Category: Speculative Fiction

Omega by Lizzy Ford

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

In a modern world ruled by territorial Greek gods, the human race has been oppressed, exploited and now, nearly destroyed by the constant infighting of gods.

However, a human girl with the power of a goddess is coming of age. Alessandra is the Oracle of Delphi – the last prophesized – and bears the mark of the double omega. Soon after she turns eighteen, Alessandra is told her destiny: to step between the warring gods and the human race and save her world from certain ruin.

For the gods, her appearance marks the beginning of the end – their end. They and the Triumvirate – leaders of the human elite – who serve them will stop at nothing to preserve their power.

Alessandra emerges from the forest where she spent her life hidden from gods and men and immediately plummets into a race against time, gods, and herself to discover who and what she is in a world where everyone she meets has a hidden agenda, and those pulling the strings remain in the shadows.

Before she can determine exactly what kind of savior her world needs, she must first master her power by completing three trials devised by the Triumvirate to enslave her.

One lone girl stands between warring gods and the people she’s destined to protect, but it’s the battle to understand who she is that she must win first.

[Full disclosure: I received a free paperback from the publisher at Book Expo America 2015 in exchange for an honest review.]

So I’m a little late reviewing this one but I guess it’s better late than never!

When I started Omega I didn’t quite know what to think about it.  The info-dump in the beginning led to more questions than answers but not necessarily in a good way.  Instead of my overriding feeling after the info-dump being excited curiosity it was more confusion than anything else.  Why does Alessandra (called Lyssa) live in a school in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of gorgeous girls she calls nymphs?  Why do the priests want to contain her within some weird sort of red rope?  Why does her guardian Herakles seem to want to make her into a crazy survivor-type person?  And, most interesting of all, why is she only allowed to date a boy that can beat her in a race and out-solve her when it comes to puzzles?  These questions do eventually all get answered and not necessarily in a boring way but my overriding feeling coming out of this novel was a solid ‘meh’.

I tried to like Lyssa as a protagonist; I really did.  Unfortunately, she just doesn’t seem all that relateable to me.  She stays in extremely dangerous situations to merely satisfying her curiosity.  Believe me when I say I can understand living with an insatiable curiosity but I just felt like her staying behind with Adonis when she knows he’s the ruthless head of the secret police with a secret agenda is just suicidal.  Worst of all, when she is deemd the heir to the current Oracle she stays in her palace, even knowing the absolutely horrific fate of Oracles who pass the three tests.  Yes, Lizzy Ford tried to justify this decision within the narrative but I still feel like it was unrealistic.  If you’re a tough-as-nails survivor-type person, you’re probably not going to stick around when you learn that the politicians, priests and gods have quite literally a fate worse than death in store for you.  Especially when in Adonis/Mismatch you have an easy way to escape.  Like I said, I just can’t relate to that line of thinking and Lyssa isn’t characterized well enough to really feel like her choices are even justified within the plot.

What I found interesting was the portrayals of the Greek gods in Omega.  I’m a huge Greek mythology fan so seeing them portrayed as ridiculously ruthless and self-interested was nice.  It’s certainly how they come across in pretty much all of the myths I’ve read.  My only quibble is that even though it appears Lizzy Ford knows her Greek literature and mythology, there was a quote from the movie Troy actually attributed to Homer.  I’m not making this up.  At the beginning of Chapter 23 the quote underneath says “…any moment may be our last.  Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed.  You will never be lovelier than you are now.  We will never be here again“.  I have read the entire Iliad front-to-back over ten times in two different translations and Achilles absolutely never says that.  He especially doesn’t say that to Briseis because anyone who has actually read the Iliad would know that Briseis has no speaking role; she’s just a toy for Agamemnon and Achilles to fight over, a symbol of kingly status.  So that was quite a jarring error that didn’t exactly help my overall enjoyment of the book.

The plot should have been interesting.  It certainly had all of the elements that I like: an unique dystopia, Greek gods, political intrigue, lies, etc.  However, I just couldn’t find it in me to care all that much about the book.  It’s not a terrible book despite all of my criticism but it’s definitely not a great book.  The series certainly has potential and I wouldn’t be averse to picking up the second book because the plot twist at the end was actually quite good.  And as the book went on, it seemed like the characters got a little better and the writing was just a higher quality overall.  Omega just wasn’t the book for me it seems.  Apparently if I can’t relate to the main characters at all, my enjoyment of the book as a whole takes a nosedive.

I can’t honestly recommend Omega but I really wouldn’t discourage anyone else from giving it a try.  Maybe you’ll like it more than I did.  I personally find Diantha Jones’ Oracle of Delphi to be a much more interesting Oracle story than this one.

I give this book 2/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads

The Remaining by D.J. Molles

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 40 feet below the basement level of his house, Captain Lee Harden of the United States Army waits. On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the populace. The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed. Some day soon, Captain Harden will have to open the hatch to his bunker, and step out into this new wasteland, to complete his very simple mission: Subvenire Refectus.

To Rescue and Rebuild.

While The Remaining purports to be a different kind of zombie story, it’s really not all that different from a hundred other zombie stories.  Only the premise is different: the US government actually prepared for biological warfare by building bunkers and paying specially trained soldiers as a way of having a contingency plan in case the entire military and government fell.  These soldiers in the 48 states on the US mainland are supposed to single-handedly bring order back to a world gone to hell and begin rescuing people and rebuilding society.  It’s really a lot to ask of just 48 people who have been locked in bunkers for two months with no idea what has been going on outside the four steel walls of said bunkers.

Other than that premise (which is somewhat refreshing considering most zombie stories have the government being completely incompetent with no Plan B whatsoever), this is pretty much your typical zombie story.  People have been infected by a virus that turns them into crazed killers.  They’re fast zombies and these ones use weapons like knives and shovels but that’s really all that makes them slightly different from a hundred other zombie stories out there.  They travel in herds, have sensitive hearing that forces the survivors to skulk around using any quiet weapons they can get their hands on and getting bit means infection and transformation into a zombie.  In the hands of a writer who didn’t set out to tell a typical zombie story, they could have been quite interesting.

However, my main issue with The Remaining is that it sticks to so many of the old zombie story tropes.  The protagonist has an animal which becomes exposed to the virus defending him and so must kill him in the tragic climax.  There are heartless looters and survivors who are doing what they can to help the remaining humans.  That’s not unrealistic at all but rather there was no real creativity in the characterizations of most of the survivors Lee encounters.  There’s Sam, the thirteen-year-old boy who traumatically watches his father die.  There’s Jack, the cynical former military man who is thrown into Lee’s group somewhat against his will in the beginning but who becomes a valuable asset.  And then there’s Angela and her daugher Abby, two helpless females the men in the group have to constantly protect.  Really, it seems like Molles just threw stock characters from every other zombie story together and ran with it rather than adding his own flair.

And finally, as for the plot it seems like the invisible hand of the author was always at play.  To make things harder for Lee, Sam must make a dumb mistake and be seen back at the bunker so some looters burn the house (and by extension, the entrance to the bunker) down.  Then of course the only other useful member of the group, Jack, gets bit and must soldier on before dying in battle.  Angela, Abby and Sam continue to be useless.  Then, when it seems like Lee and the group have found safety with another group, they seem to get attacked on the last page of the book for a stereotypical cliffhanger.

With all that said, The Remaining never crosses the threshold into truly terrible territory.  The pace is fairly fast and the pages do move quickly despite the rampant clichés.  The writing isn’t great but it isn’t terrible so this book really does sit in the middle in mediocre territory.  If you want a quick read and haven’t read as many zombie novels as I have, this might be a decent introduction to the genre.  But if you’ve read a few zombie books, watched The Walking Dead on TV or basically any zombie movie, you’re better off skipping this one and reading something a little more unique.  Mira Grant’s Feed would be a much better self-aware zombie novel to read.

I give this book 2/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads

Qualify by Vera Nazarian

Qualify by Vera Nazarian(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

You have two options. You die, or you Qualify.

The year is 2047. An extinction-level asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, and the descendents of ancient Atlantis have returned from the stars in their silver ships to offer humanity help.

But there’s a catch.

They can only take a tiny percent of the Earth’s population back to the colony planet Atlantis. And in order to be chosen, you must be a teen, you must be bright, talented, and athletic, and you must Qualify.

Sixteen-year-old Gwenevere Lark is determined not only to Qualify but to rescue her entire family.

Because there’s a loophole.

If you are good enough to Qualify, you are eligible to compete in the brutal games of the Atlantis Grail, which grants all winners the laurels, high tech luxuries, and full privileges of Atlantis Citizenship. And if you are in the Top Ten, then all your wildest wishes are granted… Such as curing your mother’s cancer.

There is only one problem.

Gwen Lark is known as a klutz and a nerd. While she’s a hotshot in classics, history, science, and languages, the closest she’s come to sports is a backyard pool and a skateboard.

This time she is in over her head, and in for a fight of her life, against impossible odds and world-class competition—including Logan Sangre, the most amazing guy in her class, the one she’s been crushing on, and who doesn’t seem to know she exists.

Because every other teen on Earth has the same idea.

You Qualify or you die.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Now, from the description of this novel you may be getting the impression that Qualify is one of those awful Divergent-Hunger Games hybrid novels that publishers think all teens want (again).  That’s not really the truth, though.  Qualify takes some of the good aspects of Hunger Games without the whiny factor of Divergent and makes something completely new and interesting.

Gwen Lark is really a klutz and a nerd.  When she takes many of the tests to officially qualify as one of the ten million humans aged 12-19 that the Atlanteans will save, she really does fail quite a few of the physical exams.  Sure, she gets better throughout the training and she really has to work hard at it, but she knows she’ll never be the number one candidate anywhere.  In this way, it’s a lot more realistic than someone who goes from nerd straight to jock who can kick butt.  But Gwen isn’t just a bumbling nerd; she’s got hidden talents that she’s terrified and really embarrassed about.  When these come to light, they change almost everything for her.

One of the things that Vera Nazarian does is write long books that still hold a reader’s interest.  Qualify is over 600 pages but you shouldn’t let that intimidate you because it really does keep your interest the whole way through.  Sure, some things start out a little stereotypical in the beginning but Nazarian’s amazing descriptive style takes over and things smooth out pretty quickly.  She really does focus a lot on inner conflict as well as interpersonal conflicts so if you’re looking for constant action, you’re looking in the wrong place.  This is a really great look not only at the lives of regular teens under extraordinary circumstances but also a look at how the world really would handle a doomsday scenario like the one presented.  At first there would be every effort to destroy or divert the asteroid, there would be collaboration with the mysterious Atltanteans who just showed up, etc.  But after that?  Things go back to an uneasy calm before the storm as people go into denial and then explode in anger at their impending doom.  All the while, millions of teenagers are competing for the coveted 10 million worldwide spots.  It’s horrific and fascinating at the same time.

While the characters and descriptions were great and the world-building was good, one of the things I noticed was a little rough was voice.  The descriptions of Gwen’s surroundings are amazing and the descriptions of Atlantean technology are good as well but Gwen’s voice is a little rough.  Sometimes her dialogue is incredibly mature for her age (16 bordering on 17) and other times she speaks and acts like a stereotypical teenager.  It makes reading Qualify a little jarring at times and I think this could have been improved with a few more cuts to unnecessary passages.  There is very little fluff in Nazarian’s story here but when there is fluff and filler you really do notice it.  If Gwen’s voice had been a little more consistent, this would have been an absolutely amazing novel.  Instead, it stays at ‘good’ or ‘above average’.  However, having read just one of Nazarian’s other works, I think things will improve with the next book as she gets a handle on her new characters and new world because Gwen’s voice was much more consistent near the end.

So overall the writing is good if choppy in sections, Gwen is a well-defined main character with complicated thoughts, emotions and goals and the world-building is a little vague but there are some hints at amazing detail later on for Gwen and the readers to discover.  Things get pretty intense sometimes and even though this book is around 600 pages, you’ll want to read it in one sitting.  I know I did.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads     Powell’s

The Dead Days Journal by Sandra R. Campbell

The Dead Days Journal by Sandra R. Campbell(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The daughter of a radical doomsday prepper, Leo Marrok spent her entire life preparing for the end. A skilled fighter and perfect marksman, Leo is her father’s second-in-command when Armageddon comes to pass. Together, they lead a group of survivors to a secure bunker deep in the Appalachian Mountains.

Vincent Marrok is willing to take extreme measures to repopulate their broken world. Leo’s refusal marks her as a traitor. With father and daughter at odds for the first time, their frail community is thrust into turmoil. Until the unthinkable happens, a blood-thirsty horde arrives. The impending attack will destroy all that they have worked for.

To protect her home and everything she believes in, Leo puts her faith in the arms of the enemy—a creature only rumored to exist—the one she calls Halloween. An alliance born out of necessity evolves into feelings Leo is ill-equipped to handle.

The Dead Days Journal is a post-apocalyptic story of love and family told through Leo Marrok’s first-hand account and the pages of Vincent’s personal journal, giving two very different perspectives on what it takes to survive.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

One of the things you have to know about The Dead Days Journal is that it’s not a zombie book.  More of a vampire book, to be honest but at the same time it’s nothing like classical YA vampires.  No, the majority of these vampires are hungry, rabid beings who have no higher thought processes at all.  There are of course some notable exceptions but these vampires are part of what makes Sandra R. Campbell’s book quite unique.

Imagine that the world has come to an end as you know it and you’re living in a small community in a cave, scavenging for survival, knowing that at any minute you could be vampire food.  What would you do?  Just survive or try to thrive and take the world back from the rabid vampires?  It’s an interesting question and many of the characters give it very different answers.  Vince Marrok, as you read in the blurb, is willing to take extreme measures to repopulate the world and poor Leo (his own daughter) isn’t even immune.  In fact, their disagreement about having children is part of the reason their safe little community comes to a dramatic end as everything they once knew changes.  I don’t want to give too much away because part of the fun is seeing how the two characters will react to each others’ actions but let’s just say that one or both of them will snap.  Once that veneer of safety is taken away, all bets are off in regards to predicting the behaviour of everyone in the community.

Leo is a very interesting character.  She’s matured in a world that doesn’t forgive weakness and she’s realized that humanity realistically has very little chance of coming back from something like this.  So, understandably, she doesn’t want a physical relationship with any of the men her age and she definitely doesn’t want children.  Why would you want children when you could be devoured by some insane creature at any second of any day?  Things get complicated when Leo decides that she does want a relationship because she does love one of her fellow group members, Ben.  Once her father sees her in a relationship, things get heated between the two and he does something that really breaks up their once trusting relationship.  And that’s when she meets Halloween, an intelligent vampire who tears down a lot of the preconceptions Leo had about his kind.  (Oh, and he’s definitely not a typical vampire either because Campbell made these ones unique.)  When the two start travel together and go through all kinds of hardships together, it’s not hard to see how things could get messy when feelings begin to be involved.

The plot is slow but interesting in the beginning and then it gets both fast-paced and interesting later on.  There’s a lot more interpersonal conflict than action per se but some of the conflicts between people get pretty heated.  It helps that there’s always this undercurrent of tension running throughout the narrative and even when things seem to settle down, they can change very quickly.  Just when Leo thinks she’s safe, she learns that she is far from it, for example.  Or just when she thinks that she’s averted a disaster and saved people, things turn out very differently.  The plot is very unpredictable; Sandra Campbell really does a great job at keeping readers on the edges of their seats.  I know I sure didn’t want to put this book down until I finished it!  And the cliffhanger at the end doesn’t seem forced so you’ll definitely want to read the next book as much as I do.

If you’re looking for some post-apocalyptic fiction but want something that diverges from the regular formula, The Dead Days Journal is a great place to start.  It’s got three dimensional characters, amazing world-building and a plot that just keeps surprising you.  I can’t recommend it enough.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads     Powell’s

Lifemaker by Dean F. Wilson

Lifemaker by Dean F. Wilson(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The Regime is on the hunt, forcing the Resistance to take refuge aboard the Lifemaker, an advanced submarine that houses a special cargo: a handful of women who are can give birth to human children.

To evade the Regime’s own submersibles, all parties must work together, but tensions are high, and not everyone on board is looking out for the greater good.

As they descend into the deeps, they quickly learn that not all monsters work for the Regime.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

Lifemaker is the sequel to Hopebreaker, a steampunk novel featuring a smuggler named Jacob as he navigates a world essentially controlled by demons.  I had given the first book 4 stars in March and was eagerly awaiting this second installment.  So when I saw the blog tour for it, I signed up immediately.  Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with Wilson’s second book in the Great Iron War series.  Not because the characters had truly gone downhill or because he world-building suddenly tanked, but rather because of the plot.

Despite all of the good things that do happen in Lifemaker, I was a little disappointed in the plot.  It was predictable in comparison to the first book and not more than a little boring around the halfway point of the book.  There are characters interacting, sure, but there’s not really all that much for interpersonal conflict.  And until the end there’s really not all that much for action either.  It was essentially just Jacob and Whistler having a sweet sort of father-adoptive son bonding time and occasionally being interrupted by Taberah.  Oh, and playing cards with Rommond.  Compared to the sheer action of Hopebreaker, this second book was a bit of a letdown.  It does set things up nicely for the third book but at the same time I did have a little trouble getting through it.

Jacob is still a decent enough character although I’m still having problems relating to him on an emotional level.  It’s much better than my struggle to relate at all with him in the first book but it’s definitely still there.  He’s not a bad character and he’s more of an ambiguous figure than a bad or good person but I found that because he wasn’t really doing anything that I got bored.  Essentially he skulks around the ship and bonds with Whistler, occasionally running into members of the crew.  I liked that he’s finally attempting to woo Taberah back to him and is trying to mentally prepare himself for fatherhood, though.  In that respect, Jacob has certainly improved.

The world-building was still good here in Lifemaker.  It didn’t expand all that much, but we learned some fascinating things about Rommond’s background, Taberah’s past and the history of demons taking over.  The submarine everyone is staying in doesn’t exactly make it easy to expand on a whole world but Jacob’s exploring does lead him to some interesting new discoveries.  Was I absolutely as blown away in this book as I was in the first one at the world-building?  Not really, but it was still very solid and despite the somewhat boring tone of the book you can feel Dean F. Wilson’s enthusiasm for the world he’s created shine through.

So overall, Lifemaker was not a bad book, but it was definitely not as good as its predecessor, Hopebreaker.  The plot got a little boring and I definitely predicted the ending but it was not a book that I actively disliked.  I even enjoyed some parts of it.  Really, the main problem is that it suffers from Book 2 Syndrome: its trying to set everything up for the super exciting third book.  Still, if you loved Hopebreaker, you’re going to want to read this book.  The little cliffhanger for Skyshaker will ensure that and there’s still many things to enjoy about Lifemaker.  It’s just that an exciting plot isn’t one of them.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads     Powell’s

Plague of the Undead by Joe McKinney

Plague of the Undead by Joe McKinney(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

For thirty years, they have avoided the outbreak of walking death that has consumed America’s heartland. They have secured a small compound near the ruins of Little Rock, Arkansas. Isolated from the world. Immune to the horror. Blissfully unaware of what lies outside in the region known as the Dead Lands. Until now…

Led by a military vet who’s seen better days, the inexperienced offspring of the original survivors form a small expedition to explore the wastelands around them. A biologist, an anthropologist, a cartographer, a salvage expert—all are hoping to build a new future from the rubble. Until all hell breaks loose…

The infected are still out there. Stalking. Feeding. Spreading like a virus. Wild animals roam the countryside, hunting prey. Small pockets of humanity hide in the shadows: some scared, some mad, all dangerous. This is the New World. If the explorers want it, they’ll have to take it. Dead or alive…

From the blurb of this book, I was absolutely fascinated.  It’s rare that you get a surviving, almost thriving community 30 years after the apocalypse but it’s even rarer that they’re eager to explore and that zombies are still out there.  How did the zombies not rot away?  Is Arbella the only community still out there?  What happens when the next generation of survivors, the ones that have only known a post-apocalyptic world, encounter the rest of the people that have survived?  Answer: nothing good.

In the beginning of Plague of the Undead, our main character Jacob has a huge moral dilemma: he’s the sheriff of the town and a man has committed a crime.  Now normally that would not be a big deal but the problem is that crime was theft and that’s against the Code.  It means death for the man who stole because trust is the most important thing you can have post-apocalypse.  So poor Jacob has to kill his first man in cold blood, looking him right in the face to make sure he doesn’t miss his shot.  With a beginning like that, you’d expect the book to keep being pretty awesome.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t really the case.  The book starts out pretty exciting as Jacob shoots a man, gets promoted, gets approval to take an expedition out into the dead lands and sets out on said expedition.  The problem is that once the group is actually out and about, things get boring pretty quickly.

The main problem in this book is the middle: it drags on and on in one place.  Long story short, the survivors get ambushed by some bad guys and the survivors of the attack are forced into slavery.  Then a huge chunk of the book is devoted to how Jacob and the survivors cope during the slavery and how they try to escape.  In a lot of cases I wouldn’t find this boring because it would be interesting from a psychology perspective or even just from a character development perspective.  But it really wasn’t.  The lack of pacing just dragged the whole plot down to the point where I really wasn’t even interested in the mysterious flying saucers and finding out how much of civilization was really left.  I just wanted the book to be over.

In the beginning, Jacob shows a lot of promise as a character.  He doesn’t want to kill the man convicted of theft but at the same time he has to in order to maintain the Code and therefore maintain law and order in Arbella.  And when he finally gets approval for the wasteland scavenging/information gathering mission, he’s ecstatic and has to plan like mad.  From personal experience I completely understand the frustration he faces as every single person criticizes how he’s going about the mission but he sticks to his guns and sets out with a great plan and a good team.  Then when things go south, Jacob as a character sort of goes downhill.  He becomes more of a walking stereotype.  He pines after Kelly (the woman he used to love as a teenager), becomes colder as the slavery takes its toll and tries to ignore just how skeevy his best friend/enemy is.  It’s like that fascinating, well-rounded character we meet in the beginning was thrown out the window and replaced with a total wimp that lacks the psychological depth of the first character.

The world-building was decent in comparison to the pacing and the characterization.  I liked the explanation Joe McKinney gave for why the zombies weren’t rotting even thirty years later and I liked the way he set up Arbella as a good model of what people can do during the apocalypse.  There are some horrible communities like you’d expect, but he shows that not only the bad people survive and thrive during the apocalypse.  That’s quite a bit different from your typical zombie apocalypse tropes.  I also love how he explained the ammunition problem and how he solved some of the problems with guns during the apocalypse, like the sound issue.  I think a lot of research went into Plague of the Undead but the problem is that the actual story itself was rather boring.

In the end, I don’t know whether or not I can recommend this book.  It won a Bram Stoker award so clearly some people didn’t think it was rubbish or disappointing but at the same time I just can’t say that I enjoyed it.  I guess you just have to do your own research, read a couple of reviews from different sides of the issue and make a decision.

I give this book 2/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads     Powell’s

Captive by Aimeé Carter

Captive by Aimee Carter(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

For the past two months, Kitty Doe’s life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate the Prime Minister’s niece, her frustration grows as her trust in her fake fiancé cracks, her real boyfriend is forbidden and the Blackcoats keep her in the dark more than ever.

But in the midst of discovering that her role in the Hart family may not be as coincidental as she thought, she’s accused of treason and is forced to face her greatest fear: Elsewhere. A prison where no one can escape.

As one shocking revelation leads to the next, Kitty learns the hard way that she can trust no one, not even the people she thought were on her side. With her back against the wall, Kitty wants to believe she’ll do whatever it takes to support the rebellion she believes in—but is she prepared to pay the ultimate price?

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I just have one question after reading this entire book: Did Kitty lose her brain in between books one and two?!

I just have no words.  I actually liked Kitty in the first book because although she was naive and kind of innocent, at least she generally knew when to keep her mouth shut and keep up the charade of being Lila Hart.  In all honesty I can’t say I was her biggest fan ever in the first book, but she really grew on me and at least most of her actions were justified by logic.

But in Captive, that all goes out the window.  Kitty seems to have lost her brain, particularly in the first half of the novel.  She spouts off her mouth at the people who have power over her, she doesn’t know when to shut up and let Knox do his rebellion thing and even though there’s no reason for it other than to advance the plot, she reveals one of the secrets she could have used as leverage later on.  So where does she wind up?  Elsewhere, of course!  No one, not even Lila Hart’s replacement is irreplaceable.  And when she’s in Elsewhere, she promptly makes an enemy of every single person around her because she just won’t shut up.  Ever.  I spent most of the book wanting to slap her for being so incredibly stupid.

As for the plot, unlike in the first book it didn’t really feel like there was anything really all that new.  Aimeé Carter has always used some tried and true clichés but in Captive she just lets it all hang out.  There were no surprises because the whole plot of this book was like a soap opera, with mysterious lost family members and lovers betrayed—the whole nine yards.  Captive suffers from a severe case of Book Two Syndrome in that practically nothing happens until a little bit at the end of the book to make you go buy the third book.  After the plot twists and turns of Pawn, it was just supremely disappointing.

The world-building was really the only thing I didn’t actively dislike.  I like that we saw the other side of Elsewhere, not just the ‘shoot people for sport’ side.  It’s run like a prisoner of war camp (which it sort of is) and life within is pretty much just as brutal as you’d expect from a dictatorial regime.  Nothing really surprising, but nothing so stereotypical that I wanted to throw my Kindle at the wall.  The only thing that I was happy about was that we got to see another side of the rebels as well as see how ordinary people can end up in Elsewhere.  Sure, you have your criminals and political dissidents, but you also have some pretty harmless teenagers and kids whose only crime was being born—or more accurately, not being born rich.

As someone who enjoyed Pawn, Captive really was a huge disappointment.  I liked that we got to see more of Kitty’s world but I just hated that it was in such a forced way.  It seemed like Carter wanted to showcase the rest of the world so she dumbed down Kitty in an attempt to force that showcase.  Will I still read the last book, Queen?  Yes, I think I will because despite this huge disappointment, I did enjoy the first book and I’m enjoying the overall plot arc.  But really Aimeé Carter, you can do better than this.

I give this book 1.5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads