This book is pure poetry. It is beautiful and you should read it.
TL;DR – A story of whales, mythology, history and culture. A must read.
RAGDOLL RATING: Exceptional.
What I thought…
This is the story of Kahu and the whales. Kahu, a young Maori girl, grows up desperate to connect with her grandfather, Koro. She wants nothing more than to learn about Maori culture and win her grandfathers love and respect. But Koro will not have it. But Kahu is destined for great things, and when the great whales come, everything starts to change.
I loved this book. I really don’t know what it was specifically I liked so much about it. Perhaps it was the poetic use of language, the way the Maori language was woven in with the English. Or the beautiful way the story of Paikea was told, and linked artfully into the main story. It could have been the characters, and the interplay between them. It could have been the account of how the people banded together to save a troop of whales. Or it could have been any number of other things.
The point is, I read this book and I loved it. I didn’t love bits of it, I didn’t really like the ending and the rest was a bit naff. I loved all of it, from beginning to end. Something about it just spoke to me on a deeper level than just enjoying the plot. But until I can figure out why that was, I’m going to assume it had something to do with the whales.
Just read it, I can’t promise you’ll like it the same way I did, but it’s certainly worth a try.
Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!
Recommended For: Fans of fantasy and adventure. Also anybody else at all.
About the Book
Sancia Grado is a thief. A good thief. But she is also different. Tevanne is a strange land, that runs on a form of magic known as scriving. If you know the write sigils, you can alter objects and change their behaviour – legend has it that an ancient group called the hierophants could use scriving to bend reality to their will!
Sancia is a scrived human. The only scrived human. She started her life as a slave and she was experimented on – but the scrived plate in her head gives her some special abilities which make her an excellent sneak thief.
Sancia is offered the job of a lifetime – steal one item for more money than she could ever hope to see in her lifetime. She takes the chance, and then her world falls apart.
What I thought
I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this book. I mean I really, REALLY loved it. It’s 512 pages long, and I must have read 350+ of them in one sitting – I would have read three quarters of the book in one day if I’d had the energy to keep reading. It was that kind of book.
First of all, we’ve got to talk about scriving. At first this seems like your pretty average magic stuff. Say the right words and it does what you say kind of thing. But it isn’t. It goes WAY deeper than that. Bennett goes into considerable detail over the course of the book about the mechanics of scriving, the theory, the practical uses and the history. It’s rare to find a magical mechanic in a story that has been this clearly thought out, which would be worth big points in my book on its own, but it was the way this information is relayed to the reader that really made this book stand out. We never get too much information in one go – it doesn’t feel like you’re reading fictional non-fiction – you get just enough information to understand without breaking the flow of things…and it’s just really cool.
I’m not sure if the following paragraph counts as spoilers, but I’m gonna talk a bit about why scriving is awesome:
Scrived objects are logical and stupid – you can only change them in ways that make sense. For example, you can make wood stronger, by scriving it to act like stone, but you can’t make it melt by telling it that it’s ice, because that’s too different.
BUT you can do cool things with it if you are clever. For example, you can make a cart propel itself by telling the wheels they are rolling down a hill and telling them how steep the hill is. This leads to some wild things later on.
It’s hard work. You’ve read got to know what you are doing to make it work, and experimentation can be really dangerous because its so easy to get things wrong – because of this, it’s a rich mans game, which has led to a really horrible unequal society.
It controls (almost) everything in Tevanne. It’s so understandable. Sometimes you read about something amazing in a story and wonder why it’s under utilised, like the Force in Star Wars. If I had the force I would never stop using it, all the time for EVERYTHING. But they never do. But in Foundryside, those who can afford scriving, use it for everything they possibly can. It supports buildings, changes weapons, powers foundries, it is everywhere, and that can lead to big problems.
I’m sure there is more I could say about why I like this element, but I don’t want to go on and on. Trust me though, it’s really cool and it stays cool all the way through.
Secondly, two words. Unexpected Queers. I’m not the only queer person who, unless explicitly told otherwise (and often even then), assumes every character in everything is 400% queer. Then I find out it’s not the case. Well guess what – there’s at least 3 actual, factual queers in this book (by my count). Which is GREAT. Not just because they are queer – but because it’s written completely naturally. Nobody bats an eye. In Tevanne, it’s perfectly, completely and utterly normal to be queer. And that is so refreshing. It’s so nice to read a book that – to the best of my knowledge – isn’t presented as queer-lit where a characters queerness is just another part of their character. It was also really nice to be right for a change, after deciding a character was queer.
Thirdly, the plot. I am a big fan of the idea that if it’s gonna go wrong, it may as well go catastrophically wrong. I like it when things go to hell, real fast. It’s fun and I like seeing how it can get worse as much as I enjoy seeing how that characters fix the problems – and this book did not disappoint on that front. I found every page more exciting than the last (especially the pages involved in the previous paragraph 😀 ). Everything went from bad to worse, and was written really well so you actually care about it.
Finally, the mystery element. This book has a lot of folklore in it – tales of the Makers or Hierophants or Ancient Ones – a race of giants who could bend reality to their whim with scriving. It also includes a talking key and a bunch of weird artefacts which are all surrounded in mystery. You find yourself constantly guessing how the ancient mysteries actually work, and how to solves the puzzles the characters are trying to solve – and I was right about 50-70% of the time. Actually if I’m honest this was probably the only element (besides some peculiar phrasing at times) that I didn’t like as much – mainly because for some things (for example, how the ritual works), I knew how it worked so long before the characters I wanted to yell at them for being so dense! But I suppose that’s the advantage readers have over characters – we get the extra context.
I loved it and I think anyone with even a vague interest in the fantasy / adventure genre should read it immediately. Also, I cannot wait for part 2 in the series!
Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!
It’s not often I feel compelled insta-tweet when finishing a book.
TL;DR – A twisting, turning magical who-dunnit – a really excellent read!
RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS
Why I read it…
I won this book in a twitter giveaway, so it’s been on my reading list.
Seth is an ordinary kitchen boy, working in an ordinary hotel, situated in the middle of a not-so-very ordinary forest.
Seth’s world is turned upside down and inside out when a party of magical guests arrive. When one of the guests dies, Seth is accused of the murder and must do everything he can to clear his name.
What follows is a series of twists, turns, surprises and magic!
What I liked…
The thing I liked most about this book was the fact that by the end of the book, almost every guess I made was wrong. But more importantly, even though I was wrong I could pick the clues out all through the book afterwards. It wasn’t one of those murder mysteries where literally everything that happened before the last chapter didn’t matter, because the vital (and indeed only clue) turns up and destroys all previous theories (I’m looking at you Death in Paradise…). No, I had my theories, lots of theories, and while I was close, I was wrong – and that was a lot of fun!
Secondly, I liked Seth. Seth’s a darling. He works hard, despite his horrible bosses, and their scum-of-the-Earth daughter, Tiffany. He’s an orphan, so he’s stuck where he is – but he finds solace in cooking. He’s just a real nice kid. When he gets bullied by Tiffany you really feel his pain. When he’s accused of murder, and every bit of new evidence points to him, you fear for him, I mean it’d be a pretty dark children’s book if he got hauled off to magical jail at the end, but still, you really worry about him.
Thirdly, I liked the buildup. I can best describe this book using the phrase “Nothing is as it seems!” Every time I thought I had a handle on what was going on, something would happen to make me question everything I thought I knew. I still have a question that I want answering about the cat Nightshade, but who knows if I’ll get one! It was well paced, you just got used to things and then something new happened, and it was exciting too.
What I disliked…(but really sort of liked)
I intensely hated Tiffany. Delores Umbridge levels of hate. She is just horrible. Just thinking of how to write this paragraph makes my head spin thinking about the depths of my loathing. Which is obviously what was intended, and I think demonstrates the quality of the writing. Or it triggered some sort of bullying-related PTSD, one or the other. But I can’t put a character I hate as a mark against a book, because it makes the book what it is, which is why I’ve had to change to title of this section.
The Last Chance Hotel is a wonderful example of a murder mystery. It is an easy and thoroughly enjoyable read and I recommend it to anyone – especially the youngsters!
Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!