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The Tremblers, Raquel Byrnes

The Tremblers, Raquel Byrnes

The Tremblers (Blackburn Chronicles)

The Tremblers was a fast-paced thrill-ride set in a plausible, well thought-out steampunk world. Charlotte Blackburn is one of the elite, a Society debutante whose greatest concern is supposed to be the trim on her chainmail bodice. However, the night that she first encounters one of the tremblers, infected with a plague of unknown origin, her life changes forever. Charlotte finds herself caught up in events that will shape the future of her world, on the run from the law with a man she barely knows, and she’s somehow supposed to keep up still swathed in a ball gown.

Author Raquel Byrnes has created a very intriguing world, a steampunk version of the States where the major cities are confined and protected by Tesla domes against the man-made disaster outside. The thought that clearly went into the little details of the setting shines through without overwhelming the plot. While (I admit it) Charlotte’s tendency to end up in tears got to me periodically, overall the character had a lot of depth and her own unique perspective on the situations she found herself in. Despite the breakdowns, she kept going, and as the situation got more dire, she developed a streak of self-reliance and got the job done. The pacing is excellent, and the adventures largely plausible in context; definitely enough to keep the reader turning pages. I’d highly recommend this read to readers of adventure of all kinds; steampunk with some truly unique twists.

Chipless, Kfir Luzzato

Chipless, Kfir Luzzato

Review title

Chipless presents a story of an unlikely hero, and his struggle to free a society that doesn’t even know that it’s enslaved. Kal is one of the City elite, a technician valued for his skills and kept in luxury as he works to improve the chip implanted in every citizen’s brain that maintains their health. He enjoys his work, and he’s good at it: so good that one day, one of his experiments disrupts the chip’s input to his brain, and he sees a flash of the outside world as it really is. That peek behind the curtain sets in motion a train of events that may overturn life as he knows it…

Kfir Luzzato’s protagonist undergoes a lot of personal growth during the course of this book. From a law-abiding and somewhat geeky scientist, Kal becomes a highly effective and self-reliant traveller and fighter in the space of a few weeks—and becomes quite irresistible to women over the same period. While Kal’s evolution periodically raised my eyebrows, I found that the world-building was by and large very solid and well-done, based on ‘Matrix’-style themes of a citizenry controlled by a virtual reality to hide a dystopian reality from them. The wild-West settings beyond The City provide a salutary contrast as a backdrop for Kal’s adventures. Definitely worth a read for sci-fi fans.

Royal Deception, Denae Christine

Royal Deception, Denae Christine

Royal Deception

Denae Christine’s Royal Deception is an epic fantasy of shape-shifters and assassins and royalty, told primarily from the view point of the sickly young Prince Symon of Arton. Animal shifters, the Gahim, are despised by the ruling class, executed, sold as slaves, or bound as little better than servants. Kept confined to the royal castle for much of his life, Prince Symon has few friends, and, partly raised by a bound Gahim tutor, is worrying the more extremist factions of the ruling class with his egalitarian bent, something which the neighbouring kingdom of Inurot makes continuing efforts to correct with attempts to assassinate him and eradicate his family.

The world of Royal Deception displays strong world-building and a detailed social structure for the various shifter species, added to a colourful cultural background set across several kingdoms. In Prince Symon, Denae Christine has created a character well able to elicit sympathy in younger readers, chafing under the heavy hand of his over-protective parents and possessed of a strong belief in justice. The plot is equally divided between the development of Symon and the political intrigue driving the assassination plots and violence that threaten his life and his kingdom. Certainly a recommended read for all the fans of fantasy out there.

The Witch of Glenaster, Jonathan Mills

The Witch of Glenaster, Jonathan Mills

The Witch of Glenaster (The Glenaster Chronicles Book 1)

Esther Lanark was five when the first shadow of the Witch of Glenaster touched her remote village. By the time she reached her tenth year, rumours and ill fortune were flying on the wind, and stories of men with their eyes gouged out and the symbol of the Third Eye on their foreheads were becoming commonplace. Even when refugees began to pass through her village, Esther’s home remained untouched – until one night, disaster left Esther to find out exactly what she was willing to do for revenge.

The Witch of Glenaster is a young-adult fantasy with a refreshingly dark slant, and despite the inevitable help and protection rendered to the children by mysterious and competent strangers, the level of coincidence is kept to a plausible minimum. The world-building is detailed and solid, and author Jonathan Mills resists the urge to insert a magical last-minute save, which I deeply appreciated. I did find that after all the build-up, the finale fizzled out a little, but other than that, this is an eminently readable story. The characters have their own pasts, wants, and resentments, and the characterisation of Esther’s infant brother, largely non-vocal, demonstrates the author’s technical skill. While this may not be ideal bedtime reading, it’s certainly a worthwhile read for all ages of reader.

Lightning Struck, Miranda Hardy

Lightning Struck, Miranda Hardy

Lightning Struck (The Roaming Curse Book 1)

Elysia is running again, fleeing from the fall-out of her uncontrollable ability to affect the weather—and the people who want to capture her, along with any members of her family they can lay hands on. When a mysterious package shows up in her anonymous hotel room, it leads her back to Florida, where she finds out that not only is she not alone, but her world is even stranger than she imagined.

Lightening Struck is a pleasant read, not delving too deeply into its characters or topics; a young-adult novel, where our teenaged heroine finds herself not only transplanted to a small Florida town, but also rapidly becomes the bone of contention between two of the outstandingly handsome and magnetic young men living there—as if the risk of causing hurricanes weren’t enough for any teenager. I enjoyed the treatment of Elysia’s ability/curse, and how her moods interacted with the weather, and several of the characters were entertaining to read. One thing I struggled with a little was that the book is written first person/present tense, which makes my brain itch, and I did find that the plausibility suffered in a few places, such as the romance angles. However, the finale was believable, if a trifle on the miraculous-happy end of the scale.