So I’ve been doing #TheReadingQuest challenge for exactly one week now and thought it was high time for a little update on how I’m doing! It has been an incredibly busy week and I’ve been out of the house almost constantly, so I’m pretty surprised that I’ve actually managed to do any reading at all (although I’m definitely hoping to go at a much quicker pace in the weeks to come).
Only one complete book so far, I’m afraid to say, this being Gilded Cage by Vic James. This was my choice for the “A Book That Contains Magic” reading prompt. This book has earned me 10 EXP and, at 405 pages, 40 HP.
Books in Progress
I am very nearly finished with The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (audiobook) – I have 1 hour 20 minutes left to go. This is my choice for the “A Book Based on Mythology” prompt. Because I’ve listened to 10 hours and 11 minutes, this has so far earned me 30 HP.
I am 138 pages into Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, which is what I’ve now chosen for the “A Book With a One Word Title” quest (let’s face it, I was never going to get around to It, was I?). I’ve earned 13 HP with this title so far.
I’ve also shared two “relevant social media” posts, so I’ve netted 2 HP for that.
So? What Did I Think?
Gilded Cage by Vic James
This was definitely a big (and very pleasant) surprise. If I had bothered to read the description on the back again before starting (I last looked at it four or five months ago when I actually bought the book), maybe I wouldn’t have been so surprised, but I feel like the cover gives you the impression of a rather gentle story involving posh Victorians doing magic (I felt like it had a kind of Night Circus vibe – see what I mean below). Anyway, couldn’t be further from what it actually was.
This is, in fact, a dystopian novel set in a modern Britain with a twist. Yes, there is a magical aristocracy, but there is nothing gentle about them. In this Britain, those gifted with Skill have risen up to be Britain’s ruling class. They are proud, entitled and extremely cruel. Ordinary people, or “Commoners”, are forced by law into 10 years of servitude, to be carried out at the time of their choosing. To avoid being sent to one of the country’s brutal slave towns, the Hadley family apply to do their “slavedays” on the estate of the powerful Jardine family. But when Luke Hadley is wrenched from the rest of his family and sent to Millmoor, a brutal slave town in Manchester, he is swept up in the resistance movement. Meanwhile, the rest of the Hadleys are caught in the thick of the politicking and scheming of the Skilled upper classes. Caught on different sides of the struggle, all of the characters must make choices and live with the consequences.
Apart from what I felt was a bit too much “worldsplaining” at the beginning (just having paragraphs explaining the history of the world and how everything worked, rather than taking the reader along for the ride and letting them work it all out for themselves), this was a really intriguing, enjoyable read. It was so distinctly British, which was like a breath of fresh air in the largely American-dominated fantasy/dystopia market; I felt like I identified with the places and the characters a lot more as a result. While the premise wasn’t anything particularly groundbreaking, the world was rich in detail and the plot was full of twists and turns. It was one of those reads that gathers pace as the plot progresses because you’re becoming more invested in the characters and their stories begin to intertwine.
While at the beginning I felt that this could be a crossover between teen and adult because of the age of the protagonists (Luke Hadley is 16 at the start of the novel and his sister Abi is 18), it quickly became significantly darker, with a fair amount of violence and some pretty unflinching descriptions of the cruelties of slavery. While I wouldn’t rule it out for teen readers, it is darker than the cover would suggest. The next one in the series comes out in early 2018 and there were certainly some ends that were very deliberately and cleverly left dangling after the rather explosive and shocking finale. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fast-paced, exciting dystopian read.
Star Rating: 4/5
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I’ve heard quite a few bloggers and Booktubers talking about this book over the past couple of years, but I never had any plans to pick it up until I was searching for a book based on mythology. I’m really glad I did. This is a unique, beautifully written book with a wonderfully complex central relationship and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying every minute.
Set against a backdrop of rich Greek mythology, where gods, demigods and ordinary men all walk the earth together, a young prince named Patroclus is exiled to a far away kingdom after he is accidentally responsible for the death of another boy. There, he meets Achilles, the demigod son of King Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis. The two boys become fast friends despite the differences between them. As they grow up, their relationship blossoms and grows into something deeper and more intimate. But the two men are soon to be tested by the gravest of circumstances – the Trojan War approaches and Achilles cannot ignore the summons, despite the prophecy that haunts him: if he goes to war, he will not return alive.
This is a stunning story of love, loss and war. Patroclus’ narrative spans decades and the burgeoning love of the two boys is at once beautiful and devastating. This novel is so rich, from the depth of the history and mythology it contains, to the strength of its relationships, to the stark depictions of warfare and its ability to change people, for better or for worse. I can’t wait to finish this story even though I already have a fair idea that I’ll be sitting bawling my eyes out in the final minutes.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The unique aspect of this book is its narrative style – it’s basically supposed to be a dossier of classified documents, compiled after the events of the book have unfolded, which tell the true and unvarnished facts. It’s a mix of interviews, instant messages, confidential reports, blueprints, journal entries and much more besides. It’s extremely cleverly put together and all the documents and chat messages look really genuine. I was very excited to start this one as everybody I have ever heard talking about it absolutely RAVES about it.
So from what I’ve read so far, this novel opens with a battle between two corporations, one of whom was running an illegal mining operation on a small planet. The other corporation wasn’t having any of that, so it attacked the planet, leaving the surviving personnel and civilians to flee for their lives. With the attacking corporation still hot on the survivors’ heels and with such damage sustained to the their three remaining spaceships that they are unable to teleport, the nearest refuge will take six months to reach. However, strange things are going on. Communications are down and nobody will explain why. Orders are being given to attack and destroy their own ships. There are rumours that a deadly pathogen is on the rampage. The two main characters, Kady Grant and her ex-boyfriend Ezra Mason, are slowly starting to realise that something is badly wrong and their investigations are leading to some extremely worrying conclusions.
Ugh. I’m going to sound so judgemental now. But basically, I’d just finished the very British Gilded Cage, and I picked up Illuminae straight after and was launched straight into interviews with two VERY American, smart-arsed teenagers with authority issues (that classic YA trope). The contrast between the two is probably why it jarred so much but it meant that I found it a little difficult to get into. Also, we’re immediately drawn into what is obviously going to be a central romance throughout the book, which I can be a bit iffy with. However, now I’m 138 pages in, I’ve got used to the characters a little more, it’s all kicking off and I’m really, really intrigued.
So there we have it! Bit of a long update but on the whole I’m so happy with what I’ve been reading and the Quest has inspired me to pick up some things that I ordinarily may not have.
This week, in terms of print books, I’ll be working on finishing Illuminae before moving on to either one of my final two reading prompts:
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin, for the “Book Set in a Different World” quest
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, for the “First Book of a Series” prompt.
I will be using my next audiobook to start moving into the side quests, starting off with We Are Legion: We Are Bob by Dennis E. Taylor.
There we have it! Like I said, I hope to be more successful next week and get a few more things completed. If you’ve liked or disliked any of the above books, I’d love to hear your thoughts!