Invictus || Time Traveling Teenage Thieves

Invictus Book Review Image
This image is derivative of “Silver Vintage Mist Overlay” by Pink Sherbet Photography from Utah, USA. “Silver Vintage Mist Overlay” is CC BY 2.0

33152795Title: Invictus

Author: Ryan Graudin

Published: September 26, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Synopsis: Far is the son of a gladiator and a professional time traveler. The first baby born outside of time. Top of his class. At least Far was, before his failed final exam shatters Far’s dreams of following in his time traveling mother’s footsteps faster than his cousin’s gelato can melt.

Far’s only hope is a handwritten note from an unknown sender promising him a second chance. Far’s present is not a time of second chances. The sender could be anyone, yet Far knows this is the sole remaining possibility to fulfill his time traveling dream.

Bluejay Feather

Review: This was a great light read to pick-up between the dense epic fantasy novels I’ve been reading and the additional ones I’m planning to read in the future.

That said, the novel itself contains several common time travel tropes. Having consumed my share of time travel related media, the world-building and plot twists, for the most part, weren’t all that surprising.

The heart of this novel was instead the characters and its addictive nature. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump as of late, but I found this to be a hard to put down read.

While I do stand by what I said about most of the plot’s elements being ones I’ve seen before, there was one plot-twist that surprised me. This has more to do with this twist introducing tropes from a sub-genre that I didn’t expect to be incorporated into this novel than anything else.

Still, mixing sub-genres is a legitimate strategy, and the details of this twist fell into place once the author explained it.

Returning my attention to the characters, they have a great dynamic that only tends to come about in third-person-multiple point-of-view novels (which this is). Funnily enough, this is a characteristic I’ve noticed also reoccurs in novels centering around a heist. This novels characters also happens to be thieves. I don’t know what it says about fictional criminals that they have such great group dynamics.

This novel is one of those hard to pull off cases where the many points of view remained distinct and never got confusing despite the several main characters and the frequent shift in perspective.

This leads me to another great aspect of this novel: it is easy to follow. So many time travel novels have timelines that are difficult to keep track of. I didn’t have that problem at all with the main story here. I remained clear on what was happening in the story itself even throughout times when the characters weren’t sure themselves.

The other greatest aspect of this book was that the main characters have a domesticated red panda. Too bad domesticated red pandas don’t exist. The rest of us will have to keep observing from afar.

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Rating: This book was great fun, but it wasn’t anything revolutionary. 4 out of 5 blue jays. If you’re looking for a fast paced time travel heist novel this might be the book for you.

4 blue jays

Have you read or plan on reading Invictus? What’s your favorite time travel trope? Are red pandas cute or aren’t they cute?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Please add a disclaimer if your comment contains spoilers.

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Monsters of Verity Duology Review

Our Dark Duet

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Titles: This Savage Song, Our Dark Duet

Author: Victoria Schwab

Publication Date: 2016-2017

Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Synopsis: In Verity, people’s crimes manifest as monsters.

August is one of these monsters. He doesn’t want to be but didn’t have a choice in the matter. Besides, Verity doesn’t need another human. It needs a monster. It needs him.

Kate is the daughter of the man who controls these monsters. All she wants is his approval, but approval is hard to get from a man who deals with monsters.

Together, they make up two halves of a divided city. A city where both halves hang on the edge between order and chaos.

Bluejay Feather

Thoughts: Without a doubt, I liked and at times even loved this duology. That said, there are also some aspects I’m not sure how I feel about.

I’ve read the first book multiple times in both physical and audiobook formats. I only do that with books that I adore.

What I liked most about This Savage Song were our protagonists, especially August. I love reading about characters who long to be someone they can never become. I don’t know why this is because this is not the case for me personally, unless the person I want to become is a successful novelist, but that’s not unachievable, just unlikely.

In any case, I recognize that this is a personal bias towards a particular character archetype as opposed to something other readers will feel the same way about.

I flew through the second book in a single day and found it difficult to put down just like the first one. That said, I don’t think I enjoyed Our Dark Duet as much as This Savage Song. 

It’s difficult to determine the cause of these feelings.  I think part of it stems from the fact that the protagonists undergo significant development between books one and two and at the beginning of Our Dark Duet. 

August and Kate have become very different people by the time Our Dark Duet starts. On one hand, the development is believable. On the other hand, I miss who the characters had been.

August and Kate develop a great dynamic in book one. It took a while for the two to start interacting with one another at the start of the book.

A similar amount of time is spent with the characters apart in book two as in book one, but I found myself wanting them together more. I feel like August and Kate lacked some of the synergy they gained in book one throughout book two. The reason for this is explained, but I still found myself missing their interactions.

I also felt like there was a plot-line introduced at the beginning of book two involving the other countries in this universe that was never concluded. This makes me wonder if the author is planning a separate novella or spin-off set in this location.

Part of my lack of satisfaction with book two might involve reading this book so soon after finishing the finale in the Shades of Magic series. Our Dark Duet and A Conjuring of Light had similar plots. 

I can’t go into many details without spoilers, but suffice to say that the similarities stemmed from the nature of the antagonists. Both Our Dark Duet and A Conjuring of Light contained what I consider to be two of Schwab’s least nuanced villains.

This Savage Song, on the other hand, had a plot that felt more different from Schwab’s other novels, though it felt more similar to other books I’d read.

Verity was something I loved in both books. I loved the idea of having monsters appear as a result of people’s sins. The world-building manages to feel simple and complex at the same time. My main complaint about the world-building is that I wanted to see more of it.

Rating: While, I didn’t personally love Our Dark Duet  as much as This Savage Song, I’m putting most of this down to personal bias and giving the series a 4/5 overall rating with 4.5/5 for This Savage Song and a 3.5/5 for Our Dark Duet. 

4 blue jays

Have you read this duology? What did you think? Do you want to read this duology? Have you read any of Schwab’s works in the past? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

18966806Title: Morning Star (Red Rising #3)

Author: Pierce Brown

Published: Febuary 9, 2016

Genre: Adult Science Fiction

Note: Because I find it impossible to write a synopsis of this book it is being left out of this review. I’ve kept this review as spoiler free as possible, but those not familiar with the series might get more out of my reviews of Red Rising or Golden Son, the first two books in this series.

Review: This was my most anticipated book release of 2016, and I was not disappointed. Golden Son ended on an extremely suspenseful note, one that left me unsure of how Morning Star would pick-up. When I found out the amount of time there would be between between when Golden Son ended and Morning Star began I was initially unsure of the story, but by the end of the first chapter I was engaged in the story all over again.

Many dystopian series have conclusions that fell short of my expectations. This is often due to there being so much wrong with their society that the main character has a much more passive role than in previous books. This book managed to give Darrow a significant enough role in the rebellion that I still felt like his actions made a huge difference, while still showing that Darrow had to rely significantly on others in order to achieve his goal of reforming the Society.

In Morning Star many of the side characters have gotten extremely well developed. In order to avoid spoiling which characters are still alive at the beginning of the novel I won’t say much, but the characters’ interactions with one another were some of my favorite parts of this book.

I recently learned of the spin-off series Pierce Brown is writing set in this world, Iron Gold. I can’t wait to see what is next for this fictional universe, and have plans to reread this novel once I get my copy back from a friend who is borrowing it.

Rating: This series was great to read with so many suspenseful moments and great plot twists.

five blue jays

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 4.5 Stars

IlumimiaeTitle: Illuminae

Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Published: October 20, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Synopsis: Just hours after their recent break-up, exes Kady and Ezra find their home planet in the middle of a war between intergalactic corporations. In the evacuation the two find themselves on separate space ships.

If they want to survive Kady, Ezra, and the other refugees need to reach the nearest jump station, through which they can reach a more densely inhabited region of space, before those who invaded their planet catches up with the refugees.

Review: At first I had a hard time getting into this book. Adjusting to the formatting was a bit of a challenge, and months at a time passed in a matter of pages.

When I was on page 366 of 599 I noted in a Goodreads update:
“At first I was having trouble getting used to the constantly changing formatting, it can be jarring at times, but now I’m really starting to get into the story and the pace has really sped up.
— Dec 15, 2015 07:42AM”

However, I think the pacing picked up for me at an earlier point than I noted in that update. It was likely around page 250 or so. With the formatting the way the novel built to a climax was necessary to give the reader time to adjust to the formatting before everything started happening at once.

For those who think that this book is long with its length of nearly 600 pages I would like to remind them of the formatting. Had this book been written in the standard form of a novel there would likely have been much shorter.

I had a slight problem with some of the times technology was mentioned in this book. The characters had cars, a subway system, and tablets. It seemed as if at times the only technology that had progressed were weaponry  and spaceships that allowed for long distance space travel.

Considering that this book is supposed to take place in 2575, or over five hundred years in the future, this threw me out of the story a little. This is, however, a minor concern. Due to the way the story was narrated these objects were not described in detail and may have born little resemblance to their 2016 equivalents.

As this story takes place almost entirely on space ships in an isolated part of this fictional future, the reader isn’t told as much about the way the government functions  and other habitable planets. I think this was a good choice on the part of the authors as it allows the reader to become slowly immersed in the world-building as opposed to having the need to learn everything all at once. I hope to see more world building in the sequel.

I ended up reading this book twice. Once in physical form and then again in audiobook format not long after. This is unusual for me.

What Readers Should Know: This book contains many character deaths and zombie like individuals. All of the cursing in the physical version of the book is censored, but in the audio book the first and last letters of most of the curse words is not censored making it easy to tell what all of the censored words are.

Rating: This book started out a little hard to get into, but the second half made up for this.

4.5 blue jays

The Martian by Andy Wier 4.5 Stars

18007564Title: The Martian

Author: Andy Wier

Published: 2011

Genre: Adult Science Fiction

Synopsis: Mark Watney was part of an early mission to Mars, but what had been the opportunity of a life time quickly becomes a disaster. Believing Watney died in a Martian sandstorm, the crew has left Watney behind. The next Mars mission isn’t scheduled to arrive for another four years and Watney’s supplies were designed to last 31 days. With no way to contact NASA, Watney must find a way to defy the odds and survive.

Review: It’s next to impossible to write a good book where the main character is alone almost the whole time, but somehow Andy Weir has managed to pull it off.

This book is extremely well researched. As someone who has done a significant amount of research on Mars for the purpose of writing my first (never to be published) novel which was set on the red planet this is something I really appreciated. One of my issues with Red Rising was that it was clear little to no research had been done on the planet itself despite the fact that the entire book was set there. (Note that I still really enjoyed Red Rising overall in spite of this and gave it four stars.)

Our narrator, Mark Watney, has very strong voice. This allows him to carry the story on his own without it falling apart due to the lack of character interaction. The sections told in third person by members of NASA also add side characters to the story.

The pacing in this book is good. Just when one disaster ended another that somehow seemed even more desperate than the last began. In spite of this, I somehow did not feel as strong an urge to keep flipping pages and keep reading whenever possible as I do with some books. This brings me to my next point.

The reason this loses half a star is due to the fact that I didn’t feel enough emotional attachment to what was going on. I can’t say exactly why this is as the stakes were high at pretty much every moment. It might have something to do with the fact that we never seemed to get to hear much about Mark’s backstory, or at least it seemed that way to me. We heard a little bit about his college life and he mentioned his parents, but beyond that we never got to hear about someone outside of the crew who personally knew and cared about Mark. I think giving someone from Mark’s personal life a little page time or revealing more about his past may have made me care more.

What readers should know: This book is intended for adults. The language would be enough to make it rated R if they kept all of it in the movie, but due in part to the low amount of character interaction the language is just about the only thing that could be potentially deemed inappropriate.

Rating: This is a very realistic depiction of a Mission to Mars. Even though it wasn’t always as gripping as I would have liked it was still a great read and one that I highly recommend to readers who are even the slightest bit interested in Mars or space exploration.

4.5 blue jays