Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pirate Cinema - Cory Doctorow

Title: Pirate Cinema
Author: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Tor, 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: May 27, 2013
Finished: May 30, 2013

From the inside cover:

Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by sampling and reassembling footage he downloads from the net. In the near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever; if you're caught three times, your entire household is cut off from the Internet for a year, with no appeal.

Trent is sure this won't happen to him; he's too clever. Except it does, and it nearly destroys his family-his father's living, his mother's health, and his kid sister's studies all depend on Internet access.

Shamed and shattered, Trent runs away to London where he learns how to stay alive on the streets while retaining your self-respect. This drops him straight into the city's always-rambunctious street scene, a demimonde of artists and activists who are fighting a new bill that will criminalize digital copying even more harmless than Trent's, making millions of people felons at a stroke.

Things look bad. The government is in the grip of a few wealthy media conglomerates. But the powers that be haven't entirely reckoned with the power of a movie to change people's minds...

I'm a fan of Doctorow's works, he does a great job of writing books about modern issues of rights and activism for teenagers. Pirate Cinema takes place in a near-future Britain where the Internet is so widespread that most people's lives depend on it (unlike today where there are phone as well as internet options for most things). So when the the norm is to cut off a household's internet access for a whole year as a consequence for illegal downloading, it can really mess with a family's well-being. Which is exactly what happens to Trent's family after he's caught for the third time. Ashamed at essentially ruining his family, Trent runs off to London and finds himself in an Oliver Twist-like situation where a group of homeless youth take him under their wing and show him the ropes. With the influence of his girlfriend, 26, he becomes involved in anti-copyright activism following the passing of a new, stricter law.

The book is written in the author's typical style: great at explaining techie concepts in a way that newbies can understand (but this can also go on for pages at a time so it can be a drag depending on the reader). This also breaks up the flow a bit, which can be good or bad as well depending on the reader; basically if you're a fan of Doctorow's works then this is more of the same.

The only issues I have with the book are how Trent's teen homelessness is portrayed, as well as the copyright laws issue. While it's true that some copyright laws are downright stupid and hinder individual freedoms and creativity, that's not the case with all of them. Overtime, I witnessed film studios that license and release Japanese animation for North American release die out because people continued to illegally download the films and series instead of paying for them. In cases like that I support copyright law (but nothing drastic like jailing people). In cases where people that have paid for a copy of said film/series and chose to remix bits and pieces of it to unrelated music (anime music videos), fully acknowledging the original sources, that's where I think copyright law should stay out of it. Doctorow solely focuses on the second scenario while ignoring the first, making the issue more than slightly biased.

The glorification of Trent's homeless state is another beef of mine. Trent goes off to London, and in typical 16-year-old fashion, he doesn't have a plan. After spending one night on the streets and one night in a shelter, he magically runs into Jem who teaches him the ways of dumpster diving, and squatting. They live like kings: eating better food out of the dumpsters than they'd have gotten at home, evoke squatter's rights to stay in an old pub, rewiring things to get their utilities, and do nothing outside of the film scene but party, drink, have sex, and do drugs (mostly smoking weed, but still). There are almost no negative side-effects to this lifestyle that readers see, I know it's possible to live off the grid and there are more ways to live aside from the traditional set-up, but the last thing impressionable teenaged readers need is something like this glorifying running off to a major urban centre to be homeless when they can't face their parents.

If you're a fan of the author's previous works, then you'll like this as well. You might want to have a teachable moment with teenaged readers on some of the issues presented that might be slightly biased (the copyright laws, Trent living the homeless high life).

Thoughts on the cover:
It's nice and dynamic with a great colour scheme, very different from the author's other books though.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

City of a Thousand Dolls - Miriam Forster

Title: City of a Thousand Dolls
Author: Miriam Forster
Publisher: Harper Teen, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 360 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: May 22, 2013
Finished: May 23, 2013

From the inside cover:

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a little girl. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumours are true, assassins. She makes her way as Matron's errand girl, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city's handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls' deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls-but also her life.

This book had some interesting hype surrounding it, plus the title was unique, so I decided to give it a go. I'm forever thankful that I did, I can't even begin to describe how much I enjoyed this book, I couldn't return to normal life until I finished it (thankfully my students and coworkers understood ^_~). Thankfully there will be more books written in this universe, because I'm already getting withdrawal symptoms.

To start off, the world-building blew my mind. The setting is a south-east Asian inspired fantasy realm called the Bhinian Empire (I got an Indian feel from it, but that could be just me) that, as a result of the Emperor's two-child policy, needed to establish an estate to care for the realm's abandoned daughters. Not only does the country itself have world-building (the castes, the political structure, the customs, the differences between the sexes, etc.), but the City of a Thousand Dolls itself does as well (how the girls are apprenticed, the competition, the monetary aspect of the Redeeming, etc.). While some authors have difficulty with the bare minimum for world-building, this author manages to simultaneously craft two separate aspects and dole out information throughout the book, so the reader is always adding to the ongoing list in their head. The author had my approval just by doing an amazing job with this, I was immediately immersed in this realm and I loved it (especially after introducing the Sune and the Kildi half-way through).

Not only does the book have an amazing universe to get sucked into, the plot is intricate and engaging. After girls begin to die in the City, Nisha ends up investigating their deaths to try to prove her usefulness. I can't give away much due to spoilers, but it's not an easy mystery to solve, I could guess one of the parties involved but not the others, and the twists were actually surprising. You really feel for Nisha as a character and want her to succeed, she's well rounded and even though she has issues with figuring out where she belongs, she's not annoying as she comes to terms with that.

I loved the cats, I have to say. Jerritt made my day while I was reading this, and I could feel the motherly personality roll off Esmer, I just loved them.

A map would've been useful to help get a visual of the City, but there is a list of characters and what Houses they're from thankfully. The author does have a map listed on her blog, so hopefully that makes it into the future paperback copy.

Wonderfully written, brilliantly crafted, amazing characters, and even a little romance, what more could you want? One of the best books I've read this year, and can't wait for the companion novel coming next year. If you are a fan of Kristin Cashore's Graceling books; heck, even if you aren't, you will adore City of a Thousand Dolls.

Thoughts on the cover:
The stone lions are what attracted me to the cover in the first place. Plus the colour scheme of reds, golds, and yellows look nice here. It wasn't until later that I even noticed Nisha in the centre of the background.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Destiny, Rewritten - Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Title: Destiny, Rewritten
Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 335 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction
Started: May 18, 2013
Finished: May 18, 2013

From the inside cover:

Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has been told for her entire life that her destiny is to become a famous poet, just like her famous namesake, Emily Dickinson. But Emily doesn't even like poetry, and she has a secret career ambition that she suspects her English-professor mother will frown on. Then, just after discovering that it contains an important family secret, she loses the special volume of Emily Dickinson's poetry that was given to her at birth. As Emily and her friends search for the lost book in used bookstores and thrift shops all across town, Emily's understanding of destiny begins to unravel and then rewrite itself in a marvelous new way.

In her third novel, Kathryn Fitzmaurice again weaves a richly textured story about unexpected connections, about the stories that shape our lives, and about the most perfect kinds of happy endings: those that happen just on time.

I won't lie, the cover initially attracted me to this book; I mean, who hasn't stared up in awe in a bookstore or library like that? Upon actually reading the book, it's more about kids trying to understand the concept of destiny than about reading in general, although there's lots of that going on with Emily's mom being an English professor and her friend Cecily Ann being the poet Emily's 'supposed' to be.

Emily was named after Emily Dickinson, mostly because her mother didn't want to name her after Shakespeare's Juliet due to the association and fear of young death. Coming from someone who doesn't let one bad association tarnish an otherwise good name, I think her mother gave up too early on Juliet (but I would've spelt it as 'Juliette', much prettier), but luckily the name Emily fits the character just as well. She tries to live up to this supposed destiny that her mother thrusts on her when she doesn't even like poetry, and would rather write romance novels; something she doesn't dare admit to her mother...and I don't blame her on this, I know I'd look at my daughter sideways if she told me she wanted to be the next Danielle Steel. Moving on, Emily's book of Dickinson's poetry accidentally gets picked up with the donation pile just after she learns that her mother wrote the name of her (absent) father somewhere in it. Clue the massive search of all the used bookstores and thrift stores in Berkeley trying to find said book so she can find out who her dad is. This whole charade exists in the first place because her mother has a warped idea of fate and refuses to directly tell her daughter the name herself, saying that she'll know if the universe wants her to know kind of thing...can you tell her mom's a hippie?

So after several encounters and adventures and finding the book, Emily resigns her self to a new idea of destiny that she is in charge of her life, and works toward this new sense of self-agency. I can't say more due to spoilers, but there is a happy ending where all things are concerned, and the book is certainly charming throughout the experience.

A charming middle-grade read, think a literary version of 'The Parent Trap' (not alike in story obviously but in the feel and atmosphere).

Thoughts on the cover:
Since it was what drew me to the book in the first place, I'd say it's pretty good.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 356 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: May 15, 2013
Finished: May 16, 2013

From the inside cover:

Alina Starkov doesn't expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they're sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.

When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.

Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling's favourite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her...and only she can save the future.

This release had/has a ton of hype surrounding it, especially now that the second instalment is coming out next month (titled Siege and Storm). In my mommy brain haze that occupied most of last year, I missed this book when it first came out, but made up for it by blitz-reading it in under 24 hours. I quite enjoyed the book and will definitely be picking up the rest of the series, but there are a few things that I was able to overlook that I'm sure will annoy other readers.

First off, I liked Alina as a character. She's had a hard life and isn't extraordinary by any means, plus she's spunky and sassy. She's a little too naive at times, which made me yell at her internally during a few scenes, but it wasn't a huge drawback for me. Mal as a character was kind of lukewarm, he didn't get enough 'screen time' to develop in my opinion. I liked Genya as well, but she's a cliche type of character (pretty and slightly self-absorbed, yet well-meaning BFF). The cliche isn't immediately obvious due to the fantasy elements and the Russian-inspired atmosphere, but stick her in a cheerleader outfit and you'll see it. I did like the Darkling and how he was well balanced between good and evil, his trajectory was a little predictable, but I didn't mind it.

The beginning of the novel moved a little slow for me, especially since the world-building isn't explained right away (it happens gradually over the course of the book) and the slam of Russian-inspired vocabulary with no glossary bugged the crap out of me, so the first 100 pages or so were a little hard to get through, but after that point things took off and I was hooked.

Now there's the big one that I know will bug people who know their Russian history/culture/language. The series has a very Russian-inspired feel to it, which I felt was very unique, but in cases like this you need to either adhere to it to a certain degree or leave it alone altogether. Let me explain. Russian vocabulary such as Tsar and kvas is used, but Russian last names aren't used in the proper gendered format (Starkov when it should be Starkova). 'Grisha', which refers to the group of magic users in the novel, is a nickname for 'Grigori''s like referring to a group of magicians as 'Jimmy' or 'Billy', which is just plain silly. Now the only reason why I know any of this stuff is because my husband is the Russian enthusiast in our home, my expertise is the Japanese area, but this stuff would surely bother me if someone had set a novel with a Japanese-inspired setting and made these types of 'errors'. In my opinion, you either use a totally original fantasy realm of your own creation and make up your own mishmash language, or you use real-world influences but stick to them. In the case of the latter, I appreciate a well-researched book above all else. So, if you know your Russian you might get super-annoyed with this; but if you don't know anything about Russian language it'll go over your head.

Well-written and engaging story with some predictability, but didn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the novel. The Russian-inspired atmosphere is wonderful, but leads to some inaccuracies with Russian vocabulary.

Thoughts on the cover:
Wonderfully well-done. I like the Kremlin-esque towers, the dark colour scheme, the wisps of shadow swirling around, and also the stag's antlers bordering the sides.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Homeland - Cory Doctorow

Title: Homeland (sequel to Little Brother)
Author: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Tor, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 396 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: May 9, 2013
Finished: May 14, 2013

From the inside cover:

In Cory Doctorow's wildly successful Little Brother, young Marcus Yallow was arbitrarily detained and brutalized by the government in the wake of a terrorist attack on San Francisco-an experience that led him to become a leader of the whole movement of technologically clued-in teenagers, fighting back against the tyrannical security state.

A few years later, California's economy collapses, but Marcus' hacktivist past lands him a job as webmaster for a crusading politician who promises reform. Soon his former nemesis Masha emerges from the political underground to gift him with a thumbdrive containing  a WikiLeaks-style cable-dump of hard evidence of corporate and governmental perfidy. It's incendiary stuff-and if Masha goes missing, Marcus is supposed to release it to the world. Then Marcus sees Masha being kidnapped by the same government agents who detained and tortured him years earlier.

Marcus can leak the archive Masha gave him-but he can't admit to being the leaker, because that will cost his employer the election. He's surrounded by friends who remember what he did a few years ago and regard him as a hacker hero. He can't even attend a demonstration without being dragged onstage and handed a mike. He's not at all sure that just dumping the archive onto the Internet, before he's gone through its millions of words, is the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, people are beginning to shadow him, people who look like they're used to inflicting pain until they get the answers they want.

Fast-moving, passionate, and as current as next week, Homeland is every bit the equal of Little Brother-a paean to activism, to courage, to the drive to make the world a better place.

I read Little Brother in 2009 (book released in 2008) and loved it to pieces, it still has a coveted place on my bookshelf. Although it was very much a product of the George W. Bush era with its emphasis on the violation of personal rights in the name of capturing terrorists, Homeland is very much the product of today; discussing everything from the recession and economic collapse, WikiLeaks, political corruption, the Occupy movement and the 1%, Anonymous, and internet security. Plus there's other little gems like Burning Man, making awesome coffee, and clenching and unclenching your anal muscles to screw with a polygraph...yes, you heard me, it's all in there.

The book opens a few years after the events of Little Brother. Marcus is now 19 and a college dropout after losing his reduced tuition rate (his dad was a prof at Berkeley and lost his job) and not being able to tolerate the mounting student debt he's accumulated. After getting his foot in the door at Burning Man, he becomes the webmaster for a new independent political candidate, but at the same time he's faced with a mountain of documents given to him by Masha. Marcus, Ange and Jolu decide to actually read through the documents before releasing them via darknet (a protected site derived from Xnet from the first book), and what they find is jaw-dropping. School boards using software disguised as updates to hack students' laptops to spy on them (camera, mic, keystrokes, etc.), companies buying student debt in order to jack up the amount through penalties if there's one missed payment and then going after the family's money and investments to pay it off, among others. And the scary thing is that these ideas aren't far-fetched, they're based on cases that actually happened.

Throughout the novel, Marcus debates his own involvement and responsibility with all this; trying to protect himself, his family, Ange, and also his boss from the potential fallout from leaking everything. It's a wonderful commentary on our own responsibility to report injustices as we see them and to not become so overwhelmed that we fail to do so.

The tech stuff described in the novel is done in such a way that non-techy people can still appreciate and understand everything, it reads like an instruction manual for these procedures, and the author even admits that he hopes the book is a first step for readers, who will then spend hours googling the topics to find the most up-to-date information.

Just like with Little Brother, I wish this novel had been around when I was a teenager, it would have meant so much to me back then. I plan on recommending Homeland, as well as Little Brother, to my students to show them that we all have a responsibility to stand up to injustices in this world, and that even a small, committed group of people can change things (in fact it's the only thing that ever has). For the record, that's not me, that's a Margaret Mead quote ^_~

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the continuity from the Little Brother cover, but using a darker colour scheme (I love the black, read, and teal), and the presence of smartphones rather than laptops in Little Brother's cover reflects the update in widespread technology.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz - Carol Matas

Title: Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz
Author: Carol Matas
Publisher: Scholastic, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 157 pages
Genre: Children's Historical Fiction
Started: May 10, 2013
Finished: May 11, 2013


A young Jewish girl recounts her experiences during a horrific time in recent history.

As Rose begins her diary, she is in her third home since coming to Winnipeg. Traumatized by her experiences in the Holocaust, she struggles to connect with others, and above all, to trust again.

When her new guardian, Saul, tries to get Rose to deal with what happened to her during the war, she begins writing in her diary about how she survived the murder of the Jews in Poland by going into hiding.

Memories of herself and her mother being taken in by those willing to risk sheltering Jews, moving from place to place, being constantly on the run to escape capture, begin to flood her diary pages. Recalling those harrowing days, including when they stumbled on a resistance cell deep in the forest and lived underground in filthy conditions, begins to take its toll on Rose.

As she delves deeper into her past, she is haunted by the most terrifying memory of all. Will she find the courage to bear witness to her mother's ultimate sacrifice?

I love the Dear Canada books, as well as the I Am Canada books (geared towards boys). As an educator, they're a wonderful way to introduce Canadian history to youth in approachable ways, and as a reader I  appreciate that the books are written by Canadian authors. The various historical events chosen for these books are relevant and important: child labour in the 1800s, the Filles du Roi in the 1600s, loyalists during the War of 1812, various immigrant experiences throughout the years, escaped slaves arriving to Canada via the Underground Railroad, Irish immigrants caught in typhus outbreaks in the 1840s, Japanese internment during the 1940s, and of course ones relating to the Holocaust like this installment. I have quite a collection of my own, but there are always new ones coming out that I pick up from the library, and this was the newest one.

As all the books begin, we meet a thirteen year-old girl; this one named Rose (Rozia), a Jewish war orphan among the thousand or so allowed into Canada in 1948 from European orphanages and displaced persons camps. She's on her third foster home since her arrival to Winnipeg (another commentary on the need for qualified, trained foster parents throughout history, especially for traumatized children), and her new guardians try to help her by giving her a diary to write her experiences in. As she recalls memories from her entry to the Warsaw ghetto at age four to being the last remaining member of her family by age nine, readers become immersed in a variety of Holocaust experiences from ghetto life, concentration camps, going into hiding, joining the resistance and living in the forests, to survivor guilt and returning to 'normal' life.

These books are very well researched (there's a list of credits/sources at the back of each book), so they do a nice job of filling in the gaps that students will get from our very condensed history curriculum, especially on topics that kids are usually drawn to but aren't discussed in depth in school.

The quality of these books vary depending on the author and the subject matter, but the majority are excellent and very well written. I urge you to go to your library or bookstore and pick up one from either series for your child (or yourself, I enjoy reading these as much as the kids).

Thoughts on the cover:
The publisher always does a good job of finding portrait images from the appropriate time period that match the character description, I love reading the credits and finding out where the portrait came from. And also what colour template they'll use for each new book, I'm sure they have one in every single shade by now.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cinders and Sapphires - Leila Rasheed

Title: Cinders and Sapphires
Author: Leila Rasheed
Publisher: Hyperion, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 389 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: May 6, 2013
Finished: May 8, 2013

From the inside cover:

One house, two worlds...

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies' maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can't help but wonder what her life might be like had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada's beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family's honour. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name-but it would mean giving up her one true love...someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are Somerton.

I picked this up purely because I read the summary and thought, "OMG, this is like a YA Downton Abbey, sign me up!" And I was not disappointed in that regard, the whole book is so full of period drama scandal that it reads like a narrative of a 1912 gossip mag; but in my case I actually enjoyed it because the scandals are believable from an historical context, plus the author throws in issues like Indian independence and the education of women to make for a very engaging read.

The book opens with Ada, her father, and sister Georgiana returning to England after being in India for ten years. We're introduced to Ada and her dreams of going to Oxford and pursuing higher education, something almost unheard of in that time period. I liked Ada almost instantly, she reminded me of myself, feeling out of place amongst the catty attitudes of typical women and preferring to read instead. I loved how the author included her soul-searching about finding a mate that would encourage her to continue her studies and be educated in general, since that's something that women unfortunately still have to deal with today. I enjoyed Rose's character as well since she's a very good person at heart and struggles with advocating for herself while not going above her station.

The base part of myself loved all the drama and scandals, especially Charlotte trying to best Ada for Lord Fintan's affection, it made me want to slap that girl into oblivion. Sebastian's subplot was very intriguing since it deals with hiding homosexuality and what it meant to a man if that was ever uncovered.

If you're a fan of Downton Abbey, then you need to give this a read. I throughly enjoyed it and will definitely be picking up the subsequent books in the series.

Thoughts on the cover:
I'm assuming it's Ada in the centre, Rose to the right, and I'm not sure who exactly is on the left...the guy's too pale to be Ravi, so it could be Sebastian? Either way the cover looks very nice, but a little too much like a 19th century Gossip Girl cover.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Cadet of Tildor - Alex Lidell

Title: The Cadet of Tildor
Author: Alex Lidell
Publisher: Dial Books, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 408 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: May 1, 2013
Finished: May 7, 2013

From the inside cover:

There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young Crown's inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, Cadet Renee de Winter fights to maintain her spot as an elite soldier in training-with no help from her instructor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty. But when an underground crime lord goes too far, Renee and her best friend Alec are thrust into a world rife with crime and conspiracy, torn between what they want, what is lawful, and what is right.

A gritty, complex debut from a powerful new voice-not to be missed.

I picked this up mainly because it was compared to Kristin Cashore's work as well as Tamora Pierce's, two of my favourite authors. Unfortunately, the novel didn't live up to the claims.

The book starts off well with a strong introduction of Renee and her desire to serve the crown as a solider despite going against her father and essentially getting disowned in the process. However, the novel doesn't keep up with that impressive start.

The politics, the issues of the Vipers and the Family, and and world-building in general aren't explained enough; not only was I often confused and trying to figure out exactly what was happening, I also didn't care enough about the majority of the characters to really get into the story. I liked Renee well enough, but Alec, Savoy, and even Diam I just couldn't connect with. I became especially turned off by Savoy after he essentially beats the crap out of Renee, I don't care how it's justified that he did it to keep another officer from doing it and it's to make her stronger, etc., I can't get over a commanding officer beating his students, plus the whole thing screams of the cliche abusive relationship.

The novel is indeed well-written, and Renee is a very strong character that I feel for, but everything else just doesn't click, it was disappointing.

Thoughts on the cover:
Also disappointing, it could've been better.