Friday, 23 September 2011

Review: City of Fallen Angels, Wolfsbane

These are some already-released must-reads that I read over my temporary hiatus from blogging. Why am I reviving them from their glory releases a couple of months ago? Well, coz they were pretty awesome reads and I thought I should let you know about them. Also, I wanted to record my thoughts, just for looking back on. :)

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare
[Walker Books Aus, released 5th April 2011] [Urban Fantasy]

What’s it about? The Mortal Instruments series shot straight into my all-time favourites the first time I read them, because there is just something so enchanting and enthralling about the world contained between their pages. Clary Fray finds herself thrust unceremoniously into the dark and dangerous world of Shadowhunters (demon-slayers) werewolves, warlocks, and vampires, a world that only she can see, as she attempts to uncover the mystery of her mother’s murder.

My thoughts? In City of Fallen Angels (book #4), interspecies politics, the love of a star-crossed pair, and the forces of Heaven and Hell intertwine in a heart-pounding, gut-wrenching tale. When I read this, I took it everywhere with me, because I couldn’t bear to be parted from the non-stop action and the pure emotions that the book wrought out of me.

Why should you read it? So, I can’t say that the premise of the story sounds all that original at first, but trust me, Cassandra Clare takes what could have been a predictable, clichéd plotline and infuses it with an unforgettable cast and a rich story world setting.  If you love action-adventure stories  with heart wrenching romances, I think you’ll adore this series as well.

You’ll like it if you liked: Well, I think you’ll like this one no matter what, but The Mortal Instruments series had a similar “feel” and genre to the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.  

Additional Notes:
  • The audiobook version is narrated by Ed Westwick (Chuck from Gossip Girl), and Molly Young (Castle).
  • Cassandra Clare also has a prequel series to The Mortal Instruments  - called The Infernal Devices, a steampunk series set in the 19th century, which is just as riveting.
Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer 
[Atom Books Aus, released 26th June, 2011] [Paranormal – Werewolves]

What’s it about? For her whole life, Calla Tor has existed in a world where her kind, the shape-shifting wolf Guardians, have always been subservient to the Keepers, magic-wielders to whom the Guardians’ survival is inherently linked. Calla accepts that her destiny as an alpha female of the Nightshade wolf pack is to marry Ren, the alpha male of the rival Bane pack. For if Calla refuses, the Keepers will exact their fury upon her loved ones. But in Nightshade (Book #1), all that Calla knows to be true is cast into doubt when she begins to fall in love with a human boy, and discovers what sinister things the Keepers have in store for them both.
In Wolfsbane (Book #2), Calla finds herself fighting alongside the Keepers’ sworn enemies in an epic race to uncover the truth, save her friends from under the keepers’ oppressive rule, and salvage her relationships. 

My thoughts?  What I loved most about this book was how Andrea Cremer managed to interweave action scenes and plot development with enriching the world she’s built. In the beginning, Calla was thrust into the fight, leaving me (the reader) just as confused as she was. But gradually, we get to see more of the external forces acting on her world, and discover, alongside her, the truth of their past. Wolfsbane answers some of the biggest questions in Nightshade, but at the same time, creates more for book 3, Bloodrose.  

[SPOILER] I have to admit though, I was occasionally annoyed by Calla. Annoyed by her doubt and emotional confusion and her fallibility. Annoyed by the way that she was torn between her love for Shay and her lingering emotions for Ren, how she was tactless and emotionally confused. Perhaps the reason why was because I see myself reflected in her, and wished that she was stronger and more decisive, as fierce in love as she was in battle. And the relationship that she shared with Shay felt forced and superficial. Somehow, I didn’t feel genuine sparks between her and Shay, not like there was in the first book, but I attribute this to the fact that they didn’t have that much time together.

Andrea Cremer, however, often writes quite strong characters, which are distinct and flawed, with very human desires and reactions. None of her characters are close to perfect, so they’re realistic and believable. And what I love most of all is how she portrays same-sex relationships between her characters with finesse and tact. She, through Calla’s eyes, doesn’t place specific emphasis on their struggles or makes them the objects of ostracisation. She doesn’t over-glorify their love either, creating relationships that are genuine and caring. But most of all, I love how the characters accept same-sex relationships between other characters as ordinary, just like any other relationship. Maybe I’m being discrimatory by pointing out this, but I think this acceptance is beautiful, and ought to be praised. 

One more thing – there’s a plot twist in here that I caught onto early on, which is rare for me. I thought it was clichéd and too obvious, (although it was foreshadowed in the first book as well, which might have contributed) but I’m reluctantly intrigued to see how it’s explored. [/SPOILER]

Why should you read it? The Nightshade series is one that gets a place amongst my “love list” because it combines edge-of-your-seat action with real, emotionally complex characters, and best of all, a rich twist of the wolf mythology that draws you into the book and leaves you pondering the book well after the last page, questions dancing on your tongue. This book is kind of intoxicating, and I for one, couldn’t stop reading it until I had finished the journey within its pages.

Just a warning, apparently no YA book is complete without a classic love triangle and a bit of emotional drama to liven things up, and in this second book at least, I felt it was a little too much. 

Readalikes: Vampire Academy, Twilight, Blood and Chocolate.