Empress of a Thousand Skies || Review

Initial Thoughts: 

For something that’s set up for a duology, there is much to tie up plot-wise. Not surprising for a space opera per se, but I thought a few things could have been resolved already. Also, way too many random coincidences used to move the plot. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…anyway, some good parts, some bad, I’m still on the fence mostly on this book.


EMPRESS OF A THOUSAND SKIES

by Rhoda Belleza
Razorbill, February 2017
Young adult, science fiction
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

In a galaxy far, far away…

Cue the whole Star Wars opening sequence for when you read the book jacket summary. I swear to you the overall effect makes it even more dramatic. And, believe you me, this entire thing takes a turn for the drama. But such is a space opera, amiright?

But seriously, can we talk about this whole memory cube business first?

So in this world/galaxy, er, thing, most people are wired into a memory cube, which pretty much holds what I’m assuming is a database of their personal experiences. Because of Rhee’s flashbacks, it seems like an equivalent of a perfect recollection, one which she could go back to over and over again. So when that gets unplugged, most memories are essentially wiped out. And this is a universal thing. I wonder how much of this is hackable and easily attained/rewritten because the whole thing is largely online…

I shudder to think.

Having perfect recall and being able to go back to a memory over and over again is both a blessing and a curse, imo.

But I digress. My point is there’s a lot about this technology that was interesting to me, and I would have loved to have seen it unfold. In fact, Alyosha and Kara’s subplot kind of touches on this conspiracy about the memory cubes, which is probably why I found their POV the second most enjoyable scenes to listen to, the first being the fast-paced, high-risk chase taking place with Vin and Aly.

That being said, a lot of the story hinged on kismet and character ignorance. Several times, Aly and Rhee escape their conflicts unscathed because of a set of coincidences that were set in motion before they even entered the scene. Several times, the characters do stupid things and they still manage to survive (Aly crashing in a spaceship after a high-risk chase, Rhee dropping a pill and getting herself and Dahlen nearly killed). In one particular scene, it just so happens that both characters meet eye-to-eye for a hot second and then suddenly, everything escalates. I just…where’s the buildup? Where’s the danger? Why are the characters so. frelling. dumb?!

No, seriously. These characters had way too many issues that could have been solved if they weren’t so stupid and self-obsessed. The main villain was predictable, boring, and honestly, sounded like the equivalent of a Mary Sue if villains could be characterized as Mary Sues. Rhee, as the only survivor of the Kalusian dynasty, is supposed to have been taught to take over the throne of an empire, yet I in no way thought of her as anyone who would be fitting to take over a throne. The beginning of the book pretty much starts a few days before her coronation, and yeah, okay, shit happens, and we have explosions and death, and mo’ money, mo’ problems, but from the get-go, Rhiannon was the most aggravatingly ignorant girl ever. She reminded me of another YA girl-ruler who I completely despised because all that education and preparation amounted to absolutely nadand in the end do we really want to trust someone like that in a seat of power?

You’d think perfect recall would allow Rhee to dwell on memories and analyze the minutiae of human interaction and facial expressions. You’d think she’d pick up on facial cues through that recall. Instead, she spends the entire last few years thinking about shanking the guy she THINKS killed her family. Without proof. Without any other evidence other than the fact that she has a memory of her father’s adviser arguing vehemently against peace. And because the guy was so against her father’s policies, it’s clear that he TOTALLY DID IT.

Spoilers, he didn’t. Oopsie daisy? And does Rhee learn? Not in the slightest.

I could probably list a few other things that bothered me about this so-called empress, but I’m so over it, and I want to move on to better things.

Alyosha’s arc was definitely the most interesting to read. While Rhee’s journey was focused on the overarching galactic politics (peace versus war, an empire in arrears, a princess looking for revenge, and a madman trying to frame the wrong person), Aly’s had the most human-interest. Besides the memory cube technology, what I thought Belleza did well on was her touching upon race and racism in the galaxy. The Wraetan are looked down upon, and it mostly has to do with the coloring of their skin. When Rhee’s ship explodes before reaching her coronation ceremony, all the blame goes to Aly, a Wraetan who is blamed because of course it would be a dark-skinned Wraetan who would want to kill off Kalusian royalty. This aspect continues to be brought up throughout the book, and Aly has to constantly deal with not only escape, but survival. Easier said than done when most of the empire is out there to kill him…

Overall, a lot of what the characters did bugged me. A lot of the events made me roll my eyes because of course it would happen that way. I did greatly appreciate the interesting twist with the technology, and I liked the inclusion of different race dynamics in the story. I also liked that this was a space opera, because then lots of different characters and plots within plots within plots. There were a lot of loose ends that still needed to be tied up, however, and Belleza could have kept her story a little less convoluted. That said, I actually am keen to read the next book, if only to find out more on the whole memory cube plot.

3 out of 5 cookies! And honestly, this whole “the two fugitives must join together” thing on Goodreads is another blurb gone wrong. The two main characters never actually meet each other in the book, so um. Yeah.


Did you read this book? What did you think?

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I Avoid Horror Stories…Except When I Don’t || Asylum Review

Initial Review: 

I feel like I’ve gotten more paranoid now after reading this book than before I went into it. A lot of this probably has to do with there being way too many characters that were too coincidentally linked with the asylum. And, like, seriously, who converts a dilapidated asylum into a dorm room. Just…I cannot. That said, at least the scare factor wasn’t as bad as I imagined. I’m not big on horror reads, but I’m also not big on horror, and yet I found myself getting desensitized after playing Until Dawn multiple times…So you crazy asylums can go suck it.

Still, you wouldn’t find me anywhere near one of those things.


ASYLUM

by Madeleine Roux
HarperTeen, August 2013
Horror, young adult
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

The Short and Long of It

Normally I avoid horror stories. Sometimes it’s because I want to avoid the gorefest in some, but honestly it’s mostly because when I read horror, I tend to let my imagination get the better of me, and then I start worrying about the wee demon I am sure I have under my bed. And then that leads to thoughts about said demon being hungry and me running out of sacrifices to satiate it.

Whatever the case, horror isn’t my go-to for reading.

But I have tried to branch out. And while it’s not my typical faire, it randomly shows up on my reading list out of whim or initial curiosity. In this case, it was definitely the photographs and the book cover that brought me to reading Asylum.

The funny thing is Asylum puts two of the main reasons why I try to avoid these books: ghosts and asylums. All it really needed was a clown and I’d be scared out of my mind.

Unless the clown is this little fucker. In which case, I’d just think he’s an absolute troll.

The book has been compared to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children so much that it is hard not to compare Asylum to the former, and honestly, I picked up the book because of Miss Peregrine, so…yeah. The pictures were just as intriguing, and I liked the idea of people telling a story with pictures included. Only, sometimes the pictures did throw me off, because Roux would be describing one thing, and then I look at the picture and oh, hey, I’m going: “But…the warden isn’t sitting down at the center, he’s standing! And the girl at the far right isn’t the one with the discombobulated head…I’m confused…” For the most part, though, the pictures added to the imagination, and it was a nice touch.

I liked the premise of the book. Dan Crawford goes to a summer program and his current home situation throws him into a dormitory that used to be a hospital for the insane. Not just any asylum, mind you, but one filled with terminally insane, homicidal folk with an equally terminally insane, homicidal warden at its head. Pulled by a need to investigate the mysterious pictures at the old warden’s restricted office, Dan becomes embroiled in some weird historical investigation where he finds out that the past can quite literally haunt you. Especially if your name’s Daniel Crawford.

Dan’s friends are also hoots and a half. Jordan was probably my favorite, but that’s mostly because if I was a character in the group, I’d be the scared math-geek with hermit-like coping mechanisms. But that’s assuming I’d make it that far into a program that has an insane asylum as its dormitory. I probably wouldn’t have even applied for the program to begin with. You wouldn’t see me anywhere near old hospitals–oh, wait, I sort of kind of work in one now. Oops?

What did annoy me was the weird progression that the story took. What became an interesting mystery and delving into people’s minds boiled down to a case of some not-so-mild possession. Not much was really explained by the end, and I’m still not sure how some people got possessed while others didn’t. And the random letters Dan kept getting in the story was never really fully explained. I mean, yeah, Dan made conjectures, but there wasn’t much basis in them, and I’m not sure that’s supposed to be left open because this is, after all, only the first of a trilogy.

There was also the fact that this is apparently meant to be a young adult book, though I didn’t really see much of that in the book. Yes, there’s a romance, and yes, the characters are your typical YA characters, but uh, there wasn’t much drama in that department. High school kids go to a college-like setting with college-like classes, and honestly, nobody romped behind closed doors in a dormitory? Ugh, what a bore.

All in all, though, it was a good story and a quick read. I wasn’t wowed by it, and I actually did prefer Miss Peregrine over this one, mostly because of the more fantastical, supernatural element, but I still liked the story and I’d probably pick up the next at some point.

3 out of 5 cookies!


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Cake and Godstars || Dreams of Gods and Monsters Review

Initial Thoughts:

*sobs* This was a love-hate. I love-hate myself for love-hating the last book of what I found as a terribly beautiful trilogy. And it was SO GOOD. Up until I got around 200 pages of story that got thrown in there just to make people SUFFER. So I’m crying inside here. I can’t help it, because I really wanted to love this book more. Ugh. Maybe I’ll be able to say better things once I’ve thought about it a bit.

I LOVE LIRAZ POV THO?


DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS

by Laini Taylor
Little, Brown & Company, April 2014
YA fantasy, romance, supernatural
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited – not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

An epic war and an epic alliance

**Note: Here be spoilers of the previous two books.

Make no mistake, I think Laini Taylor is a godstar in her own right. I admire her writing, and I will recommend this trilogy over and over again, even with my frustrations in Dreams of Gods and Monsters. In DoGaM, we get the conclusion to a war between angels and demons and for the most part, a resolution to all the shipping that’s been happening since book one (I’m looking at YOU, Akiva and Karou!). Joram, the seraphim Emperor, is dead, as is Thiago, the chimaera Warlord. To continue the charade, Ziri poses as Thiago with the help of Karou and her close friends. Meanwhile, on the seraph’s side, Akiva leads his contingent of Misbegotten against a more formidable foe: his uncle, the deformed and cruel Jael. Without the idea of working together, both armies–Misbegotten and chimaera–are doomed to fail. But slowly and slowly, Akiva and Karou’s dreams of peace and cohabitation become a reality.

But not without a bit of struggle and a ton of butthurt feelings.

Always. XD

Like Taylor’s previous two books, there is a slow-burn story in the making, and while at this rate I would normally object the pacing–because I mean, come on, between the first book and the second, can we get to the action already?–I didn’t mind so much because Taylor is just such a lovely wordsmith. It doesn’t work as greatly in this book as it did in the previous two, but I appreciated it nonetheless, and I found that she fleshed out the other characters so well.

Liraz felt…guilty.

It was not her favorite feeling. Her favorite feeling was the absence of feeling; anything else led to turmoil…

She hadn’t felt their magic drill its sick ache through her for the entire time that they’d been encamped here. And that was why she was angry. Because they weren’t giving her a reason to be angry.

Feelings. Were. Stupid.

I loved Liraz’s development. And I absolutely loved that she gets a bit more POV in this book. Ever since Haz in the second book (OH GOD I STILL CRY INSIDE FOR THAT), Liraz has gone through a roller coaster ride in emotional turmoil. Yes, Akiva has, too, but Liraz took longer to persuade to make nice with the demons. But when it comes down to it, Liraz is a stalwart and loyal ally and I would never want to be on the receiving end of her anger.

Laughter and helpless grins, a swift breaking down of barriers. No one could hold out long against Haz. Her own gift, she thought with an inward shudder, was very different, and unwelcome in the future they were trying to build. All she was good at was killing.

She’s also badass. Like…seriously. So badass.

…Another moment, and they might have kissed.

But Ellai was a fickle patroness and had failed them–spectacularly–before. Karou didn’t believe in gods anymore, and when the door crashed open, there were only Liraz and the Wolf to blame for it.

“Well,” Liraz said, her voice as dry as the rest of her was not. “At least you still have your clothes on.”

And hilarious in her own dry humor. And yeah. Okay. I totally just threw in as many Liraz quotes I could find. Because I fangirl her.

“We haven’t been introduced. Not really.”

I also fangirl the fact that Liraz follows in the whole “demon-loving” route that her brother Akiva had undergone. In this case, there’s a recurring exchange between Ziri and Liraz that made me giggle like a schoolgirl because they are just. So. Damn. ADORABLE. Even near the end I was hoping things would work out.

“It might turn us both into Japanese men.” She squinted at him. “Would you still love me if I were a Japanese man?”

“Of course,” said Mik, without missing a beat.

Also, more Zuzana and Mik antics. They’re always a hoot and a half and a welcome cool breeze amidst all the warring and hating on each other.

So with all of this awesomeness, what went wrong?

To be honest, this story did not need to be 600 pages. Everything could have wrapped up nicely in 300, with the end of Jael and his Dominion, with the combination and alliance pulling through in victory. IT WAS FEASIBLE, YOU GUYS.

But nope. NOOOOPE. Deus ex machina happened, and an entirely new story got thrown in by the last 200-300 pages.

Several new characters got introduced, and yes, it helped build the world around them, and honestly, if I wasn’t already so invested in the characters in the previous books, I might have liked Eliza and Scarab. But as is, I found that I was skimming through most of Eliza’s chapters and rolling my eyes with the whole Stelian plotline. It could have been a completely different book, and a spinoff to the trilogy. The ending became super-anticlimactic to me, because most of the resolution was finished 100 pages or so before the damn epilogue. And I will say I didn’t read the epilogue. Not for a while. Because I knew if I read it, I would probably have chucked the book across the room or something, and I wouldn’t want to do that because I loved the first two books and the first 300 pages of DoGaM so much. So. Much.

3.5 out of 5 cookies! I would still recommend this book, for Liraz and Ziri and Zuzana and Mik. For Akiva, who’s still pretty awesome, even in his broody, angry form. And for Karou, who’s still got a lot of resurrecting ahead of her.


Have you read this book (and this trilogy)? What did you think?

Peter Peter and Sky Eater || Tiger Lily Review

Initial Thoughts: 

For a retelling based off a children’s adventure story, this was kind of a snorefest. Kudos for the transgender Tik Tok at least?


TIGER LILY

by Jodi Lynn Anderson
HarperCollins, July 2012
YA fantasy, retelling, romance
Rated: 2 / 5 cookies

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

Okay, so I admit I expected to be writing a very squee-ful review of A Conjuring of Light by now, but my commitment issues got in the way and I’ve been refusing to read the last two hundred pages of Schwab’s book because I DO NOT WANT IT TO END. So I picked up this book that I’d stopped reading in the middle of February for various reasons, and I finally finished it in one sitting.

Unfortunately, the feeling I had for the entire book was really just…meh?

(I’ve tried real hard not to turn this into a rant, but I swear my fingers have a mind of their own…)

So Tiger Lily is a retelling of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, a story about a flying boy who never grows up. In the original source, Peter takes the Darling siblings on a grand adventure in Neverland, only to find themselves in trouble with Captain Hook and his band of pirates. There’s a lot of shenanigans happening, and in the end, the story takes a cyclical turn, staying true to Peter’s everlasting boyish persona: that everything goes round and round, and will always stay the same where Neverland is concerned.

One of the secondary characters that show up in Barrie’s work happens to be Tiger Lily, the daughter of a tribal chief in Neverland. She is often pitted as the foil to Wendy, because she, too, loves Peter, and has eyes for no one else. Now, the Barrie original has an image of Tiger Lily walking onto Captain Hook’s ship with a knife in her mouth. And honestly, that image alone made this girl the most interesting character in Neverland to date. That’s saying much, considering there are mermaids and pirates and fairies to contend with!

I won’t get into an argument about the depiction of the Piccaninny tribe in the Disney movie, but honestly, I do remember loving what glimpse I had of this feisty little girl!

A lot of the book blurb hinted at some fast-paced, love-at-first-sight adventure romance. I mean, it’s a retelling of Peter Pan, and what wouldn’t be a retelling of Peter Pan if it didn’t have a magical Neverland brimming with mermaids and dangerous pirates and its indigenous, non-colonized people? The entire selling point was that the focus would be on Tiger Lily, one of the most interesting characters in the stories.

Here’s the problem with the blurb, though: it’s another unfortunate, inaccurate write-up. The most accurate it could have gotten was that the focus is on Tiger Lily. However, insta-love doesn’t happen (thank goodness). Tiger Lily is her own character for a majority of the book, and she does fall in love with Peter Pan, but her realization doesn’t even come about until halfway through the book.

Here’s the other problem: there wasn’t much “risk” involved on Tiger Lily’s part. Not once did I feel the need to worry about how the Sky Eaters would react to Tiger Lily’s involvement with the Lost Boys. There was clear and present danger, yes, but nothing immediate, and when dealing with a story where most people already know the ending (heck, the friggin’ fairy already prefaced the story as something that would not end happily for the two lovebirds), it was already predictable that Tiger Lily and Peter would come out unscathed. Probably heartbroken, but largely whole.

And to top it off, meeting Wendy Darling was pretty much the last fifty pages of the book. Honestly, I was half-hoping the entire scene had gone the pirates’ way in the end, because at least that would have been a trifle more exciting. Also, I didn’t think Wendy could get even more boring than the usual persona she is often depicted as, but she did. She got even less interesting in this book, and frankly, even Tinker Bell had developed more personality within the last fifty pages than Wendy did (and that’s saying something, because I swear Tink didn’t have an opinion in her little fairy body either).

It’s gotta be said, Wendy.

My biggest gripe of the story was probably the narration itself. It was hard trying to sympathize with any of the characters when the storyteller kept changing tenses and perspectives on me. The whole book is seen in the eyes of Tinker Bell, a mute fairy whose sole purpose in the book was really just to watch and observe things unravel before her. While I do not mind plot-driven books, the addition of Tink as the unreliable narrator made the storytelling clunky. There were too many POV changes in one scene, and it was sometimes difficult to determine whether or not it was Tink thinking some things or if it was Tiger Lily or another character whose mind Tink can view.

And honestly, Tinker Bell’s limited, single-minded view pretty much distorted the story to revolve around what she wanted to see. Everything else was white noise for her, and unless it dealt with the well-being of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan, Tink pretty much just glazed over things. This in itself is irritating when there were darker, grimmer issues surrounding the story that had nothing to do with Tiger Lily and Peter’s doomed romance. At one point, a rape took place, and Tink’s narration of it lasted a couple paragraphs, like it was just some sort of pitiable thing she happened to have come across. Instead of feeling any sorts of disgusted or worried, she doesn’t even bring this shit up to Tiger Lily. Oh, but Tink has time to prank Wendy Darling, though!

(In Tink’s defense, I doubt she would have been able to say much to Tiger Lily, who was also unfortunately too wrapped up in her own miseries to be paying attention to what was happening to her own damn friends. Ugh, shame on you, Tiger Lily!)

That said, it could have been worse. Tink could have had a voice…

That all said, there were a few things I liked about Tiger Lily.

The writing had its moments, for sure. I thought the prologue and the first few chapters were the best parts to read, because it had a poetic feel to them, and it was easy to forget that Tinker Bell was narrating the story for the most part. The letter at the end was probably one of my favorite bits, too, it was bittersweet and a bit sad. If I sympathized with the relationship more, I might have cared more, but Peter was kind of a jerk for the most part, and only the letter really indicated how much he changed when he got older.

Tik Tok, Pine Sap, and Moon Eye. Honestly, there were some really good characters written into the story. I thought Smee was characterized rather well, though I found this an interesting take on Hook’s most notorious lackey. Pine Sap and Moon Eye were great secondary characters, though I will say that Tik Tok was my absolute favorite. Honestly, Tik Tok’s and Moon Eye’s storylines were the most compelling for me in Tiger Lily, both of which dealt with darker issues. Hell, I was sad for Tik Tok. I was not sad that Peter chose the other woman.

2 out of 5 cookies! It got one extra cookie for Tik Tok and the conclusive situation with Giant. Yeah.

This counts as #6 of my Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Skill and Slavery || Gilded Cage Review

gildedcage-review

Initial Thoughts:

Hot damn, but this was a very good book. It was DARK by the end, and now I’m bummed because I have to wait for the second book, but omg, that ending though. I can’t trust anyone in this book! And I definitely should have told myself not to get attached to people. TOO LATE DAMMIT.


GILDED CAGE

by Vic James
Del Rey, February 2017
YA fantasy, dystopia
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley (thank you!)

gildedcageOur world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

Down with the Monarchy, Down with Equality

This book took me a bit by surprise. Not so much because I’d expected it to be bad, but that I’d expected something as heady as slavery and politics to be a slow read and not at all the fast-paced narration I’d encountered in Gilded Cage. So when I started reading, there were many things that I had to soak in and think about, things that I didn’t really see coming, and characters that definitely made me go “OMG X IS REALLY Y HOW CAN I TRUST THIS LITTLE SHIT EVER AGAIN?” by the end of the book.

Luke’s little sis and her friends were careering round behind the house shrieking at the tops of their voices, while some unforgivably awful C-pop boy band blared through the living room window.

The time of the Equals. First off, I did want to point out that one of the most interesting things for me is that this particular England mirrors more of a modern England than any other time period. There are cars and magazines and TV and technology. Heck, the opening scene follows Luke and his family during his sister Daisy’s 10th birthday, and already from the first few paragraphs we are shown that the Hadleys seem to be a regular family living a routine, regular life. Luke is attempting to study for his exams, his older sister Abi is reading a smutty romance novel, and his sister Daisy is partying with her friends. Nothing out of the ordinary, right?

Until, of course, we are told a page or two later that this seemingly ordinary English life is fitted within a city drenched in a history of slavery. And it is still happening as of the beginning of Gilded Cage. Instead of open rebellion against such injustice, Luke takes it in stride and mostly for granted up until his parents sign the entire family up into ten years of enslavement. Then things begin to change for the Hadley family.

Let me tell you, those first few pages in Chapter 1 were already a doozy. Imagine an England where citizenship is not allowed to non-Equals unless they consign themselves into a decade-long servitude. Imagine these non-Equals taking it for what it is and not opposing the government, because what can the Skilless really do against the Skilled Equals, whose mysterious powers are beyond their understanding. It’s pretty heavy stuff, and right then and there I was already on the mindset that things were about to get pretty dark, pretty damn fast.

“Oh, shit” indeed, Varric.

The book largely tells the story of Luke and Abi, brother and sister whose parents decided to take their entire family into the slavedays, where they and their family enter into a period of slavery in order to fulfill their citizenship obligations. Abi, evidently the smartest of the three siblings, has managed to sign her entire family up into servitude at Kynestone, the household of one of the most powerful Equal families in England. It looked like a cushy 10-year position for everyone, except for one thing. By some stroke of misfortune, Luke is separated from his family and taken to Millmoor–a town where slaves are treated like animals. Working conditions are poor, difficult, and very long at Millmoor, and to Luke, it’s only the start of what looks like the most miserable ten years of his life.

Enter the various points of view that really helped with the pacing. I had initially thought the main POVs would be that of Luke and Abi (and quite possibly Daisy, because many reviews mention her a lot), but the book itself had many more characters that were given chapter POVs. It really added a more in-depth look of the inner workings of the Skill and the characters who wield them. It also gave a more in-depth look at some of the character motivations on both sides. After all, it isn’t just Luke and Abi roaming the pages, there’s also Silyen, Euterpe, Gavar, and Bouda. At first I thought this would become problematic, considering a lot of these secondary character POVs only showed up once or twice, but honestly, their chapters helped to form the bigger picture of the world of the Equals.

Beside him, her own exams long since completed, Abi was lost in one of her favorite trashy novels. Luke gave it the side-eye and cringed at the title: Her Master’s Slave. She was nearly finished, and had another pastel-covered horror lined up. The Heir’s Temptation. How someone as smart as his big sister could read such rubbish was beyond him.

And on a related note, I totally related to Abi. Completely and utterly.

“It’s an ability, origin unknown, manifesting in a very small fraction of the population and passed down through our bloodlines. Some talents are universal, such as restoration–that is, healing. Others, such as alteration, persuasion, perception, and infliction, manifest in different degrees from person to person.”

“Magic, you could say?” Silyen offered.

Then there’s the Skill itself. As of Gilded Cage, not much is known about how it manifests in a few people, and what the limits of the Skill are. Some Skilled people are clearly kill-able, yet the how is still a little vague. In some cases, the plot conveniently kills off Skilled people in a fire. Yet others are burned and mutilated, yet somehow within minutes and quite possibly seconds, they are right as rain. There was a bit of explanation about why some siblings had a great deal of Skill while others didn’t, but it was only briefly touched upon, and not altogether fully developed. It will be interesting to see how the Skill continues to be unraveled within the later books.

In the Philippines, Skilled priests regularly repelled dangerous weather systems that threatened their islands. What were Britain’s Equals capable of? Abi wasn’t sure.

The fact that the Skill manifested within the rest of the world makes this magical system even more interesting!

…word must have gone round the whole of Zone D.

And Luke had talked it into existence.

Thinking about that made his head spin. It was almost like Skill–conjuring up something out of nothing.

“There no magic more powerful than the human spirit,” Jackson had said at the third and final club meeting. Luke was beginning to dare to hope that was true.

I couldn’t say which place had been the most interesting part of the book. On the one hand, I thought Luke was getting more action within the story, having been mistakenly thrown into Millmoor as opposed as being stuck in the Jardine household. On the other hand, a lot of political bullshittery hit the fan within the Jardine household that I almost wished Abi had taken some sort of initiative and went out of her way to find out more about the household she served. I mean, there were parts where Abi did do something, but I thought she’d been sidelined as a character who pined for someone unattainable and slaved away as a secretary. She’s much more than that, and I really hope she gets a bit more into the plot in the next book (and from the look of things, it sounds like she will be!).

Be warned: This book ends in a cliffhanger ending. And you might want to cry just a bit if you get attached to certain characters. Because OMG HEARTBREAKING THINGS HAPPEN.

You tell ’em, Meredith!

4 out of 5 cookies! Did I think the pacing work for the book? Yes, I did! Did I enjoy the politics behind it? Surprisingly, I did! Honestly, I thought Bouda Matravers played a great game, though she wasn’t the only one with far-reaching ambitions. Do I want the next book now? Ugh. Don’t talk to me about another trilogy. Because of course I want the next book now.

This book counts as #5 of the Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


gildedcage-bouda

Did you read this book? What did you think?