Friday, 22 July 2011

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

(NB: This review is a little weird. I never wrote a review of this book for my blog, despite having read it after having set up the blog. But I did have a sort of back-to-basics review on Goodreads. However, in preparation for the upcoming review of its sequel, I decided to go back, tweak the review that I did have a little and get one on here.)

One day I went into my local English-language bookshop and there was this book, sitting on the shelves, looking at me. Look at that cover art! I didn't even bother to read the back of the book. I just picked it up and bought it. Funnily enough, there was a girl in front of me in the queue who, it transpired, had done the exact same thing. We had a bit of a giggle together at how shallow we are, but honestly, I could not pass up that cover art. I had to have it on my shelves!

StoryNastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past. 

Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead. 

Cate Tiernan, author of the popular Sweep series, returns with an engaging story of a timeless struggle and inescapable romance, the first book in a stunning new fantasy trilogy.

Thoughts and impressionsNas is an immortal and able to channel magics. One night, her best friend cripples an innocent man using magics and Nas realises that her life has gone off the tracks and she needs to get control over it again. She finds shelter at a place for rehabilitaing immortals where everyone wants to help her to find her inner peace. But she still has to come to terms with who she is, her past and her present.

I loved Nas as a character. She was incredibly complex as an immortal who's been around for a good 450+ years. She's lived through so many difficult periods and the flashbacks serve to illustrate the many woes she has suffered. At times her story would really pull on my heartstrings. But then, as the world advances and Nas is slowly able to become a person herself rather than the shadow of a husband, she slips into darker ways, fueled by her best friend, Incy.

I have to admit that I was unsure about this book in the beginning. The first chapter was about Nas's party kids group, taking drinking and "fun" too far, resulting in a horrible incident that none of them did anything about. After that it gets very repetitive for a while, where Nas becomes her own worst enemy, questioning her every move and motivation. It improved vastly after a while when another immortal, much older than Nas herself, forces her to come to terms with her life the way she's been living it and sets out to help her find a sort of inner peace.

Well, inner peace is never easy to achieve and it's even harder when you've got a sexy, but reserved, golden warrior who's giving you a hard time but to whom you are inexplicably attracted. It's even more difficult when someone seems to be trying to kill you.

It's a storyline that's been worked before, but I enjoyed it a lot with its tweaks. I really liked the way that Nas was shown as almost being a master of disguise - she would reinvent herself with each new 'life' until she'd completely lost the girl she once was. I would have liked a less obvious antogonist (once Nas had stopped being both the protagonist and the antagonist) as it would have given the story that extra twist if it had been someone you'd never have expected who meant Nas harm.

I'm looking forward to the second book in the trilogy and seeing where the author will take it from here.

Style: Quirky, very chatty. Nas makes for a wonderful narrator.

Final verdict: I loved it! It was one of my top two reads of the summer. 5 stars

Extra notes: Bad language present. No sex.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett

I bought this book for my brother for Christmas a couple of years ago. He never finished it, he couldn’t suspend his disbelief far enough to enjoy it fully. It’s one that’s been looking at me every time I go to the book shop, begging me to read it… so when I found it in my room at my parents’ house I dug right in!
N.B.: I have the British version of this book. In the US it is called The Warded Man.

The author: Not that you’d know it reading the book, but The Painted Man is Peter V. Brett’s first title. He seems to have forged himself a nice, cosy spot in the fantasy world in the past couple of years! The final part of this trilogy is set for release later this year / early next year (no precise date). He has also released some companion novels, but I believe there was a limited number of copies.

Presentation: Small font. Spaced. 544 pages broken down into 32 chapters.

Story: When the sun sets, the demons come to terrorise humanity. Legend tells that centuries ago men were able to fight the demons, causing them to retreat to the Core and leave humanity in peace. But when the demons stopped materialising at night, men slowly forgot how to fight them, believing themselves the victors in the war with demon-kind. Then the demons returned in vast numbers; men had no way to attack and their defences were not fool-proof. Now, centuries later, humanity is edging ever closer to extinction with each demon attack that breaks through the wards.
Three young children, ignorant of each other’s existence, find their lives changed by demon attacks.
Arlen is a young boy from a farming community. One night he saves his mother from a demon attack while his father stands safe within the protective wards; he witnesses his father’s cowardice when faced with the demons - resulting in terrible consequences - and he swears that he won’t ever be a coward like him. He doesn’t want to be a prisoner within the wards. He wants to live. So he runs off to forge a new life for himself. He wants to see the world, wants to give humanity a way to go on the offence against the demons but he doesn’t know how to realise his dreams. Fortunately for him, he is a talented warder and this opens up a tricky, perilous but possible path for him to become one of the important messengers: men who brave the night’s dangers in order to take news and letters from place to place.
Leesha is a young woman in a close-knit community, her life ruled by her tyrannical mother. She is awaiting her passage to womanhood so that she can marry her promised one. But when her reputation is smeared, she leaves the village proper, choosing to go and live with the village healer as her apprentice and learn the healing arts of the Herb Gatherers. She is a fast learner, soaking up all her mentor’s teachings, and more importantly, Leesha gains a will to fight, a desire to resist others running her life for her.
Rojer’s earliest memories are of his parents giving their lives to save his during a demon attack. He did not escape unscathed, missing two fingers on one hand. He is taken in by a Jongleur, a man who makes his living by entertaining the crowds, and is taught in the arts of the trade. He is very talented at playing the fiddle and soon discovers that he is able to control the demons with the music.

Thoughts and impressions: The premise for this book is one of the most interesting ideas I’ve come across in a while. There is no antagonist, but there is an ever present danger. If anything, the antagonist is the darkness, night-time, one that you can never defeat. You cannot stop the sun from setting.
The ideas behind the demons were equally inspired. Different demons for different areas: wind demons rule the skies, sand demons live in the desert sands, wood demons in the forests, rock and flame demons roam among the others’ territories. The demons don’t only attack humans - though humans are their favourite victims and they spend much of their time trying to find weaknesses in the ward nets that will allow them entrance - they also attack each other, praying on their weak or injured, chasing off other demons who do not belong in their habitat.
The book starts slowly, playing with character clichés. Arlen is a definite fantasy cliché in the beginning, a young boy from a farming village who breaks from his norm. But he needed this, and all the good, the bad and the downright terrible that happened to him in order to form his character, for him to become who he was destined to become. Leesha is much the same. I really enjoyed her story when she was young, it was one that I could really feel passionate about. When Rojer is first introduced he is only three, about ten years younger than the other two characters, so it takes him a while to really form. Each of the characters has to go through their own trials and tribulations, hitting rock bottom before they can start to evolve again. Brett turns these clichés into a masterpiece.
I personally saw parallels in Brett’s world with a Catholic faith in the north and a Muslim faith in the south. I’m not sure if this was meant to be so, maybe it’s just me. Both were very interesting, though of course I’m already biased against both for their treatment of Arlen.
Every time I sat down to read this someone inevitably came and sat next to me, expecting me to converse with them. But I wanted to read! I wanted to devour this book! I’m already planning ahead, how fast I can get my mitts on the second book.

Style: Some unnecessary repetition in a few places that escaped the editing process. Other than that it was a very engaging style.

Final verdict: This book completely blew me away. I wasn’t expecting it to be half as good as it turned out to be from what my brother had told me. I’m glad I chose to ignore his criticisms of it and try it for myself. One of the best fantasy novels (and novels in general) that I’ve read in a while. Definitely 5 stars.

Language didn’t stick out to me. There are instances of rape and incest referred to and one sex scene. I would consider it suitable for older teens.