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The Land of Stories: 01 The Wishing Spell
The Land of Stories: 01 The Wishing Spell
by Chris Colfer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A predictable but enchanting tale of fairy-tales come to life, 30 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As a child, I often dreamed up amazing adventures that I would have. I imagined the worlds I might travel to and the characters I might meet. I think most children who love reading as much as I did (mostly thanks to a certain Potter series...) imagined what would happen if the characters they loved so much were actually real.

That is the magic of The Wishing Spell. For adults, there is a certain excitement reading about characters you loved so dearly as a child, while for the children it is the thrill of imagining being able to visit characters that have probably become their best friends. As an adult reading it, I found myself with butterflies as Alex and Conner met some of my childhood heroes, wishing I could be there with a camera in hand. The experience is something like a child visiting Disneyland and meeting all those treasured friends in the flesh. That is the beauty of this story.

The plot itself was very basic. Alex and Conner find themselves being sucked into the not-so-imaginably titled Land of Stories - their favourite fairy-tale book as young children, full of stories about Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and Goldilocks, among others. They then encounter a problem: how do they get home? What ensues is a quest for items that will take them throughout all the many kingdoms of the Land of Stories - as detailed on the handy map at the beginning of the book - before they can get home. But the further Alex and Conner go on their journey, the more secrets they uncover both about themselves and the characters they know and love.

As a young adult, I picked up The Land of Stories because I enjoy fantasy and fairy-tales - this is a story for the Disney fanatics. It took a while to get going but once it did, I found myself warming to the story and to the characters. Admittedly, while I was gripped by the idea of meeting fairy-tale characters, Colfer has a lot of work to do on his storytelling: it was very basic, predictable and the characters were shallow cliches. Secrets uncovered at the end I had guessed in the first few chapters, and Alex and Conner didn't really come alive for me. Generally, though, our beloved fairy-tale friends were safe in Colfer's hands as they wouldn't have been in the hands of so many: the worst you'll find is Red Riding Hood's tendency to throw tantrums, and some cringe-worthy names of unnamed characters (The Princesses are all married to Charming brothers, two of whom are called Chase and Chandler, and their father is called Chester - I have to say I groaned a bit at the American names!).

But all that said, I DID enjoy the book. I had to knock off two stars for the way the story was told, but I don't think this is a bad first attempt from Colfer at all. Whether you're an adult purchasing this for yourself, or it's being purchased for a child, I think there's something in it for all fairy-tale lovers to enjoy. Give it a chance and you'll wish you were there with Alex and Conner, sneaking in to Cinderella's Ball, climbing Rapunzel's tower, or fleeing the Evil Queen!


Allegiant (Divergent, Book 3) (Divergent Trilogy)
Allegiant (Divergent, Book 3) (Divergent Trilogy)
Price: £4.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Warning: Allegiant may ruin your love for the first two books!, 13 Dec 2013
Allegiant broke me. This book took all my love for Divergent and Insurgent and mocked me with it. If I'm being brutally honest, Roth could have saved herself a lot of time if the only words in Allegiant were "It was all a dream". You would still be left feeling cheated and completely miserable. Apparently it's not obvious that if the concluding book in a series negates the first two books it's never going to be received well.

"I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me - they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could." - Tris in Allegiant

Allegiant is mostly about identity. I don't want to go into the plot too much because it will ruin the book - it's better if it surprises you as much as it does the characters - but it's safe to say, the characters go outside the gates and they learn an earth-shattering truth that left me devastated. What ensues is a story about identity - what defines you as a person? Are some people born superior to others? Interesting premise but what exactly does it have to do with the Divergent series? The whole premise of the book actually makes the first two books irrelevant and should come with a warning that it has the potential to destroy your love for the first two books.

I hate to say it, but Allegiant was a massive disappointment. It felt boring and pointless, and it didn't succeed in making me feel anything until the end, which was definitely written to shock and left me feeling numb. And what happened to character development? Already-existing characters barely change, while the long list of new characters introduced were flat and lifeless. I couldn't even find myself hating any of the supposed villains - even one that succeeds in killing a character I loved, nothing like the way I hated Peter or Jeanine.

To give you an idea of how this book will make you feel, cast your mind back to your childhood. Back when you thought the tooth fairy left money underneath your pillow, when you slept soundly the night of 24th December every year because you KNEW that if you woke Father Christmas wouldn't leave you any presents, and when you believed with all your heart that anything could happen. Then try to remember how you felt when you realised none of those things is true, that moment when you realised the truth about Father Christmas... That's the feeling you'll get when you read Allegiant. The back cover really says it all: "What if your whole world was a lie?" It CRUSHED me.

So what it comes down to is this: should you read it? Well I think that depends on how badly you need closure. If you're desperate to find out what happens, read it but be warned: not only is the book irrelevant and pointless but more main characters will die. If, unlike me, you can live your life and never know what happened to Tris and Four then don't bother. You're not missing anything and you're better off pretending it all ended with Insurgent. BUT if I could go back a couple of years and tell my past self not to read Divergent, would I? Definitely not. I'm so happy I met Tris and Four and Divergent remains one of my favourite books. Allegiant may spoil the trilogy - far worse than Mockingjay spoiled the Hunger Games trilogy - but it can't spoil my love for the first two books, not for me. Divergent will always be my favourite: that first time jumping off a train, jumping off a building, climbing a ferris wheel, falling in love with Four... Insurgent was, for me, a little slower - a lot of war and a lot of angst that made it harder to love than Divergent, but I loved it all the same. I would never go back and choose not to read either of those.


All Our Yesterdays
All Our Yesterdays
Price: £1.34

4.0 out of 5 stars Clever, thrilling and completely unputdownable!, 14 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Sometimes, just sometimes, a book can actually surpass all your expectations! I bought it at Amazon's suggestion and was a bit dubious - I didn't want to get into the book just to be let down. I'd read too many books that promise me dystopia and end up being simply mediocre. But WOW All Our Yesterdays blew me away!

All Our Yesterdays struck me as such a cleverly crafted book. It takes place in two different time-frames: on the one hand you have Em and Finn, locked away somewhere where they are tortured by the doctor; then, a few years earlier we read the story of Marina, a popular girl completely besotted by her neighbour, the charming and super-intelligent James. Em and Finn somehow have to save the world, but in doing so they will end up crushing all Marina's dreams.

There's not much more I can tell you about the plot of All Our Yesterdays because it's one of those books where the fun is in working out what's going to happen. For that reason I also advise you to be careful about how many reviews you read - people have a habit of spoiling even small details that are so much fun to work out. Admittedly some of what happens - some of the great reveals - you may guess a few chapters earlier than you should, but that doesn't detract from the brilliance of this book. It's one of those books where you know you're in good hands: it feels carefully planned out, it's beautifully written and it comes with a pull that won't let you go. I think I knew from the first five pages I wouldn't be able to put it down; there are so many mysterious elements to both time-frames and the author reveals them slowly and gradually rather than all at once.

The characters in this book are brilliant and really well-developed. The story is told from the dual perspective of both Em and Marina which helps bring alive two very different and very distinctive characters. I loved Em and the boy in the next cell, Finn - you can't help but feel for them after what they've gone through, but at the same time they are so strong and resilient they become incredibly likeable. Marina, on the other hand, takes a while to warm to because while there are many aspects of her life that make you feel for her - the parents who are too wealthy and too busy to spend time with her, for instance, and the fact that she feels even her friends are only her friends because they're interested in James - but at the same time, she's one of those spoilt rich girls who generally doesn't have any idea what a hard life is like. But as the story goes on and we learn more about her, the more we see the good person she really is. Her feelings for James are also incredibly sweet, but that just makes the truth of it all even more heart-breaking. While Marina may be hard to love at the beginning, you will feel every crack in her heart by the end.

I really couldn't put All Our Yesterdays down. This is definitely one I'll be re-reading. There's no obvious path for a sequel, but I'd definitely be interested to read more from this world and these characters. In fact, I'd love to read a book that takes place between the two timelines - while we're given a few episodes from that time, about how the world went from the happy place that Marina knew to the tyrannical state that Em knows several years later, a book covering that time would be a brilliant read I think!

I absolutely loved this book and I only wish I could go back in time myself so I could read this book all over again for the first time!


Shadow and Bone: The Grisha 1
Shadow and Bone: The Grisha 1
by Leigh Bardugo
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many clichés ruin a perfectly good fantasy, 21 Aug 2013
I hate to admit it, but I was a little disappointed by Shadow and Bone (or The Gathering Dark). When I found it in the library, I thought I'd unearthed a real treasure of a book, a dark and chilling fantasy that would have me reading at all hours of the day and night. And while it was on the whole enjoyable and interesting, I could have put it down at any point without worrying about what happened.

The story takes place in a fantasy country called Ravka, where a dark void called The Shadow Fold filled with dangerous monsters is destroying the land. The hope everyone has been waiting for comes in the form of our heroine Alina, an orphan and mapmaker who goes from being always overlooked to the centre of attention when she discovers that she has a unique power to summon light. Her power puts her among the Grisha, the magical elite, each with their own specific power. Leader of the Grisha is the Darkling, a young-looking man who Alina can't help but feel drawn to with his mysterious power to summon the dark. He whisks her off to the Palace to live a lavish life among the Grisha, protected from Ravka's enemies who wish to harm the only hope the country has to rid themselves of the Shadow Fold.

When I picked up this book I was enthusiastic and excited. There's definitely plenty of fascinating invented history and mythology for this land; it wasn't lacking in fantasy or imagination and I loved the idea of the Grisha and their different coloured robes (Keftas) depending on what their power was. At times it did become hard to follow because the world and the words invented by Bardugo, mostly describing the different types of Grisha, weren't always explained properly, but the world Bardugo has created and the idea of the Grisha was interesting enough for that not to matter. The last third of the book was just as intriguing; I won't spoil the plot for you but there was a great adventure and a mission to the save world!

The disappointment was the middle part of the book, which told of Alina's time at the Little Palace, where the Grisha live. Alina comes here to learn properly how to be a Grisha, but at this point the plot and the fantasy gave way to school politics. It became thoroughly unoriginal: the new student with an amazing power, far better than anyone else's, who couldn't get to grips with it and came to the conclusion that she was worthless and didn't belong with her schoolmates (which seemed pretty similar to the House of Night series for one), favourite of the male teacher who she and all the girls have a crush on (again, House of Night, also Divergent). Alina as a character got completely lost at this point. Where she had started as quiet but feisty, she suddenly became completely insecure and as she spent pages describing how little she thought of herself, I found my opinion of her going down too. But I hate giving up on books so I continued to read, particularly tempted by the front cover which promises "A dark heart. A pure soul. A love that will last forever.", hoping that perhaps there would be an incredible romance between the Darkling and Alina beneath the main plot. Sadly all the claims for romance on the cover are over-hyped, so don't pick this up expecting an enchanting love story.

The other problem for me was the villain of the story. It was a twist that I saw coming and that left me feeling incredibly disappointed because it was far too easy to make this person the villain. For me it would have been a greater story if the villain had been someone far more unexpected, perhaps someone cleverly crafted into the background of the story. Even worse was Alina's confrontation with the villain, where said villain had a typical maniacal moment where they divulged their plan and chided the hero (Alina in this case) for believing them. The villain was probably my biggest problem with this book, and its thanks to that plot device that I even have to ask the following question: will I be reading the sequel? The answer, I'm afraid to say, is probably not.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 2, 2014 9:44 PM BST


The Gathering Dark: The Grisha 1
The Gathering Dark: The Grisha 1
by Leigh Bardugo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many clichés ruin a perfectly good fantasy, 21 Aug 2013
I hate to admit it, but I was a little disappointed by The Gathering Dark (or Shadow and Bone, to use its US title). When I found it in the library, I thought I'd unearthed a real treasure of a book, a dark and chilling fantasy that would have me reading at all hours of the day and night. And while it was on the whole enjoyable and interesting, I could have put it down at any point without worrying about what happened.

The story takes place in a fantasy country called Ravka, where a dark void called The Shadow Fold filled with dangerous monsters is destroying the land. The hope everyone has been waiting for comes in the form of our heroine Alina, an orphan and mapmaker who goes from being always overlooked to the centre of attention when she discovers that she has a unique power to summon light. Her power puts her among the Grisha, the magical elite, each with their own specific power. Leader of the Grisha is the Darkling, a young-looking man who Alina can't help but feel drawn to with his mysterious power to summon the dark. He whisks her off to the Palace to live a lavish life among the Grisha, protected from Ravka's enemies who wish to harm the only hope the country has to rid themselves of the Shadow Fold.

When I picked up this book I was enthusiastic and excited. There's definitely plenty of fascinating invented history and mythology for this land; it wasn't lacking in fantasy or imagination and I loved the idea of the Grisha and their different coloured robes (Keftas) depending on what their power was. At times it did become hard to follow because the world and the words invented by Bardugo, mostly describing the different types of Grisha, weren't always explained properly, but the world Bardugo has created and the idea of the Grisha was interesting enough for that not to matter. The last third of the book was just as intriguing; I won't spoil the plot for you but there was a great adventure and a mission to the save world!

The disappointment was the middle part of the book, which told of Alina's time at the Little Palace, where the Grisha live. Alina comes here to learn properly how to be a Grisha, but at this point the plot and the fantasy gave way to school politics. It became thoroughly unoriginal: the new student with an amazing power, far better than anyone else's, who couldn't get to grips with it and came to the conclusion that she was worthless and didn't belong with her schoolmates (which seemed pretty similar to the House of Night series for one), favourite of the male teacher who she and all the girls have a crush on (again, House of Night, also Divergent). Alina as a character got completely lost at this point. Where she had started as quiet but feisty, she suddenly became completely insecure and as she spent pages describing how little she thought of herself, I found my opinion of her going down too. But I hate giving up on books so I continued to read, particularly tempted by the front cover which promises "A dark heart. A pure soul. A love that will last forever.", hoping that perhaps there would be an incredible romance between the Darkling and Alina beneath the main plot. Sadly all the claims for romance on the cover are over-hyped, so don't pick this up expecting an enchanting love story.

The other problem for me was the villain of the story. It was a twist that I saw coming and that left me feeling incredibly disappointed because it was far too easy to make this person the villain. For me it would have been a greater story if the villain had been someone far more unexpected, perhaps someone cleverly crafted into the background of the story. Even worse was Alina's confrontation with the villain, where said villain had a typical maniacal moment where they divulged their plan and chided the hero (Alina in this case) for believing them. The villain was probably my biggest problem with this book, and its thanks to that plot device that I even have to ask the following question: will I be reading the sequel? The answer, I'm afraid to say, is probably not.


The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer 1)
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer 1)
by Michelle Hodkin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Unfulfilling Mara Dyer, 18 Aug 2013
They say you should never judge a book by its cover and generally that's a good rule. But lately I'm beginning to see a new pattern emerge in teen books: If the cover is good, it's probably making up for the ugly soul inside. Take any book by Cassandra Clare, for instance. But in spite of seeing plenty of bad reviews on Goodreads for Mara Dyer, I decided to give it a go. A girl who lost her friends and boyfriend in an accident she can't even remember? I expected a gripping, sinister psychological thriller. Unfortunately, the book completely misses the mark.

The story takes place after Mara wakes up in hospital, recovering from a tragic accident that killed her two friends and her boyfriend. The only trouble is, she can't remember what happened. Completely distraught, she is prescribed medication and moves with her family to Florida where they hope a fresh start will be good for her. But Mara's troubles don't end there: she's now having hallucinations about her dead friends and she doesn't get on well at her new school. But then she gets involved with the school's illusive bad boy and things seem to go from bad to worse.

If the plot makes you want to read it, you're not the only one. I fell for the plot too. But let me explain why it isn't quite as good as the basic storyline makes out. To start with, Mara herself was really annoying. She refuses to take her medication, but she never consciously makes this decision so rather than it building up to a great storyline, it just provides an excuse for Hodkin to write about her hallucinations. But these hallucinations aren't even remotely thrilling or scary. Any fear Mara has after these hallucinations is momentary; she didn't dwell on them the way you or I would if we started seeing dead people. Also, we soon realise that the boyfriend that died was a pretty nasty boyfriend, so having had that experience I couldn't understand why Mara then started dating the notorious bad boy at her new school. On top of that, the whole school knows that Noah uses girls for sex and then dumps them, so WHY is Mara still interested? It's not explained at all; Mara simply goes from hating him for no real reason to loving him for no reason.

The book is full of cliches. Mara is the typical tragically misunderstood heroine, the new girl at school who finds herself inexplicably drawn to the classic bad boy/mysterious loner guy... there's even a scene where just after the new girl and the mysterious loner have started dating, he drives her to school, puts his arm around her in front of everyone in the car park and the whole school stares... and of course the mysterious loner turns out to be pretty loaded. Twilight anyone?! You've also got the gay best friend; the school mean girl who has a history with the bad boy and HER gay best friend. The plot is also a bit too predictable. I guessed pretty near the start what was revealed as a twist on the last page, a twist which is supposed to leave you hanging for book two but which made me roll my eyes and say "Of course THAT would happen..." It wasn't the only plot twist I saw coming way before it happened; Hodkin just didn't cover her tracks well enough.

Very little of real interest happens in this book, so it drags quite a bit. Then, when something finally does happen, it felt like such a farce that I was waiting for someone to jump out and shout "PUNKED!" at any moment because it was so far-fetched and unexpected that I was certain it wasn't happening. But it WAS happening, it wasn't one of Mara's hallucinations or even a practical joke. Had Hodkin built up to it a bit better, if Mara had questioned what was happening more than she did, it would have been an incredible climax.

So what DID I like? Well I really enjoyed Mara's recollections of the night everything happened. They intended to spend the night in an abandoned mental asylum so the events of that night feel like the thriller I was hoping to read. The memory of that night came back to Mara in stages which, while an interesting plot device (if a little unoriginal), felt authentic and believable. I also loved the whole idea of the plot, which is why I read it in the first place and why I kept reading even when I was bored, but I just feel Hodkin could have done so much more with it. Cut the cliches, add a pinch of tension and a dash of fear here and there and this would be an amazing trilogy. As it is, I'm left mourning for the amazing story I was promised but didn't get.


Blood Feud (The Drake Chronicles)
Blood Feud (The Drake Chronicles)
by Alyxandra Harvey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Don't expect to be swept away, 18 Aug 2013
The Drake family are no strangers to fighting and chaos. When your sister is the first vampire born not made for centuries, and when your mother is soon to be Queen of the vampires having deposed the old Queen, people trying to kill you and your family is just part of every day life. At the centre of it all is, as in the first book, the evil Montmatre, who wishes to marry Solange, believing her to be the true Queen and wishing to become her King so that he can use her as his puppet and reign over all vampires.

This second book in the series follows the second youngest Drake brother, Logan. As with the Benedicts series (beginning with Finding Sky, an incredible book), it seems the Drake Chronicles is going to chronicle the romance of each of the brothers, each book relating the tale of one of the brothers falling in love. In this book it's Logan's turn and Harvey won't keep you guessing about who he's going to fall for; for starters the dual narration gives the game away. The story is narrated by not just Logan, but also by Isabeau, who we learn is a French vampire who lived during the Revolution but was buried for 200 years. Logan and Isabeau fall for one another almost instantly. I didn't feel like there was any build up to it which was disappointing; it felt too forced for me to become swept away in the romance. Personally I prefer a romance being built up gradually throughout a book rather than characters falling in love hours after they've met. After that, the rest of the plot seemed to play second fiddle to the romance and even the battle scene towards the end was destroyed by the romance.

In general, all the characters felt two-dimensional. In My Love Lies Bleeding, I really enjoyed reading Lucy's point of view and I felt like I got to know her, but here I don't feel like I know any of the characters. I was hoping they would be developed more, especially all the Drake brothers who all seem to blend into one. The brothers are a faceless blur, unless you count Logan's fashion sense or Quinn being the ladies man, or that they are all desperate to hide their girlfriends/sister at the first sign of trouble, but none of those facts is enough to make the characters seem real. A few times Harvey even forgets about the existence of one of the brothers. I wish I could tell you that wasn't the only continuity error she makes, or that there was an exciting unpredictable plot (like in My Love Lies Bleeding) to make up for all of this, but sadly that's not true.

The thing that pulls this book up to three stars from two is Isabeau's past. Like Lucy and Solange, Isabeau is a feisty heroine and I really enjoyed reading about her time during the French Revolution, about the historical events that happened and seeing Harvey intertwine them with Isabeau's life. It was definitely a fascinating origins story. This was the most interesting part of the book for me and has definitely made me consider reading Harvey's historical paranormal romance Haunting Violet, even though I can't see myself reading the rest of the Drake Chronicles. For me to enjoy a book I need at the very least characters that grab me or a plot that interests me. Personally, I didn't feel that Blood Feud had either. If you're after a book about a series of supernatural brothers who fall in love one after the other, you'd be better off with the Benedict series.


Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy)
by Laini Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars It will sweep you away with the beauty and magic of it, 18 Aug 2013
I knew from the first line of this book that I was going to fall in love with it. For me, I can often tell from the first line of a book whether or not I'm going to like it. That sounds a bit presumptuous but if a first line doesn't grab me, it's rare that the rest of the book will be much better. From the first line of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I knew that something out of the ordinary was going to happen.

This is one of those rare books where it's not just the fantasy that's gripping; it's the everyday life of the character. For one, our heroine Karou lives in Prague which makes the setting so much different from your average American setting. Also, her ex-boyfriend gives ghost tours around the city where he used to have Karou jump out at unsuspecting tourists to scare them. What's more, Karou's best friend comes from a long line of puppeteers. She also entertains her friends at art school with her many sketchbooks filled with drawings of mysterious magical creatures. And, on the first day we meet Karou, she ends up drawing her ex-boyfriend in life drawing. There's nothing boring about Karou's life, supernatural or not.

But Karou leads a mysterious life that even her best friend Zuzana knows nothing about. Every now and then she has to go on strange errands for Brimstone, the Chimaera whose shop (set in a strange other world she knows nothing of) is the only home she remembers growing up in. But aside Brimstone's errands, Karou's life gets even stranger: she can't remember the first few years of her life. The first memory she has is being in Brimstone's shop at an early age, but she remembers nothing before that, and has no family to speak of. The mystery of Karou's identity had me on tenterhooks, hungry for answers. I can't explain how deeply I was pulled into this book; I'm not sure I've been so desperate for answers since Harry Potter. It's THAT good! But then strange handprints appear on doorways across the world, including the doorway Karou uses to get to Brimstone's shop, sealing it off and preventing her from seeing him. Exiled from the supernatural world, Karou will do all it takes to get back and find the only family she has ever known. But an altercation with Akiva, a vengeful angel who hates Chimaera, changes Karou's life more than she could ever imagine and may stop her from finding her family and discovering her past.

I really enjoyed the romance of this story. I can't stand when authors get carried away with a romantic sub-plot; I enjoy romance but only when it doesn't get in the way of the main plot or take over the story. Taylor did not disappoint; the romance was actually essential in many ways to the plot. It felt natural and added to the beauty of the book. The real question for me was the massive revelation at the end of the book and whether or not the romance would continue. There is a huge shock at the very end of the book, on the last page even (Be prepared for a bit of a cliffhanger!) that left me reeling and had me wondering how the story, and especially the romance, can possibly play out from there.

The best part about Daughter of Smoke and Bone for me was the way it was written. The prose is almost poetic; it has this beautiful, melodic feel to it that blew me away so completely. It makes almost every other book I've ever read look badly written. It's as though every single word has been carefully thought out, every syllable intentional, and it creates something more magical even than the story. So I have to admit, when I came on to Amazon and saw all the less than satisfying reviews, I was SHOCKED. I feel like I must have read a different book from everyone else because this is now one of my favourite books of all times. I'm very picky about books, I have a mental checklist in my mind, and I have to say Daughter of Smoke and Bone checked every box, twice over. I don't think I would change a thing about it. So ignore all the bad reviews: this is an original masterpiece, pieced together carefully and intentionally to make one of the most amazing books you will ever read. It's dark and it's beautiful and it's a MUST READ.


Reached: 3/3 (Matched)
Reached: 3/3 (Matched)
by Ally Condie
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying finale, 17 Aug 2013
This review is from: Reached: 3/3 (Matched) (Paperback)
Everyone has dystopia fever. Thanks to the Hunger Games, a huge number of YA dystopians have made their way into our bookshops and the Matched series is just one of many. This series takes place in a world where everything and everyone is controlled. Cassia's rebellion began in Matched and in Crossed she finally found and joined the Rising, and in Reached we find not just Cassia and Ky secretly working for the Rising, but also Xander. Cassia is a Sorter and supposed to continue the pretense of her Match with Xander, who is now a Healer, while Ky is working as Pilot for the Rising, alongside Indie. All three main characters narrate this story, allowing us to see the rebellion from all angles.

If you've read the rest of the Matched series you'll know that Condie's novels aren't action-packed. They're always interesting and mostly gripping, but that's because of Condie's thoughtful writing style. There's something really satisfying about reading a story that feels thoughtful and planned out, where the characters take the time to think about what's happening and consider what it all means, rather than just going from action scene to action scene. Reached doesn't disappoint in this way.

The problem here, though, is that this style of writing doesn't have as much of an impact unless the characters have distinctive voices. If you've read my review of Matched you'll know that one of my issues with this series, as much as I love it, is that the characters feel a little underdeveloped. Take Ky for instance; he comes across as a gentle, compassionate guy who wants to change the world. But given his history, I find this hard to believe; I'm sure that after everything he's been through he would be a bit more rough around the edges, which would actually make him quite an attractive YA hero. Likewise I would expect Cassia to be far more bitter than she is. So given their lack of distinctiveness, they have a tendency to all blend into one, with the result that if you changed a few key details here and there, it could be any of the three main characters narrating. Perhaps for this reason some of the twists of this book weren't as hard-hitting as they should have been. Another problem for me was that I often had trouble remembering what happened in Crossed, or even Matched. It's been a while since I read either and Reached refers frequently to the events of Crossed in particular without giving much explanation as to what actually happened for anyone in need of a reminder.

In spite of those minor criticisms, Reached is actually really enjoyable. It may not be fast-paced but there is plenty going on and the three have such different roles in the Rising that you get a good idea of what's going on in so many parts of the rebellion. I really enjoyed Cassia's interaction with the archivists and watching her pass on what Ky has taught her to others. I was also relieved to see Xander finally begin to move on and developing a friendship with someone other than Cassia and Ky. You'll get a lot of closure from reading this book, and there are a few surprises along the way, and it was probably this that I enjoyed most about the book. It's a well-written, interesting finale with plenty of politics and lots of loose ends finally tied up. If you enjoyed Matched and Crossed, Reached is a must-read.


Matched
Matched
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4.0 out of 5 stars A frighteningly realistic portrayal of the future, 17 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Matched (Kindle Edition)
Every dystopia has a different "cure" for today's problems. Whether it's teenagers fighting to their death in an arena to pay for society's historic crimes against the government; dividing society into factions depending on the different virtues people exhibit, at the expense of all other virtues; or eradicating love and calling it a disease, every dystopian society has based itself on one ideal in particular to make the "perfect" society. In Matched, the main idea is control. If the government makes all life's big decisions for its people (who you marry, where you live, what job you do, how many children you have, even when you die), there will be no more crime and everyone can live in harmony. When the government even controls what information you have access to (choose from the 100 Songs or the 100 Poems or the 100 Stories or the 100 Paintings etc. but you won't be able to get your hands on anything else, and forget about being taught how to write - creativity is discouraged), how can you ever know not to trust them? How can you ever know that once society was very different and that it wasn't so bad? That's the situation our heroine Cassia is in until the day she is Matched - the day she finds out who she will spend the rest of her life with. On that day, everything changes. Why? Because not only has she been matched with her best friend from childhood Xander, but another face also flickers on the screen as her Match: the face of Ky, an Aberration who is permitted to live in society but without privileges, such as being Matched. So if Ky is not supposed to be Matched, why did Cassia see his face?

This "glitch" changes everything for Cassia. It doesn't matter how much Society tells her that she should not have seen Ky's face, the fact that she saw it causes her to wonder about Ky. Is he her perfect Match after all? And if he is, does that mean that Society's system has failed because he's an Aberration or does it mean that it works because it Matched her with someone she now finds herself drawn to? Now the more Cassia sees Ky, the more she is intrigued by him and the more he draws her into a world she barely knew existed. He teaches her how to write and he teaches her that there was once more to life than what Society would have people believe. At the heart of it all is poetry, and some beautiful poetry is included here, so treasured by Cassia because not only is it a gift from Ky, but because society completely outlaws it. Matched chronicles Cassia's journey as she wakes up from the controlled slumber everyone in the Society is under and begins to question what is going on around her for the first time.

The reason Matched works so well is because most of us live in a society where freedom is one of our most precious commodities. For many of us, to live in society that controls our every thought and action Nineteen Eighty-Four-style is the worst society imaginable. For dictators, the best way to crush rebellion is to prevent original thought and to limit what information your subjects have and as there are societies in the world today similar to this, it's not hard to conceive of the Society of Matched really existing. Likewise, it's easy to see how a teenager who sees a flaw in a perfect society might begin to rebel. For me, that was the best part of Matched because it felt so real in that sense.

The problem it does have is characterization. Honestly it's the same flaw a lot of YA novels have, but I found the characters to be almost a little bland. Cassia definitely has her moments, though, and you have to admire her courage to rebel the way she does and her desire to seek freedom. I can't say the lack of real depth in the characters stopped me from enjoying Matched, and while the story isn't full of action, Condie's writing is detailed and descriptive making it a pleasure to read.

The trilogy is now available for the whole of Matched and I wholly encourage everyone to read the series, though Matched is without a doubt the best of the three. It's thought-provoking and an interesting take on the YA dystopia; a must-read for lovers of dystopia!


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