Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

The Unbound – Victoria Schwab

“I am Mackenzie Bishop. I am a keeper for the archive and I am the one who goes bump in the night, not the one who slips. I am the girl of steel, and this is all a bad dream.”

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Blurb: “Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she’s struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn’t easy — not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s really safe.”

The sequel to The Archived sees Mackenzie Bishop is experiencing PTSD from the events in the previous book. She starts blacking out for significant periods of time and has to balance the job of being a keeper alongside going to school.

The same time flashes continue in this book, giving the reader further insight into Mackenzie’s relationship with her grandfather which keeps him present and reinforces the ideals he taught the protagonist. Wesley continues to be prominent and provides that outlet for Mackenzie to open herself up to and support her with the growing demands of being a keeper.

As always with Schwab’s books, there’s a big mystery and dangerous things to deal with which keeps the reader on their toes. No matter how many times I feel like I’ve worked out the big reveal, I’m surprised by the end result and that’s the magic that keeps my love for this author’s work alive.

The Unbound doesn’t shy away from the mental strain Mackenzie is going through. Alongside the trauma, she is trying to live a normal life. The pressure and tension build as she is nowhere near a door to the narrows while at school, and given the amount of time she spends there, the names on her list keep growing faster than she can take them out. It feels as if everything is building to the point of explosion and Schwab carries this through expertly.

While this book has many threads that I love about Schwab’s stories but compared to its predecessor, it falls a little flat. I think a lot of this comes from the fact that the world opens up but only follows Mackenzie. With no other perspectives to veer off to, it feels like the space is too big for the story its trying to tell.

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Posted in Charlotte Writes Things, Uncategorized

Charlotte Writes Things | Author Inspirations – V.E.Schwab

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I think you could ask pretty much anyone who their “role model” is and they would have an answer. It could be a family member, a friend, a celebrity. Some may even have one from childhood and a different one now they have more of an adult perspective to grasp onto the world with. I’ve had many. I almost like to hord them as if they are trinkets from different parts of my past. When it comes to writing, the person I look up to the most is V.E.Schwab.

V.E.Schwab is a New York Times Best-selling author. She’s written Adult Fantasy, YA paranormal, graphic novels, children’s ghost stories but her very obvious success isn’t what draws me to her. Like many readers, my adventures with her stories began with A Darker Shade Of Magic and when I listened to her interview on the podcast 88 Cups Of Tea, she talked about how she had been told by those in the publishing industry to be less open about what it’s actually like to be in it. She responded to this by saying that it didn’t feel right to sugarcoat her experiences and act like, just because she got that book deal, her life is all sunshine and flowers.

I adore her honesty. She admits how hard touring is on her mental health and how it adds pressure to looming deadlines even though she very much loves meeting her readers. When it comes to drafting a new book, she talks openly about her struggles and how often she needs to remind herself that it’s all one big process and baby steps still get you closer to the end. She dishes out advice and it always seems to pop up on my Twitter timeline when I’m having the worst day and want to throw my laptop out of the window in the hopes that a passing car on the street runs it over.

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It’s a reminder that even the greats – the authors that have made incredible impacts in the writing world – are just as human as the rest of us. They have to work through the same fears and problems that those of us aspiring authors do every day. V.E.Schwab has spoken about how, even with her raging success, she’s still had rejections for pitch ideas. Other big fantasy authors such as Neil Gaiman have said that their biggest fear is a blank page. No one is immune from this experience and I admire her so much for standing up and saying “hey guys, this is really hard and you know what? It doesn’t get any easier.”

Do you have any writing inspirations?

Do you have any writing mantras you turn to when having a bad day?

Posted in adult fiction, fantasy, review

Vicious – V.E.Schwab

“There are no good men in this game.”

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Blurb:”Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick,an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will.”

Trigger warnings: Death, suicide attempts, talks of suicide, and self-harm.

If you’ve been following me at all, you’re probably aware of how much I adore V.E.Schwab and, therefore, it’s not at all surprising to see yet another review of one of her books popping up on my blog. However, this comes with its own confusing story: somehow among all the excitement of hearing about the various projects Schwab is working on, I got it into my head that Vengeful was the start of a new series. Turns out it’s a sequel and I discovered this on release day. So, I’ve had to do some backtracking.

Vicious has one of the best openings to a book that I’ve ever read. The reader is introduced to Victor Vale, one of the protagonists, as he traipses through a graveyard and begins to dig up a plot. The story then flits around present and the past (ten years ago) building up the picture of Victor and his friendship with Eli Ever in college. Victor was fascinated by the “fight or flight” nature humans have, while Eli had expressed the interest in ExtraOrdinaries; people with powers. The balance in this aspect is perfect. You’re given just enough background scenes to satisfy the burning questions but not enough that you ever have the full picture, and yet you can still feel grounded and understand character motivations. Victor Vale wants revenge on Eli, Eli is killing ExtraOrdinaries and making himself look like a hero.

I ended up loving the side characters more than I planned to. One of Victor’s “strays” (as he calls them) is a girl called Sydney who survived being shot. She has a sub storyline going on with her sister which, in a lot of ways, mirrors the events of Victor and Eli. I found her o fascinating and only wish maybe she’d been fleshed out even more but I appreciate the focus naturally being more on the protagonists of the story.

I was not prepared for how dark Vicious was going to be. It’s violent, dark and gritty, and is basically a tale of two friends-turned-enemies that are trying to one-up each other with dangerous consequences.  It’s the first story where I was actually rooting for no one to win but it had me hooked from start to finish.

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Posted in adult fiction, fantasy, Rereads, review

A Darker Shade Of Magic (Collector’s Edition) – V.E.Schwab

“Kell wore a very peculiar coat. It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.”

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Blurb: “Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…”

A Darker Shade of Magic was a book I didn’t expect to fall utterly in love with. While I adore Fantasy – and frequently scrabble for any read with a trace of magic in it- I am very picky when it comes to enjoyment; if it’s too heavy, I simply don’t get on with it. This book has the perfect balance of detail without completely overwhelming the reader and with the release of a new collector’s edition, I was able to revisit the story in a new and exciting way.

Kell continues to be a truly fascinating character; while he can seem reserved and almost disconnected at times, this is counteracted by the lengths he will go to for the people he cares for. When he accidently smuggles a piece of dark magic to another London, it’s impossible not to feel the rising threat following him throughout the tale. Prince Rhy is just as wild and hilarious as I remember and continues to prove why he is my personal favourite. Delilah Bard, the cut-throat thief, really does end up in quite a messy situation after bumping into the Antari known as Kell.

Without a doubt, the best thing about this book is the world building. The alternate Londons and how they operate are purely genius and leads the reader to ponder if I lived within this universe, which London would be my home?  (Personally I think Grey London would be safer though rather boring) V.E.Schwab gives you just enough crumbs to build up your own view of the world without feeling restrictive; giving room for the reader to piece together some aspects for themselves. While rather obvious to say, with A Darker Shade Of Magic, V.E.Schwab cements herself as one of the greatest fantasy writers on the scene right now.

It is not entirely clear why a collector’s edition of this book has come into existence; as the release of it is still fairly recent, but if it is successful enough, there is the chance that the rest of the books in the series will follow the same redesign. In terms of the visuals, it’s beautiful. Additions include new short stories focusing on side characters, a glossary of terms and an interview between V.E.Schwab and her editor. Admittedly, I didn’t care much for the stories themselves as they felt more like adding a little bit of backstory but the glossary is a stand out and covers things such as the languages used and translations for spells. The most intriguing is the interview which uncovers how A Darker Shade Of Magic was essentially co-written between Schwab and her editor which I found truly fascinating.

If you’re already a fan of the series and unsure as to whether the collector’s edition is worth adding to your collection, trust me, it is worth every bit of ink and paper.

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Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

This Savage Song- V.E.Schwab

“It wasn’t the act of killing that bothered her – monsters and men both did that – and it wasn’t even the chilling serenity on the Sunai’s face. It was the fact that he killed them with a sound. Those men were dead the minute he started playing.”

 

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Blurb: “Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his father – but his curse is to be what humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn families at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive in a city where no one Is safe and monsters are real?”

This is the first in a new duology by V.E.Schwab who gained number one New York Times Bestselling status with this book.

It has been twelve years since violence started manifesting as actual monsters, six years since a truce divided the city of Verity into two and four years since August was found at a crime scene, surrounded by bodies. August lives in the South side of the city where the Flynn family storm out every night to keep the monsters at bay. Through a transfer to Colton Academy he meets Kate Harker who is from the north side of the city, where protection from monsters can be given for a high price. There are three types of monsters: Corsai (the result of non-lethal acts of violence), Malchai (the result of murders) and the Sunai (the result of bombing, shootings or massacres). August is one of those monsters; a sunai.

Anyone who follows me on any kind of social media will know that over the past year I have become a big fan of V.E.Schwab and her work. The concept of this was so interesting because it’s something I’ve never heard of and on top of that it’s a young adult paranormal novel with NO ROMANCE.

However, there were several times when I considered giving up on this book all together. I restarted about four times, convinced I’d missed something, and came to the realisation that there is nowhere near the amount of information dumping that’s needed. Normally I’m so against having lots of knowledge thrown at me so easy on in a book but there’s no map to accompany the story so at times I found it hard to place where the characters were in the city and to top it off, it’s not until 190 pages into the book that you actually learn the difference between the three monsters despite them being referred to constantly throughout the book.

I found the first two chapters really disorientating and they read as a kind of prologue that isn’t related to the story in a way. The transition from those to “verse one” was very jarring. But I persevered and grew to really enjoy the story. The characters were well written and I found myself really caring for August and it was a lot more brutal than I expected it to be.

It kept me intrigued enough to want to find out what happens next however it works well as a stand alone.
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Posted in fantasy, review

A Gathering Of Shadows -V.E.Schwab

 

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Blurb: “Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighbouring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.”

This is the sequel to A Darker Shade Of Magic and I cannot deny how excited I have been for this book. It’s one of my most anticipated reads for the year and when my preorder copy arrived two weeks early, I was practically cartwheeling round my house.

A Gathering Of Shadows continues to follow the magician Kell and the thief Delilah Bard but on their separate paths after the events of the previous book. Delilah returns at the start of this book on a rapidly sinking boat with her hands tied together and Kell is back in Red London.

Delilah manages to get help from a passing ship upon which she kills all of the crew and steals the ship, proving to her real captain Alucard just what she’s capable of. Kell is reeling from the events with the stone and having to process the magical bound between him and Prince Rhy; a bond that means that as long as Kell lives, so does Rhy. What initially feels like a blessing becomes more of a burden as Rhy begins to view himself as cursed and turns to drink copious amounts to fill his empty life.

Word has started to spread of The Essen Tasch, an international competition of magic, is to be held in Red London, and Kell plans to participate in disguise. Unfortunately for him, Delilah Bard has the same idea.

This is such a wonderful, solid, second book. From what I’ve read of series/trilogies so far, it’s only too easy for the sequel to fall short to the debut. That was not the case with this one. Even though Delilah and Kell are on completely separate paths until the last 100-150 pages, each character holds their own so well that it doesn’t feel like you have to skim read several boring chapters to get to the character you care about. They’re so well fleshed out and so well written that you can’t help but engage with every single word in their stories.

V.E.Schwab continues to hint at Black London in a tantalising way that makes you want to track her down and shake her until she answers all of your questions.

It took me a lot longer to read this book than I originally planned because this kind of fantasy takes a while to get back into and I did have to re-read some pages a few times. But that is the fault of me and not the author as I read a children’s picture book before reading this one.

A Gathering of Shadows did not fall short of my expectations and now I can only sit and impatiently wait until the third book is out, or until the next V.E.Schwab book is out this year.
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