Tag Archive | strong protagonist

Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Series: Carve the Mark #1

carve the mark -veronica rothIn a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Carve the Mark is one of those books that’s left me with a variety of emotions upon completion. Like a rollercoaster ride, the slow ascend into the unknown drove me crazy, but the quick drop left me breathless trying to catch up with everything that’s happened.

I get that some reviewers think the beginning was ridiculously hard to understand. I will say that Roth isn’t the type of author who wastes time explaining bit by bit of the complex world that she’s created. You just gotta slowly go over what she has said in the context that she put it in and try to piece together an image of the scene. I found knowing beforehand that the world could be confusing, lasting approximately the first 100 pages, really helped me take it slow in the beginning so that it would make better sense as I went along. And frankly, I didn’t find the first 100 pages all that bad with that mindset in place.

I have mixed feelings when it comes to this novel. It’s very different from Roth’s previous works, which hardly anyone cannot know at this point with her works being made into major movies. But I felt it still had the makings of a good read. I will try to dissect my feelings into what was positive and what was…less than positive.

Positives on the novel:

– The world building was absolutely stunning. Even if it can get confusing for some, you can’t argue that she thought a lot about how things worked amongst the different cultures and the different planets in this little solar system. With the main story focusing on the planet Thuvhe, there are 2 groups of people fighting for this land throughout history. Technically this planet as seen by the governing body ruling this solar system to belong to the Thuvhesites (hence the official name of the planet), but Shotet nation wants to gain recognition and get this land too. Each group, and even each culture from the other planets in this galaxy, have different views on spirituality and religion. But at the centre of this world is something called a currentstream, which apparently gives life to everything.

There are also currentgifts that each individual grows into as they age. I kinda think of them as some sort of magical abilities. But it’s through this current that lives in each person that determines how its power is uniquely molded by each wielder. In a way, this concept seems like something I’ve seen before, yet there is something still innately unique about it in my opinion.

– Aside from well-thought world building, which honestly sets the foundation of a whole series, the nature of the protagonists was right. We get to follow both Cyra and Akos’ POVs. Oddly enough, Cyra’s is in first person and Akos’ is always in 3rd. I don’t know why this was the way but it makes me feel closer to Cyra sometimes. Enemies by birth yet their circumstances draw them closer, as their fates have said. Maybe it sounds a bit like a Romeo/Juliet thing, but it’s really not. Cyra isn’t as bad as her preceding reputation makes her out to be. She didn’t ask for her currentgift to be pain, both for herself and for anyone who touches her. And Akos isn’t the pure little hero come to redeem the girl born in a tyrant’s family either. They both required redemption, and had to find their own way of achieving what they each wanted. Neither was necessarily better than the other. Everyone made choices they had to make in the moment and sometimes those that turned out to be mistakes haunted them long afterwards.

Anyway, there’s a lot that can be said about these two. There’s no one else we get to know as well as them. There may be plenty of secondary characters but it’s their hearts that we learn to understand. And before you get all twisted about it, yes, a romance blooms between them over time.

Now, what’d I FEEL exactly about this romance of theirs? Honestly? I felt the minor tidbits of romantic expressions were the right amount. Some people (me included) really love romance to be littered throughout a good fantasy. But sometimes, it shouldn’t be the focus, or even there at all. Roth did a great job with this. It wasn’t instalove. And it wasn’t exactly a slow-burn love either. It was formed through loyalty and a deep friendship. I wouldn’t have necessarily minded if there were even fewer mentions of how they felt for each other as there’s just so many OTHER things to focus on in this first book. Would it be right for Akos and Cyra to have some romantic interlude while they’re running for their lives or soldiers are coming for them? No. I sure hope not.

I believe Roth chose right and Carve the Mark had just the right balance of action and romance so the focus always stayed prioritized on moving forward the very complex plot she had in mind for these characters.

Less than positives:

– With such a strong focus on plot and her world that she created here, sometimes the plot felt long and dragged a little. It didn’t deter me from reading this straight through but sometimes there were more events that were solely meant for world building over furthering the build-up of the plot in this book. While I appreciated learning a bit more about how this world and the other surrounding planets worked, this story definitely was made longer by it. The suspense of what would happen next lulled and occasionally I wanted to just skip ahead to hurry it up.

– There may be many secondary characters, but I don’t always feel very close to them. Most barely spend time with either main character, so we don’t see them too often. It was hard to form any connection with anyone else, and sometimes that’s necessary too.

What’s the overall consensus?

While I enjoyed this ride (as long as it was to finish it), this novel just made me think a lot at the end of the day. It’s not what you would call a light read, and I’m still processing a ton of emotions about it. The world was described well, and I felt like I lived within these pages while I was there, but at the same time, I’m glad for whenever I had a little break from it all. All the scheming, all the mysteries that opened up even more questions at the very end. Care the Mark is one complicated book, but I think it was enjoyable for what it was.

Overall Recommendation:
Carve the Mark is nothing like what you may know of author Veronica Roth. This is both good and bad. With a completely new world that’s sometimes confusing but fully immersive to the readers, we take a journey with both Cyra and Akos as they navigate the politics and the fury between two nations vying over one planet. Dealing with big topics such as fighting your own fate and finding your own redemption, it’s one book that made me think more than anything else. Like an exhilarating rollercoaster ride, it may leave you with a mix of feelings both good and bad as you exit. Overall, I’d say it’s a worthwhile book to give a shot as it has plenty to offer and I do believe the sequel would only bring even more excitement.

Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Series: Daughter of the Pirate King #1

daughter of the pirate king -tricia levensellerThere will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden.

But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Daughter of the Pirate King is lighthearted and refreshing in a genre where there are way too many darker books and not enough pirates! It surely stands out, in a good way.

I was recommended this book after reading another review, and was very excited to get to it. Like a Captain Jack Sparrow book but for the YA audience, huh? Definitely sounds intriguing. And Captain Alosa is as intriguing as they come. She’s no damsel in distress, captaining her own crew of mostly young women amidst a world that has always been more male-dominant. She holds her own and she’s smart as they come. Of course, she knows that as she’s the daughter of the ruthless pirate king of the seas.

This whole story centres on her search for a 1/3 of a treasure map (of course, that’s what pirates love, don’t they?). It takes her on a course where she’s locked up in another pirate lord’s brig, but on purpose! Things get quite exciting when there’s a dashingly handsome first mate on board as well, who happens to be the captain’s younger brother.

The excitement of the seas and the exploits Alosa goes on weren’t as fast-paced as I had originally thought it would’ve been. It lagged a bit in the middle, considering she could only search a little bit at a time during the shadows of night so as not to alert suspicions about her intentions on being on board. But I suppose the intrigue of pirates and Alosa’s narrative voice kept me flipping intently. There’s also a twist, if you can call it that, that occurs later in the book, but if you really paid attention earlier, it’s not so much of a surprise. That particularly tidbit gave the story a little bit of a bigger push with its potential in driving the story, but it would seem that more of the excitement might be left for the sequel.

The romance, however, was fun. Riden and Alosa flirted with each other all the time. Like elementary school kids. If by flirting you meant by making fun of each other, which is the equivalent to throwing sand at the boy you liked in the playground. They kept trying to best each other, but at the heart of it, they seemed to care for one another even if they didn’t want to initially admit it. Beyond the fun of piracy and the excitement that comes with sailing the open seas looking for treasure and a good ol’ fight, this romance completed the trifecta that made the story interesting enough.

I suppose the lower than best rating would come from highly inflated expectations, but Daughter of the Pirate King does deliver on what its synopsis promises. Adventure, action, some romance and a good ol’ treasure (map) hunt.

Overall Recommendation:
Daughter of the Pirate King reminded me of why pirate stories were so popular. Lighthearted but filled with action, Alosa is a strong character to take up arms with as she navigates a man’s world among the pirates. Destined for more, she still finds it in herself to be fair and to overcome the challenges on her mission for a treasure map. Equally unique is the first mate who captures her interest and his interactions with the future pirate queen. With an added twist that may or may not surprise you later, this book is just what the YA genre needed.

Review: The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

Series: The Diabolic #1

the-diabolic-sj-kincaidA Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for. Nothing else.

For Nemesis, that person is Sidonia, heir to the galactic Senate. The two grew up side by side, and there’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the Imperial Court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.

She must become her.

Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced Senators’ children, and Nemesis must find within herself the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have—humanity. With the Empire beginning to fracture and rebellion looming, that could be the one thing that saves her and the Empire itself.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Wildly imaginative and set in a futuristic universe that feels familiar yet still so foreign, The Diabolic would’ve made a bigger impression on me if the first 50% hadn’t dragged in its information dump.

Setting the tone

I was at first very intrigued by how S.J. Kincaid crafted this futuristic world where humanoids were almost human (yet so much cooler and better in some ways!) and this complex religion was revered in honour of the great Cosmos who created this universe. From holographic communications to weird, traditional dances and etiquette, imaginative would definitely be the word to describe the beauty of the world building here.

The protagonist, Nemesis, was also very unique. As a Diabolic, she was one of those humanoids, but crafted for a specific, single-minded purpose: to protect the one she was chemically bonded to when young.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about her in the beginning. You can’t help but feel empathetic at first when you see how she was reared before meeting her master. It wasn’t pleasant, and definitely not humane. But I suppose since she wasn’t thought of as “human”, they don’t require all those excessive human luxuries, now do they?

But she wasn’t always the easiest person to love either. She was crafted to protect her master, Sidonia Impyrean, so that meant she had to be strong and ruthless to do whatever it took to ensure Sidonia’s safety and happiness.

And those Diabolics took their masters’ safety VERY seriously. Even the slightest offense or action or reckless behaviour could have Nemesis honestly considering whether to just kill this person or not. Her less-than-human thought process wasn’t always so easy to connect with her.

While this initially had me excited about the book, the novelty eventually wore off as the story slowly dragged. Things from the synopsis we knew was going to happen took forever to get there, and once Nemesis was hiding out at the Emperor’s place pretending to be Sidonia, it still took AGES to get the ball going. Like, what was the main arc of this book? Where was the excitement going to start happening? I don’t want to just read about Nemesis’ struggles in fitting in and just more fun facts about what these royals and spoiled teens do (although some of the activities they do seem rather fun–ahem, interesting chemical enhancement tech anyone?).

It wasn’t until like at the 50% mark that it truly started picking up my interest. And I’m surprised I made it there as there were times where I contemplated just not continuing.

What was with that sloooowww burn romance that popped up?

I always had a feeling that the infamous, mad (as in crazy) nephew to the Emperor who was next in line for the throne would be the potential love interest for Nemesis. He had more sides to him than you would think, although our first introduction to him in the book may not have immediately suggested that. But there would always be inklings of suspicion as why else would the author introduce us to him then?

Tyrus’ eventual relationship with Nemesis, especially after finding out who she was, was beautiful. I have no words. It had my heart pounding cheering them on even when they weren’t sure if they could truly trust the other. They were both so used to having to rely on themselves, but for different reasons. They were lonely and vulnerable people, yet they couldn’t show that to the outside world. They had to be emotionless. But with each other? They could afford to just BE. How beautiful is that?

I loved that it was realistic and it wasn’t instant. It took time for the both of them to get to the point where a healthy relationship would even be possible. And in the midst of this budding romance, the action wasn’t forgotten. HERE’S where the main arc of this story started popping up. Time to overthrow the evil emperor!

So for the next 50% of The Diabolic, my heart was racing and I was on the edge of my seat to hurriedly finish this darn book already! If only this thought had hit me like, 25% earlier! Could’ve saved me some time and stress over not loving a book.

If anything could save this book, I do think Tyrus’s relationship with Nemesis would. It definitely boosted my rating by A LOT.

Surprises and what not

I didn’t think this book had it to surprise me in any way. The romance was predictable (albeit written in a very delicious manner), and the main arc wasn’t a huge surprise either once the heat started packing to get it done.

However, a couple of things did manage to raise my eyebrows in a huh, I didn’t see that coming moment.

One would be Sidonia Impyrean. I didn’t dislike her, but I didn’t love her either. She didn’t seem to have too much of a backbone, unlike Nemesis. Clearly I could tell that she cared for Nemesis just as much, viewing her as if she was part of her family although a made “creature” such as Nemesis wasn’t really considered anything to love, let alone respect. She surprised in ways that I can’t really say without giving away spoilers. But I will admit that in hindsight, she wasn’t as one-dimensional as I initially pegged her.

The other would be the absolute cleverness in which the plot weaved itself towards the end. You have certain expectations of what’s gonna happen, but the HOW is still up in the air. Well, Kincaid really had a lot of fun with this how. And I will say that Tyrus is one mad genius! Wish I had a guy like him who thought 10 steps ahead as my friend.

But the most surprising was how much I ended up liking Nemesis. She wasn’t the cold-hearted creature I thought she was. Just because others thought she couldn’t feel (and in turn made her believe it too) didn’t mean that she was emotionless. She may have been created, but she still felt. As she navigated learning what it meant to live for herself for once, I think it explored many central themes, but especially towards a path of self-enlightening.

If these things couldn’t get your heart racing and excited nearer to the end, then maybe it’s just that sci-fi isn’t for you. Otherwise, hold onto your seats. You can get through the first half for a story that does deliver in the end! (Though I’m not sure how it’ll continue with book 2 and 3 when it ended at such a nice place here….but I’m not complaining!).

Overall Recommendation:
The Diabolic was smart and imaginative as it created a futuristic universe that was both familiar yet still so different. I enjoyed learning more about how the system ran here, who was in charge and the unique humanoids that were created for certain purposes. Enter our protagonist, Nemesis. She wasn’t easy to love at first, but she grows on you as you follow her adventures. You’ll cry (or its likeness as she can’t technically cry) with her, rage with her and fall in love with her. Kincaid’s story started off on the wrong foot, but I would think sci-fi fans would enjoy this addition to the genre.