Tuesday 20 February 2018

Recent Reads #2: Warcross, The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower

I'm back again with the rest of my January reads! 

In my 2018 Reading Goals and Resolutions post I mentioned that I'm now using Sophie's wonderful spreadsheet to track all kinds of statistics about my reading this year. So I thought that at the end of each month I'd share a little breakdown of some of my reading statistics for that particular month so you can keep up with how I'm doing on some of my reading goals for 2018. So here we have the nationalities and race of authors I read, genres and number of books and pages:


Warcross by Marie Lu | ☆☆☆☆
Warcross isn't just a game, it's a way of life. When teenage hacker Emika Chen accidentally glitches herself into the international Warcross Championships, her life changes overnight. She is summoned to Tokyo not only to compete, but to act as spy for the game's secretive creator Hideo Tanaka. Emika is soon in over her head, not only with fame and fortune but a sinister plot that could threaten the entire Warcross empire.

Before I say anything else: if you're not into gaming, you should still read this book! Marie Lu has written an exciting story with incredible world-building and wonderful characters. The world-building in Warcross is what truly blew me away. Games in fiction are hard to do well, as it can be hard to get the reader to feel passionate about a game they've never played without over-describing everything. But Marie Lu does it so brilliantly, the technology of this world is so advanced and seamless yet so believable. It definitely feels more speculative than sci-fi, as I can see advances in technology getting close to this in the not-so-distant future.

Emika Chen is such a great protagonist, she's whip-smart and savvy and like many of us just-grown-ups she fights a constant battle between emotions and practicality. She's extremely analytical, always steps ahead of everyone else but over-analysing every single moment, possibility and interaction, something I can definitely relate to. I was seriously impressed by the diversity in Warcross' cast of characters, there are PoC main and side characters and queer and disabled side characters, all included so naturally, and I can't tell you how happy that made me.

The only reason why I gave Warcross four stars instead of five is because the last quarter of the book did feel a little rushed. I understand that Lu had to move the plot forward towards a sequel but the twists and cliffhangers felt slightly contrived. However I will definitely be picking up the next one when it's out as I'm now fully invested in this world and these characters.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden | 
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church. 

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods... 

This book has been marketed for fans of The Night Circus and Uprooted so it immediately caught my attention when it was announced because I love those slow-moving, fairytale-inspired, magical historical fiction vibes. But for some reason or another I didn't end up finishing it when I first got hold of it, then the sequel was due to come out and I thought that it was about time I picked it up again. The Bear and the Nightingale definitely lived up to all it's hype for me. I absolutely loved this tale of bravery, family, magic and horror set in the medieval Russian wilderness. It's been described as a 'literary fairytale' and I don't think that could be more accurate. The setting was so atmospheric and beautifully described, it gave me real Burial Rites vibes (which is one of my all-time favourites). I loved the emphasis on folklore and how it was a very real part of everyday life in this isolated rural community. There is a subtle magic woven through the book and I loved reading about fairytales and folklore from a culture that I was previously unfamiliar with. Vasya is an excellent protagonist, she is full of heart and courage and I really rooted for her throughout. The plot moved a little slowly at first, but the excellent writing made up for it and I was soon invested in the story. This is the first in the Winternight trilogy and a new favourite for me.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden | 
This is the second book in the Winternight trilogy and the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale. Even before I'd finished The Bear and the Nightingale I had to request The Girl in the Tower from the lovely folks at Ebury as I couldn't wait to find out what happened next and I just wasn't ready to leave this setting and these characters. The Girl in the Tower follows immediately on from the events of the previous book and what The Bear and the Nightingale lacked slightly in consistent pacing, this second book made up for it in an exciting plot which moved along nicely. Katherine Arden has created complex and original characters and the plot kept me guessing throughout. I absolutely adore this series and can't believe I'm going to have to wait almost a year for the next one. If you like magical realism, historical fiction, fairytale and folklore and strong female characters - definitely pick up this series.


What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

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