Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Posted by Simcha 9:26 PM, under | 5 comments

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her. 

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

The Assassin's Curse has all the makings of a really fantastic fantasy adventure. There are pirates and assassins, a spunky heroine, a tortured but handsome young man, a curse and a bit of romance. All the pieces were there but unfortunately they didn't come together in the right way and so the story ended up falling flat.

My main problem with The Assassin's Curse is that the characters don't behave like they should, or at least, as I would expect them to based on their roles in the story. 

Ananna has been raised as a pirate and has lived her life among ruthless, law-breaking murderers and thieves and yet when she gets attacked by an assassin she responds by saving his life because “it seemed like the right thing to do.” When she discovers that her actions have triggered a curse that binds the assassin to her Ananna responds with concern for the man who had been hired to kill her, and sets out to help him break the curse. This did not make sense to me at all. I didn't understand why Ananna was so solicitous of Naji's health and well-being and why she so easily gave herself into his care. I was also irritated by her constant apologies to him each time he showed signs of irritation. While I didn't need Ananna  to behave like a hardened criminal I think she comes across as too sensitive to be believable. We aren't given any reason to think she's different than a typical pirate kid and I would have expected her to behave a bit more like one.

Then there was Naji, a member of a fearsome group of deadly assassins. It's said that when one of them has been hired to kill you, you are as good as dead. And yet, this supposedly terrifying assassin spends most of the book weak and incapacitated- which didn't impress me very much. While I like my stories to have strong female characters I also like to read about strong male characters, heroes who are able to save the day if needed, even if the female doesn't actually need them. So I was pretty disappointed by Naji who has his legs kicked out from under him pretty early on in the story. And there really wasn't much else about him that won me over. Naji keeps to himself for the most part and his expressions are limited to the quirking of his eyebrow and the occasional suggestion of a smile. I really didn't see what there was about him that attracted Ananna.

In addition to my issues with the characters I also felt that the story really should have provided more  explanations on several crucial points. For example, why exactly was Ananna being forced to marry a guy from another pirate clan and why was Ananna's refusal taken so badly that an expensive assassin was hired to kill her? It seemed like a rather excessive reaction to me, unless there was some secret pirate code involved that we weren't told about.

There was also very little explanation given about the curse itself. Sometimes we are told that Naji gets a headache when Ananna leaves his side, other times he is in severe pain. Or Naji feels pain when he perceives that Ananna is danger. But it was all kind of murky and I was surprised that Naji and Ananna don't make any effort to find out more about how the curse operates.

The story still might have been saved if I felt like it was actually going somewhere but after the initial excitement the momentum fades and the story kind of just seemed to be going in circles, especially towards the end. The end was a particular bummer because nothing really happens and the story just fades out. I would have even preferred a cliff-hanger to the uneventful ending that we do get.

But I feel that I should mention that even though The Assassin's Curse was not to my taste there are apparently a lot of reviewers on Goodreads who really loved it. I was interested to note that one of them  compares it to Brightly Woven, which was a comparison I had  frequently made myself while reading the book. I thought the writing style and characters of the two books were very similar. But I wasn't impressed with that book either (the other reviewer was). So there you go. If you liked Brightly Woven you'll probably like The Assassin's Curse as well. Or, if you are like me, you won't particularly like either one that much.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New Scifi & Fantasy releases: August 11- 17

Posted by Simcha 8:01 PM, under | 6 comments

Science Fiction 

Iron Winter
Stephen Baxter
Publisher: Gollancz
Release Date: August 16

It is 1315. And darkness is falling . . .

Many generations ago the Wall was first built to hold back the sea. Northland, a country of fertile plains and ancient forests rescued from the ocean, has become a thriving civilisation based on trade, technology and tradition, centred on the ancient home of the first builders, Etxelur. The whole of Europe, spanned by the Northlanders' steam caravan lines, has been changed in ways that could never have been predicted.

But nothing can last forever, not even the Wall. The weather is changing, growing colder, and in the wake of the long winters come famine, destruction and terror. And as whole nations are forced out of their lands and head for warmer climes, it seems that even Northland may not be able to endure.

But there is one man, an elderly scholar, who believes he can calculate why the world is cooling, and perhaps even salvage some scraps of the great civilisation of Etxelur. As he embarks on his grand quest across the world, as nations struggle for survival and the fires of war burn in the gloom, only one thing is certain.

The Ice is coming.


Nick Mamatas
Publisher: ChiZine Publications
Release Date: August 14

David Holbrook is a scrawny kid, the victim of bullies, and the neglected son of insane parents. David Holbrook is the Kallis Episkipos, a vicious murderer turned imprisoned leader of a death cult dedicated to Eris, the Hellenic goddess of discord. David Holbrook never killed anyone, and lives a lonely and luckless existence with his aging mother in a tumbledown New Jersey town. Caught between finger and trigger, David is given three chances to decide his fate as he is compelled to live and relive all his potential existences, guided only by the dark wisdom found in a bottle of cough syrup. From the author of the instant cult classic Move Under Ground comes a fantasy of blood, lust, destiny, school shootings, and the chance to change your future.

The Traitor Queen
Trudi Canavan
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: August 14

Discover the magic of Trudi Canavan with her brand new novel in the Traitor Spy trilogy...

Events are building to a climax in Sachaka as Lorkin returns from his exile with the Traitor rebels. The Traitor Queen has given Lorkin the huge task of brokering an alliance between his people and the Traitors. Lorkin has also had to become a feared black magician in order to harness the power of an entirely new kind of gemstone magic. This knowledge could transform the Guild of Magicians - or make Lorkin an outcast forever.

The Traitor Spy trilogy, which began with The Ambassador's Mission and The Rogue, is the new series set in the world of the international bestselling Black Magician trilogy.

The Black Mausoleum (The Memory of Flame, Bk 4)
Stephen Deas
Publisher: Gollancz
Release Date: August 16

Two years have passed since the events of the Order of the Scales. Across the realms, dragons are still hatching. Hatching, and hatching free. Skorl is an Ember, a soldier trained from birth to fight dragons. He is a living weapon, one-shot only, saturated with enough dragon-poison to bring down a monster all on his own. Misanthrope, violent and a drunk, to fulfil his purpose and slay a dragon, means to be eaten. Now Skorl has a choice: he can hang for his crimes, or he can go with the last of the Adamantine Men, fighting against an enemy he was born to face.

Rat is an Outsider. He's on the run and he's stumbled onto something that's going to make him rich beyond all his dreams. It's just a shame that the end of the world has started without him. Kataros is an alchemist, one of the order responsible for keeping the dragons in check. One of the order that has just failed, and disastrously so. Two men, one woman. One chance to save the world from a storm of dragons ...

Urban fantasy

Yesterday’s Hero
Jonathan Wood
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Release Date: August 14 

Another day. Another zombie T-Rex to put down. All part of the routine for Arthur Wallace and MI37—the government department devoted to defending Britain from threats magical, supernatural, extraterrestrial, and generally odd. Except a zombie T-Rex is only the first of the problems about to trample, slavering and roaring, through Arthur's life. Before he can say, “but didn't I save the world yesterday?” a new co-director at MI37 is threatening his job, middle-aged Russian cyborg wizards are threatening his life, and his coworkers are threatening his sanity.

As Arthur struggles to unravel a plot to re-enact the Chernobyl disaster in England's capital, he must not only battle foreign occult science but also struggle to keep the trust of his team. Events spiral out of control, friendships fray, and loyalties are tested to their breaking point.

Young Adult

The Kill Order
James Dashner
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 14

The prequel to the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series.

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.


Forsaken (The Fallen 4)
Thomas E. Sniegoski
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: August 14

The war between Heaven and Hell rages on. The devil has possessed Lucifer’s body and is intent on unleashing unfathomable chaos in the world. But no matter the cost, Aaron and the other Nephilim are determined to protect humanity.

As the casualties mount around them, Aaron and his beloved Vilma’s loyalty and faith will be tested. And in this next installment of the The Fallen series, they’re out to prove that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger...

Michael Vey: Rise of the Elgen
Richard Paul Evans
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: August 14

Michael must save his mother—and protect his powers—in the electric sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling Michael Vey, from Richard Paul Evans.
Michael was born with special electrical powers—and he’s not the only one. His friend Taylor has them too, and so do other kids around the world. With Michael’s friend Ostin, a tecno-genius, they form the Electroclan, an alliance meant to protect them from a powerful group, the growing Order of Elgen, who are out to destroy them. The leader of the Elgen, Dr. Hatch, has kidnapped Michael’s mother, and time is running out.

After narrowly escaping an Elgen trap, Ostin’s discovery of bizarre “rat fires” in South America leads the gang to the jungles of Peru, where the Electroclan meets new, powerful foes and faces their greatest challenge yet as Michael learns the extent of the Elgen’s rise in power—and the truth of their plan to “restructure” the world.


The Unnaturalists
Tiffany Trent
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Release Date: August 14

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.

The Rising
Will Hill
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: August 16

James Bond meets Dracula in this epic saga of one boy and a ton of weapons versus the world's oldest evil--vampires as you've never seen them before!

Sixteen-year-old Jamie Carpenter's life was violently upended when he was brought into Department 19, a classified government agency of vampire hunters that was formed to deal with a little problem . . . known as Dracula.

But being the new recruit at the Department isn't all weapons training and covert missions. Jamie's own mother has been turned into a vampire--and now Jamie will stop at nothing to wreak revenge on her captors. Even if that means facing down Dracula himself.

The Rising is a fast, furious, can't-turn-away thrill ride that will suck readers in just like a video game. This riveting second book in the Department Nineteen series is packed with cutting-edge gadgets, international locales, and daredevil action that tumbles ferociously across the page--perfect for fans of Darren Shan and Anthony Horowitz.


Earth Girl
Janet Edwards
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: August 16 (UK) 

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.

A freak solar storm strikes the atmosphere, and the class is ordered to portal off-world for safety – no problem for a real child of military parents, but fatal for Jarra. The storm is so bad that the crews of the orbiting solar arrays have to escape to planet below: the first landing from space in 600 years. And one is on collision course with their shelter.

Onyx (Lux, Bk 2)
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: August 14 

Being connected to Daemon Black sucks…

Thanks to his alien mojo, Daemon’s determined to prove what he feels for me is more than a product of our bizarro connection. So I’ve sworn him off, even though he’s running more hot than cold these days. But we’ve got bigger problems.

Something worse than the Arum has come to town…

The Department of Defense are here. If they ever find out what Daemon can do and that we're linked, I’m a goner. So is he. And there's this new boy in school who’s got a secret of his own. He knows what’s happened to me and he can help, but to do so, I have to lie to Daemon and stay away from him. Like that's possible. Against all common sense, I'm falling for Daemon. Hard.

But then everything changes…

I’ve seen someone who shouldn’t be alive. And I have to tell Daemon, even though I know he’s never going to stop searching until he gets the truth. What happened to his brother? Who betrayed him? And what does the DOD want from them—from me?

No one is who they seem. And not everyone will survive the lies…

Cyn Balog
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: August 14 
Nick Cross always listens to the voice in his head. Because if he doesn't? Things can go really, really wrong. Like the day he decided to go off script and saved a girl from being run over . . . and let another one drown. Trying to change the future doesn't work.

But this summer at the Jersey Shore, something's about to happen that Nick never could have predicted. He meets a girl named Taryn and finds out about the Book of Touch. Now the path that he thought he was on begins to shift . . . and there's no way to stop things from happening. Or is there?

In a life where there are no surprises, nothing has prepared Nick for what he's about to discover--or the choice he will be forced to make. . . 

Jill Baguchinsky
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: August 16

Winner of the Breakthrough Novel Award Contest--Jill Baguchinsky's quirky, creepy debut

Violet doesn't remember much about her late mother, but she is certain of one thing: she too can see ghosts and communicate with the dead. But when Violet discovers paranormal activity in the girls' locker room, she finds herself ill-equipped for handling the school's ghostly echoes. Through Violet's own investigation and with the help of some unlikely allies, Violet discovers there is a lot she doesn't know about her special skill--and more still that can stand in the way of its power. With sharp wit and determination, Violet sets out to uncover the truth behind her school's haunting, to finish the investigation that led to her mother's sudden death, and to learn why the only ghost she has ever wanted to see is the one that has eluded her forever.


Crackpot Palace
Jeffrey Ford
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: August 14

From the unparalleled imagination of award-winning author Jeffrey Ford come twenty short stories (one, "The Wish Head," written expressly for this collection) that boldly redefine the world. "Crackpot Palace" is a sumptuous feast of the unexpected--an unforgettable journey that will carry readers to amazing places, though at times the locales may seem strangely familiar, almost like home. Whether he's tracking ghostly events on the border of New Jersey's mysterious Pine Barrens or following a well-equipped automaton general into battle, giving a welcome infusion of new blood to the hoary vampire trope or exposing the truth about what "really" went down on Dr. Moreau's Island of Lost Souls, Jeffrey Ford has opened a door into a dark and fantastic realm where dream and memory become one


Book Reviews

Blog Archive

Blog Archive