3.5 star, YA

Review: Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Series: Heart of Iron #1

heart of iron -ashley postonSeventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?


3.5 Drink Me Potions


May the stars keep you steady. And the iron keep your safe.

Science fiction at its best, Heart of Iron has notes of action, romance and intrigue in this Anastasia retelling!

Ana and her crew of misfits aboard the ship Dossier were a wonderful found family that reminded me a lot of Melissa Lander’s Starflight series. From the spunky Ana with a heart for non-humanoid individuals to her Metal boy, D09, and ambitious pilot Jax with some secrets of his own, I thought this was a unique (enough) cast of characters. The format of the novel was easy to get through as it alternates between most of the main characters’ POVs, although the downside is having rather short chapters at times before it’s onto the next person.

Although I would categorize this book in science fiction, there’re elements of fantasy embedded. Set in what is known as the Iron Kingdom where 3 different planets have aligned together, they worship a Goddess who’s been said to have vanquished a Great Darkness a thousand years ago. And as the 1000th year approaches, they’re awaiting a new Saviour to come and do it once again – which you can probably guess, sounds rather familiar with other fantasy tropes.

In some other places, it felt particularly reminiscent of Star Wars. For example, the interactions and characteristics of D09 and E0S reminded me of C3P0 and R2D2, respectively. I absolutely loved it as these non-humanoid characters were given such distinctive personalities (or close enough, in the case of a non-speaking, bleeping-only bot). Sometimes I felt like I looked more forward to their POVs as their human counterparts weren’t always as exciting.

Action abounded and their mysterious quest to unearth what happened to their kingdom’s royal family years ago was definitely intriguing. I think the middle just lacked good pacing in places, and certain plot points were predictable, especially if you know and love the original story of Anastasia. I did admire Ashley Poston’s ability to weave this story as both something unique and completely hers while keeping to some things found in Anastasia, which can be hard to do it justice.

I wasn’t expecting the love interest to be Di (D09) at first, thinking Robb, the Ironblood Ana runs across on her journey to unearthing the secrets of a lost ship, would fit the bill more. But there’s the diversity in relationships as Jax and Robb have something cute going on. Di and Ana’s relationship was a little bit harder to swallow at first (he is a Metal, after all), but it grew on me and I’m totally rooting for them.

She didn’t know who she would be without him, and she never wanted to know. Her heart beat, and his wires hummed, and they were Ana and Di – and there were no words for that.

All in all, it’s still a fun and enjoyable read and I look forward to seeing what comes next from this series – especially from that ending!

If you’re fans of Melissa Landers and Amie Kaufman/Meghan Spooner’s books, I would definitely recommend this for you.

Overall Recommendation:
Heart of Iron takes the great things of both fantasy and science fiction and weaves together a story about found families, your fate and the lengths we go to save the ones we love. As story retellings go, I thought it was a unique spin on Anastasia while keeping to some original material that added to the overall space setting and plot. Fans of YA science fiction should not be disappointed! I can’t wait to see what’s in store next!

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3.5 star, YA

Review: A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole

Series: A Conspiracy of Stars #1

a conspiracy of stars -olivia a coleOctavia has only ever had one goal: to follow in the footsteps of her parents and become a prestigious whitecoat, one of the scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. The secrets of the jungle’s exotic plants and animals are protected fiercely in the labs by the Council of N’Terra, so when the rules suddenly change, allowing students inside, Octavia should be overjoyed.

But something isn’t right. The newly elected leader of the Council has some extremist views about the way he believes N’Terra should be run, and he’s influencing others to follow him. When Octavia witnesses one of the Faloii—the indigenous people of Faloiv—attacked in front of her in the dark of night, she knows the Council is hiding something. They are living in separate worlds on a shared planet, and their fragile peace may soon turn into an all-out war.

With the help of Rondo, a quiet boy in class with a skill for hacking, and her inquisitive best friend, Alma, Octavia is set on a collision course to discover the secrets behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


**A Conspiracy of Stars comes out January 2, 2018**

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

I always love a good book that ties in a bit of science into it, and A Conspiracy of Stars definitely adds this wonderful layer into it well.

In some far off planet where humans escaped after the demise of this Earth, they’ve learned to survive among the new life forms found here. Whether it be fauna or flora, the surviving humans on that fateful spaceship learned to categorize and utilize the animal and plants’ abilities to live and even thrive in such environments. I thoroughly enjoyed the curiosity and learning aspect of this book through the eyes of our protagonist, Octavia.

I will admit, it can get a little slow and dry, even for someone who can appreciate the bits of science here. And what normally keeps me going is a good romantic element to the story, but it lacked somewhat in this area as well. Octavia is very much focused on being a scientist (or a white coat as they call it), but she does develop some sort of new attraction to her classmate Rondo as they get a bit closer.

The suspense of what’s happening in the labs the students are now accessing as part of their studies does build up if you can hold on long enough. And there’s of course a wonderful mystery surrounding the nature of Octavia’s strange symptoms whenever she interacts with any species on this planet directly. It wasn’t all too unpredictable but how it all tied together was definitely interesting.

At the end of the day, this book made for a fun read that could be quickly gobbled up no matter if you’re uninterested in the technical details of taxonomy and species in general. A little bit of romance and a huge dollop of suspense goes a long way into creating a fun story formula, and I felt this story has enough of it to be enjoyable.

Overall Recommendation:
A Conspiracy of Stars is a mystery at the heart of it. From Octavia’s strange symptoms to the going-ons in the middle of the night at the labs she’s been wanting to work at, there is definitely something weird going on in this faraway planet the humans have settled on. While I normally enjoy a decent amount of romance in any book, the bits of romance and attraction between Octavia and Rondo was satisfying enough without detracting any bit from the suspense that’s building in the central plotline. I think overall this is an interesting book and I look forward to seeing more from this series and author.

YA

Review: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Series: Starbound #2

this shattered world -amie kaufman & meagan spoonerThe second installment in the epic Starbound trilogy introduces a new pair of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a bloody war.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


This Shattered World continues the epic story weaving of an intergalactic conspiracy with a new strong pair of protagonists. Fairly fast-paced and steeped in underlying romantic tensions, this book would easily please most non-picky readers.

There were many things that went right for this book, which isn’t surprising due to the huge success and popularity of this series. Maybe it was just my high expectations, but there still was just something missing that prevented it from hitting the highest rating. However, the breakdown of likes and dislikes about this book clearly favour an overall favourable impression.

LIKES:

-Strong protagonists ~
Flynn wasn’t just your ordinary cliched male lead. He may have been thrusted into the rebel side of Avon’s war, but sometimes it seemed that he had more empathy for the other side (aka the military on his planet) than the military did for his family of Avon-born citizens. He was the heart of the pairing, while Jubilee “Lee” Chase was the brain. She was by all means a soldier through and through, but I was delighted in seeing how she became more than simply that over time. Her POV was fun to follow and piecing together the fragments of her past kept things intriguing.

-The thrill of a star-crossed romance ~
I don’t know about you, but making the romance seem so much more difficult is always a fun trope in a story. In the beginning it seemed so hard to imagine how these two could ever fall for each other. I liked how it progressed, not being all “OMG, I’m like SOOO attracted to you after just literally meeting you”, but at the same time, it could’ve developed a little faster with a bit more heat. (SEE BELOW)

-Seamless cameos from previous characters ~
For the kind of series where each book features a new cast of protagonists, it’s always exciting to see old and well-loved characters coming back in the new book. We get more than a little cameo of Tarver from book 1 These Broken Stars and a slight feature from Lilac. I was pleasantly surprised by how much “screen time” they were given, and it was a good amount in my opinion. It was enough to satisfy previous fans of theirs to see how they’re doing after the events of their book, but it didn’t take away from what was going on with Flynn and Lee.

-Good pacing of the plot ~
It lagged here and there but the plot did move along well enough. There was always something happening either on the warfront between the military and the rebels, or the secrets Avon carried that our protagonists were investigating. I don’t think this book suffered any Middle Book Syndrome at all, and definitely added details to the war against LaRoux Industries found out in book 1.

DISLIKES:

-Not enough ramping up of their romance ~
I get that the story had so much more to it than just the developing romance between Lee and Flynn. However, it just sometimes felt like it took a backseat to everything. I wanted to feel excited for them, and occasionally it stirred my heart at their few and far between moments, but overall it just lacked a certain spark. At most there was a lot of romantic tensions underlying their actions – which makes sense given they’re enemies – but I just wasn’t so satisfied with this.

-Maybe not enough info on the main plot of this series ~
As mentioned above, there were certain things that added to the overall knowledge about the conspiracy occurring. I may just be picky but I had hoped for a little more than what happened nearer to the end of the book. Most of the plot really focused on the fight on Avon and less on what was started in book 1. I suppose that means book 3 is gonna have a lot of things to wrap up on (hopefully).

Aside from being picky, This Shattered World could easily please many people as it had a lot going for it. I look forward to book 3, no matter what negatives I had to say about this book.

Overall Recommendation:
Kaufman and Spooner have done it again, creating another interesting book in their futuristic world. While featuring two strong protagonists and a fairly fast plot, a sizzling forbidden romance fell between the cracks a little as the other pieces of the story took precedence. Overall, the book does add to the mysteries discovered in book 1, but clearly they are saving up the juicier bits for the conclusion. It’s worth the read as we hurtle a little further towards what would hopefully be a dynamic end to this series.