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Monday, June 23, 2014

The BiblioSanctum is Moving to A New Home

Dear readers,

The BiblioSanctum has a new home!

Yes, the day has finally come. After more than a year here at Blogger, we've finally decided to make the move to Wordpress and our own domain.

This is a pretty exciting change for us, and I hope you all will enjoy visiting us at our new home at Please be sure to update your feeds and subscriptions!

To our followers old and new, thank you for your support, we look forward to continuing to share our reviews and our love of books with you all!

Mogsy, Tiara, Wendy
The BiblioSanctum

Sunday, June 22, 2014

YA Weekend: Earth Star by Janet Edwards

Earth Star by Janet Edwards

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Series: Book 2 of Earth Girl

Publisher: Pyr (April 15, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy's Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jarra has carried out a successful rescue mission, saved lives at the risk of losing her own, and received the Earth Star and the highest honor of the Artemis medal. But still our protagonist finds herself defined by her disability.

I’d been eagerly waiting to read this book ever since I read Earth Girl. Earth Star is the sequel, picking up right where the first book left off. Things have pretty much returned to normal after the events of the unprecedented solar storm that put the New York dig site and Jarra in the spotlight. The whole world knows she’s Handicapped now, that she is among one in a thousand born with an immune system disorder that confines her to earth. But while most of her classmates have come to terms with learning her secret, not everyone has been so accepting of Jarra.

I continue to enjoy this series for its ability to engage as well as its departures from the usual YA conventions. Unsurprisingly, these books probably won’t be for everyone, though I do wish more people knew about them. Not only is there an important message, I also love the universe Janet Edwards has created, and here she expands the idea further by throwing humanity a curveball – the possibility of aliens on Earth’s doorstep. When the military discovers a strange sphere in orbit, the planet goes into high alert and Jarra is drafted to help.

You would think that the arrival of an extraterrestrial presence might bring humankind together, but that isn’t the case. The book continues the theme of showing how deep-rooted bigotry and intolerance can be, even though Jarra has proven herself to be as capable as any Norm time and time again. The prejudice against the Handicapped has been ingrained in this society for generations, and Earth has become a second-class planet, with those who have the immune disorder somehow seen as less than human.

But there is hope yet. There are plenty of those who don’t share those close-minded views. Jarra and her boyfriend Fian have gotten much closer since the first book; the two have pledged their commitment to each other and Fian continues to be Jarra’s strongest and most loyal supporter. But like I said, we aren’t going to be treated to the same old tropes here, so Jarra and Fian’s relationship also has a completely different dynamic than your typical YA novel. I wouldn’t recommend going into these books expecting a strong romance plot. It’s just not that kind of book, and I’m cool with that. Still, that doesn’t mean that it is completely devoid of romantic tension. A private person by nature, Jarra still struggles with opening up to Fian, and Fian comes across as almost insecure in his desperation to get through to her. His role feels slightly diminished here, but then I suppose the force of Jarra’s personality has a way of overshadowing those around her.

For make no mistake, these books are all about Jarra’s journey, her own exceptional fight against adversity, from without and within. But I also like the fact she is not painted as the invincible hero. Reviewers including myself have noted in the first book that her character seems to be an expert at everything and know all the answers. In spite of that, I see now that she has her fears and doubts. The message is clear: as a Handicapped, Jarra is nevertheless able to do everything that a Norm can do, but it works both ways. She’s also just as liable to fall victim to her own anxieties and lose confidence in herself, just like everyone else.

After all, she’s only human. Like all of us.

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Pyr Books!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Book Review: EVE: Templar One by Tony Gonzales

EVE: Templar One by Tony Gonzales

Genre: Science Fiction, Gaming Tie-in

Publisher: Gollancz (February 2013)

Wendy's Rating: 3 of 5 stars

My husband tried for a time to convince me to play EVE, the futuristic massive multiplayer online game about corporate space intrigue, piracy and politics. I couldn’t get beyond the whole “spreadsheets in space” concept of the game. When the company released Dust 514, the console version, we briefly considered having me serve as his ground forces, but ultimately, his interest in EVE crashed and burned and mine failed to launch in the first place.

Still, his talk about the game itself did intrigue me enough to pick up this audiobook from the library, and it helped me make it through some of the technical aspects, such as the various classes of ships, the drones and, most importantly, the cloning process, which is taken to a whole new level in Templar One. That background was certainly an advantage for me, but I think the book could hold up on its own without it.

The blurb explains that war has reached a new level with the introduction of the cloning process, but it fails to give any depth to the concept beyond the trauma of repeated death. At the point where the story takes place, cloning technology already exists and many of the characters make use of it. The key to Templar One is that a new breed of clones has been introduced, one that is advanced well beyond the ones already in play, and relies on the deletion of the subject's past life. Once you know that, it should become obvious that all this is leading up to said subject remembering his past life and questioning his purpose. This is exactly what happens about half way through the book, but it's also at that point that it finally dawned on me that Templar One isn't merely the subject matter, but the main character.

And therein lies the major problem. There are a tonne of characters in this story and almost every one of them gets airtime to the point where I could not tell them apart. They were each unique and interesting, but not enough time was spent with any of them to make the choice to have so many points of view worthwhile. Some characters even appeared for only a moment during battles, with entire pages dedicated to their POVs, only to have them die by the end of the section.

The story delves deeply – very deeply – into the political and corporate machinations that shape this universe, as well as the mysterious history upon which the universe is based. There is a lot going on, but I was mostly able to follow along. It is actually very well written with exceptional dialogue, characterization, action and descriptions, but the constantly changing characters some how failed to work overall.

Though ultimately not enough to get me to play the game, I was still very impressed with the level of detail that went into the lore.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Review: The Leopard by K.V. Johansen

The Leopard by K.V. Johansen

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of Marakand

Publisher: Pyr (June 10, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy's Rating: 3 of 5 stars 

The Leopard was a really tough book to rate and as I sit down to write this review, I find myself waffling back and forth on my thoughts. For one thing, I did not expect the unconventional structure, effectively dividing the novel into two separate parts. Because The Leopard is also the first installment of a duology, with the bulk of the story still left untold in book two, it’s also hard to decide how I really feel based on what happened here alone.

After the prologue, we are introduced to Deyandara, a bastard tribal princess who suddenly becomes her mother’s sole heir when everyone else in the family was murdered. But before this news even has the chance to settle, Deyandara is made messenger to the goddess Catairanach, who sends her on a quest to seek out the assassin known as the Leopard. Said assassin, whose true name is Ahjvar, is a cursed man who only wants to die, taking his burden to the grave. However, Deyandara’s message from the goddess changes all that. If he accepts her mission to kill the mad prophet known as the Voice of Marakand, Catairanach promises to free him from his curse. Along with his companion the escaped slave Ghu, Ahj sets off to perform this one final task.

Then we reach Part Two of the novel, which features a whole cast of different characters, apparently bringing back some of the familiar faces for those who have read Blackdog, an earlier novel based in K.V. Johansen’s world of the Marakand. We don’t get to see much (or anything) of Deyandara, Ahjvar or Ghu again. I don’t even know what more I can say beyond that, since Part Two also really lost me, and I found myself struggling through the rest of the novel. The truth is, while I ate up Part One, I practically had to force myself through Part Two, and almost had to throw in the towel. I spent most of the time trying to care about Moth, Mikki, and the other new characters, but never quite managed.

Though it is not necessary to read Blackdog first before tackling The Leopard, I wonder if I would have enjoyed this second part more if I had. At the very least, I think I would have felt more of a connection to the characters, this group of mysterious shapeshifters and otherworldly beings whose convoluted activities only seem to have a tenuous link to the storyline I read in Part One. In Part Two we see that Ahj’s activities have resulted in some rather strong ripples, but I still found it hard to stay focused since all the while Ahjvar, Deyandara and Ghu remained ever present in the back of my mind. It wasn’t long until I realized I wish I could have been reading about them instead.

This book won’t be for everyone; because of the vast difference in my feelings for the two different story lines, I still wonder if it is for me. Johansen’s style also takes getting used to. She clearly loves detail, but it’s a double-edged sword. The wonderful descriptions that made Part One such a vivid and scintillating experience also made Part Two feel lagging and tedious – though no doubt this has a lot to do with how effectively each story line captured my attention. My love of the setting was a constant, however; I’m a big fan of sword and sorcery set in Middle Eastern and Eastern influenced worlds, and Johansen’s writing is perfect for bringing this environment to life.

The world of Marakand really is quite lovely, and I enjoy its people, cultures and magic. But it wasn’t enough, because ultimately the main issue I had with this book was its structure. It’s one thing to weave two different storylines in tandem, it’s quite another to place a very distinct split in the middle of a novel. I put a lot of stock in characters and I’m usually extremely averse to the idea of drastic changes in players or perspective, so I don’t think this book worked for me – but it might for you.

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Pyr Books!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tough Traveling: Mentor

The Thursday feature "Tough Traveling" is the brainchild of Nathan of Review Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information. Compulsive list-maker that I am, I'm very excited to take part!

This week's tour topic is: Mentor
A tour official who will be at your service until halfway through the tour, when you will unexpectedly lose him.
Ah, I love it when we get "easier" theme weeks. That's when we get to play around with more unconventional lists and I'm always looking forward to what others might put on theirs. Mentors of all shapes and sizes populate the fantasy and sci-fi genres so I'm gonna have some fun.

Midnight Riot/Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Probably one of my favorite mentor figures in an urban fantasy series is Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who's not only one talented detective but a hell of a wizard as well. Head of the Folly and the last officially sanctioned English Wizard, Nightingale takes on the protagonist Peter Grant as his apprentice and subjects him to repetitive magical exercises. Nightingale's a bit of an anachronism, being much older than he looks, and his total fail with modern technology is merely a part of his charm. (Review)

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
Tao is an atypical mentor, being an ancient alien life-form called a Quasing whose race crash-landed on the planet millions of years before the first humans even walked the earth. Incompatible with the atmosphere, Quasings must take a host in order to survive. Now split into two warring factions, the Quasings are at war. That's how our protagonist, the self-doubting, weak-willed, TV-dinner-munching Roen Tan wakes up one day with an alien's voice in his head. Tao must whip out-of-shape Roen for the coming battle, turning him from a loser to a super spy killing machine. (Review)

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
In book two of the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, Natalie is the young woman who shares Isabella's love and fascination with dragons and natural history. Refusing to be married off by her family, Natalie joins the expedition to Eriga against her father's wishes. Isabella makes arrangements to stow Natalie away on the ship, hiding her away until they are safely away from port. On their journey, Natalie becomes Isabella's apprentice of sorts, becoming her companion while also learning research methods. (Review)

The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
Emperor Sanlitun has three children, the oldest being Kaden the heir who has spent the last eight years of his life sequestered in a remote monastery in the mountains, learning the mysteries of the monks who live there. One day, Kaden gets a new mentor in the form of Master Tan, whose teaching methods generally boil down to committing child abuse and torture on his poor royal apprentice, including depriving him of sustenance and beating him bloody almost on a daily basis and pretty much just making Kaden's life a living hell. (Review)

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
The Monstrumologist series is probably the most un-YA young adult series I've ever read - as in, if adapted completely faithfully, a movie based on this novel would get no lower than a resounding R-rating in terms of all the violence, blood and gore. The books are written in the form of a diary by protagonist Will Henry, who recalls his life as a twelve year old orphan taken in by Dr. Pellinore Warthope, a man with a most unusual, gruesome specialty. Will Henry becomes the doctor's indispensable assistant and apprentice in his study and research of monsters. (Review)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review: vN by Madeline Ashby

vN by Madeline Ashby

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 1 of The Machine Dynasty

Publisher: Angry Robot (July 31, 2012)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy's Rating: 4 of 5 stars

While reading vN, I was frequently reminded of a mission statement I saw once on Angry Robot’s website – to publish the best in modern adult genre fiction, or in their words, “SF, F and WTF?!” This book certainly falls mostly in the first category, but also possesses a strong generous splash of the third.

At the heart of vN is a story about choice and independence in synthetic humans/artificial intelligences which in itself is not a very original premise in science fiction, but Ashby piles on a ton of new ideas of her own that make this book a fascinating and sometimes disturbing read. Called “vonNeumanns” or vNs after their creator, the original proposal for the self-replicating humanoid robots in this novel in fact came from the most unlikely source – an End Times group who wanted to leave a body of helpers behind for the millions of unsaved after the rapture.

Other bizarre or perturbing things include a graphic scene of robot cannibalism; a harrowing jail break; a male vN giving birth (or “iterating”) in a sticky, gooey process; the implication that pedophiles acquire vN and make them stay forever young by keeping them – all in the prologue and first couple of chapters. The robots have a failsafe that prevent them from doing harm to humans, and witnessing anything violent or upsetting can risk triggering it, shorting the vN out. But still, while it’s apparent that vNs themselves look, act and have emotions much like humans do, their lives aren’t valued the same way; non-functioning or “blue-screened” vN are tossed aside like garbage, a process described in all its unpleasantness. Not to mention the use of vNs in the porn industry, or some of the other sickening and questionable things humans do to them. All this made the book a unique and sometimes eyebrow-raising read, but at least there’s no accusing it of not being able to hold my attention.

That this is an adult novel is no doubt a given, considering some of its mature themes. But within it I was also a little surprised to find a coming-of-age story … in a sense. The book’s protagonist Amy is a vN living in a mixed-family, a young iteration of her vN mother who is of the same clade. Amy’s human father, perhaps a little naively, tries to give his android daughter a “normal” life, controlling her diet so that she physically looks like a little girl, attending school and participating in other activities that real kids do. But when an incident strikes Amy’s kindergarten graduation, Amy ends up devouring her vN grandmother (yeah, you read that right…it’s a long, freaky story), somehow integrating her software. The extra food source also transforms Amy, so overnight she becomes a grown woman sharing her mind with the voice of her psychotic grandmother.

Literally a new person, Amy is forced to make her way through the world and gain an adult perspective on matters her parents had previously shielded her from. In a way, everything is new and strange to her and the reader both. I found myself asking the same questions as her about the things she saw. Was her father deluding himself with the life he wanted for himself and for her? What is a vN’s role: helper, companion or just another technological tool? How should society deal with sentient beings that aren’t really alive? Are artificial intelligences even capable of love? Is Amy limited by her programming, or is there a possibility of growing beyond her code? 

Despite some of the weirdness in this novel, it is a fascinating tale of Amy’s self-discovery and emergence from the shadow of others’ expectations of her. Probably my biggest disappointment was the way things ended. It was a pretty weak conclusion, a little random and out of nowhere after everything that came before, but the tepid ending notwithstanding, I thought this was an overall absorbing and poignant read. Definitely one of the bolder, more provocative titles from Angry Robot.

Waiting on Wednesday 06/18/14

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can't wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy's Pick:

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan: March 31, 2015 (Tor Books)

I can't tell you how much I love the Memoirs of Lady Trent books. As someone fascinated by the natural sciences and the study of animal behavior, I was naturally drawn to this series about a strong female character who loves science and dragons. Even before the premise pulled me in, I was enchanted by the gorgeous covers. 

"Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, are well aware of how Isabella Camherst first achieved a degree of fame (not to mention notoriety) as an adventurous dragon naturalist who seldom let danger or social convention stand in the way of unraveling the thorny mysteries of draconic taxonomy. Those familiar with her illustrious career may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now.

Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist who interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin

Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of Deadly Curiosities

Publisher: Solaris (June 24, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy's Rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second novel I’ve read by Gail Z. Martin and I have to say, her books have a way of wrapping around the reader like a well-loved, comfortable sweater. Prior to Deadly Curiosities, I’ve read the first book of her Ascendant Kingdoms series Ice Forged, and as traditional fantasies go, it wasn’t groundbreaking but still offered enough new with the old to give me that nice, warm fuzzy feeling. Similarly, I felt good about being in familiar urban fantasy territory with her new book Deadly Curiosities, at the same time delighting in some of the things that made it unique.

The book stars Cassidy Kincaide, owner of an upscale antique/curio store called Trifles & Folly in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina. Being able to touch an object and know its history is a special psychic gift that runs in her family – an ability that comes in handy in her line of work. It’s the perfect front for Cassidy and the Alliance’s real work: to seek out supernatural and possibly dangerous items and weed them out of the general public before they can harm anyone. However, when reports that a number of mundane antiques are suddenly turning into “Spookies”, it’s up to Cassidy and her coworkers to find out what dark force is changing all these previously harmless things into haunted objects.

Without a doubt, the highlight of this book for me was the setting. No joke, I wanted to drop everything right there and then and move to Charleston. I have read urban fantasies set in a number of different places, from big cities to sleepy towns, and very few have made me feel a pull this intense. Martin captured the atmosphere perfectly, combining the fictional paranormal elements with the rich history and culture of the city, as well as the hospitality and charm of its people. I wanted to shop the antique shops, visit the museums, stay at the bed and breakfasts, even do the nighttime ghost tours and the whole shebang. Well, minus the evil demons, of course.

In the past I’ve also noticed that authors who go from writing epic fantasy to urban fantasy often stumble with pacing. There is definitely less of an issue with Deadly Curiosities. However, I did feel that sections in the middle lagged a bit, and several characters central to the strike team at the end were introduced much later than I would have preferred. Still, this was probably my one and only complaint. On the whole, this was a great story and I especially enjoyed the first part of the novel, which hooked right away with the introduction to the central premise. I also love the smooth, natural and modern voices of Cassidy and the crew. Gail Z. Martin is a natural at writing urban fantasy; you would think she’s been doing this right from the start.

One interesting thing to note though, is that unlike every other urban fantasy series out there, there is a conspicuous lack of a romantic side plot for our protagonist. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to the individual reader. Those who like a bit of romance with their UF might be disappointed, while others who are neutral or don’t mind something different might find it refreshing. Personally, I don’t think you can force a love story; it either works or it doesn’t. I would rather read an urban fantasy sans romance than one with a romance awkwardly shoehorned in just for the sake of having one, so I say good for Martin! (But for a second, I did get worried – I thought perhaps Cassidy would end up falling for Sorren, her silent business partner at Trifles & Folly. He’s also a 500-year-old vampire. So in this case, I guess you can say I was doubly glad it did not happen. The world has enough vampire romances.)

I am, however, a little tempted to hunt down Gail Z. Martin’s other Deadly Curiosity Adventure stories, from her series that spans over 500 years starring Sorren. That’s what a good book does – make you want more. I do hope she has plans to continue expanding Cassidy’s story as well, because this was a lot of fun. I would return to Charleston and Trifies & Folly in a heartbeat.

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Solaris Books!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 15 of Dresden Files

Publisher: Roc (May 27, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy's Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let’s face it, there’s really no such thing as a bad Dresden Files book – but some are better than others. For me, this series reached its peak round book 5 or 6. I loved Death Masks and Blood Rites, and though everything since has been very enjoyable, there are still times I get nostalgic for the days where Harry’s life was a lot simpler. Well, relatively simpler. The point is, each installment has added another layer of complexity and drama, until each book became a tangle of White Council politics, vampire mischief and Fae court shenanigans, and basically if you haven’t been following the series you wouldn’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell of figuring out what’s going on if you’d only jumped on board at this point.

I understand it had to happen. Change is a good thing, especially when it comes to a long running urban fantasy series, otherwise things would get old quick. But gone are the days when we used to get fun things like cases that send Harry to a horror film festival, or like, to the set of a porno flick. After about ten books, the inevitable bloat happened. The series was in need of a reset button, or at least a way to start tying things together.

For me, Changes was that reset button. And Ghost Story and Cold Days did the tying up. These books marked an important transition for the series, one that I felt was needed and that this handful of novels achieved quite well. However, it wasn’t until Skin Game that I felt that we were finally taking the first real step in this new direction. I have not enjoyed a Dresden Files book this much in a while, and I’m convinced now that the series has regained its feet at last. Sure, we still have the White Council politics, vampire mischief, Fae Court shenanigans, and what have you, but once more we’re back to having a very tightly focused story around a single EPIC situation – it’s heist time, baby!

Ever since he took on the mantle of the Winter Knight, Harry’s life has taken some pretty dark turns. Mab still has him bent over a barrel, but that hasn’t stopped him from fighting back, looking for ways to push the limits of her authority. So when the Queen of the Winter court orders him to aid the big bad Nicodemus and his gang of fallen angels, Harry finds himself in quite a jam. The Denarians want to break into Hades’ vault and steal the Holy Grail, and Harry’s service to Mab requires him to help, but who’s to say Nicodemus will honor his bargain and keep from killing them all after the job is done? And that’s assuming the job CAN be done.

Ah, I love heist stories. It’s a bit of a niche topic in fantasy, but it gets me excited every time. And everyone knows that a good heist story needs a posse, so of course we have a wonderful cast of characters with us on this particular adventure. Some old friends come along for the ride, as well as a few new faces. Among this team of talented individuals, we have the thief Anna Valmont, the rogue warlock Hannah Ascher, the wizard mercenary Binder, a shapeshifter named Goodman Grey, and even a forest creature called a Genoskwa. And of course, Harry, Karrin Murphy, and Michael Carpenter. They are led by the nefarious Nicodemus and his daughter Deirdre. As a result, we have a good mixture of humor and easygoing camaraderie with savage, violent action. Whenever the Denarians get involved, you also know we’ll get our fair share of treachery, deceit, and unexpected twists and turns.

The other great thing about this series is the continued development of Harry’s character. He’s a far cry from the simple wizard he used to be; along with this series, his role has ballooned into epic proportions, albeit he is still very humble and self-deprecating about it. For this reason, I loved a couple of the conversations he has with Michael in this novel. For all his denials, we know Harry is special, but he’s been beating himself up over the last fifteen books and it’s time someone really put it into perspective. Jim Butcher really does a stellar job with these heart-to-heart talks.

Also, completely unrelated but just have to say this – boy, can the man can write one HELL of a sex scene. In the end, the circumstances aren’t really what you think and Harry might have to wait a little longer in the love department, but still. Wowzas.

This book was just pure fun, harkening back to the days when I could enjoy a good Harry story without having it spin out of control into half a dozen different directions. For the first time in years, I finished a Dresden Files book without feeling mentally exhausted. Finally, the next stage for this series has become fully realized right here in Skin Game, I’m hoping the trend will continue into the next book Peace Talks and beyond.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

YA Weekend: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of Midnight Thief

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (July 8, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy's Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was introduced to the world of Midnight Thief late last year when author Livia Blackburne offered me a review copy of the prequel novella, Poison Dance. After reading it I came to two conclusions. First, Ms. Blackburne obviously puts a lot of care and effort into her writing, and knows how to tell a great story. And second, if what I saw in her novella was any indication, the actual book is going to be awesome.

In Midnight Thief, we get to meet a couple of brand new protagonists: Kyra, the thief who barely manages to eke out a living by stealing or doing the odd job, and Tristam of Brancel, the newly promoted Palace Knight (or glorified Palace Guard, depending on how you look at it). If you’ve read Poison Dance, some familiar faces turn up too, like James, now leader of the Assassin’s Guild, who approaches Kyra with a lucrative offer. All she has to do is train with the guild, run a few errands, and he promises her that she will never lack for anything again.

Meanwhile, trade in Forge is disrupted as a clan of vicious raiders begin targeting the caravans to and from the city. These Demon Riders and their wild cats keep young Tristam and his fellow knights busy on patrol as gradually the attacks grow bolder and closer to Forge. On one fateful raid, Tristam and Kyra’s paths cross and their lives become irrevocably intertwined. Thief and Knight must join forces and learn to work together if they’re going to uncover a greater conspiracy rotting at the heart of Forge.

Though classified as Young Adult, the book feels like it could be aimed at younger readers, perhaps closer to upper Middle Grade. There is a strong thread of romance, but it isn’t a big part of the novel, nor does it come into play until much later. Tristam doesn’t even make his first appearance until after a handful of Kyra’s chapters, and it also surprised me how long it took for them to finally meet face-to-face for the first time. This struck me as an oddity, until I realized I didn’t actually mind. It’s nice to see a YA novel once in a while that doesn’t follow the formula, and we were able to get to know Kyra and Tristam a lot better individually without the overbearing pressure to thrust the two of them into a relationship right away.

The story was also in line with my thoughts on the target audience -- straightforward and suitably complex, if a bit predictable at times (there were a lot of not-too-subtle hints at Kyra’s “startling secret” about her past, for one). In spite of this, I still found this book greatly enjoyable and entertaining; the plot may not have held any unseen surprises for me, but the characters sure did. The dynamics were so intricate and layered that I never could determine which faction were the “good guys” or the “bad”, because nothing was ever so simple or black and white. In the end, I just gave up trying to put a label on anybody’s motivations and ultimately settled for rooting for Kyra. I liked her, and no matter what I knew I wanted to see things end up well for our talented young thief.

Which reminds me, if you haven’t read Poison Dance yet, I do highly recommend making the effort to pick it up first before tackling this novel. It’s not required, but it’s a short read and won’t take up much of your time. More importantly, the novella will help you see a certain character in Midnight Thief in a whole different light, and perhaps make him a lot more sympathetic in your eyes. It definitely served to enhance my experience.

If you’re looking for a good medieval era inspired YA fantasy and don’t mind a narrative that skews a tad towards younger readers, I would recommend this novel. It’s fun, adventurous, and strong on character development.

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Disney-Hyperion!