I’ve been reading a lot of historical fiction and dystopian novels this year, which is very evident from the list of books below. One thing I’m proud of is reading more books for the 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge in March and April than I did in January and February. Take a look at the excepts from my book reviews for these novels below, and if you’d like to read the entire reviews, just click on the link after each excerpt.
Author Rick Yancey paints a terrifying, post-apocalyptic picture in his novel The 5th Wave. In the novel, aliens arrive and begin to systematically destroy the human race. The 1st wave sets off an EMP that plunges the world into darkness, setting it back to the Dark Ages. In the 2nd Wave, natural disasters wipe out a large majority of the world’s population. In the 3rd Wave, a plague similar to Ebola wipes out the majority of the world’s population that survived the first two waves of destruction. In the 4th Wave, the remaining survivors are plunged into a world where no one can be trusted. Not even your neighbor. Told from multiple perspectives, readers follow three survivors’ experiences as they try to survive the invasion, connect with loved ones, and figure out how to exist in this new reality. (Cont…)
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Author Jandy Nelson’s novel, I’ll Give You the Sun, is addictive! Once I began reading about twins Jude and Noah, I couldn’t put it down. The story is told in dual perspective. One half of the story is told from Jude’s point of view, and the other from Noah’s. Noah’s story begins when the twins are 13 years old, and details how close they were. A good time when the twins could speak without words, finish each other’s sentences, and were willing to give the sun and the whole world to the other. Jude’s story takes place when the twins are 16 years old, and have been estranged for two years. Though they live in the same house, they hardly speak, and barely recognize who the other has become. (Cont…)
Marie Rutkoski’s novel, The Winner’s Curse, is a very interesting novel, that feels both historical and futuristic at the same time. Set in some imaginary land and time, those with great strategic ability seem to hold the most power. The heroine, Kestrel, the daughter of a great general is not really good at fighting, but knows how to play the political scene to her advantage. In some respects the novel feels like a young adult version of Game of Thrones. Except, without as much bloodshed, incest, or dragons. (Cont…)
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Author Victoria Aveyard’s novel Red Queen was really amazing! She took the ever popular dystopian fantasy novel and filled it with intrigue, danger, and such crazy machinations that you almost need a flowchart to follow. While the above statement may seem offputting, it’s actually a huge bonus. Fans of series like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Series will really enjoy this political fantasy thriller. (Cont…)
One of the things I love so much about Rick Riordan’s books is how multicultural they are, without feeling like forced multiculturalism. Riordan manages to bring up themes of race, racism, sexuality, and the idea of family in such ways that make the reader think without feeling they’re being preached to. Riordan did this beautifully in his Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, and does it again in The Kane Chronicles. (Cont…)
Veronica Roth’s Four: A Divergent Collection is a wonderful addition to a reader’s book shelves if they are a die-hard Four fan. The book features four brand-new stories that take place prior to Divergent, told from Four’s perspective. The four new stories don’t really do anything in the way of adding to the series. Most (if not all) of the events mentioned in them were already revealed by Four or other characters in the Divergent trilogy. The only gain here is that readers get more details about those aforementioned events. (Cont…)
If you are a fan of History’s The Vikings, then Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom is the book for you! This story takes place after Ragnar Lothbrok has died, and his sons have grown into great warriors in their own right. Seeking revenge for their father’s murder, Ubba and Ivor bring their warriors back to the English shores to raid the land and stake their claim. Uhtred, a young English boy narrates this saga as an old man reflecting on his life. He takes readers from his beginnings as a second son, to a Danish captive, and the warrior he becomes in their care. Like the Danes, Uhtred seeks to gain what was taken from him, get revenge on those who’ve wronged him, and become a great man told about in poems and song. (Cont…)
While I enjoyed The Last Kingdom a lot, Bernard Cornwell’s sequel, The Pale Horseman, was even better. In The Last Kingdom Cornwell spends a lot of time (as he should) with world building, and it took me a while to really get into the story. Once I did, I was hooked. This problem didn’t exist for me with The Pale Horseman.
The novel picks up where the first book ended, with Alfred defeated and forced into exile. Uhtred’s loyalties once again caught in the middle between the Danes who raised him and who he’s come to love, and Alfred. This decision is further complicated by the fact Alfred has publicly humiliated Uhtred, and made Uhtred’s hatred of the pious king grow. If Uhtred fights for Alfred, he may finally get his home back and earn respect among his countrymen. If he fights with the Danes, Uhtred will forever be hated by everyone he knows, and will never be able to return home to Northumbria. The ideas of family, patriotism, and loyalty run throughout the novel, and made me wonder which choice I would have made. (Cont…)
Author Bernard Cornwell continues to embed amazingly written battle scenes with narrative in the third entry to his Saxon Stories, Lords of the North. Like the last novel, this novel picks up right after (a month later) the events in The Pale Horseman. Uhtred has helped win Alfred’s kingdom back, and is given a paltry reward for his effort. Angry, Uhtred takes Hild with him to Northumbria to seek his revenge against the uncle that usurped his kingdom, and to exact the blood feud against Kjartan, who killed Uhtred’s foster-father, Ragnar. Still cocky and self-assured, Uhtred’s narration adds a bit of humor, wit, and wisdom to the story as a man in his 80’s reflecting back on his youth. (Cont…)
Like Bernard Cornwell’s earlier Saxon Stories, Sword Song, is full of action. In this novel, Uhtred is forced to take London back from the Danes. King Alfred sends him with his cousin, Aethelred, who has just married Alfred’s daughter Aetheleflaed and taken over control of Southern Mercia. Uhtred is sent as one of his cousin’s advisors, but the their extreme dislike for one another causes major problems for Uhtred. The majority of the novel is about the various battles Uhtred wages at Alfred’s behest to capture and maintain control of London. Aside from the numerous battles, the novel also focuses on the relationships between the core characters. (Cont…)
The fifth book in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories/The Warrior Chronicles, The Burning Land, picks up about two years after the incidents in the previous book. Uhtred and Gisela are expecting their fourth child, and life couldn’t be better. Until Alfred asks Uhtred to help him fight a new Danish conquer with his sights on Wessex. I love Uhtred the most when he’s in top warrior form, and since he’s been married to Gisela. He’s grown up to be a wonderful man, loving husband and father, and loyal friend. His point of view concerning the people around him and the major events in his country are becoming more accurate, and closer to the 83-year-old narrating the story. (Cont…)
I LOVE THIS SERIES! Bernard Cornwell’s Death of Kings is another book in his Saxon Stories series to be essentially chock-full of battle scenes from beginning to end. After Alfred dies, other contenders for the crown come out of the woodwork to try to snatch the crown of Alfred’s son Edward’s head. Edward is young, but he’s seen battle, and is determined to hang on to his legacy. Like Uhtred, I really like Edward. He’s pious, intelligent, and cautious like his father, but he doesn’t try to be a perfect man. Just a perfect king. He wants the best for his people, and is willing to acknowledge that his sister Aethelflaed can help him obtain his goals. (Cont…)