October 13

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas

9781408832332Modern writers just love giving the old fairy tale genre a real twist. And Maas has given the Cinderella story the twist of all twists. Start by making her an experienced and effective assassin, but one who has had the misfortune of getting caught. Then replace the traditional home service to the ugly stepsisters with the far more horrific salt mines.

But Prince Dorian (Charming) comes riding by and chooses Celaena to be his champion at the upcoming games, as long as she can qualify without anyone guessing her real identity. And there begins a wonderful adventure or mystery, or romance …whatever.

I have read a lot of fantasy over the years, high and low, traditional and urban, whatever. But this one got me in, really and truly. There is enough adventure to keep the pages turning, always on the edge of your seat. And the romance that is inevitable in YA fantasy is handled well. There is a great love triangle, and I for one am not going to try to predict which way Celaena is going to jump.

Crown of Midnight – book 2 in the series is out, and I am definitely adding it to my wish list.

October 13

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

9781408836446If you believe the media this is going to be the biggest new series since Harry Potter. Apparently this is book 1 of a 7 book series. Well, I found it entertaining, but will I commit to 7 volumes? At this stage unlikely. But it is really unfair to judge a fantasy series after book 1.

The year is 2059 and in this London, psychic abilities are widely known, but illegal. Paige is a dreamwalker, with the rare ability to travel into others dreams. She is surviving as part of a psychic gang that successfully avoid the periodic collection of illegals. But her luck runs out and she gets caught up in the once a decade sweep that gathers those with abilities and takes them away. And then her adventures truly begin. She now has to survive, alone in a world where many are far more powerful than she.

I have read some reviews that pan this book as being derivative. But then all good fantasy is based old stories retold. Those authors that try to write brand new, original stories all too often fall into the trap of extremism and become silly. I think Shannon has hit the target. Enough tradition to make the setting comfortable, but enough difference to keep it unpredictable.

My real problem is that I really don’t like Paige. She seems selfish and shallow. And the last minute romance thrown into the last few chapters just seemed wrong. I mean Paige goes on and on about her feelings for A, then it turns out that he is gay. OK, but when B suddenly gets all affectionate it almost felt like Shannon was saying ‘This is YA fiction. There has to be a romance’. Really, she needs to trust her readers.

Right now, this does not seem to me to be worth 7 volumes. But publishing being the industry it is, we are likely to get them anyway. Besides, volume 2 may be terrific.