Category Archives: 02 YOUNG ADULT

BOOK REVIEW: The Young Elites Trilogy by Marie Lu

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
– John Acton

5 Stars

I started Young Elites expecting a usual no-nonsense Young Adult novel—apparently I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I ended up finishing the entire trilogy in a span of two and a half days.

Finally, something different.

This review covers the entire trilogy so heads-up: Heavy spoilers ahead.

For the first time, the star is not a hero—but an antihero. Adelina stands out among today’s crop of YA heroines because she is exactly what they are not. We’ve seen it a hundred times: A seemingly ordinary girl who eventually becomes the key to the world’s survival or something like that. It’s a tale as told as time, and frankly I’ve grown tired of it. Young Elites is none of that. This is a story of the rise and fall of a villain—and her eventual redemption. In this series, I saw a mirror of our reality: how nations are born, how they are conquered… how one dictator falls only to be replaced by another. It showed problems our society faces constantly each day: How hate begets hate, how it becomes a cycle that gets nurtured until it peaks. It’s dark, it’s mature, and amidst all the powers and monsters: there is truth.

Young Elites started with Adelina as a weak little girl, not knowing her place in the world and how to use her power. I journeyed with her through her torments until she found the first group of people that accepted her. I saw how she fell in love and how she got betrayed over and over. I watched how the bitterness of life slowly took its toll on her. I knew what was happening: How the darkness in her slowly brewed, cultivated by her sufferings and the people who hurt her. I stood witness as her power heightened and slowly corrupted her—how her ambitions and cruelty grew stronger each page. I knew she was no hero—yet I couldn’t bring myself to hate her. Because I knew her story. Nobody here was pure. Each character had darkness in them—even sweet Violetta. In a way, I rooted for the villain. I think that’s what the author wanted. Because in reality, we all have darkness in us. We all want to succeed, to become powerful, to be on top. Adelina was our personal darkness personified.

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Honestly, I think the series could’ve stopped at book two and succeeded. I thought that final sentence at the end of Rose Society was perfect on its own. The beginning of Midnight Star felt a little out of place. I found myself doubting the author, “Where is she going with this?” The first two books were so strong and I didn’t want to be disappointed with a weak conclusion. The third book started off weak, yes, but the final chapters were what saved it. That part where Adelina was bargaining for her sister’s life and was contemplating what she has, would, and could become was beautifully written. My heart broke as she pictured her future with Magiano—a future that she’ll never have. It felt like it was also being wrenched away from me. I wanted them to have more time—I wanted them to have a life. The voice in me wanted her to stay. Who cares about Violetta? She’s had an easy life! It was as if I’ve become the dark whispers in Adelina’s delusions. I wanted her to be selfish. I wanted ­her, not Violetta. But then as she wrestled with her thoughts, so did I. She was right. And it was devastating because I knew it was the right choice—the only choice. Still, my heart broke for Magiano. I finished the book with a little hatred for Violetta. Why did she get everything Adelina worked so hard for?Her life has always been easy—and in the end Adelina’s life work was just handed to her on a silver platter. It’s not fair! But then again, life is never fair. I guess, like Magiano, I’ll just have to live with what we are dealt with.

Would I recommend this? Yes. It’s a breath of fresh air among redundant girl-saves-the-world plots in today’s bookshelves. If you liked Mistborn and Graceling then I think you’ll like this. If you’ve read this and liked it, then try those titles I mentioned.

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Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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4 Stars

I liked this book, a lot… but I had some problems with it that kept me from giving it five stars.

Uprooted is a coming-of-age dark fairytale. I think that’s the best way to describe it. It’s about a young girl, Agnieszka, who gets “uprooted” from her humble village by a century-old wizard they call the Dragon, and is brought to his tower. She learns that she has inherent magical powers and is then trained to become a witch. The plot itself is very simple. The good guys must bond together to defeat the darkness (which is embodied in The Wood).

The story was good for what it was. Expect a young-adult fantasy and it will deliver. The world-building was just average, and the magic was just that—magic. Don’t expect any intricate Sanderson-type magic systems or Tolkien-deep world-building and mythos. It’s a nice dark fairy tale, and that’s where it shone. I liked the fairy tale feel of the book. I think this book is suited for those who want some fantasy but aren’t ready to invest too much in its lore and aren’t ready to commit to something too heavy.

What I liked the most (spoilers ahead):
I liked how the author chose The Wood, a forest, as its primary villain. It had a mystery to it. You can’t help but ask: What is in it? What is it? What does it really want? These were somehow answered at the end when the Wood-Queen finally appeared and we’re shown what happened many years ago. I kind of predicted that there was some sort of “vengeance against my people”kind of thing, but being validated didn’t reduce its effectiveness in the story. That bit somehow reminded me of the Children of the Forest (aSoIaF) and the Fae (Name of the Wind)’s backstories. I also liked how the end of the book didn’t conclude at the vanquishing of evil—it explored and dwelled on the aftermath of it all. In real war, it doesn’t truly end when you kill the enemy. Lives are lost and ruined and rebuilding is just as hard as winning. This is what made “The Scouring of the Shire” so important in LOTR. It delves into what happens after. How do we move on? How do we heal? Imagine being in war all your life and then one day you’re free—what do you do then? I think the closing chapters were the some of book’s strongest (and that epic tower “summoning vs the queen” battle scene, too awesome).

What I liked the least (more spoilers ahead):
The love story—ugh, where do I even begin? It was so unnecessary! The characters of Sarkan and Agnieszka didn’t develop enough for them to have that kind of connection. It didn’t help that Sarkan was written like he’s an old grumpy man. Yes, they are centuries-old apart. That alone made their relationship icky—but Sarkan was written exactly like he was centuries older than her. He told her around, nagged her, called her names, and treated her like she’s a little girl. The author could’ve at least made his character more youthful. Twilight was terrible but at least you kind of felt that Edward was young at heart despite being decades older than Bella. Sarkan, from the very beginning, was pictured as this “old” powerful hermit wizard—his words and actions were like he’s an old wizard… and for him to have sex with a seventeen year-old girl?? I mean… that was just really creepy! Talk about major Stockholm syndrome for Nieshka! The way the sex scene was written also bothered me A LOT. It was graphic and didn’t fit the genre of the book at all. I have no idea what the author was thinking putting that in there. She could’ve written it more subtly and more classy, like in Graceling (Po and Katsa’s love scene was beautifully-written and fit the theme of the book). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude at all, but it really felt like one moment I was reading YA Fantasy, the next I was reading erotica, then YA fantasy again.

Another problem of mine was the way some scenes were narrated and depicted. Some of the narration was not clear at all. There were a lot of times wherein I had to read a paragraph twice because “Wait, what just happened?”. Imagine this: you’re reading a storyboard and instead of carefully panning from one scene to the next—the scene suddenly jumps five frames forward and POOF, there you are! The choice of words and descriptions were also not clear enough to make the reader accurately visualize some scenes, especially when there were a lot of fantastical elements involved. I’m just saying this book could’ve been so much better. I feel like the story and the development merited at least two books—but everything was cramped into just one, making the content suffer.

Final Verdict:
Overall, I still loved this book. It’s a light dose of fantasy with a dark fairy tale twist. I think Uprooted would make a great movie, especially with all those Summoning special effects and dark magical trees. It has a lot of Disney-esque potential if done right.

If you liked Graceling then I think you would enjoy this book. If you’ve read this book and are looking for something similar, Graceling is a book you should definitely add to your reading list (and it is tons better). I wouldrecommend this book despite its flaws, and I do think it is a good read 🙂

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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2 Stars


“In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don’t believe that.

The gods rule us still, they have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.”

Imagine Graceling meets Princess Diaries and you’ll have something like The Red Queen. Mare, the heroine of the story, discovers that she possesses a power she’s not supposed to have. Of course, inevitably, she becomes a key figure in a rebellion against a corrupt and prejudiced system. Basically, in this world, there are two kinds of people: Reds and Silvers. Reds are normal humans bound to serve, while the Silvers are elite humans with special abilities and destined to rule over all. That’s the status quo, has been for centuries, and of course, the rebellion seeks to change that. I won’t say anything more about the plot to avoid spoiling so I’ll just spill my thoughts regarding the substance of the book.

This book had a lot of potential. It started off strong. However, as the world building was set-up, it started to become a little chaotic. First of all, world-building is very important to me. When I read Fantasy, may it be YA or High Fantasy, I expect to be fully immersed and introduced to its world. There has to be consistency and clear visuals in my head. Although the book clearly described Norta, I found a lot of elements to be disjointed and frenzied. Medieval, steampunk and other eras were all mixed in together which made visualizing a clear world a bit difficult.

I also had a problem with Mare. I found her character weak. She didn’t have a very strong conviction. There were times I questioned what she was really fighting for. The love triangle also felt forced and pathetic. I mean, seriously? The characters fell in love with each other without much basis. They barely had any substantial interaction, they barely knew each other, and they’re willing to risk their lives for something so feeble? I’m sorry but just don’t buy it. It felt like a high school infatuation more than anything else. The character development was so weak I didn’t make any connections with any of them. I didn’t feel anything for their suffering, for their deaths, or triumphs. Nothing. It was hard for me to root for Mare because she never showed me enough to make me believe in her.

Overall, this was a very disappointing book. I understand how some people might love it, especially YA readers. But for hardcore Fantasy readers like me, this is way not up to par. I get how some people see similarities between Red Queen and Graceling because of the special powers, but believe me that’s as far as it goes. It’s like comparing freshly brewed Columbian coffee to a hotel’s free 3-in-1 sachet.

Will I read the second book? Probably. But I won’t be running to the bookstore to get it.

 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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3 Stars

“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after.”

It was hard for me to rate this book because I really liked it, a lot. My only beef is that I had a small problem with connecting to the characters, hence the three stars.

When I started reading this book, I immediately thought of how similar it was to Legend; only this one was set in medieval fantasy and had the main characters’ genders reversed. As I read further, I saw more similarities, but I also saw how different they were. I don’t want to compare, so I won’t.

Ember is a strong and intense book. It’s brutal, gritty, but also light for a fantasy novel. It’s not as rich or as dark as say A Song of Ice and Fire or as complex as The Stormlight Archive but it has the right amount of action, blood, foreshadowing and tragedy to create good fantasy. In terms of world-building, Ember doesn’t stray too far away from the main setting which is Blackcliff. Other places were mentioned but not really discussed or introduced thoroughly. The book’s map art showed a vast world so I suppose those will be explored in the following books. It was evident that the setting was strongly inspired by Ancient Rome so the way I visualized it somehow resembled that era.

My main issue with this book is the voice of the main characters: Elias and Laia. It was really hard to connect to them and there were times wherein I was confused as to whose POV I was reading. Their chapters weren’t too distinct. I also had trouble rooting for Laia. She was weak and her lack of resolve annoyed me. I felt like she was just a leaf being dragged around by the current. Ironically, the character I liked the best and empathized with the most was Helene, a non-POV character. I love her (I hope she becomes a POV character in the next book). I also thought Laia’s transition from a wimpy slave-girl to a courageous fighter at the closing chapter was too abrupt and not smoothly executed.

Now to the good bits. I love the grit and raw violence in this book. It wasn’t afraid to shed blood and to depict the brutalities of war. My favorite scene in the entire book was the battle at the amphitheater. Although I already expected it to happen, it was still difficult to read through. That was the moment I connected to Elias the most. Not just him but to all the Masks. What the Augurs made them do was brutal, not bloody-brutal but really heart-wrenching brutal. A true test of character. That was an incredible scene.

It’s clear that there’s a bigger picture and a bigger war at hand. One that involved not only the Empire but also the other races: The djinn, the fey, the ifrits, the ghuls. I have a theory, and please do not read any further if you want to avoid spoilers. It’s clear that the Nightbringer is the main antagonist in this story and the Commandant is just one of his pawns. It was mentioned that the djinns were betrayed by the early men which caused their downfall and triggered the Nightbringer’s vengeance . My theory is that the Augurs, who said that they were guilty, were either one of the first men who possessed the learned magic hence their immortality and magical abilities, or they were the fey who gave men the knowledge that caused the djinn’s defeat and they were now trying to make amends by making things right. I’m really curious about this bit of the story. It kinda reminded me of Kingkiller and its Lanre mythology.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to the next one. This is a good divergence from the usual young adult dystopian novels that plague the shelves these days. If you like books like Legend and are into fantasy that doesn’t heavily rely on magic then this is the book for you.

Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu

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4 Stars

I’ve been on a reader’s block for quite a while, and I didn’t know if I still had it in me to be able to read at the same pace like I used to—but it turns out I only needed one good book to wake me up from my reading slumber. I’ve had Legend for a long time now but never really bothered to start it. This afternoon I had an insane attack of boredom so I decided to flip a few pages—only, I wasn’t able to stop. I literally couldn’t stop reading from the moment I started (I was even scolded by my dad to put down the book because I was reading during dinner). It’s been a while since I’ve read a good dystopian book. I mean, there are just so many out there nowadays. The last series that I really liked were Chaos Walking and Partials and both of those have been ages ago. I picked up this trilogy because of the hype, and hype comes with expectations. Fortunately, Legend delivered.

“Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time. You try to walk in the light.”

Like most books of this genre, Legend has the dystopian staples: A perfect society that’s not so perfect, rebel groups, secrets, and teenage protagonists who are too capable for their age (seriously). The story flows through the POVs of two characters: June and Day. One’s from the system, the other is the rebel—and of course (no-brainer here) they fall in love. What I liked about this book is that even though it follows some YA cliches, it managed to have its own voice and it didn’t feel like I was just reading a rehashed version of Lord of the Flies or 1984. The characters were well-written and likable. The pacing was neither too fast nor too slow and it gave just enough information each chapter to keep you reading. Although, I was able to guess who the “killer” was way too early—blame my history with mystery and thriller novels. Legend uses a “plague” plot device, similar to Matched trilogy—the only difference is that Matched had no direction whatsoever, Legend does. At least, I hope so. I’ve only read the first book but so far so good. I’m looking forward to reading Prodigy and if it’s anything as good as this then I think my reading appetite will be happily satisfied.

My First Book Depository Experience

One of every bookworm’s worst nightmares is not finding a certain book in your area, or worse–in your country. And sometimes, e-books just aren’t enough. This was exactly what happened to me, so I turned to Book Depository. I’ve known about it for ages but I’ve never really bothered availing its services. For one, I just can’t wait that long to get a book, second, most of the books I want are available in Fully Booked (a local bookstore)–until one wasn’t. For some reason, Fully Booked didn’t have Joe Abercrombie’s Half A King. And by “didn’t” I meant they never had it and probably never will. Which in my opinion is absurd because, hello, it’s Joe Abercrombie! I desperately wanted a copy because I wanted to gift it to someone for his birthday (he’s been looking for it for ages), so I finally gave in and tried Book Depository.

Half a King

I’ll admit, the experience wasn’t perfect. The original 7-10 business days shipping (as stated in their site) didn’t push through and I was on a deadline. I had to get the book before my friend’s birthday. Three days after I sent my order (the book was available according to their site), it still hasn’t been dispatched. So, finally, I decided to contact them for help–and I have to say, their customer support system is beyond commendable. Their customer advisor, May Sherif, was very attentive and they don’t send “template” replies. They really answered my every mail. When my order still didn’t arrive after a week, they decided to dispatch another copy for me!

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After a few days, my book finally arrived. It was in pristine condition and came with a bookmark. In the end, my first Book Depository experience turned out to be a very pleasant one. I’d definitely buy from them again!

 

 

 

Calling all schmucks and cranks, the new Maze Runner trailer is out!

When I first finished the series back then, I said to myself, “Man this would make an awesome movie.” So when I heard about 20th Century Fox making one, I was ecstatic! I didn’t even care about the casting. I knew it would take a lot of effort to make a bad movie out of this series and I was thrilled! When the first trailer came out, it looked very promising… and now this! Ahhh, I’m so excited to see this movie!

Calling my fellow schmucks and cranks, the maze is open… get ready to run.

 

WICKED IS GOOD.