Joanne Harris: Runemarks

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It’s been five hundred years since the end of the world and society has rebuilt itself anew. The old Norse gods are no longer revered. Their tales have been banned. Magic is outlawed, and a new religion – the Order – has taken its place.

In a remote valley in the north, fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith is shunned for the ruinmark on her hand – a sign associated with the Bad Old Days. But what the villagers don’t know is that Maddy has skills. According to One-Eye, the secretive Outlander who is Maddy’s only real friend, her ruinmark – or runemark, as he calls it – is a sign of Chaos blood, magical powers and gods know what else…

Now, as the Order moves further north, threatening all the Worlds with conquest and Cleansing, Maddy must finally learn the truth to some unanswered questions about herself, her parentage, and her powers.

Runemarks is a young adult, fantasy novel that follows Maddy as she attempts to find out the truth about who she is as a person. As a young child, she meets a man by the name of One-Eye who agrees to teach her how to control and build upon her powers whilst, each year, asking about the events of the local town. Until, one year, Maddy retells the years events which gives One-Eye cause for concern and their world, and everyone else’s, is changed.

I’m always on the lookout for a new fantasy series that I can really get my teeth into. Nowadays, I find it really hard to find any worthwhile investing and feel like the genre has become a bit lackluster. Gone are the days of Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series – unless you could George R. R. Martin but, at the rate he is going, Game of Thrones will never finish! Runemarks, though not the best fantasy I have ever read, was certainly interesting and fully took advantage of my love for religion/myths and legends. Harris centres the novel around Norse mythology and the legends surrounding Thor, Loki, Odin etc, bringing these characters into a more modern, rustic setting than the time that they originated from. I loved understanding the connections between the different Norse Gods and the roles that they played in Ragnarok, as well as in the present day of the novel. However, I did find that the Gods weren’t truly fleshed out in how I expected them to be. I felt like Loki wasn’t as mischievous and cunning as I was expecting; what little we saw of Thor didn’t really give me a sense of power and largesse about him. Though I did enjoy this characters and how they were portrayed, I felt like they were a bit simmered down from what I was expecting, and how they had previously depicted (damn you, Avengers!).

Harris’ world-building is simple and easy to understand, set in a rustic, country village that cannot truly comprehend magic or anything out of the ordinary. We don’t see much outside of the village bar the many worlds that live below and the realms of Death and Netherworld which, though I thought they would be hard to imagine due to the concept of these realms, were actually quite vivid and full of detail. I would definitely like to see more of the world that Maddy and her villagers come from, especially World’s End in order to fully understand the world that they live in but felt that Harris wrote beautifully and with faultless description to truly bring the setting to life.

Maddy, as a character, is stubborn and wild with a thirst for knowledge and understanding the powers that she has been given. She stops at nothing when pestering One-Eye to tutor her in the ways of runes and understanding the history of the world in regards to the Norse Gods and Ragnarok. However, Maddy is also an outsider and someone who is shunned and pushed aside out of fear at what she can, or could, do. She feels this even within her own family, and the novel sets her on a path in understanding who she truly is and what she is capable of. I am hoping that in the next novel, we will get to see the opinions of the villagers again following the events of Runemarks and how these may have differed from this first novel.

This novel is well-written and thoroughly researched to bring an interesting, adventure filled novel that focuses a lot on the trust and relationships between these Norse Gods and Maddy and how they are broken and forged. It was definitely a novel I enjoyed even though the characters didn’t meet my expectations but I could definitely see that, following the events of Ragnarok, their demeanor may have altered slightly. The pacing was well set and wasn’t slow or too fast making for an enjoyable read.

 

Susanna Beard: Dare To Remember

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Reeling from a brutal attack that leaves her flatmate dead and her badly
injured, Lisa Fulbrook flees to the countryside to recuperate. With only
vague memories of the event, she isolates herself from her friends and
family, content to spend her days wandering the hills with her dog, Riley.

However, Lisa is soon plagued, not only by vivid flashbacks, but questions,
too: how did their assailant know them? Why were they attacked? And
what really happened that night?

As she desperately tries to piece together the memories, Lisa realises that
there’s another truth still hidden to her, a truth she can’t escape from. A
truth that may have been right in front of her all along.

Dare To Remember is Susanna Beard’s debut novel; a psychological thriller following Lisa Fulbrook after she has relocated to a quiet village following the trauma she has experienced. After experiencing a near miss with death and losing her closest friend, Lisa cannot take being around everyone that was part of that life that has been taken away from her. Attempting a second chance at life, Lisa becomes plagued with flashbacks and nightmares that leave her questioning what truly happened that night and, underneath everything that she can remember, there is the question of what she can’t remember.

I had no expectations when heading into this novel, and that’s something I generally like to keep when it comes to thrillers and mystery’s. Once the suspense and the general plot-line has been divulged, I generally find it very hard to immerse myself and no longer feel the heart pumping, pulse racing sort of reaction expected of some of these novels. Dare To Remember is a brilliant psychological thriller that leaves you questioning everything that you are told regarding Lisa’s flashbacks and her memory. She herself admits to feeling unreliable in her account of what happened and you feel sympathy towards Lisa and her situation.

As a character, Lisa is quiet and likes to keep to herself – preferring the company of the dog she acquired from her next door neighbour to that of human company. Though this is the case, she does keep in regular contact with her next door neighbour, an elderly man who doesn’t pry into her past and accepts her for who she is and how she helps. It is clear that the Lisa of the present is one entirely different to that of Lisa before the event, with her flashbacks and nightmares showing a woman who was lively and liked to socialise. Beard shows how such a traumatic event can truly impact someone’s life and how their whole personality can change. It is only thanks to the relationships she makes after this event that she is able to accept her situation and move forwards.

I really enjoyed the concept of the novel. Dare To Remember is well-paced, quick, and easy to read, and the writing and plot draws you into the narrative. I found it very hard to put this novel down as I just couldn’t help being drawn into Lisa’s life and trying to, at the same time as her, uncover the truth of the attack and what her mind had shrouded from her. The side characters were also interesting, all with their own traumas and incidents that have made them who they are, and I loved how they all interacted and how they affected events that were to take place, all of them helping each other in different ways.

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Michael Hughes: The Countenance Divine

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In 1999 a programmer is trying to fix the millennium bug, but can’t shake the sense he’s been chosen for something.

In 1888, five women are brutally murdered in the East End by a troubled young man in thrall to a mysterious master.

In 1777 an apprentice engraver called William Blake has a defining spiritual experience; thirteen years later this vision returns.

And in 1666, poet and revolutionary John Milton completes the epic for which he will be remembered centuries later.

But where does the feeling come from that the world is about to end?

The Countenance Divine is a work of historical fiction, taking important events from history alongside historical figures in a novel that focuses on the end of the world. Each person’s story revolves around the belief that the end of the world is nigh, and how they all believe that they have been chosen and wondering how they are meant to leave their mark upon the world.

I will dive straight in and mention that this novel just wasn’t for me. I found it hard to associate with any of the characters, the pacing was slow and dragged out, and I didn’t like the way in was written in general. All of this added together resulted in a very bored me, though I powered through the novel as I thought that there might be some change towards the end where everything would make sense and I could begin to understand why the rest of the novel was so slow. Not only does Hughes have multiple characters, an aspect I usually thoroughly enjoy, but he jumps between different writing styles that are inherent to these characters time periods. Now, this in itself is no real issue however, I did find it hard to come to terms with the adjustment each time and, considering what the writing and language was like during those times, this made it hard for me to understand what was actually going on. I had to think long and hard about what I was reading and what Hughes was trying to portray. I can definitely see this being up some people’s alleys, but it just wasn’t for me and I am disappointed by this.

Not only was this novel boring for me, but the characters – in particular Chris – were also boring to me. I felt like it took a while for Chris to be fully fleshed out and the way that he was portrayed within the writing didn’t draw me in and make me empathise or truly understand his character. I had no real feelings towards any of the characters even though they seemed to be the main focus as opposed to the end of the world theory in most of these narratives.

This isn’t a novel that I would recommend to anyone unless they had a strong interest in past literary figures or end of the world doomsday theories. I found the novel really disjointed and found it very long-winded. I can however, appreciate that Hughes has spent a lot of time researching and understanding these literary figures and what drove them forward and how they are all interlinked in some way.

Josh Martin: Ariadnis

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Back then I thought that if it weren’t for that cliff, our cities would be one and there would be no need for all this fierceness toward each other. But then I learned about pride and tradition and prophecy, and those things are harder than rock.

Joomia and Aula are Chosen. They will never be normal. They can never be free.

On the last island on Erthe, Chosen Ones are destined to enter Ariadnis on the day they turn eighteen. There, they must undertake a mysterious and deadly challenge. For Joomia and Aula, this means competing against each other, to end the war that has seethed between their cities for nine generations.

As the day draws nearer, all thoughts are on the trial ahead. There’s no space for friendship. No time for love. However much the girls might crave them.

But how you prepare for a task you know nothing certain about? Nothing, except that you must win, at whatever cost, or lose everything.

Ariadnis is a young adult, fantasy set in the future on planet Earth – now Erthe. The world has been devastated by a comet and two people had taken it upon themselves to unite those that remain on the last island. But, as to be expected, these people are split; we have the city of Athenas that still adheres to the idea that industrialization is the key to survival, whilst those in the city of Metis believe in living alongside nature, building their houses within the trees. Aula (Or-la) and Joomia are the ninth Chosen Ones, destined by a prophecy to unite these two cities together whilst also competing against each other to win the position as the Chosen One – there can only be one. In a world still divided, Aula and Joomia must put their differences aside and work out how to bring these two differing cities together, using the knowledge they have learned and garnered from the previous Chosen Ones to impart wisdom on those around them.

This novel was sent to me as an eBook proof from Netgalley, a novel that really drew me in through the concept, as well as the cover art. I, like many other people, am guilty of judging a book by its cover and Ariadnis is no exception! The concept of the novel is one that I haven’t come across before and Martin uses this setting and the narrative plot to talk about environment, wisdom, and women as key players within the fantasy genre.

Aula and Joomia are from their respective cities and possess traits reflective of those environments; Aula, from Athenas the industrial city, possesses a strength that surpasses anyone else. She is able to bring buildings crumbling to the ground, pull doors right off their hinges, and send people flying with a simple punch. Aula possess a headstrong yet caring nature. Joomia, on the other hand, is of the city of Metis and is reflective of this environmental city in her ability to connect with the trees and shape them to her will. She is at one with nature and is quiet in nature, unable to speak so communicating through the mind to a select few. Martin uses Aula and Joomia to show how to completely different people, based on their environmental factors, can work together and use their respective skills for the greater good.

In regards to the novel itself and the writing, I found that the pacing at the beginning of the novel was slow-building which, initially, made it hard to fully grasp the world around the characters and understand the events taking place. However, as the novel progressed and the scenes began to hold more significance in the narrative moving forward, the pace began to pick up and everything slotted into place. I can see how the world Martin built can be hard to describe quite vividly and believe that there may have been some loose connection between thought-processes and words on paper but, ultimately, it did come across well. I enjoyed the ways in which the characters themselves connected and the differing personalities they brought to the novel. They didn’t adhere to typical stereotypes of female characters in fantasy novels, in fact, Martin subverts these at times with Taurus (a male character working alongside Aula and Joomia) becoming the “damsel” in distress resulting in Aula being the hero that gets him out of danger. It was quite humorous in this respect through the way these two characters interacted at this moment, but I appreciated this change in character tropes and believe that it is one we need to see more often.

Martin doesn’t provide all the information needed at once, adding a sense of mystery to the prophecy put upon the girls causing you to think about the choices that they are making and how they can unite their two cities. The way that Martin rounded up the story was flawless and I couldn’t find any hiccups in the transformation of these two characters who develop from each other as the novel progresses. It is a novel I would recommend to anyone looking for strong, female leads that questions the concept of power, knowledge, and wisdom and the differences between the three.

Adrian Tchaikovsky: The Bear and the Serpent

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*Please be aware that there may be spoilers for the first book, The Tiger and the Wolf.
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The Tiger and the Wolf

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As the south is in turmoil, an old terror emerges in the north . . . Maniye, child of both Wolf and Tiger clans, has been named Champion of her people. But they’re unsure if she’s an asset – or a threat. To buy time, she joins Prince Tecuman’s warband of outcasts and heads south, to help him gain his crown. She wants to discover her true place in the world, but instead heads into the jaws of a fierce new conflict. Civil war threatens as Tecuman and his twin sister battle for the throne, for only one can rule. Yet whoever triumphs will carry a heavy burden, as a great doom has been foreseen that will fall across their whole world. And soon Maniye finds herself at the heart of a political storm. Danger is also shadowing her old home, where Lord Thunder and his bear clan are attempting to unite the northern tribes. But only extreme peril will end age-old rivalries. An adversary from the most ancient of times is preparing to strike, putting their lands and their very souls in danger. And neither north nor south will be spared the terror to come.

The Bear and the Serpent is the second in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Echoes of the Fall series that follows our main protagonist Maniye, as she attempts to find her place within the world that she lives in. After the events of The Tiger and the Wolf, Maniye has headed south in order to find herself and understand her role as Champion better. Whilst she is busy getting wrapped up in the politics and turmoil of a land unknown to her, the tribes left in the Crown of the World are facing an enemy that has not been seen for many years, threatening to take over the land and rid everyone of their souls.

Following from the first novel, Maniye is now the Champion of the Wolf tribe and is leading a band of strays and rogues on a journey to the south. The Bear and the Serpent sees Maniye begin on a path of discovery, discovering who she is now that she has this power and has been noticed by the Gods, but also understanding her position within her tribe having taken it upon herself to lead a group of ragtag wolves, and others who have fallen out of favour. Maniye seems more sure of herself within this novel having endured everything that she has previously, but also understanding why she was treated the way she was by Stone River and Kalameshli Takes Iron. Gone is the childish nature seen at the beginning of The Tiger and the Wolf, to be replaced with a more mature young girl who must make decisions that will not only affect her, but those around her.

The conflicts of The Tiger and the Wolf are still very much prevalent within The Bear and the Serpent, almost getting in the way of Loud Thunder uniting the tribes together to fight this old enemy that has encroached upon their land. However, this new enemy is far worse than warring tribes and causes them to think about their very existence and their future should they fail to destroy these intruders. There is a far more ominous feeling surrounding The Bear and the Serpent with these new characters introduced, and – though it is clear that they have been fought and defeated before – the knowledge of how has been all but lost through time. However, this tone did not give me the same rush and thrill as with the first book, with there being more an air of mystery and suspense.

Though I was really anticipating the release of this book, I found it very hard to get into the narrative this time around. The pacing was a lot slower than the first book and there was far more going on (not really a complaint on that point). However, I believe that this is mainly due in part to the formatting of the eBook that I received. I found myself becoming confused with the passages I was reading as there was only slight indications to character narrative changes through the use of asterisk that, half the time, my eyes completely skimmed over and didn’t register. Because of this, I found myself wondering why I had jumped from indoors to outdoors, from one area to another, from one set of characters to another when there had been no clear indication as to how or why they had got there. Though this has not helped my reading experience with this book, I am still very much invested in this book and will be buying the book when it comes out. My plan is to eventually re-read The Bear and the Serpent as a physical book and seeing if my perspective changes again then.

S. Jae-Jones: Wintersong

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All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her spirit and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl must journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds – and the mysterious man who rules it – she soon faces an impossible decision. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Wintersong is a work of young, adult fantasy that draws upon German fairy tales from thte 19th century. You can see the subtle ways in which S. Jae-Jones implements these works in her writing style and the motifs found throughout the normal, particularly in the beginning. I, myself, found elements of Snow White and Cinderella. Jones doesn’t make it blatantly obvious but weaves them in expertly. However, there are also the more stereotypical elements of fairy tales found within Wintersong: magic and wishes, Goblins and changelings, a love that transcends the norm and alters the world around them. All of these come together to bring a whimsical tale that draws you in from the beginning.

Liesl is the oldest of her siblings and takes on many elements of Cinderella; she is the least beautiful out of her and her sister, she toils away at her chores alongside her Mother in order to keep the cogs of the family moving forward, and she does everything to help everyone else without truly thinking about herself. She is selfless and caring. However, with the introduction of the Goblin King and him taking her sister, Kathe, to the Underground in order to lure her in, Liesl becomes both selfless and selfish in order to save those around her. Liesl is a character that you are immediately drawn to, always looking out for those around her. She has a fire within her that is hard to quench and her love runs deep within her, something that the Goblin King cannot stop as she yearns more and more for her return. It is Liesl who helps the Goblin King in his transformation and helps him to understand himself and to allow him to love harder than he ever has before.

I loved the relationship between Liesl and the Goblin King, the way that they seamlessly fit together through music and how intimately they know each other through their playing. But, due to their circumstances, there will always be difficulties between them which causes there relationship to move back and forth as they attempt to find a middle ground that allows them to love, trust, and fully understand each other. It is due to their relationship, and the outcome late within the novel that caused me to well up with tears – something that I haven’t done in a long while and truly proves the brilliance of this novel (I don’t cry easily!). Their love is selfless, yet selfish, much like Liesl herself, but it is pure.

S. Jae-Jones brings in Wintersong a magical, dark, beautiful, and passionate narrative that is filled with love. The musical elements alongside Jones’ writing style make this narrative truly wonderful to read with the writing being lyrical in its own way. You cannot help but be drawn in by the metaphors and the way in which Jones’ elegantly describes the feelings and emotions of these characters. Nothing feels forced or out of place, but fits perfectly with each character and their personality. I was truly drawn into these characters and heavily invested in Liesl and the Goblin King, truly loving the development between the two. I would highly recommend this novel for those who love the magical, fantastical and beautiful love interests.

Marc Elsberg: Blackout

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A cold night in Milan, Piero Manzano wants to get home.

Then the traffic lights fail. Manzano is thrown from his Alfa as cars pile up. And not just on this street – every light in the city is dead.

Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electricity grids collapse.

Plunged into darkness, people are freezing. Food and water supplies dry up. The  death toll soars.

Former hacker and activist Manzano becomes a prime suspect. But he is also the only man capable of finding the real attackers.

Can he bring down a major terrorist network before it’s too late?

Blackout is a thriller novel by German novelist Marc Elsberg that brings to light the harsh reality of our current civilizations inability to live without modern advancements such as electricity, hot running water, and readily available food supplies. In an attempt to bring the world to a more primitive state, a team of hackers take down the entirety of Europe’s power grid, forcing many countries to fight for survival. There is limited access to the internet, television and phone networks go offline – such resources preserved for ministers and government officials through generators in a desperate bid to bring the power back online before all these countries fall further into decline.

A novel such as this is greatly attractive to a millenial such as myself. As many people are, I am frequently found on the internet or browsing social media to pass the time. Heck, we have jobs that can only be accomplished through the use of computers and the internet. The thought of such an event taking place in real time really gets your blood pumping and your heart racing as you truly begin to contemplate the high dependence our society has on such treasures as internet access, and the ability to drink water and eat food at a moments notice. And the thing is, it all seems entirely possible, especially given how in-depth Marc Elsberg delves within this novel.

This isn’t a novel that just tells you an event is happening and brings together some rough ideas on how such an event could be stopped. Elsberg goes into a lot of detail: he goes deep into the running of power plants and the software used to keep them running, putting a spotlight on the many ways in which nuclear power plants, and the like, can so easily be taken down by the right people with the right knowledge. It’s almost scary how easily something like this could happen, and the amount of chaos it would surely bring in the event of this. Elsberg brings a lot of characters into this novel to show the true extent of this catastrophe with an array of government officials from many countries putting their voice across on how to fix these issues, or questioning who or what could have caused such widespread panic and disarray. Elsberg shows how the different departments are all involved in what seems so minute to someone (such as myself) who cannot truly comprehend the scale of the power grids in and around Europe and other continents.

But, Elsberg also shows how easy it is to point the finger in order to place blame. Many countries come into question and brings to the reader the idea of allies and enemies within the political world and what each one may gain or lose from this event. Manzano himself, with his sketchy past as a hacker and activist, is one of these people that is blamed for such an event. Clearly, throughout the novel, we can understand that that is not the case, but the way that Elsberg feeds privileged information to the reader that is not, at the time, known by Manzano, still makes you question Manzano’s motives and makes you understand where these people are coming from to blame him.

Manzano, as a character – to me – appeared quite humble in his approach to those around him. He never once tries to toot his own horn and, when others try to, he almost brushes it away as if it is nothing. I appreciated this aspect of Manzano’s personality as it shows that he knows his capabilities but does not try to boast or brag, or draw any unnecessary attention to himself. He is also quite a caring man; without spoiling any of the scenes, he is presented with situations where people are in a far worse situation than himself, but he still attempts to help them in his time of need understanding that his actions will help ease them. I found Manzano to be quite a likable character, never once truly judging him based on his past actions as those around him seem to do. It is clear that, over time, he has changed his ways and that his past will always haunt him and taint the earth that he walks on.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it shed some light on today’s society and our pleasures that we truly take for granted. It was interesting to see the various ways in which members of society coped with such an event and the different scenarios that were offset by this one major event. But it was also humbling to read that, even in these times of crisis, there are still some people looking to help out and not for personal gain.

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Louise Stone: S is for Stranger

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There are two sides to every story.

But only one is true.

Sophie wished she’d paid more attention when her little daughter, Amy, caught sight of a stranger watching them. She only looked away for a second. But now Amy’s gone.

No one trusts an alcoholic. Even a sober one. The police are suspicious of Sophie’s tangled story and so is her ex-husband, Paul. Especially when new information emerges that changes everything.

But what if Sophie is telling the truth? What if her daughter really is missing? And what if that stranger at the fairground wasn’t really a stranger at all…

S is for Stranger is a psychological thriller that truly plays on your mind. Amy, Sophie’s child, has gone missing from right under her feet and Sophie is adamant that her ex-husband, Paul, was with her that day. However, as the police investigation begins to unravel, Sophie starts to believe that Paul is keeping something from her and cannot understand why he would lie about his whereabouts. As the narrative begins to progress, Sophie becomes less and less sure of the situation and starts to feel like she cannot trust anyone playing on the reader’s mind and causing you to question each and every character that Sophie interacts with. You think you have sussed out who the potential kidnapper is until new information is revealed and your train of thought has been completed debunked.

Louise Stone really does know how to write a gripping psychological thriller. She doesn’t give away too much information at any one time and, with this novel, you are never truly given closure on the events that have taken place. Though I did find the ending a little bit abrupt, Stone gives you the relevant information you need to understand the truth behind the investigation and the kidnapping but still leaves you questioning the events that have taken place.

Sophie, as a character, is a bit all over the place which helps add to the sense of mystery within this novel. It is clear that she has a lot of love and emotion towards her only daughter, and only wants what is best for her. However, her inability to trust other people and the clear instability surrounding her mental health and her addictions truly makes you question her as a person as well – especially when faced with questioning side-characters such as Paul and Oliver. As a reader, I found myself drawn to Sophie as the mother, a process that the investigators within the novel try to push forward in their press conferences to try and find Amy. In this regard, we see a lot more of Sophie as a character and can fully understand the turmoil she is going through.

I really enjoyed this novel and found it very hard to put the story aside whenever I needed to. It was fast-paced and gripping that left your insides squirming as you tried to suss out the truth. As I mentioned, I felt that the ending was definitely abrupt even though you are given some clarification, however, I felt that it could have been extended slightly to give more closure.

John Marrs: The One

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How far would you go to find THE ONE?

One simple mouth swab is all it takes.

One tiny DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.

Now, five more people take the test. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

The One is a psychological thriller by author John Marrs that follows a series of people who have found their “match” through the Match Your DNA website. In a future where every person can be genetically matched with their soulmate, these couples are in for a bumpy ride as each and every one of them faces new, exciting, and – in some cases – troublesome adventures with their true loves. Each and every one of their matches holds a secret, but will it help or hinder their chance at true love?

I’m going to best honest, I went in completely blind with this book. I saw a picture on Twitter, read the small synopsis provided, and I was hooked! Imagine a world where through one simple swab, you can instantly be matched with your soulmate, your one true love. Gone are the days of searching for the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with, gone are the days of feeling confined in a relationship you know doesn’t work, gone are the days of wondering if you are truly made for each other. It’s a concept that I find extremely interesting and believe would change the world as we know it; something that John Marrs looks into himself.

Not only do we get to meet this matches as we progress through the narrative, but we begin to understand the process behind these people being matched together – the science! With all of this information, it becomes clear how such a scientific discovery can hold so many ethical, societal, and political issues: what if you are matched up with a murderer, or someone with any sort of criminal conviction, how would it make you feel to know that you had split a happily married couple up because, out of the blue, you had found out you were matched together? A lot of these questions are asked and answered and it really makes you think about such an issue. But you can also see the benefits behind it: a lower divorce rate, lower rates of depression and stress from being with the one you love. Marrs questions all of these pros and cons throughout the novel and puts some of these scenarios into play.

All of the characters in The One hold completely different personalities; some are feisty and stubborn, others hold maternal instincts, some just don’t believe that they could be matched in such a way. It is interesting to watch these people shift and alter throughout the narrative as they begin to understand more about themselves by their matches, and begin to understand those they have been matched with. There are moments of heartbreak, sorrow, guilt, and so on and I loved watching how these characters play on these emotions by believing that they have fallen in love with their soulmates.

The One was fast-paced, gripping, and really made you think about the people around you and the people that these characters connected with. It makes you understand that everyone has their secrets and you won’t always begin to understand why they have these secrets, and why you would fall in love with someone with those secrets. It is a book that I believe will be on the top of my 2017 reads and one I would highly recommend for fans of psychological thrillers.

Stephanie Garber: Caraval

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 Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year, five-day performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have their arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told over and over that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever . . .

Caraval is Stephanie Garber’s debut novel, a highly-anticipated young adult, fantasy that sees magic come alive through performance. The magic in Caraval comes in various forms and can affect the audience in a variety of ways. Upon arriving at Caraval, you are told twice that not everything is as it seems, that you shouldn’t believe everything everyone says or believe everything that you see. But for the unlucky few, you can’t help but be dragged into the all too real world that is Caraval as it feeds off of your emotions to submerge you deeper and deeper into the fantastical.

I didn’t know a lot about this novel going into it. I hadn’t even heard of the book until it was sent to me but, from the months since then I have gathered information from social media that tells me that Caraval is a novel not to be missed, a novel that is being highly praised. I’ve begun to realise in the past year that young adult, fantasy is my jam. I may be a 22-year-old and should really be reading more adult fiction, but I can’t help but be dragged into these worlds that provide the perfect form of escapism.

Caraval follows our main character Scarlett Dragna as she attempts to find her sister Donatella (Tella) within the world of Caraval. Tella has been taken as part of the adventure of Caraval and Scarlett must follow a series of clues and source her out within the five nights of the performance. On this journey, Scarlett comes into contact with a variety of characters with varying motives and personalities. She does not know who she should trust, not even her own decisions as the magic of Caraval sucks her in and twists the truth.

Scarlett, as a character, starts off as someone quite unsure of herself. All she has known is that she must protect her sister from their abusive father, that she must be the mother-figure after their own mother, Paloma, left without a trace. What drives her forward throughout the novel is the thought that she might never see her sister again and that Legend, the master of Caraval, will be able to grant her one wish – a wish she hopes will give her and Tella the freedom they need to get away from their father. As the adventure progresses and she gets closer to the truth of Caraval and finding her sister, Scarlett is influenced by the people around her and the opportunities they can provide. Scarlett becomes more knowledgeable about what is happening around her, and she becomes more daring and reckless with her choices as she realises that she must let loose and take chances if she is to progress further. As a character, Scarlett develops a lot throughout the narrative and is an almost entirely different person by the end. Yes, she still holds the same hopes and dreams, and her feelings towards her family are still the same; but she begins to uncover the truth of the fantasies she has believed since she was a child. The challenges that are put before her make her a stronger character and you can see that in her actions and her mannerisms towards the other characters.

One element I really enjoyed about Garber’s narrative is her use of colour. Scarlett is able to understand her feelings and emotions through colour which adds a clarity to this novel that helps provide subtle hints about the character’s she interacts with. But, not only is the use of colour used to help Scarlett, and the reader, understand how she is feeling, but Garber uses these colours alongside the magic of Caraval to help Scarlett progress through the adventure. These colours help Scarlett make her decisions and allows her to understand what risks she needs to be taking and who can help her on her journey. There are obvious colours like black for those who are dangerous and who might want to stay away from, but then other colours can be a bit harder for her to discern their meaning.

The magic used within Caraval has an almost whimsical feel and gave me a nostalgic feeling of being a child again. I enjoyed the way in which the magic was implemented and how it effected the world of Caraval in different ways based on the place, time of day, and who interacted with it. The magic of Caraval also gave an air of mystery surrounding the setting and the narrative of the novel, making it harder to understand who to trust due to the ways in which people become affected by the magic – some people going mad, becoming untrustworthy etc.

Caraval was definitely the most magical book I have read in the whole of 2016, and for quite a long time. It’s the perfect book for escapism as it is so whimsical and the characters are influenced in so many ways that it is hard to trust anyone creating various twists and turns throughout the narrative. Even when everything was explained I was waiting for some veil to be torn down to reveal that everything still was a mystery.