3.5 star, YA

Review: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

Series: Seafire #1

seafire -natalie c parker After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, who have lost their families and homes because of Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric’s armed and armored fleet.

But when Caledonia’s best friend and second-in-command barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all . . . or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?


3.5 Drink Me Potions


“Remember, when they call you girl, they’re trying to tell you something. They’re trying to tell you that they’re more than you, that the body you’re in makes you less. But you know, and I know, that you’re exactly what you need to be.”

Seafire is the feminist pirate story type story that I feel is on the rise in YA. With elements reminiscent of Daughter of a Pirate King, this story was more than the trope it may be immediately associated with.

This is also a story about FAMILY. A family that goes beyond blood. A family that lasts.

After a devastating loss of her family from a cruel man who rules the seas in these lands, Caledonia Styx is a captain of her own ship with a crew of 53 girls under her. While we unfortunately don’t get to really know most of the girls in the crew, we do get the chance to love a few of them: Caledonia’s command crew and closest friends/sisters.

The names of people and settings were a bit hard at first. There’s no map (at least, not in the ebook version of it) to preview or a character guide at the beginning of the book, so it took a bit of time to familiarize myself with this world. And with a bit of information dump, it becomes a bit hard to really feel for all the individuals who lived or died. I mean, I barely got to spend time with them, so their loss could hardly be felt, right?

While the worldbuilding is a bit simple compared to some fantasy stories (port cities, open seas, ruling maniac on a boat), the pacing was excellent. With revenge on her heart warring with the safety of her crew, Caledonia made for an entertaining protagonist. On one hand, I absolutely hated how she always doubted herself and in turn, her decisions that affected her crew. But she also made the smartest decisions out of the not-so-good options that she had, led by her heart and her seafaring mind.

The romance wasn’t present much. After all, this isn’t the point of the book. When there’s only 1 male character who is actually present for most of the plot, it’s not hard to guess he’s the potential love interest, if that were to happen. I wouldn’t say it was an unnecessary add-on as I thought it was the perfect little bit, though the romance building was a bit paper-thin. Hopefully it’ll be properly crafted as the series goes on.

But back to the main point as to why I enjoyed Seafire.

In a modern world where females sometimes are still seen as less and the opportunities given are unfairly skewed, it was nice to see strong females who could fight for themselves, heck even save themselves. The crew of women who were like family to Caledonia, who would do anything for each other including hurtle into a battle that may mean their deaths, was an astonishingly warm environment that I didn’t want to leave so quickly from.

“On the back of the sea, who do we trust? Our sisters. When our ship falters, who do we trust? Our sisters. In a storm of Bullets, who do we trust? Our sisters! We fight together! Or not at all!”

I look forward to seeing what develops with this crew led by Caledonia in a world of action, justice and family.

Overall Recommendation:
Seafire brings together fun battles on the sea, brave young women and the heart to do whatever it takes for those we consider family. While this book could’ve easily been just another carbon copy of other YA feminist pirate stories that are already out there, I was captivated by the crew of girls who worked as one unit but also loved one another deeply. Captained by our unique protagonist, Caledonia Styx, a flawed girl who struggled with her own doubts and guilt, this story took it beyond the seas and into the areas of the human heart. Equal parts action and character building, Seafire is a lesser known book that deserves a bit more attention.

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4 star, YA

Review: Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Series: DC Icons #2

batman nightwalker -marie luBefore he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.

In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.


4 Drink Me Potions


Out of the many superheroes out there, I must admit, Batman is by far a character I struggle with. His vigilante-ism and need to do everything on his own because he thinks he can do it better? Yeah, that totally rubs me wrong.

Yet, Batman: Nightwalker showed me a side of young Bruce Wayne – before he was the Dark Knight who embodied certain characteristics I admire less of – that I actually loved.

Marie Lu created a version of Gotham City that yes, still crawled with bad guys and corruption, but seemed redeemable with a couple of hardworking good guys protecting it. Here, young Bruce – oh my goodness, teenager Bruce – seemed almost human. Not your deep voiced, not-scared-of-anything Batman yet.

The Nightwalkers are a mysterious gang that’s threatened the rich of Gotham City. Much like the kinds of people Bruce’s family associated with. It may seem like the story is your simple stop the bad guys at whatever cost campaign, but the intriguing antagonist (OR IS SHE?) Madeleine definitely delivered a whomping punch that left me wanting more and more.

My favourite parts were definitely the conversations between Bruce and Madeleine. The way she read him, while he in turn tried to figure her out in order to stop the madness that’s happening to his city. Oh, and the subtle underlying (romantic) tensions were absolutely delightful!

“We’re not a very smart match, are we? I can’t think of a story where the billionaire and the murderer end up happily ever after.”

I find romance doesn’t have to always be explicit – this isn’t your regular love story either – and this was the perfect amount to include in a story that focused on a step in Bruce’s journey to becoming a strong protector against a corrupt city.

As a side note to those he are actually avid superhero fans (I’m sorry to admit I’m not the hugest one), fun (and younger) versions of familiar Batman universe characters made appearances too. Just to name a few to get your blood boiling, Harvey Dent and James Gordon may be familiar to most of you.

Equal parts hopeful (I never thought I’d say that about anything related to Batman) and thought provoking, Batman: Nightwalker delivered a brilliant story of a boy on the cusp of manhood and heroism that may have changed his life’s path forever. Full of action scenes and witty conversations with intriguing characters, I loved this book more than I could’ve imagined and raced through it in one short sitting. I’m so glad you don’t even have to read all the books in this series in order either! Jump right in to the world of the Dark Knight, before he has fully figured himself out. I dare you.

Overall Recommendation:
As superhero stories go, I generally stay pretty far away from Batman but Batman: Nightwalker surprised me with its intelligently crafted characters – both heroes AND villains – and excellent pacing that drove my heart racing as I flipped through the pages. This shorter novel was the perfect prequel into Bruce Wayne’s life, and perhaps some events that led him down the road of heroism/vigilante-ism. I couldn’t put it down! Whether you’re a DC superhero fan or not, I think this book is worth checking out for anyone familiar with the name Batman.

3 star, YA

Review: Evermore by Sara Holland

Series: Everless #2

evermore -sara hollandThe highly anticipated sequel to New York Times bestseller, Everless!

Jules Ember was raised hearing legends of the ancient magic of the wicked Alchemist and the good Sorceress. But she has just learned the truth: not only are the stories true, but she herself is the Alchemist, and Caro—a woman who single-handedly murdered the Queen and Jules’s first love, Roan, in cold blood—is the Sorceress.

The whole kingdom believes that Jules is responsible for the murders, and a hefty bounty has been placed on her head. And Caro is intent on destroying Jules, who stole her heart twelve lifetimes ago. Jules must delve into the stories that she now recognizes are accounts of her own past. For it is only by piecing together the mysteries of her lives that Jules will be able to save the person who has captured her own heart in this one.


3 Drink Me Potions


**Evermore comes out December 31, 2018**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Evermore was a quick journey back into a world where blood is bound by time and into a centuries old battle between the Alchemist and Sorceress. While I read through this book in almost one sitting, I’m left with some mixed feelings.

Jules Ember, aka the long-lost Alchemist in her 12th life, is on the run for murder. And what a semi-cliffhanger that was, wasn’t it? The queen and Roan are dead but unfortunately, Jules has been framed.

Her only ally and friend? Liam Gerling, brother of Roan and for the longest time, sworn enemy of Jules.

I feel that every single element of Evermore has both made me happy and slightly dissatisfied at the same time. I will try to break it down.

World building
PRO: I still thoroughly enjoy this kingdom of Sempera who thrives on blood irons as currency. As a quick recap, people’s blood can contain time of varying lengths depending on the volume taken, such as hour coins to year coins. Ingesting blood irons allows others to ‘gain’ the time that was bound to that amount of blood. I still find this element unique among the overly congested world of YA fantasy.
CON: Yet, there’s almost nothing largely new about this world found in Evermore. We hardly even get to spend much time at Everless, the setting that much of Everless took place. New lands are mentioned and some new histories into this kingdom come to light, but if you took away the use of blood irons here, it’s like Sempera could be like ANY other place. There’s nothing special at the end of the day.

Age old battle trope
PRO: Jules gets fragments of her previous lives at a time, kind of like a mystery slowly unfolding piece by piece. We have no idea exactly what happened between her and the Sorceress and just how she may end this battle once and for all. It adds to the mysterious air of the book, driving some urgency towards the conclusion of this duology.
CON: But this is ALL it seems Evermore focuses on. Jules: how to kill Caro. Jules: keep on running from Caro. Jules: keep all loved ones at arm’s length because Caro may try to will kill them. Jules: WHO am I as the Alchemist?
After a while, it just got tiring, you know? Maybe I just needed a little something else to focus on sometimes.

Romance
PRO: I never had any huge love for Roan in book 1 so I was desperately excited at the hints of Liam becoming more in book 2. Yes, he’s your stereotypical brooding male who may not always be so great at showing his feelings. Okay. Maybe that suggest he’s emotionally unavailable but somehow, he did almost a 180 change in Evermore so *shrugs*. I’m good with that.
CON: However….
Somehow in between book 1 and 2, I lost the connection I felt for Liam and Jules together. Although Liam was very much present here (yay!), it just took a long time for me to really be happy about it. To really feel their love and connection. Come on, you’re trying to sell me on the fact that Jules’ heart may break if Caro kills Liam. I NEED to feel it to believe that without just being told so. And sadly, it didn’t really work most of the time.

I think this duology overall was a great debut and the ideas were definitely intriguing. It’s hard to deliver a stunning ending to such a good start to a series, so here I am feeling like I’m left holding the bag waiting for something.

That’s not to say the ending wasn’t great. It was a really good couple of last chapters with many answered questions. The middle just needs some working on, in my opinion.

Overall Recommendation:
Evermore had big shoes to fill after its predecessor and it may not have fully reached its potential. While the action amps with the centuries old war between the Alchemist and Sorceress taking front stage again, everything else seemed to have been pushed aside as less important. The romance with Liam was hard to believe sometimes (and oh, I wanted to believe) while the world building felt lacking after what was already learned in book 1. With a heartfelt ending, I do believe Evermore still has something to offer but just may not have met my high expectations.