Pandragon Dan

Pandragon Dan

Author/Reviewer/Blogger

Pandragon Reviews - L'Aria Onyx by Sahm Ataine King

 

Ok, today we’re going to do something a little different today. Instead of reviewing a novel, I’m reviewing a selection of poems. I actually don’t get my submissions for poems, so it’s good that I have a chance to read and review them this time around.

 

This selection of poems I was able to read in a couple of days – but I made sure that I paid attention to each one of them in turn, giving them an equal share and dedication. What I found were a collection of stories that were insightful, moving and sometimes even apocalyptic! But all were a joy to read.

 

So now, I present to you, dear reader, my review of L’Aria Onyx by Sahm Ataine King.

 

 

About The Author (provided by the author)

 

Sahm Ataine King is a poet, aspiring novelist, and graphic designer and has been in-love with the written word since his exposure to the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre at a young age.  He has self-published two poetry collections, "The Grey Muse" and "l'aria onyx", and is currently working on a third, as well as three other titles from the Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Erotica (or Romance) genres.  He lives in the United States and hopes to one day expand his horizons by travelling the world and learning of cultures beyond the confines of the internet.

 

Links:

http://sahmataineking.com/  (WordPress Blog) - The Arkside of Thought

https://twitter.com/SahmAtaineKing

 

 

 

Cover

 

A somewhat bleak looking cover, displaying a girl (at least I think it’s a girl), in a back alley, hidden in shadow somewhat and looking beaten, or high (maybe both). It’s a dark cover to say the least, and may put off some readers, but given the dark context of the stories, it works well in my view.

 

 

Overview

 

This may be one of my shorter reviews today – simply because if I were to analyse EVERY single poem in this book, then this would be an incredibly long review. Therefore, I am going to sum up the general themes of the book and pick out two of my favourite poems that I felt stood out.

 

When most people think of poetry, they generally think of rhyming words that flow in a song like rhythm - that's the general impression most people have anyway. But King takes this idea and applies his own feel to them, writing them in a prose that feels raw and more honest. He rarely resorts to rhyming in his poems, and many of his lines have a rather abrupt cut off at the end – suddenly stopping dead and ending the rhythm. They feel more like a collection of thoughts than a poem, almost like we are delving into his deepest thoughts and feelings. Some of his poems are quite short and end abruptly, which can be a little jarring at times – but this leaves the reader wanting more, which is a good thing.

 

The themes covered by these poems cover are varied and richly complex – covering loss of faith, love, self-loathing, corruption, self-harm, drug abuse and the dark side of the American political system to name a few. Interwoven with these are strong religious contexts and imagery, from Christian to Greek Mythology. Each poem is vividly described and conjures beautiful and sometimes horrific images that David Lynch would probably enjoy. The prose is unapologetically visceral and biting, full of barely contained aggression and insightful wonder – but also woeful catharsis and a desire for betterment.

 

For me, the two standout poems were Pig’s like ‘em black and From a father to his daughter. Pig’s like ‘em black is a furious commentary on racism within the police force and holds nothing back in terms of anger for this prejudice. It’s a story that is laced with rage, but also helplessness at the years of oppression that a race has suffered from. For me, it was a middle finger to all the racists out there, saying “f*** you! I am what I am”. Powerful stuff. From a father to his daughter is a heart-warming story (one of the few) that details a father talking about his unborn daughter, looking ahead in the years of all the hardship that they will go through as parent and child. It is a very tear-jerking piece and I’m sure that anyone who has had doubts about whether they would be a good parent will appreciate the sentiment this story brings.

 

One of the most powerful sections of the piece is the collection of stories under the subtitle The Apocalypse of Sahm Ataine King. This was written in a completely different style to the rest of the poems, penned more as passages in the Bible, with each story being a “verse”. These verses felt like a journey of self-discovery, whereby the author looks over his life and looks at both his own sins, and the sin of man in general. Again, the words used bring up such incredible imagery that they deserved to be portrayed as pieces of art. If any artist out there is looking for an artistic challenge, read these poems as I think they will give you food for thought.

 

Like any good story, each poem is open for interpretation and the explanations I gave were just MY way of interpretting it – but this entire collection for me has an overriding concept behind it as a whole. Each tale is part of a much bigger story and one that I think you'll have to find your own truth within. Needless to say, I predict good things for this writer and hope that someday his work will be recognised amongst the best poets out there.

 

 

PROS: (poetry in motion)

  • A great selection of poems with many layers to them.
  • All form part of a much larger story.
  • Unique way of being presented.
  • Open to interpretation and with powerful imagery.

 

CONS: (perfectly pretentious)

  • None that I can think of!

 

 

Summary

 

Speculative writer Harlan Ellison once said that you have to suffer to create great art – and, judging by the strength of these poems, King clearly has done his share of suffering. Each of these poems has so many layers of emotion that it would be hard not to be moved in any way by them. Whether you’re a hardcore poetry fan or just a casual reader, there is something within these poems that will definitely stir and feed your mind.

 

FINAL SCORE: 5/5

 

 

Pandragon

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Pandragon Reviews - A Stiff Kiss

 

I was very lucky to be featured on Avery Olive’s blog last year for a special 13 Days of Christmas giveaway that she did, featuring my book Trapped on Draconica. Later in the year, she reviewed my book and gave it some very good comments – which I’m thankful for. In return, I promised that I would read her book A Stiff Kiss and do a review of it. Well, it took me a while – but I am finally now ready to fulfil my promise to her!

 

A Stiff Kiss is a book that has been getting some very positive reviews on Amazon/Goodreads – which is fantastic given that this is her first novel, so I’m pretty sure that I’m in for a great ride here! Of all the books I’ve read and reviewed, I’ve yet to review a Teen Romance novel (with the possible exception of The Pack: Retribution), so I’m kinda excited about this one. So let’s dive into A Stiff Kiss and see what I thought.

 

 

About The Author (provided by the author)

 

Avery Olive is proudly Canadian. She is married, and when she’s not helping raise her very energetic and inquisitive son, she can be found working on her latest novel-where she devilishly adds U's into every word she can.

 

When she is looking for a break Avery enjoys cake decorating, losing herself in a good book, or heading out to the lake to go camping.

 

The release of Avery's first novel proves to her it won't be the last. As long as her family continues to be supportive, she can find the time, and people want to read, Avery will keep on writing.

 

 

Important Links:

 

Avery Olive’s Blog: www.averyolive.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002656782468

A Stiff Kiss Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Stiff-Kiss/255522414458899

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/averyolive

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13411964-a-stiff-kiss

Crescent Moon Press: http://crescentmoonpress.com/index.html
 

A Stiff Kiss Buy Links:

 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Stiff-Kiss-Avery-Olive/dp/193725433X/

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stiff-kiss-avery-olive/1108801919?ean=9781937254339&itm=1&usri=a+stiff+kiss

The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Stiff-Kiss-Avery-Olive/9781937254339

KOBO : http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/A-Stiff-Kiss/book-EVkI1tu1i0aIblX9rTpFgQ/page1.html?s=rV2OQX8vnUy_80fF6iZxGQ&r=1

 

 

 

Cover

 

Considering how most Teen Romances tend to have bright colours, this one seems a little morbid at first look, with its dark colours and image of our heroine Xylia lying next to a graveyard. But death is the major theme in this book, as is Xylia’s obsession with it. The cover could have easily been just the two main characters on the front, looking at each other lovingly like so many other romantic books – but I actually like the fact that Avery Olive didn’t go with the obvious and just describe the theme of the book. I also like the way the kiss is drawn and coloured (as red is both the colour of love AND blood).

 

Overview

 

Since the death of her mother, Xylia has had an almost unhealthy obsession with death – visiting graveyards and supposedly haunted places. Her father is worried for her and tries everything to quell her obsession, but to no affect.

 

Landon is the school jock and rising football star (yes, I know he’s a soccer player – but I’m British and we call it football, dammit! Ok, rant over, lol), and Xylia is head over heels in love with him – despite the fact he’s already taken. During a football match, Landon drops and dies in the ambulance. Visiting him in the morgue, Xylia steals a kiss from Landon’s corpse, which brings him back to life!

 

It’s a classic tale – boy meets girl, boy dies, girl kisses boy, boy comes back to life, balance of life and death is thrown out. It’s a classic tale!

 

Ok, all fooling aside, I did actually think this was a very well done story. Each chapter is told from the point of view of the main characters, Landon and Xylia – so it was good to get the different viewpoints of the characters. And both the main characters are finely crafted and likeable – Xylia is morbid and somewhat emotionally detached, but does still have feelings and Landon is a bit arrogant and up his own backside, but also pines for a better life and his world is turned upside down when he’s brought back from the dead. At times, I found Xylia a bit mean-spirited and nasty, especially towards her dad – but then, she’s a teenager, which teenager isn’t a pain in the backside sometimes?

 

The secondary characters are very well detailed also. I particularly liked Xylia’s father – he brilliantly written as a sympathetic man still coping with the loss of his wife and dealing with the stress of a daughter with a dark obsession. He does do some things that upset Xylia, but at no point did I ever think he was a bastard in any way – he genuinely wanted to help his daughter and I did feel sorry for him when Xylia was horrible to him.

 

In actual fact, this book is much darker than you would think – it deals with themes of loss, death, depression and also letting go. It’s not the typical “high-school romp” that you get with most teenage stories – it has genuine depth and layers that most other books lack. Landon and Xylia help each other through their particular problems and both come out stronger because of it – through love. The emotion is definitely real and very moving.

 

But, as much as I loved this story, there were one or two little plot holes that come close to affecting the story. WARNING! The next part includes spoilers, so I’m going to write it in italics to show this.

 

Firstly, when Xylia and Landon go on their trip to various locations (graveyards and churches), Landon doesn’t seem to be recognised. Given that earlier in the novel, his death and resurrection is widely publicised, it seems strange that no one would recognise him, especially since this is the age of social media where news travels fast. That felt a little strange to me.

 

Secondly, throughout the story, Xylia and Landon are chased by a couple of “angels”. Both of them seem to want to take Landon back to the dead and restore the balance – but one of them seems to hesitate. Why is never explained, especially given that their mission is of utmost importance. Also, it’s never really explained HOW Landon came back to life through Xylia’s kiss.

 

Finally, the ending was just really confusing. Did Xylia go back in time? Was this another day? If so, why wasn’t Landon dead? And how did the gift appear in her bag? I have no problem with the book having a happy ending, but this ending I found a little disjointed and, again, not really explained very well.

 

Despite all this, I did enjoy reading this book very much and the above points could easily be overlooked given it’s a brilliantly written novel. I would gladly read another of Avery’s books in the future!

 

PROS (love conquers all):

  • Primary and secondary characters written very well.
  • Deals with a lot of real life issues not really looked at in most romance novels.
  • Has real emotional depth.
  • Romance is heart-warming and fans of romantic novels will love reading it.

 

CONS (dead man walking):

  • One or two plot holes almost spoil an otherwise brilliant story.
  • Very little is explained in the plot.

 

 

Summary

 

This one I highly recommend! Despite one or two plot holes, A Stiff Kiss has much more depth and emotional layers to it than most books I’ve read. Even the secondary characters have depth to them that makes them as interesting as the main ones – which is a rare skill in writing. Definitely one to check out – read it!

 

FINAL SCORE: 4/5

 

 

Pandragon

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Pandragon Reviews - Vixen by Nic Silver

If I’m being honest, I’ve never really been into vampire stories. It’s not that I have a problem with them and don’t appreciate their popularity – I just think that there are too many of them these days. And many of the vampire stories I read just tend to be copies of Twlight, Interview with the Vampire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and of course, Dracula. Also, my main problem with vampire stories is that I’m kinda against the idea of making a romantic figure out of what is essentially a killer. Of course, this is just my opinion and I do not wish to offend any fans (or writers) of the genre. I can respect why the genre is so popular – it’s just not one I’m into personally.

 

So I was a little worried when I was first asked to review Vixen by Nic Silver, given that I feared that my bias towards these stories would affect the way I reviewed this book. But, like with any book, I always put aside my own personal preferences and just reviewed it like I did any other book – giving it a fair chance. Did I enjoy it? Let’s find out.

 

 

About The Author

 

Nic Silver lives like a hermit on the edge of the woods, but haunts used bookstores like a wraith. He fully expected to be found someday as a mummified, beardy old corpse crushed under a toppled to-be-read pile, but the rise of e-books has made that somewhat less likely, though the books will always outnumber even the dustbunnies. Nic will read just about anything, including the instructions on the back of medicine bottles, but has a particular fondness for good stories with a hint of magic. He writes dark, sexy urban fantasy, and sometimes dreams in black and white.

 

A few links:

 

my blog: http://liesthroughsilver.blogspot.com/

my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/NicSilver

my twitter: @liesthrusilver

my Goodreads profile: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5422937.Nic_Silver

White Raven Press site: http://press.whiteravenarts.com/

 

 

Cover

Not a bad cover I must say. I like the use of colour and the heroine affectionately touching a mosaic of a fox. Why a fox, you ask? Well that would spoil things if I told you. The affectionate way the heroine touches the picture is both a metaphor for the sexual themes of the book and also hints to a very important plot point.

 

 

Overview

 

Vixen is a dark fantasy novel that is set around Su Fuchs, a half-Asian woman that spends her time as a pickpocket – and also a part time vampire hunter. At the start of the story, she has just fought off a vampire rapist (Su is a pretty woman – maybe a little too strong to be human) and is enjoying a little drink. It’s here that she meets Evgeny, a new born vampire that is dazed and confused. Despite the fact that vampires are known for being pretty dangerous, she senses this vampires vulnerability and takes the vampire home with her (despite her conscience telling her not to).

 

As it turns out, Evgeny is actually a sweet, gentle and kind young man – but he possesses a great power that the vampires want for their own. And when Evgeny gets kidnapped, it’s up to Su to kick ass and get him back. But along the way, she learns about her mysterious powers...

 

For the sake of spoilers, I won’t go too much into detail about the plot – but I will say this. Even though the story is pretty standard, I actually do like what Nic Silver has done here. Whereas vampires seem to be the key supernatural elements, werewolves and witches also get their time in the story. But before you accuse this of being a Twilight clone, I’ll have to stop you as Nic Silver actually does try to do something a little different. For one thing, vampires get off of sex and rape as much as drinking blood, and werewolves are also serial rapists in some cases – it actually feels more akin to True Blood, except with more likeable characters. I think these changes do bring a fresh aspect to the myths we are used to.

 

Given the above, it goes without saying that this book is intended for adults. There is a lot of sex in this book – sometimes maybe a little too much. Whilst most of the sex was justified, there were a couple of times when I felt it was put in just for the sake of it – and even in a erotic fantasy, the sex needs to be justified. It also mixes it up with some LGBT themes that I felt were justified. Although, there was a subplot that I thought was going to involve a love triangle between Evgeny, Su and Alex, a former love of Su – in actual fact that didn’t go anywhere and felt a little pointless to the plot.

 

As a heroine, Su is decent and likeable enough. She’s a badass, but she does have human weaknesses. And she has a pretty high sex drive, hence the title Vixen. I couldn’t help but think maybe this could have been toned down just a little, but otherwise she was well thought out. I did like the “reverse damsel in distress” storyline where she had to rescue her boyfriend. And in fairness, once you realise her tragic past, you do actually sympathise with her as a character.

 

Overall, I did enough this book. It’s not really the sort of thing I would read religiously, but it did keep my interest the whole way through. One or two typos/spelling mistakes did kind of spoil the flow of the piece, but it was still readable and you can overlook these.

 

 

PROS (foxy lady):

  • Raunchy and will appeal to those who like erotic fiction.
  • Interesting take on popular myths.
  • Good role reversal of the damsel in distress.
  • Characters are, on the whole, fleshed out and believeable.

 

 

CONS (I want to suck... your blood):

  • Minor typos occasionally spoil the flow.
  • Plot has one or two missed opportunities.
  • Not recommended for younger readers.

 

 

Summary

 

Vixen is not a book that I would recommend to younger readers due to the dark content, but if you want a good supernatural story, with plenty of erotic content, then do give this a read. Sometimes the content is a little unnecessary, but it does try to do something different with popular myths and the story is easy to follow and can be enjoyed if you give it a chance.

 

 

FINAL SCORE: 3.5/5

 

 

Pandragon

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Pandragon Reviews - Devil's Hand

 

Happy Independence Day to all my US fans and friends. Rather appropriately, I’ll be doing a review today of a novel by an American author. Hope you enjoy it!

 

Now, I myself am not a fan of poker, but those of you who are into it, you’re in for a treat today! Today’s story is set around the colourful city of Las Vegas – the Entertainment Capital of the World and we follow our protagonist Trent as he takes in the sights and sounds of the wonderful city. Oh, and did I mention that he has to battle with angels, demons and the coming apocalypse?

 

So, like Lady Gaga, let’s get on our poker faces and dive into Devil’s Hand by M.E. Patterson.

 

 

About The Author (Info provided by the author)

 

M. E. Patterson spent his early years in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley of Virginia before finally heading south to Virginia Tech, where he majored in English with a focus on poetry and fiction writing. After college, he headed west, finally stopping in Central Texas, where he now lives with his wife and a bright orange dog. In addition to writing horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction, Mr. Patterson is also an accomplished Ruby programmer and has a blog where he discusses internet technologies, web software engineering, and writing.

 

Visit the author's Amazon page at http://bit.ly/mepatt

 

You can check out the latest about the Drawing Thin series at the official website, http://drawing-thin.com
And, feel free to catch up with Mr. Patterson on Twitter ( @mepatterson ) and Facebook ( http://facebook.com/devilshand.novel )

 

 

 
Cover
 
This is one spooky cover! We see our hero (Trent) heading towards Las Vegas, buffered by a powerful blizzard, whilst a scary face screams in the shadows. Simple, but effective. I also really like the spade sign in the A of the title and the juxtaposing of the lighted Las Vegas sign (which is known for begin bright and colourful) with the impending doom our hero is about to face.
 
 
Overview
 
Trent is supposedly the luckiest man alive – having survived a plane crash that killed many people.  From then on, Trent’s had a string of amazingly good luck – especially on the poker table, which gained him the hatred of many casinos. Returning back to Las Vegas to start afresh with his wife, he’s soon confronted with a horrifying blizzard, shadow demons, an absolutely terrifying supernatural serial killer and an army of angels that are hell bent on (what else) destroying mankind.
 
Maybe moving back wasn’t such a great idea!
 
Add to this a young teenager, Celia, who seems to possess magic of her own, and you got the recipe for a great novel. Trent also discovers that his “good luck” isn’t actually as easily explained as he thought.
 
First compliment I have to give is the characterisation. Trent is a likeable hero that has enough flaws to make him realistic and likeable. He does have a few crisis of faith moments but when the chips are down (no pun intended) he pulls himself back up to fight again. For some reason, as I was reading him, I actually imagined him looking a little like the wrestler James Storm – and if this was ever made into a film I think he’d be great to play that role. Celia is the secondary protagonist, a teenager who appears to have a strange allergy – but in actual fact possesses some extraordinary powers herself. She is by no means a damsel in distress (which is what I like) and actually gets to do a bit of ass-kicking herself. Salvatore is the villain of the piece, possessed by a demon named Zamagiel, who is trying to take Celia for himself and puts Trent through hell pretty much the entire book. Every so often, he switches back between the human Salvatore and the demon Zamagiel – I liked that. Added a lot of depth to his character as the two sides fought for control.
 
Second thing I liked was the genuine sense of urgency the book had. The city of Las Vegas is battled by snow and blizzards the whole way through the story, gradually getting worse and worse. This made the action really intense in places and I seriously could feel the fear that was going through Las Vegas during this time. I really did feel that Trent was racing against the clock in this one and that his time was numbered.
 
I think there were only a couple of places where the story slowed down a little. The first being where Trent plays poker with a few demons, whereby Trent learns a little more about the angels plans to bring about apocalypse. The other being where he meets the angel Ramon and learns the truth about his survival and everything else. This scene went on a bit too long for my liking and felt like more of a plot exposition – which I think can sometimes slow the story down a little.
 
But on the plus side, when it did go back to the action – boy did it go back with a bang! This doesn’t hold back on any of the violence and those who are a little squeamish might feel a little uncomfortable reading this. But on the whole I felt that it was fine as it was and nothing to majorly troubling. The ending sets it up nicely for a sequel – which I have to admit I wouldn’t mind reading in the future.
 
 
PROS (all in):
 
  • Excellent characterisation.
  • Dark plot works well.
  • Overall tone has a real sense of urgency and terror.

 

CONS (fold):

 

  • A couple of plot exposition scenes slow the pace somewhat.

 

 

Summary

 

Devil’s Hand ticks a lot of the boxes for me. Great characterisation, a feel of suspense, a dark plot involving demons and angels and the coming of the end of the world – which must be prevented. Even though it does slow down once or twice, it quickly picks up the pace to make it a joy to read. This is one of those books that NEEDS to be made into a film or TV mini-series as I think it would highly benefit from that.  All I can say to sum up is, to misquote Motorhead – if you like to gamble, you can bet on the Devil’s Hand!

 

 

FINAL SCORE: 5/5

 

 

Regards

Pandragon

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Pandragon Reviews - Vaalbara: Visions and Shadows

I actually got this review request not just through an email, but via a Youtube video as well advertising the book. I thought the video was pretty basic, but actually really well put together and it did pique my interest. And the story sounded interesting as well, so I knew that I had to give this one a read.

 

Describing herself as “a fantastic new voice in YA Fiction”, Michelle Horst’s Vaalbara: Visions and Shadows is more mature YA Fiction novel and certainly one of the most intriguing reads I’ve had in a long time. It’s a story of hope amidst the coming of complete annihilation and the battle to save those who have been chosen to carry on the human race.

 

 

About The Author (Info provided by the author)

 

I hail from the sunny South Africa and although I am on the other side of this big rock we like to call Earth, I like to think that I’ve managed to write a book that will touch the heart of others. Vaalbara was originally meant to be for my own pleasure only. I wrote this YA Fantasy for myself, but one day I woke up and found that it was in demand by others.

 

Books have always left me wanting more, so I decided to try my hand at writing my very own. I wanted to write a story that I would want to read - with the romance and passion levels soaring, and focusing on a girl who had the right, fun attitude.  I wanted to show that someone could go through hell and still come back from it.

 

I didn’t intend for Alchera to come alive the way she did.  Six months later, when I opened the file for Vaalbara, I realized I was almost finished, and I guess that’s when it hit me that I was hooked. I suppose this is how most journeys start out.

 

I am also currently busy with four other books which should be finish within the next twelve months. Two of these are short stories and are a new way of writing for me, but I do enjoy it.

 

I’ll bow out with my quote from Vaalbara: Visions and Shadows; Hope is the heartbeat of your soul – as long as you have hope your possibilities are endless.

 

Michelle Horst

 

For more information go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8Jke_cD1bI   - Trailer for Vaalbara

http://www.amazon.com/Vaalbara-Visions-and-Shadows-ebook/dp/B005QV57G0

www.preciousgemspublishing.com

Twitter: Alchera4ever

Facebook: Michelle Horst

http://michellehorstauthor.wordpress.com

 

 

Cover

 

The cover is beautiful to look at. A perfect, picturesque land that is somewhat soothing to look at. However, this beautiful cover somewhat hides the darker nature of the book. Also, the waterfalls are a recurring theme within the book so it’s nice that it demonstrates that.

 

 

Overview

 

Whilst I don’t try and give away too much in my reviews, in terms of important plot points and that stuff, in order to do a rounded review, I will be mentioning some plot points. So before I start, just beware that this review does contain some spoilers.

 

Aislinn is a young teenage girl that is kind of an outcast in her society – what with no real parents to speak of and with a rather disturbing talent of being able to see into the future. She thinks that her luck is in when she meets a handsome new boy at school called Ryan – who seems attracted to her for reasons she can’t understand. Turns out that this boy is actually from the land of Vaalbara and his real name is Raighne and he’s here to take Aislinn back home. Turns out that Aislinn’s real name is Alchera and she is a Princess of the land. She is told that the end of the world is approaching and it’s her duty to rescue the ten Chosen, who are the ones to carry on the human race after the end. She has ten days to rescue them before Earth is destroyed – so no pressure then!

 

The book is told from the POV perspective of Alchera and she is a strong heroine – starting off as kinda vulnerable and insecure of herself then gaining strength as the book carries on. Often she has conversations with an invisible friend called Sid, which are actually some of the funniest scenes in the book. So she is definitely a good heroine for this novel – especially considering some of the challenges she is about to face. Seeing as this book does have a very religious context to it, she could be considered a kind of Jobe/Jesus character.

 

Now, I have to be honest, I am in two minds of how I felt about the actual story of this book. Most Young Adult books I’ve read tended to be upbeat and with a positive feel to them for the most part. This book, I have to be honest, I found to be a little depressing and dark. I’m not saying that YA books can’t be dark – after all, The Hunger Games has some pretty dark themes to it and even Harry Potter could be pretty dark sometimes. But I can’t help but thinking that maybe Vaalbara: Visions and Shadows is probably a little TOO dark in places. After all, it’s dealing with the end of the world and the death of an entire race – that is not a small subject.

 

I think my biggest problem with it is that I couldn’t identify with any of the characters from Vaalbara itself. They seemed to be completely ambivalent and uncaring to the destruction of the human race – with the exception of the Chosen. Even some of the heroes I found to be cold and uncaring, so I really couldn’t support them. Also, I didn’t like the fact that Alchera (despite showing some feelings against this initially) made NO attempt to try and stop this from happening and just went along with it. She didn’t have to have succeeded – but for me the story would have been better if she at least made an attempt to save her people, so that her humanity wasn’t entirely gone. There was also a quite nasty torture scene in the middle of the book that I thought was maybe a little too unnecessary and graphic.

 

Now, I know the above may sound like I’m being overly negative – but I have to admit I am actually also impressed with it. I like it that Michelle Horst doesn’t conform to a lot of YA conventions and does something different. And in fairness to the book, there are some extremely dramatic moments in the book and we do feel Alchera’s suffering as she progresses – but we do also have some humour to balance it out. There is somewhat of a happy ending as well – I just wasn’t sure I was satisfied with the way the story went about before it got to that moment as it seemed to glance over the fact that many people had died.

 

 

PROS (it’s not the end of the world):

    Unique Young Adult novel that does do something different to most novels of its genre.

    Strong heroine.

    Very dramatic and also humorous.

    Has a positive message at its heart.

 

CONS (apocalypse now):

    Maybe too dark for some readers.

    The general plot is extremely harsh and not something that I think will appeal to everyone.

 

 

Summary

I appear to have conflicting emotions about this one. One part of me thinks that it’s a very dramatic and powerful novel that goes against a lot of YA conventions – the other thinks that it’s too dark and depressing and this may potentially put some readers off. However, I am going to meet this half-way because I don’t think this is a bad novel in any way and it actually does have a positive message at its heart. If you are prepared to have an open mind and don’t mind the dark content, then check this one out and be prepared to lose yourself in the drama of the piece.

 

 

FINAL SCORE: 4/5

 

 

Regards

Pandragon

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