Thursday, 9 May 2019

Everless by Sara Holland

Most people find the forest frightening, believing the old tales of fairies who will freeze the time in your blood, or witches who can spill your years out over the snow with only a whisper.

Jules and her father are behind on rent, and low on time. To stop her father bleeding himself dry to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the wealthy Gerling family. But Everless is a dangerous place, especially with the marriage of the Gerling heir to the Queen's daughter, and Jules soon finds herself tangled in a web of secrets and temptation.

Everless is a YA fantasy with a great premise. Time is literally money in the world of Sempra. The poor bleed themselves of hours and even years to make iron coins to pay their debts while the rich can live for centuries. It's an awesome and thought-provoking premise that I've not come across before... but the rest of the book was disappointing. The plot was paper thin and relied too heavily on inexplicably terrible decisions and secrets that were kept secret for no reason other than to advance the story. The characters were dull and uninteresting, and don't even get me started on whatever weird non-romance was happening.

All in all, Everless is a great idea let down by insipid characters and a flimsy plot struggling under its own weight. It wasn't terrible by a long way, but there are far better books out there.

Recommended For: Younger readers might enjoy this a lot more than I did

Read On: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and Red Rising by Pierce Brown are a similar tales of unfair societies, rebellions, and commoners with special abilities.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold, but its god is dead and the once grand city is crumbling to pieces around the few survivors. Tormalin the Oathless has no desire to sit around and wait to die so he abandons Ebora to be among the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric scholar, Lady Vincenza de Grazon, takes him on as a hired sword, he eagerly agrees even when the job involves facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, Tormalin has no intention of ever returning home.  But not everyone is as willing to let Ebora fade away, and Tormalin is slowly drawn into a tangled mystery centuries in the making.

The Ninth Rain is a hefty classical-style high fantasy, and the first book of the Winnowing Flame trilogy. If I'm being honest, I found it quite hard to get into at the beginning and wasn't entirely convinced about the whole concept of alien invasions in a fantasy world. Also, there was a LOT crammed into a few short chapters with witches, vampires, monster plants, and aliens. And yet, once the story really got going, it all kind of works. The world-building is rich and detailed and so cleverly done so that it fades into the background - you always know what you need to know, but the story never gets bogged down by exposition. 

Also, I really liked the diverse and lovable characters, particularly the three protagonists who are the heart of the story, and their experiences give The Ninth Rain its depth and complexity. I rooted for all of them, and the banter between them made me giggle. Plot-wise, like I said, The Ninth Rain started slow and the 'OMG, I have to know what happens next!' page-turning feeling didn't hit me until about a quarter into the book. However, once that happened, I flew through the chapters as the characters became more and more entangled in a web of magic, prophecy, and ancient mysteries.

Original, fun to read and full of diverse and likeable characters, The Ninth Rain is a great start to an exciting fantasy series. Get through the first few chapters, and you'll be rewarded with a story full of heart, humour, and heroics.

Recommended For: Fans of classical fantasy full of quests, magical creatures, ancient enemies, and heroes you can root for.

Read On: The next book in the trilogy is The Bitter Twins. If you love epic fantasy with a lot of heart, you'll like the Amra Thetys series by Michael McClung - the first book is The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids.