Tagged: simon

Shadow Kin by M.J. Scott

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Welcome to the Half-Light City.

Imagine a city divided. On one side, the Night World, ruled by the Blood Lords and the Beast Kind. On the other, the elusive Fae and the humans, protected by their steadfast mages. A city held together by nothing more than a treaty-and even then, just barely…

I was born of a Fae mother, but I had no place amongst her kind. They called me “soulless.” An abomination. Perhaps they’re right…I’m a wraith, a shadow who slips between worlds. I was given into the service of a Blood Lord who raised me to be his most feared assassin. Still, I’m nothing more than a slave to my master, and to the need that only he can fulfill…

Then he orders me to kill Simon DuCaine, a powerful sunmage. In the blaze of his magic, my own disappears. Instead of seeking revenge, Simon shows me mercy. He wants to free me. But that’s one thing my master and his kind will never allow.

And even if I thought I could trust Simon, stepping from the shadow into the light isn’t as simple as it sounds…

I was a little apprehensive in the beginning of Shadow Kin simply because I’m very familiar with the whole ‘assassin falls in love with his/her mark’ trope.  However, I loved M.J. Scott’s take on this old trope because of course nothing is simple in the Half-Light City.

One of the things I really liked about Shadow Kin is the world-building.  There are four factions: vampires, werewolves, humans and the Fae.  There is a sort of tense peace between the four races but there’s a lot of compromise.  The most horrific compromise is the fact that any human who goes to the Night World chasing vampires is lost to humanity and their remaining family have little recourse if their loved one goes missing or becomes blood-locked.  (Blood-locking is when a human drinks vampire blood and becomes addicted to it, eventually going mad.)  And of course since the Fae are vulnerable to iron, they also limit the total supply of iron for the entire city.  Werewolves don’t seem to do much except fight with the vampires and fight each other for dominance.  It’s obviously a lot more complicated than this but that’s the beauty of this book: the world-building is excellent and M.J. Scott is a good enough writer that she can play with the political tensions while still focusing on the interpersonal conflicts.

Of course my favourite part of the book has to be the characters.  Lily is a woman that doesn’t belong anywhere: the Fae don’t want her because she’s a wraith and she’ll never truly belong with the vampires even though she does Lucius’ dirty work.  She’s been manipulated and used for her whole life so when she tries to kill Simon, fails and then he offers to hep her escape Lucius she obviously doesn’t believe him.  I can’t really blame her because I certainly wouldn’t in her situation.  But Simon is one of those few people that is entirely sincere in his desire to help people; it’s almost a fault with him.  He and Lily make an odd couple but their romance is very sweet.  It’s not easy and even the caring Simon can act like a total jerk (particularly in the last quarter of the book) but that just makes it more realistic.

The plot is fast-paced if a little predictable.  Well, mostly predictable—there was a major surprise regarding Lily’s powers at the end of the novel.  Still, the creative world-building, well-developed characters and sweet romance more than make up for a little predictability.  In addition to that, the ending resolves the main plot while leaving so much more for Scott to explore in the rest of the series.  Shadow Kin is a good start to the Half-Light City series and I can’t wait to read more.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Flyte by Angie Sage

(Cover picture courtesy of Free eBooks.)

It’s been a year since Septimus Heap discovered his real family and true calling to be a wizard. As Apprentice to Extra Ordinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand, he is learning the fine arts of Conjurations, Charms, and other Magyk, while Jenna is adapting to life as the Princess and enjoying the freedom of the Castle.

But there is something sinister at work. Marcia is constantly trailed by a menacing Darke Shadow, and Septimus’s brother Simon seems bent on a revenge no one understands. Why is the Darke Magyk still lingering?

Bringing fantasy to new heights, Angie Sage continues the journey of Septimus Heap with her trademark humor and all of the clever details readers have come to love.

Although I gave Magyk, the first book in the Septimus Heap series, a mediocre review, I still continued on with the series as it had potential.  As it turned out, that was the right decision.

Now that Septimus has been found and reunited with his family and Jenna has finally been claimed as the lost princess (something that was obvious from the beginning), Angie Sage begins to focus more on their character development.  They are able to grow beyond their archetypes and readers will be much more sympathetic to them, especially when there’s an unexpected betrayal in the family from Simon.  Simon himself is kind of your stereotypical tortured Judas: he’s angry at being passed over for an Apprenticeship in favour of a much younger person he doesn’t believe is really his brother.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t really grow beyond this stereotype, but for a book meant for ages 9-12 he’s a decent enough villain.

What I like about Flyte is that we see a lot more of Septimus’ world and learn a lot more about it as well.  Now that Septimus is Marcia’s Apprentice, we also learn a little more about Magyk, although we still don’t learn as much as I would like.  However, the book is meant for people much younger than I am, so I don’t think it will bother many readers.  Aside from the fact we never really learn what the source of Magyk is, Angie Sage has still created an interesting fantasy world that readers will love.  It’s not completely unique and you will find a lot of fantasy tropes, but she does put her own spin on things so it doesn’t stray too far into the annoying cliché range.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

(Cover picture courtesy of Kirkwood Public Library.)

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons.  Clary knows she should call the police, but it’s hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.

Equally startled by her ability to see them, the murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons.  Within twenty-four hours, Clary’s mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon.

But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundane like Clary and her mother?  And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight?  The Shadowhunters would like to know…

Clary Fray is just an ordinary fifteen-year-old girl until she witnesses a murder in Pandemonium Club and realizes no one else can see the murderers.  She discovers that the murderers are Shadowhunters, people who hunt and kill demons.  When Clary’s mother is kidnapped and Clary herself is almost killed by a demon, the Shadowhunters take her in and Clary discovers secrets about her past and her mother that she might have been better off not knowing.

City of Bones is pretty much your average urban fantasy book: vampires, werewolves, warlocks and secret societies.  Despite these clichés, it is a surprisingly enjoyable read.  The plot is riveting and filled with unexpected twists and Cassandra Clare has obviously spent quite a bit of time on world-building.  The only aspect that really falls flat is the characterization.  Clary could be substituted for any other YA protagonist, Jace is your stereotypical ice-cold hunk, Isabelle is a man-eater and Simon is the tragic best friend who *SPOILER ALERT* secretly loves Clary.

If you can get past the poor characterization and the typical urban fantasy clichés, you will enjoy City of Bones.  It does have its shortcomings, but Cassandra Clare is a good writer and manages to pull off a funny, enjoyable and addicting book.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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