A Confusion of Princes- Garth Nix
You’d think being a Prince in a vast intergalactic empire would be about as good as it gets. Particularly when Princes are faster, smarter, and stronger than normal humans. Not to mention being mostly immortal.
But it isn’t as great as it sounds. Princes need to be hard to kill-as Khemri learns the minute he becomes one-for they are always in danger. Their greatest threat? Other Princes. Every Prince wants to become Emperor, and the surest way to do so is to kill, dishonor, or sideline any potential competitor. There are rules, but as Khemri discovers, rules can be bent and even broken.
Soon Khemri is drawn into the hidden workings of the Empire and dispatched on a secret mission. In the ruins of space battle he meets a young woman called Raine, who challenges his view of the Empire, of Princes, and of himself.
But Khemri is a Prince, and even if he wanted to leave the Empire behind, there are forces that have very definite plans for his future.
“My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter” - Thomas Helm.
I found this quote on my dashboard the other day and it has stuck with me as I’ve been thinking about books and finishing up this last read. I haven’t decided if I agree with Thomas, but if you are willing to accept his theory than A Confusion of Princes is certainly a good book.
It is definitely far more Sci-fi than anything else I have been reading lately. The futuristic world that Khem lives in is very well developed by the end of the story. Nix reveals elements of the world slowly as the novel unfolds but I never felt overwhelmed or confused by the technology, government or social structure. Nix gives the reader exactly how much they need to understand while keeping curiosity piqued.
I really enjoyed his concept of Bitech, Psitech and Mektech; the evolution and development of these technologies seems believable as well. Two aspects of the Empire that I might have liked more explanation on were the priests- their appointment and role, as well as the role of humans- mind programmed vs free humans.
As Khem explores the Empire readers do get to see life from the perspective of free humans as well as the perspective of Princes. However, the story began to run out of pages and I knew there would not be enough time to explore the relationship between mind programmed humans and free humans, or even learn more of what humans thought on the matter.
Not only did I dread the end of the book because I wanted to learn more about the dynamics of Khem’s world, I also wanted more from the characters we had already met. The cast of characters that readers develop a relationship is quite small, this is in part due to Khems limited ability to form relationships with individuals. Nevertheless, I did grow quite fond of Haddad and would have enjoyed learning more of his story.
A Confusion of Princes was a nice, quick read- perfect for getting me back into Science Fiction with much less Fantasy.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Stephen Chbosky
Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. but there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
Since its publication, Stephen Chbosky’s haunting debut novel has received critical acclaim, provoked discussion and debate, grown into a cult phenomenon with over a million copies in print, and inspired a major motion picture.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. the world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. of sex, drugs, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, where all you need is that perfect son on that perfect drive to feel infinite.
I borrowed this from a friend around 5 months ago and have just got around to reading it. To be honest, it was only because Emma Watson is in the movie that I read it. I am quite glad to have done so though.
I was sceptical about the book because it isn’t my usual genre and way the story is told (epistolary) made me wary also. It turned out that the letters helped create a really strong voice for Charlie. Often first person narratives stray a bit from the view of the narrator because the author wants to describe something more thoroughly or with more flare than the character would. The letters kept everything we learn strictly from Charlie’s point of view. They also very clearly show the maturation Charlie undergo’s throughout the story as his writing improves and vocabulary expands.
Chbosky creates an immediately likeable character in Charlie. He is endearing and innocent and naive. Instantly popular with readers, not so much with his peers. Seeing the world through Charlie’s eyes and learning about how he is treated and the fate of his friend Michael and watching how Charlie treats people really made me re-examine my behaviour toward others. I found myself discouraged that Charlie was so kind, caring, observant and compassionate without fail. That is, however, until he does fall and I was reminded that we do all slip up and sometimes we are mean or rude but dwelling on this doesn’t help anyone. Remember, learn, do better, be better.
The ending of the story was a complete shock to me. In retrospect though, I am surprised I didn’t see it coming. Charlie talks at length about how a child who has been beaten by their father will either grow up to be exactly the same or exactly the opposite. The trend of turning into your parents, even when their behaviour has wronged you so, is noticed by Charlie again and again. I almost feel that I knew, just as Charlie did, the truth of the situation but refused to acknowledge it. I think Charlie may also have been afraid to see the link in the system with himself. If his aunt (a previous victim) turned into the villain, who is to say the same won’t happen to Charlie as well.
I think this book is a must-read for all teenagers and adults alike. While at times I found it a bit difficult to believe that one individual could experience so much, especially so many horrible things. However, all the events are entirely realistic and possible and many teens face the same situations all around the world today. Though I have only experience but a sliver of the hardship Charlie faces I feel my understanding of other upbringings and family dynamics has improved. I am confident I can add this book to the list of those that have changed my behaviour or perceptions for the better.
Shatter Me- Tahereh Mafi
“You can’t touch me,” I whisper. I’m lying, is what I don’t tell him. He can touch me, is what I’ll never tell him. But things happen when people touch me. Strange things. Bad things. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.But Juliette has plans on her own. After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.
There was a post floating around tumblr that was half a page of text and one of the most chilling quotes I’ve ever read:
I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.
I had no idea what the book was about, but after reading this I needed to get my hands on it. When I looked it up online it was described as a mix between The Hunger Games and a superhero movie. So last night I drove to Chapters and picked it up right before they closed. Less than 24 hours later the book has been devoured.
To be honest, I would not describe it as a mix between The Hunger Games and a superhero movie. I believe the potential for this hybrid novel is there, but Shatter Me is not that novel. The focus of the story is undoubtedly the relationship between Juliette and Adam. This left me disappointed for a short time but I have reconciled myself to it in anticipation for the sequel.
I have also come to terms with the fact that an action superhero story may not be what Mafi was trying to tell. Rather than opening guns blazing with information on the Re-establishment government, the underground Omega movement, the psychotic leader Warner or the presence of X-men mutants (for lack of a better description) this story focuses on the transformation of one individual. Juliette narrates the story almost in the form of a journal so we are privy to not only what’s going on- as relayed in first person, but also her innermost thoughts- that are included in
We first meet her on the edge of a psychotic break, after having been in prison for years. The rest of the novel follows her growth. From a weak, insecure individual who feared herself as much as those who imprisoned her Juliette gradually accepts her strength and herself. Adam is instrumental in this transformation but Juliette maintains her independence as their relationship grows.
At first I was itching for more and more of the fantastic elements of the world; more action, more super powers, more revolution. After finishing the novel, though, I feel the pace at which Juliette developed is perfect and I am glad it wasn’t rushed. The passion between Adam and Juliette will definitely keep any reader interested until the end. And when the last few chapters do come around Mafi turns Juliette’s world upside down, taking the readers with her, as we are whacked with more information about her world than in the entire book previous. I agonized through the last few pages because I could see the Acknowledgements coming but I wanted more of the story. Shatter Me ends with Juliette as a total badass superhero with the tools for a revolution and a whole host of new characters I can’t wait to learn more about.
Under the Never Sky- Veronica Rossi
EXILED from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.
A HUNTER for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must learn to accept one another to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
Is anyone surprised that this was a dystopian novel? I’d been picking up and putting down this book for the past few months until I finally found room in my monthly budget to bring it home.
Rossi jumps right into the action with the protagonists life being turned upside down within the first three chapters and there is no hint of the book slowing down until the very end. The pace of the book is a bit surprising in hindsight; most scenes contain only two or three characters, physical battles are short-lived and usually hand-to-hand combat, their journeys occur on foot over weeks of time, and yet the pages fly by, not once leaving me bored
Aria and Perry are the only characters I feel I know after having finished the book. Even them, however, I don’t feel I know as well as I do Katniss or Fire or Hadley. I can’t put my finger on the reason for this. I love their personalities. Aria’s inquisitive nature won me over early on when her close-mindedness was making her stubborn. Perry’s sensitivity and compassion despite being the subject of so much hate was humbling. The progress of their relationship was never rushed and felt genuine. As characters I think they will grace the list of favourites, but will never be held as close to my heart as some others.
Their world reminds me some of James Dashner’s in The Maze Runner Series. The Flares and Ather storms being comparable as well as the flare disease and DLS. One of my favourite parts of Rossi’s world is the presence of heightened senses and the way she develops those far past what one might expect from keen hearing or smell. The presence of these heightened senses in the main characters allows Rossi to create exceptionally vivid scenes and interactions between Aria and Perry.
The book doesn’t leave me questioning styles of government, or the role of religion in society as some of the other YA dystopia fiction has done lately. It is most certainly more a story of two individuals who help each other to grow and discover aspects of their person that had been hidden before.
The Pledge- Kimberly Derting
In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she’s spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It’s there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she’s never heard before … and her secret is almost exposed.
Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can’t be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country’s only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.
This was another book on my YA dystopian binge and while it doesn’t really stand out, it doesn’t disappoint either. The Pledge takes place in a future where people name their children in rememberance of old cities which are now referred to as numbered zones. The protagonist, Charlie, is not named after the old world but her best friend proudly wears the name Brooklyn.
It is this one piece of information that throws off the logic of Derting’s world for me. After having grounded the story in reality the strong presence of magic throughout the rest of story requires more of a suspension of disbelief than I was prepared to give. It appears that magic is passed down through the daughters of the royal line (of which there are several in existence) which is why there must be a legitimate Queen on the throne. There is no explanation as to where the magic originates from, however, nor any indication that it existed when Brooklyn was still a borough in NYC. To solve this problem while reading I just remind myself that I believe in magic anyway so there’s no problem.
The rest of the plot includes an corrupt Queen, an underground resistance, a member of the royal family who sympathises with the lower class, and a Queen whose royal lineage has been kept secret. It has the all the makings of an action packed revolution with a side of romance.
With only fifty pages left in the book though, I found myself wondering how on earth the conflict would be wrapped up by the time I hit the back cover. While Derting introduces Charlie and the readers to the underground world of the revolution slowly, the actual overthrowing of the Queen occurs in the blink of an eye. I did like the use of language to emphasis the distinction and separation between classes. As the revolution unfolds there is little planning or discussion of consequences. This could be because there was very little immediate threat to individuals, except Charlie and her family. In that respect I admired the revolutionaries who desired to overthrow the Queen just because they knew she was wrong and corrupt.
The end of the story felt like it was a story. It wasn’t very realistic, everything went according to plan and was tied off with a neat bow. I’m not complaining because I love a happy ending. The romance between Charlie and Max was cute and good prevailed over evil. It was a nice, quick and easy read that I have actually already re-read because I was in the mood for that kind of book.