Wires and Nerve: A Graphic Novel Review

To preserve the unstable alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko decides to hunt down  rogue wolf-hybrids who have been attacking both planets. As an android Iko is uniquely suited to the task. She’s also determined to do anything to help her friends Cinder and Kai heal the rift between their two planets.

Iko’s hunt takes far from Luna as she tracks the wolf packs across earth with help from other friends including Cress and Thorne. Unfortunately Iko is also saddled with an unwanted sidekick in the form of Kinney, a royal guard who has little use for Iko and androids in general.

As they come closer to the rogue wolf’s Iko will unearth a conspiracy that threatens everyone she cares about–a threat so big she might even welcome Kinney’s help this once in Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 (2017) by Marissa Meyer, illustrated by Douglas Holgate.

Wires and Nerve is a new graphic novel series. It picks up shortly after the conclusion of Winter, the final book in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. The graphic novel series focuses on Iko, a character who never got her own book in the prose novels. While readers might appreciate a basic knowledge of the novels, this graphic novel series can be read on its own. (I read Cinder when it first came out and later read recaps of the other books in the series. That combined with Iko’s narrative flashbacks was enough for me.)

Iko’s graphic novel story is surprisingly delightful. In the midst of a cross-planetary hunt for rogue wolves Iko has to grapple with what it means to be an android and how she is treated because of it. She has been erased from the Lunar Chronicle adventures largely because she is “just” an android and even some of her allies (like Kinney) question Iko’s ability to care about anything or anyone when she’s not human.

Holgate’s illustrations are in a blue and white palette that is used to great effect and compliments Meyer’s world. The writing is fast-paced with snappy narration from Iko. This volume also uses the graphic novel format effectively with panels that are well designed to create a cinematic feel to the story (check out the spread on page 197 to see what I mean). Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 is some of the best of what graphic novels have to offer. A great choice for fans of the Lunar Chronicles series as well as readers looking for a new sci-fi comic to enjoy.

Possible Pairings: Dove Arising by Karon Bao, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

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The Diabolic: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Being a good Diabolic meant being a hideous person.”

The Diabolic by S. J. KincaidDiabolics have only one purpose: protect the person they have been bonded to at all costs.

Nemesis barely remembers the time before she was bonded to Sidonia. Anything that came before is irrelevant. Now Nemesis will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Sidonia survives and flourishes. As long as Sidonia is safe and secure everything else, including Nemesis’s own well-being, becomes irrelevant.

When news of her senator father’s heresy reaches the seat of the Empire, Sidonia is summoned to the Imperial Court as a hostage. There is no way for Nemesis to strike against the Emperor. No way for her to shelter Sidonia when she is summoned. This time the only way Nemesis can protect Sidonia is to become her.

At the Imperial Court, Nemesis has to hide her superior strength, cunning intellect, and her ruthless lack of humanity. Greedy senators, calculating heirs, and the Emperor’s mad nephew Tyrus are all keen to use Nemesis for their own ends. But she has little interest in the politics at Court or the rebellion that is beginning to foment.

Nemesis knows that she is not human. She knows the matters of the Imperial Court are not her concern. But she also soon realizes that saving Sidonia may involve saving not just herself but the entire Empire in The Diabolic (2016) by S. J. Kincaid.

The Diabolic was written as a standalone sci-fi novel. After its release Kincaid signed a book deal for two additional novels making The Diabolic the start of a trilogy.

Kincaid has built a unique world layered with complex alliances and difficult questions about what it means to be human which play out against a galactic power struggle. Nemesis’s performative identity as Sidonia contrasts well against the Emperor’s son, Tyrus, a Hamlet-like figure who may or may not be putting on an act of his own in a bid for the throne. Nemesis’s character growth as she learns to choose herself beyond any loyalty she feels to Sidonia or others is fascinating and thoughtfully done.

The Diabolic is a sprawling space opera that brings Nemesis and other characters across the galaxy in a story filled with double crosses, twists, and intrigue so thick you could cut it with a knife. Nemesis narrates the novel with a tone that is as pragmatic as it is chilling–unsurprising for a character who has been told constantly throughout her life that she will never be human. Whether Nemesis will prove her detractors correct or exceed her supposed Diabolic limitations remains to be seen.

The combination of ambiguous morality, lavish settings, and a cast of provocative characters make The Diabolic an utterly satisfying sci-fi adventure. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, Proxy by Alex London, Legend by Marie Lu, Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer and Douglas Holgate, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Birthmarked by Caragh M.O’Brien, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, And I Darken by Kiersten White

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2016*

Lotus and Thorn: A Review

Lotus and Thorn by Sara Wilson EtienneLeica and her sisters, Lotus and Tashcen, are descendants of colonists who settled on the planet Gabriel five hundred years ago. Now, in 2590, Leica and the other Citizens of Pleiades scavenge the ruins of their original colony for technology to trade to the Curadores in exchange for supplies and god’s eventual forgiveness.

Leica knows what it is to live in Gabriel’s barren deserts fearing the next occurrence of the Red Death and knowing the other Citizens revile her six-fingered hands as a Corruption–a sign that their god has still not forgiven the Citizens enough to return them to Earth. After being exiled nearly two years for possessing contraband technology, she also knows the fear and privation of being alone in the desert surrounding Pleiades.

When Leica finds a shuttle out in the Tierra Muerta it provides a link to Earth. It also leads Leica back to her sister, Lotus, and a fledgling settlement trying to separate itself from both Pleiades and the Curadores who reside in a secure dome habitat.

With the dome malfunctioning and food in Pleiades becoming scarce, Leica will have to work quickly to find the truth about increasing Red Death outbreaks and uncover the long buried secrets behind why Earth abandoned Gabriel so many years ago in Lotus and Thorn (2016) by Sara Wilson Etienne.

This convoluted science fiction novel is a loose retelling of the Grimm fairy tale “Fitcher’s Bird”–a story that also shares some common tropes with the tale of Bluebeard. Lotus and Thorn is broken into three parts, each of which is preceded by an excerpt from a version of Fitcher’s Bird that the author wrote to accompany the novel.

Elements from Korean and Mexican culture are fused into this futuristic story to create a diverse world, albeit one that often lacks strong internal logic.While these choices make for a diverse setting the method behind these cultures, of any, being the two to have lasting influence centuries in the future is decidedly unclear.

A meandering plot filled with too many twists and not enough character development make for a slow read. Lotus and Thorn will have the most appeal for committed science fiction fans and readers looking for a new fairy tale retelling in the style of Cinder or Stitching Snow.

Possible Pairings: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay, Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in an issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various places online*

Their Fractured Light: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Their Fractured Light is the final book in Kaufman and Spooner’s Starbound trilogy which began with These Broken Stars and This Shattered World. This review includes small spoilers for both preceding books.*

Their Fractured Light by Aimee Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerEveryone knows about Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase’s infamous Avon Broadcast that aired on year ago. The broadcast did its job of saving their planet. It also was largely  discredited much in the way Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen’s own stories of whispers on a far off planet after the crash of the Icarus were quietly ignored.

Now, in the center of the universe on the planet of Corinth, two teens are working to bring the evils of LaRoux industries to light once and for all.

Gideon Marchant is a hacker who has spent the the last year tracking a woman he thinks can help him bring LaRoux Industries to its knees.

Sofia Quinn left Avon a year ago and since then has worked her way across the galaxy to Corinth waiting for her chance to make LaRoux pay for her father’s death.

When their separate attempts at infiltrating LaRoux Headquarters are thwarted, Gideon and Sofia are thrown together in a frantic escape. These two have no reason to work together but if they can let go of their distrust and the hatred they’ve been harboring for so long, they might be the key to exposing LaRoux’s secrets once and for all in Their Fractured Light (2015) by Aime Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

Their Fractured Light is the final book in Kaufman and Spooner’s Starbound trilogy which began with These Broken Stars and This Shattered World.

Like its predecessors, Their Fractured Light is written in first person narration that alternates between both characters’ (Gideon and Sofia’s) points of view. As the final book in a companion series, this novel introduces new characters and an independent plot–at least theoretically.

In reality, Kaufman and Spooner’s final Starbound book is a disappointing installment that lacks the substance or depth to stand on its own merits. Both Sofia and Gideon are intimately connected to the events at LaRoux Industries and to characters from earlier books. Their pasts and backstories become such a large part of the story that Sofia and Gideon’s present situation pales in comparison.

Compared to the other protagonists in the series, particularly Flynn and Jubilee, Gideon and Sofia fall flat. Their relationship feels forced (remember things start when the two are almost literally thrown together) and lacks any kind of chemistry even before a painfully contrived plot point comes along to make things even more difficult for both characters.

Ultimately Their Fractured Light does wrap up the series after a fashion however after building up to this climactic finish over the course of three books, the resolution felt anti-climactic and not quite as satisfying as it could have been.

Readers who have been faithful fans of the series since the beginning will find a lot to love in Their Fractured Light. Unfortunately, after struggling through These Broken Stars and being wowed by This Broken World, I have to admit that Their Fractured Light was a major letdown for me.

Possible Pairings: Avalon by Mindee Arnett, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Alienated by Melissa Landers, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

Dove Arising: A Review

Dove Arising by Karen BaoPhaet Theta has lived in Base IV of a colony on the moon for all of her fifteen years. Despite her name sounding like “fate,” she doesn’t put much stock in destiny. Phaet knows there is no room for a larger, grander life within the oppressive rules and regulations issued by the Standing Council keep residents safe.

There is no room for defiance or even annoyance when the colony’s militia could be listening anywhere.

That also means Phaet’s mother can be detained at a moment’s notice leaving Phaet in charge of her two younger siblings and unsure how she can keep any of them out of the colony’s horrifying Shelter division.

With no other options, Phaet quickly abandons her dreams of scientific study to join the militia in hopes of earning enough money to cover her mother’s medical bills and her family’s expenses. All Phaet needs to do is survive training and earn enough money for her family. Simple. At least until everything Phaet thought she knew turns out to be very wrong in Dove Arising (2015) by Karen Bao.

Dove Arising is Bao’s first novel and the start of a projected trilogy.

Dove Arising starts with a fascinating setting. The moon colony is filled with new technology as well as a detailed history, details of which come in the form of exposition delivered as clunky asides throughout the narrative. While the information is often crucial to the story it is also often a distraction from the plot.

While not truly derivative, it’s impossible to read Dove Arising without drawing parallels to other big name dystopian novels. Readers who are fond of plots involving training and initiation, conspiracies and possibly corrupt regimes, will definitely want to pick up Dove Arising. Readers looking for a purely sci-fi novel might be better served elsewhere.

Phaet is withdrawn and quiet. Introspective and rational to a fault, she is an interesting narrator in that she is often a bystander in her own life. Bao expertly demonstrates Phaet’s growth as she learns to fight her own battles during training–her first time without best friend Umbriel to do the talking for her.

Dove Arising is an interesting sci-fi novel with a diverse and varied cast of characters. Although they never quite come together in Dove Arising, all of the pieces are here for a strong and wildly popular series. These strengths combined with a game-changing ending that will leave readers eager for the next installment make Dove Arising a promising start to a new series.

Possible Pairings: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, Legend by Marie Lu, Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy, Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer and Douglas Holgate, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Divergent by Veronica Roth

This Shattered World: A Review

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerJubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac never should have met–not when they stand on opposite sides of the decades long war on Avon.

Terraforming corporations promised to make Avon livable for the countless colonists who paid for land on the fledgling planet. But that was years ago and the planet is still no closer to being more than a murky swamp.

Captain Lee Chase is part of the military force sent to Avon to tamp down rebellious colonists. No one has ever lasted on the inhospitable planet as long as Lee–no one has even tried.

Flynn has been part of the rebellion since before he can remember–before he had a choice in the matter.

After a mission to infiltrate the military base goes horribly awry, Flynn holds Lee’s life literally in his hands.

Lee is as drawn to Flynn as she is repulsed by everything he stands for. But she also knows the stalemate of the rebellion can only last so long before something has to give.

When Flynn makes a shocking choice to help Lee escape, both soldier and rebel find themselves drawn into a web of secrets and lies surrounding Avon’s origins–not to mention in the center of a conflict that could destroy everything they hold dear in This Shattered World (2014) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

This Shattered World is the second book in Kaufman and Spooner’s Starbound trilogy which begins with These Broken Stars. Although this book is chronologically a sequel it functions largely as a companion novel and stands on its own without having read book one.

Once again Kaufman and Spooner deliver a story with chapters that alternate between our two narrators while also offering a little something extra in the between chapter transitions.

This Shattered World is a thrilling story filled with action and suspense as Flynn and Jubilee work together to unravel the conspiracy surrounding Avon. Readers are able to see the war from both sides as they get to know Flynn and the other members of the rebellion–a movement with strong ties to the Irish folklore of their ancestors–and the military as seen by Jubilee.

Jubilee is a tough heroine who refuses to take any nonsense from anyone. Although headstrong she is also compassionate, particularly as she learns more about the nuances of the rebellion on Avon. Like Flynn, Jubilee also has strong ties to her past–on her side in the form of a Chinese mother and black father.

Flynn is definitely the softer of the two as he struggles to find a way to end the war without violence. He is also a charming and often cocky character who is keen to be defined by more than his past.

Together Flynn and Jubilee are an unlikely pair who somehow make perfect sense together. Like the best literary relationships, Flynn and Jubilee complement each other and prove that they are stronger together. That isn’t to say This Shattered World doesn’t have it’s fair share of arguing and banter, it does.

While This Shattered World is the second book in a trilogy, it does have a very contained storyline and offers some degree of closure for all of the characters by the final page. Kaufman and Spooner deliver another sleek sci-fi story in This Shattered World which promises to build to an explosive conclusion to the Starbound trilogy in book three.

Possible Pairings: Avalon by Mindee Arnett, The Shadows by Megan Chance, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Alienated by Melissa Landers, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

*An advance copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at a preview event*

These Broken Stars: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerTarver Merendsen would be quite happy to be anywhere but on board the Icarus. Being on the luxury spaceliner is certainly easy with finely appointed public areas and beautiful people everywhere. But it is also claustrophobic with cameras and gossips everywhere eager for a sighting of the famously young and heroic Major Merendsen. If Tarver had known his actions on Avon would lead to this kind of attention he might have made very different decisions while dealing with the rebels on the terraformed planet.

As the daughter of the richest man in the universe, Lilac LaRoux knows all about terraforming new planets and the unrest that sometimes come with colonization. She knows more about space travel and technology than is seemly for a girl of her station. She also knows that it would be very, very unwise to have anything to do with an upstart military man like Tarver. So Lilac does what she always does and pushes him away.

Unfortunately that doesn’t matter much when the Icarus is pulled out of hyperspace and crashes.

Suddenly Lilac and Tarver are thrown together on a seemingly abandoned planet.

With no one but each other, this unlikely pair builds a grudging respect and even friendship. As their relationship turns into something more than either could have imagined, Lilac and Tarver’s dreams of a life together are derailed by the strange mysteries on the planet and the impending threat of rescue in These Broken Stars (2013) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

These Broken Stars is the first book in Kaufman and Spooner’s Starbound trilogy (which functions as a set of companion books each featuring different narrators). The second book is This Shattered World.

This book is written in alternating first person narrations as Tarver and Lilac tell their story.

The dual narration structure is used to excellent effect here to highlight Tarver and Lilac’s changing opinions of each other as well as to examine key plot points from multiple views. Although Tarver and Lilac’s voices are not always as distinct as they should be, the narrative is done so well that it is a minor problem at best.

The bond between the characters builds organically to create a romance with an extremely solid foundation based on mutual respect as well as affection. Unfortunately despite these stellar protagonists and a strong plot, the latter part of the novel does drag in places. Ultimately, however, the story does build to a stunning conclusion that will leave readers eager to see more of the world Kaufman and Spooner have created.

These Broken Stars is an atmospheric sci-fi story with hints of mystery and romance. Tarver and Lilac are both self-aware characters with as much agency as spunk. Lilac, a tech-smart girl, is a particularly satisfying character to watch as she comes into her own after the crash of the Icarus. An excellent and action-packed novel for science fiction fans.

Possible Pairings: Avalon by Mindee Arnett, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, Alienated by Melissa Landers, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

*A copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2013*