Saturday, 11 January 2020

The God Game by Danny Tobey

Book Title: The God Game
Author: Danny Tobey
Genre: Sci-Fi, Game Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Gollancz
Plot Summary: Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smouldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs.
But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences.
Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?
And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life—does it?
As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realise they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.
God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.
I received a free copy from the publisher.

What did I think?
I love game fiction, and I enjoy science fiction, which is why I thought I'd absolutely love The God Game, unfortunately, I didn't really warm to it.

Let me talk about the positive things first. I adored the theme of free will and how choice in the game end up having real life consequences.

The characters are constantly tempted to make awful decisions and sacrifice their friendships in order to advance their own lives. Tempting, of course, especially if you might think (at least at first) oh, it's just a game. Once the reality dawns on them, it's far too late.

Throughout the book the characters are faced with moral choices and must decide which path to take.

The AI in this book is magnificent, manipulative, outright evil and chilling. But it always leaves you a choice. Free will, remember? That the AI is the best part of the book is not surprising considering the author is an expert in AI. 

Now, I'll have to talk about the bits I liked less. The characters are mostly two-dimensional, and perhaps I'm too old, but they were all a bit whiny. Some of their secrets they harboured felt silly, and I didn't empathise with all of their problems.

In fact, I found them quite simplistic and juvenile, overall. And it rendered the book more YA than the blurb suggested.

I didn't gel with the writing either. I found it too straightforward, too simple. It lacked real depth and felt juvenile in places, just like the characters.

To end on a positive note, this book is incredibly fast-paced, and there's never a dull moment. The cast is incredibly diverse, and none of them feel like token characters. With its simple prose The God Game promises to be a fairly quick read and is the perfect company for a rainy weekend.

I recommend The God Game to all LitRPG and Game Lit fans. Take a look at the Look Inside excerpt on Amazon, it either sucks you in or not. If it does, you'll love this.

This blog post was part of the Gollancz Blog Tour. Make sure to check out all other posts.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The Devil's Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen

Book Title: The Devil's Apprentice
Author: Kenneth B. Adnersen
Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Ebook through the Blog Tour 
Amazon UK, Goodreads 
Plot Summary: Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?

What did I think?
The Devil's Apprentice is a novel for a younger young adult audience or perhaps an upper middle grade audience. Not my usual read, I must admit, but I would have loved this book as a teenager. In fact, I can imagine I would have devoured this.

This is a book about a good boy (a really good boy) that lands in hell.

And the most important theme in The Devil's Apprentice is how in each of us there is good and evil, and how we might all, under the right circumstances, do the wrong thing.

After all, aren't we all a bit morally grey?

It's an easy, quick and smooth read and incredibly entertaining. The author is a master at painting a great atmosphere (in fact the setting is amazing) and the plot is infused with big dollops of humour.

Unfortunately, for me, this book is a bit too simplistic, but to be honest, it's perfect for a younger audience, just not for me.

I recommend The Devil's Apprentice to people who enjoy books in the style of A Series of Unfortunate Events and their kids.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Book Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Paperback

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Plot Summary: Thou shalt kill.
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.
Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.
What did I think?

I had so much fun with this book, but I would like to get one aspect out of the way first: part of this world doesn't make sense (to me) and if I start poking at the Scythedom, I will probably find holes I could drive an entire bus through.

So, we're in a world with no hunger and no disease and no war and no misery. We've not managed to conquer space and we stopped trying because of a few disasters, and now scythes are the only way to end life, and we let them, because otherwise nobody would ever die, and the all-knowing AI that governs us promised not to interfere with restricting reproduction. (That AI, Thunderhead, also doesn't interfere with the Scythedom. It's a strict separation of powers.)

And yes, we let them end our lives because when a scythe knocks on our door and we try and escape, they will glean our entire family.

Unchecked power, oh boy.

Yes, oh boy.

Because, of course, if you give a group unchecked power, some will abuse it.

Now these scythes may glean however they want: knives, flamethrowers, guns, etc. They can surprise their victims, or they can give them some kind of warning. They get to choose who gets to die and how. They have quotas, and no they're not allowed to go after one specific group.

Really? We're all just okay with that?

Now, apart from me not believing that a humanity without war, misery and hunger and disease would be okay with randomly dying at the hands of a scythe, I LOVED this book.

It's go amazing characters, unexpected twists and turns, is whimsical and has such a distinct prose that made chuckle and gasp more than once. It's a fast-paced book, moving swiftly from plot point to plot point, dropping surprises left and right.

The conflicts are innovative, creative and interesting. The characters are memorable, albeit mostly either good or bad. They grow throughout the story and kept me interested in their development.

Shusterman introduced some great criticism of today's society. He illustrates the danger of unchecked power within an organisation and what happens if the "wrong people" or the "villain" gains support, becomes a faction and climbs to the top. There's nobody to stop them, no outside force that can interfere.

I read the entire trilogy in one week, and I simply could not put it down. A warning though: the second book ends with quite the cliffhanger.

I highly recommend this trilogy to anyone who finds the premise intriguing. This one is so much fun and a delight to read.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Book Title: Angel Mage
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Hardback from Gollancz

Amazon UK, Goodreads 

Plot Summary: More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Gollancz. Thank you!

What did I think?

Look how pretty this book is! 

Garth Nix is a beloved fantasy author, and I was incredibly excited to find out that his newest work would not only be a standalone, but also a mash-up between two of my favourite things: musketeers and angels.

The magic system is innovative and clever. People summon angels with the help of icons, but at a cost: a chunk of their lifespan. The more powerful the angel, the bigger the chunk.

The characters all have great depth and the relationship between the four is believable and genuine. The world-building is vivid and displays Nix's vast imagination. Nix is also an incredible writer, and reading Angel Mage reminded me of being a teenager and reading The Three Musketeers.

Despite all these positive aspects, I struggled to connect both with the plot and the characters, and at least in the beginning, had to force myself to pick the book up and keep reading. Once I reached the mid-point, it really began to flow, and I read the second part in a day.

Overall, I'm left with many positive feelings and found the book empowering and captivating. On top of that, Nix not only incorporates LGBTQ+ characters seamlessly into his narrative, he also avoids adding sexism, and his society is racially diverse.

And women get to be powerful in this book!

I recommend this to fantasy readers who enjoy angels, Dumas fans, fans of Garth Nix and everyone who is intrigued by the premise.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Book Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Ebook from the library

Amazon UK, Goodreads 
Plot Summary: There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
What did I think?

This is one of those books where I felt apprehensive going in and thought that I might not like it. But I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

My only other Schwab novel was A Darker Shade of Magic, which I did not like as much as I thought I would. Basically, it was the other way around. Amazing premise, but I wasn't a fan of the execution.

With This Savage Song, however, I felt lukewarm reading the blurb and absolutely loved the execution.

Schwab is an excellent writer and an even better world-builder. Her characters are fleshed out, real and vulnerable, flawed people, and her setting is intriguing. The pacing is spot on, and the pages fly by, sucking the reader right into the story.

I especially enjoyed her main character, Kate, who is deeply flawed, hot-headed, stubborn, yet kicks ass in the most believable way. Her chemistry with August is incredible, and it did not lead to romance. We need more books with complex relationships and friendships.

This Savage Song convinced me to put Vicious on my list, and I highly recommend it to all Schwab fans, of course, and all urban fantasy fans.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

A Different Time by Michael K. Hill

Book Title: A Different Time
Author: Michael K. Hill
Genre: Magical Realism
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Kindle Edition

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Plot Summary: Keith Nolan falls in love with a remarkable young woman from the past, talking to him on a home video she recorded in 1989. To keep their conversation going, he must find more of her tapes—while forces work against them both, and time is running out.
I received this as part of the Ultimate Blog Tour organised by @TheWriteReads, but this review is honest, and in no way influenced by the other awesome participants. Check out the other participants on Twitter @WriteReadsTours.

What did I think?

3.5 Stars.

This is a short and quick read, and an equally sweet read.

The plot follows the two main characters, Keith and Lindsey. One lives in 2019, the other, Lindsey, thirty years ago in 1989. They communicate through VHS tapes that Lindsey recorded as a young woman and Keith purchased from a local flea market.

I liked A Different Time a lot.

It failed to make me emotional, however, probably because it's too short and there aren't enough pages to fully develop the characters or the time they live in.

Sadly, that shortness also made the romance feel rushed, and instead of a slowly developing love story, the book offers insta-love something I really don't like.

The prose is smooth and makes this a pleasing read. It's a sweet story, and definitely worth a read, but I wish it were longer.

Recommended to romance fans who are looking for a quick, sweet read and who don't mind a fantastic element.

Monday, 12 August 2019

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Book Title: The Wicked King
Author: Holly Black
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Fae
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Plot: Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
As usual there will be NO spoilers as this is a sequel and the plot description is of the first book, The Cruel Prince.

What did I think?

This is the kind of book that gets me out of a reading slump. Quick, fast-paced, filled with action and deliciously good.

Hyped books are often a bit hit and miss, at least for me, but this series is a firm hit.

Just like the first book, I devoured The Wicked King in a day. I just couldn't stop myself.

The beginning of The Cruel Prince was visceral, brutal and surprising. It starts with the murder of Jude's parents. Right there on page one. And I immediately knew I was in for a wild ride.

Followers of my blog know that I'm not the biggest romance fan, but damn if Holly Black doesn't have me straight-up asking for more.

This book ripped my heart out and stepped on it. My jaw kept dropping, and I may have possibly yelled at the pages while reading the ending.

Jude is an amazing character with incredible depth, and well, nobody really is all that great in these books. One review on Goodreads called them Slytherin books, and I agree. The whole cast belongs in Slytherin, but they're compelling, well written, three dimensional, and I want to adopt and protect both Jude and Cardan (but I wouldn't, because that would make it weird.)

The world building is interesting, detailed, and I enjoy the fae a lot. But it's the plot that makes this book and the many twists and turns. And they all managed to surprise me!

I recommend this series to all YA fans who enjoy fantasy YA, especially those who enjoy fae. I don't think there's much not to like with this one, if you're the target audience.

I can't wait to read The Queen of Nothing.