Book Review # 84: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Wednesday, 30 November 2016 0 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Titan Books. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback 
Publication DateJune 7th 2016
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

After the success of Victoria's 'Shades of Magic' series thus far, This Savage Song appealed to me as Victoria's writing is so melodic and fluid. Trust me, you don't realise how appropriate the word melodic is for this book until you read it! In a world divided where monsters are born from violence, our two main characters fight for survival in their own unique ways.  What I found so beautiful about Victoria's book was that whilst this book was very dystopian in its intend, the messages it portrays about modern society were so realistic and foretelling. Monsters born from violence. Ringing any bells? I followed Victoria's process on Twitter through the inception of This Savage Song, and she details it as being her dark monster baby. You can definitely tell that Victoria has poured every ounce of her being into this work, and it is totally one that she needs to be proud of.

Exploring the world of monsters was fascinating, especially from August's point of view. Seeing darkness from the perspective of the supposed 'evil' in the world greatly arouses curiosity and wonder. Now, whilst character's battling their inner evils is nothing new within YA, Schwab delivers her readers with the exploration of normality and the struggles that people can conquer to try to achieve it. It is interesting to see the emotional journey of these characters, who centre the majority of this novel. One thing that Schwab delivers effortlessly are solid and realistic characters, who have relatable ties to the emotional well-being of her readership. If you find yourself drawn instinctively to character focused novels then This Savage Song is the book for you.

However, whilst I adored the character journeys in this book, there was a lack of plot enthusiasm for myself, which surprised me for a Schwab book. In comparison to her Darker Shade series, which really awed me and enticed me, that is very heavily focused on a perfect blend of character development and plot line, This Savage Song fell slightly flat, hence the star rating I'm awarding it. That isn't to say that there wasn't a plot, because the very evidently was. I just felt that it wasn't as defined as I would have hoped for. Obviously, this is just the opinion of one sole blogger, and you will find hundreds, if not thousands of reviews praising the plot. Will this stop me from continuing on with this duology? Not in the slightest! Luckily, the intrigue of the characters enticed me enough to continue, and this sole blogger looks forward to seeing where the story continues in the next instalment. I award This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab a 3 out of 5 stars. Once again, Schwab impresses with her development of realistic characters. 

Book Review # 83: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E.Schwab

Tuesday, 15 November 2016 0 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Titan Books. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: A Gathering of Shadows
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback
Publication Date: February 23rd 2016
Pages: 508
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

In 2015, Victoria Schwab introduced the world to the first book in her new Shades of Magic series. Not only did 'A Darker Shade of Magic' entice thousands of readers internationally, but it also exposed those who dreamt of stranger worlds to a phenomenal new series that would leave a lasting impact on those who read it. Personally, I adored A Darker Shade of Magic, awarding it a full 5 stars on my classification scale. When A Gathering of Shadows was realised, I knew it was a novel that I had to get to right away. However, this was not to be! I didn't actually get round to reading it until recently, when not only did I know that the conclusion to this trilogy would be closer at hand, but also I didn't want to have to not be in this spectacular world. Schwab has crafted such a unique and magical setting along with phenomenal characters that leave such a lasting impact on her readers. It's definitely one of those worlds that you do not want to leave. I haven't felt this way about a book series since Harry Potter, so my full appreciation of Schwab's work knows no bounds.

In this next instalment, we revisit the various versions of London along with the mesmerising characters we were introduced to in the first book. Luckily for readers, not much time has passed between the events of the last book and Gathering, therefore the impact that has been made since the events of Darker Shade are very apparent to readers, and it doesn't feel like we've been far from home since. However, there is something new looming on the horizon, The Element Games, a magical tournament meant to entertain and keep healthy relationships with neighbouring countries. In doing so, an old friend returns to Red London. Although, that isn't all that returns as darkness from Black London begins to stir in White London...

Gathering allows Schwab to expand her description of the magic system in the world beyond what she introduced in Darker Shade. Through the Element Games, we were exposed to different varieties of magic and we were allowed to see the effects that overuse of that magic posed. Now as magic began to grow with Red London, we also get glimpses into the effects of dark magic now brewing within White London as we revisit an old friend and opponent... As for the characters, Kell is finally settling into life in a princely style after Lila's departure from the docks of Red London. Unfortunately for him, it's not quite all it lived up too, as he begins to realise the constraints of the monarchy as he battles with something that lives inside him that constantly needs letting out. As for Lila, she's been at sea for four months in search for adventure and now she's returned to the surprise of the Elemental Games, and with the development of her new found talents, she's set her eyes on a new adventurous prize.

Although, whilst we are reunited with our old favourites, Schwab treats us to the introduction of some new characters. One of these characters is the stunningly fabulous Alucard, who's past with Rhy lays bubbling away awaiting for the past to catch up with them. We also get the pleasure of meeting some of the magicians from far across the seas whom I will be excited to see if we meet again in the finale, A Conjuring of Light. Once again, Victoria Schwab has blown me away with the way she has crafted her magical tale. I award A Gathering of Shadows the full 5 out of 5 stars on my classification scale, and I eagerly await to see what sweet torture she brings for us in the conclusion to this trilogy, especially after how perilous she was in the cliffhanger at the end of this book! V, you have me enthralled!  

Book Review # 82: Replica by Lauren Oliver

Friday, 4 November 2016 0 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Hodder and Stoughton. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: Replica
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Format: ARC
Publication DateOctober 4th 2016
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

Lyra's story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family's past and discovers her father's mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.

While the stories of Lyra and Gemma mirror each other, each contains breathtaking revelations critically important to the other story. Replica is an ambitious, thought-provoking masterwork.
One story told from two points of view. Not an uncommon occurrence amongst the Young Adult community. However, a book containing two stories from different points of view, cleverly interwoven into a much larger picture? It's rare, and Replica by Lauren Oliver takes on this unique twist on storytelling that has forced Replica to the top of my favourites by Lauren Oliver. If you've read my reviews in the past you will find that I have a mixed relationship with Oliver's books. They've always intrigued me and yet upon completion, they've left me disappointed. Oliver's newest novel, Replica, did the complete opposite for me. Frankly, I adored it. Interweaving two tales allows Oliver to focus on the complexity of her characters. As for the general reading experience, Lauren Oliver builds up her plot to allow for dramatics to occur within the last few chapters, and it is clear how Oliver sets up her readers for a thrilling ride in the conclusion to this first book. At a 560 page novel, most readers might be put off by the sheer size, but upon delving into this novel, the pace of the novel was relatively fast, allowing the novel to progress at a positively normal rate. As a result, the novel didn't feel overly long, nor too short, which I appreciated greatly.

What initially grasped my attention for Replica was not only the intruiging way of telling the story, but the actual plot.  A research facility where thousands of human replicas are born, raised, and observed. Tell me that doesn't sound fascinating! The beauty of Replica invites the reader to indulge this novel in two different ways; read Lyra and Gemma's perspectives individually or read a chapter of each and alternate perspectives as you go through. Whilst the prospect of flipping the book over after every chapter seemed inviting at first, I decided that as Oliver's books have let me down in the past over poor character development, I'd focus individually on the different stories. There is a lot of controversy doing it this way about who's perspective you should begin with. Some argue Gemma's sets the story up better whilst others argue Lyra's is more action focused to begin with and you gain a larger picture of the institute earlier on. I, in the end, decided to begin with Lyra's tale and I'm glad I did, as I agree with the notion that it sets up the Haven Institute more and I found it actually grasped my attention more because the whole idea of the Replica's was what attracted me to this novel in the first place.

Upon completion of this novel, I wasn't made aware of the fact that it had a sequel, so I was left in anticipation of what would happen next, hoping that Oliver wasn't going to leave her book on a disappointing notion. That being said, the events that occurred at the conclusion to this novel screamed sequel book, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. It wasn't until later on when coming to write this review that a sequel was actually announced. Based on this knowledge, Oliver has definitely set her readers up to enquire what will happen in the following instalment, and I have to admit that I am excited to pick it up and see where the adventure will take me! I've fallen for these characters, especially Lyra. It was definitely interesting reading from her point of view; so naive about the world and accepting everything as new. It was actually quite refreshing, like growing up for a second time over the period of 500 pages or so.

So where would I rate Replica? Well, with it's unique storytelling experience and fascinating plot, Replica and it's following sequel/s have captured my attention and I am looking forward to seeing where this story goes. Replica is also one of those novels that I could instantly see being brought visually to the public's attention, either through movie or television format. Due to the rareness of this occurrence for me, I am awarding Replica by Lauren Oliver a 4 out of 5 stars on my classification scale. Two truly wonderful tales, interwoven together with curiosity and the novelty of fresh life. I would easily recommend to others if you're looking for that contemporary and science fiction mix.

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