The Wicked King by Holly Black | Spoilery Book Review

The folk of the air #2, the sequel to The Cruel Prince

Pages: 340

Genre: young adult fantasy

Synopsis

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring. The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

Usually I try to keep reviews with minimal important spoilers for plot points. This review is filled with spoilers, because it’s a sequel and I find it nearly impossible to discuss it without them. Here’s your warning.

I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would. On one side I really like Jude as a character, but she didn’t feel consistent through the book. The plot also felt a bit too straight-forward compared to the first book. The worst offender is the world-building, which feels more like a sliver of “A court of thorns and roses” by Sarah J. Mavas, without the awesomeness that is politics of separate courts and Velaris, than actually made by Holly Black, at this point.

The romance. It’s there through the whole book, constantly being teased, the chemistry is there, but definitely with some weird power and trust dynamic that Jude and Cardan had to figure out. I really like the enemies to lovers storyline in general. In this book I felt it at points were too much spelled out, instead of like convincing me they were attracted to each other. The he hates you and so he loves you more for it felt too artificial.

The ending. From reading other reviews, I think this is what seals the deal for those who really like this book. I saw the ending coming too early. I didn’t see every twist of it, like the Ghost, which was nice. This might be because of my view of the romance all along and how I really didn’t trust the character that is Cardan would to give up an ounce of power willingly. The moment Jude gave up her control of him, I threw my hands up in the air in defeat. So I definitely had interest in which way it would go, if she would go in the trap. The someone you trust have already betrayed you was too much of a hint as well.

The characters. I love characters, especially protagonists, that aren’t just good. It was what made me love the first book. I felt Jude was inconsistent in this sequel, because the sides of her that the plot needs are what is played up in each scene. Like the girl is suddenly a master tactic, then her self-esteem is low, then she needs to be something else for the chemistry to Cardan to work, then she needs to order him around and at the same time feel low and human enough that she would stay and get ridiculed. A character can of course change roles, but it got to be a problem for me. Again it comes down to authors like Sarah J. Maas who has done this “elf pretend they’re evil” thing so much better already. There were opportunities I wish the book would’ve taken instead, roads it went down in the first book, like exploring struggles related to Jude going darker and not wanting to give up power, instead of her talking scared to herself about it. It just further shows the different view she has of herself and the master-mind position the others are constanly giving her in a way that doesn’t make sense.

I really did like one thing in particular – Jude having second thoughts about Oak and just the dilemma of shielding a child. Wondering if that makes the child more likely to grow up less empathic or not understanding consequences. Or like Jude puts it: “Now growing used to sugary cereal and a life without treachery.”

In general it seemed like this book lacked smooth transitions through plot points and could’ve had more well-rounded characters and world with more editing and thought put into it. Especially if like more place was given to exploring moral dilemmas, or going down the road of Jude thinking in accordance with her more ruthless actions, turning a bit darker for those she loved or to protect Oak. I feel like Holly Black usually has a high quality when it comes to characters and world-building, so when I wasn’t quite feeling the plot, these things started to annoy me.

My feelings reading this book: it was entertaining, but also annoying at points, could’ve been done better

Would recommend it if you liked “The cruel prince”, but be aware that it might not do the same things for you and go into it with lower expectations.

Short reviews: short fantasy story & more poetry

Anyone surprised? I love doing short reviews on poetry. Here’s the other short reviews.

soft magic. by Upile Chisala: The beginning of this poetry collection had me worried, but it got better. The style is very minimalistic, instagram-poetry as I’ve heard it described as. It is about being black, family, love, it’s meant to empower. It’s not that I don’t like this style, it is just harder to convey powerful pictures with so few words and make it somewhat unique. I don’t think this collection quite manages it. The message is definitely great, and I think those who pick it up and is looking for that empowerment will like it just as “milk and honey” has been loved. It’s an easy read, good to get people into poetry, but I found it lacking.

2/5 stars. I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you. Goodreads.

The one’s who walk away from Omelas: I found this with a recommendation of stunning writing and story-telling. It’s only about 30 pages. Started out with beautiful, descriptive writing about a happy city and then it took a turn. Ursula gives such a simple, as in few elements, of a moral dilemma. It took some time before it dawned for me the extent of it. And it showed so much through the people’s reactions to it, in just 30 pages. Everyone should read it, especially if you want to tell good stories.

5/5 stars. Goodreads.

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard | Audiobook Review

Pages: 400

Time audiobook: 9 hours

Genre: young adult, lgbt

Synopsis

All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth–that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.

Audiobook review

The narrator is really good, during the dramatic scenes especially. Personally I would’ve chosen the physical book because I thought the writing of the plot dragged on and 30% in I was already listening on 1.5x speed to get through it. But I can recommend the audiobook to anyone who prefers that.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

The concept and plot is really important and good, it’s about the main character Penn’s struggle about gender and having to respond to a lot of unwelcome questions and harassment about it. Among friends, classmates, teachers and parents who insists that she should act and look more like a girl. Penn is a butch lesbian and the parts where she’s figuring out her attraction to girls and going into her first relationship are so cute. It very well balanced.

My problem with the book is the writing. This book doesn’t need to be 9 hours or 400 pages long. So many details are included, in the style of me walking into a room and describing what I see, instead of focusing on a couple things that give characteristics and letting the picture paint itself for the reader. The book is marketed as young adult, but it feels like it’s for a younger audience. The main character feels younger than 16 as well, the age isn’t mentioned before much later in the book. The conflicts show themselves to be much darker than first thought, but that disconnect between how Penn talks about her challenges in the beginning and the end was really confusing. She goes from talking about conflicts more suited among 13 year olds, to serious harassment. I get that it’s young adult for the darker parts and family conflicts, but then I think the author should’ve made Penn and the friend-group feel more grown up. It still has a lot of good examples and talks about loyalty, friendship, gender and the struggles of not being accepted by family.

I’ve seen readers complain on the “girl mans up” theme and actually complain about how horrific people are acting and bullying each other. That’s the only wrong opinion you can have about this book, as the book brings up bad to horrifying examples of friendships and manipulation and how the characters try to keep each other down. The conversations around that are the excellent parts of this book!

What I felt reading this book: really felt for Penn even though she continued to make wrong choices (she’s got heart though) and anger at everyone who has to deal with this bullying and constant harassment if they don’t clearly fit into “acceptable” gender or sexuality. and how bad unaccepting families make everything.

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

Pages: 370

Genre: contemporary mystery, set in a college

Synopsis

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent. 

Audiobook review

The narrator is good, except for how he’s trying to do the female voices. Every heard one narrator dub tv series? It’s hilariously bad. Also there’s a lot of characters in the friend-group to meet all at once at the beginning, so I actually picked up the text version the second chapter and went back to really understand who each of them is, because there’s no good separator in the audiobook (except for bad female voices). I would recommend physically reading this one, I was packing for a trip and wanted to get throught it.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

I picked this book up because of its college/university setting and saw it recommended for those who liked “The secret history” by Donna Tartt. That book is much better than this one, in a lot of ways. They both do have a “dark academia” vibe – which I recently learned was a thing and I love it. I wanted to give it an extra star for that alone, but then I saw that ending and thought hell no, I was bored through too many parts of this book.

I’m happy I read the book, because it had its entertaining points as the characters uncover dark things about the others and themselves. It’s very centered on the characters and who’s friends and enemies as they all attend the same class. So it’s dark and dramatic, which also comes through in the greek plays they perform. The theater parts were very nice details, going through the whole book and giving it more texture and depth. You can see how the characters are pushed to excell and that they know that themselves, before they start to unravel from guilt. Still, I didn’t feel the characters was given enough space to show how supposedly three-dimensional they was. Instead the author seemed to make them do things out of character, playing on “well, you don’t know when they’re acting or not” which sure is an explanation, but doesn’t help on feeling that connection for the reader.

I both loved and hated the writing at points. On one hand it has some really pretty lines, like “Dense forest surrounded it on all sides except one, the north shore, where the trees were thinner and a strip of sandy white beach shimmered like diamond dust in the moonlight.” On the other hand, so much annoyed me. Mostly the author’s choices, like the ending or having Richard be described as a person everyone hated, which then made us miss out on later feeling sorry for him. The characters in this book doesn’t feel like villains because there were no sense of feeling sorry for Richard, because his character was so violent. The bolder choice would’ve been to make him sympathic. I just felt like a lot of depth was missing, there were hilariously little moral dilemmas for the reader watching this play out. I get that it’s part thriller and part mystery, but as I didn’t think who killed him was such a big mystery, a more cohesive and focused history or plot would’ve been better.

What I felt reading this book: mostly entertained and intrigued, annoyed at writing choices. And I was laughing at myself for chosing to read this hours before a weekend of partying with classmates. It was a nice weeked, but I did think of this book as we were driving into the snow-filled forest.

It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh

An easy plan for living a richer life with less stuff

Pages: 230

Genre: organizing

Synopsis

When you think of what it will take to clean your house, are you so overwhelmed you throw up your hands and cry “It’s all too much”? Do you dream of having a closet where your clothes aren’t crammed in so tightly that you can actually get to them? Is your basement filled with boxes of precious family mementos you haven’t opened in ten years but are too afraid to toss? Are your kitchen counters overrun with appliances you’ve never used? Do your kids play in the living room because there’s no room left in their playroom? If somewhere along the way you’ve simply lost the ability to keep your home organized and clutter-free, then It’s All Too Much has the solution you’ve been searching for.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

I heard somewhere that this book was the more practical over “spiritual” approach to organizing in comparison to the popular tidying and organizing book by Marie Kondo. That sounded like what I needed, but I think I’ll pick up her book too, to see if there is more advice.

Because this book had some good tips, the problem is that it’s not 230 PAGES of it. It got quite boring, saying the same thing over and over. Also personally, considering I don’t have a family to take care of, what I needed from this book could’ve been summed up in an article.

So if you’re a single young person, without a household and family to consider, here’s probably all you need from this book:

  • Imagine the life you want, physically and emotionally, and consider if the items you own contribute to that future?
  • How do you feel and compare it to how you want to feel when entering your home. What function do you want each room to have? Organize from that perspective
  • “Ask yourself these questions as you encounter each piece of clutter: Do I use this? How long has it been since I’ve used it? Will I use it again? Is it worth the space it takes up in my house?
  • If you’re tempted to keep something because it’s expensive, remind yourself of the difference of value and cost – how much space and energy does it take up and is it worth it?
  • When trying to encourage another person to organize, change the questions to about their feeling attached to the object. Like “Why is this important to you? What does this item remind you of? What do you feel after spending time in this room?”

The Universe of Us by Lang Leav | Review

Pages: 240

Genre: poetry

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My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

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This is the first time I’m reading Lang Leav’s poetry and my first impression was that she seemed like a good writer, I really liked the way the first poems flowed. The subjects of her poems in this collection, love and heartbreak, are so universal and relatable to many. But so many of the love poems seemed like a writer going through drafts trying to find the best description of love and then just throwing them all in here. Many were so similiar, and nothing very new at that, it was the same with the heartbreak poems.

I don’t think it helped that I disagreed with some of the opinions of the poems, like how we only get max a handful of firsts. I wouldn’t want to live my life like that, never experiencing new things as I’m becoming and living as an adult. In this minimal-type poetry, it’s easy that some poems become too … dark without explanation? As if it’s not taken the time to explain the depth of the feeling, to keep it relatable to many perhaps, but I’ve found I more often like poems to be specific. Without some more personal connection these poems describe these big concepts in life superficially.

 

The Unbinding of Mary Reade | Review

by Miriam McNamara

Pages: 340

Genre: historical fiction, lgbt

 

 

Synopsis

A romantic novel based on the true story of a girl who disguised herself as a boy to sail with the infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Calico Jack—and fell in love with Anne Bonny.

There’s two parallell stories told, the first in 1717 of Mary Reade trying to please her wealthy grandma, dressing up as a boy to have a claim to be her heir. Her childhood friend and love is Nat. In 1719 we meet her again as she’s on a merchant ship, still passing as a boy, until it’s raided by pirates and she manages to join them. She joins after seeing Anne Bonny, the girl of the captain Jack, and becomes fascinated with this female pirate, with a sword and a gun in her hands. Sailing with a crew on the verge of another mutiny, she has to decide if she wants to reunite with Nat, side with the captain or risk everything by going for Anne.

 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three stars

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This book is a romance, with little action. It has grime and darkness, but it feels like it’s put here obligatory to meet some minimum requirement of being a pirate novel. That said, one thing I found interesting about this book is Anne and Mary returning to Anne’s home, a settlement of religious people where her the husband she escaped from has gathered a lot of influence. Nat – Mary’s childhood crush – also have settled there and the two girls struggle under the mysogynistic principles and ideas of what a woman should be (definitely not a pirate and unmarried). They’re fighting for their independence, realizing they have little to stand up with and that they’re trapped. The hopelessness was so strong in these scenes and broke through the apathy I’d weirdly felt for the characters until that point.

 the characters

Well, I didn’t feel anything for the characters except Anne. Mary first describes her as a independent and fierce girl standing on the deck with a sword and pistol in hand, being the only woman on her crew. She comes soon to realize she’s only there because of Jack’s permission, everyone on the crew apparantly dislikes her for being a woman. Anne doesn’t feel very thought-through as a character, she’s very girly and whiny, it’s like being relatively free on the ship after being beaten by her husband in the town hasn’t changed her at all. There’s no development, she’s uncomplex and flat like many of the other characters. I feel the author adressed this at one point, having Mary notice how Anne was manipulating Jack by being sweet and kissy when Mary was in danger from him.

It’s this weird battle through the book of Anne wanting to be free and independent, not tied to any man, at the same time as she haven’t gathered any skills to make it on her own. Mary is sewing dresses, struggling as the town is considering her an unmarried whore who they need to reform. I so wish Anne had been written as girly, yes, but also a woman of skills and personality. If she was “broken” by her circumstances, make that something that lasts more than a couple paragraphs.

 

the romance

If you want your sapphic Mary and Anne pirate romance, my opinion is that the chemistry is barely there. Sure, it’s a lot of back and forth, proclaiming their love to each other, but I did not feel the romance. Protectiveness sure, towards the end.

 

their struggles

I’m seeing reviews that expected Mary to be trans, which I do not think was the intent of the book. She certainly struggles with her identity, trying to figure out what parts of her was acting. If you should expect anything from that part of the book, it is that Mary feels like something in between a woman and a man. Both she and Anne faces so much discrimination and little freedom, in different ways and I think the fact that they didn’t understand each other struggles were one of the more realistic things. One is claiming the other have it easier, until they realize they need to both escape.

 

The feeling this book gave me: it got an extra star for the fact that it made me shed a tear (it was 3 am and that’s my excuse) when it showed the hopelessness of the situation of Anne and Mary trying to be “correct” women and still being beaten for it. other than that i was bored much of the way through, considering to dnf it several times.

 

Thanks to the publisher for receiving this copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sadie by Courtney Summers | Review

Pages: 320

Genre: young adult

 

 

Synopsis

Sadie has run away from home, she’s on a mission to get revenge on the death of her sister Mattie. They were very close, as Sadie practically raised her. The details of their difficult childhood are slowly being told as a podcast host is trying to piece their story together. The book follows Sadie on her journey as well as the host West McCray researching, interviewing family and presenting the story in form of a podcast.  

 

My thoughts

Rating out of five:

tre

This book is about very important subjects. Children abuse, drug problems, teenagers running away and how they’re treated. Sadie is trying to get revenge, everyone else is trying to figure out what happened to her and her sister Mattie. Along the journey Sadie uncovers pedophiles and tries to gather as much information about her target as she is able to. The way Sadie keeps going indicates how dark the story will get. We don’t get to know how Mattie died until the end, but it was pretty easy to guess after a while. The few “plot twists” in this book is generally easy to guess, but it’s more a story of how important it is that someone is paying attention to Sadie, Mattie and girls like them.

Turns out a book partly formatted as a podcast might be a bad idea. They’ve really leaned into the idea of “Serial-like podcast” (which it was marketed as) and it’s very noticeable as I read it. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts, there might be a reason they’re audio. It reads like a very confusing interview. I had problems finding out where the host was talking from, if she was “out in the field” following up leads, if she was interviewing someone or in the studio. It’s written sometimes. Also some weird choices are made in how the story is told, which works for a book, but isn’t usual for actual podcasts. I just got confused at times on what type of story telling they tried to achieve, because it flunctuates between an article written after all the facts are found and a news article being more continually updated. It might be a personal preferance to stick to one style.

But that the podcast isn’t real also seem to limit what kind of story can be told. In real life, awful and weird things happen. In the story, certainly awful things happen, but all the “random” people and actions was placed there to fill out the narrative and give descriptions or accounts of Sadie and her story. It’s an important story to tell, but it was very straight-forward. The story felt somewhere on the edge of having too much information of Sadie’s whereabouts to not knowing anything else than directly what was needed. There were no deeper dive on characters we met, like a “Serial-like” podcast would have, or any other details.

Back to the other half of the story, where we’re following Sadie directly. This was the most interesting parts for me. I admire her drive and the protectiveness over her sister that we get to see and hear about. It’s obviously she’s not thinking right, after the death, but we really don’t get to see just how hard she’s taking it or how she’s feeling. I missed that sometimes. She puts on faces, clearly stated, and it’s amazing to watch how she manages to con her way into information. But I didn’t really feel like I got to know her, or any of the other characters closely. She has a strong personality, but through all the different viewpoints (and trauma) it’s hard to decide what’s really her. Which might not be a wrong choice, it just made it more difficult to connect with the story.

I loved the book “All the rage” by Courtney Summers, this one just didn’t fit me.

 

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for giving this copy in exchange for a honest review.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes | Review

Pages: 450

Genre: young adult fantasy

Synopsis

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.
But what if death finds him first?
Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.
The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.
The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.
No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back

My thoughts

Rating three out of five:

I enjoyed this book for the most part, especially in the beginning as Thomas are thrown out of magic school and seeks his father Guy Fawkes to get his mask he needs to connect to a colour and get his magical abilities. As he gets dragged into the gunpowder plot to assassinate the king, we learn with him as readers, and I thought it was well-done without too heavy information dumps. Then the middle part arrived and I started to get bored, and confused.

the characters 

The interactions between Emma and Thomas lead to them both learning and one wasn’t there just for the others behalf. Emma is very determined, which I liked, and it’s obvious what kind of girl the author did not want her to be, even if she’s under the care of wealthy people and without measures to get free. We get to see a lot of Thomas’ journey in the middle part of the book, and there were some moments of clarity I really liked. Emma could show him another perspective, his father showed him the gravity of the situation and the Gunpowder plot, he himself saw the conditions “his people” the Keepers were under as they were executed. The moral dilemmas he went through really had something to say for the ending of the book and it was interesting seeing that journey he took.

That said, I had a few things that didn’t sit right with me in this book. As much as I liked Emma’s determination and strong will, it made her very predictable as a character. I’ve read other fierce female characters who avoided this, and when you know she’s going to follow, or eventually break out of other’s control, it makes her plotline very obvious. Still, her fighting people and Thomas standing there silently cheering her and being impressed was awesome. 

 

The author really spelled out what she wanted to include in this book, like literally on the last pages or afterword. I would not mention this had it not also been very obvious throughout the book. She wanted to show a historical fiction where a female character finds her independence, with moral dilemmas over those in power and including and raising questions around slavery and treatment of people of colour. And all that’s great, but those things had a very streamlined, straight-forward and predictable route even as the plot itself had its twists and was interesting done. It felt too one-dimensional in comparison to the rest of the book, perhaps to make sure the points were clear enough.

the stone plague

Through the whole book I realized Thomas being plagued was like a portrayal of illness/injury and how it can change identity and be an insecurity. Emma talks to him about not letting her darker skin define her, and that conversation was really good. At the same time, with the exception when he’s stabbed and plagued for the second time, he doesn’t seem to really feel it physically. Like he’s worried about people’s thoughts, obviously as it makes him a target, but he’s not in pain and when it’s mentioned how his skin turns to stone it’s more like the skin is a bit tight which sounds so unbelievable. I don’t think the author did anything wrong, it’s just one of these smaller things that doesn’t make sense to me. Let me tell you, as I’m typing this my fingers are hurting because of joint problems, you cannot have a plague turning you into stone and not be in constant pain or uncomfortable, if that’s not explicitly stated. 

 

the damn White Light

Then it’s White Light as a concept. I’ve read enough Sanderson books to consider it a god in this world (not that I’m comparing books here). But do you want a Light who is able to talk to and know everyone? How the hell would we have the plague in the first place if White Light could guide people like he did with Thomas? The moment I realized Thomas was supposed to have as much power as Dee who had studied it for so many years, when the Light could give him (and possibly others) its god-sized ability, that reduces the credibility drastically. It’s a known trap in fantasy, like that moment made it obvious whatever side Thomas was on would win and ruined the whole finale. Like Thomas could’ve gotten his father out of prison, definitely. The Light could have a whole army of teen boys out there doing its bidding. Also did it want the Keepers dead? I’m confused.

Everything else is so spelled out that I need an explanation to why you have a god with such powers and ability to bend others to his will basically, who knows enough about people to be witty about Emma’s determination, and it comes down to the ending this book has. The characters never questions its intention.

the ending

The ending really didn’t work personally, it was apparent that the gunpowder plot would not go down in the book either, the fact that Thomas didn’t tell his dad about Dee’s bad intention made barely sense in the beginning and the characters went out of character for the whole ending, the way I see it. Thomas could have flipped a switch and become very secure in the White Light, fine, but the rest of them … I was done.

The feeling this book gave me: intrigued, but never satisfied with a big finale or explanations

Thanks to publisher Thomas Nelson for receiving this copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Head On by John Scalzi

Genre: Sci-fi

Pages: 335

Look at this great, minimalistic cover! It’s so perfect. Well, maybe the person should’ve been a threep (robot). 

ho

Synopsis

Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it.

Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

Is it an accident or murder? FBI Agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth―and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.

My thoughts

Rating out of five:

tre

I was drawn in by the interesting plot, especially as it’s techonological development to combat illness. What I got was an fbi agent Shane discovering bodies, getting into accidents, Shane and his partner Vann trying to connect it all together and find the motives. In the middle it seems very messy, and not in a good way.

Everything is happening around the two fbi agents, mostly not caused by their actions. They are two pieces in a game where I have barely been introduced to the world, let alone who or what could be behind the murders. I can’t bring myself to care when someone dies that early on, even if it’s to kickstart the need for Shane’s investigation in this story. For the Hilketa player I was almost half into the book before I felt bad for him, with some details on how much pain he must’ve been in.

I think this would work very well as a tv series, where you get to see the threeps and Hilketa game from the start. For the most part I think so because you can watch and judge the other people in the story, try to find the murderer yourself, where here you don’t really get details on characters. The book included things like how Shane’s treated differently because he’s a Haden, both at work and in private, what being an Haden means and some of how the sport Hilketa works. But it’s a lot of information that needs to go out just for the reader to understand what the fbi agents are doing. For example that statistics in Hilketa is displayed in this one public way, and changing that can be illegal because here is the information it gives on players, so it’s a lead. Trying to do that without information dumps (which I think was well done!), along with introducing characters connected to it, and that there’s more than one murder. It’s a lot and while I found it surprisingly easy to follow, it made the investigation, and such the story, slower and less focused on characters.

This is the standalone follow-up to a book called Lock In, which I haven’t read. I would’ve like to know more about how the locked in syndrome and Haden people started out, with the development of the threeps. I looked it up and it seems like the short book Unlocked contains all the backstory, so I would like to read that too. It’s free here, and while the writing or plot doesn’t give you insight in Head On, if you’re interested it seems to be a smart 60-pages read before the other books.

I would recommend this book to people who are excited about the concept, but be aware that it’s a mix of sci-fi and fbi murder investigation. The feeling this book gave me: excitement about the sci-fi aspects with the robots and medical technology, but strange annoyance at the murder investigation.

 

Thank you to Tor Books for receiving a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.