Seeker (Seeker, #1) by Arwen Elys Dayton

20911450Expected publication: February 10th 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

So first of, if you advertise something as “for readers of A Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games” then you are setting a book up for failure. Nothing can compare to one of the best epic fantasy and the most successful dystopian series there currently are. It’s simply disappointing if Marketing and PR people feel the need to be so unimaginative and unoriginal. I don’t understand why you have to compare a new book at all?

Secondly the book itself is not written well. I had a hard time coming to terms with the story. What exactly is a Seeker? What world are the characters living in? Those are questions that remain mostly unanswered. Apparently, a Seeker seeks the truth and protects, but how and from what? Quin doesn’t know either, her teachers (which are her father and her uncles) are misleading her, the one who knows and could have told her, refrains from doing so because of selfish reasons. And then comes the moment when she takes her oath as a Seeker and is being sent on her first mission. The scene begins, there is a meadow, a house, she is scared, end of scene. Next Quin is horrified and vomiting, she’s covered in blood, skin and brain from her “prey”. Her mission as a Seeker is apparently to assassinate men, women and children, to murder for money. She is nothing more than a mercenary. Since this was set up to be such an earthshattering experience for our main character, I would have liked to know what exactly happened. Because as it is written, I was not horrified. To be honest, when I was reading this scene(s) I was like: wait what? I really thought that I must have skipped some pages. But they were not there. I felt duped. Hinting at something by omission is a stylistic element that works fine in movies but just doesn’t work as well in books.

The world building in general is rather minimalistic. We start of somewhere in Scotland on a private estate surrounded by forest. From the descriptions it could have been everything from Middle Ages to Regency to Futuristic Simple Life folks. We are never told anything about this world or the time. Later Quin is somewhere in Tokyo and learning the art of a ying/yang healer. This Tokyo also is something out of a fairy tale. No real time/history references either. There are mentions of movie stars, flying ships over London, corporations next to magically changing weapons and mystical beings. All this is very confusing and somehow misleading for a reader.

The world lacks depth and detail in mythology and background history. The story features some very crass plot holes and a love triangle. And not even the decently interesting characters could elevate my rating. I simply did not like reading it, I did not finish it and I can not be compelled to read the next book in the series. “Game of Thrones” or “Hunger Games” this is really not.

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Chase the Dark (Steel & Stone #1) by Annette Marie

23200514I really liked this book and recommend it to everyone who likes urban fantasy with dark & dangerous demons and scary “angels”. The world building is not really unique but still interesting. After humanity almost wiped itself out during something akin to World War III, the demons from the Underwold (dark) and Overworld (bright) revealed themselves and destroyed all mass destruction weapons thus saving Earth, their favorite playground. Humans now live in a kind of dystopian future, where consul intermediaries (try to) keep the peace between humans and demons from both worlds. I really liked the backstory; I just wish Annette Marie would have taken the time to describe the world more. It felt slightly as if something was missing. I didn’t get a real feel for the world the characters lived in. This is mainly because the story is too focused on the action and lacks insight delivered in inner reflections by the main character. From another point of view there is no info-dumping. Yeah to that! Instead the information is told in bits and pieces, strewn in almost as an afterthought. Even though the premise is interesting I think the book could have profited from a little bit more reflection or inner monologue.

The action is fast paced and thus the book never gets boring. I’ve read it in two days and I am really looking forward to the next in the series. Piper, a Haemon (a cross between human and daemon) wants to become a Consul just like her father. But then the Sahar, an ancient amulet, is stolen and Piper is suspected of the theft. On the run from both the demon hunters and human prefects she can only rely on the help of two demons: Ash and Lyre to uncover the truth behind the attack on the consulate and the whereabouts of her father and her uncle. Their journey leads them from attack to attack and fight to fight. From her home consulate to a hospital, an underground fighting club, an abandoned manor in the woods and some few stops in between. I was really drawn into the story but would have wished for a little bit less fighting and more character interaction. All the fighting felt a little bit repetitive interrupted only by some surprising and some not so surprising twists and turns. It’s here that you see clearly the inexperience of a debut author but one that I am sure in time and with more writing will get masterful in delivering a gripping and fascinating story.

What I really loved in this story are the characters and the build-up of the romance. Despite the blurb, there really is no love triangle. Thank God. I loved how the author delivered slowly more and more information about the characters. It was like peeling an onion. Everyone has hidden depths and motives. Some are revealed in this book, some secrets remain to come undone in the future. For me this is exactly the reason to give it 4 instead of 3 stars, because every character here has strengths but also weaknesses. Piper is good fighter, headstrong, with her head on her shoulders. But sometimes she acts rashly and impulsively not thinking everything through and it gets her into bad and dangerous situations. In fact it makes her a really bad consul apprentice as in mediation is clearly not her forte. But also it makes her a good fighter and one who will not so easily give up. She is just the right amount of spunky and fragile and she has humor. I liked her character, a lot. And I’m eagerly waiting to read more about her adventures.

In the end it’s a well done coming of age, action oriented urban fantasy with nasty demons, mythological creatures and a spunky heroine. The romance was well developed, leaving room for more in the future. The book reminded me a little bit of the movie Immortal (2004) and the series Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee, although sadly not as dark and freaky. It also reminded me sometimes of The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare with the consulate.

Golden Son (Red Rising Trilogy #2) by Pierce Brown

18966819Expected publication: January 13th 2015 by Del Rey (Random House)

Golden Son is a good follow-up to Red Rising but can’t be measured or compared to the epic-ness of the first installment in the Red Rising Trilogy.

I’ve been waiting eagerly to read about Darrow’s rebellion against a society ruled by Golds and “Golden Son” does not disappoint. Pierce Brown delivers a gripping, intelligent and dark science fiction story that kept me hooked. But it’s just that … a well-done and interesting story with gory fighting scenes and a little bit too much of philosophical dialogue. And as much as I want to give it 5 stars, I just can’t because this book contains only 10% of what made Red Rising so epic.

I was waiting for the goose bumps, for a legendary hero to pick up his sword of vengeance, for glorious moments to make my heart actually skip a beat. I was waiting for epic writing like in Red Rising:

I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war. I watch twelve hundreds of their strongest sons and daughters. (…) I was forged in the bowels of this hard world.
Sharpened by hate.
Strengthened by love.
He is wrong. None of them will survive.

There are few moments like that in Golden Son. One of those, when I actually felt a tear slipping down my cheek, holding my breath, was the moment when they descend on Mars:

The planet grows and grows till it is a swollen colossus that consumes my vision. I do not know who is dead, who is alive. My display is too busy. We hit the atmosphere and sound roars back. Halos of color cocoon my trembling form. To my left and right, the falling soldiers look like raging lightning bugs jerked out of some Carver’s fantasy. I admire the one to my left. The bronze sun is behind him as he falls, silhouetting him, immortalizing him in that singular moment—one I know I shall never forget—so that he looks like a Miltonian angel falling armor, as Lucifer might have shed the fetters of heaven, feathers of flame peeling off, fluttering behind. Then a missile slashes the sky and high-grade explosives christen him mortal once again.

Red Rising was full of images; it was like a mental cinema projector, throwing image after image at you: Rocky, Wolverine, 300, Ben-Hur, Titanic, The 5th Element, Star Wars etc…

But Golden Son conjured so few images in my head. It is instead an endless philosophical debate on political systems and if might makes right or if the end does justify the means. You will see Darrow, a hero in the true sense of making, not the making of his body which we have seen in red Rising but the making of a hero’s soul. In the end, Golden Son is nothing but Darrow’s endless inner monologue about Fear.

“Fear of letting down my friends, of losing my friends. Of telling my friends the truth about what I am. Fear of being unequal to the task before me. Fear caused by doubt—in myself, in my plans for the rebellion. Fear of death. Fear of being lost in the darkness of space beyond the hull. Fear of failing Eo, my people, myself.”

It is a great read about character development but it’s not an epic read. And I missed this most of all.