Author: Theo Lawrence
Publisher: Corgi UK
Published: October 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher
Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City’s two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents’ sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn’t remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can’t conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.
It started out with such a great premise—Romeo and Juliet meets the X-Men—and such a gorgeous cover that I immediately knew I had to read it. Sadly, even with the cool dystopian Manhattan setting, Mystic City fails to live up to my expectations.
In this world, Manhattan has suffered from the effects of global warming and is flooded. A new city is built high above the island called the Aeries (which I pictured to be just like the Jetsons) where only the rich live. Mystics (those with special energy and powers) are considered dangerous outcasts who get drained of their powers and are confined to live on the remains of Manhattan in relative squalor. Mystic energy is used to fuel the Aeries, but was also once used as a bomb against the city hence the ‘dangerous’ tag. I thought the world was fascinating and well-realised and I could imagine the colourful lights of the Aeries as well as the polluted rivers down in the Depths vividly.
Where the book fails to impress me is the characters and the plot. Aria Rose is the daughter of one of the most prominent families in the city and the book starts with her waking up from a supposed overdose, engaged to the rival family’s son Thomas. She has no recollection of how they met and fell in love, only that their union is now uniting both families against the growing Mystic threat. Confused and unable feel any affection towards Thomas, she somewhat tries to find answers down in the Depths to questions she doesn’t even know she has.
The majority of characters were insufferable and really under-developed—very one dimensional. For example, Aria’s father was the strict and powerful ‘mafia boss’ and her best friend was a flighty socialite. I found all the teenagers from the Aeries grating and Aria particularly whiny. Most of her motivation (and indeed her actions) were extremely immature, like expecting to feel fireworks when in love. She also suffers from fatalistic heroine syndrome, where she keeps putting herself in unnecessary danger and bears no self-preservation instinct.
Even the romance was superficial. She eventually meets Hunter, a rebel Mystic (one that hasn’t been drained of their powers), who saves her several times during her trips to the Depths. It seems the only reason they fall in love with each other is because of their good looks, which is repeated constantly. It also frustrated me that the tone of the letters written from Aria’s love is wildly inconsistent with any of the characters we meet in the book. It’s a shame because Hunter is normally the type of character I really like—a skilled, witty, strong leader-to-be. However his bizarre attraction to Aria really dampens his style.
The story was interesting, but very predictable. It tried hard to shock and surprise, but I could see most twists coming for miles and even the character reveals were cliché. Without giving anything away, the ending certainly was shocking, but it just left me muddled. I’m hoping the sequel focuses more about the power struggle between the Aeries and the Mystics and all the characters grow up a bit. Really disappointing for a story that had such a great world and so much promise.
Thank you to Corgi UK (Random House) for providing a copy for review.
Author: Niall Leonard
Publisher: Random House
Published: September 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher
To catch a killer, Finn Maguire may have to become one…
Everything changed the day Finn found his father in a pool of blood, bludgeoned to death. His dull, dreary life is turned upside downas he become’s the prime suspect. How can he clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him?
Facing danger at every turn, uncovering dark family secrets and braving the seedy London underworld, Finn is about to discover that only the people you trust can really hurt you.
Like everyone else, I was intrigued by this NaNoWriMo project written by the husband of the author, E.L. James (you may have heard of her). Crusher is a tight crime novel set in West London, which follows 17 year-old Finn Maguire as he tries to discover the reason behind his father’s murder. I definitely enjoyed this debut more than I did the Fifty Shades books, although I’m not sure how reliable that benchmark is.
You can sense Leonard’s screenwriting background throughout the book. The descriptions of the settings and people were really detailed and well-imagined, but there was a certain complexity lacking with the dialogue (and indeed the characters). Despite that I was utterly engrossed in it. The suspense just pulled me in—I was nervous for Finn and it kept me wanting to read more.
Finn is the reason I enjoyed the book. He’s interesting—instead of the genius detective or well-connected journalist you usually get as a crime protagonist, he’s a dyslexic teenage drop-out, living in squalor and working a dead-end job at a fast food restaurant. He has no natural talent for solving mysteries and barrels into situations without much thought. He’s scrappy and determined to do what’s right, even though the universe (i.e. the police) seem to be conspiring against him. He also seemed emotionally disconnected, but to me it was a self-preservation instinct, considering what his life has been like so far. I was drawn to Finn and cared about what happened to him, and when he did show emotion, it gave the book real heart.
Most of the other characters are like a checklist of crime fiction: mafia boss, bad girl, know-it-all detective, even evil henchmen. We didn’t really get into their heads, which again I think is a symptom of the screenwriting—they were easily digestible but lacked true depth. They mostly served a plot purpose, mainly as red herrings. In a weird way the book benefited from it because Finn, as the main character, was the only one I really connected with as a reader and I liked him.
The plot was a little thin in places, but I enjoyed the story and I’m pleasantly suprised by variety of issues Leonard tackles. I liked all the plot twists and was surprised by the ending, so as a crime novel it worked for me. If you’re looking for an entertaining read, then this is the book for you.
Thank you to Random House for providing a copy of the book for review.
Author: Eric Kent Edstrom
Series: The Undermountain Saga Book 2
Publisher: Undermountain Books LLC
Published: July 2012
They think their adventures are behind them . . .
The six teens who were rescued from a mountainside in the Canadian Rockies are now famous. But only they know the true story-of what they discovered, what they survived-of Undermountain. Those secrets bind them together and pull them toward an ill-fated reunion.
. . . the war between tangoga and bigfeet still rages . . .
The tangoga boss GorVit searches for a lost technology, the terrible weapon of a vanished race. And he’ll happily use Breyona as leverage to get Danny’s help.
. . . the power of ultimate destruction hangs in the balance . . .
Thrust into the midst of war, and into the arms of a beautiful queen, Danny races on a collision course with destiny. And Breyona, still testing the limits of her amazing powers, must choose between what she desires and what is right.
. . . friendship, loyalty, and temptation . . .
One will give in. One will give up. One will give all.
Thanks to Eric Kent Edstrom for providing a review copy of Afterlife!
So, back in February I read a rather unique bigfoot sci-fi novel that I thought was really great. That novel was Undermountain. Click HERE to see my review. And now… there’s a sequel, Afterlife *happy dance* And after having now read Afterlife I can say with certainty that this SERIES is fantastic!!
I’ve got to be honest, when I heard there was a sequel, I did wonder what could possibly happen now to these kids that had discovered the existence of bigfoot, and escaped to tell the tale. I was a little worried. Turns out, there was NOTHING to worry about. Afterlife is just as great as Undermountain and just as unique.
The story is once again told from the POV of our two protagonists, Danny and Breyona as they both embark upon their own adventures. Danny and Wa are kidnapped by Gor-Vit, the rogue Tangoga boss and end up on a planet of bigfeet who’s existence was previously unknown and have many adventures there. One of my favourites being a rather exciting sequence with giant beetles pulling the boys on chariots whilst they are chased and hunted by monstrous super sized bigfeet! < That's a sentence I'll probably never write again!... Whilst Breyona and Em end up back in Undermountain to try and get help in rescuing Danny but run into their own problems there by way of 'Shaggy' the bigfoot who wants to conquer the world and brainwash the entire human race.