Once again, I’m doing some more catching up with some shorter reviews/thoughts on a few books. Unfortunately, none of the books in this particular set are ones I liked very much, though you may want to look at some other reviews of them since I’ve seen positive reviews for them, even mainly positive reviews for some. It was going to be a slightly more positive post, but I ended up taking out the book by a new to me author I really liked since I’d like to include it in a post on books that I think deserve more readers and discussion.
The paper called Eli a hero.
The word made Victor laugh. Not just because it was absurd, but because it posed a question. If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?
He took a long sip of his drink, tipped his head back against the couch, and decided he could live with that. [pp. 91]
Vicious is either a stand alone book or potentially the first book in a series since the author would like to write more about the characters. It sounded like a book I should have loved—one involving a struggle between two people with superpowers who both felt like they were doing the right thing despite neither being pure of heart of heroic. While it certainly had some strong points, particularly the character of Victor Vale and the ending, it also didn’t have a particularly memorable storyline. However, I would consider reading a sequel since I did enjoy later parts of the book more once it focused more on the present-day story rather than dwelling on the past and the background of how the major characters gained their different powers.
Vicious is not told linearly but slowly advances the story while filling in events from the past. Victor Vale has escaped from prison and is determined to find and punish Eli Ever. In college, the two were good friends and intelligent young men at the top of their class, though Victor generally ended up overshadowed by Eli. When Eli decided to make his project researching EOs (ExtraOrdinary), people with abilities humans should not have, the two of them discover the secret to gaining these abilities—but this discovery tears the two apart forever, landing Victor in jail and starting Eli on a personal quest to rid the world of all other EOs.
The way the past and present of the story were connected was done in an interesting way, and I liked the juxtaposition of Victor’s feelings about Eli 10 years after the two became EOs. In order to become an EO, one must die and be revived, and the glimpses of Victor from the day Eli underwent this transition show he was very concerned about his friend, but Victor despises Eli once he escapes from prison. It sets up a mystery about what changed between the two, and I was a bit let down by the cause of their rift once it was revealed.
On the subject of becoming EOs, I did find how quickly Eli and Victor started trying to kill themselves in order to get superpowers rather strange. They were supposed to be very intelligent people and neither of them had a death wish. It’s not completely unrealistic because smart people can still do stupid things, especially if they are perhaps a bit competitive and want to prove themselves to be right about something. Yet it bothered me that they were so willing to go through with it with so little evidence to support their theory that dying and coming back to life equaled SUPERPOWERS.
I found Eli’s drive to kill EOs based on a religious need to get rid of the unnatural rather trite and did not find him a particularly interesting character, but Victor was intriguing. He is the underdog, and he never seems to quite measure up to Eli. Eli gets the girl he wants to be with, Eli is smart, Eli is charming, Eli is handsome, Eli is the one who comes up with the EO theory, Eli is the first one to become an EO AND does so on the first try unlike Victor, and to top it all off, Eli gets the better superpower. That in itself is enough to make me root for Victor a bit, but he also seemed less cold than Eli. He’s not beneath murder to further his goal so he’s certainly not a good guy, but he has some complexity and seems far more self-aware than Eli when it comes to the horrors they are both involved in. Plus there are a few times he seems to care a little, despite himself. I also loved that Victor actually had intelligent plans and seemed rather competent at carrying them out.
Vicious and I have a complicated relationship. The story didn’t excite me, but Victor was the type of character I find compelling to read about and the ending was very well done. I’m not likely to make any related books a huge priority, but if one were written that contained Victor, I might have to read it just for that reason alone.
My Rating: 6/10
Where I got my reading copy: ARC/review copy from the publisher.
“So,” she says, looking back up at me. “You are well-equipped for our service.”
“We kill people.” [pp. 17]
Grave Mercy captured my attention because assassin nuns, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. It certainly isn’t what I would call a terrible book since it could be mildly entertaining, but I found both the characters and the political intrigue somewhat dull. In the end, it wasn’t memorable at all and I forgot about it as soon as I finished it and set it aside—a shame because it had a convent full of women who assassinated people in the service of the god of death! I was convinced this book would be a winner for me.
It doesn’t take long to get to the nunnery of death. Ismae’s father marries her off and once her new husband sees the horrific scars marking Ismae as the daughter of the god of death, he beats her and locks her up. While he’s out, a priest helps her escape and sends her to a convent where Ismae learns she has some unique abilities as a child of death. She is offered the opportunity to join in the service of Mortain: training to kill. She accepts and eventually ends up assigned to court in the guise of the mistress of Gavriel Duval, advisor to the duchess.
Ismae’s narrative was overwrought, and she, like the other characters with one exception, didn’t have much of a personality. She’s primarily defined by her role as Death’s handmaiden, and other than wanting to learn to kill and avoid men, there’s not a lot that stood out about her character. (And of course, she predictably falls in love despite herself.) I didn’t care about any of the major characters and despite generally enjoying stories focused around court, I found the court intrigue in this one pretty dull.
Despite feeling lukewarm toward Grave Mercy, I do find myself a bit curious about the second book, Dark Triumph. It focuses on Sybella, who had potential to be interesting, and Beast, the one character I thought brought some life into the first book. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything compelling enough to save Grave Mercy for me.
My Rating: 5/10
Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.
A long time ago, in the spring before the five days of the unspeakable, Finnikin of the Rock dreamed that he was to sacrifice a pound of flesh to save the royal house of Lumatere. [pp. 1]
After reading the prologue, I thought I was going to love Finnikin of the Rock. The background of Finnikin’s dream from the gods and the wonderful kingdom that was torn asunder and divided five days later was well told and made me want to know more. However, that was the best part of the book and I found it a struggle to finish because I was so unbelievably bored by both the story and characters.
The first chapter of the book takes place 10 years after the prologue. Finnikin, who ended up on the side outside Lumatere when a curse divided the kingdom and its people, has always believed Balthazar, his childhood friend and heir to throne, managed to survive when most of the royal family was killed. When he and his companion are summoned by a priestess, they are introduced to Evanjalin, a novice who can lead them to this man. He told her of his childhood friend and wants him to take their people home with her aid.
With the way this book picks up in the middle of the story and fills in background details as it goes, I found it difficult to be invested in what happened. I was told about all that had been lost, but I never really saw enough of it to get the full impact, even though it was terrible to think about what it would be like to be exiled from one’s home under these circumstances. There was a lot of traveling and a lot of talking, and I just didn’t care about any of the characters (and really disliked one of the characters who attempted to rape one of the others).
For the most part, there wasn’t anything especially horrible about Finnikin of the Rock other than being so dull and unmemorable. I could barely finish it and found myself having to go back and reread parts over and over again because my mind kept wandering off.
My Rating: 4/10
Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.
Much like the book above, I thought this one started well and soon ended up bored to tears by it—except I didn’t finish this one. I gave it a couple of chances, setting it aside at one point and then going back to it after reading another book. Alas, time apart did not make my heart grow fonder and I ended up deciding it was too much of a struggle after reading 257 pages. I hate not finishing books, but it’s long and I ended up so bored I had to keep rereading it. It would have taken me forever to read, and it’s one of those books that was making me put off reading to do other things. When it gets to that point, it’s time to throw in the towel and move on to other books.
I was pretty excited about reading A Study in Silks since it was supposed to be a steampunk story about the niece of Sherlock Holmes and sounded like it would have both mystery and romance. While these were present, it was much too meandering to hold my interest. Evelina seemed like a fairly unoriginal character from the start, an “unladylike,” spunky woman with an interest in mechanics, but I was rather interested to see that she had an interest in both mechanics and magic since those two things are often treated as opposites in fantasy books. I was also intrigued by her discovery of an automaton reeking of dark magic at the end of the first chapter, plus there was soon a murder so it seemed to be off to a quick start. And then… It just didn’t seem to go anywhere or progress the plot.
There was a lot of focus on characters other than Evelina, though she was the central character that pulled most of them together, but they all seemed very stereotypical. There’s a villain, and there are two “bad boys” who are potential love interests, each from one of the two worlds Evelina inhabits through her families: one lowborn rogue and one noble rogue.
The first part of A Study in Silks was just plain uninteresting. The plot moved glacially and the characters were dull, nor was it a particularly well-written book. I just didn’t care enough to want to trudge through about 300 more pages of it.
My Rating: None-did not finish
Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.