea of a woman in a position of authority, but Charlotte is an excellent leader and also a kind mother figure to the underage Shadowhunters in the Institute’s care. These include Jessamine, who is the only member of the group I can’t stand. She despises everything about being a Shadowhunter and wants to find a mundane (human) husband so she can turn her back on the Nephilim forever. Jessie is so shallow and selfish, and I don’t understand why she doesn’t want to be a Shadowhunter. I’d gladly take her place if it were possible!

And then we have the boys. William Herondale and James Carstairs. Never, ever, have I loved two guys in the same YA book as much as I love these two. Will’s incessant sarcasm just slays me. His brand of wit may not be for everyone, but it’s exactly my thing. See, I have a weakness for snarky lads, even more of one for snarky lads with English accents. Mr. Herondale has cast quite a spell on me, but it’s not only because of his way with words and his dreamy looks. Will’s brother-like devotion to his best friend, Jem, is beyond superlatives. He would do anything for Jem, and vice versa. Jem is the perfect gentleman that Will often is not. Jem always seems to know the right thing to say, and he’s the only one who can occasionally talk some sense into Will. There’s this quiet intensity to Jem; his poor health makes him appear so fragile, yet when the Shadowhunters go into battle, he’s right there in the thick of the action. Will and Jem could not be more dissimilar in temperament, but that’s probably why they are the absolute best of friends. Their bond, which is infinite in depth, is, to me, what makes this book and this series so utterly, utterly mesmerizing to read.

I’d forgotten how dark the tone of Clockwork Angel could be. The clockwork automatons are super creepy, and the manner in which some of their parts have been obtained is downright chilling. There’s also a fancy soirée filled with vampires, and they’re not of the sparkly variety. They don’t have time for that because they’re too busy sizing up their next meal. In Clockwork Angel, you’ve got paranormal creatures of just about every sort, snappy dialogue that’s even more impressive because it still sounds in keeping with the times, not one but two swoon-worthy boys, and, for good measure, some steampunk. Really, there isn’t much more I could have asked for in a novel, except perhaps for this world to be real so I could travel back in time and be a part of it.

All in All:

Yeah, I loved this book. A lot.

• Melissa's Review of Clockwork Angel

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why I Love Jem Carstairs

Definition of Jem Carstairs: a talented and handsome young gentleman whose loyalty and love for his family knows no bounds.

This immaculate literary man is perhaps the most beloved character in my reading repertoire. There are several factors that contribute to this unfair favoritism, and they all strike a different chord. Jem Carstairs make me dream of a time when chivalry was not dead. I literally hang off of his every word.

One of the first things that emotionally ties me to Jem is his talent and love for music. I cannot claim to play the violin (though it is a lovely instrument), but I can relate to the passion and enjoyment that comes from creating music. Some of you may know that I play the flute in my high school band. It’s not an understatement to say that music is my life. Music provides an escape for the maker; "getting lost in the music" is not a phrase to be taken lightly. I can appreciate and connect with Jem on this level. I imagine him using his violin to escape the pain that follows him everyday–physical and emotional. Forgetting your problems is too easy when you’re devoting everything you have into the task you are performing. In this way, Jem Carstairs is the strongest person I know–real and not real.

Jem’s manners are yet another lovely quality of his. He is polite, kind, and gentle; everything good rolled up into one. I love how he treats everyone he meets with the same level of respect, be it Shadowhunter or Downworlder, man or woman, master or servant. You can always count on him; even if you screw up or hurt him, Jem will give you a second chance. Will sees this forgiving side of Jem on more than one occasion.

Jem’s relationship with Will, his best friend and parabatai, is one of those heart-wrenching chords I previously mentioned. Those two! By the Angel, those two boys kill me. Apart they’re adorable; together they’re even worse. Their bond goes way deeper than brotherhood; they would literally die for each other. The relationship is admirable and charming. It makes me wish that I was a Shadowhunter, just so I could experience that bond. I love how they accept each other, the good and the bad. It’s like Jem and Will are caught up in their own little world, just the two of them, and they’re oblivious to everything outside of each other. I can’t imagine them apart. They’re brothers in the truest sense, and I would be distraught if anything ever came between them.

I know that Jem is destined for a terrible fate and that he is most likely going to die from his illness, but Jem Carstairs would not be the man that he is without this death sentence. He appreciates life and lives to his fullest. Jem takes nothing for granted and knows that he doesn’t have time for regrets. I think that is why he comes off as so perfect; Jem doesn’t have the time to be anything less than that. And every time Jem mentions his disease and inevitable fate, I die. My heart goes out to him; I can’t imagine myself or the other characters carrying on without him.

Jem Carstairs has completely changed my standards of reading. All other characters and books pale in comparison. I can only hope and pray that the attributes I love about him don’t fade away–specifically Will Herondale. I’ll love Jem no matter what happens, forever and always.

A Few Jem Quotes:

"If it concerns Will, it concerns me." — Clockwork Angel, "Chapter 9: The Enclave"
"Oh, I don't know. I prefer to think that when they're at home, the Silent Brothers are much like us. Playing practical jokes in the Silent City, making toasted cheese—" — Clockwork Prince, "Chapter 2: Reparations"
"If I was harsh with you, it was because I cannot bear to see you treat yourself as if you are worth nothing. Whatever part you might act to the contrary, I see you as you really are, my blood brother. Not just better than you pretend to be, but better than most people could hope to be." — Clockwork Prince, "Chapter 21: Coals of Fire"

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why I Love Will Herondale

William Herondale. He of the blue eyes, black hair, and all-around Shadowhunter badass-ness. While there are many boys in YA who make me swoon and forget how to string a coherent sentence together, young Mr. Herondale has won a special place in my heart with his devastating wit, unwavering loyalty to his friends, and, of course, his lethal skill with a seraph blade.

Will also loves books. I love books, too. Will doesn’t trust ducks after an incident in London’s Hyde Park. Um, I had a run-in with a seagull once—can I count that as something that he and I have in common? Maybe not. Will’s snark and sense of humor, though, are just my cup of tea. I live and breathe sarcasm, and so does Will. Sometimes neither his words nor his behavior are very gentlemanly, but if you’ve read Clockwork Prince, then you know the heartbreaking reason behind the image that he’s forced himself to project. Yeah, I’m totally defending him here, but believe me, this story is gut-wrenching! Although a good deal of Will’s personality is a cover, I still think that his wit is his own, and even when he’s not putting on an act, there’s a part of him that can’t resist making a clever remark whenever an opportunity presents itself.

What I love and admire most about Will Herondale is his devotion to the people he cares about (he may not always be able to show it, but he does care about others), particularly his parabatai, Jem. There is absolutely nothing that Will wouldn’t do for Jem, including dying for him (although I hope it doesn’t come to that because I love both boys. Damn this love triangle!). Will also won’t see Jem’s heart broken, despite his friend's happiness coming at the cost of his own. That’s just how it is with Will where Jem is concerned. Will has a very smart mouth on him, quite an ego, and can be downright rude at times, but he is as steadfast a friend as you could possibly ask for. The kindness and selflessness lurking behind the barrier that he’s built around himself really shine through in his friendship with Jem.

When we were first planning these Infernal Devices-themed posts, Ally came up with the idea that we should draw the characters we were writing about, too. Now, that’s easy enough for someone with her vast artistic talent to say. She nagged me into at least trying to draw Will, but the result was ghastly, just like I’d told her it would be. I feel much more at home with a camera in my hands, and this picture that I took of a duck a while back always makes me think of the scene in Clockwork Angel where Will and Jem are discussing that day in the park. So, to close out this post, I leave you with a photo of a duck and a few of my favorite Will quotes. Enjoy.

Never trust a duck.

The Quotable Will Herondale:

"I've mastered many things in my life. Navigating the streets of London, dancing the quadrille, the Japanese art of flower arranging, lying at charades, concealing a highly intoxicated state, delighting younger women with my charms . . ." — Clockwork Angel, "Chapter 2: Hell Is Cold"
"I must be more amusing than I thought. Which would make me very amusing indeed." — Clockwork Prince, "Chapter 10: The Virtue of Angels"
"I would die for you. You know that. I would die without you. If it were not for you, I would be dead a hundred times over these past five years. I owe you everything, and if you cannot believe I have empathy, perhaps you might at least believe I know honor—honor, and debt—" — Clockwork Prince, "Chapter 11: Wild Unrest"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Questions, Thoughts, and Theories About Clockwork Princess

* SPOILER WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and The Mortal Instruments series. *

Predicting what might happen in our favorite books is a bit of a hobby for us. We’ve spent many after-dinner walks discussing our theories. The Infernal Devices is the type of series in which what you think is a passing reference to someone or something later turns out to be significant. Extremely significant. As we wait for our copies of Clockwork Princess to arrive (which probably won’t be until Thursday. Sadly, Amazon didn’t offer release date delivery.), we thought we’d share some of the questions and speculative thoughts we have going into the final book.

Ally's Questions, Thoughts, and Theories

Crazy Jessie

From reading the first two installments of The Infernal Devices, everyone knows that baby Jessie turns into crazy Jessie. What exactly happens to her after she’s locked up in the Silent City? Welp, here’s my theory: I believe that Jessamine is going to try and redeem herself. I do believe that she regretted her rash actions and wants to make right with the only family she has left. I think she will end up dying in the process, sacrificing herself for the people she loves. Let’s face it, folks, none of us has seen the last name Lovelace floating about in TMI.

Papa Bane

Since Victorian England up until now, Magnus Bane’s parentage has been in question. From the little intel I have gathered during my investigation, I know the following: Magnus is a powerful and well-respected warlock; Magnus has a demon father and a human mother; Magnus doesn’t like to talk about his past despite everyone trying to bring it up (Alec!); and Magnus has an impeccable sense of style. This has led me to conclude that Magnus’s father is beyond powerful . . . and fashionable. Papa Bane has been referred to as the Prince of Hell, and ladies and gentlemen, I believe that Magnus’s papa is very high up there on the hellish chain of command —possibly the devil himself.

Where Have You Been, Tessa?

Yet another burning question simmering in my mind is where Tessa Gray disappears to in the span of time between TID and TMI. We know that she’s been in both series, we just don’t know where she’s been hiding. My prediction? Well, since I’m almost entirely convinced that Tessa is part-fey (Lee thinks she’s part-angel), I’m going to go out on a limb and say that she’s been crashing in the fey realm (unless you’re Lee and think she’s floating about in the high heavens). It may not seem reasonable, but I can’t get over that creepy run-in with that psycho faerie in Clockwork Prince. She kept blabbering about how she knew Tessa’s mum. I think this seemingly insignificant scene will play a much larger role in the grand scheme of things.

Herondale Ink

Okay, so in TMI we learn that Jace’s godly body is marred by a bad-arse birthmark. This mark runs in the Herondale family line. Legend says that the mark symbolizes that a Herondale had a meet-and-greet with a full-fledged angel. I think that this notorious Herondale is our charming Will. My reasoning? Well, we know that Will does not have the mark as of now, so that means that the angel encounter happens between Will's time and Jace's. Who else is important enough to meet an angel— Stephen Herondale? I think not! Plus, Will is ready to do anything to save Jem. I believe that he will summon an angel and ask for help. As for what happens after that, I’m not sure, but where there’s a Will, there’s a way.

Operation Save Jem

We both love Jem Carstairs—a lot. It’s with grave sincerity that I say that we would be unhinged if anything happened to him. With his more than bleak future lurking at the end of this trilogy, there is little I can do but wait for the foreshadowed inevitable. I can hope for the best and conspire with Lee on seemingly implausible plans to save my beloved Jem, so that is what I have done.

Plan A: Jem becomes a Silent Brother (ahem, Zachariah). I know that being a Silent Brother is not much of a life, but it’s a life nonetheless. I’m also choosing to ignore the hope-crushing snippet of Clockwork Princess that was released.
Plan B: By the Angel, a cure is found!
Plan C: The angels deem Jem too precious to die and take him to the high heavens to become an angel himself.
Plan D: Will sacrifices himself to save his parabatai.

Personally, I’m banking on Plan A.

Lee's Questions, Thoughts, and Theories

Shadowhunter Family Tree

This is one of my favorite topics to speculate on. I feel like the TID books are filled with many subtle references to the modern day Shadowhunters. The question is, how is everyone related to one another? Clockwork Princess will actually contain a Shadowhunter family tree, so we’ll find out for certain how the characters from Cassandra Clare’s two series are connected. For now, though, here are a few things I’ve noticed in the books that have made me wonder about the possible links between them. Charlotte Branwell’s maiden name is Fairchild, and Jocelyn, mother of Clary Fray in The Mortal Instruments, is also a Fairchild. Henry, Charlotte’s husband, has the middle name Jocelyn. Interesting, no? I’m also intrigued by the resemblance between Alec Lightwood from TMI and Will Herondale from TID. Magnus Bane, of course common to both series, seems to see a very uncanny similarity in appearance between these two characters. Is it just a coincidence? There’s a generation of Lightwoods in TID, including Will’s arch nemesis, Gabriel Lightwood. Will also has a younger sister, Cecily, who looks just like Will. Wouldn’t it be something if Gabriel and Cecily became a couple? It might explain the Herondale blue eyes getting passed down through the Lightwood family. Oh, and imagine Will’s reaction to his sister and Gabriel being in love!

Mama Herondale

Not much is known about Will’s parents. His father was a Shadowhunter who left the Nephilim to marry Will’s mother, a mundane. In Clockwork Prince, Jem explains to Tessa that it is possible for a mundane to Ascend and become a Shadowhunter in order to marry one. Previously, in Clockwork Angel, Jem told Tessa that the Council had refused to allow Will’s mother to Ascend, and so Edmund Herondale gave up his life as a Shadowhunter. I don’t have a theory as to why the Council said no; it’s just something that I’m really curious about and hope will be addressed in Clockwork Princess.

Aloysius Starkweather

The ancient, cranky, and, frankly, kind of creepy, Starkweather certainly isn’t going to win any prizes in the charm department. But something about Tessa prompts a strange reaction from him, as though he recognizes her from somewhere, despite their frist meeting ostensibly being in Clockwork Prince when she accompanies Will and Jem to the York Institute, which Starkweather heads. I definitely think that this guy is important somehow, as is the backstory of his granddaughter, Adele, who died shortly after receiving her Shadowhunter Marks. The connection to Tessa has me stumped; I’m not even hazarding a guess here.

By the (Clockwork) Angel!

This pendant, which belonged to Tessa’s mother, is more than just a pretty piece of jewelry. It has literally saved Tessa’s life, in the it-came-alive-and-acted-of-its-own-accord sense. What kind of magic is in this angel? Clearly, it’s very powerful. Could it be a faerie-made object, perhaps? (Remember the faerie rings that Simon and Clary used to communicate with each other in City of Lost Souls?) It would be apt if the clockwork angel were angel-made, of course. Whatever the necklace’s origin, its history should be interesting. I really hope to find out how it ended up in the New York Institute, as mentioned in City of Lost Souls.

The Love Triangle

Oh dear. How is this not going to end in heartbreak? I’ve racked my brain for a solution that makes everyone happy, but yeah, I got nothing here. Normally I don’t even like love triangles, but this one . . . . How do I even explain? I love both boys. A lot. The bond of their friendship, which runs so deep that they’re as close to being brothers as two friends can be, won’t allow a girl to come between them. One would sacrifice his heart for the happiness of the other in the blink of an eye because that’s how parabatai are. I foresee a ton of self-sacrifice here, but not an answer to who’s going to end up with whom. This one is just too tough to call. I do, however, foresee a whole lot of ugly crying in my future.

And One Question That's on Both Our Minds . . .

Will We Find Out Who Brother Zachariah Is?

We strongly suspect that this enigmatic character from The Mortal Instruments is connected to TID’s Shadowhunters. In fact, we became so obsessed with this guy after reading City of Lost Souls that we wrote a post all about our theories on Brother Zachariah’s identity, and you can read that post here. Since there’s still one more TMI book to come, we’re not banking on finding out who he really is in Clockwork Princess, but you never know.

What are you especially looking forward to in Clockwork Princess?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Saying Goodbye to The Infernal Devices

It's hard to believe that Clockwork Princess, the final book in one of our favorite series, The Infernal Devices, will be released tomorrow. We're both still in a bit of denial that the story of the Victorian-era Shadowhunters is coming to a close, not that we aren't beside ourselves with excitement to read the book.

Like the nerds we are, we wanted to do something special for the occasion. We tweaked the blog background to give it a bit of a steampunk theme. We've also planned some TID-related posts for this week:

  • Tuesday, March 19: We love speculating on what's going to happen in books, especially this series. We'll be discussing some of our Clockwork Princess theories here.
  • Wednesday, March 20: Lee fangirls about Will Herondale for a while.
  • Thursday, March 21: Ally fangirls about Jem Carstairs for a while.
  • Friday, March 22: Lee's review of Clockwork Angel. (I first read this almost two years ago, before I ever even heard of Goodreads. I reread both this and Clockwork Prince last week and can finally post reviews of both books! And you can already read Melissa's review of Clockwork Angel.)
  • Sunday, March 24: Lee's review of Clockwork Prince.

We hope to have our reviews of Clockwork Princess up as soon as we can. Ally starts spring break from school on Friday, and we already have a marathon read-along planned starting then. If you're a fellow fan of the series, we expect you'll be spending a good deal of time reading in the next few days, too.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Prophecy Girl by Faith McKay

Prophecy Girl by Faith McKay Prophecy Girl (Lacuna Valley #1)
By Faith McKay

* A copy was provided by the author for review.

To Sum It Up:

Lacuna Valley is the latest in the string of places Samantha Winthrop has called home. Stuck seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Sam figures that it won’t be long before her mother decides to uproot the family yet again. Sam soon learns, though, that there’s a reason why her mother chose to relocate to Lacuna Valley, and it just might have something to do with the uncanny way in which the prayers of Sam’s younger sister, Violet, seem to come true. When Sam discovers that the valley is not the quiet, unassuming place she thought it was and that she, too, possesses an otherworldly gift, it’s up to her to protect both her sister and the magical orb that influences just about every aspect of life in Lacuna Valley.

Lee's Review:

Prophecy Girl got off to a solid start. Thanks to some vivid imagery, I immediately had the sense that Lacuna Valley was a desolate locale and probably one of the last places a teenage girl would want to live in. Sam’s unhappiness not only with her new home but with yet another move was also palpable from the outset. We’re soon introduced to Sam’s little sister, Violet, and her ability to seemingly have her prayers become reality. The exposition had me intrigued, but unfortunately, I ended up with a stack of questions about the plot that sometimes went unanswered.

I never connected enough with the main character, Sam, to really form an opinion of her. It was kind of like meeting someone for the first time, hanging out with her for a bit, then realizing that you didn’t have much in common to ever go beyond being acquaintances. I thought that Violet was a better developed character; I liked her plucky spirit. I also liked Nick, Sam’s sunglasses-obsessed classmate, and how he came to her defense when she was being harassed on the school bus. The chemistry between Sam and Nick was nicely done and was one of the highlights of the book.

My main issue with Prophecy Girl was the trickling pace at which the plot details were revealed. Sam asks plenty of questions but either receives vague responses or none at all for the longest time. I found this rather frustrating. Also, the answers to the questions that popped into my head while reading didn’t always sate my curiosity. For instance, Sam’s abusive monster of a mother, Danielle, whom I despised, seeks the magical orb that controls Lacuna Valley’s weather and the types of residents who are drawn to live there. She wants its power, but what, exactly, does she plan to use that power for? I’d hoped that the novel’s climax would fill in the specifics, but it didn’t, and the next thing I knew, I’d reached the last page. I understand that this is only the first book in the series and that not all of the cards can be thrown down on the table. I do, however, think that a bit more explanation here and there would have made this a smoother read because there were times when I struggled to piece together the various threads of the story.

There are some interesting ideas here, such as Violet’s ability and the seasonals, mysterious, supernatural beings who live in the valley, but they weren’t fleshed out enough to make this an especially compelling read. I didn’t become very attached to Sam as a protagonist, either, which also kept me from really getting into the book. Although the beginning was promising, in the end, this just wasn’t for me.

All in All:

While Prophecy Girl’s take on the supernatural is creative, I feel like I spent most of the book filling in details on my own because they weren’t revealed quickly enough for me, and in some cases, not thoroughly enough. That was just my experience, though, so if this book sounds like something that appeals to you, then by all means, try it out for yourself.

Ally's Review:

Prophecy Girl is probably one of the toughest books I’ve read. I knew going into the book that there was an undertone of harsher themes, but that wasn’t even what put a damper on the book for me; I had several other issues with it.

The characters, Sam and Nick, were the typical interpretation of troubled teenagers. As the reader, I pretty much knew four things about them: 1) They share a love of the same bands, 2) Nick likes sunglasses and Sam hates her mother, 3) They both dearly love their younger siblings, and 4) Both of them are connected to the supernatural. Nick and Sam were both pretty boring. I have nothing against them, but that’s the thing! I didn’t care about them—at all.

The villains in the story weren’t any more plausible. Sam’s abusive mother and passive father are the worst parents in the history of the universe. Okay, I can deal with that, but why?! Why did they decide to have children if they couldn’t care less about them?! Why do they send them to school and buy them things if they are only using Sam and Violet for their abilities?! Why does the father stay with his controlling and abusive wife?! Where did the father even go for the last half of the book?! And how does the mother even have friends to gossip with on the telephone?! The mother was one-dimensionally evil; she had no clear motives. Nothing of substance happened with the conflict until nearly the end of the book. All I was left with was a pile of questions.

Violet, Sam’s younger sister, was the light at the end of the tunnel for both Sam and me. She was such a cutie, and on top of that, she was interesting! Violet is a puppetmaster, meaning that she can pretty much control everything. If she wants something to happen, all she has to do is wish for it. It was amusing to see her wish for childish things like all-day recess and rain. The kid really brought the best out of the book. She made me wish that I knew more about Sam’s powers, which are prophetic dreams. I think having more insight into Sam’s supernatural powers would have helped to move the story along.

The seasonals were another interesting element of the book. They were majorly cool and kind of bad-arse. I kind of wished they would have rained down on the insignificant humans, specifically Sam’s mother, instead of letting the unprepared teenagers handle the conflict. It was disappointing because the seasonals were barely in the book at all. I was left waiting in suspense for their appearance, and the whole meet-and-greet lasted for a little over three pages.

Prophecy Girl is such a promising book, but the execution just isn’t there. The elements of the story that were up to par were not nearly as focused on as much as they should have been. I think that was one of the biggest problems I had with the book.

All in All:

Like I said before, Prophecy Girl was a tough read. I’m sure some will enjoy it and others won’t. It’s a matter of opinion, and everybody has a different one.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday (23)

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and
Alison Can Read. It's a great way to meet other book bloggers!

This week's question is:
Activity! Hopefully warm weather for most of us is here soon . . . so tell us about your favorite outdoor reading spot. Or take a picture.

This is Ally's backyard patio, and our favorite outdoor reading spot. Lee is very fortunate that her cousin lives within walking distance and gets to hang out at Ally's house all the time, including by the pool, because all Lee has behind her house is a giant hill that slopes downward.

If you're a new follower, be sure to let us know so that we can follow you back. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Prodigy by Marie Lu

Prodigy by Marie Lu Prodigy (Legend #2)
By Marie Lu
Publisher:
G. P. Putnam’s Sons

To Sum It Up:

Day and June are on the run from the Republic, and with Day seriously injured, June seeks out the only source she thinks might aid them: the rebel group, the Patriots. The Patriots are not only willing to give Day medical attention, but they also offer to assist with finding Day’s younger brother, Eden, who’s being held by the Republic, plus secure Day and June’s escape to the Colonies. All the Patriots ask in return is for the pair’s help in the rebels’ plan to assassinate the new Elector Primo of the Republic. After all the Republic has done to them, this seems like an easy decision for Day and June to make. June’s role requires her to convince the Elector to trust her, and learning what kind of person he is (or, at least, appears to be) gives her second thoughts about the plan. June must decide where her loyalty lies and if she really has turned her back on the Republic once and for all.

Review:

Last year, I learned a valuable lesson about dystopian novels and me. Most of the ones that I read I did so simply because they were much-buzzed-about titles. I didn’t devote enough thought to how likely I was to buy into whatever premise each book was selling. Shortsightedness on my part resulted in several disappointing reads and the conclusion that I need to be more selective about which dystopians I read. Marie Lu’s Legend was one of the books from the genre that I did enjoy, so I didn’t hesitate to check out the follow-up, Prodigy.

Day and June, our teenage protagonists, are back for another round of nonstop action as they find themselves on the run from the Republic following Day’s narrow escape from execution. The pacing of the books in this series continues to be pleasantly brisk; Prodigy moves along at a steady clip but without becoming frenzied. I was happy to see more details of the world filled in with this book, too. One of the biggest questions I had after reading Legend was why the United States split into several different territories. I found the backstory offered here pretty plausible. What really impressed me, though, was how clever Lu was with explaining why that information wasn’t common knowledge in the Republic. You find out that the Republic strictly filters the history of how it came into power; even June, once one of its most loyal citizens, is surprised to learn how censored her education has been. While I still think that the world-building in Legend could have used a few more specifics, Prodigy appeased my curiosity.

Just as they did in the previous book, Day and June alternate narrating chapters, but I felt that Prodigy centered more around June this time. It’s not that Day is relegated to the background because he most certainly isn’t. Day’s story of how he became the Republic’s most wanted criminal was what really drew me into Legend, and with Prodigy, it was June’s struggle to figure out whom to trust that I found riveting. The Patriots’ plan to assassinate Anden, the new Elector Primo of the Republic, hinges upon June gaining his confidence and delivering him to the appointed location at the appointed time. Anden tells June that he wants to be a completely different leader than his father was and is ready to institute change in the Republic. He needs Day and June’s help, though; specifically, he needs the two to rally their support behind him, knowing that the public will follow suit. June is torn. She would like to believe that Anden’s intentions are sincere, yet she cannot forget the Republic’s betrayal of her faith in it, how it shattered her family and Day’s family, and how it tried to execute Day. In addition to the book’s physical conflict between the government and the rebels, there’s June’s internal conflict over whether the Patriots’ operation should go forward in light of what the Elector has told her. Watching June battle with her doubts shows how much her character has evolved since first meeting her in Legend. June the proud Republic military officer never would have found herself in this situation, contemplating the demise of her leader.

One aspect of this series that I’ve never been enthused about is the romance. I was happily reading Legend when . . . bam! Insta-love. For me, it blemished an otherwise very good book. In the months that passed since reading the novel, my initial annoyance had time to fade. I was happily reading Prodigy when . . . bam! Potential love quadrilateral. My school days are long behind me, and I just don’t cope well with geometry anymore, especially when it’s not even in a math textbook. I will, however, give Day and June credit for at last taking a hard, realistic look at their compatibility, and, possibly, lack thereof.

The romance aside, this is one of the more enjoyable dystopian series that I’ve read. Prodigy features plenty of thrilling action, proactive protagonists, and the constant threat of treachery. After finishing the novel, I still wasn’t sure who was trustworthy. If Legend was your kind of dystopian read, as it was mine, then you should be quite pleased with Prodigy.

All in All:

This is a solid second book with a strong plotline that isn’t just a setup for the conclusion of the trilogy. I didn’t realize how much I missed Day and June until I picked up Prodigy.

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