Scythe 4 Stars

28954189Title: Scythe

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publication Date: November 22st 2016

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Synopsis: In a utopian future there is only one way left to die: at a scythe’s  hands. Death is now a random, rare occurrence, and only those who do not want to take lives are permitted to do so . . . at least that is how it’s supposed to be.

When Citra and Rowan are chosen as scythe’s apprentices it becomes clear to them that that the Scythedom doesn’t always operate the way it was intended.

Thoughts: Neal Shusterman is one of my favorite authors, so I wanted to read this book the moment I heard about it. I really enjoyed this book overall, but there were a few points where it fell short for me.

I love the concept of a society that conquers death, and needs to kill off portions of its population as a result to prevent overpopulation. It is interesting to see a society where futuristic technology makes things better instead of worse.

The artificial intelligence in this book, known as the thunder cloud, is an interesting character. It’s the only story I’ve read where the AI is portrayed as less corruptible as the humans.

The Shythedom itself, what the scythes call their organization, is fascinating. The scythes all followed ten commandments, but interpreted them in very different ways. This is a nice exploration of the ways humans interpret different philosophies.

This book feels like a reversal of the author’s dystopian series, Unwind. In Unwind the people take bits of unwanted humans and using them to save people. Whereas, in this book, the taking of unwanted humans for the good of the many is meant to be forbidden.

The main issues I have with this otherwise great book was with the characters and the pacing.

Citra and Rowan don’t spend as much time together as was needed to form a strong bond between them. The long amounts of time the two spend apart also leads to their story arcs diverging a significant amounts. I can see how this might cause someone else to skip between one perspective for another.

The pacing feels a little too fast sometimes and too slow at others. Maybe the author did this so that the story would feel like the story happened spontaneously, like death often does in real life, but I don’t think it always worked. At times it made it harder to connect to the characters because I never really got to know them.

I think most of this can be contributed to rushed editing, as there was at least one place where I noticed a simple grammatical error.

Rating: I recommend this book to fans of Neal Shusterman, and who may want to see something that contains some dystopian tropes presented with unusual twists.

4 blue jays

An Ember in the Ashes 4 Stars


22529162Title:
 An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: Laia is willing to sacrifice everything to rescue her brother. Including her freedom.

When Laia agrees to work on an undercover operation for the resistance, in which she must work as a slave for one of the most powerful women in the empire, the last thing she expected to find was a kindred spirit in her master’s son Elias.

Elias wishes to be free of his obligations to the empire about as much as Laia wants to rescue her brother. Together they might just succeed.

Thoughts: Since I’ve read an ARC of the sequel, to be released in August, I’ve decided it’s about time I sort out my confused feelings towards this book so I can move on to writing an advanced review of the sequel.

This book is addictive. I started listening to it on the last day of a road trip. When I got home that night at about 9 PM, I could not get to sleep until I’d searched my house for my physical copy and read it the rest of the way through.

I’ve read a number of reviews in which reviewers say this book got them out of reading slumps, and I can see why. It’s next to impossible to put down. The timing was also perfect for me to read this book at the time that I did, exactly halfway through The Way of Kings.

Most people who read my posts are probably aware that Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series (the first book being The Way of Kings) is one of my favorite series, but even I started to feel a little discouraged about halfway through the first one because the book takes so long to read and I felt I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. Reading this book so quickly encouraged me to finish The Way of Kings, and I’m glad I did.

The society depicted is one that encourages blood lust, and one of the protagonists is a slave. It could have been unrealistic, or even disrespectful to glaze over the violence. However, there was a particular act of violence between characters who trusted each other that seemed to be crossing a line, and made me lose some respect for the characters’ in turn.

In the time since I’ve finished the book my confusion with regards to how I feel about this story has only grown. The story doesn’t standout in my mind from all the other YA epic fantasy books I’ve read, and therefore hasn’t proven all that memorable. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason this story doesn’t stand apart for me is its usage of many common tropes in a way I’ve seen used often before. The magic system didn’t seem particularly unique, and felt largely unexplained in this first book.

The element of having magical masks that permanently adhere to peoples’ faces also brought to mind a number of questions in my mind while reading with regards to sweat, dead skin, and shaving. The story also followed a familiar formula with the novel being arranged around a series of trials.

The familiar elements of the story helped make it a quick read, but also made the story somewhat forgettable.

Rating: I recommend this to people who need a break from lengthy books, are trying to get into reading fantasy, or are trying to get out of a reading slump, but it is not a thought provoking read.

4 blue jays