[Shadow Run: Kaitan Chronicles I] AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller

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Shadow Run has been touted as Firefly meets Dune, a space opera that should draw fans of both. The Firefly tease was part of the reason why I requested an ARC of Shadow Run in the first place. Shadow Run had action and adventure, a touch of romance, and the looming threat of an increasingly powerful bad guy. I didn’t find it as episodic as Firefly, but Shadow Run functions as a nice stand-alone space opera novel, with a potential to continue the series.

One of my favorite parts of Shadow Run, and other space opera stories is the world. When done well, they can be rich and immersive. I feel that way about Shadow Run, although I still wish it had gone into more detail. There was plenty of detail to show the world to the reader, but I still wanted more. I really enjoyed reading about it. The few planets that were visited by the characters were described in ways that allowed me to really visualize the setting. When the world isn’t familiar or created entirely by an author, those details must be there. A reader doesn’t know what living on another planet will be like, so an author has to fully immerse them in it.

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The thing that really cinched the world-building for me were the differences between Nev and Qole’s planets. The weapons and clothing differs, the cities on Nev’s planet are unbelievable to Qole who is used to smaller buildings, and the characteristics of the people are extremely different. Qole’s culture shock is believable and expected.

This was helped along by the two viewpoints. Readers are shown both characters out of their element, but Nev’s adaptability is a little better than Qole’s. Although he’s always had everything, he was able to adjust to a lesser lifestyle rather quickly. In contrast, I loved reading Qole’s reactions to the high-fashion and careless lifestyles of the people around her. I feel like their voices–and their speaking patterns–were very clear.

While I have a clear picture of both Qole and Nev, I don’t feel the same about the secondary characters. They’re delegated into roles: Strong-arm, hacker, brother, androgynous member of the crew. I didn’t mind the first person narration because I feel that it showcased the differences between Qole and Nev, but it didn’t help with knowing other characters. I feel that there was a bit of a disconnect between the reader and the world because of the first-person narration; I was in Nev’s head to understand his world, then suddenly in Qole’s–and part of her point-of-view was her trying to come to terms with what Nev had said or revealed. It was a lot of back and forth and I feel like some of the action was lost in it.

However, I did have a favorite secondary character. Basra. I want to know more about him. He seems to be quite a chameleon and even at the end of the novel, still has his secrets. I liked that he actually had a backstory that was more explored (i.e.: shown) than that of Eton’s and Telu’s, who I feel were only marginally explained. I want to know Basra’s history. Story about that, please.

I also really liked that Basra didn’t comment on his gender. The members of the crew he works with refer to him as a boy, (which is something that was figured out off page, pre-Shadow Run) yet in his past he’s been referred to as a girl. It was nice to have a character like that, although Nev’s introduction to him (Boy? Girl? Wha?) was a little unkind in my opinion. If it was meant to be clever it fell flat.

I really love books with a variety of characters and I’m glad that authors are becoming more aware that there needs to be better representation of different genders and races in novels. However, I feel that this book was awkward about it. It was like it was screaming See? We’re representing! every time something regarding race or culture was brought up. I was being told, rather than shown. Show me! It gave an awkward tilt to the novel. Any other reviewers feel this way? Perhaps someone else can better put words to my feelings.

One bad thing about characters is that I didn’t feel like there was anything new, other than Basra. Although I liked Nev and Qole, they fell under the stereotype of Prince and Commoner. As a result, a lot of their story line was kind of obvious, so I’m hoping that the next novel subverts that a bit more. The last bad thing about characters is that Qole’s power needs to be contained. It bothered me the longer I read.  It’s setting Qole up as an untouchable character, which strikes me a little like a deus ex machina show of power. Where is the stopping point?

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What was great about Firefly was how it was episodic. I imagine (since this is called Kaitan Chronicles, which typically means an expansive story) that we’ll see more of the Kaitan Heritage and Qole and crew. This wasn’t really episodic. It was more of a typical story of discovering that everything you believed in isn’t necessarily true, good, or fact.  I feel like this book promised more than it delivered, because the only similarities I saw to Firefly was that there was a curmudgeonly Captain piloting through space.

In the end, I enjoyed reading Shadow Run when I either got over or got used to the things that caused problems for me. I think it will do well with people who like science fiction and fantasy and don’t mind the fact that it recycles some of the often used tropes of the genre. Personally, although I liked it, I feel very neutral about the next novel. Usually the end of novels that I enjoy drive me straight into the pages of the second novel. For Shadow Run, I could either take or leave the next one. This is directly because of the ending: it can either function as an open-ended stand-alone or as an opening for the second novel. Readers will have to decide what it is for them. I still haven’t.

3. 5 stars.

I received a copy of Shadow Run from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Shadow Run will be published March 21st.

 

 

[The Bone Witch] Rin Chupeco

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The Bone Witch was a novel with a nice premise but the execution was not strong enough to keep my interest. Told in two perspectives, The Bone Witch follows Tea, a Dark Asha, as she discovers her powers in the past and in the present as she tells her story to a banished storyteller. Her story begins when she accidentally brings her brother back from the dead and soon she is fully entrenched in her new life as a Dark Asha, one of the rare witches who can raise and command the dead, both human and daeva. Her training means that she gains more control and she must make decisions that will affect her future and that of those around her.

There were things I really liked about this novel. I thought that the fantasy part of it–the idea of it, at least–was something that was creative. I liked that the main character was ostracized even by other witches because of her powers and that she didn’t have control over them at first. I particularly liked the idea that you couldn’t hide the feelings in your heart–unless you literally hid it behind something–because you had a heartsglass that swirled with color. The little touches like this were really well done, but ultimately The Bone Witch fell too much to the side of information dumping.

The world, when it should have been interesting, was full of too much information at one time. Despite the amount of information given to me, I don’t feel like I know much about the world. Few things really stood out. I know a little bit about the daeva, these monster-like creatures that are reborn every so many years, terrorize the general populace, and need to be put down by the Dark Asha again. Then there are all of these places that were mentioned multiple times and are likely important, but I couldn’t keep any of them straight. I’m not sure if it was because of the information dumping, the point of view, or the storytelling itself, but I just couldn’t distinguish one from the other.

I loved the culture of the Asha, however. It reminded me of what I know about the geisha culture but with the added element of fighting. I wish that the classes that Tea had taken hadn’t been glossed over, because that would have been really cool to read more about. Especially the Dark Asha. They’re a dying type of witch that are extremely rare. If they’re needed to basically save everyone, why the heck are they so ostracized? Give me more of those details! Show me more on why Tea is where she is when we see her in the present. I need to see it, not be told it.

I do think that there was some element of failure in the choice that Rin Chupeco made regarding the points of view. Half of the story was told in Tea’s point of view and the other half was told in the Bard’s point of view as he listens to an older Tea. Both were lacking in that drive that really makes me want to read a story. I felt that it was two stories in one–that of a girl discovering her power and that of a woman trying to start a war–and neither of them really meshed well with the other. Every time I felt that I was getting into one story, we jumped back into the other. It was really frustrating. Having two first person points of view didn’t help either. I should have known who they were at the end of the novel, but I didn’t. And not knowing the characters made it really hard to get into the novel.

I do think that people may like this book. There’s a really interesting magic system and the novel ends with the promise of more action in the next novel. I just wish some of that action had been in this novel. For me personally, however, it didn’t leave me with enough that I want to check out the next book. I felt that for all of the inaction in the novel, to cram all of the action at the end solely to have a cliffhanger that leads into the next book was pretty lame. When I found so much of the book to be slow and boring, that bit at the end is not going to save it. The Bone Witch needed to start more in the middle of the story and its action rather than the very beginning. The very beginning was engaging, but as the book went on it lost that spark. Ultimately, I felt like nothing happened. So while it wasn’t the worst book (although I should have just put it down and not finished it in the end), I can’t rate it any higher than this.

2 stars.

 

[Throne of Glass] Sarah J. Maas

 

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Throne of Glass is the first novel in a series about Celaena Sardothien, an assassin who has been toiling in the slave mines of Endovier for a year when she is suddenly released under one condition: she must fight in a competition to be the King’s Champion. Only then will she win her freedom. As Adarlan’s Assassin, she strikes fear into the hearts of people who know her name; as Celaena, she’s only a girl to the men in the competition and easily brushed aside. As the competition continues, Celaena proves that she’s not easily ignored, but soon that’s the least of their worries. Something is killing the competitors–and it’s only a matter of time before it comes for her.

If you only read the synopsis of the novel, it sounds pretty good. It’s only when you open the pages and read the first few chapters that you realize it’s not that great. This novel came out a few years ago when I was still working at a bookstore, and I remember picking it up and dismissing it as something that I wouldn’t enjoy. That opinion held true to some extent. I still read through this book because I’d heard from several reviewers that I follow that this is one of their favorite series and that subsequent books are far better. This meant that as much as this book was overwhelmingly meh to me, I had to read it to see if the series is as good as everyone says.

That said, there were things that I did really like about this book. The idea of a female assassin was great, if poorly executed. I just didn’t believe that Celaena was that horrifying assassin. She focused entirely too much on sweets and outfits. There were more descriptions of the intricacies of Celaena’s outfits rather than her actions in this competition. That is what I was interested in. It made Celaena’s vanity–and frankly, stupidity–the focus of her character rather than her supposed talents of assassination. I do like that she is vain because it is a strange flaw for an assassin to have, but it became too much when I was looking for other aspects of her personality to shine through. I just didn’t buy that she was this feared assassin, even if she couldn’t come out and say it. However, I do think that it showed her age. She was vain and childish because she is a young character. It’s just too bad that I didn’t feel that I saw much of her mature side.

I loved that Nehemia existed as a friend that she could trust and that it wasn’t one of those fake, catty friendships that I really dislike. Nehemia was a character who was intelligent and interesting. She was trapped in the Glass Palace just as much as Celaena was, but in a different capacity. I loved reading how their relationship blossomed throughout the events of the story. It took the focus off of Celaena and opened the story up into something bigger than just this competition. Their friendship is something that I looked forward to reading.

Unfortunately, the big things that annoyed me were also the big things that make a book work–or not work. I felt that while the book was very readable and made for a quick read, the plot didn’t really stand out and was kind of standard. It felt rushed and very basic. I struggled to figure out what was going on in action scenes because they weren’t always written very clearly. Another thing that made it hard to figure out what was going on was the lack of action tags around dialogue. That works during an intense scene because it makes you read faster, but when I found myself reading huge walls of dialogue-text I was frustrated by the lack of feeling behind it. How were the characters standing? What did they look like when they delievered their lines? Were they acting a certain way in addition to their tense words? I wanted more.

I did make my way through the book very quickly because there were elements I was curious about and wanted to see through to the end, but I found it overwhelmingly mediocre, to be honest. There just wasn’t that oomph that really drags me into a story and the world presented within in Throne of Glass. So this book becomes an exception to my rule of not finishing series if the first book doesn’t keep me interested. Had I not known that many reviewers find this to be one of their favorite series and that it gets better after the first novel, I would never have continued this novel. There is a benefit to waiting years to start a series, and I’m glad that I’m starting at a point when there’s five books published. I’m able to see what this series is all about in a short amount of time.

2 stars.

I received this book from Tessa for a Book of the Month club.

[Dreamwielder] Garrett Calcaterra

Dreaming is magic in this one, and magic is forbidden. It seems like it will be an exciting mix of magic v. mechanical, so I'm pretty interested in getting into this one. We'll see if this first book makes me want to continue with the series.

Dreamwielder started in the middle of the action, set in a world that had already been conquered and one where magic is outlawed. I love that that it started in the middle, because we’re thrown into a world that is dealing with the aftermath of this–dealing with the aftermath of wars, usurpations, and failed rebellions–but that is not the entire focus of the novel. We meet Makarria, a girl who has strange power in her dreams, as one of the people trying to eke out a life with her family. Far from the Emperor’s realm, Makarria believes that life is only about the small farmstead by the sea. Forbidden to dream by her parents, Makarria does her best to obey. When her dreams create something that put her on the Emperor’s map, she flees and begins to understand that her life is not as simple as she had thought. With a well-written cast of characters, Dreamwielder surpassed my expectations of what sort of fantasy novel this was.

I was really impressed with the characters in this. Divided between several characters of different backgrounds, Garrett Calcaterra blended each of their stories and lives into a cohesive narrative that I loved. It was a little slow at first because of the world-building, but as the world and characters built, I eventually couldn’t wait to see what Calcaterra came up with next. The cast was diverse in age, so that meant that their experiences were all different. I wasn’t treated to a book with characters that were so similar they may as well have been one. One of them was a prince who was a hostage–my particular favorite because he had no magic in this world of magic. I liked reading how he coped with having a sister who had visions and dealt with being a protector who had no powers other than his own fighting talent. On the opposite side of that was Makarria, a girl who had lost her family and was slowly discovering just what her talents could do. All of the characters were strong, and I appreciated that the female characters didn’t wait around to be rescued. I liked that they surprised the male characters with their actions.

I also enjoyed that there were secrets surrounding the characters and they were often unaware of these secrets themselves. I like when the author treats the reader to a little more information than what the characters know, because it’s fun to read how they’re revealed to the characters. Reading as their paths got closer together made for some exciting reading.

Although Dreamwielder has the potential to be entirely full of clichés, it’s well-written enough that you hardly notice there are even clichés. Dreamwielder begins with an idea of a series of kingdoms under siege and in a hostage situation. A ruler has come in and conquered these kingdoms but allows them to still have agency in their own cities, provided they send an heir to be held hostage at another location. There’s a focus on the political and the tensions that come with that, but that focus is also wrapped up in magic. Originally, the kingdoms were full of sorcerers who wielded magic for the good of their kingdoms. When the conqueror came in, he killed many of those who had magic and others went into hiding. It’s kind of like a young adult Game of Thrones, but done in a way where you don’t have the potential to mix up the vast cast of characters.

My favorite aspect of this novel was how magic was pitted against the mechanical. Magic is in the past and is viewed by the Emperor and his supporters as something that stands in the way of progress. By vilifying it, the Emperor maintains his control over the world. The repercussions of having it or protecting it are so severe that people are willing to turn in their neighbors in order to protect themselves. It’s entirely a way to keep people from rebelling. The Emperor’s home city is vastly different than that of the formerly magical cities. I really liked reading the industrial parts of it, because it was so different.

The world created in Dreamwielder is similar to other fantasy stories, but because of the strong characters and clear writing, it ended up being more than just another young adult fantasy novel. I wasn’t disappointed in how the book was divided between several characters because all of their smaller stories made up the whole.  I was really interested in dreaming as a power and am interested in seeing how Makarria grows in the next novel. I recommend it for readers who like fantasy, magic, and the threat of overlords.

4 stars.

I received a copy of Dreamwielder from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Dreamwielder was published September 29th, 2015.

[Ghost House] Alexandra Adornetto

19486754Chloe thought that the ghosts that used to haunt her were gone. She thought that she was strong enough to push them away, but in the days following her mother’s death, they come back in force. They’re harder to push away. Dealing with her mother’s death, the ghosts, and her father’s grief, Chloe doesn’t know how much longer she can keep it together. Whisked away to England by a worried grandmother, Chloe’s abilities draw her into a 157 year old mystery and the ghosts that have the answers.

I was super intrigued by the premise of Ghost House. It promised that there would be “hungry dead  [eager for] a chance to claim her for their own, ” and that there was a mystery at its heart. Chloe can see ghosts and is able to ignore them most of the time, but then she suddenly can’t push them away. She’s drawn into this world that exists alongside her own. Chloe struggles to figure out her place in both of the worlds because she’s torn between them. Due to the poor execution, I didn’t feel that this was the result of the book at all. This was very much a novel where the summary and publication team works really hard to make this seem readable. For most of my time reading it, I kept looking for that zest that made it as exciting as the summary sounded. It wasn’t there.

This novel was plotted very simply. While it was described as a mystery, I felt that everything was explained to us. There were no moments where I was guessing what would come next because it was obvious what was going to happen. We’re constantly told the facts of the mystery instead of being shown it. As a result, the novel comes off as poorly written. The simplicity of the plot was nothing compared to the poor writing. At least, poor for the level of a “best selling author.” There were so many odd ways to describe the setting and the characters, that I lost track of them (“butter smooth shoulders,” anyone? So odd). It really made me feel like a high schooler wrote this. That isn’t to say that young people can’t write, and write well (because I’ve read some), but Adornetto seemed to have missed the memo that you can go into the territory of too much. And oftentimes, the very same description was repeated incessantly:

It was cool in a comforting way, like when you scalded your hand and ran it under water.

He really cooled her down with a touch. A lot. Ultimately, I expect more from someone who is a best seller, but I should learn to be disappointed.

I think the mark of a good writer is the ability for them to show their readers things that are real. I really hate being told, because it reeks of an agenda. From the moment Alexander was introduced, we were told an innumerable amount of times how stunningly gorgeous he was. As a result, it didn’t feel real at all. I wasn’t given a choice to decide which of her two love interests I liked better. The author decided that Alex was the one that Chloe would want. It wasn’t subtle at all. It wasn’t gradual. It was instant. Because of that, I really was rooting for Joe the entire time. I felt that he was a little more rounded (although he also had the instant-love sickness). He was really sweet to Chloe, even when she treated him like garbage–to the point where I didn’t understand why he was still interested in her. I think that the romance between Alex and Chloe was meant to be a little bit of a star-crossed lovers thing–because Alex is a ghost, after all–but that was not successful for me at all.

My biggest disappointment with Ghost House is the ending. This easily could have been a standalone novel and it would have been a good way at looking how grief doesn’t stop existing. You just learn how to cope with it and keep moving because the one who left would want you to. Instead, we were given a cliffhanger. One that makes no sense at all, although I’m sure there will be some way to explain it in the next novel. The ending was solely to force a series, and that made me mad. Especially when the writing should have been better. I don’t feel that the story and writing is enough to make this a series.

The problem with finishing books on a cliffhanger is that it leaves things unresolved for your readers, characters, and story. They’re very effective, but cruel, particularly when news of a second book has only recently surfaced. My personal opinion is that if you want to write a series–and leave end them with cliff-hangers–know where you’re taking it next. Have it ready. If you can’t handle the pressure of that, then write a standalone and make it the best thing you’ve written at that moment in time.

I feel like Ghost House was more childish than her other series. At least what I remember of them.  I remember them being enjoyable, even if they did have their own agendas. This one felt very much like it was the debut novel of a teenager, which is partially the case, but since it’s the fourth young adult book that she wrote, I was expecting more. I expected the writing to advance. Instead I got writing that was littered with clichés, odd similes and metaphors, and repetitive descriptions. Yet I feel that I know very little about the characters and the world. It was very fill-in-the-blank-y for me as a reader. I really felt like the author didn’t love what she was writing and so that translated into my experience as a reader. There was no passion.

2 stars.

[Urban Dragon] J.W. Troemner

Urban Dragon is J.W. Troemner’s first three novellas bound into one volume. It follows Rosa and Arkay, two women who are trying to survive the dangers of living on the street. Not freezing during the upcoming winter is heavy on Rosa’s mind, but when an attack on them turns into them robbing the would be attacker, Rosa and Arkay are drawn into something bigger and more dangerous than they realize. Struggling to maintain their innocence, jail is the least of their problems. Rosa and Arkay have to use their wits and their street smarts to stay one step ahead of those who would do them harm. And they thought humans were a problem.

The writing of Urban Dragon was entertaining and flowed really well. I thought that each individual story had a clear beginning, middle, and end, and there were moments in each novella that connected them to the others. It had a readability that allowed me to finish it in one sitting. I suspect that when the next series of novellas are published, it will be easy to do the same. I do think that J.W. Troemner has a talent at keeping the reader entertained and flipping through pages. The author cements this story in the contemporary age by having pop culture references sprinkled throughout; most of them were a little nerdy or book related, so I really loved that. I was genuinely amused by some of the interactions and quips that Rosa and Arkay threw around because they didn’t feel forced.

I really loved Rosa and Arkay’s relationship. It stemmed from being necessary to survive the streets and not get harmed, and blossomed into an actual friendship with shared experiences. I liked that it didn’t really delve into something romantic, even though it possibly had been romantic in the past. It was nice reading a series where the two main characters aren’t in love with each other. I liked that they both remained close and had their own outside relationships.

Something that Urban Dragon tried to do was diversity. The author tried to represent Rosa and Arkay as a race other than white, which was really refreshing, but I felt that it was very much “represented just to be represented.” It fell very flat and I didn’t believe that they were characters. They were representations. I can probably count on one hand how many times Rosa and Arkay were described in the same way (Amazonian Latina and petite Asian, respectively). I believe in diversity and I think that the young adult writing community is getting a bit better at recognizing that there needs to be diversity, but it needs to be done. You can’t just say that your protagonist is a Latina but leave it at that. You have to go in depth. Describe them as more than their race. Otherwise I see the characters as flat cardboard cutouts.

Unfortunately this was similar to what happened with the setting. I felt that it was slightly on the generic side and that there wasn’t anything particularly distinguishing about it. Readers know going into it that the series is an urban fantasy, and I felt that we were expected to fill in the blanks rather than the author filling them in for us. I was disappointed by the lack of world building when there could have been so much. Troemner succeeded at creating a mythology, but it was never explained. I loved that there were dragons, but there was never a cohesive reason as to why they all existed. I wanted to know more about it, and it was explained too slowly. I feel like I hardly know anything about the world despite having read three novellas set in it. I understand that there’s a projected nine novellas, but my interest needs to be piqued by the second and certainly by the third if I’m going to read another six.

Individually, the novellas in this volume were plotted in an okay way. I felt that it was a little basic because each of the novellas went through the same course of: minding their own business, something bad happens, bad people die, and Arkay and Rosa make it out relatively unscathed. However, that wasn’t horrible. They were quick reads and I was able to read them in a couple of hours. However, as a whole, there wasn’t enough happening. I’m fine with reading one to one and a half novellas with a plot like this. But when the series is plotted out to be at least nine novellas, I expect a little more to happen that will let me know what the grander plot of the series is. The larger plot was hinted at in the endings of the second and third novellas, but it wasn’t enough. I certainly expected more of the larger plot to happen in the third novella after it had been hinted at in the second, but I was let down.

Overall, I would say that I may check out the remaining novellas of this series once they are released. I do have a problem with the fact that the third novella left off on a horrible cliffhanger; I think that it would have better suited the book to further explore what had happened at the end of the second book instead of the direction that the third book took.

Not quite enough for 3 stars, but better than 2 stars. 2.5 stars.

I received a copy of Urban Dragon from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Urban Dragon will be available October 15th, 2016.

[Monstress 1: Awakening] Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda

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Monstress was a beautiful and deadly introduction to the world that Marjorie M. Liu created and Sana Takeda illustrated. After an apocalyptic event, lines were drawn between the Humans and the Arcanics. We follow Maika Halfwolf and her companions as they try to find what exactly happened on that day and how Maika is connected to it. Maika has secrets of her own and sometimes it’s best that they remain hidden.

For the most part, I couldn’t get enough of Monstress. There were moments when the story was a bit slow because the author needed to introduce concepts or characters to the reader, but as a whole, it started immediately in the action and didn’t stop. We learn that there are the Arcanics, who look different from the humans (often appearing half animal) and who are not considered human ever since the events of the war. Treating them badly is commonplace, although not every human is like that. The Cumaea, a sort of witch-nun, are after Arcanics for their Lilium, a substance that they can harvest from Arcanics they’ve captured. They’re powerful enough that they can do what they want, and no one can stop them. This is a world that had steam-punk influences, but also maintained that it was a fantasy world where gods exist.

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One of my absolute favorite parts of Monstress was the fact that nearly all of the characters–the protagonist, one of the companions, the villains–were female. There were men, but the story was not driven by them. I love that the protagonist, Maika, was harsh and didn’t want to step into the shoes of a heroine when others pressured her toward that direction. She remained firmly rooted in her own motivations. She wasn’t unwilling to change, however. One of my favorite things to read were her actions with Kippa and Ren, because it really showed how traveling with them was changing her from this tough, prickly person to someone who was still tough and prickly, but she was willing to extend her drive to survive to protecting them. Maika is an unlikely caretaker, but nothing is more natural than her slipping into that role for Kippa. The characters in this are also extremely diverse. Because there was an apocalyptic event in this world, it seems like everyone who survived came together and built what they could. There’s not any room for prejudices, unless you’re an Arcanic.

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unnamedLiu has a knack for pacing her story out for her readers. We start in the action, so there’s a lot of things that we’re unaware of at first. The backstory of this world and of Maika’s place in it is given to us in bits and pieces. It allows for slow world-building that ultimately really pays off, particularly in the motivations of the potential villains of the series. I say potential because although we’re given their motivations, Liu has already proven in each part of Monstress that what you expect is not always what is true. By the time I finished Monstress, I was more aware of what was going on in the world but there’s still so much more going on that we haven’t been told yet. We know that some people are keeping secrets from other people. As readers, we’re lucky to be in the know. I’m really looking forward to what will happen when those secrets become common knowledge to the people it’s being kept from, because it will make for some intense moments and illustrations.

The illustrations. Oh my gosh. I would love to have prints of some of the city and wilderness scenes. It is absolutely stunning. I love that there are moments where it looks brushed on the page.  I won’t lie, when the story dragged a bit the art is what drew me through the story. Takeda was able to illustrate facial expressions perfectly that even when there wasn’t text I was immediately able to understand what the characters were feeling. There were so many lovely wide-shots of the world that really let me take in what it was like. It was a way to introduce readers to the world without words, and it worked perfectly when there were large, detailed panels. I’m so glad that it’s in full color, because Takeda is incredibly talented. I would definitely buy an artbook for this series.

I love how it's cluttered but also open. Really shows the setting.

I love how it’s cluttered but also open. Really shows the setting.

The one thing that may deter readers is the violence. I didn’t find that it was excessive or anything like that, but it was there. I felt that it was necessary to the story. This isn’t a kind, post-war setting. Things that happened during the war have decided what the world will be like, such as who will be in power and who will not. I wasn’t too grossed out by any of it, as it was mostly blood or stylized in a way that didn’t make it gruesome.

I’m definitely a fan of the art and intrigued by the story that Liu presented in the first volume, so I want to check out the rest when I can. I’d definitely recommend it for readers who like fantasy with a bit of a dystopian feel.

4 stars.

I received a copy of Monstress from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I mean, the artist made me hungry for chocolate rats. That has to mean something for her illustration skills. (Note: I won’t actually ever eat any rats.)