Legacy by Michelle Lowe: Book Review

LegacyVeteran indie author Michelle Lowe gave me a free eBook copy of her seventh book Legacy — the first in a seven-part Steampunk series — in exchange for an honest review. Not wanting to let the author down (and I must apologise to Michelle for taking so long to get around to reading it as well; I generally don’t do well reading books off of computer screens), I was really delighted when Legacy turned out to be a well-written, fast-paced adventure that takes place across both sides of the English Channel. It features a whole host of well-illustrated characters that I couldn’t help but love.

Archie Norwich, son of the nobleman Tarquin Norwich, is sent out by his father to find the notorious Pierce Landcross — a wanted fugitive and a thief. Tarquin wishes to interrogate Landcross on the location of the mysterious toymaker Indigo Peachtree and his even more mysterious journal which contains the key to world domination. Accompanying Archie, Pierce and Tarquin in their race for the journal are Archie’s plucky and resourceful sister Clover, his troubled alcoholic brother Ivor, Pierce’s possessed brother Joaquin, an airship manned by Apache slave-liberators, gypsy travellers, vampires and more.

Without a doubt, Michelle’s beloved anti-hero steals the show. Pierce Landcross is the absolute highlight of this book with his debonair wit, glittering cleverness and inconvenient moral compass that gets him both into and out of scrapes with reckless abandon. He played well off of the staunchly uptight, feckless Archie, whom I wanted to strangle several times, and both he and Archie had a really endearing relationship with Archie’s little sister Clover. Michelle is really good at “show don’t tell” when it comes to her writing, and she isn’t afraid to knock her characters about a bit either. Characterisation is definitely her greatest strength.

Michelle LoweFor me personally the plot was a little bit all over the place. Whilst being fun and really quite complex with a lot of twists and turns to keep me guessing, we did end up travelling great distances across the country from one place to another without any major inconveniences. Everyone seemed to know straight away where their targets were (this is discounting Mother of Craft’s supernatural hints to Tarquin) and were able to find each other just a little too easily despite being miles apart. There were also a couple of points that threw me out of the story completely, such as the baffling Prologue (we never hear from Jack Pack and Thooranu again) and the mysterious Mother Of Craft, although her role will most likely play out in later books. World-building was also regrettably thin on the ground, the Steampunk elements in particular being quite downplayed; the Apache airship was the only real tell that I was able to pick up on and I think Michelle can definitely afford to up the ante in later books.

Overall I really enjoyed Legacy and feel it sets up the series very well. I really loved all the characters and thought Michelle’s writing was tight and nicely paced, completely devoid of purple prose and overly long sentences that notoriously bog down the fantasy genre. I recommend it for anyone looking for well-written, fast and rollicking adventure. I am really looking forward to Book 2, and I hope to actually buy a copy this time!

Verdict: 3/5

S.E. Berrow


For more information on Michelle Lowe and the world of Legacy, please visit the below links:

http://www.michellelowe.net/
http://www.nordlandpublishing.com/titles/legacy/

Michelle also has a really lovely little .PDF where you can meet all of her characters! Totally stealing this idea for my own website at some point. Watch this space…

 

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Book Review

CinderThis one had been on my ‘to read’ list for a while, largely due to its futuristic concept of a cyborg Cinderella. Instead of the dainty little ash girl we are so familiar with, the Cinderella of this story (Linh Cinder) is a strong-minded and intelligent mechanic. She is also the ward of a jealous and neglectful stepmother who, along with her daughters, is dependent on Cinder to make cash. Cinder also happens to be a cyborg – a human with mechanically enhanced limbs and brain interface – and is thus seen as a second-class citizen by most inhabitants of New Beijing.

When delving into faerietale retellings, I expect to read something completely different and unique whilst still maintaining a sense of the familiarity and spirit of the original. In this sense, Cinder succeeds. Unfortunately, a few of the ideas are not developed enough. Why, for example, are cyborgs seen as second-class citizens when they’re effectively just humans who have been injured and patched up by science? This is never explained. How have the Lunars come to be so powerful and why do they want to go to war with Earth? Also, despite being set in China (where the earliest known version of the tale originates), there is very little evidence of Chinese culture and customs here; it all seems very westernised, in a manner that doesn’t seem realistic despite being set a significant way into the future. The plot is also incredibly predictable, to the point that you can guess the ending within about ten pages (and I’m not talking about the traditional storyline here).

Nevertheless I’m really intrigued by the concept and considering that this is very obviously part of a series (entitled The Lunar Chronicles), the world and ideas contained herein may yet be developed further in future books. I fully intend to read the follow-up, Scarlet, when I eventually manage to get my hands on it.

Verdict: 2/5

S.E. Berrow


For more information on Marissa Meyer, Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles please check out the author’s website:

http://www.marissameyer.com/

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb: Book Review

Fool's QuestFool’s Quest is the second book in Robin Hobb’s latest epic fantasy trilogy, Fitz and the Fool. It is the eighth book told from the perspective of protagonist FitzChivalry Farseer, and the fifteenth book in the Realm of the Elderlings series as a whole (excluding the novellas and short stories). For those of you who are unfamiliar with the work of Robin Hobb, I highly recommend that before you read another word of this review, you go away and read all preceding books in the Realm of the Elderlings series, including The Liveship Traders and The Rain Wild Chronicles (though please do not be put off by The Rain Wild Chronicles‘ far inferior quality). Each book is of a rather mighty and intimidating size, but I can assure you that you will become so engrossed in Hobb’s exquisite characters and beautifully engaging writing that you will soon be finished in no time! You can thank me later.

Fitz has been reunited with the Fool at last, albeit under devastatingly violent and harrowing circumstances. Whilst a blissfully oblivious Fitz attempts to heal his friend within the confines of Buckkeep Castle and dissuade him from his quest for vengeance, his daughter Bee has been abducted by the mysterious Servants and their hired Chalcedean mercenaries, who believe her to be the long-awaited ‘Unexpected Son’ of the Fool’s prophecies. With Withywoods in disarray and a drastic political upheaval at Buckkeep Castle that will likely have every long-term Robin Hobb reader punching the air for joy, Fitz has much to contend with if he wishes to get Bee back. It may also mean that he will be forced to take up the Fool’s quest for vengeance after all…

The title is somewhat misleading, as said quest does not actually begin until the Third Act of the narrative. Similarly, the plot (like many of Robin Hobb’s previous works) is a slow-burner, the focus firmly upon the characters’ fears, loves and motivations. Despite huge chunks of seemingly nothing happening (Fitz continues to agonise endlessly over his decisions), these passages are rarely ever boring to read, and do not feel unnecessary. This is testimony to Hobb’s excellent grasp of wordsmithery. Her writing is as sprawlingly beautiful as ever, with the power to illicit incredible amounts of feeling and emotion in her readers with the simplest but most devastating of sentences. As a veteran reader, it is simply breathtaking when you take a step back and realise exactly how much has changed and developed since Assassin’s Apprentice, when Fitz was still Nameless the Dog Boy, the Skill badly practised, the Wit utterly forbidden and dragons nowhere to be found.

Despite this, things do sag in the middle when the reader is forced with Fitz to wait an age before any action can be taken to rescue Bee. Whilst this frustration is echoed within Fitz himself and encourages the reader to empathise with his position, it makes for some pretty exhausting reading. Real effort must be made to continue wading through the sheer hopelessness of the situation, particularly when combined with the dramatic irony that the reader knows precisely the danger that Bee is in. Whilst some might argue that this as a writing strength, personally it just got on my nerves, especially with so little pay-off in terms of story/quest progression. Those of you who have read my 1/5 star review of Blood Of Dragons on Goodreads (click here) will perhaps have some idea of my disappointment when things come to a head in the city of Kelsingra of all places.

On the subject of Bee (whose point-of-view chapters were such a pleasant surprise in Fool’s Assassin) her appearances are far fewer here. She has perhaps maybe five point-of-view chapters in total, and all of them are much, much shorter than a standard Fitz chapter. Given how much I loved Bee’s narrative voice in Fool’s Assassin, this did not bother me anywhere near as much as I thought it would; it was lovely to spend so much time in Fitz’s head again. Unbelievably stupid and hellishly frustrating he may be, one cannot help but love him as a character; we as readers have been through so much with him already.

All in all, this is a typical middle-of-the-trilogy Robin Hobb book, which is to say that it is not her best, but still excellent. The groundwork has been laid, the catalyst has been set in motion, the emotional fallout from the first book’s events have been dealt with, and there is a promise of great and exciting things to come in the conclusion – Assassin’s Fate – due out later this year. I simply cannot wait!

Verdict: 3/5

S.E. Berrow


 

Disclaimer: For some reason, I found this review really, really difficult to write, so apologies that it is so long-coming and not up to my usual standard.

For more information on Robin Hobb and the Realm of the Elderlings, please visit her official website:

http://www.robinhobb.com/