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Shards and Ashes (Various Authors) – Book Review

 

Overall rating 4/5 stars

A mixed collection of dystopian stories that started and ended really well. A couple were too confusing or didn’t give me a real sense of motivation or purpose but others were beautifully nuanced, scary or intriguing. One or two I’d love to see developed into longer pieces, a number would be great as episodes of a Shards and Ashes TV series.
I commented on each story as I finished it but here are my mini reviews.

Hearken by Veronica Roth’s – 5/5 stars

This was a beautiful tale of Darya who learns she has the potential to be a Hearkener, someone who can hear people’s life or death songs. This has potential to be a much longer story but shares a message in itself for us to listen to each other. To look beyond the surface. Highly recommended

Branded by Kelley Armstrong – 3.5/5 stars

I liked the voice of the protagonist Rayne and the story/world building of the fortress community. The second part of the story almost felt rushed and I just didn’t completely feel that it was satisfactorily explained. The conclusion would have been good had I felt able to understand motivation a little clearer.

A Necklace of Raindrops by Margaret Stohl 4/5 stars

This was a clever tale that kept me guessing about this world of necklaces and drops. I loved the title. I struggled to care immediately for the first character we met but cared about his sister. The idea of living without living was one people can connect with.
I wanted a slightly clearer explanation of the world though. It was there but I still didn’t quite grasp it.
The repetition at the end was both frustrating and poetic. It didn’t quite end in the right place and the final point of view distanced me. I wanted a little bit more from Jai’s perspective.

Dogsbody by Rachel Caine – 5/5 stars

Excellent story, great pace, a protagonist you are rooting for from the off. Revenge planned meticulously over years. Of course nothing ever goes to plan.

Pale Rider by Nancy Holder – 1.5/5 stars

Unfortunately I just didn’t connect with this one. The beginning was interesting, a character called Dana being very excited about finding some batteries. Had the story stuck to a dystopia and explored this more I think I would have preferred it. Instead it went into fantasy right that the end with a lot of telling not showing. I was left very confused.
Realised I have read Nancy before, she wrote some of the Buffy TV tie-ins.

Corpse Eaters by Melissa Marr – 3/5 stars

I’d have liked a little more meat on the bones of this one (pun intended). Liked the two main characters. Interesting story of a god/monster coming to earth and humans ending up as corpse stew. Harm and Chris are fighting back. Wasn’t that keen on the ending. As a longer piece I think this could be much better.

Burn 3 by Kami Garcia – 5/5 stars

Phoenix and her sister Sky live in Burn 3, that used to be New York before the holes in the ozone sent the sun out of control. Children are vanishing and, when Sky is taken, Phoenix heads into the Abyss and finds an unlikely ally in a one eyed crazy man who thinks the Skinners have Sky. This was an excellent short, just the right amount of world-building and tension.

Love is a Choice by Beth Revis – 5/5 stars

Set on a spaceship, a young man hides from Eldest, the ruler who drugs everyone on board to prevent a mutiny. With help from Mag, a girl who had taken her grandfather’s place as the Recorder (librarian of sorts) they plot how to overthrow Eldest. I believe this is set in an existing world and you could tell, although this story did stand alone. The ending wasn’t what I was expecting but certainly explained the title. Going to hunt out this author’s work now.

Miasma by Carrie Ryan – 5/5 stars

Love the word Miasma and I also loved this story. Almost a mythical Fairytale nightmare rather than dystopian. Beaked doctors and ferret like plague eaters with forked tongues. Reminded me a little of the Buffy episode Hush. A girl struggles to keep her sister’s illness hidden by stealing Rose petals from the gardens of the rich.

Carnival of Souls – Book Review

Contains some spoilers

This is the first Melissa Marr book I have read and because I’m going to have to wait for an age until the sequel of this one comes out I may need to nip back to her Wicked Lovely series (I’ve downloaded Faery Tales and Nightmares as a stopgap).

I have to admit that when I first picked Carnival of Souls up late one night it didn’t get my full attention, but I blame complete tiredness because when I picked it up the second time, I started from the beginning again and only stopped half way through because I had a prior arrangement. Then I kept thinking about it until I could pick it up again a few days later and finished it in the second session.

To me this book contains five strong main characters that I really cared about, Mallory, Aya, Kaleb, Zevi and Belias.

The Marchosias is the vicious ruler of this world which has a caste society with street scabs at the bottom. This is a world of Daimons, Witches were thrown out into the human world and only a few now exist as slaves. Once in a generation daimon fighters fight in the Carnival of Souls for their chance to become a member of the ruling caste.

Aya, as a woman, only really has becoming a wife and a breeder open to her until she finds out that there is no rule preventing women from entering the competition. Her former betrothed Belias is pitched against her – that was never going to have a good ending.
Belias, despite having his marriage offer rebuffed, is determined to protect Aya so enters the competition for this purpose.
Kaleb is a Black Mask – hitman for hire and a low caste Cur – he is determined to provide for his pack mate Zevi. He has also been tasked by the Marchosias brother to kill Mallory – a task that becomes impossible for him as he develops feelings for her.
Zevi, saved from the Untamed Lands outside the city is determined to protect Kaleb, he is a skilled healer and speedy. Kaleb underestimates Zevi’s ability to look after himself.
Mallory, lives in the human world. She has been raised by Adam, a witch, who has taught her to fear and despise daimons, not realising that she herself is one, offspring of the Watcher Selah (who although lived with her for her early years has since left) and Marchosias himself. She thinks she is human. Adam who took her in revenge for the killings of his family has grown to love her and makes her train to protect herself. They move constantly. She develops feelings for Kaleb, but believing him to be human decides she needs to keep away to keep him safe.

This book focuses on both the fights and the attempts to get Mallory back to the daimon world. There is danger at every turn for all of the characters, from the Night Market to the Watchers. There are lots of twists and turns, many involving Adam’s sister Evelyn. Aya realises that winning the fight is not going to help her achieve her aim and so she pitches in to support Kaleb. The book ends as Mallory finds out who she really is.

The only real negatives I have to give is that I didn’t really get much of a feel for Marchosias character. At one point he is referred to as Marc by a Watcher which indicates he might not be all bad. It’s got me interested to find out more about him though. I also wanted to find out more about Selah and what happened to cause her to leave. This is a series though so hopefully those anwers are to come.

Poor Mallory and Kaleb are in for a tough test of their relationship in the next book, especially when Mallory finds out exactly what sort of relationship they do have.

Another case of rich worldbuilding and vivid characters. I’m glad I watched the book trailer after reading because it gives more away than I do here. The characters don’t really look like how I’d imagine them but I think this gives the impression that this would make an awesome film.

You can find out more at the Carnival of Souls website – just be warned be prepared to jump If you click on Judgement with the volume turned up – I just did.

I’m going to give it 5 stars on Goodreads.

Thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC – the opinions and love of this book are my own.

If you’ve read it let me know what you thought below.

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