2.5 star review

Review – The Hangman’s Daughter by Gavin G. Smith

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Four hundred years in the future, the most dangerous criminals are kept in suspended animation aboard prison ships and “rehabilitated” in a shared virtual reality environment. But Miska Storrow, a thief and hacker with a background in black ops, has stolen one of these ships, the Hangman’s Daughter, and made it her own. Controlled by explosive collars and trained in virtual reality by the electronic ghost of a dead marine sergeant, the thieves, gangsters, murderers, and worse are transformed into Miska’s own private indentured army: the Bastard Legion. Are the mercenaries just for fun and profit, or does Miska have a hidden purpose connected to her covert past?

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

They say a change is as good as a rest, and this sounded interesting and just enough out of my usual milieu to be just what I needed. And I am so sorry to say, mostly it didn’t work for me.

It should have. Strong militaristic heroine with a grudge and a plan? A high degree of moral relativity with a somewhat amoral heroine? Fighting and gratuitous violence? All things that SHOULD have made it my catnip.

Unfortunately the author stalled on a couple of key points. I don’t mind a crazy heroine, in fact I adore them. But this one whiplashed from on target-large and in charge, to crazed manic pixie sex bot who randomly exclaims “Pretty!”. It was pointless. I don’t know what the author was thinking. Was it an attempt to humanize her or make her more feminine? To appeal to a particular fan base? To capture romance readers or sci-fi dude bros? I just don’t get it, and it didn’t appeal. And worse than not appealing, it detracted from the story.

And the story itself was good, or at least it should have been. We have a woman out for revenge. We have battles to fight, plots to plot. All of space is the canvas and the scope is potentially enormous. And the fighting and plotting were good, it is where this author shines. But instead of sticking to that, or putting in hints of sexual attraction, the author beat us over the head with something that was completely irrelevant to the story. It broke into the meat of the story making it a slog to get through, I almost gave up at the 60% mark it drug the story down so much.

As relatively well as the author manages the action parts of the story and came up with a compelling premise, characterization is obviously a struggle yet. It isn’t just the main heroine though. From the start the way the sub characters were thrown at us, the just failed to initially flesh. It was just more noticeable with Miska, which is probably a combination of the fact we spend the entire story in her head…and because I am female.

In any event, there is some good material to work with, and I hope the author gets some help with characterization because I think tightening that up would probably tighten up the story line as well. And I am just masochistic enough that should another book in the series come out, I’ll read it.

The Hangman's Daughter: The Bastard Legion: Book 1
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5 star review, Challenge

#TBRChallenge 2017 -Theirs Not to Reason Why & First Salik War by Jean Johnson

 

Cantankerous and contrary, those are the watch words for this year. The first TBR Challenge of 2017 is short story. Yeah, that ain’t happening. The only thing I have really read, and consequently re-read since the end of December has been Jean Johnson’s space opera series. What we have here EIGHT books, the first five written are one series, and then the second 3 are a second series set in the past explaining the circumstances that lead up to the first series. These books come in at least 3,200 pages depending on which way you count them.

There are two ways to read them. One is to read them in the order they were published, as recommended by the author. The other, the way I did it, is to read them chronologically. There are things you get I am sure from reading them the way the publisher intended, but I am going with chronological.

I suspect though I am going to struggle to articulate precisely what captured my attention and imagination in these books, despite just how deeply I was captivated. I mean seriously, I read them in one great gulp, turned around and immediately started back over, finsished, read one other book, and then started all over again. That puts them in the same camp as Dred Chronicles, Linesman, and Class 5. But oddly, I can not so unreservedly recommend these as I do them. Don’t get me wrong, I DO recommend them, but there are some caveats on this one.

First Salik War describes our world several hundred years into our future. A time when the planet Earth has joined together as one government and essentially one people. We’ve united as one with no differentiation in race, color, creed or religion into one people, a bit pompous and honor bound but essentially well meaning. Psychic abilities have been proven as just another form of energy and can be documented and used in an efficient manner. Which is helpful since it turns out that all those claims of alien abduction were quite true and we have a great an highly technologically advanced enemy in space, the only way which we can counter is through the use of psychics. Meanwhile we are taking our first steps into space outside our own solar system. And the precognitive Psy are ready with a doozy-we are about to meet a whole bunch of aliens, some friendly and some not so much.

Meanwhile in a galaxy far, far away, we meet a people very like our own who have not only their own precognitives, but also a religious icons; The Prophet of a Thousand Years- who foretold this meeting and many other events with directions to save all people as much as possible, and The Immortal-the first Empress of the V’Dan who saved them from a disaster on Earth and brought them to a new planet ruling the under her directions and with directives from the aforementioned Prophet.

So we have Jacaranda MacKenzie, an earth military veteran, politician, and Psy at the head of things for our side. And on the V’Dan side we have Li’Eth, a soldier and Psy for his own people. And when these two meet, sparks fly, worlds collide, and events few could have foreseen (more on that in a bit) unfold.

The V’Dan are not the only aliens out there though. Most of them are friendly and allies, so I am going to give them short shrift in this review because I have a lot to cover, and though they are well done and interesting, I could send a ton of time describing it and not really give most readers anything that tells them whether or not to read these books or not. The one notable exception are the Salik, a creepy frog like carnivore race with a taste for eating sentient species. And that is where most of the conflict comes  from.

There is really only one notable thing that needs to be stated up front about the V’Dan, due to the ecology of their world, The Immortal-to save her chosen people used gene therapy in order to keep them well which resulted in them developing colorful spots. In their culture these spots which come with adulthood are what denotes maturity. This obviously creates a great deal of cultural conflict when they meet the people from their motherworld who have no such marks, and furthermore a people who fought long and hard to NOT judge people based on appearance.

So overall it was very interesting the way Johnson handled first contact. The difficulties in communicating, the cultural SNAFUs, the risks inherent micro-biologically when meeting people from different worlds, all fantastically done. This is where I have my hesitation in recommending. While Johnson includes a variety of POC in her books as a matter of course and the people on Earth and her United Planets tend to treat each other as equals, when it comes to how the respond to the other peoples they meet, even counting in the extreme amount of disrespect they are obviously getting, well there was a slight grating colonialist superiority attitude that on occasion made me uncomfortable with the story in the way that I sometimes get reading historical fiction with a Brit in some foreign clime. It was a very similar pompous attitude of bringing enlightenment to the backwards natives vibe. And it is odd, because I even agreed in this case that the V’Dan were in the wrong, but something really rubbed me wrong in how it was written.

But besides that one thing, the stories themselves were fascinating.The way ALL these different aspects were interwoven, the love story, the intriguing hints to the future (or nods to previous events depending on which way the series have been read), the building conflict and eventual (albeit unstable) resolution made for a very satisfying read. And I genuinely like Jacaranda despite finding her a bit pompous.

In fact this has come the closest to reading as “real” to me when it comes to a first contact, building of relationships, and climax of interspecies alliance of probably any space opera/science fiction I have ever read. Frankly, it was that thing I didn’t even know I was looking for and now don’t know if I could live without.

Which brings me to the first five books, 200 years after the First Salik War:

…What if you could see the future? What if you foresaw that, three hundred years from your time, your entire galaxy would be destroyed in an overwhelming invasion? What would you do to stop it, when it would all happen long after you were dead and gone?

These are the questions that Ia must face, and the obstacles she must overcome. Spurred by her teenaged visions of an apocalyptic future, the young heavyworlder woman seeks to set up a series of events, a domino-chain of actions and repercussions that will hopefully stop the coming invaders long after her time has passed. But in order to do so, she must enter the military and engage in a four-front war: an old, barely contained enemy whose twin goals of galactic conquest and lunch terrify all sane sentients; an ancient foe whose technology vastly outstrips anything the Alliance can fling at it; a fanatic, xenophobic religious movement on her homeworld which Ia dares not stop; and her ongoing battle against Time itself.

If Ia fails, the stars and planets of the Milky Way will cease to exist, and so will the countless lives that depend on them. But the odds of her winning the ultimate battle are very, very small, when even the slightest, most innocent-seeming misstep could domino down through time in the wrong way, and doom untold septillions of sentients to a dark and terrifying fall. Bound by the ice of her duty, burned by the fires of her conscience, driven by what she foresees, Ia must become the herald of death herself:

The soldier known as Bloody Mary.

It is so dramatic and teenagery and sumptuously angsty. A fifteen year old girl comes into a blazingly powerful precognitive gift that shows her the end of the universe, with one slim hope of forestalling disaster. And she throws herself into this with all the strength she can muster and develop. A fifteen year old girl forced to grow up overnight in horror…and then really never able to grow up or develop any further, held in personal stasis to this grand and impossible hope as she races against literally Time itself to set up a future that will progress long after she has died.

And that is where I can see this being difficult for some people to get into, because really Ia doesn’t grow or develop as a character, it is definitely a function of who and what she is at the outset…who and what she HAS to be, but it can be a little disconcerting to spend that much time with a character that really doesn’t change.

Nevertheless, I could have hated her, I honestly didn’t expect to like her because on the surface she is the epitome of the special snowflake YA heroine. But it didn’t take too long until I was firmly on her side and completely rooting for her to win. Johnson did a wonderful job of making the special all powerful snowflake a character that for all her powers had flaws that she recognized and owned up to, making her human and thus a character to care about.

The story itself is this pageantry of warp and weft, a breathtakingly complex tapestry woven into the past and present and a future I literally beg Johnson to write, because Ia is the Prophet of a Thousand Years, the one who set The Immortal into play and everything.

On the face of it, the stories are simple, we follow one character’s life as she tries to save the universe, a story that has been told probably a hundred times. But it is just so fascinatingly complex and mind bogglingly complex that it is far away from simple. And the character, I rooted for her, and I hurt for her, and I WANTED her to get more, but knew as well as she did the consequences. Just…damn. It got to me. With a heartbreaking ending. One I keep going back to even knowing what I will be getting.

The author has made some noises that she will write the Fire Girl Prophecies, which would take us further into the future to see how Ia’s carefully laid plans play out, and honestly I need this the way I needed Alexandra Ripley’s abomination of a Gone With the Wind sequel, because I pine. I don’t expect to get a different ending for Ia though, I just really want to read and see the results of her sacrifices, that they were worth it and they mattered. But even if I never get that, I am glad to have read the ones that are here, they moved me.

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4.5 star review

December TBR Challenge 2016 Sky Raiders by Michelle Diener

TBR Challenge 2016

Topic: Holiday Themes

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If you are reading this, there will be no public shaming this month. But, because I am a Scrooge and tend to despise holiday stories, there will be NO holiday story. Bah-humbug! In fact I have completely gone off the map, this is a very new story, and it wasn’t even on my TBR because I didn’t even know it was coming out until it was released. SO I am reviewing it, because screw you 2016, you suck and I am going to do what I want.

Without further ado, here’s my pick for the final TBR challenge of 2016, Merry Christmas to ME!

First they flew their mysterious sky craft through the skies of Barit. Then they started attacking. Finally, they began to raid.

Garek’s one year of duty as a guard walking the walls of Garamundo was extended to two when the sky raiders appeared. Two long years away from home and his lover, Taya. When he finally returns, the town is empty. While Garek was protecting Garamundo, the sky raiders were taking their victims from his hometown.

Taya can’t bear looking into the night sky. All she can see is Barit, her home planet. Impossibly, the sky raiders have brought her and their other victims to Shadow, the planet that shadows her own, and looking up makes her aware of everything she’s lost. Garek is out there somewhere. She knows he’ll look, but he’ll never find her.

She and the other captives have to find a way to escape. Without the food and clothes the sky raiders bring them from their raids on Barit, they’ll starve on the almost barren wastes of Shadow. And when they’ve given the sky raiders enough of what they want, that’s exactly what the sky raiders will leave them to do.

She does have an idea of how she can break free–the sky raiders have brought them to Shadow to mine for ore. A very special ore which Taya has worked out is as dangerous to the sky raiders as it is valuable.

What she doesn’t realize is she’ll have some help with her plan. Because Garek isn’t giving up. And he’s even more resourceful than she could ever have imagined.

Nothing is going to keep him from Taya. Not even space itself.

I am not sure what I expected when I started this. I mean it was an autobuy because it is Michelle Diener and she hasn’t hit a wrong note with me yet. I didn’t even really read the blurb, I just one clicked when the release day email came. I’ll just start by saying I found myself raising my eyebrows a little once I started. Not what I was expecting after the previous books I’d read would be an understatement.

But here is what we have. On a foreign planet where there is significant civil discord, sky raiders have taken to, well…the raiding of both personnel and resources. We have two young lovers who have been parted first by the civil discord, and next by the raiders. As the story progresses we alternate between Taya, a forthright women who stands up for and to people, and her love-Garekek. They are a good match for one another, and you can see it by how they each respond to the events in their respective story lines, but I’ll admit I found it a little disconcerting for their stories to play out so much apart (almost half), no matter how each thought of the other, but because of their long-standing history, it did work for me.

But on the plus side we got to see a strong female friendship develop between Taya and a woman named Min (she seems like a sharp cookie, and a sweet lady), and that is always a favorite for me. And there was an almost as well-developed male friendship with young aristocrat Aidan. So yeah, the main characters developing relationships outside the one between them is almost always a winning combo for me and these were charming.

This book is the start of a series, so there is quite a bit of info woven into it to set it up for future stories. There are certain powers involved that I won’t disclose because I expect it might be considered spoilerish, and we start to see the clash of cultures and policies that field the civil discord. While there’s action and intrigue to go along with our love story, there is also a ton of politics that sets the stage for future books. Your mileage may vary, but I enjoy politics when it isn’t the near apocalyptic horror we have encroaching on our daily lives like current events, so we’ll just say I found it interesting and enough to hold the threads of future tales together.

As for this particular story, not just how I see the series going, I enjoyed it a lot and will probably re-read it. But, the ending felt a little rushed, and it wasn’t as tied up as I tend to prefer my love stories. But, I am avidly looking forward to future stories in the series and hope to see more of Min, Aidan, and a young man named Dom (a really interesting character but to tell more I would have to spoil things).

Sky Raiders (Sky Raiders, #1)

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4.5 star review

Review – Warrior Wench by Marie Andreas

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Vaslisha Tor Dain is a mercenary starship captain with a few simple rules: A good ship is better than a great man, in case of confusion always err on the side of blowing someone’s head off, and never fall for a telepath or a member of her crew.

All of those are about to bite her in the ass.

Vas’s life takes a turn for the worse when she comes back to her crew after what should have been a two week pleasure trip to find out she’s actually been gone a month and has no memory of missing time. Her beloved ship, The Victorious Dead, has been sold for scrap and its pieces scattered throughout the galaxy. In addition, there are unmarked ships blowing apart entire planets and the Commonwealth government can’t, or won’t, stop them.

And that’s just her first day back.

Vas has to fight her crew, the Commonwealth, and a mysterious cadre of warrior monks to get her ship back and save a universe that may not want to be saved.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Yeah, I don’t pick books that I think I WON’T like, but still, I found this book to be unexpectedly fantastic!

What we have here is a space epic adventure story with the humor and sense of ridiculous of Robert Aspiren’s Phule’s series with some of the epic galactic scope of Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series. And while there is a hint of a romance, it is NOT a romance. And our heroine is a smart mouthed merc with a mysterious back story and unknown capabilities. In many ways Vas remind’s me a bit of Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels. It is nothing like a copy cat, don’t get me wrong, and Vas has way more ties than Kate ever did, but there are just some parallels that caught my attention.

There are a couple of different mysteries swirling around, not all of which get resolved since it is a series, a cast of endearing and likable (if unlikely) heroes, and it is all wrapped up in writing that kept me hooked throughout.

It is fun, it is a romp, and I seriously think this series will be going somewhere in the future and will be avidly looking forward to the next book in the series. This is one book where I wish I could do better justice in my review because I really want to see this author find a market so the series will continue. And in that I am serious, serious enough to have bought it even though I got a free review copy, and anyone who knows me in real life knows what a miserly person I am.

Warrior Wench (The Asarlaí Wars, #1)

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4 star review

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer Lunar Chronicles 3 (audio)

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I just finished up Cress, third installment in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and it was perfect. The series is still being performed by the same voice actress, Rebecca Soler and she does such a fantastic job creating different personalities for each character in the story.  Consistency in audiobooks is something that I appreciate. Having done several other series, by various authors, it makes a huge difference in the quality of the storyline when the narrator is changed in the middle of the series.

I love trends! Keeping up with the fairy tale theme, Cress is Meyer’s version of Rapunzel. Some silimaries include a young women stowed away from childhood in a remote location, with hair longer than imaginable and who is resued by her prince charming. 

So far in this series it seems that with the introduction of a new kick-butt chick, an equally charming and troubled guy is added to the mix. Cinder has Kai, Scarlet has Wolf and now we meet Cress and Thorn. Okay, well Thorn was introduced in Scarlet, but he meets his girl and gets his story told in this book.

By now we have learned that Cinder is likely the long-lost Lunar Princess Selene, but that hasn’t made her quest any easier. If anything, her path is getting progressively more difficult with the addition of new facts and foes. In Scarlet, Cinder escaped from prison, made her way to the Benoit farm, discovered a portion of her past and got in touch with a minor character originally seen in Book 1 (Cinder).

At that time this character wasn’t named, but if we recall, a D-Comm was found by Cinder in Kai’s android assistant, Naincy. Cinder was able to make contact with the person at the other end of the Comm and found a young girl who specialized in computer hacking and programming. This mystery character was able to provide information that was vital to interrupting the nuptials between Kai and Levana, before that nonsense gets as far as we saw back in Scarlet. But as we now know, Cinder wasn’t completely successful in her attempt and had forgotten all about the D-Comm…until now. 

Reaching out with the Comm, Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf and Thorn reconnect with the master hacker and we learn that her name is Cress. Cress is a Lunar shell being held hostage on an orbiting satellite high above Earth. She had been in this confinement for 7 years, under the care of a thaumaturge in service to Queen Levana. The team puts together a plan to free Cress from her prison, and as is their luck, it backfires in more ways than one.

In short, Cress and Thorn get stranded in the African Sahara and find out that there may be more going on in the world than they could have ever imagined. Not to mention that Thorn is battling his own personal dilemma during his trek. Scarlet is feared to be lost forever and Wolf is suffering in her absence. Cinder is still trying to prove her innocence and secure her place with Kai, as a friend or maybe something more. Kai is stuck between doing what is best for his people and his conscience. Each character is progressing nicely and the lines are skillfully woven together to create a very coherent plot. There are several evils that the team is facing, but they all seem to center around Levana. Is her role so great that the entire story hinges on her defeat? I hope that the history of Luna is explored a bit in future installments so that I can start to get a feel for the bigger picture.


Why is there a plague that is affecting Earthens? Why does Luna hold the only cure? Why is Levana such a witch? SO many questions…so few answers.

Now that I am more than half way through the series I can tell where some areas are starting to wind down and wrap up. I can only hope that book four is as good as these three have been, but once a series gets this far along it can be hit or miss.

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4 star review, Miscellaneous

Book Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer Lunar Chronicles 2 (audio)

 

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Here is another multi-faceted installment in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and it is just as entertaining as the first. Similar in structure to Cinder, Scarlet covers the ongoing story-lines of Lihn Cinder, Emperor Kaito, Lunar Queen Levana, and seamlessly introduces Scarlet Benoit, Wolf (Ze’ev) and Thorne to the mix. Each chapter in the novel flips between the primary story-lines showing how they are beginning to intertwine and overlap as the overall plot takes shape.

Scarlet is Meyer’s take on Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, with just enough similarity to make the connection, but not so much as to alter the overall path of the series. Some commonalities include the Wolf (of course), a missing grandmother and the red hooded girl. This tale picks up around the same time Cinder ends, with the newsreels of Cinder’s fall down the stairs at the coronation.  

Scarlet Benoit lives in the rural town of Rieux, France with her grandmother Michelle Benoit, retired military pilot turned farmer. We learn early on that Michelle has been missing for approximately 2 weeks and that local law enforcement has closed the case due to lack of evidence. Scarlet is certain that her grandmother was taken unwillingly, primarily because of their close relationship and the fact that Michelle’s ID chip was left behind. Those chips are only removed when you want to fall off the grid or if you want to ensure that someone isn’t found. Scar won’t rest until her grandmother is found, and she will do everything in her power to succeed.  

Wolf is a little rough around the edges and gives off a predatory vibe that causes most people to take wide leave of him. Wolf starts off as a pretty shady creeper out to harm Scarlet, but he turns into something so much more. Originally, Scarlet met Wolf in passing during her produce deliveries, but she ran into him again at her home. After recovering from the shock of finding a stranger on her farm, Scar and Wolf create a tentative agreement to find Grandmere Michelle Benoit and take down a Lunar organization called LSO. Can she trust a man like Wolf? She knows nothing about him or his past, but she is putting her life in his paws..I mean hands…or do I?

Catching up with the Cinder-Crew worked in well considering that Scarlet isn’t truly a sequel to the first installment, but rather a parallel timeline that slightly overlaps where we left off in book 1. Scarlet isn’t the only who meets a new man, Cinder stumbles across a guy too….while she was breaking out of prison. The discovery of her Lunar heritage and the events surrounding the coronation landed her in jail until Levana could deal with her, as dictated by an older Earthen/Lunar agreement which prevents the harboring of Lunars on earth. With the help of fellow inmate, Carswell Thorne and Dr. Erland, Cinder begins a journey to find answers about her past.

So many things happened book 2 that I couldn’t summarize every aspect without rewriting an entire novel, but one major event was an act of world-war treacherously ordered by Queen Levana in the middle of the night. To take her stand against Cinder, Kai and the perceived injustices of the Commonwealth, the Lunar Queen uses an army of super-soldiers to slaughter thousands of Earthens on each continent. Kai offers to make the ultimate sacrifice to end the world-wide siege, and nearly breaks Cinder’s heart in the process.  

This series is so addicting that I had to ensure that book 3 was downloaded before Scarlet was even over! It’s interesting to see how the original characters interact and grow alongside the newbies. While some things are expected, like people falling in love or disagreeing, other topics are nice surprises. The depth of each character isn’t sacrificed to ensure that each has their story told individually. I think it helps that they are all around the same general age, have experienced hardships and disappointments, and have a desire to see a better Earth free from the Lunar Queen.

 

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4.5 star review, Books By Rating

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer Lunar Chronicles 1(audio)

 

Hello hello! It has been a long time since I’ve had something to write about, but I figured tonight’s the night. I’ve been extremely busy wrapping up my final semester of grad school and time to read an actual book is scarce. I have picked up the habit of listening to audiobooks during my commute and I think I’m hooked. As an avid reader I can’t honestly say that I have read no books, but there hasn’t been anything new or fresh on my reading list. If anybody’s interested in my recent go-to picks, the “Carpathian” series by Christine Feehan is always a good choice and I am never disappointed. There are so many different family lines, story lines, and just a good variety in each book that she writes. Each title that I have read has had enough romance and sensuality in it to make it interesting, but not enough to make it smut.

Now on to the audio books! My current digital bookshelf is full of the “Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyer. It’s a 5 part series (so far) based on several different fairy tales and I’ve just finished up the first in the series. I’m not going to lie, I have already began on the 2nd installment and it is great!  The narrator plays a huge role, in my option, in how well the book comes across in an audio format. Rebecca Soler is fantastic! She is so very talented in giving each character their own voice and personality in this very busy novel. It becomes easy to distinguish each character based on Soler’s voice characteristics and accents. I am excited to hear more by this narrator in the future.

Cinder is a post-World War IV story , very loosely following the classic tale of Cinderella and her wicked stepmother. The main similarities include the stepmother and step-sisters, a ball, peculiar transportation and the attention of a prince.

The year is 126 TE (Tech Era), in the New Beijing area of the Eastern Commonwealth on Earth. Linh Cinder is the most highly recommended mechanic in the city, and her services are even sought out by the Prince. What the community doesn’t know is that Cinder is actually a cyborg, part human and part machine. More than 30% of her body was upgraded with computer sensors, auditory and visual interfaces, as well as a bionic hand and foot. Cinder’s intellect and wit has to be more than a feature of programming. She is fully wired with instant access to the web and receives her comms with audio and visual relay scrolling right before her eyes. Because of her enhancements, Cinder is able to fix most any machine she comes across, including an antique automobile hidden in the depths of a junkyard. As odd as it may seem, Cinder is pretty much like any other teenage girl…who is under the control of a selfish stepmother, Linh Adri.

Adri cares more about gowns & kimonos than an outcast ward she never wanted to take in. Her fashionable lifestyle is funded by Cinder’s repair business and little else. She treats Cinder more like an android or burden than one of her children. Adri’s husband was the one who adopted Cinder soon after the accident that killed her parents, he died soon after taking her in.

 The step-sisters are only half bad, with Pearl who is much like her mother and Peony, Cinder’s darling little sister. Pearl has high hopes of catching the eye of the eligible bachelor Prince/Emperor Kai at the coronation ball, but little does she know, Kai has already invited Cinder to be his date. Poor little Peony was Cinder’s best friend and ally, but she fell ill and passed away fairly early in the story. 

As the story is told, Cinder’s birth family was killed in a horrific car accident that left the small child’s body battered, broken and bruised when she was only eleven years old. Because of the significant damage to her body, scientists performed a procedure to save her life that included converting some of her body systems to robotic replacements. But as things unfold, and many subplots start to take place, the thought arises that Cinder could actually the long-lost Princess Selene, from the Lunar Kingdom based on the Earth’s moon.

The Lunars were originally Humans that fled Earth to colonize the Moon many centuries ago. They have since evolved into a mythical race that uses magic and mind control to maintain the security and culture surrounding the Queen, Levana. Levana is a monster bent on conquest and destruction, with the goal of controlling Earth by force. She uses her “glamour” powers to portray her self as an untouchable beauty, when in realty she is brutal and heartless. She has a small party of protectors that carry out her viscous punishments and tortures to prove her superiority over the Earthens she wishes to rule.

In an attempt to gain further control, she blackmailed and manipulated the new Emperor of the Commonwealth, nearly into marriage. Kai, as he’s called by friends and family, is a young ruler who recently gained the crown when his father died from the highly contagious and incurable plague, Letumosis. Kai’s heart holds the well-being and care of his people, but his brain is being bombarded with the political responsibilities of the crown. He can see through Levana’s mask, but she makes offers that are hard to refuse, especially in the area of medical research and treatment. Levana claims to hold to cure to the plague, but will only release the secret if a marriage agreement is arranged. Kai knows the weight of the Commonwealth is on his shoulders, but can he take the bait and commit himself to a marriage with a monster?

I could write about this book forever. Covering the main points, the subplots, the character development… every little detail of the book, but I won’t. I have to leave something for you to read on your own! One thing I did want to touch on is the relationship between Cinder and Kai. I really thought they had a bit of a budding romance but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. They seemed like they would have been so right for each other. Maybe they can overcome their differences in the other installments, and I can’t wait to find out.

 

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