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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Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

24807186Title: Wolf by Wolf

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publication Date: October 20, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Alternate History, Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Synopsis: In an alternate 1956 where the Axis Powers won World War II Yael, a teenage Jewish concentration camp escapee, enters an ambitious cross-continent motorcycle race. The winner gets to meet Hitler. Her goal is to win the race, kill Hitler, and start a revolution.

Thoughts: I went into this book not expecting to like it much, but was pleasantly surprised. Historical fiction isn’t my genre of choice, but I think the speculative aspects of this book are what made it appeal to me much more than most historical fiction.

The book focuses on the race itself as opposed to the historical aspects of a world where the Axis powers won World War II, though we do get to see a fair amount of the world considering the immense amount of distance traveled by the racers.

The world-building towards the beginning of the novel felt a little like info-dumping in the way it was introduced and almost made me stop reading, but the book soon picks up the pace and becomes less info-dump heavy as soon as the race starts. This is due in a large part to the fact that the focus isn’t on the world either, but on the interactions between the characters.

Yael, the main character, is a very dedicated, driven character, and all the flashbacks to her horrible past make her easy to see where that drive comes from. That said, she could feel a little too good at everything at times. Yes, Yael spent a lot of time training and being educated, but she hadn’t been riding a motorcycle nearly as long as her competitors, who were supposed to be some of the best in their respective countries. Yet, somehow she manages to be better at riding a motorcycle than most of her competitors who are undeniably also very driven, though for entirely different reasons than Yael.

Adele, the character Yael spends most of the novel impersonating, proves far more interesting than I anticipated despite the true Adele’s brief appearance in the novel. I feel like it would have been easy for Graudin to brush over Adele’s character and past since she wasn’t featured much, but the way we learn about her though the characters who have interacted with Adele before Yael began impersonating her made her seem just about as fleshed out as other major characters’ in the novel.

Felix, Adele’s twin brother, is yet another character it might have been easy for the author to make one dimensional or demonize, but the devotion he showed to his sister, or the girl he thought was his sister, made him a lovable character even as you know he’d likely turn on the protagonist the instant he realized her true identity.

Luka was an interesting character. The author made it so the reader never knew what to expect from him. He has a history with Adele and throughout the novel Yael and the reader are left guessing what their relationship in the previous race was that left Felix wanting to attack Luka anytime he gets near the girl they believe is Adele. Their relationship is hinted to have been romantic in nature. This made for a crisis of trust not typically seen in most other books because most characters are well versed in details of their personal romantic history.

I got a little distracted at times trying to figure out where my ancestors would have been at the times it was taking place and how the changes would have affected them. I have come to the conclusion that my birth would be next to impossible in this alternate timeline, which was, of course, my least favorite part of this book, but I can hardly blame the author for that. 🙂

On a more serious note, I can’t say I would have wanted to be born in this novel’s reality. It’s that bad.

Rating: This book has left me thinking about it for weeks, and I had such a fun experience reading it. However, I cannot entirely overlook its flaws. For these reasons it is getting a four out of five.

4 blue jays

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

15724396Title: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)

Author: Rick Riordan

Published: October 6, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Mythological/Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: Magnus didn’t plan to die on his sixteenth birthday. He actually didn’t plan anything at all.

Magnus has spent the last year homeless on the streets of Boston after the mysterious death of his mother. Finding the source of his next meal is higher than his birthday on Magnus’s priority list, but when Magnus discovers he is the son of a Norse god his life is changed drastically minutes before his death where Magnus finds himself in a strange afterlife he hadn’t known existed.

Review: Magnus Chase has one of the strongest voices of any character I have read for some time. This being the author of Percy Jackson that comes as little surprise. While I normally hate it when authors break third wall, Rick Riordan does so in a way that somehow manages to add to the story.

There appears to be much concern about this book being too much like Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. There were some major parallelisms, Magnus is even the cousin of on of the main characters from the Percy Jackson book and it is clear there will be more overlap between characters of Riordan’s various series in future books.

That said, readers do not need to have read any of Riordan’s other books to read The Sword of Summer. The series stands on its own thus far in spite of the sometimes not so subtle callbacks to Riordan’s previous books.

The similarities between this book and other books by this author don’t really bother me. Whenever I read several books by one author I start seeing common themes and character arcs throughout their works and even see the same in my own writing. The similarities between Riordan’s books just happen to be more obvious than most.

Perhaps my favorite thing the Percy Jackson books and this series have in common are the hilarious chapter titles. I missed the chapter titles in The Heroes of Olympus.

Some of the side characters were very well developed while others felt like they didn’t get enough development. *slight spoiler* There was one side character in particular that died in this book, but didn’t get all that much development. I feel her death would have been more meaningful had the reader been given a chance to get to know her.

Rating: Really enjoyed reading this book, but it doesn’t standout in my memory as life changing. For that reason it gets a four out of five.

4 blue jays

Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days, 1) by Susan Ee Book Review

Title: Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days book 1)

Author: Susan Ee

Genre(s): Young Adult, Paranormal, Apocalyptic

Release Date: May 21, 2011

Synopsis: Six weeks ago the world ended. Those cute little angel mosaics and statues? Turns out they’re about as far from the truth as it is possible to imagine. The apocalypse was not from an alien invasion or scientific invention. The world was destroyed by angels.

17-year-old Penryn Young doesn’t care about saving the world. She just wants to have her sister back, and there’s only one person who can help her. The only problem is that he’s not exactly human.

He’s a wingless angel named Raffe, and angels are the enemy.

If Penryn is to find her sister and Raffe is to get his wings back these two must make a temporarily alliance. Their only hope is to reach San Francisco where the angels have gathered in number, but there is no guarantee that arriving in San Francisco will give either of them what they want.

Review:  When I told my friends I had read this book in one night they thought I was crazy. When I reached the “100%” mark on my e-reader in one sitting I was not at all surprised. I enjoyed this novel that much. Angelfall is the suspense grabbing, action-packed type of novel that leaves readers wondering “what happens next?”

I must admit that I came into this book with some doubts. To put it simply, I had a prejudice against self-published authors. But, this book has helped change that. If I hadn’t known before I started reading that this book had been self-published I never would have guessed.

One of the main reason this books works is our main character, Penryn. Unlike most of the heroine’s I’ve read lately Penryn is a very strong female lead who never forgets what’s at stake and is determined to find her sister no matter what the cost. Penryn isn’t about to let anyone push her around– not even Raffe.

Raffe knows this about Penryn. He lets Penryn fight her own battles and acknowledges her strengths. Some readers might be expecting some Penryn and Raffe insta-love thanks to all the paranormal romances in existence, but this was not the case. This book does contain a touch of romance, but it is mostly found in the last ten percent. Perhaps one of my favorite elements of this book was the absence of the “love triangle” cliche that plagues paranormal novels.

The usage of angels in this book was fairly well done. The author was trying to write an angel book that appeals to the general audience. I know that a lot of people are hesitant to read books containing angels because they either a) don’t read books that are preachy or b) don’t read books that are the opposite of preachy. As this book takes a neutral stance, neither audience is likely to have a problem with it on this regard.

Raffe is not your stereotypical angel from modern YA novels either– none of the angels in this novel are. Most novelists either decide to have the focus of their angel novel be on fallen angels or  morally perfect beings who can do no wrong but Mrs. Ee has decided for her angels to be more like the angels of the Old Testament. Meaning that there is destruction to the point that the world can say goodbye to most of its major cities.

The world building was another strong point. This novel is set only a few weeks after the start of the apocalypses which results in characters who still remember their lives before and most modern infrastructure is still around but useless. I liked the way the author intermixed the highly popular Apocalyptic and Paranormal genres. I often see the two apart but almost never written into the same book, and I found the combination of angels and the end of the world to be a refreshing twist.

One of the only element that I didn’t enjoy was the cannibalism. I give a detailed analysis of my reasoning without giving away major spoilers so all I can say is I felt it was unnecessary.

This book was one of the best apocalyptic novels I’ve read in a while.

Disclaimers: If this book were a movie I’d rate it towards the more gruesome end of the PG-13 spectrum. This novel contains references to cannibalism and potentially disturbing depictions of dead bodies.

Rating/Recommendations: I recommend this book for people who enjoy strong heroines and are looking for a fast paced read. I would recommend reading this book when you have time set aside to read through it quickly.

I give this book 4.5/5 because I adored Penryn, liked that the romance remained a subplot, and found the world Susan Ee created facinating. The .5 is only taken off because I didn’t enjoy the way cannibalism is used in the story-line.

4.5 blue jays