December 2016 Wrap-up

I read four books in December. Three were fiction and one was non-fiction. One was fantasy and two were sci-fi. Two were young adult.

28954189Short Synopsis: Two teenagers must compete for a position neither of them wants: to become a professional killer.

Thoughts: Not my favorite Neal Shusterman book, but still an awesome read.

See my review to learn more.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

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Short Synopsis: A duke, his concubine and son are exiled to a desert planet. Chaos ensues.

Thoughts: This one took me a while to get through. There is a lot of world-building that can slow the pace down at times, but the world-building is ultimately the novel’s greatest strength.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

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Short Synopsis: Fifth book in the Abhorsen/Old Kingdom Series.

Thoughts: I read the first three books, but skipped the fourth on account of the negative reviews. Skipping the fourth (a prequel) had no impact on my enjoyment of this novel.

Goodreads claims this is the nineteenth book I’ve read by this author. I suspect the count is closer to seventeen, but it’s still high regardless. Nix’s world-building keeps me coming back.

Also Lirael=awesome. That is all.

Rating: 4 blue jays

180467Short Synopsis: Nonfiction book about how writers can self-edit.

Thoughts: A lot of this is basic and I already knew, but there were some details I needed a refresher on and a few things I hadn’t realized. This book does a great job doing what it set out too, but I’m not going to rate it because I have such a hard time deciding what to rate non-fiction.

Series Review: The Abhorsen/Old Kingdom Trilogy –Lirael and Abhorsen

Lirael (Abhorsen, #2)Title: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen
*Note: This is a review of the original trilogy not including the recently released prequel Clariel. It focuses on books two and three since they are two parts of a longer story-line. My review of book one is found here, but this review does not contain major spoilers.*

Author: Garth Nix

Genre: High Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis: All Lirael has ever wanted was to have the Sight so that she could be a full member of the Clayr. So long as she lives with the Clayr, a group of individuals tasked with seeing into the future, Lirael will be viewed forever as a child no matter how old she gets.

Picking up fourteen to twenty years after Sabriel left off this novel follows the separate journeys of Lirael and Sam, Sabriel’s son until their lives converge on their quest to protect the Old Kingdom from the Greater Dead.

Review: I liked Sabrel, but had a difficult time getting through it. When I decided to read the sequel I expected to have the same problem, but was  47666pleasantly surprised when I finished book two in only a day and book three in the two days after that.

My favorite aspect of this series is the world building. There are so many details in the way the necromancer’s bells work, to the magic system, and the way the fictional society is structured that make it feel more believable and realistic.

I found our new characters more compelling than the ones in the first book. I had a hard time connecting with Sabriel and Touchstone, but connected with Lirael almost immediately. I feel her sense of being estranged from everyone around her is something to which most people can relate. Sam can be annoying sometimes, but his passages were enjoyable as well, and I didn’t feel tempted to skip them during the time periods when Lirael and Sam are apart. I liked that it was Sam who needed to be rescued all the time instead of Lireal who would stereotypically be the damsel in distress in a fantasy novel where the lead male character holds aristocratic status.

This is the first book I’ve read in a while where there was both a lead male and female character and the two never fall in love. I know several people who have been trying to find a book where this happens, or rather doesn’t happen, and will need to tell them about it.

The linear progression of book two was unusual. Part one of the novel is told entirely from Lireal’s point of view on her fourteenth birthday and shortly thereafter. The rest of the novel is told after her nineteenth birthday. A time gap this large in the middle of a novel is unusual for young adult fiction, and it makes me wonder why it is classified as young adult. The only time I ever come across main characters in young adult books older than eighteen seems to be high fantasy. I’m wondering if the only reason this book is classified as it is has to do with the first book being YA and Sam being between the ages of  sixteen and seventeen throughout the entire portion of the novel he narrates.

Rating: I really enjoyed the second and third books of the Abhorsen series, and recommend them to anyone who read the first one and liked it even a little. For amazing world building and for being so engaging I give both books five stars.  As much as I enjoyed this continuation of the series, I’m not sure if I will continue with the recently released prequel as I have seen mixed reviews. If anyone has read the prequel I would appreciate them leaving their perspective on it in the comments.

five blue jays

Sabriel By Garth Nix Book Review

Title: Sabriel (Abhorsen book 1 AKA The Old Kingdom book 1)

Author: Garth Nix

Genre(s): High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Summary: Sabriel once dreamed of the magic and adventure of the Old Kingdom. Now she would give almost anything to return to her quiet life in Acelstierre. Perhaps when she saves her father she will.

The Old Kingdom has been in a state of complete anarchy for the past twenty years. Cities and villages are overrun with the dead that won’t stay dead and with each day the death count rises. There is only one person left standing between the undead and the citizens of the Old Kingdom: the Abhorsen.

Other necromancers wake the dead. It is the Abhorsen’s job to put the dead to rest. But now even the Abhorsen has become trapped in death. When this news reaches his daughter, Sabriel, she is willing to do anything to bring him back.

Even if “anything” entails traveling to the former capital of a nation overrun by the dead and passing through the gates of death themselves.

Review: There is only one book I have ever read and been truly unable to put down. That book was a part of the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. I have a distinct memory of hiding this book under my desk at school and reading as my teachers gave instruction. My social life was likewise abused.

With this in mind I started Sabriel in the hopes of revisiting the author’s particular style of world building. I was not disappointed in that regard as Sabriel has some great world building. I found the contrast between the cars, telephones, and electric lights of Ancelstierre and the magic of the Old Kingdom to make the setting highly unique.

I read on for about a hundred pages then stopped. Despite this, below I have given this book four stars, and for good reason.

I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about the world of the Old Kingdom. Each time I thought of the book I should read next I kept thinking that I wanted to go back to reading Sabrel. Eventually I gave in and finished the book.

This time I found myself absorbed in the plot line, loving the characters, and even getting a little teary eyed for the final chapter. Sabrel makes for an intelligent heroine. Learning about her family history was enjoyable and I found the world of necromancers, Charter Mages, and free magic to be complex and interesting.

Even though this book doesn’t show much of Abhorsen (Sabriel’s father) the reader gains an appreciation of their relationship. Sabriel does not see her father very often but she’s still willing to travel to a place she knows nothing about to find him. I found this touching and I loved the complexity of their relationship.

The ending is somewhat open and leaves some questions and events of the story unresolved. The story almost felt like it was ending at the climax as opposed to the resolution. I would have liked to have known more about what happens directly after the ending.

Normally I would suspect that the story ended this way because  this is the first in the trilogy, but from what I understand books two and three are not told from Sabriel’s prospective. Regardless, I do plan to return to the Old Kingdom. This has been my first read in the Abhorsen trilogy but it will not be my last.

Rating/Recommendations: I give this book four blue jays for the most original take on necromancers I have ever read and some of the most  creative world building I have ever seen.

I recommend this book to people who enjoy High Fantasy, YA fiction that does not revolve around a love triangle, and are willing to read through the first hundred or so pages to reach the bittersweet end.

4 blue jays