Mini Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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I finished a Conjuring of Light a few days ago and I decided that, instead of reviewing only the third book in this trilogy I would give my overall thoughts on the series!

This series is very hyped up but, in case you never a heard of it before, here’s a little synopsis of the first book. A Darker Shade of Magic follows Kell, one of the last Antari, magicians capable of traveling between parallel universes, more particularly between different Londons. Each London has unique characteristics:  White London is savage, ruled by two insane rulers, Grey London is magic-less unlike Red London where magic is everywhere and Black London is now destroyed and inaccessible.

Kell is from Red London and, being the only Antari of his universe, he is the only link between his London and the other ones and he has to carry messages between the different Londons’ rulers . The only rule he has to follow during his travels is that he can’t bring relics from an universe to an other one because it can disturb the balance between worlds, but, of course, rules are meant to be broken. Kell can have evrything he wants, but what is better than forbidden things? So he decided to smuggle things from one London to another… until he smuggles something that might end up destroying his world, something from Black London. What he doesn’t know yet is that the only person capable of stopping this is Delilah Bard, a ruthless young thief who tried to rob him in Grey London.

In my opinion, this series is not really a groundbreacking trilogy, it’s fun and I can see why a lot of people love this, I probably would have if I had read this five or six years ago but still. I mean, it definitely has some cool elements, you can except a lot of battles, magic tournaments and pirates: in its ideas this series has a lot of potential but, for me at least, it never really managed to deliver on its promises.

First and foremost, the books are all way too long for what they are trying to do, especially the second book A Gathering of Shadows, which suffered from an extreme case of “second book syndrome”, its intrigue did not stand on its own at all and it ended with a cheap cliffhanger. The third book, A Conjuring of Light was also too long, but, its lenght wasn’t as useless: a couple of side stories felt a bit unnecessary but it wasn’t painful to read either and the ending was satisfying. However, I think this story would have been told better as a duology and not a trilogy.

The characters were interesting enough even if Lila managed to get on my nerves quite a bit, it was obvious that Schwab was in love with this character but, I personally wasn’t. She was too rude, too stubborn and too frustating for me. In the last book, I liked her a bit more but I still found her to be a cliché YA fantasy heroine. However, I liked Rhys and Kell quite a bit and I really loved Alucard and Holland who were for me the most interesting characters out of the bunch. So even if this trilogy wasn’t memorable, it was fun and it definitely had good elements: the worldbuilding is cool, the characters are nice and the plot was pretty decent. It was a bit repetitive for my liking, but still, it was still enjoyable.

Overall, I can see why people would like this series even if I don’t think it is worth the hype, I am pretty sure I will forget this story pretty quickly but still, I’m glad I finished it.

Individual ratings

 

A Darker Shade of Magic:  ★★★

A Gathering of Shadows:  ★★ 1/2

A Conjuring of Light:  ★★★ 1/2

 

Overall Rating

 

 ★★★

 

 

Have you read this trilogy? Did you like it?

 

 

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Book Review: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam

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Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Publisher: Tor Books

Length: 384 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: June 20th 2017

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one 
of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they 
might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.

Book Review

Carina is a former neuroscientist with a drug problem, she constantly has urges to murder people and, to prevent that, she is destroying herself by taking Zeal, a drug allowing humans to enter a virtual reality where all their dreams are materialized. For Carina, Zeal is her only opportunity to kill people without actually murdering anyone and, in her Zeal space she can summon murderers and kill them slowly, just like she wants it….Until the day her Zeal space is hijacked by a vision of a girl being killed by one of her ex-colleague working at Sudice Inc, Carina’s former employer.

Sudice, a company making neurological implants allowing humans to be connected at all times, is now working on a new brain-mapping project that might not be as innocent as claimed, meaning that it might involve a few murders. Carina soon realizes that the vision was sent to her by Mark, a man who used to work for Sudice and who’s now missing after discovering incriminating information about the new project. Mark sent all the information he had through the vision he sent Carina but, to access them, she has to unlock some memories once taken away from her and that she doesn’t especially want to recall. In order to expose the project, she will have to work with the Trust, an organization of people who wants to stop Sudice and put an end to her Zeal addiction, all of that without murdering someone in the process, which might be harder than it seems.

Set in the same world as False Hearts, Lam’s previous novel, Shattered Minds is a dark science fiction thriller filled with evil companies, corruption and murders. It would make a terrific movie or TV shows, the world felt vivid and it was fascinating to see how the society worked in this dark future. The pacing of the story was very interesting as we constantly jumped between past and present as Carina unlocked her memories and it definitely kept the story moving. If you are a fan of stories with evil and corrupt companies, I think Shattered Minds will be a real treat for you. I enjoyed the story quite a bit as it was an interesting thriller with cool sci fi/cyberpunk elements and my only complain is that I wished the characters were a bit more complex. Since Carina was the main character, she was a bit more developped but some of the side characters felt a bit  flat. However, I liked the fact that some of the chapters had different POVs and I especially appreciated the ones following the antagonist, it was really interesting to see her motivations and her reasoning.

It was my first Laura Lam book and now I am very intrigued by her other works, especially False Hearts since it is set in the same universe and I really enjoyed reading about this dystopian near future America, I don’t know if she will write other books in the same universe but if she does, I am definitely interested!

Recommended!

 

I received a copy of this book for free from the pupblisher Tor Books through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

Mini Review: The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

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Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Length: 400 pages

Format: Physical copy

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: June 13th 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes—the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .
An emerging AI uprising . . .
And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.

It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.

Book Review

Set in a futuristic South Africa where everyone has their own personal robot making their life easier, a vengeful godess is slowly preparing the end of humanity as we know itand an AI uprising is upcoming. And all of that because of a new hallucinogenic drug which gives humans superpowers.

The Prey of Gods follows an old goddess, a young girl that has the power to overpower her, a teenage boy, a pop star and a politician who is Stoker during the day and Felicity Stokes at night and who has a lot of mommy issues.

This book is a mess but a very enjoyable one. If you don’t like absurd books, I wouldn’t recommend this one but, I personally really loved it. It was very weird but I was hooked right at the beginning, I could tell I was going to end up liking it a lot after the first chapter. I devoured this book in two sittings and I think it’s a perfect book to read during holidays, it’s fun, fast-paced,hilarious and it really doesn’t take itself too seriously.

If you are not sure it’s something for you, download a sample (from Amazon for example) and read the first chapter, if you like the opening, you will probably like the rest! So yeah, I don’t have much to say except that it is really a fantastic debut, it really managed to blend the elements of SF and fantasy very well and that I will definitely read anything else Drayden puts out in the future!

Highly recommended!

Book Review: After Atlas by Emma Newman |2017 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #5 + AWARD UPDATE

The 2017 Clarke Award shortlist was announced at the beginning of May and, as I did last year, I want to read the entire shortlist.

If you have not seen the shortlist already, here it is:

My goal was to read the shortlist before July 27th (the day the winner was announced) but I kind of failed so…


Award Update

Well, I wanted to review the entire shortlist before July 27th but due to a very very busy month of July, I didn’t have the time to do so. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award and I am very glad it did, I think it was probably the best work on the shortlist even if I personally prefered Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. If I had to rank the books on the shortlist, it would be in this order (from the best to the worst):

  1. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee: an original, complex and very clever space opera book with awesome characters (objectively I think The Underground Railroad is a better book but I love Ninefox Gambit so much that I can’t put it lower in this list!)
  2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: a brilliant and thought-provocking book that 100% deserves the award.
  3. Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan, a very weird but innovative book that I discovered thanks to this year shortlist, it’s definitely one of the most surprising book I read this year.
  4. Central Station by Lavie Tidhar, a book filled with incredible ideas but that was lacking cohesion in my opinion.
  5. After Atlas by Emma Newman: a thriller with a couple of interesting ideas, I liked it enough but, overall it left me quite indifferent
  6. A Close and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers: I still can’t understand why it was shortlisted, I found it dull and quite boring to be honest.

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Genre: Science fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Roc

Length: 369 pages

Format: Ebook

Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: November 8th 2016

 

Publisher’s description

Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.

To figure out who killed one of the most powerful men on Earth, Carlos is supposed to put aside his personal history. But the deeper he delves into the case, the more he realizes that escaping the past is not so easy. There’s more to Casales’s death than meets the eye, and something much more sinister to the legacy of Atlas than anyone realizes…

 

Book Review

I finished this book about a month ago and I debated reviewing it or not for a while. I finally decided to review it to get the final Clarke post out of the way so I can focus on other things but I don’t have many things to say about this book. I think it is an interesting work and I can see why Newman is appreciated so much but I don’t think this book was for me.

After Atlas follows the story of Carlos Moreno, a detective owned by the Neuropean Ministry of Justice in a close future where corporations are able to buy poor people off and turning them into perfect little slaves. Carlos can’t marry, be in a relationship or have children, as written on his contract. Even if he’s not extremely happy about it, he can still live with it (it’s not like he has a choice, he can’t take his own life anyway, it’s on the contract) because he loves his job and he’s very good at it. Well, until the day he has to find the murderer of, Alejandro Casales, a famous cult leader, a man Carlos used to consider as his father.

I will be quick here but I think this book made a poor thriller, it had loads of very interesting concepts and ideas that were used quite well but the mystery part was a let down for me. I don’t read a lot of thrillers but usually, the part where you learn who the killer is is supposed to be a huge thing, a great reveal or something that makes you say “oh god, I did not expect THAT”. Well, it wasn’t the case with this book for me at all, when we learnt about the killer and his motives, I pretty much rolled my eyes, the reveal did not answer most of the questions I had and I left me underwhelmed.

However, some other things in this book were done quite well. I was very interested to learn about the way Govcorps could basically buy human beings and how this whole system was put in a place in this world. Carlos’ story was fascinating, his perspective on his situation and his childhood experience with The Circle, the cult led by Alejandro Casales were horrifying and thought-provocking. The world Newman created felt real, and, in a terrifying future, you could imagine a society like that actually existing and that was one of the strongest aspect of After Atlas in my opinion.

So, even if I wasn’t blown away by this book, the characterization and the worldbuilding were very interesting and the ending suprised me enough for me to considering read the next book set in this universe. Because of those aspects, I can see why it ended up shortlisted even I don’t think it’s one of the best SF books published last year!

Other than that, I don’t have much more else to say, if it sounds intriguing to you, I would still recommend it, just don’t expect After Atlas to be the best mystery book ever.