Friday, March 28, 2008

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Third person present. Third person present. I had great difficulty getting used to this perspective, but the novel in question proved well worth the effort. Creepy, suspenseful, and thought provoking, Unwind by Neal Shusterman was a surprise from an author I have never taken the time to be particularly familiar with.

In an age not very far along from now, the teens that no one wants are harvested for their organs. Rebellious, deformed, or simply not good enough, they are sent to the infamous Harvest Camps, to be dismembered for the "good of mankind". Connor is a financial liability and his parents sign the forms of release. Risa is a foster home kid with a future in classical piano, but maybe not as much of a future as the next virtuoso. Lev believes firmly in his unwinding, honored by his religion as a Tithe. But their fates collide when Connor shoots his transport (with a tranquilizer) and helps save Lev in the process, Risa pursuing in her interest. Together and apart they find their way through the hazardous days in between them and their 18th birthdays, the age of neutrality.

I really enjoyed this novel. Reminiscent of a futuristic perversion, there were secret hide outs, crazed revolutionaries, and demented medical staff. Connor is a hero in his own right, but his mistakes are glaring reminders at his humanness, while Risa is piecing out what she means to her world. Probably the most fascinating character in the book was Lev. He betrays, kills, searches, and saves at different points, his growth increasingly more involved as the pages turn. Some parts of the story were particularly disturbing, common in a dystopia novel of this subject matter. But a fantastic plot and writing handled inquiries about the value of life and the meaning of death in a sensitive and clever way.

6 out of 7 lightnings. BOOM ZAM SCHWA!

Futuristic Culture Defiant,
*Aella Siofra*

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Jenica (Jena for short) and her four sisters are desperately trying to hold the family together in their father's absence. The only escape in a monotonous existence of disappearing funds and vile, power hungry cousins is their monthly adventures in the enchanted groves of the forest that protects their castle. But when the beautiful Tatiana (the eldest) falls for a mysterious Night Person named Sorrow, events begin to spiral out of sensible Jena's control. Father might be dead. Cousin Cezar is slowly but surely gaining control and spreading his radical ideas of destruction. Not to mention her pet frog Gogu's odd behavior. Secrets. Magic. Dark forests (it does take place in old Transylvania) and Disappearances. All elements amount to an artistic fairytale of a novel based on the Grimms' tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Written in first person,
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier seemed true to the spirit of bedtime stories with its often antiquated speech. But the plot was creative and the characters passionate enough to make you feel overjoyed, dizzy, or repulsed in turns. And every so often a plot twist was thrown in just to pull your feet out from under you in record time. It even tackled important issues, keeping its distance from the danger of becoming a "fluff" book. What is true love? Does it even exist? What would you sacrifice? Sexism and the fear of the unknown (in the form of cousin Cezar) are also prevalent and beaten with sticks until submissive to Jenica's moving character. Unfortunately, some scenes with great promise are weighted down by that great beast after Dickens' own heart... over-description. A shudder passes through the masses.

So I must now set upon this book a 5.5 out of 7 lightnings. Very Good, but not quite excellent. Despite this, I plan on reading the sequel (Cybele's Secret) when it arrives on September 9th of this year. After reading the
brief summary on Amazon it looks as if it may even prove to be more interesting than its predecessor. Plus, the cover art is equally pretty.

I Hunt for Covers of Promise,

*Aella Siofra*

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

'Tis Swordy...

When the first two pages of a book have to do with rabid animal-types and the cover shows a focused warrior you know that you’ve picked up a sword book. I am perhaps a little obsessed with sword books. These are the novels that have saber/rapier/broadsword/general Drizzt typhonicism. And to add to the brilliant, it was just one element of the first novel in The Twelve Kingdoms series, entitled the Sea of Shadow by Fuyumi Ono.

Thankfully the novel lived up to both cover and sword. Yoko is a somewhat normal Japanese girl (other than that crimson hair), haunted by dreams beyond her comprehension and perfectly satisfied with playing the innocent daughter and gifted schoolmate. But then a strange man arrives, shoves a sword in her hand, touches her foot to his head, and implodes the windows of the teacher’s conference room with a storm of glass shards that leave her hardly scratched. Things will never be the same again.

Yoko finds herself battling it out with demons and transported to a world she doesn’t understand. A world where 12 kingdoms (no. really?) exist that haven’t even heard of Japan and blame the recent destructive storms on Yoko’s arrival. The people appear to speak her language but are decidedly not Japanese in features and want nothing more than to deliver her to the nearest magistrate for a fate worse than death. No one can be trusted. As intrigue builds around our heroine and she seeks out the truth in a universe where children grow on trees, she unknowingly enters into a glorious destiny.

The culture built by Fuyumi Ono is detailed and spun with silver thread into the lore of China and Japan. Impressive fight scenes abound, beautifully described creatures crawl from every page corner, and the heroine develops admirably through the upheaval. Originally written in a manga-like form there is that constant underlying sense of the epic legend, accompanied by fantastic inked drawings that appear every now and again. Happily, the sequel comes out *checks calendar* TOMORROW! If it counts for anything, I am quite eager.

KRRRRRACK! SWHOOM! 6.5 Lightnings out of 7! Cheerz...the sound effects are back!!

I wantz a sword,

*Aella Siofra*

Saturday, March 8, 2008

No longer quite so secret...

I know that you've just been dying to know what the SAP actually is.... Well, I'm actually going to tell you. Ok, not everything, but enough so that you can go find out for yourself. It is no longer called the SAP, but Invictus Verbum (IV for short). They have a forum and a blog *crowd ooh's and aahh's*. IV is run by Kiri, Kyoko, Shizuka, and Aletheia (personal friends of mine and all around fantastic people). It's really very exciting, so you must scurry over and give my regards (and view the artwork... wonder who did that beautiful title banner.... heheh).

Well, I'm not going to tell you everything, go check it out yourself! Oh, wait, you'll need a link won't you...

Click here to see the wonderful Invictus Verbum

From the Shadows,

~Medeia Senka~

P.S. You might even be able to post your own reviews... or so I've heard

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

And the Next Page Is...Still Boring

The summary inside seemed promising. As did the [insert small number here] positive reviews to be found on Amazon. Norse gods. The Good Folk. Glimmering Runes. Unfortunately they were promises like those of a big brother. "If you will do my chores for the day I won't invade your bookshelf and de-alphabetize them for at least a week." Now we all know that is a lie. And so was the summary of Runemarks by Joanne Harris. A "romp" it may have been. But your feet barely lift from the mire of bore as you attempt to frolic.

Maddy thrives on magic, a forbidden thing for her time. It is 500 years after the apocalypse-like rise of Chaos and anything unknown is simply ignored. Goblins there may be, but the good folk of Maddy's orderly town refuse to acknowledge the fact. Blame it on the rats. But when Maddy meets a traveler, a mysterious man (?) named One-Eye, her isolated world changes. He teaches her the way of the ancient runes and the legends of the Old People. And when he asks her aide in seeking out the mysterious Whisperer, there can only be trouble awaiting should she even survive the World Beneath to seek her prize.

Maddy's adventures are disjointed and her motives unclear. Is she out for adventure? to seek this Whisperer out for a reason other than One-Eye's cynical ramblings? or simply to get out? Characters appear and disappear in a frustrating display of meaningless and thread-thin connections . Even the protagonists aren't especially interesting and sacrifice depth for half-hearted attempts at wit. Plus (worse and worse), the gods are petulant and weak. I would be personally offended if Loki had been included in the facade, but impact was minimal. This flaw is forgiven. The only interesting part of this 544 page endeavor into the plot-less and vague was the quaint speech of the goblins and their trademark malicious behavior, wreaking havoc and supporting Chaos everywhere they go.

It is quite unlike me to be so very abusive to
any novel. But this deserves it. Trust me. It does. 1.5 lightnings and no sound effects to boot.

With the Rare Expression of Disgust,

Aella Siofra