Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling
Krisitn Cashore
Harcourt Children’s, 2008

Kristin Cashore’s Graceling is a novel that I’ve put off for years for no real reason. Bursting onto the scene in 2008 Graceling swept up a number of awards and nominations in Young Adult and Children’s categories including the Mythopoeic and was listed as one School Library Jounral’s Best Books of the Year. Graceling tells the story of Katsa who lives in a world where certain individuals are gifted with graces; extraordinary magical abilities that make those individuals well suited for a particular task. Katsa’s gift as a graceling is that of killing. Since a young age she has been trained and raised by her uncle to serve as his personal assassin and strongarm; eliminating rivals and threating his vassals should they step out of line. Along with some friends she has formed a group that looks to counterbalance her thuggish work. It is in the pursuit of this group’s aims that she finds herself drawn into the orbit of Prince Po, also graced with extraordinary combat skills, and sent on a journey of discovery that will unveil secrets of her own personality and will reveal the terrible truth behind a distant land.

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Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

The Dead-Tossed Waves
Carrie Ryan
March, 2010
The Dead-Tossed Waves is Carrie Ryan’s follow up to the lyrical and moving The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the first novel The Dead-Tossed Wavesis about growing up in post-apocalyptic community constantly threatened by the presence of zombies. The novel follows Gabry and young girl in the coastal village of Vista. Vista is something of an insular community despite being under the protection of the Coalition and as a result the current generation of young adults knows next to nothing about the world before the Return. The Mudo, the zombies, are a constant threat but one so pervasive that the danger of the presence has engendered complacency rather than caution and a sort of callousness, or perhaps willful ignorance, as to the full impact of the undead presence. It is that complacency that serves as the gateway for the tragedy that propels the rest of the novel forward and sends Gabry on the run.

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Review: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot & Ruin
Jonathan Maberry
Simon and Schuster, 2010

At first glance it might be easy to peg Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin as just another zombie novel. However, doing so does this teen-centric title a huge disservice. Rot & Ruin for all its violence and actions manages to tell a fascinating and emotionally engaging story about life after the rise of the undead. The novel focuses on the life of young Benny Imura. Benny, about to turn 15, must find a job or have his rations cut by half. His utter dislike of his zombie hunting older brother Tom sees him trying to find somewhere, anywhere else, to work. Unfortunately for Benny (or so he thinks) circumstances force him to take an apprenticeship under his brother.

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Review: 7th Sigma by Steven Gould

7th Sigma by Stephen Gould
7th Sigma by Stephen Gould

7th Sigma
Steven Gould
Tor, 2011

Steven Gould is perhaps best known for his novel Jumper originally released in 1992 and later adapted into a film in 2008. I found the film enjoyable if somewhat forgettable and regrettable only in that it managed to line the pockets of Hayden Christensen. Burried in a box of ARCs from Baker and Taylor I found Gould’s most recent novel, 7th Sigma, and immediately cued in on the idea giant metal eating bugs.

In 7th Sigma a plague of metal devouring bugs of mysterious origin overran the American southwest some 50 years ago. The government cordoned off the region with a bug-repelling barrier and the area, now known as the Territory, has become something a no-man’s land populated by the stubborn, the hardened, and often the unwanted. Our story, or stories depending on how you look at it, center around the irascible rapscallion known as Kimble. Kimble, a young teen, has been surviving on his own in the Territory ever since his drunk of father passed away using his wits and martial arts skills to say on the up and up. Life still isn’t easy and he quickly latches onto Ruth Munroe, a pioneer type setting out set up a new Aikido dojo.

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Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth by Scott Westefeld
Behemoth by Scott Westefeld

Behemoth
Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse, 2010

Though its been a little over a year since I read Leviathan I was still pretty excited to get by hands on Scott Westefeld’s Behemoth. Before I even describe the novel I need to take a moment to say that whoever was in charge of cover art for this book should be fired; without question. For a novel sprinkled with the wonderful art of Kieth Thompson the steaming pile that they dumped on the cover is an affront to artists, or anyone with a modicum of taste, everywhere. It’s absolutely atrocious and does nothing to even hint at the adventure and excitement between its pages. (Note: It should be noted that the forthcoming third novel is blighted by a similar, IMO much worse, bit of nastiness).

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Review: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

The Lost Hero
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

The Lost Hero (Book One of the Heroes of Olympus)
Rick Riordan
Hyperion, 2010

So some time ago I listened to the audio version of the opening novel in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan: The Lost Hero. I had previously listened to all of Riordan’s earlier series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and while I enjoyed the series well enough I did occasionally find it frustrating.  However, Riordan’s ability to creatively weave ancient Greek mythological beings into modern day culture was more than enough to offset my frustration with characters that were more than a decade younger than me. In a clever bit of work the title of the novel could be referring to the main character of Riordan’s previous series, Percy Jackson, who is currently missing in action.  However, at the same time the titular lost hero could also refer to the amnesiac Jason who is also, in a sense lost.
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Review: Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Pathfinder
Orson Scott Card
Simon Pulse, 2010

My initial attraction to Pathfinder was based solely on the fact that the main character was named Rigg.  Rig is a less well known name of the Norse god Heimdall;  it is the name Heimdall goes by as he wanders Midgard, the tale of which is chronicled in the Lay of Rig.  Heimdall’s prodigious sight is one of the reasons he was chosen to guard the Bifrost Bridge (the path between Midgard and Asgard) and is somewhat similar to Rigg’s own sight related ability to see the paths of the past.  As Rig, Heimdall gifts humanity with magic runes and is something a a father figure, while initially this comparison to Rigg doesn’t quite fit by novels end it could be argued that Rigg is ineffably tied to the fate of humanity.  That being said, the links to Norse myth are tenuous; more homage than template.  Card’s story here is one that is both clever, original and highly engrossing.  Far more engrossing than the jacket copy would have you believe:

A powerful secret. A dangerous path.

Rigg is well trained at keeping secrets. Only his father knows the truth about Rigg’s strange talent for seeing the paths of people’s pasts. But when his father dies, Rigg is stunned to learn just how many secrets Father had kept from him–secrets about Rigg’s own past, his identity, and his destiny. And when Rigg discovers that he has the power not only to see the past, but also to change it, his future suddenly becomes anything but certain.

Rigg’s birthright sets him on a path that leaves him caught between two factions, one that wants him crowned and one that wants him dead. He will be forced to question everything he thinks he knows, choose who to trust, and push the limits of his talent…or forfeit control of his destiny.

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Review: The Comet’s Curse by Dom Testa

The Comet's Curse by Dom Testa
The Comet's Curse by Dom Testa

The Comet’s Curse
Dom Testa
Tor, 2009

I’ve been on something of a YA kick of late.  Having plowed through Catching Fire and put away the penultimate volume of Percy Jackson and the Olympians on audio (The Battle of the Labyrinth) I remembered Dom Testa’s entertaining talk as part of the Science Fiction and Fantasy: Informing the Present by Imagining the Future
event hosted by Tor and LITA at ALA 2010 the swag bag for which contained the first of Testa’s Galahad books: The Comet’s Curse.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of The Comet’s Curse is the initial premise: an event of awe and wonder that is transformed into one of horror an destruction.  The idea being that a comet skimming Earth’s atmosphere, a beautiful and awe-inspiring event, leaves behind mysterious and unidentified elements in the atmosphere that soon cause widespread and ultimately fatal disease amongst the adults of Earth.  A testament to both the beauty and randomness of the universe that marks a neat twist to the end-of-the-world scenario.

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Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Carrie Ryan
Delacorte, 2010

First Line: My mother used to tell me about the ocean.

Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a post-apocalyptic bildungsroman…with zombies.  Mary is teen living in an a village surrounded by the titular forest.  The world as we know it is gone as an unexplained event  has given birth to the Unconsecrated (zombies) and hordes of undead seemed to have caused society to collapse.  Mary’s village has no contact outside the fence the protects its borders and whose values and knowledge are dictated by a stern and religious order of Sisters.   A series of events unfold and the fences are breached sending Mary and a handful of others on the run towards the desperate dream of the ocean; only half-remembered by Mary through stories her mother used to tell.

I’ll say this before I go on, since talking at length about this novel is difficult to do without some spoilers, if you’re looking for a taught, tense, and chilling tale of growing up in isolation with the constant threat of death (death that might wear a familiar face) beating on a thin fence every day then The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a novel worth checking out.

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