YA Double Shot: The 5th Wave and The Archived

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave received a big marketing push before it’s release and rightfully so; it is an engaging,  entertaining story, with definite mass appeal and absolutely crying for a film version. It is also a book rife with problems and one that doesn’t quite live up to its own expectations.  The titular 5th Wave refers to the 5th stage of an invasion by a mysterious alien threat. Earth’s population has already been decimated by the first four waves; each successive stage whittling  down human resistance. The novel focus on a Cassie a young survivor who escaped the first four waves with her family but who now finds herself on her own after some rather tragic events. Cassie makes the rather rash decision to find and rescue her younger brother and in doing so sets off a chain of events that will reveal the mystery of the 5th Wave.

The 5th Wave’s premise grabbed me right from the start. I’m a sucker for invasion stories and from that standpoint Yancey’s novel crafts a frightening and fascinating vision of a potential invasion.  The plans of the mysterious aliens are smart if a bit complicated but still makes for some fun reading. The bond between Cassie and her family is a strong one and some of the novel’s strongest elements rise out of that fact. In fact, while I was consistently entertained throughout the novel I found Cassie’s memories of her family (often told in flashbacks) a far more compelling story than the one that is being told in the present. The strength of those memories and Cassie’s emotional bond with those memories and her family resonated rather strongly while I was reading. They resonated so strongly in fact that the romantic elements of the story, namely Cassie’s attraction to Evan Walker, fell completely flat. Indeed, there were times where the romantic connection between the two characters felt more like editorial mandate than anything the author really wanted to do. While Evan certainly plays an essential role in the plot in helping Cassie get to her brother the connection between he and Cassie just feels forced.

The 5th Wave is certainly an entertaining novel and I’m not positive that teen readers would feel the same about the romantic elements in the novel as I do.  Despite the faltering romance I found myself consistently engaged by the novel and invested in the fate of Cassie and her brother. The novel feels like it occasionally loses focus but despite this Yancey does a rather splendid job of envisioning a world ravaged by an alien invasion. I’m definitely interested in seeing where this story goes.

If the The 5th Wave is the Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer action spectacle then Victoria Schwab’s  The Archived is the Terry Gilliam/Tim Burton equivalent. Subtle, dark and wonderfully imagined The Archived lacks much of the flash of The 5th Wave but doubles down on the heart. The Archived is a novel about death and grieving. Mackenzie Bishop is still reeling from the death of her younger brother and her parent’s decision to move to an old hotel converted into an apartment complex and open up a coffee shop isn’t helping her grieving process very much. Complicating things a bit further is the fact that Mackenzie know what happens when you dies. She works for The Archive, a mystical place that much like a library, houses the dead now called Histories. Mackenzie is a Keeper and her job isn’t a particularly relaxing one. Tasked with returning those Histories who wake up and wander the world, often with violent results, her job is both mentally and physically exhausting.

The Archived by Vistoria Schwab Dinsey/Hyperion, 2013

If The Archived has proved anything about fascination with YA fiction it’s that I’m drawn to fiction which features death as a major theme. The Graveyard Book, The Death Watch, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and Anna Dressed in Blood all stand alongside The Archived as YA novel’s I’ve enjoyed which spend a considerable amount of time discussing, often directly, the nature of death and grieving.  I don’t know what the says about me but regardless of that fact The Archived does a moving job a conveying Mackenzie’s sense of loss and her struggle to deal with her brother’s death. While it is often discussed directly in the novel it is important to note that even in those moment’s when it isn’t discussed Mackenzie’s grief looms in the background never quite out of sight.

Schwab smartly sticks to Mackenzie as the reader’s “in” for her world and focuses on Mackenzie’s personal struggle. What the reader learns about the Archive is strictly limited to what Mackenzie learned and Schwab manages to convey the sensation that we only learn what we do because it is being remembered as Mackenzie works through her feelings of loss, not only resulting from the loss of her brother but also the loss of Grandfather; the man who trained her and brought her into the Archive. The Archived tells a taught suspenseful tale and every scene feels laden with history and import as Mackenzie slowly unravels the mystery behind who, or what, has been deliberately waking up (often altering) Histories. Schwab is an author to watch and I definitely recommend people looking for a unique, thrilling, and emotionally engaging tale of fantasy fiction give The Archived a shot.


Review: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan
Orbit Books, 2013

Blood Song is a title that has been sitting in my Kindle library for quite a while now but for some reason I just hadn’t read it yet. With Orbit have re-released Blood Song this year I decided to finally give in and read it. Vaelin Al Sorna is our primary narrator for the tale in Blood Song. Given at young age by his father to a Monastic order of warrior monks (one of Six Orders) Vaelin rises through their ranks, acquiring a handful of companions: human, canine, and equine. Vaelin eventually comes to the attention of the King and is drawn into the world of politics, his father was the King’s most trusted General, and becomes embroiled in the King’s plans for economic conquest. Meanwhile, mysterious forces work behind the scenes manipulating events and magic to prepare the way for “the one who waits.”

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Review: The Companions by R. A. Salvatore

The Companions by R. A. Salvatore
Wizards of the Coast, 2013

The Companions mark’s the first R. A. Salvatore penned Forgotten Realms novel that I’ve read in quite some time. With the Wizards of the Coast wrapping up the playtests for the latest edition of Dungeons and Dragons the Realms has been targeted for a bit of a facelift via a major cross-media event called The Sundering. While I was at one times a voracious consumer of the Forgotten Realms novels, particularly in my teens, I have since moved on and while I’ve checked back in here and there I’ve not followed along too closely with the adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden and the Companions of Mithral Hall. While R. A. Salvatore’s The Crystal Shard was not the first  Forgotten Realms novel (that title belongs to Douglas Niles’ Darkwalker on Moonshae) it wasn’t too far behind and given the wild popularity of Drizzt and the Companions throughout the years it seem appropriate that the simply title The Companions kicks off The Sundering.

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Review: The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough

The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough
Ace Trade, 2013

The Shadow of the Soul is the second book in the noir/horror series The Forgotten Gods/The Dog-Faced Gods by Sarah Pinborough. Ace Trade is releasing the books here in the US a couple of months apart from one another as each was previously published in the UK between 2010-2011. The Shadow of the Soul picks up almost exactly where A Matter of Blood left off. DI Cass Jone has met with some success in his past cases but that success has cast a harsh light on the corruption within the London police force; a fact further ostracizing him from his peers. To make matters worse the lingering court cases resulting from his work in A Matter of Blood have left him with a boring case load. Of course that won’t remain the case as a series suicides hits London’s student body all linked by the mysterious phrase “Chaos in the Darkness.”

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Review: A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough

A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough
Ace Trade, 2013

A Matter of Blood is the first in Sarah Pinborough’s Forgotten Gods (or Dog-Faced Gods if you’re in the UK) horror/noir series. I have a soft spot for urban fantasy but am pretty particular about the quality of the material in that subgenre. While many books in the urban fantasy realm stick to the somewhat conventional realm of mystery A Matter of Blood mixes together the gritty world of noir with  horrific dark fantasy to create a vivid world painted in shades of gray.  A Matter of Blood takes place in a near-future London where the economy is in shambles, detectives work on bonuses for convictions, corruption is rife (to offset the fact that those bonus are tied up in an overtaxed court system), and the seemingly powerful Bank has its hands in everything. Detective Inspector Cass Jones is a jaded but surprisingly hard-working police officer ostracized by his peers due to an undercover job that went wrong. Cass is about as honest as a corrupt cop can get and throughout the novel seems compels to catch whoever is responsible even when easier targets could be made to take the fall.

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