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A Cold Legacy (The Madman’s Daughter, 3) by Megan Shepherd

Reviews of the previous two books are here and here.

16182308 A Cold Legacy

Escaping the authorities and the aftermath of the massacre with the King’s Club, Juliet and company (Montgomery, Lucy, Edward/Beast, Balthazar, and one dog) attempt to travel secretly to Elizabeth von Stein’s castle in north Scotland, Juliet now being Elizabeth’s ward. Their journey is not without a few mishaps, but they arrive somewhat safely to the moors and Ballantyne Manor. Once there, they are surprised to find a house full of women, apprenticed girls, and . . .secrets, as well as one old man and one very strange little boy. The girls are scarred and have odd appearances. The little boy, Henley, is freakishly strong and gives off a creepy vibe. With Edward worsening and their safety threatened by the King’s Club and the law, Juliet and the others must ignore the oddities and make do. When Elizabeth reveals to Juliet that she wants her to be her heir and that all of the von Steins have been doctors with the abilities to transplant living flesh, possibly even reanimating corpses, Juliet wars with her desire for scientific exploration and the very real possibility she will become her terrible father. Despite her fear, a series of events force Juliet’s choice. First, the previous heir, Valentina, betrays them all to the law, sending messages to Lucy’s father who is intent upon his revenge. Second, the Beast tricks Lucy into giving his freedom and they are forced to kill the Beast. Third, Henley becomes more and more unstable and is becoming a danger to them all. As Juliet’s wedding to Montgomery nears, she can no longer deny her birthright and must try to eclipse her father’s legacy–by resurrecting Edward and purging her father’s taint from an innocent boy. Still, this means lying to Montgomery and possibly creating another monster like Henley. As Lord Radcliffe, Lucy’s father, bears down upon them, intent on the Origin Journals that detail the reanimating process, Juliet’s past and present collide in an explosive finale.

In similar classic novel recreation as the first two books in the series, this last one more traditionally follows Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and makes you look again at what you thought to be a horror. I love that these books are comparable to an old Victorian horror story and yet weave elements of timeless novels. They are simultaneously eerily unsettling and familiarly lovable. Although I first thought this series was weird, by this book I’m pleasantly thinking of the characters and the story as old friends. What delightful twists will this novel take with classic literature? As for the romance, this book finally has things more sorted out, but may break your heart in the end. I certainly wasn’t expecting certain elements of the ending, but I was still pleased with the resolution.

Fun fact: I’ve visited the castle in the background of this cover. Look up Eileen Donan. Scotland can be a pretty magical and yet desolate place. . .Perfect for recreated monsters to be wandering about the landscape. Picture meeting Frankenstein in a dense fog after you’ve been lost because all you’ve seen for ages has been moors and sheep!

Note: If you’re looking to scare yourself to death, just read this book during a severe thunderstorm!

 

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Article 5 trilogy by Kristen Simmons

An inspiring tale of a young woman, oppressed and hunted by an over-zealous abstemious anti-feminist dystopian regime, becomes the face and weapon to bring about its destruction.

article-5-statutes

10677277 Article 5

In the near distant future, a dystopian United States is governed by a new set of rules, the Moral Statues, with lawbreakers arrested, sent to trial and possibly death rather than simply fined. It is this United States that is seventeen-year-old Ember Miller’s reality. Under Article 5, the law against children conceived out of wedlock, she and her mother have just been arrested, and one of the Federal Bureau of Reformation (FBR) soldiers is her former flame, Chase Jennings. Heartbroken and separated from her mother, Ember is sent to a girl’s reform camp since she is still a minor. This reform camp is run by the Sisters of Salvation, an all-female religious-minded cult that sits at the right hand of the FBR. The Sisters teach and enforce that women are under the authority of men and that children should obey. Determined to find her mom and save her from death, Ember plots to leave the reform camp and blackmails her roommate, Rebecca, and her secret guard boyfriend to do it. Ember doesn’t succeed and is about to be tortured when Chase shows up to take her to trial but is secretly rescuing her. While Ember tries to figure out Chase and his motivations, they are also trying to find a safe contact in South Carolina, one who may have saved Ember’s mom. However, as fugitives from the government, they can be arrested and tortured, especially Chase as a military deserter. It’s survive or die…

Note on the religious aspects: Though it resembles some religions here, it makes an effort to cross the line into grossly unacceptable treatment–with severe physical and emotional abuse (or death) as the frequent punishments for infractions–a more brutal and oppressive fanatic version. Think puritan mixed with the intolerance of Queen Mary I’s reign. An absolute rule for the marriage of church and state.

BreakingPointFinal-1 Breaking Point

As Ember and Chase were captured once more at the close of the first book and they faked their deaths in escaping, they attempt to hide underground because of their high-profile status. Instead, they are absorbed into the Resistance, a well-organized group of rebels trying to overthrow the government. When news of Ember’s escape finally gets leaked, she is also the prime suspect for a serial sniper who has been picking off soldiers. Ember, incapable of sniper skills, must come to terms with her new reputation and what it means for their joining the Resistance. Should Ember keep hiding for fear of being shot on sight, or is this finally the time to fight back? When the Resistance comes under attack, Ember and Chase are pushed to the forefront of leadership and must navigate their changing relationship in the face of imminent disaster.

17559899 Three

Ember and Chase are tired of running. Their journey has been leading up to this point, to finding the safe house, but their only hope is in ruins. As they navigate the wild with a small band of followers and just when they seem the most defeated, they discover the clandestine leader sect of the Resistance known as Three. Thinking this is what they’ve been searching for all along, Ember is disappointed to find yet another secretive and, she suspects, misguided group focused on achieving a means to an end despite the lives damaged. Deciding she is unwilling to morally compromise herself despite the cost, Ember must sacrifice everything she holds most dear to force the FBR to its knees and usher in a new dawn. An action packed finale that will leave you feverishly devouring to find out whether there can be any sort of happy ending for characters you’ve come to love.

Note: Violence and minor sexual references.

One of the greatest assets to this series is the characters. They are real, believable, and act in convincing ways. Despite Ember’s great trust in Chase before he was a soldier, we face uncertainty about his true motives. With Tucker, we are pretty certain he is a villain, but then he is suddenly trying to become a rebel. His wavering stance between betrayer and savior and the cost of his actions flesh out a boy whom you are hard pressed to keep a grudge against, as Ember comes to realize. Another very cool thing about this series is that there is no set locale for all the action. They visit Knoxville, Chicago, South Carolina, Charlotte, Virginia…really makes you believe you can almost look up and see the setting around you. Solid read, and I can’t wait to read her next book The Glass Arrow! (For a sneak peek at the bones of the next book, check out this article!)

 

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Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, 3) by Robin LaFevers

20522640I love the His Fair Assassin books, and this one is no different! See earlier posts about Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph.

Mortal Heart

With Ismae and Sybella gone, Annith figures she must be next to be sent out to serve St. Mortain;  after all, she is the most experienced and the most senior. Instead, the Reverend Mother intends her to be the convent seeress, a job that requires her being cloistered in a tiny room for the rest of her life. No teenage girl, especially one as driven as Annith, would want to be trapped forever. Despairing of her fate, Annith prays to Mortain to use her skills in service rather than as seeress, shooting an expertly aimed arrow marked with her blood as a sacrifice during an important ceremony. The final straw comes when the Reverend Mother decides to send out a young, immature girl as Mortain’s assassin and explicitly tells Annith she will be seeress or she will marry a widowed farmer, which infuriates Annith into action. Finally defying her reputation of being willing and compliant, Annith plots and escapes the convent and the Reverend Mother’s wishes.

b37f2b3a5583c8e00fdd6da426231978After a few days on the road, she hears a group of riders and a mysterious stranger hides her from their presence. Never one to be automatically trusting (quite rightly), she wins the tussle with the stranger and finds that the riders are hellequin, Mortain’s damned hunting pack to find lost souls and guide them beyond, and that he is one of them. The stranger, Balthazaar, offers her safe passage with the hellequin to her destination, and Annith accepts. Still, riding with a group of undead warriors is unnerving, especially when they could be in pursuit of her and because Balthazaar stands guard over her while she’s sleeping. Slowly, she and Balthazaar develop a relationship, but when she discovers her arrow in his pack, it frightens her.  So, she runs away, throwing in her lot with a group of questing Arduinnites, the sect of female warriors dedicated to protecting the innocent. With their help, she reaches her goal, Rennes, the city where the duchess and her court, along with the Reverend Mother, have taken refuge from the ever encroaching French army. There, it is up to Annith to prove her usefulness to her duchess and expose the Reverend Mother’s secrets. However, in doing so, she has begun a life-altering turn of events, both for herself, for the god Mortain, and for all of Brittany.

An all-encompassing conclusion to a gripping series!

Due to each main character’s unique circumstances, each book changes flavors. This one is driven by a more mysterious magic than the other two, what with the undead hellequin hunt and all. It also is unique in the romantic relationships. Some readers may be disturbed by the concept and immediately conclude this book is awful, etc., much in the way that the Twilight series put Jacob in an unique relationship with Reneesme. However, keep an open mind. Annith herself is a strong female character and has been acting as an adult for quite a while. After the initial shock, I was hooked! The setting and historical details are captivating. For lovers of medieval warfare and RPGs or MMORPGs, you will want to read this. In addition, those of you who love the old arts of sword fighting, you may be interested to explore this, too, as I just discovered it a few weeks ago. As for me, I can’t wait to see what Robin decides to write about next!

Note: Violence and sexual circumstances, not as suitable for middle grade readers.

 

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Captive (Pawn, no. 2) by Aimee Carter

10944842 Captive

With the conclusion of Pawn, Kitty, posing as Lila Hart, had just killed Augusta Hart and found out that Daxton Hart, the Prime Minister, had been Masked just like she had. He was not the real Daxton Hart; he was an imposter. With the political upheaval and Daxton’s imperial power, Kitty is supposed to be acting under Knox’s orders like carefree Lila. However, we all know Kitty can’t possibly following directions when they’re given. Knox, for good or ill, tries to take care of things while leaving Kitty to be a symbol, but Kitty wants her own responsibilities and respect. Fearing her own identity has been compromised and needing leverage to use to convince Knox and the Blackcoats, she sneaks into Daxton’s quarters to find the information on his true identity as well as her own. The plan being exposing his true nature would free the kingdom from under the Hart iron fist. Instead, she is easily captured and sent to a special area of Elsewhere watched by a married couple, the Mercers, who run the sector with mortal threat. The “citizens” of the sector are heavily guarded and play certain roles, knowing the consequences of disobeying are only cage fighting or immediate death. Kitty can’t process her new surroundings and constantly tries to buck the rules, causing new friends and acquaintances to be murdered. Then, a chapter of the rebellion in the sector brings her in and gives her a task: get security codes from the Mercers to prove her value. With everyone’s lives at stake and not just her own, Kitty must succeed or the country has no hope of overthrowing the power of Daxton Hart.

I will certainly say that I like the ending much better this time. Since reading the first novel, much of the plot and characterization comes across as forced. Kitty is so boring and stupidly predictable that it’s almost ludicrous that she isn’t already dead, what with constantly disobeying every order given to her even when she must be smart enough to do otherwise. She should be dead at least 10x over! It could be a drinking game for every time Kitty does something undeniably asinine, especially for an 18 year old. There’s the rub.

Still, there was still no love for Benjy and Kitty’s relationship or, come to think of it, Kitty herself. What I liked best about this book is the Sector and the twists of fate that pulled Kitty through, oh say, about half into the book. A few interesting secrets were revealed, so I’ll probably read the next. May not want to blog it though.

Maybe middle grade suitable, except for the torture and violence.

 
 

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Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi

Another, older dystopian series. . . one that almost drove me mad.

shatter me  Shatter Me

Juliette Ferrars has spent the last almost eight months in solitary confinement, trapped in a mental asylum. Before that, she was dragged through detention centers and prisons by the Re-establishment, the current government, which has spent years studying her and considers her to be a highly dangerous weapon. Her touch can kill. Because of this, she hasn’t touched another human for years, and with her isolation, is teetering on the edge of madness. Then, she gets a roommate, a boy, Adam, someone she remembered from her life before this hell. Somehow, he can touch her, and Juliette begins to feel the tiniest of hopes. Adam was not there to be a friend; instead, he is a soldier sent by Warner, the Section leader (something like a state governor), to test her. Warner wants Juliette to be his weapon, but Juliette wants to hurt no one. Beginning a convoluted love triangle, Warner wants Juliette to be his partner and his tool, while Adam wants to save her. Juliette, timid and afraid (and practically cray-cray), escapes with Adam into the city. This is not lasting peace. While Adam is trying to get his brother and take them both somewhere safe, they are followed by Kenji, Adam’s military partner, and he warns them that Warner is coming after them. In the chaos that follows, Juliette decides to use her power to save Adam’s life, but compromises her beliefs to do so.

unravel me  Unravel Me

With Warner injured and unable to follow them but Adam severely needing medical attention, Kenji outs himself as a secret spy for an underground resistance group called Omega Point. Bringing Adam, Juliette, and James, Adam’s brother, to Omega Point causes a bit of chaos. Omega Point is trying to bring down the Re-establishment, and has quite the power and gifts to do so, as Juliette isn’t the only one with powers. Many of the rebels have extrasensory gifts. Meanwhile, Juliette is still learning how to behave normally, especially around people, and her relationship with Adam grows rocky as she explores her abilities more in-depth. She’s no longer the meek little bird that needs protection; she simply needs support, and she finds it in her new friend Kenji. However much Juliette is adapting to her strengths, she is unprepared for the realization of Adam’s gift, a self-defense ability that combats her own when activated. If Adam turns it off or uses it too much, she could kill him accidentally. Their future together is ruined unless they can figure out another way. To make matters worse, they capture Warner and Juliette begins to see a different side to him than before. Despite the romantic drama, the rest of Omega Point is focused on fighting back, and the leader, Castle, is trying to convince Juliette to get on board. Taking her on missions and training her doesn’t wake her up to reality. It’s not until her new friends, Brendan and Winston, are kidnapped and most likely tortured severely that Juliette decides she has something invaluable to offer to her new friends that just might save precious lives.

ignitemetaherehmafi_zpse8f70c39  Ignite Me

After Juliette’s near death, Warner’s sacrifice to keep her alive, and Omega Point’s destruction, Juliette’s entire world is turned about. With so much pain, death, and oppression, Juliette is tired of being a tool. She’s ready to make her own stand and luckily, Warner is determined to stand by her. Defying his powerful father, the leader of the Re-establishment, Warner hides Juliette and plots with her to overthrow the government. Developing a bond of mutual respect and partnership with Warner is practically unthinkable, but she’s slowly coming to terms with her own perception of him and his reality. Also, Juliette needs to find out what happened to her friends, since they could use the support. When Adam and the other survivors of Omega Point join the team, some tensions arise between Adam and Warner, but most everyone else is focused on the task at hand–destroying Warner’s dad. A heavy secret creates other discomfort, but with all of them working together, freedom is within their grasp, they just have to reach out and take it.

I’ll admit it. It was like pulling teeth to read most of this series. There were a few things that beat me senseless with the attempt to establish credibility, namely the number fixation (Juliette has an affinity for numbers) and the repetitions and strikethroughs of Juliette’s inner thoughts. Some reviewers have called this poetic, and while it is a poetic device, it becomes downright obnoxious in the books. While Juliette must undeniably have psychological deficiencies from her treatment at the hands of the Re-establishment, she comes across as whiny and very immature, very childlike, not so much a teen at all. Her transformation from Shatter Me to Ignite Me seems to contradict each other as both unbelievable and logical. She becomes such a force to be reckoned with that her earlier self is almost completely unfamiliar. When considering her romances with Adam (her soldier rescuer who would prefer her to be a meek cow of a girlfriend) and Warner (the powerful leader who scares her with his cruelty and then shows her the respect she deserves as well as the depth of his duplicity), the extremes within the book become apparent and even ludicrous. If you hate love triangles or prefer English as your favorite subject, please, do yourself a favor and don’t pick up this book unless you can handle it. I recommend having a backup that you can switch with when you’re getting severely annoyed. Otherwise, the ending was fairly satisfying, despite the pains it took to get there. One of the things that I thought made the book possible was Kenji’s character. He is comic relief, plot driver, and thoroughly supports the entire story. Without him, there would be no loving this trilogy whatsoever. Maybe middle grade readers would like this much better than older readers.

Notes: Strong language, sexual circumstances, violence.

Favorite passage:

Winston hits a switch. The lights go out. There’s a rustle of blankets. “If I hear any of you talk,” Winston says, “I will personally send Brendan over to kick you in the face.”

“I’m not going to kick anyone in the face.”

“Kick yourself in the face, Brendan.”

“I don’t even know why we’re friends.”

Please shut up,” Lily shouts from her corner.

“You heard the lady,” Winston says. “Everyone shut up.”

“You’re the one talking, dumbass,” Ian says.

“Brendan, kick him in the face, please.”

“Shut up, mate, I am not kicking any—”

Good night,” Castle says.

Everyone stops breathing.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Dystopian/Utopian Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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