This Savage Song- V.E.Schwab

“It wasn’t the act of killing that bothered her – monsters and men both did that – and it wasn’t even the chilling serenity on the Sunai’s face. It was the fact that he killed them with a sound. Those men were dead the minute he started playing.”

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Blurb: “Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his father – but his curse is to be what humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn families at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive in a city where no one Is safe and monsters are real?”

This is the first in a new duology by V.E.Schwab who gained number one New York Times Bestselling status with this book.

It has been twelve years since violence started manifesting as actual monsters, six years since a truce divided the city of Verity into two and four years since August was found at a crime scene, surrounded by bodies. August lives in the South side of the city where the Flynn family storm out every night to keep the monsters at bay. Through a transfer to Colton Academy he meets Kate Harker who is from the north side of the city, where protection from monsters can be given for a high price. There are three types of monsters: Corsai (the result of non-lethal acts of violence), Malchai (the result of murders) and the Sunai (the result of bombing, shootings or massacres). August is one of those monsters; a sunai.

Anyone who follows me on any kind of social media will know that over the past year I have become a big fan of V.E.Schwab and her work. The concept of this was so interesting because it’s something I’ve never heard of and on top of that it’s a young adult paranormal novel with NO ROMANCE.

However, there were several times when I considered giving up on this book all together. I restarted about four times, convinced I’d missed something, and came to the realisation that there is nowhere near the amount of information dumping that’s needed. Normally I’m so against having lots of knowledge thrown at me so easy on in a book but there’s no map to accompany the story so at times I found it hard to place where the characters were in the city and to top it off, it’s not until 190 pages into the book that you actually learn the difference between the three monsters despite them being referred to constantly throughout the book.

I found the first two chapters really disorientating and they read as a kind of prologue that isn’t related to the story in a way. The transition from those to “verse one” was very jarring. But I persevered and grew to really enjoy the story. The characters were well written and I found myself really caring for August and it was a lot more brutal than I expected it to be.

It kept me intrigued enough to want to find out what happens next however it works well as a stand alone.
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A Gathering Of Shadows -V.E.Schwab

V. E. Schwab - Gathering of Shadows - UK cover by Julia Lloyd

Blurb: “Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighbouring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.”

This is the sequel to A Darker Shade Of Magic and I cannot deny how excited I have been for this book. It’s one of my most anticipated reads for the year and when my preorder copy arrived two weeks early, I was practically cartwheeling round my house.

A Gathering Of Shadows continues to follow the magician Kell and the thief Delilah Bard but on their separate paths after the events of the previous book. Delilah returns at the start of this book on a rapidly sinking boat with her hands tied together and Kell is back in Red London.

Delilah manages to get help from a passing ship upon which she kills all of the crew and steals the ship, proving to her real captain Alucard just what she’s capable of. Kell is reeling from the events with the stone and having to process the magical bound between him and Prince Rhy; a bond that means that as long as Kell lives, so does Rhy. What initially feels like a blessing becomes more of a burden as Rhy begins to view himself as cursed and turns to drink copious amounts to fill his empty life.

Word has started to spread of The Essen Tasch, an international competition of magic, is to be held in Red London, and Kell plans to participate in disguise. Unfortunately for him, Delilah Bard has the same idea.

This is such a wonderful, solid, second book. From what I’ve read of series/trilogies so far, it’s only too easy for the sequel to fall short to the debut. That was not the case with this one. Even though Delilah and Kell are on completely separate paths until the last 100-150 pages, each character holds their own so well that it doesn’t feel like you have to skim read several boring chapters to get to the character you care about. They’re so well fleshed out and so well written that you can’t help but engage with every single word in their stories.

V.E.Schwab continues to hint at Black London in a tantalising way that makes you want to track her down and shake her until she answers all of your questions.

It took me a lot longer to read this book than I originally planned because this kind of fantasy takes a while to get back into and I did have to re-read some pages a few times. But that is the fault of me and not the author as I read a children’s picture book before reading this one.

A Gathering of Shadows did not fall short of my expectations and now I can only sit and impatiently wait until the third book is out, or until the next V.E.Schwab book is out this year.

 

 
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Top Books of 2015

So another glorious year of reading is over and while I await new releases with great anticipation. It’s now time for me to reflect on my favourite books I read last year.

Disclaimer: not all of the books listed came out in 2015, some of them I just happened to read in that year. I will state these accordingly. Also, the order the books appear in this post doesn’t reflect the order in which I enjoyed them.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill (2015)

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This story follows teenager Emma O’Donovan who goes to a house party with her friends. She wakes up on the front porch of her house the following morning with no memory of how she got there or what happened. Until various photos and videos start to make their appearance on the internet. This book is a very difficult read and I won’t lie, it’s not pleasant at times. But this doesn’t mean we should avoid the serious and important topics this book discusses. The quote on the front of the book says “She writes with a scalpel.” That couldn’t be more true.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab (2015)

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In A Darker Shade Of Magic there are four londons: Grey London which is dirty, boring and lacks magic, Red London where life and magic are admired with a flourishing empire, White London which is ruled by whoever murders their way onto the throne, and Black London… which no one speaks of.
Kell is the last of the Travelers – rare magicians with the ability to travel between the various londons. He smuggles items from realm to realm for those who are willing to pay the price. But when he accidently gets accused of treason, the only thing left for him to do is flee.
Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015)

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Simon is a not-so-openly gay sixteen year old sending emails to his secret lover who goes by the name of Blue. He understands Simon, and Simon has quite a few feelings for the person on the other side of his emails. When the emails fall into the wrong hands, Simon finds himself being blackmailed by one of his classmates: if he doesn’t play wing-man and help this person get with his friend, then the emails will be released to the entire school and not only that, but the privacy of Blue will be destroyed.


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)

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Told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs, a horrific family tragedy sends Jacob looking for clues on Cairholm Island off the coast from Wales. Here he discovers the abandoned orphanage known as Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. When chased by a girl who produces fire and a boy who can turn invisible, Jacob finds himself trapped in September 3rd 1940, the day Miss Peregrine’s home was destroyed by a bomb dropped during World War II. And he’s stuck in a time loop where the day restarts just as the bomb hits the home.

Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (2012)

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After years of being a prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier, eighteen year old assassin Celaena Sardothien is brought before the Crown Prince, Dorian who offers her her freedom. But only if she competes as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. If she wins, she must serve the kingdom for four years and then she will be free. But when a contestant turns up dead, swiftly followed by the death of another, can she find out who is behind the killings before she becomes the next victim?
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015)

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Theodore Finch is fascinated by death and constantly thinking of ways to end his life. Violet Markey is living for the future, counting each pitiful day until graduation. When the pair meet on the ledge of the school’s bell tower they inadvertently save each other.

When paired together on a project, the new duo are sent off to discover “natural wonders” of their state, making some important discoveries about themselves along the way.

 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)

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Tally is an ugly. She cannot wait until she turns sixteen and becomes a pretty: to become part of a world where her only job is to look good and have fun. Tally’s friend, Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty and decides to run away. As Shay’s only friend, Tally is approached by the authorities who offer her a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (2015)

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Everything Everything tells the story of Maddy, a teenager with a rare illness – she’s allergic to everything. She can’t go outside. She has spent her life interacting with only her mother and nurse.

But when a moving truck appears next door and Maddy sets her eyes on Olly, she feels she has to get to know him, no matter what the cost will be.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2014)

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It’s the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Nick is out buying last-minute presents while his wife is adding the last details to her treasure hunt based on clues linked to aspects of their years together. When Nick returns home to find the home trashed and his wife missing, he calls the police.

But the suspiciously articulated crime scene and disturbing passages in Amy’s diary lead the detectives to wonder, could the husband have killed his wife?
A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J.Maas

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An utterly beautiful Beauty And The Beast retelling following the huntress Feyre who kills a wolf in the woods. Later, a beast-like creature demands retribution and takes her as his prisoner to a magical land she’s only heard about in legends. Feyre learns that her captor isn’t a beast but in fact Tamlin – one of the immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
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A Darker Shade Of Magic V.E.Schwab

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Blurb: “Kell is one of the last travellers – magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city. There’s Grey London, without magic and ruled by the mad king George III. Red London – where magic is revered, and where Kell was raised alongside the heir to the empire. White London – where people fight to control the remaining magic and magic fights back. And once there was Black London…”

A Darker Shade of Magic is a book that I’ve seen constantly talked about in the book blogger/booktube world for a long time. It had a lot of hype and, while this tends to make me cautious about reading popular books, I decided to pick up a copy.

The story primarily follows Kell who is the “red traveller” and a kind of personal ambassador for Red London. His role is to carry correspondences between the royals of each London. However, on the side he smuggles parts of each world to the inhabitants of the others, if they are willing to pay. (Note: not everyone can travel to the different Londons)

On one of his escapades, Kell bumps into Delilah (Lila) Bard who robs him: the most notable item being a stone. Lila’s plans quickly unravel when she ends up saving Kell from a dangerous group intent on killing him. Kell informs Lila that the stone is in fact full of magic. But not just any magic. Magic from Black London.

Black London is basically a part of this world that has been ravaged by magic, used for evil, selfish reasons and now lies in ruins.

The duo part ways until a man called Holland jumps her. He knows about the stone, it’s powers and naturally, he wants it for himself. He threatens Lila and demands that she call Kell to the situation. Kell makes his dramatic entrance and repays Lila by saving her.

Kell’s plan is simple: get to Black London and return the stone.

Of course, Holland isn’t going to give up that easily. So it looks like Lila and Kell are going to have to put up with each other for a little while longer.

I can only get down on my knees and worship V.E.Shwab for the amount of planning that must have gone into this book. The world building was spectacular and each London was so distinctive that I felt as if I was really there on the streets. The characters were gloriously interesting. Schwab gives just enough information for you to picture them (for example, Kell) but just a smidge not enough which keeps you reading in the hopes that those gaps will be filled.

Also, kudos to the cover artist for this book because after I finished it, I realised that the circles on the cover actually represent each of the Londons.

This was a fantastic read and it has been a good while since a book has had me this hooked and left me asking myself questions long after I’ve finished it.
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