[Noir: Illumination Paradox II] Jacqueline Garlick

This is a review for the second book in the Illumination Paradox, and as such has potential spoilers for the first. The review for  Lumière is here.

I just love these covers.

I just love these covers.

For the most part, Noir is a lovely continuation of everything I really enjoyed in  Lumière. The steampunk world comes back in full force, with more danger and problems than ever. At the conclusion of  Lumière, both Eyelet and Urlick are left in dire situations that left me wondering how they would ever get out of them. You expect the main characters of novels to always be “safe” from true harm, but there’s always that lingering worry that like George R.R. Martin, your author may decide that the death of a character propels the story forward. I went into Noir a little worried, but expecting to enjoy it just as much as enjoyed the first of the series. Ultimately, it ended up being slightly less enjoyable than the first, but is still a decent second novel of the series.

Ultimately, something that irked me every time it reared its head was the sexual violence that is contained in Noir. It was my biggest issue with the novel, because there were far too many times that rape was semi-explicitly implied or threatened. And I’ll be honest, there should have been zero times this happened. It’s not something I like seeing in the novels I read. It is a legitimate threat in the real world and the written one because it imitates life, but I feel that fantasy books sometimes use it too much as a plot device. Rape and sexual violence should not be used as a plot device. If it is something that is included–and I still don’t know if it’s ever necessary, truly–it needs to be handled extremely well. Other readers may have been fine with how it was handled in Noir, but I was left with an uncomfortable feeling whenever these events occurred. The first time it occurred, I was not happy, but to have it occur enough times that it drove down the rating of an otherwise well-written second novel in the Illumination Paradox frustrated me. A woman can be strong without having threat or events of sexual violence happen to her. I already know that Eyelet is strong. I didn’t need this to be included.

Noir introduces several new characters, a couple of whom have chapters that they lead us through. Jacqueline Garlick does have a skill in clearly indicating the differences in their voices, so it wasn’t difficult to understand their thoughts and motivations. However, I have the same problem that I had with  Lumière; Noir could have benefited from a third person narration. I think the reason that there are two new characters’ voices leading us through the chapters is because the author needed to show events that were happening away from the spheres of Eyelet and Urlick. Yes, they are two very fascinating and vivid characters, but it would be boring to read chapters upon chapters of one being locked away in a jail and the other preparing to spring him. Although I did appreciate the new characters, they were not as well-developed as Eyelet and Urlick. I wanted to know more about them, but their characterization didn’t go in depth enough for me. As a result, I didn’t care as much for them emotionally and couldn’t connect as things were going wrong or right for them.

Again, romance was the weaker part of the novel, but it was more of the main focus for Noir. In Lumière, the characters were driven to find the machine that was supposedly the cure, discover things about the machine and the real cure, uncover the mystery of what happened the day that the flash lit up the sky. Noir was more about saving the one you loved.  Of course, there’s still adventure and discovery, but it wasn’t as heavy as it was in the first. I knew this going into Noir. I signed up for it and it’s the blurb on the cover of the novel. The Eyelet/Urlick arc was what I wanted to read. It’s the sort of  rescuing the damsel / rescuing the dude in distress steampunk adventure story that I was excited to read. Including new romances for the characters I couldn’t connect with emotionally was too much. If I didn’t care about them as a character, I really didn’t care about their relationships. Apparently steampunk equals adventure in my mind, not romance. I wasn’t too open to the idea of more than one relationship in the novel.

The pacing of the novel does keep you interested, but a few times I wished that it wasn’t so slow. The gradual buildup is nice, because I don’t like reading books where absolutely nothing happens in the middle. I do wish that a bit more had happened, however. I understand that Jacqueline Garlick wants to end her novels with a huge cliffhanger to drive her readers insane (and therefore they’ll rush to get the next book–a pretty good strategy, to be honest) but too much happened at the end of the novel. There were several reveals and happenings that happened so quickly that I didn’t quite have a chance to process them. It lends a rushed quality to the ending of the book. Although the first novel of the series also had this quality, there was less significant things happening and so I didn’t notice it as much. Some of the events should have been drawn out more toward the end of the middle section and then I would have had a chance to come to terms with them before the novel ended. By clustering so much at the end, some of the threads of the novel ended rather abruptly. The cliff hanger does prepare the third novel well, so I will check that out when it’s finished.

3 stars.

I received a copy from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The ebook version was only recently published on August 18th and the paperback and audio versions are coming out September 22nd of this year.

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[The beauty and danger of advance reading copies]

I tend to be an obsessive reader. From a young age I’ve loved going to libraries. My mom would bring us to the library in town where shelves-upon-shelves of easy chapter books and children’s books existed. While my brothers browsed the books with pictures and simple words, I’d scan the shelves for one of The Magic Tree House books that I hadn’t yet read.  When my school sent us home with Scholastic book catalogues I’d read through the pages and circle the many I wanted, begging my mom to let me join the  Boxcar Children and Baby-Sitter’s Little Sister book clubs they offered. As I got older I was able to walk the few blocks to the library myself and I’d stagger home with as many as I could carry, often from the Dinotopia and Animorphs series. I devoured book after book, discovering new loves like the Harry Potter series and Elizabeth I, one of the Royal Diaries series. (My love of England and interest in Elizabeth the First can probably be traced back to this book. )  For Christmas, all I asked for were books and I got them.

Moving to England for a brief time was a dream. Walking the streets were so many of my favorite books were set was something I had desired since I had first read them. Shopping in London bookstores for the British English editions of Harry Potter and antique copies of Shakespeare was incredibly fun. I have a passion for finding books that are beautifully bound with gilt edged pages, and I came away with quite a haul. My entire carry-on bag was full of books.  I am quite aware that I have a purchasing problem, but I love the feel of a physical book in my hands–the new book smell, the smooth and creamy pages, the crisp noise of the first time you open a hardcover book. I just can’t resist them. With the purchase of a Kindle, I made the reluctant move to buying more ebooks because I couldn’t bring my physical copies when I moved abroad. I’m still able to visit my library through their growing ebook selection, but it’s not quite the same as walking the rows and scanning the names of books for one that screams out for me to read it. Scrolling past titles on my brightly lit computer screen just doesn’t have the same sense of wonder.

I’ve found this wonder in an unexpected place. When I worked at a bookstore I was able to read advance reading copies on break. The first one I ever read, The Fifth Wave, made me want to start a book blog. Unfortunately, I was a bit preoccupied with the move abroad and had to put it on the back burner. It’s been on the back burner for several years, but recently I’ve made it a point to become serious about the things that are important to me. When I first started, I struggled with finding things that were new. Of course, I love reading anything, but people already had formed opinions on a lot of the things that I was reviewing because they’ve been published for several years. Other book bloggers I follow were reading books that sounded fascinating and they were newly published or even advance reading copies.  I want to provide reading advice to people who are looking for a new book to read. I wasn’t able to do this if I only reviewed books that have been out for years.  After doing some research which involved a lot of book post stalking, I learned about places like NetGalley.

NetGalley is a wonderful place. Book bloggers are able to check out upcoming titles from many different publishers. By allowing people to read these advance reading copies, publishers are able to get a look at how the book may do once it’s published. And authors get a little boost before their book comes out. As an aspiring author, I know how important readers and book reviews are to a new book. By writing about upcoming and recently published books, I hope that I’m garnering some interest in what is being published in the vast world of young adult and new adult fiction. That is the beauty of reading these brand-spanking new titles. The danger, of course, goes back to my obsessive nature. It never is a problem to have too many books, but the problem is: I want them all. Good thing I’m a fast reader!

Coming up:

25722504Angelstone: Second in the Dark Angel series, Hanna Peach was kind enough to let me read her series and review them. This is ongoing. I really like the take of the Angels and Demons that she portrays in its pages. Dark Angel deals with a prophecy that connects Heaven, Hell, the angels, the demons, and the humans caught between both worlds.

 

 

Currently reading:

24488627Noir: Second in the Illumination Paradox series, Noir also comes quick on the heels of Lumière. I finished up my review and discovered that the second was out. Thanks to NetGalley, Noir quickly moved up my reading list. These novels are set in a world where the shadows reign and steam punk devices make life a little more interesting–most of the time. I love the Victorian feel and the characters are very vivid. The ebook version was only recently published on August 18th and the paperback and audio versions are coming out September 22nd of this year.

 

Things I’m excited about:

25792851Angelsong: The next in the Dark Angel series

 

 

 

 

24397041Hunter by Mercedes Lackey: This one. I requested it ages ago and it took so long to get any sort of notification from the publisher that I assumed I hadn’t been approved. I assumed wrong. Very excited to read this one. The cover is really neat looking and the story promises to be interesting. Monsters have taken up residence in our world, and the people who survived the initial attacks have to live in communities that are protected from them. There are teenagers called Hunters who are charged with protecting citizens, but it becomes clear that the better they are at protecting, the more famous they become and the more scrutiny they fall under. It sounds like a mix between Attack on Titan and the television element of The Hunger Games. I’m so glad to have been approved. Hunter will be available on September 1st.

 

 

[Lumière] Jacqueline Garlick

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I love this cover.

When Eyelet was a child, a huge flash lit up the sky and blocked out the sun. Now the world she lives in is dark and the people threatened by Vapors–an asphyxiating gas–and worse that lurk in the shadows.  Lumière follows Eyelet as she tries to find her father’s legacy and the cure that he promised her before disappearing. It is part adventure, part romance, and all steam-punk.

I really enjoyed it. Eyelet’s voice was incredibly strong and well-written. It was a pleasure to be in her head, although there were moments when I was annoyed with her. For the most part, she was clever and assertive and didn’t often go down the “I’m just not pretty, why does he like me?” path that a lot of first-person protagonists go down. She doesn’t rely on other people and their power, so she really had to struggle with asking and accepting help. When she does, however, her relationships with the other characters blossom.  Lumière was written in the perspective of two characters, which was okay most of the time. Urlick is also a distinct character and had a good backstory, but there were times when he focused too much on one thing and I didn’t feel like he was driving the story forward as much as Eyelet was. It’s also a personal preference thing: if I’m going to read multiple perspectives, I feel that third-person works so much better than first-person.

The world in Lumière was incredible. I love steampunk, but there have been times when it’s been such a weak element of novels that it shouldn’t have been included at all. This was thankfully not the case in LumièreFrom the very beginning with the brass mechanical elephant that breathed steam to the strange modes of transportation, Lumière had me hooked with its world. It was incredibly interesting to see a world that was steeped in contraptions run by steam power but also had elements of magic. Jacqueline Garlick blended the two seamlessly. In  Lumière, magic and madness are considered a crime, yet the scientists of the novel create steam-run things that seem very magical in their uses. It was a nice contrast of showing how some things that are odd are accepted, but to even have a whiff of madness or magic in you is deadly.

The weakest part of  Lumière was easily the romance. I didn’t feel that it was necessary. They’re running for their lives, but she’s concerned with if he likes her or not. I mentioned earlier that Eyelet was an intelligent character, but whenever romance was thrown into the mix she became a bit stupid. She’d do and say things that made her seem like a girl who was just stomping her foot when she wasn’t getting her way. As the romance developed and became more prevalent, these moments became more common. Overall, the romance was okay. It was a slow build so it was realistic, but unfortunately, once they both realized that they were attracted to each other it hit like a train and became too much, too fast. She went from zero to one hundred and it became a bit much for me because I felt it was unrealistic according to the timeline I had in my head. I did enjoy the Beauty and the Beast element, but that disappeared too fast for my taste. It would have been cool if that had been drawn out more.

Lumière is written in a very episodic way. Every chapter fit together but they also had a main problem that needed to be overcome or discovered. Once I got into the middle of the action I couldn’t stop reading it in the way I can’t stop watching a TV show and then binge-watch it in one sitting.  Lumière does end on a cliff-hanger which may turn some readers off, but it just made me want to read the next one. The society cast-outs were an interesting cast of characters and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to them in the next book of the series. I hope that the strength of the setting and characters hold up and that it doesn’t become too much about the romance, which was the weakest part of the novel.

4 stars.

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