emeraldarrows: Robin Of Sherwood - Robin and Marion hugging (5)
[personal profile] emeraldarrows
Next on my list was Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin, an alternative historical thriller with a bizarre, but intriguing premise. And, despite my reservations, I ended up being quite impressed.



Summary on the back: The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's Ball in Tokyo. Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

My thoughts: This was another hard book to define. The premise is fascinating, and despite my initial reservations - the entire concept seemed slightly disrespectful - the historical background was handled quite well, even if it was occasionally difficult to read. There were a few moments that made me very uncomfortable, but for the most part I felt the writer did a good job balancing the realistic horror with sometimes inspiring fantasy. I do usually love alternative history, so the concept caught my attention from the start. Several moments, particularly in the flashbacks, were haunting and poignant. And the writing style was often lovely.

Yael was both likeable, and easy to relate to, and her ability was very interesting. Most of the supporting characters were a little bit lacking and indistinctive to me. The world-building was quite well done, and despite a few overly imaginative elements, much of the story felt believable. The ending felt abrupt, and a little bit of a letdown after all the buildup (hopefully the sequel will be better resolved), but for the most part I enjoyed the plot.

Overall, Wolf By Wolf was a very good, if somewhat unsettling book that left me planning to read the sequel.
emeraldarrows: Constantine - John smirking (4)
[personal profile] emeraldarrows
My latest reading was The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black. I enjoyed her The Darkest Part of the Forest, so when I learned that she'd written a vampire novel, I had to add it to my list.



Summary on the back: Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave. One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

My thoughts: This book was...difficult to describe. It had an odd and unpredictable tone that kept giving me whiplash - from humor that had me giggling to jarringly violent and tragic moments, and the plot kept veering between utterly brilliant and disappointingly predictable YA fantasy. The urban gothic feel appealed to me highly, but the lack of details left me wanting more. I really loved the concept of the Coldtowns, but found the world-building annoying vague - I wanted so much more backstory and explanations! - with the most interesting parts teased but barely explored, particularly the vampires who choose to end their lives. Tana was, by turns, a perfectly interesting character and so naively stupid I wanted to shake her - most of the time, she reminded me of the character who goes into the dark room in a horror movie and gets killed off early. Seriously, most of her choices were questionable, to say the least, even taking into account her childhood trauma and age. Aidan seemed to be a completely unnecessary character - or maybe it's just the way I saw him? - and Midnight and Winter were intensely unlikable, right from the start.

But, I loved Gavriel. While I would have liked more of his past, motives, and even his romance with Tana to be fleshed out, his character was by far the very best thing about the book. I like my literary vampires unquestionably non-human, and dangerous, and Gavriel hit every trope I love and then some. His backstory was fascinating and tragic, and I liked the ending, and the choice he made.

Overall, The Coldest Girl In Coldtown was a strange book, that I couldn't decide if I truly liked or not, a disjointed mix of the excellent and the disappointing.

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