Masked by Moonlight (By Moonlight #1) by Nancy Gideon

Masked by Moonlight Cover

IN THIS STUNNING FIRST BOOK FROM NANCY GIDEON’S SIZZLING NEW SERIES, A TENACIOUS COP AND HER SHAPE-SHIFTING ENEMY SACRIFICE EVERYTHING FOR FORBIDDEN DESIRE. ALL SHE WANTS IS REVENGE.

New Orleans homicide detective Charlotte Caissie is dedicated to bringing down the crime boss responsible for her father’s murder. Using Jimmy Legere’s mysterious and irresistible right-hand man is a dangerous gamble, and not only due to his reputation as more monster than man. Because her feelings for Max Savoie are complicated.

THEN HE RISKS HIS LIFE TO SAVE HERS. Rescued from the swamps as a child, Max exists silently in Legere’s shadow, heeding only his voice—until Charlotte Caissie awakens his emotions and tests his loyalties. Stepping outside his cautious rules threatens more than just his heart. He could expose his darkest secret.

NOW THEY’RE BOTH IN OVER THEIR HEADS. Testing boundaries they weren’t meant to cross means facing the truth about who and what they are—and what they need from each other. If Max is the murderer she seeks, Charlotte could be his next victim. She can’t afford to trust any man. Good thing Max isn’t one.

My Review of Masked by Moonlight

Masked by Moonlight (Moonlight, #1)Masked by Moonlight by Nancy Gideon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Way more of a romance than an urban fantasy.

Charlotte is a detective in New Orleans. A rubbish one but that’s ok because the murder mystery doesn’t amount to much anyway. Max is the bodyguard of the underworld crime king and he has been in love with Charlotte for years. Cue much angst and drama.

The setting of New Orleans is massively underused. I understand that New Orleans is an unusual city with a distinctive style and atmosphere but this could have been set anywhere. The story outside of Charlotte and Max’s relationship starts with potential but gets lost in all the romance drama.

There isn’t one scene that Charlotte and Max don’t end up together in, talking and flirting. Normally with Urban Fantasy, I get annoyed because the love interests spend so little time together so you’d think I should have liked this. But, I don’t know why, it just got too much, even for me. I think it was done at the expense of building Charlotte’s world and so it all feels very limited.

Max is a sweetheart and my heart breaks for him the way he’s head over heels and just wants to be with Charlotte. For a character that’s supposed to be a hardened killer, he seems like just a big softie. He carries the whole book and I read it really just for him.

Charlotte is independent and fun to read but also she’s kinda mean and closed off. She has her reasons but Max is such a sympathetic character and it’s easy to forget he’s a killer so it makes it hard to like Charlotte when she is so cruel to him.

The writing is average, there are some dodgy bits here and there but it’s not offputting and it’s a fun and easy read. There are 10 books in the series though so hopefully it will improve as it goes on!

I intend to read the next one, all the setup has been done so I’m hoping for a bit of a more in-depth story. If not I’ll be quite happy with just reading another book with a lot of Max in it!

Masked by Moonlight is a fun, quick Urban Fantasy romance read with a likeable and very sweet love interest!

Terrible cover though.

Masked by Moonlight
By Moonlight
Nancy Gideon
Urban Fantasy
May 25th 2010
Kindle
375

Jem and the Holograms Vol. 1: Showtime (Jem and the Holograms #1)

Jem Cover

Meet Jerrica Benton—a girl with a secret. She and her sisters team up with to become… JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS! But what does it mean to be JEM today? Fashion, art, action, and style collide in Jem and the Holograms: Showtime! Collects issues #1-6.

My Review of Jem and the Holograms Vol.1: Showtime


Jem and the Holograms Vol. 1: Showtime
by Kelly Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Jem and the Holograms back in the 80’s. My sister and I had a few of the dolls and Jem’s backstage dressing room – one of my favourite toys!

Its good to see that even though it’s all been brought up to date (massive use of social media and very modern attitudes to life) this is still recognisably Jem. The friendships are front and centre – even more than the original. There is conflict with The Misfits and between Jerrica and Rio but it’s the relations between the women in the two bands that get the most focus.

The art and the colours are absolutely stunning. It’s such a visual treat that I kept flipping back and forwards just to admire it. The fab clothes and hairstyles are still very present, modern but with a very visible 80’s influence. At the risk of sounding shallow, and as much as I love the friendships and the stories, the outfit changes are probably my favourite thing about Jem.

The story in the first volume is about a battle of the bands. How Jerrica becomes Jem is covered very quickly in the first issue. I think that’s my only gripe with this, there’s not much backstory or any information about the characters lives outside of the band. It would be nice to know a bit more about them, so far that’s been sidelined in favour of the more exciting battle of the bands.

If there wasn’t a decent plot behind it all though even the outfits would get boring after a while so I guess it’s still the fun story that kept me interested enough to order the next volume.

Jem is a bright and fun mix of fashion and music and it’s packed full of wonderful female characters. I’m looking forward to reading the next one!

Jem and the Holograms Vol. 1: Showtime
Jem and the Holograms
Kelly Thompson, Ross Campbell, Sophie Campbell
Graphic Novel
March 1st 2015
Paperback
152

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

the alchemy of stone cover

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets — secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona.

However, this doesn’t sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart — literally!

A steampunk novel of romance, political intrigue, and alchemy, The Alchemy of Stone represents a new and intriguing direction by the author of the critically-acclaimed The Secret History of Moscow.

My Review of The Alchemy of Stone

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“She could never quite bring herself to hate him – she teetered on the brink often, never crossing over. She had learned resentment and annoyance while being with him, and cold gloating joy; but there was also contentment and sympathy, and pity and gratitude.”

“This city watches you always,” he murmured. He pulled Mattie closer, his arms wrapping about her waist and his face buried in her skirts. Mattie thought then that it was rather sad that he sought comfort by embracing a machine-the construct that was not built to give it. But she tried, and the trying threatened to rend her heart in half.

The Alchemy of Stone is a beautifully written and haunting tale about a wind-up woman who just wants to be in control of her own life.

Mattie is an automaton created by a mechanic called Loharri. He just wanted a companion to care for him and ease his loneliness but instead, he found that he had created an intelligent, self-aware and independent woman. When Mattie becomes an alchemist Loharri reluctantly allows her to leave to live her own life but he refuses to relinquish control of the key to Mattie’s heart – a literal key the automaton needs to wind herself to life.

In the world around Mattie and Loharri, the Mechanics and the Alchemists are at loggerheads with each other as they compete for control of the city. The mechanics are bringing progress, steam-powered machines and analytical computers, upsetting the balance of power between them and the alchemists and pressing the poor and the farmers into working the mines. Stone gargoyles watch over the city as the tensions escalate into bombings and rebellion.

Through all this Mattie is just trying to keep safe her little part of the world and most importantly get her key from Loharri so she can be free from being dependant on him.

“What do you want?”

“My key” Mattie answered. “All I ever wanted was my key and he has it. You can’t steal it, it is bound to him. But he can give it to you, and he won’t give it to me.”

Iolanda touched Mattie’s hand. “You poor thing,” she whispered. “I had no idea.”

“Do you understand then?”

Iolanda nodded. “Show me a woman who wouldn’t.”

The author has created a beautifully imagined gothic tinged steampunk world. The alchemist’s potions and the mechanic’s creations bring a wonderful mix of old vs new and all the tensions that come along with it. The gargoyles sit watching all the events and their commentary provides an extra layer of understanding for the readers.

I would have liked a bit more depth in the gargoyles and in exploring Mattie’s relationships with the friends that she attempts to make. I feel like these were skimmed over a bit, the story of the gargoyles especially. But what it does explore is the issue of Mattie’s independence – what it means to be a woman in control of her own life and this I think is done very well.

It’s an engaging and deeply moving read and I loved the steampunk world with the gargoyles and the mechanic’s creations and the alchemist’s potions. I already want to re-read it just to experience the beautiful writing again!

The Alchemy of Stone
Ekaterina Sedia
Steampunk
November 10th 2009
Paperback
344

Consider Her Ways and Others by John Wyndham

Consider Her Ways and Others Cover

The six stories in Consider Her Ways and Others, the second collecton of John Wyndham’s short tales, continue his exploration of the science fiction staple – what if?

In the title story we are introduced to a world where all the men have been killed by a virus and women continue to survive in a strict caste system – bottom of the heap are the mothers.

In others we meet the man who accidentally summons a devil and then has to find a way of getting rid of him without losing his immortal soul, as well as the woman who, thanks to an experiment in time, discovers why her lover abandoned her.

‘Wyndham writes strongly and has a gift for bizarre plots’ – Guardian

‘One of the few authors whose compulsive readability is a compliment to the intelligence’ – Spectator 

My Review of Consider Her Ways and Others

Consider Her Ways and OthersConsider Her Ways and Others by John Wyndham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not his best work, Consider Her Ways contains six stories that are all variations on a theme. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing but by the third story, it all starts to feel repetitive.

The first, and also the longest, story starts out ok with a woman walking up in an all-female society and in a body that she does not think is hers. I found it interesting at first but it descended into a long debate on the oppression of women and whether love is real or just something to invented to distract women from rebelling and becoming independent. An interesting idea that I think has some merit but it’s also perpetuating the idea that love and romance are women’s things that men just tolerate for an easy life. And I actually got a bit angry with it when a female historian had this to say:

“I will admit that we have lost some minor conveniences – you will have noticed, I expect, that we are less inventive mechanically, and tend to copy the patterns that we have inherited….Perhaps men could show us how to travel twice as fast, or how to fly to the moon, or how to kill more people more quickly; but it does not seem to us that such kinds of knowledge would be good payment for re-enslaving ourselves.”

Oh, Where Now, is Peggy Macrafferty? missed the mark it was aiming for. I think it was going for a modern feel but that isn’t John Wyndham’s strong point. My least favourite in the book and easily skippable.

Two of the stories I did enjoy were Odd and The Long Spoon. Both are quite short and fast-paced, both a bit offbeat, The Long Spoon especially made me laugh.

Overall I’d say there are some good ideas but he’s not at his best. Probably only for completists.

Consider Her Ways and Others
John Wyndham
Sci-Fi
1956
Paperback
190

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

The Toymakers Cover

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! 

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical.

My Review of The Toymakers

The ToymakersThe Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was not what I was expecting from the blurb. I was thinking it would be a light-hearted and magical Christmas read but it turned out to have a lot more depth to it and be a whole lot darker than I thought.

It starts out as a magical Christmassy story. Cathy is pregnant and running away from her family who want her to give up her baby. She sees an advert in the paper for The Emporium, a toy shop that opens only during winter, and instinctively feels that it’s the answer to all her problems. When she arrives she finds that the shop is full of magic and wonder and finds a place to raise her baby in safety.

The two brothers Kasper and Emil are at war with each other. They have been playing what they call the Long War since they were little, battling against each other with toy soldiers. They are also competing over who can create the best toys, the most magical, the ones that sell the best.

Emil takes the contest very seriously because as the younger brother he has always felt inferior to the confident and gifted Kasper. The toy soldiers he makes are the only way he can live up to the abilities of his father and his brother.

When Cathy arrives at the Emporium Kasper and Emil also fight for her attention, even when the arrival of her baby force the two boys to begin to grow up. The intrusion of the first World War causes a further rift between the brothers.

The author has created some interesting characters but they mostly feel flat and two dimensional. The female characters especially have no personality, we have The Martyr in Cathy who spends her life working for the happiness of the people she loves, and The Harpy in Nina, who berates Emil constantly. Both exist only to cause conflict in the men. Cathy is the supporter who cares for Kasper after the war and Nina pushes Emil to the edge so he has to take desperate measures.

The magical feel of the book starts to fade as the family deal with the effects of war and what’s left behind is quite dark and depressing. Cathy is the main character in the book but she doesn’t have the personality to carry the story or shine a light through the dark places.

A heartbreaking read but it aims higher than it reaches and the characters are too flat to hold interest.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The Toymakers
Robert Dinsdale
Fiction
February 8th 2018
Kindle
320

Blood Binds the Pack (Hob #2) by Alex Wells

Blood Binds the Pack Cover

Join the fight for the people and power of Tanegawa’s world in this thrilling sequel to Hunger Makes the Wolf

War is coming to Hob Ravani’s world. The company that holds it in monopoly, TransRift Inc, has at last found what they’re looking for–the source of the power that enables their Weathermen to rip holes in space and time, allowing the interstellar travel all of human society now takes for granted. And they will mine every last grain of it from Tanegawa’s World no matter the cost.

Since Hob Ravani used her witchy powers to pull a massive train job and destroy TransRift Inc’s control on this part of the planet, the Ghost Wolves aren’t just outlaws, they’re the resistance. Mag’s miner collective grows restless as TransRift pushes them ever harder to strip the world of its strange, blue mineral. Now Shige Rollins has returned with a new charge–Mr Yellow, the most advanced model of Weatherman, infused with the recovered mineral samples and made into something stranger, stronger, and deadlier than before. And Mr Yellow is very, very hungry.

Blood Binds the Pack (Hob #2)Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been excited about reading this since I read the first book, Hunger Makes the Wolf, so it’s safe to say I had very high expectations for it!

Well, I wasn’t disappointed and I think I enjoyed this even more than the first book. It has so many good things about it I almost don’t know where to start my review!

Hob has to be my favourite thing about the book. Her badass attitude and her witchy fire powers make her fun to read. Her ability to admit her own faults (especially her lack of education and emotional intelligence) and know where she is out of her depth and her confidence in leading and speaking out when she knows she is right makes her one of the most compelling female characters I’ve read.

I also love the genuine friendship between Hob and Mags. It’s refreshing to see a female friendship like this in a book and it’s nice that the author has just let it be and not added any strain or mistrust into it. It’s also nice that it’s not all one-sided as seems to be the case in a lot of books, where one character exists just to help and support the other. Mags and Hobs have a mutual respect / support relationship where they help and look out for each other.

Mags brings a serious side to the book, leading the workers fight against a company that thinks it owns them and is risking their lives to mine for the amirite. It balances out Hobs fun and all-out action and makes a story that has real depth and meaning to it.

The writing style is plain and simple and it really suits the style of the wild-west influenced setting. It’s easy to read and easy to visualise and insanely readable, I was excited to get home each evening so I could sit down and start reading.

I think after the awesome buildup the ending let it down a little bit. I felt like a lot happened off page that I wanted to see. I wanted to know more about the world and the amirite and what’s at the centre and it was a bit lacking in answers to that. But like I said I had very high expectations and this is the only fault I can find with the whole thing.

At the risk of sounding like I’m gushing, I properly loved this book! I’m hoping there will be another book in the series to pick up some of the loose ends, and because I’m simply not ready to be done with this world and these characters yet.

Blood Binds the Pack will take you on a high-octane ride across the sands of Tanegawa’s World with Hob’s misfit band of mercenaries. It’s a lot of fun to read and stands out as something a bit different. Recommended to anyone that likes sci-fi based future fun and action.

Blood Binds the Pack
Hob
Alex Wells
Sci-Fi
February 6th 2018
Kindle

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1) by Elly Blake

Frostblood Cover

The frost king will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga, #1)Frostblood by Elly Blake
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“Face them all like a warrior, whether you are one or not.”

Frostblood’s story is as generic as it gets, it doesn’t bring anything new. A young woman’s family is murdered, she finds out she has special powers, she gets recruited by the rebels to overthrow the King. If you’ve read young adult fantasy before, or even if you’ve seen Star Wars, you’ll be able to predict how the story goes.

The characters are bland, none of them manages to step outside their stereotyped role. Ruby is the young woman with the power to summon and control fire. She is hot-tempered, acts without thinking and has the most powerful ability in the country. Special snowflake alert! As normal for a special snowflake, her only flaw is that she acts without thinking and risks her life more than once to save others. Really, that’s not a flaw that just makes her even more perfect. She doesn’t seem to have any personality yet everyone loves her.

Arcus is the mysterious and secretive love interest who starts out disliking Ruby but falls for her when he realises how kind and brave she is. He has less personality than Ruby and I can’t understand why they fall for each other. They must have interactions off page because there is no chemistry at all in their on page interactions.

Then the world doesn’t come alive either. It didn’t feel real, there is no colour or life to it. It’s written from Ruby’s point of view so the whole book is spent in her head and she’s just a badly written drama queen “fatigue pulled at my bones”, “I froze as if I were wrapped in frost”, “I was filled with a terrible pressure of countless sunsets” huh? How does fatigue pull at bones? And sunset pressure? Never heard of that one.

Magic in Frostblood comes from people having the power of ice or fire in their blood. Ruby can make fire and Arcus can make ice. It’s not explained how it works or what the limits are. Ruby can shoot fire from her hands with a thought, and they can both do whatever is convenient them at the time. There’s no logic or order to the magic system so it’s not easy to accept.

I didn’t connect with the characters, the magic is dull and convenient and the writing is bland. I didn’t hate it, but I did get bored by it. It’s young adult fantasy by numbers and it didn’t grab me at all. I don’t think I’ll bother with the rest of the series.

Frostblood
Frostblood Saga
Elly Blake
Young Adult Fantasy
January 10th 2017
Hardback
376

Hunger Makes the Wolf (Hob #1) by Alex Wells

Hunger Makes the Wolf cover

The strange planet known as Tanegawa’s World is owned by TransRifts Inc, the company with the absolute monopoly on interstellar travel. Hob landed there ten years ago, a penniless orphan left behind by a rift ship. She was taken in by Nick Ravani and quickly became a member of his mercenary biker troop, the Ghost Wolves.

Ten years later, she discovers the body of Nick’s brother out in the dunes. Worse, his daughter is missing, taken by shady beings called the Weathermen. But there are greater mysteries to be discovered – both about Hob and the strange planet she calls home.

Hunger Makes the Wolf (Hob #1)Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hunger Makes the Wolf surprised me with how good it was. I think I was expecting a fun, quick space adventure read, but this story is so much more than that.

There is magic (space witches!), a rebellion of mistreated workers against the company that controls the planet, a woman learning to be a leader, and I think there are hints of a possible romance?

The main character, Hob Ravani, is a member of a gang of mercenaries who roam around their desert planet on motorcycles. They do odd jobs for money while trying to stay clear of TransRift, the company that controls the planet and the lives of the miners and the farmers. Hob has magic, a “witchyness” that means she can create fire, but she hasn’t learnt much about it beyond basic tricks like lighting cigarettes. Witchyness is feared on Tanegawa’s World so she has to keep it hidden.

There’s a lot going on, but it’s managed well. It starts out fast-paced, we’re dropped into the middle of the action at the start and things are slowly revealed as the story progresses. Around the middle, the pacing slows down where the rebellion is growing and Hob is learning how to be a leader, but it picks up again as it moves towards the action-packed ending.

There’s plenty of character development, especially for Hob and her foster sister Mags. Hob isn’t perfect, she makes mistakes and gets things wrong but still keeps trying to do the right thing and protect her family at the same time.

I loved the witchy elements, the Bone Collector, a sort of wise and mysterious mage, was one of my favourite characters in it.

The main story thread does have a conclusion, but there are things left open and it reads like there’s going to be a sequel. I’m certainly hoping there will be, there’s a lot more to learn about this world!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Hunger Makes the Wolf
Hob
Alex Wells
Sci-Fi
March 7th 2017
Kindle
326

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Winterglass cover

The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.

At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.

To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.

If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.

WinterglassWinterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the atmosphere and the slow pace. I couldn’t quite picture the world, there weren’t enough details about it but the imagery and descriptive prose created an atmosphere, a feeling, so strong it almost didn’t matter to me. I’m left with lasting impressions of an icy, powerful queen and a beautiful, cold world here you have to be ruthless to survive.

Winterglass meshes sci-fi and fantasy – I’d say it’s sci-fi at the core but it’s based on a retelling of Snow White and the fantasy feel is very strong. It’s so well combined that it wasn’t until afterwards that I found myself wondering what genre it is. It’s definitely original and inventive and brings something new to both genres.

The writing falls just short of (or goes a bit too far over) the beautiful, descriptive style the author seems to be aiming for. Edging just too far into complicated, it made it difficult for me to follow the story. It ends up in ‘why use one word when you can use ten’ territory and drops in so many unusual ‘big’ words that I found myself having to use the Kindle dictionary on nearly every page. I don’t mind looking up words every so often but this was too excessive for me and interrupted my enjoyment of the story.

Near the end, I was struggling to concentrate enough to follow what was happening. I found myself reading other books as a break from the amount of brain power I had to use on this. I’m still not sure what the author was trying to do with the ending and I can’t tell if the story is done or not. It’s open-ended so a sequel is possible but it’s also possible that the author intended the story to be done.

Nuanced, intricate stories where you have to work out for yourself the characters motivations might be your thing, if so I think Winterglass could easily be a four-star book for you. I appreciated the depth but I found it hard to follow and I couldn’t grasp the reasons behind Nuawa’s actions at the end. I also felt the use of so many fancy words came across as the author trying too hard to impress. For these reasons, I’m only giving three stars.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Winterglass
Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Sci-Fi
December 2017
Kindle

Tarnished City (Dark Gifts, #2) by Vic James

tarnished city cover

A corrupted city. A dark dream of power.

Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his mind. But as the Jardines tighten their grip on a turbulent Britain, brother and sister face a fight greater than their own.

New alliances and old feuds will remake the nation, leaving Abi and Luke questioning everything – and everyone – they know. And as Silyen Jardine hungers for the forgotten Skill of the legendary Wonder King, the country’s darkest hour approaches. Freedom and knowledge both come at a cost. So who will pay the price?

My review of Tainted City

Tarnished City (Dark Gifts, #2)Tarnished City by Vic James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Tainted City is a very, very dark sequel to Gilded Cage.

I keep seeing this marked as young adult but with the levels of cruelty, abuse and torture carried out by the magic-wielding Equals I don’t see how it can be. It really should have an 18 certificate!

Luke has been sent to Lord Crovan’s Scottish estate as a condemned, a prisoner, for the crime is he believed to have committed. Lord Crovan is renowned for the experiments he carries out on his prisoner and the sadistic way he treats them. When Luke arrives the level of cruelty he encounters is extreme. Prisoners live in fear, of each other as much of Lord Crovan.

Abi ran away instead of allowing herself to be taken to a slave town. She intends to save her brother from Lord Crovan and allies herself with Luke’s revolutionary friends.

Silyen is gaining power and investigating how skill works. His motives beyond becoming strong in the skill are unknown, he helps Luke sometimes but it seems like it’s only because helping Luke helps himself reach his own goals. He’s one to keep an eye on! I like his viewpoint because he shows more of the magic that is a mystery even to the equals. He wants to know why they were capable of great feats in the past but now they can only use it to simply make life a bit easier.

There is a lot of character growth in this book. Both Abi and Luke have had their eyes opened to the ways of their world and are no longer the naive teenagers from before they started their slave days. Gravan for me is the most interesting character. He started out lazy and uncaring but as he sees how cruel his family is to those without the skill he becomes more and more sickened by it.

Surprises just keep coming from all around, just when you think you know a character they go and show you a different side of themselves. None of them can be seen as all good or all bad.

There are so many different viewpoints though, and so many characters and names being thrown about that I found it hard to keep track of everyone. It’s a fast-paced book but there’s also a lot of talking and a lot of the characters thinking about events and I just couldn’t hold it all in my head.

The politics and the scheming are still overly simplistic. How does Whittam Jardine just take over parliament? It all seems too easy.

I also didn’t like the way it seems to support terrorism, with Abi and her allies burning farms and bombing buildings in London. They do it without question as to whether it’s the morally right thing to do or whether terrorism can ever be justified. I find it irresponsible to not consider this, especially for a young adult book. The Hunger Games covers similar issues but with a lot more attention to the morals.

I like the general idea of the story and I would like to see where it goes but for me, there were just too many people to keep track of, and the terrorism and the endless and sick abuse portrayed throughout made me not enjoy reading this. I found it bleak and a bit depressing and I finished it because I felt that I had to not because I really wanted to.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Tarnished City
Dark Gifts
Vic James
Young Adult Fantasy
September 5th 2017
Kindle
352