A writer I follow on twitter linked me to an Amanda Hocking blog post, which in turn linked me to this book. I'm quite glad that odd chain of events occurred. This was a rather macabre but awesome tale of Jenny Morton, the unfortunate bearer of the "Jenny Pox". Any living thing she touches, dies.
At first Jenny is a wallflower, doing her best to stay out of sight and mind of a rather nasty piece of work named Ashleigh. Ashleigh is all sugar and spice and everything nice to people who can give her what she wants, but anyone on her bad side may very well imagine they've stepped into "hello, this is your life on steroids... in hell". As a thoroughly nasty creature, I spent a great deal of the book wishing she'd get a massive dose of karma. Jenny's emergence as a more confident person put Ashleigh in her place briefly, but even the girl who doesn't fear snakes, spiders and ghosts knows to fear the picture-perfect cheerleader.
The ending is rather gruesome and serves as a declaration of independence for two of the leads, which in turn opens the door for a more proactive sequel, one in which the leads may need to abandon the shackles of normalcy and embrace their natures and pasts if they are to make something worthwhile of their current lives. There is a rather sweet romance running through-out, which affected each of the main characters in profound ways. I can only imagine that the author is an animal lover, because Rocky the dog was quite simply the most inspired choice of catalyst to trigger these changes.
Well worth a look at, and I'll definitely be checking out the sequel.
A few minor niggles were to be had on the ebook version,which had a few formatting errors that occasionally distracted.
I would, personally, not classify this as YA - rather paranormal fantasy or horror fantasy. Even though the novel features teens, there are some rather adult scenes in it.
Warnings: language, sex (and plenty of that)
Disclaimer: I found this a very difficult book to rate as it’s not within my usual genres (young adult, skewed towards fantasy). I don’t tend to read romance or books with many erotic elements, so that is also affecting my rating somewhat.
Strange Little Band is a Strange Epic Duck. It’s a very difficult book to label and categorise. On the one hand, it’s an epic sexy romance, peering into a huge chunk of the lives of some very, well, bad people. On the other, it’s a hybrid science fiction and fantasy introducing a world that blends science, the paranormal, the alien and magick. Oh, and one foot is firmly aimed at being a solid family drama too.
We start off with two leads. The beautiful but, shall we say, testy psychic Addison, and the equally terse and inhuman Shane. They both work in the fairly evil Triptych Corporation. I don’t really know what they do or why, but they do seem to want to own the lives of all their employees. Case in point: both of Addison’s children are basically experiments. The leads are not nice guys. Addison is not averse to imposing her will on or humiliating her employees. Shane occasionally kills and resurrects people, or drives someone – literally - insane. It’s a match made in heaven, if they can just get over the cruel machinations of their employers.
Later, two more leads appear in the form of Addison’s daughter, Ashlynn, and her son, Jake. Shane is Jake’s father – through artificial insemination, of course, though this pair does end up having copious amounts of skin-on-skin action. Both kids are gifted psychics and geniuses, which is just as well, because when the plot kicks into hyperdrive, these two shine as the heroes.
The writing is impeccable. It’s almost Dickens-ish in scope. Originally written as a weekly web serial, it easily surpasses the length of many books in either of its genres. On the surface, this works with and against the book.
It works with the book, because you don’t miss any character development. You can see and feel the moment the two leads finally start seeing each other as equals, partners, something other than bugs to be crushed. It’s palpable in every little thing they say and do.
It works against the book, because it almost feels like the book could have easily been split into shorter separate volumes, with the overriding mythology and peril fleshed out and amped up in each instalment. A lot of the plot happens in the last quarter of the book, and while the threads were set up earlier, there’s just so much to contend with, that I forgot the finer details.
Strange Little Band is an interesting, unique tale that could do with some further exploring.
To my knowledge, I've never read anything that might be considered "steampunk", but because I love the author's blog, I decided to pick up all of her novels. I started with The Emperor's Edge and I'm so glad I did.
The word I'd use to describe this book is "fun". Everything struck the right cord for me. The plot is excellently constructed with foreshadowing and minor details coming to play later in surprising ways. The main conflict is resolved, but the "tag" at the end, promises much more adventure and danger, and I, for one, will be following along for the ride.
The characters are a joy. Every one of them has strengths and flaws that bring them to life in cinematic flavour. Their interactions with each other are wholly believable and endearing. In fact, most of what made this such an enjoyable book is their interplay.
I could quite easily picture this story transformed into a screenplay and brought to life on the big screen. It's not a text that wastes any time, and that makes it perfect for those of us who are more visually minded. Plus, it has, I thought, an extremely strong female character that outshines most "strong" female characters on-screen these days, simply because she utilises her own strengths, rather than tries to mimic a man's.
The style of writing is crisp and easy to get sucked into. It was, as another of my beloved on-screen characters might say, electromagnetic candy. Read it when you're having a bad day, and it will certainly perk you up.
In the sequel to Lindsay Buroker's excellent, The Emperor's Edge, we're presented once more with the point of view of former Imperial enforcer, Amaranthe Lokdon, and as an unexpected treat, we now have the secondary point of view of Marl "Books" Mugdildor.
I must admit, I was expecting the adorkable Sespian to feature again, but the story was so engaging that I didn't miss him overly much. At least we could see that some of his lofty laws were being implemented - and thwarted by conniving bad guys.
Although, the bad guys don't seem completely bad when we see them through Amaranthe's eyes. She has the remarkable trait of seeing good in almost anyone. It's what makes her so charming and a large reason why such antagonistic team members are able to work together without abandoning such a crazy cause.
Once again, each character wormed their way into my imagination and made me laugh and fret over their adventures. The true beauty of this series is how endearing the characters are. Each character has grown since the first novel, but we're not thumped over the head with their changes. The growth is subtle and can be seen in the little gestures just as much as the grand ones.
I'm so eager to follow the characters that I often forget about the plot, which - you'll be pleased to know - is every bit as hair-raising as the first book. I can't help but notice how much fun the author must be having writing this series. The dialogue is snappy, the description is engrossing, the conflict is palpable and, at certain moments, the challenge ahead of this crew just seems too huge to surmount (But, darn it, I am rooting for them! They are too lovable and determined for me not to).
Despite Amaranthe's plan to use good deeds to win redemption for them all (at least this was partially successful for one character, and I'm absolutely pleased that one of her plans bore fruit), I couldn't help but see doubt trying to push its way through the cracks of her certainty. She is saddened by the life that was taken from her, and I'm sure after meeting Sergeant Yara, she must realise that even if she gets a pardon, she can't wipe away everything else that has happened since she started handing around a certain assassin.
And then there is the matter of Sicarius himself. Life *would* be easier without him around. He has done some truly monstrous things in his life, and maybe, just maybe, redemption isn't possible for him. I think it's incredibly noble and maybe a little naïve of her to stick by him and try to see his "dream" through, despite the mounting cost against her own hopes for the future. While she clearly does have feelings for him, I wonder if they are as deep as she suspects. How can one really know a man like Sicarius? He is quite wise to keep a safe, professional distance from her.
The authors note mentions that she isn't quite sure if she'll couple Amaranthe and Sicarius. I'd like to state that I'm quite happy for them not to, at least, not yet. He is a bit of a emotional brick wall and she is far too open. Plus, Sicarius himself pointed out some very good reasons. Their interaction right now is hysterical to watch, and I'm not sure I'd like to lose that just yet. Maybe Mal is right, and she does need to meet other fellows. Only time will tell and I'll be watching closely for the next instalment in this addictive series.
I'm not sure I can accurately describe how much I love this series. Lindsay Buroker nails it again in the third instalment. This edition is easily as cinematic as the previous two. You could transcribe it word for word onto the big screen and hold me riveted.
These characters continue to grow and endear themselves to me. Funnily enough, the character that struck me as the most changed was Maldynado. He really has become a rather loyal fellow who looks out for... well, Amaranthe, but there were several "Aww, the big softie" moments. I think he is acting more and more like her big brother (albeit one that doesn't get possessive or expect her to be chaste - we can leave that to Sicarius).
Akstyr worries me. He is useful, but I don't think he has formed the type of bonds for Amaranthe as the others have. She is the glue that holds them together, and he isn't quite as attached. I think when we get his point of view, we might see things differently, but I am expecting a surprise from him.
Amaranthe continues to be a lady to admire. She doesn't have to resort to seduction or lies to convince people to join her cause. Her humanity and passion do that. But I see a few cracks of doubt appearing here and there, which should open some interesting discussions going forward. I'd actually like to see how Sicarius might deal with her moments of doubt. She's always kept such a positive face for him. Especially since he is depending on her planning to bring him... well, potentially two rewards now.
Basilard was 100% correct. Amaranthe humanises Sicarius. But then, she brings the best out in each member of that team. I'm glad Basilard did not go through with his plan.
That epilogue was brilliant (as was the scene preceding it, but I truly do not want to spoil it for everyone who SHOULD be reading this book). What a brilliant tease for the next chapter in this series, which I hope I won't hound the author for too much in the coming months.
Bottom line: Awesome storytelling. Engaging and unique characters. Flawless eBook. On my top ten list of books I've read in 2011 (which also includes the other two). Must read.