First, we have the results of the Esslemont contest to win a copy of BLOOD AND BONE. We had a number of great responses, but this is the one that won it (chosen at random, by the way):
My name is Ryan McBride, and I've been reading the Malazan series since it came out in the US. Steven Erikson completely changed my view on Fantasy, and now everything I read--whether unfairly or not--gets compared to Malazan Book of the Fallen. The great thing about Ian C. Esslemont is that he tells all the other Malazan stories that I want to read. I have loved watching Esslemont's writing grow from NIGHT OF KNIVES. I would love a copy of BLOOD AND BONE, because without Esslemont, the Malazan series is not a complete story. I love his stories, and I love his writing.
The random number generator picked Ryan out of a ton of great responses. Thank you to everyone that entered. I wish we could just give out copies to everyone. Congratulations, Ryan! I hope you enjoy BLOOD AND BONE!
Also, thanks goes to Angelique at Tor for setting up the guest blog response with Mr. Esslemont, and for letting us here at EBR give away a copy of the novel.
I saw a random thing on the web today.
I'm a big fan of the tabletop wargame Warmachine/Hordes. I love the factions (especially Menoth!) and I was delighted to see the announcement that Pyr was going to publish a few original novels set in the Iron Kingdoms. I was also really excited to see that Privateer Press had made a fiction imprint of their own for ebooks under the name of Skull Island eXpeditions. I think that original fiction is the logical place for Warmachine/Hordes to go, and I pray to Menoth that this will take off the way Warhammer 40K fiction has.
So, the thing I saw on the internet.
Over at Reddit, a conversation with the first few authors who wrote fiction for Skull Island eXpeditions are taking questions about the whole process. I'm a huge fan of these types of discussions, so run over there and check it out! Here's your link:
Also, if you want to check out this original fiction set in the Warmachine/Hordes universe, here are your links to the ebooks:
Instrments of War by Larry Correia
Moving Targets by C.L. Werner
The Way of Caine by Miles Holmes
The Devil's Play by Dave Gross
Dark Convergence by Dave Gross
If you haven't played Warmachine/Hordes, it's a terrific skirmish tabletop game! I freaking love it! Here are your two cheapest ways to get into the game:
Warmachine Two-Player Battle Box
Hordes Two-Player Battle Box
I love this series. I will not apologize for the gushing. You male types are probably rolling your eyes. Well your loss then.
In the seventh installment of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, FROST BURNED, we start out with Mercy and newly minted step-daughter Jesse out for some early morning Black Friday shopping. It should have been an ordinary day, the kind of normal day Mercy has been craving since she moved to the Tri-Cities and met the Alpha of the local werewolf pack, Adam Hauptman.
Instead, while Mercy and Jesse are out, the entire pack is kidnapped.
Then we're carried along as Mercy tries to make sure those who weren't kidnapped are safe, particularly the non-weres' loved ones. This includes Kyle, the divorce lawyer partner for the pack's third in command, and a close friend of Mercy's. With the pack in trouble, she has to call in outside help--everyone and every favor she can muster in order to save those she loves.
The majority of the PoV is Mercy's first-person narrative. I love Mercy's voice and observations, she's smart and strong. But here Briggs also adds some PoV from Adam, whose side of the story is as important as Mercy's. As usual, Brigg's prose is easy-to-read and engaging. We do get to see more of half-Fae Tad, the son of Mercy's former boss, who is coming into his own powers (I hope we see more of him in the future). We also see more of Kyle, who before now has only gotten brief scenes. People come and go in the series, but Briggs doesn't let them stagnate, and makes sure readers become fully attached to even the secondary characters.
As we try to figure out the "Who" and the "Why" of the abduction, the story begins to get a little slippery. Some things are obvious, but there's more to it than at first glance, and Briggs gets a little convoluted (she does that sometimes) about who's really behind it and why. If you haven't read previous books, the revelations will mean nothing to you and will be confusing. This makes the climax feel random when it really isn't. But the story moves quickly and it's easy to gloss over the confusing bits and just enjoy the story clear to it exciting end.
Briggs has built an interesting magical world with its rules, but not a whole lot is added here to the setting itself. FROST BURNED is less about showing us something new than it is using what's gone before, everything Briggs has built, to solve a problem caused by making normal people aware of paranormals. The result is an excellent addition to an already fantastic series.
Recommended Age: 16+
Language: Maybe three instances total?
Violence: Fairly frequent throughout, but without gore
If you love Urban Fantasy and haven't been reading this series, seriously, what rock are you living under?
As part of his blog tour promoting the recently released BLOOD AND BONE, Ian C Esslemont dropped by Elitist Book Reviews to share his thoughts. His blog prompt was about the benefits and drawbacks of writing in a shared world, and how he differentiates himself from his Malazan co-creator, Steven Erikson. Enjoy!
One of my biggest disappointments when the 2013 Hugo Award nominations were announced was the absence of Ian Tregillis' THE COLDEST WAR from the ballot. Don't get me wrong, I was absolutely thrilled that EBR was nominated, but not seeing Tregillis' name on the list for Best Novel was a huge bummer. His Milkweed Triptych is one of the most enjoyable and clever series on the market right now, and a Hugo Nomination would have made a huge and well-deserved impact on his exposure. Why am I bringing this up? Not out of bitterness, I assure you. I want all you readers to understand just how much I and everyone at EBR loved THE COLDEST WAR.
NECESSARY EVIL absolutely crushes its predecessor. It is better in every way, and stands as one of the best novels I've read since founding Elitist Book Reviews. It will be on my Hugo ballot for 2014, and it should be on your ballot as well.
Now it's time to get detailed, but I have to start with a warning. From this point on there will be spoilers of the prior two novels, BITTER SEEDS and THE COLDEST WAR. I hate including spoilers, but in order for me to point at what makes NECESSARY EVIL so awesome, I need to talk about the prior novels. If you haven't read the prior two novels you should follow these instructions:
1) In a separate window, open Amazon.com.
2) Add BITTER SEEDS, THE COLDEST WAR and NECESSARY EVIL to your cart.
3) Buy the books.
4) Bookmark this page, and return after you have read the series. Close this page without reading further.
5) WELCOME BACK!!! Awesome right? Now, tell all your friends how incredible Ian Tregillis is.
6) Reread the series. Because why not?
OK, the spoilers start here.
So, THE COLDEST WAR ends with the Eidolons destroying everything. They hate humans, and Raybould Marsh gave them the key they needed to enter the world and end all human existence. Well, at least in THAT timeline. Marsh has been sent back in time to create an alternate timeline where the Eidolons don't break through.
To me the brutal failure of the main characters, and how they caused their own destruction, is what made THE COLDEST WAR such an impressive novel.But with that success came a whole lot of worries. How could Tregillis possibly up the proverbial ante?
NECESSARY EVIL starts with Gretel. We never got to be in her head. We never got to see her machinations from her own PoV. In this book we see how she tampers and manipulates. We really are shown just how obsessed she is with Marsh, and how not even her brother truly matters in this grand scheme she has. Her whole goal is to create a timeline where she doesn't die. It's a simple goal, yet completely believable. So often the goals of literary villains have no substance behind them. Not so here. Gretel's maniacal obsession with making sure she lives is written perfectly.
Following this stunning introduction to the novel, we get one of two versions of Raybould Marsh. We get our Marsh--the one from the destroyed timeline--sent back in time to 12 May, 1940 when everything originally went insane. It is here that Tregillis does some clever writing. This Marsh is told using a First Person PoV. The other Marsh--the young one in this new timeline--is told in Third Person Limited. Wondering which Marsh we are seeing is never an issue for the reader. What is more, we see the major contrast between the two Marshes and just how different they actually are.
All the other characters are back. Klaus. Will. Liv. All the other German super-humans. All the other Milkweed participants and warlocks. My only slight let-down came in terms of Klaus. He was my favorite character by the end of THE COLDEST WAR, so to see him so sparingly used in this novel made me a little sad. He got his ending in THE COLDEST WAR (and it was perfect), but still. He felt like a bit of an afterthought here.
Remember all those times that Will and Marsh saw that old, scarred guy? We finally got the obvious payoff in NECESSARY EVIL. Having read a lot of novels in my day, I appreciate how well Tregillis set all this up within the first novel.
Now, I can't get into the details of this specific novel. Let's just say that it is brutal, and the novel is aptly titled. Both Marshes and Will have to do some pretty horrible things to try and set the timeline right. You'd think that it would be hard to shock the readers with atrocities committed by these main characters, but Tregillis pulls it off masterfully.
The ending to NECESSARY EVIL is not totally happy. It can't be. If this series has touted one philosophy, it is that every action has consequences. I'll admit that at first I was bit shocked by how Tregillis wrapped it all up. But the more I thought about it--and I'm still thinking about it--the more I LOVED it.
If you like Science Fiction, this is the series for you. If you like Alternate History, this is the series for you. If you like Urban Fantasy, yes, this series is also for you. If you just like well-written novels with well-made characters and an expertly crafted story, then this series is for you.
NECESSARY EVIL is the perfect conclusion to what is now one of my favorite series ever.
Recommended Age: 17+
Profanity: Some, and it can get strong. It's on par with the rest of the series.
Violence: These novels have never been action-packed, but when there is violence to be had, it is always shocking, and awesomely written.
Sex: Nothing detailed. There is one almost-scene, but it isn't remotely sexual due to context.
If for some reason you ignored all my previous advice to buy these novels before reading this review, here are your links:
THE COLDEST WAR
While the majority of the books in the Vorkosigan Saga are from Miles' PoV, there are other characters who are just as loved. One of them is Ivan Vorpatril. And after years of fans clamoring for his story, Bujold delivers. But do you have to be a fan of the series to enjoy this book? Nope.
Unlike Miles, Ivan doesn't seek out the adrenaline-rush of adventure and mayhem. He's happy being a desk jockey for the Ops admiral without any ambition above that; he's glad that the throne of Barrayar recedes further away from his inheriting it as his cousin Emperor Gregor's children grow up; the only thing that would make him happier is finding a willing woman at the local bar.
While on Komarr for a routine two-week military audit, Ivan is visited by Byerly, undercover Imperial Security agent who, knowing Ivan's luck with the ladies, asks for help keeping track of a woman on the run. Despite being suspicious of Byerly's motives, when Ivan sees a picture of Tej his concerns are set aside, and decides he's willing to help a lady in distress. Ivan thwarts a kidnapping attempt and takes Tej and her handmaiden to his flat to keep them safe until Byerly can smooth things out. Unfortunately the local authorities get involved and in order to protect the women, Ivan and Tej perform a quick and private wedding ceremony.
The rest of the book is about the fallout over what Ivan calls his 'accidental' wedding. I'm pretty sure Bujold was on a Diet Coke IV drip the entire last 3/4 of the book because the writing has this semi-hysterical pitch to it. Sure the story may not have Miles involved, but just because he isn't there doesn't mean that strange things won't happen. Poor Ivan, he only wants a quiet life, but there are too many people who are interested in his personal happiness.
Ivan was determined to be a lifelong bachelor; however, now he is finding that maybe married life isn't too bad. Tej isn't like the other women he's dated. Tej grew up on Jacksons Whole, where anything goes, and if you aren't a ruthless businessman/woman then you won't survive. Her parents' business is taken over by a competitor and have sent bounty hunters after her. Tej couldn't care less about business, but she loves her family and fears them dead. When Ivan appears in her life she's intrigued, not only because he's tall and handsome, but because he couldn't be more different from her family if he tried.
If you liked A CIVIL CAMPAIGN in which Miles courts Ekaterina, this is your kind of book, with romance, fun characters, and an interesting setting. Bujold does a great job with not only the characters in the story--especially Ivan and Taj's romance--but also the relationships between the family members. I have, however, heard complaints about CIVIL because it was such a departure from the rest of the series. Bujold does her best to make CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE balance out more action with the relationship aspect. How? Remember Tej's business-minded family? Well, in order to take their business back, they need capital, and descend on Barrayar and their new son-in-law with less than altruistic intent. Hilarity ensues. Poor Ivan.
CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE is a fun book. It isn't groundbreaking, it doesn't tell us much new stuff, and gives enough background so that new readers won't get lost. There are some fun science-y things and her prose is as slick and entertaining as usual. But, ultimately, this book is about relationships: with family and friends, and how romantic relationships happen when you least expect them.
Recommended age: 16+
Language: Not much, if any
Violence: Some tussles and stun guns, but no blood
Sex: Implied and referenced, but without detail
Find this continuation of Lois McMaster Bujold's fantastic series:
CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE
(This book is set about four years before CRYOBURN - read that review here.)
Madeline LeBlanc comes from a long line of magic--they call it pigeon--where they can see the briar and the river devils who live there. All of us have our own devils who whisper in our ears, trying to get us to do wicked things. For the most part the devils are an unorganized lot, except that Madeline's great-grandmother Choloe and half-brother Zenon want to use the briar's power to change humanity itself. And the only people standing in their way are Madeline and the six-year-old boy Bo Racer who was born a being of light.
Don't let the fantasy label for THE TANGLED BRIDGE fool you. "Fantasy" is kind of a catch-all term for a book that's more Gothic than anything. This book has twisted family connections, voodoo-like magic in a New Orleans and swamp setting, and a struggle between light and dark. This book isn't for everyone, but there will be those of you who will really appreciate it for what it is: a well-written and original modern Gothic urban fantasy.
THE TANGLED BRIDGE is Rhodi Hawk's second in the series after A TWISTED LADDER. While I didn't read the first book I had no trouble jumping right into the story, it works fine as a standalone, although I suspect reading the first would add more depth to the story itself.
Narrated mostly from Madeline's PoV, and alternately from teenage Patrice's during 1927 (and a couple of secondary characters), both of their stories are told in parallel as they struggle to cope with their pigeon magic and its obvious inherently evil nature. Despite being the second book, Madeline's character doesn't stagnate. Her love for Ethan hasn't changed, but she's coming to understand how much he means to her. She doesn't understand why Chloe and Zenon want to kill Bo, a harmless little boy, simply because he has the lumen's light within him; and as a result has trouble reconciling the nature of her magic and what Bo's existence means. Patrice and the story of her brothers and sister--all teenage and younger--is less compelling than Madeline's and at times more a distraction than plot advancement. While the children are well-drawn they are simply less interesting (for me anyway).
However, patience does win out, and after slow but steady forward movement of the plot, Madeline finally begins to put the pieces together. Hawk ekes out the story bits at a time, which can be frustrating as we try to understand what the events mean, but the pace is necessary so that readers don't get overwhelmed with necessary back story, setting details, and explaining the magic. The prose is clean and descriptive without getting in the way of the story, but also sets a chilling tone to the events, particularly those that take place in the briar. Hawk does a great job describing New Orleans and the surrounds in a way that helps us feel the place, but without going overboard.
The events that lead up to the conclusion did confuse me at times (I'm wondering if it's from not having read the first book?), but didn't impede my understanding of what Hawk was trying to do, or my ability to enjoy a story that is original and satisfying.
Recommended Age: 16+
Language: A few handfuls of the coarser variety
Violence: A fair amount, the style is rather like a thriller
Sex: Referenced and a brief scene
Check out this series here:
A TWISTED LADDER
THE TANGLED BRIDGE
A generation ago the Norlanders invaded the Shadar, beating down the city and its people with bloodthirsty efficiency, making the Shadari their slaves in order to mine a rare ore used for powerful weapons.
Eofar, the son of the dying governor, doesn't think of the Shadari as a backward and worthless people like his sister Frea does--even having gone so far as to fall in love with one of them. Their sister Isa trains at the sword so one day she'll be as ruthless as her sister, but is treated like a child.
Daryan would have been the Shadari king if the Norlanders hadn't invaded, but after living as a temple slave he doesn't believe he has what it takes to lead the rebellion his friend Harotha has in mind--that is until she disappears suddenly and is feared dead.
Jachad is the King of the Nomas, which is more a nominal title than anything resembling authority. He follows around the Mongrel, a woman of mysterious origins with serious battle skills and a knowledge of the future.
BLOOD'S PRIDE is Evie Manieri's first novel in a new epic fantasy series called Shattered Kingdoms. Let's start with what she has going for her. Manieri has some interesting ideas, in particular the Norlanders, who come from, I'm assuming, a cold and dark place. In the Shadar, which is a desert, they can only come out at night, or else the direct rays of the sun burns them. They aren't vampires, but still are a very different race.
Manieri has some other interesting ideas about the different cultures and the power plays between them. She has a vision of an epic struggle between the races, with the powerful but young boy Dramash at the center of it all. I can see what she's trying to do with that vision, I can see all the elements that she lays down in her book for that purpose...but unfortunately she can't quite pull it off. She just hasn't quite pegged the skill set necessary to write the story of the magnitude she's attempting here.
So what's wrong with it, you ask?
For starters the characters weren't likable, the main reason being I didn't have time to get very deep into the PoV personalities. The genre calls for many characters, certainly, but the author has to spend time with them, and Manieri moves the story along at such a breakneck speed, we learn too little about them. Perhaps it's because of where the novel starts in medias res that we don't have time to become attached to them (for example, I had a hard time believing the love stories between characters--why do they love each other? I just don't know); unfortunately they continue to be shallow and uninspiring clear to the end.
While Manieri lays out an epic plot line, the story felt like she wrote a bunch of important scenes and then went back to fill in the rest with much less enthusiasm. The result is a novel that moves too fast with awkward transitions. There are serious leaps in logic, particularly in the dialogue, that only serve to move the plot forward, but don't make sense, mostly because we lack too much crucial information. At other times back story gets infodumped. I may need to see my doctor for a case of whiplash.
Not only do we not get a lot of information about the characters and the plot, but the setting is shallow, as well. Remember the little boy Dramash, the one who's central to the plot? Well, he has magic powers. We aren't sure what they are, he kinda just makes stuff happen. Are there limits to his powers? Where did they come from? Why does he have them? Why don't others have them when a generation ago more than one person did? The magic is important to the climax of the book and yet we don't understand it. Sorry, that doesn't fly here at EBR.
Manieri had an idea, one that might have been really cool. Alas, she couldn't do what the story needed to flesh it out and really make it the epic fantasy she wants it to be.
Recommended age: 14+
Language: None that I remember, maybe a couple
Violence: Yes, a fair amount, but not particularly graphic
Sex: A vaguely detailed scene
Willing to try out a new epic fantasy author? Check it out here:
WARBOUND is the third entry in New York Times Bestselling Author, Larry Correia's urban fantasy epic, Grimnoir Chronicles. Though Larry has suggested the possibility of future books set in the Grimnoirverse, WARBOUND wraps up the particular story arc began with HARD MAGIC (an all-time favorite of mine). This is the first time Larry has concluded a series, and so I greeted WARBOUND with much excitement and a degree of reservation. As Larry's fans are well aware, this man knows how to kick off a series with flair - but would he be able to end one in a similar fashion?
In short: well, duh! If you need continued convincing, read on. If not, you've probably had WARBOUND on pre-order for months now, and are just waiting for its release date in August to finally roll around.
Heavy Jake Sullivan is commanding a mission into Imperium territory, on the hunt for an alien from another dimension, aboard an experimental zeppelin, kept afloat with hydrogen, crewed by sky pirates, geared for war by John Moses Browning, and laden with Grimnoir Society knight wielding an array of abilities to rival the X-Men. Sally Faye Vierra, presumed dead, is searching Europe for a man capable of training her to be the Spellbound. With the threat of the Enemy looming ever nearer, Faye may be humanity's single hope for survival - or its ultimate demise. How's that for an elevator pitch?
Waiting a year for WARBOUND was almost unbearable (am I spoiled or what?) but it was sooo worth it. Having just come off a high from playing BIOSHOCK INFINITE, this served as the perfect chaser. Airships? Check. Magical powers? Check. Political problems? Check. Compelling characters? Check. Action? Check, checkity check check check.
WARBOUND has an incredibly diverse cast, populated with awesome characters (any one of which could carry a solo novel). We've got Jake Sullivan, reliable as gravity - the war hero turned convict, turned private investigator, turned knight of the Grimnoir Society. There's Sally Faye Vierra - the badass teleporting death machine with a cheery disposition. There's Iron Guard Toru, Pirate Bob the airship captain, wealthy industrialist Francis Stuyvesant, John Moses Browing, Pemberly Hammer - the Bureau of Investigation's human lie detector...the list goes on and on. Of the new characters Doctor Wells is easily a favorite. Jake recruits Wells, a sociopath inmate of Rockville Penitentiary, in order to outwit the Imperium and the Pathfinder. Wells channels his inner Hannibal Lecter, making a memorable supporting character.
What's great is that these aren't all typical action heroes. Many of them can slug it out all day, but there are scientists, doctors, diplomats, detectives, serial killers, and engineers present. The Enemy cannot be defeated solely by the force of arms - saving the world will take some finesse.
I will admit to being slightly disappointed that characters such as Francis, Dan, Pemberly, and Heinrich have smaller roles this go around. WARBOUND definitely belongs to Jake, Toru, and Faye. This isn't a major complaint as I love the relationship that develops between Jake and Toru, and Faye is...well, Faye. Honestly, it's impossible not to love Faye. The new characters do much to make up for the absence, but it's still noticeable. After all, I was redshirted by Heinrich in SPELLBOUND!
The Grimnoir Chronicles' alternate history has always been one of its greatest selling points. This is a world that would have carried on much like our own without the arrival of the Power. World War I was even more horrific with the addition of magical powers thrown into the mix, ending only with the firing of a Tesla super weapon. Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich never rose to power, but the Japanese Imperium did - guided by the dreaded Chairman. Despite the assassination of the Chairman in HARD MAGIC the Imperium is drawing closer to all out war with the West. In the United States the government moves to register the magical Actives in order to provide greater "security" for the nation. Semi-historical quotes set the opening of each chapter and historical figures like Raymond Chandler, Buckminster Fuller, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Moses Browning, and even Grigori Rasputin make appearances.
It's an extremely cool setting, featuring magically augmented technology that is vastly more impressive than anything you'll find in the Steampunk genre. The zeppelins of The Grimnoir Chronicles are remarkable (Jake's experimental airship has firepower just shy of a Great War heavy cruiser). There are robots and all manner of deadly cool toys. WARBOUND even features Power armor. Power armor!
"Magic was nice in a fight...but it never hurt to back it up with bullets."
With WARBOUND Correia takes urban fantasy into all out war. No other author I have ever encountered writes action quite like Larry. If you have ever wanted to read about a soldier and a samurai, each encased in Power enhanced armor, engaging legions of warrior-magicians with heavy firepower and explosive magic as an entire city devolves into chaos around them...well here you go! I love the magic system of The Grimnoir Chronicles. It's interesting and intricate, each ability has limitations and dangers. It's a system that evolves over the course of the series, almost as if it is given a character arc of its own.
Larry succeeds in bringing the series to a close while leaving room open for other novels set in the Grimnoirverse. The plot is full of victories and defeats, and I was personally impressed at the level of problem solving. This is a big action novel but it would be foolish to confuse it with a big dumb action novel. Becoming The One is much less about prophecy in the case of Faye, and much more about understanding the mechanics of the world surrounding her. Fighting the Enemy isn't about charging in guns blazing, so much as identifying the motivations and actions of its pawns. There's a really cool meta-moment involving the illustrations of Zachary Hill, peppered throughout the series. WARBOUND is a worthy sequel, a satisfying conclusion, and a reminder of Larry's storytelling prowess (not that one was even needed). I'm sad to see The Grimnoir Chronicles end (for now) but I'm excited, as always, to see what comes next for the King of Pulp, Larry Correia.
Recommended Age: 15+
Language: Some, not as much as, say, MONSTER HUNTER LEGION.
Violence: Erm, yeahhh. Faye is creatively violent, Jake can increase gravity to smoosh people, and Toru wields an 80 pound tetsubo.
Sex: Hinted at one point, but not in any sort of explicit manner.
Want it? Get it here.
Haven't read book one or two yet? Shame on you!
Many years ago monstrous sun flares changed everything, and humanity was thrust back into the Dark Ages. For the natives of an island in the South Pacific and passengers on a beached cruise ship, they are the last known survivors of the subsequent apocalypse.
THE CROSSING starts out on the idyllic island of Onewere, where the teenage Maryam has been living with other girls who were Chosen from among the native population to live with the Apostles when they reach womanhood. Her whole life she's been taught the Rules, religious teachings that are supposed to protect the people of Onewere from suffering the same fate that destroyed the rest of the world.
Maryam goes to the Holy City anticipating a Blessed life with the Apostles. Instead she finds her older 'sisters' from the island pregnant and unmarried working as servants for the Apostles; most of the natives subdued with a mind-numbing drink called toddy; and the main Apsotle's son using the girls for his own pleasure--willing or not. The horrors don't end there and Maryam begins to fear for her life.
I can tell you with certainty that I'm not the target audience for this series. For the entirety of the book I was disturbed (this coming from a woman who immensely enjoyed I DON'T WANT TO KILL YOU) and almost didn't finish it. THE CROSSING is dark and deals with unpleasant themes--in fact I had a hard time seeing it as the YA book it's billed as.
In a strange coincidence, during the week I was reading this book I met a witnesses for one of the Warren Jeffs trials. It was a fascinating conversation. She was open to discussing what it was like to live in a cult-like sect, where men use religion to control women for their own self-gratification. It's disturbing stuff. Certainly being disturbing doesn't mean it's a topic that shouldn't be addressed. From jail Jeffs still directs his minions to perpetuate his teachings, and women and girls continue to stuffer today--this makes the topic absolutely pertinent. So I get what Hager is trying to do and I can imagine that THE CROSSING must have been a hard story to write because of its themes. I just wish Hager could have presented the story with the finesse it deserves, instead of a contrived and clunky mess.
For starters Hager only vaguely explains how the whole thing started. I was able to suspend belief of the situation, but only until it was explained: the white people on the cruise ship set themselves up to the Onewere natives as teachers sent from God to bring the remainder of humanity back from the brink. Then I spent the rest of the book stewing on that, which pretty much ruined the story for me. I don't understand how it could have happened. The natives have their own religion, why would they listen to foreigners on a stranded boat with no way to contact the outside world and prove their situation? Brainwashing doesn't happen overnight.
There are other problems with the writing, in particular the prose itself, which is awkward and stiffly formal, which doesn't make sense considering how it's from the PoV of a sixteen-year-old girl. The prose is slowed down by heavy-handed metaphors and adjectives--cleaning up those alone would have helped the flow considerably. While the imagery was nice, it went overboard and draws too much attention to the flowery prose and takes away from the story itself.
The plot moves forward well enough (despite some stumbles and circular events) through Maryam's eyes as she witnesses first-hand the hypocrisy of the Apostles and the other whites on the ship. The reality of her situation unfolds and we can feel her horror: how can Apostles who teach from the bible of the Lamb's love and goodness condone such wicked behavior?
Via Maryam we become attached to other characters, such as the Apostle's sick yet good-hearted nephew Joseph, the blind but wise Hushai, the faithful Mother Elizabeth. They are all familiar characters, archetypes really, and shallow in comparison to Maryam. But I admit, I was so stuck on the darkness of the story and the contrivances (i.e., Maryam feels her life is in danger but we never see a guard until the end of the book?) that it was impossible for me to become attached to the characters and the obvious horror of their plight.
THE CROSSING was first published in New Zealand in 2010 and even won awards and accolades. While it's a relevant topic, for me Hager's execution makes it hard to recommend.
Recommended Age: 16+ for themes and drug use
Violence: Not much, mostly just a sense of peril
Sex: Teenage pregnancy; on-screen attempted rapes; details of nudity
If you can't get enough of the recent influx of dystopian YA novels, this is for you (I'm not sure I'd recommend it for your kids, though):