This may be the first debut fantasy I’ve read that I wholeheartedly enjoyed. Kristin Cashore has managed to create a fresh plot, interesting and endearing characters, and a rollicking and romantic read.
Katsa lives in a world where certain individuals have a Grace. Graced persons have a specialist skill at which they excel with little or no training or effort. Graces can be frivolous or highly useful, and a Graced person always has two different coloured eyes. In Katsa’s world, the Graced are not necessarily loved – they are different, sometimes feared, and do not fit easily into society. The king has first refusal on their service; if he chooses to hold them, the Graceling becomes part of the royal retinue, no matter their beginnings. If he does not want them, the Graceling must eke out their own way in the world. Continue reading
(also published as Eon, Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye, and Eon: Dragoneye Reborn)
It’s been a long time since I’ve been sucked into a world so completely that I’ve read each page in breathless anticipation, unable to put the book down. When I managed to pry my eyes from the pages of award-winning author Alison Goodman’s The Two Pearls of Wisdom, it still filled my thoughts, and I counted the seconds until I could immerse myself again.
But where to start? With the utterly real and heart-wrenching characterization perhaps? The author has created a marvellously detailed world peopled with characters who are so non-stereotypical and beautifully realized that you care deeply about their lives, their decisions and their actions. This is true not just of the main character Eon/Eona, but of the supporting cast as well. You fear for Eona as she battles for her power, her life, her honour. You almost cry over her anxiety, and burst with pride at her accomplishments. It is such a powerful connection between characters and reader. The character of Eona is true to her age and experience – her uncertainty about her power, and the decisions she struggles with, are congruent with the overwhelming situation she is facing. She has such enormous responsibility thrust on her from the very beginning, holding the lives of her household in her hands, and then so much more, that her actions are believable and honest. Continue reading
Woolshed Press (2010)
Etienne is not really interested in being a warrior, but as his family’s only son, he is sent to Lucanne to complete his training with Lord Geraint. As a page in the kindly lord’s household, Etienne is to learn how to rule his own estates, when the time comes. When Geraint goes missing on harvest night, Etienne meets the wisewoman Sylvie and her unusual daughter Jeanne, and begins to suspect that all is not as it seems with his lord. Etienne then becomes caught up in a plot to destroy Geraint’s life, a plot that separates them all from their loved ones and regular worlds, and sees them embroiled in the doings of shapechangers and gods.
Based on a medieval romance, Wolfborn takes from history in many ways but in the process creates a richly detailed fantasy world, blending adventure, romance and paranormal elements to create a coming of age story that is quite unique. Continue reading
Justine Larbalestier – read by Kate Atkinson
Bolinda Audio (complete and unabridged – 6 hours and 58 minutes)
I read the How to Ditch Your Fairy paperback in early 2009 and thoroughly enjoyed it, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive the audio book for review. I listened to it over the course of a few weeks in the car, and was amazed by what a different experience it was, and by how much I had missed in my first reading of the novel.
To begin, the wonderful narration of Kate Atkinson lends a depth and enjoyment to the story. She captures the nature of the story beautifully, and reads with passion and verve. It’s a delight to listen to. Continue reading
Allen & Unwin, 2016
All Che wants to do is get a girlfriend, move up from training to sparring in boxing, go home to Australia and…keep his little sister Rosa under control. Not the usual list a 17 year old boy might have. But Che’s sister Rosa is not the usual type of girl. Che’s convinced she is a psychopath (or more properly, has antisocial personality disorder), and has been studying her since she was very small – nothing he has witnessed has made him think otherwise, from the way she manipulates people around her to the outright awfulness of having her best friend kill her own guinea pig. But it seems being ten excuses a lot of strange behaviour, in the eyes of his parents at least, and most other people only see the charm in Rosa’s cleverness, taking her cute smile and precocious behaviour at face value. Can Che manage to keep her in check while struggling with everything else going on in his life, when no one else seems to think there is a problem?
Given Larbalestier’s previous form in work such as Liar, I fully expected to both devour this book and come out at the end with perhaps more questions than I had going in, and I wasn’t disappointed on either count. I felt constantly off-kilter while reading, always waiting for the other shoe to fall, wondering if what I was seeing, filtered through the lens of Che’s narration, was accurate, consistent, realistic, and this was a masterstroke by the author. You really never knew just where you stood in terms of the events of the book, even though Che proved again and again to be a reliable recounter of events, because at the back of your mind there was always a seed of concern, which Larbalestier carefully nurtured with drops of information about Che, his family, and past events, until uncertainty bloomed through the suspense of the story.
There’s a genuine darkness to this book that reminded me of Kaaron Warren’s Slights, albeit being aimed at a younger audience. The true terror comes from the normality of the story – this could be a real person (and let’s face it, the research suggests there are actually plenty of people like Rosa out there). It’s eerie and the ongoing dread of waiting for Rosa, or possibly other characters, to do something awful is quite real. I will be very surprised if this book doesn’t show up on a few Awards shortlists next year.