[Series Snapshot] The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

by Rick Riordan
Published by Disney-Hyperion, Hyperion Books, Hyperion Books for Children Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Format: audio
Source: Scribd

[Series Snapshot] The Kane Chronicles by Rick RiordanThe Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 4th 2010
Pages: 516
Goodreads

Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.



Series stats

Author: Rick Riordan
Number of books: 3
Total number of pages: 1404


Opening line:

We only have a few hours, so listen carefully.


Status on my shelves:

I borrowed all three from Scribd as audiobooks.


Why I picked this series up:

I’ve been catching up with Rick Riordan’s books, because I have several friends who are fans.  Having finished Percy Jackson & The Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series, the Kane Chronicles seemed like the next logical step! I was nervous about new characters and new mythology, but I decided to give it a go anyway.


Overall thoughts:

The first thing to say is that these work excellently as audiobooks.  The books are written as if they’re typed transcripts of an audio recording which has been left by Sadie and Carter, so they’re the ideal format for audio.  I listened to the unabridged BrillianceAudio editions, narrated by Katherine Kellgren (for Sadie’s chapters) and Kevin R. Free (for Carter’s chapters) and I thought both did a great job!  The story begins when Sadie and Carter watch their Egyptologist father summon something in the British Museum before disappearing.  Sadie and Carter have been raised separately – Carter by his father, travelling the world and homeschooling, and Sadie by her grandparents in London.  These two relative strangers are forced to work together as they get caught up in a world they never knew existed.

One of Riordan’s strengths is his character cast, and while I didn’t find anyone to top Leo (my favourite character so far!) or Nico, Riordan’s characters are as always well-rounded and relatable.  As I’ve come to expect from Riordan now, we also get characters who are diverse but who’s diversity isn’t a driving plot point: it’s just a reflection of the world, and I love that.  Sadie and Carter are both likeable, relatable characters.  Sadie is witty, and sarcastic and generally made me laugh the whole way through. She’s also very believable: she has both friends and people she doesn’t get along with, she isn’t a character who’s astoundingly smart and perfect and does no wrong, or sounds like she’s much more mature than she truly is.  While I didn’t love Carter as much, he too has a convincing, authentic voice throughout the series; older, feeling burdened with responsibility for his younger sister, but still ultimately a teen at heart.  The supporting characters – Anubis, Walt, Bes, Bast and the others – are also interesting and likeable.

The first book picks up quickly, and this series doesn’t suffer from middle-book-syndrome: it keeps up the pace from book 1 right through to the end of book 3.   I won’t say too much for fear of spoilers, but I really enjoyed the way Riordan worked the Gods into this series – it feels fresh and interesting, and it makes for some really interesting twists and the occasional ethical dilemma.  Having said that, the mythology feels shallower in this series than the Greek mythology in the Olympians/Heroes of Olympus.  That’s obviously to be expected when there are only three books to play with here, compared to 10 for the Greeks, but this series does somehow feel a little less in-depth generally, a little less mature, certainly in comparison to the Heroes of Olympus series.  The series is quick and enjoyable though – I finished all three books within about two weeks, which doesn’t sound fast but is pretty much unprecedented pace for me and audiobooks.  All in all, I didn’t love it as much as his other series so far, but if you’re a fan of the other series, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this one too.

One StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Wolf Brother

Review: Wolf BrotherWolf Brother (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, #1) by Michelle Paver
Published by Orion Children's Books on May 27th 2005
Genres: Action & Adventure, Family, Hard Science Fiction
Length: 6 hours 25 minutes
Format: audio
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Thousands of years ago the land is one dark forest. Its people are hunter-gatherers. They know every tree and herb and they know how to survive in a time of enchantment and powerful magic. Until an ambitious and malevolent force conjures a demon: a demon so evil that it can be contained only in the body of a ferocious bear that will slay everything it sees, a demon determined to destroy the world.
Only one boy can stop it—12 year old Torak, who has seen his father murdered by the bear. With his dying breath, Torak’s father tells his son of the burden that is his. He must lead the bear to the mountain of the World Spirit and beg that spirit’s help to overcome it.
Torak is an unwilling hero. He is scared and trusts no one. His only companion is a wolf cub only three moons old, whom he seems to understand better than any human.
Theirs is a terrifying quest in a world of wolves, tree spirits and Hidden People, a world in which trusting a friend means risking your life.

Wolf Brother is one of those books that’s been on my radar for as long as I can remember, but only in the vaguest sense: I could picture the cover, I could tell you it was a children’s book, and that’s pretty much it.  Recently, having finished The Dresden Files audiobooks, I wasn’t sure what to spend my next audible credit on, but somehow ended up on the page for Wolf Brother.  The plot sounded intriguing enough – historical fiction, fantasy elements, a wolf! – but what really sold me was the fact that Sir Ian McKellen narrated it. I mean, let’s be honest, he has a voice just made for storytelling and I assume he must have been asked to read a lot of audiobooks by now, but for some reason this is the one he decided to go ahead with.  It’s quite short by audiobook standards – only 6.5 hours – which is good because it means you get through it quickly, but slightly less good in terms of value per credit 😉

Torak is likeable, Renn is pretty great, but the character who makes the book is of course, Wolf. The way he thinks – calling the humans ‘tailless’es, and an arrow the Long-Claw-That-Flies – is great, and he’s certainly the character I got most attached to.  As expected, McKellen’s narration is great, and the plot moves on quickly throughout the story; what could easily have been multiple books is instead just under 300 action-packed pages.  The downside to the quick pacing is that everything is pretty quick: relationships, plot development, character growth, are all pretty instantaneous.  I felt Torak found everything just a little bit too easy; he doesn’t have much in the way of strategy, or a plan, or if I’m totally honest, much of anything that particularly suggests he should be the hero of the story, apart from his ability to talk to Wolf.  The writing style is also pretty simple, and while it touches on a few darker themes, there’s no forgetting it’s a kids book.  Obviously kids are the target audience, but I think it’s a little disappointing that the pacing and writing could put off adults for whom the setting and storyline had crossover appeal.

Despite my issues with the book, I loved the setting, the survival skills elements were really cool, and the obvious research Paver has done really shines through.  I’m probably intrigued enough to get around to the rest on audio, if only because McKellen’s narration was so great.  Sadly though, I definitely think I’d have enjoyed this alot more if I’d discovered it as a kid.

Review: The Lost Hero

Review: The Lost HeroThe Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, #1) by Rick Riordan
Published by Puffin Books on October 6th 2011
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy
Pages: 551
Format: Paperback
Goodreads

The Number one, bestselling title in this new spin-off series from Percy Jackson creator, Rick Riordan.
OLD ENEMIES AWAKEN AS CAMP HALF-BLOOD'S NEW ARRIVALS PREPARE FOR WAR When Jason, Piper and Leo crash land at Camp Half-Blood, they have no idea what to expect. Apparently this is the only safe place for children of the Greek Gods - despite the monsters roaming the woods and demigods practising archery with flaming arrows and explosives. But rumours of a terrible curse - and a missing hero - are flying around camp. It seems Jason, Piper and Leo are the chosen ones to embark on a terrifying new quest, which they must complete by the winter solstice. In just four days time. Can the trio succeed on this deadly mission - and what must they sacrifice in order to survive?

When I read it…

I read this between August 14th and August 17th.

What I’d heard before I read it:

About this particular book, not much – while I’ve heard great things about Rick Riordan in general, I’ve actually not heard too much about the Heroes of Olympus series, and about all I’d heard about this book was that it took my sister (who I’m borrowing it from) a while to get into and she was saddened by the lack of Nico…

What worked for me:

  • The opening: I loved that Jason had no memories, because it instantly drew me into the story. I not only wanted to know everything that he’d forgotten, but also how everyone would cope with his lack of memories.
  • The slightly older feel & the longer length: The Lost Hero definitely felt more like a young adult read than the Percy Jackson series, and I think the longer length probably helped a little with that too. I really loved having slightly older characters to follow as occasionally the young ages in Percy Jackson made the characters feel a bit too distant and therefore harder to relate to.
  • Leo & Piper: I really liked both Leo and Piper. Leo was witty and funny and instantly likeable so I warmed to him pretty much straight away. It took a while longer for me to warm to Piper, but I loved how she took no crap from anyone and how her confidence grew throughout the book.
  • Returning to Camp Half-blood: Of course returning to Camp Half-Blood was always bound to be fun, and I really enjoyed that we got to see it through fresh eyes all over again too.
  • The multiple points of view: I’m a BIG fan of multiple POV stories, so I loved that we got to see more than one perspective throughout The Lost Hero.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • Jason: I didn’t hate Jason, but I didn’t love him either. He’s a bit too perfect (apart from his lack of memories)
  • The pacing: It took me three days to reach 49% – and then one day to read the other 51%.  It wasn’t a huge deal, but I felt like it took a little while to get really going.

I enjoyed The Lost Hero – possibly more than Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – and I thought it was a pretty good start to the series. I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel!

Other reviews of The Lost Hero: The Illiterate Reader | Novel Reaction | Blog of a Bookaholic

One StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Morning Star

Review: Morning StarMorning Star by Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising #3
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on February 11th 2016
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Pages: 512
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher
Goodreads

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society's mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.
Finally, the time has come.
But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied - and too glorious to surrender.

Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Addictiveness: ★★★★★

When I read it…

I took just over a week to read this one, between February 5th and 14th 2016.

What I’d heard before I read it:

All good things! [Sidenote, anyone else incapable of hearing the phrase ‘All good things, all good things’ in a voice other than Olaf’s from Frozen? Just me?]  Morning Star was by far one of my most anticipated reads for 2016 so I couldn’t wait to read it, but I’d deliberately not gone looking for reviews in fear of spoilers. I had seen a few comments on twitter though, and they were all VERY favourable!

What worked for me:

  • The plot: Sometimes, a writer tries so hard to be unpredictable that it becomes predictable (Steven Moffat & Doctor Who for example), but that wasn’t at all the case with Morning Star. Given the ending of Golden Son, I didn’t think Morning Star could shock me – I was wrong.  There was at least one occasion where I wanted to update my GR progress and couldn’t think of a single update that didn’t involve swearing because I was so surprised by what had just happened.  Morning Star‘s plot is brilliant; full of epic drama and exciting plot twists that meant I just didn’t want to put it down.
  • The characters: There are so many characters to love, and love them I certainly do! Sevro, of course, remains the favourite, but I also adored Ragnar, had a total soft spot for Kavax au Telemanus and Sophocles, and loved how kickass Victra is.
  • The relationships: From Sevro and Darrow’s witty back and forths to Victra’s casual flirting to the Howler initiation, Morning Star is full of funny, teasing moments between characters that had really believable, satisfying relationships.  In a book that could otherwise be so dark, the humour is surprisingly frequent, and I loved that – while the drama is still heart-pounding (and at times heart-warming and heart-breaking) the book felt epic rather than grim.
  • The world-building: From the beginning of the series, Darrow’s world has fascinated me, and with each new book we get more details about the intricate, complex world that Brown has created.  I particularly loved seeing the Obsidians, meeting Alia Snowsparrow and Sefi and seeing a bit more of Ragnar’s world.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • Mustang: I found Mustang a little less likeable in Morning Star than in the first two books – maybe just because we had so many other awesome female characters who were more readily accessible!  I didn’t dislike her, and I certainly still wanted her to get her happy ending, I just found her a little harder to connect with than the other characters.

Something worth mentioning…

  • I’m not sure why, but it took me a little longer than I expected to get truly engrossed in Morning Star.  I’m not sure how much of that was because I was reluctant for the series to end or due to nerves that the book wouldn’t live up to my hopes (which it did!) or even that I was too excited to concentrate 100% (this genuinely happened on the first day I tried to read it) but I didn’t feel as instantly addicted as I did with the two earlier books.  Once I did get hooked, I just didn’t want to put it down, and it was every bit as gripping as I’d expected it to be based on Red Rising and Golden Son.  The question of WHY it took me longer to get hooked (whether it was the pacing of the first section, or whether it was a matter of timing/my reluctance to finish the series) is one I’ll figure out when I re-read, but I thought it was worth mentioning.  If you’ve started Morning Star and aren’t instantly hooked, rest assured you will be soon!

Overall thoughts:

I had to think for a while on the ending of Morning Star and whether it was satisfying, but ultimately I’m very happy with it – it wasn’t what I expected, but the more I thought about it the more I realised I couldn’t think of anything I would have found more satisfying!  Now that it’s all over, I’m confident in saying Red Rising is one of the best trilogies I have ever read.  I adored Red Rising and Golden Son and have been pushing the books on friends and family even more than usual since reading this truly awesome finale.

If you’re looking for something light and fluffy, this is definitely not the book for you. If you’re looking for an awesome plot, kick-ass characters and a fantastically built world then this is absolutely the book for you – just be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster too!

Other Reviews of Morning Star: Stephanie’s Book Reviews | Rabid Reads | Star-Crossed Book Blog

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Queen of Shadows (Sarah J. Maas)

Review: Queen of Shadows (Sarah J. Maas)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #4
Published by Bloomsbury Childrens on 01-09-2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 656
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

The queen has returned.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.

The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series contrinues Celaena's epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

SPOILER ALERT: As Queen of Shadows is book 4 in the series, there will probably be spoilers for Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★★

The storyAs in Heir of Fire, Queen of Shadows has multiple plot threads and point of views.  We see Aelin, Rowan and Aedion in Rifthold, Dorian in the glass castle, Manon and her Thirteen in Morath, and obviously we also get to see more of Chaol too.  While I enjoyed all of the threads, Manon and the story at Morath was probably my favourite thread in Queen of Shadows (I didn’t see that coming either!).  Queen of Shadows isn’t a small book, but I was hooked by it, and I happily read it in just under a week.  As always, Maas sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions, and it felt like every five minutes I was telling Matt “This happened and it was awesome” or “Oh! Listen to this, it’s so sad” or giggling out loud and getting strange looks.

The characters
In Heir of Fire, I fell in love with Manon and her Thirteen, and Queen of Shadows just reinforced that love: I still love Manon and I adored learning more about Asterin and some of the other witches.  We met new characters in Queen of Shadows too, and the biggest additions are probably Lysandra, Nesryn and Eilide.  While Eilide and Nesryn are perfectly interesting and likeable enough, Lysandra is clearly the show-stealer: she’s an awesome character in her own right, and her interactions with the others are priceless.

While I loved most of the characters, I did have a few concerns, mostly that I felt like Aelin became a little less likeable and Chaol felt like a stranger at times.  I’m also a little confused by Rowan and Aelin’s mental communication: maybe I missed something, but I didn’t think it was true telepathy so much as reading a lot in glances, but if that’s the case, there were times they read too much in a look for me to find it truly plausible!

And of course, it’s difficult to talk about Queen of Shadows without mentioning the relationships.  Queen of Shadows seems to have absolutely polarized readers and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that a lot of those strong feelings probably come about from fans of different ships.  With so many different ships, there was absolutely no way Sarah could please everyone, so I wasn’t particularly surprised when I didn’t adore the way the romance went. I did feel like the romance was a little heavy-handed at times, and I wonder whether that was perhaps to satisfy the ship fans, or try and convert non-fans.   I found myself occasionally frustrated with endless male posturing and dominance, and I think that almost certainly contributed to my love of the Manon storyline.  Having said that however, I still loved the book, and although it wasn’t the ship I’d have chosen, it did grow on me so I definitely don’t think you should let negative reviews put you off reading!

final thoughts

I said in my review of Throne of Glass that it wasn’t a book that had you hooked only for the storyline, or only for the characters, and that remains true even now: Maas manages to combine epic storylines with great pacing and a cast of characters that you wish you could meet in real life (even if they might be a little intimidating!).  Where some books sometimes feel like wonderful characters, fantastic world-building or gripping plots are ‘making up’ for another area which may disappoint, the Throne of Glass series genuinely feels like it does all three areas well.  I debated back and forwards for a long time whether to give Queen of Shadows four or five stars – I definitely didn’t think it was perfect, I found the romance frustrating, and I found both Aelin and Chaol a little less likeable.  On the other hand, Manon and the Thirteen’s story was brilliantly addictive, I adored Lysandra and learning more about Asterin, and the story sent me on an emotional whirlwind.  It took me a long time to decide, so in the end I took a step back and just thought about what a four or five star rating truly means – four stars means I really liked it, and five stars means I loved it.  At the end of the day, despite my issues with Queen of Shadows, on the whole, I loved it (I’d have loved it enough for Manon’s thread alone), I’ll happily re-read it, and the series is a favourite, so for me, that makes it a five star read.

Buy it? This one is definitely worth buying from my perspective!
In a nutshell: Not perfect, but nonetheless an epic, emotional, gripping read that I didn’t want to end.

Other Reviews of Queen of Shadows: Not another dumb blonde | Alexa Loves Books | The Perpetual Page-Turner (This one has spoilers but if you’ve read the book it’s well worth reading this review for Jamie’s perspective on the ship!)

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star