Tuesday, March 29, 2011

[Review]The Poison Throne, Celine Kiernan

A Medieval world of court intrigue 

“The Poison Throne” is the first installment in “The Moorehawke Trilogy” by Irish author Celine Kiernan. In this Medieval-inspired world of intrigue, royal bloodlines and secret passages the author focuses on the poignant coming-of-age story of Wyn-ter Moorehawke, as the protagonist confronts a mad king, whose ruthless political machinations sacrifice all but his fractured kingdom, racial in-tolerance against her beloved childhood friend, and the ultimate loss of innocence. 

The novel follows Wynter’s struggles to come in terms with the current realities of court after spending the last few years abroad and returning home with sweet memories of a blissful childhood. However, the truth shatters her fragile illusions. Thrown into the midst of political games and corruption, the main heroine aims to restore the balance and peace of the kingdom. Aided by her dear friend Lord Razi and the sexually promiscuous Christopher Garron, Wynter sets out on a path of unknown danger that may ultimately lead to her demise. 

Universal in its appeal 

Even though “The Poison Throne” is considered to be young adult fantasy fiction, it is more of a historical novel sprinkled here and there with talking, obscenely arrogant cats and helpful vs. hate-filled spirits. Moreover, Celine Kiernan has suffused the book with many a references regarding the current state of affairs in the world; racial and religious intolerance, a weapon of mass destruction, an armed rebellion are just a few on the list. It is, therefore, not only a deeply moving story of cursed love and bitter disappointment and villainous treachery, but also a well thought out chronicle of our world. “The Poison Throne” is universal in its appeal. 

A balanced writing style 

In terms of writing style, this is a fast-paced and complex read introducing its characters in the third person. The plot, as can be gathered, is rather schematic in summary, but in fact quite intricate in execution. There were, fortunately, quite a few unexpected twists and turns that will leave you craving for more. And, of course, the cliffhanger at the end is practically mocking. In fact, “The Poison Throne” is so well-written that any flaws regarding the formulaic plot are simply forgotten as the novel progresses. And it does develop with striking detail, yet is brisk and wonderfully balanced. 

Unique characters in a Gothic atmosphere 

What undoubtedly made the novel unique, however, are the characters of Wynter, her father, Razi, Christopher and a multitude of other secondary characters. They are so lively and heavy with human vices and virtues that realism is within the reader’s grasp during all times. What’s more, their interaction is life-like and not contrived in any sense, which makes them instantly likeable. The book gives a thrilling feel of a Gothic mystery, as ghosts are practically ubiquitous, and the author has used this to the novel’s advantage; the tinge of horror creates an even richer atmosphere. 

In conclusion, Celine Kiernan’s “The Poison Throne” is an excellent read filled with memorable characters a reader sympathizes with, a well-wrought story that is a pinch clichéd but otherwise absorbing, and, of course, a scene of court intrigue, tense internal and external struggles and an unlikely love story. Highly recommended.    

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hello world!

I live!

Interpretation: I do intend to update the blog from time to time, as I did today. Even though my schedule is simply hectic, I usually find the time to read a good fantasy book or two. After all, it's my passion. Unfortunately, reviewing these is an entirely different matter, but I am hopeful *to an extent* that 2011 will be Ripostee's year filled with books, interviews and literary events, so check the blog out from time to time!

I almost forgot: Merry Christmas and the Happy New Year! May 2011 be your most book-wormish, nerdy and fantastic year ever, infested with fairies, hobgoblins, orcs, brownies, aliens, etc. Thank you for finding the time to read my ramblings and supporting me and my blog. :-) 

  

[Review]Midnight Never Come, Marie Brennan

"Midnight Never Come", part one in "The Onyx Court" series is Marie Brennan's imaginary interpretation of the court politics in 15th century England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. In this enthralling historical/urban fantasy novel, the mortal court is shadowed by its mysterious and slightly ominous counterpart led by the cruel faerie queen of Britain Invidiana. 

The plot follows the struggles of Lady Lune, a courtier trying to regain the favour of Invidiana, lost after negotiating a treaty during her diplomatic mission with the sea-folk (who in fact are the faeries' secret weapon in dealing with the Spanish Armada). Sent out to the mortal court, Lune crosses paths with Michael Deven, aspiring secret agent in debt of Sir Walsingham, and eventually, the spark between fae and mortal kindles in a powerful, fate-changing way. 

The first (and trust me, definitely not the last) asset of the novel is its authenticity. Marie Brennan has researched her novel set in the Elizabethan age exhaustingly and suffused it with plausible details. There are occasional flashbacks, hinting at the sinister deal between Elizabeth and Invidiana, which enrich the story and provide it with more depth. 

Moreover, the author's take on the Onyx Court is original in the complex way she opposes the conduct of the two monarchs. While Elizabeth bathes in the adulation of her subjects, Invidiana is feared and encourages backstabbing and power struggles. As a whole, as far as setting and plot are concerned, Marie Brennan has achieved the unbelievable: pages fly by as if she has set a faerie charm on her readers. And has she?! 

With the development of the story, the author manages to flesh out her characters by delving in their thoughts and actions, but superficially, as if she was too focused on the Elizabethan setting and missed out a few key scenes. Anyway, even though she is definitely not thorough in depicting her seconaray characters, the two house sprites in the novel, for instance, are refreshingly amusing after the menacing atmosphere of the faerie court. 

The author's voice is strong and eloquent, her sentences flowing in their complexity. What astounded me is Marie Brennan's ability to slightly change her style when describing the mortal and the Onyx Court from light and inspired to creepy and intense. The pace is crisp and there are quite a few unexpected twists and turns to whet your appetite for the final countdown. 

In conclusion, "Midnight Never Come" is an imaginative rendering of Queen Elizabeth's reign that ranges from ordinary to fantastical in its perfect balance between fae politics and otherworldly allure. The novel is rich in detail and the plot is virtually boiling with intrigue, ancient curses and a splash of magic.

Highly recommended. 

9/10

Thursday, October 14, 2010

[Cover]Spellbound

Remember Spellwright - the debut novel of hugely talented Blake Charlton? Well, I definitely do, and a few days ago while browsing author websites, blogs, etc. came across this entry by the aforementioned author. To save you some time, Todd Lockwood has been commissioned to create a fabulous cover of Charlton's Spellbound, the second installment in the Spellwright trilogy, and here's the result. Have a look yourselves: 


It's very probable that the cover in the UK is going to be different (unfortunately). Anyway, if you've not read Spellwright yet, now seems to be the right time. What are you waiting for?



Monday, September 27, 2010

[Interview]Brenda Pandos



Brenda Pandos is the author of urban, young adult fantasy novel "The Emerald Talisman" (you can read my review here) and the upcoming sequel "The Sapphire Talisman". Not only did she give me the amazing opportunity to read and review her work, but also managed to answer a dozen or so questions. Many thanks!   

Author Blitz: 


· Favorite book/s: Chatains Guardian by Robin Hardy 

· Favorite author/s: J.K. Rowling and Stephеnie Meyer top my list. 

· Favorite quote: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. 

· I most admire: Мy parents: for a good example of keeping commitments even through trials and being wonderful giving people. 

· An author should possess: Тenacity and humility. 

· I love it when: Justice wins 

· I hate it when: Evil prospers 



1. Could you introduce yourself and “The Emerald Talisman” to our readers? 
Thank you for having me, Vasil. I’m Brenda, mother of 2 rambunctious boys, wife of the love of my life, daughter to two amazing parents and sister to the best siblings ever! I’m very blessed. To be normal, sixteen-year-old Julia Parker would shed her empathic gift in a second. Life has been difficult since her mother's mysterious disappearance ten years earlier - an event she witnessed, but can't remember. Julia's situation becomes more complicated after a near death experience from a blood thirsty stalker. As high school students go missing it is clear there is a connection to her own experience--past and present. Someone has to stop the madness and a chance encounter with a creepy psychic foretells that only Julia is the key to stopping the madness, but it may require the life of the one she loves. 



2. How did you come up with the idea of “The Emerald Talisman” and what/who inspired you to write it? 
Lemons in my life inspired the book. Right before giving birth to my second child, my first was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (at age 3). Our lives turned upside down. I ended up quitting my job to be home with them. I desperately needed something to preoccupy my mind during the long hours of tending to a newborn and being available 35 hrs a week for therapy for my oldest. Actually, after reading Stephenie Meyer’s bio and sampling Twilight, I was encouraged to try writing my own vampire fantasy love story. I started with the forest scene and shortly there after my characters emerged in my mind. Writing gave me something to think about all day and capture on my computer later, once the little guys were in bed. I never intended the book to see the light of day, but friends and family loved the story, so I went forward with it to be published. 



3. Who of the characters do you find most endearing and why? What are the traits you try to emphasize on in the novel? 
Phil was by far my favorite character. I adore Julia and Nicholas, but Phil’s dialog flowed seamlessly. The traits I emphasize are tied a lot to emotion because Julia is picking up on that all the time. I value goodness, honor, and integrity, and focus to reward those kinds of behaviors. 



4. Do you think the main characters in the novel should be perceived as role models by teenagers? 
Actually, I think the question should be, should authors write strong role models for their YA audience. In life, everyone is trying to sell something. Whether it’s their value system, a new car or joining their side, they have an agenda, albeit hidden, it’s there. Teens are one of the most open groups of people who are by nature are naive and looking to find their niche in the world. As an author, I want to provide quality, moral YA fantasy fiction I’d feel comfortable letting my own children read. That involves strong heroes and heroines who may or may not make good choices, but suffer consequences of those decisions, like real life. 



5. The vampire craze after Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” is still raging. In your opinion, where does this fascination with vampires stem from? 
I think it’s the bad boy syndrome. I admit, I’m attracted to the bad boy and vampires make such great villains. All girls want a guy to love them so much; they’ll overcome their natural destructive tendencies to be with them, deeming them special and worthy. Twilight, Harry Potter, and many books have been successful because they focus the basic need to feel special. And fantasy allows for imagination to have free reign in story telling, giving great freedom. 



6. Do you think the paranormal romance genre has exhausted its potential? Or are vampires and other peculiar creatures more popular than ever? 
The readers want fantasy romance of all kinds. I don’t think that’ll change. 



7. What is your favorite scene in the book? Was it difficult to pen it down? 
The trek through the forest was my favorite and most difficult to write. There’s a certain amount of suspense needed and visual descriptions to pull the reader into the scene and get their blood pumping when she’s chased and almost dies. My first draft was rough and bulky. My editor helped me flesh it out. 



8. What do you mainly focus on when writing a book – plot, characters, etc.? 
For me, the plot determines who and where the scenes need to be. For the Emerald Talisman, the whole premise surrounded the forest scene. From there, I filled in the rest of the story with the ending in mind. I try not to pigeon-hole my characters and allow them the freedom to run dialog naturally, gently steering them towards the next scene. 



9. It can be speculated that nowadays blogger reviews may give a book a push or condemn it to oblivion. Do you agree that the Internet plays a major role in the successful publicizing of a book? 
Being an indie writer, I’ve heavily tapped into the book blogging world and they have made my book a success. Though, if I’d written something they didn’t like, it would have killed my novel for sure. I’ve hit a good thread and I’m thankful for them. 



10. What is a typical day in your life? 
I’m a stay at home mom, so one of my lovely boys is my alarm clock. Coffee next. The mornings my preschooler attends school, I usually get a babysitter for my 2 year-old so I can get some work in until noon. We have lunch, then my 2-year-old naps. I write more then. Daddy comes home from work at 3:30. We do something as a family (gym, park, play in the backyard) and then it is our nighttime routine and bed. I write more in the evening. 



11. I know of authors who ignore and discard criticism from reviewers. What about you? Do you think an author can improve an aspect of his/her writing based on reviews? 
I read all my reviews. Many have given very credible feedback I’ve adapted into my next novel. Some complain about the novel and don’t provide reasons why they didn’t like it. I can’t do much with statements like “I didn’t like it.” I have a lot to learn and I’m open to constructive criticism from credible sources. 



12. What do you find particularly difficult in the whole writing & getting published process? 
Each step has its challenges. I think overcoming the fear and putting out your hard work and heart out there for criticism and rejection is the most difficult part. 



13. Would you like a book of yours to be turned into a movie? 
I have visualized the book like a movie, so to actually see it on screen would be amazing. 



14. So far, vampires play a pivotal role in your book. Do you intend to incorporate other paranormal creatures in your future novels? 
Yes. The next series will incorporate something else in the fantasy world. I’m mulling around ideas. We’ll see what becomes of it. 



15. What is the status of the sequel, “The Sapphire Talisman”? Have you finished writing it? And what awaits the readers? 
The Sapphire Talisman is in final edits and will available online December 15, 2010. 



16. Would you like to share something interesting about your life, e.g. an experience that shaped you into the person you’re now? 
I punched Becky Saunders in the stomach in 5th grade over a hoola-hoop. 



17. Would you like to say something to our readers, especially to those in Bulgaria? 
Thanks for reading the review and I hope to be discovered in Bulgaria so my novel can be translated for teens in your country. 
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