Knock-off fantasy Star Wars – a review of City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I love me a good urban fantasy. It’s these kind of books that made me fall in love with storytelling, from the light and fluffy Rainbow Magic middle grade series to Percy Jackson and Brigid Kemmerer’s Elementals series. Those last two novels even got me into my love writing and motivated me to become an author!

So I decided to take on the next big young adult urban fantasy series of our time. And honestly, I am very confused after reading that first book.

City of Bones takes place in New York, in which young Clarissa “Clary” Fray has recently starting seeing things going on. Fae, lycanthropes, demons. And the Shadowhunters, a group meant to keep the nastiest of them from wreaking havoc on the mortal realm. After her mum gets abducted from such demons, Clary discovers her hidden lineage and connection the Shadowhunters and must unlock her inner potential to save her.

Except, she doesn’t. Everyone in the book says she goes out and does stuff, crediting her for four times as much as what she actually does. For the protagonist of this series, I’d assume, Clary doesn’t do shit! She spends more time looking at her crush Jace defend her than she actually does trying to help out. She claims she is so desperate to help her mother out, but not desperate enough to stop spectating and actually do something. Furthermore, she would be considered a Mary Sue if it weren’t for her sharp tongue, grudges and hypocritical help-outs. Otherwise, she is barely considered a personality. I couldn’t tell you anything about her except her barely touched on hobbies of reading and drawing.

I don’t think the plot helped her out either. It seemed to rely on other people doing things for her – information from this warlock here, having these celestials help her out there, making sure Jace is always protecting her… Some of the things this plot did felt very bizzare in terms of narrative, and boy I have a big one. They literally pulled a Star Wars. What part of it? Well, that’s spoiler territory, but if you read it then you know what I mean. When this happened in the book, when the “Star Wars” was revealed, I literally laughed out loud. This was supposed to be one of the most dramatic parts in the book, apparently, and I burst into giggles behind my mask on the bus. It literally felt like a joke and Clare took it so seriously!

But one thing it sort of had going, maybe the novel’s only redeeming quality, was the worldbuilding. You could tell this was where the most attention was put into, the careful thoughts about which areas and cultures of New York would feature which kind of magical creatures living in plain site. Even the creatures themselves had potential. I really enjoyed seeing how each parts connected, the mundane with the magical. And they featured very interesting takes for sure.

Too bad it was hidden behind a mediocre writing style. It was laced with filler words, pop culture references that will date it, and poor attempts at picking apart Clary’s mind deep enough. The style just doesn’t feel like it’s making an effort enough. It is such a shame because I know this works! I’ve seen concepts of this nature done really well, and City of Bones is in its shadow because its writing style among other more terrible things let it down. Dimension 20’s D&D campaign, The Unsleeping City, shares similar vibes with City of Bones and yet outdoes it in all aspects. If you want fairies and demons in New York, just go watch that. It is very easy to watch even for people new to D&D.

Apparently the rest of the books in the Shadowhunters series are far better, but book one has left me completely unmotivated. I am left genuinely wondering how this series got so loved from such a poor start.

City of Bones gets a score of 2/5. I’ve never read a more average book than this to date. And then Star Wars happened.

Yours in writing



Colorfully Moral Grey – A review of Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Dystopia, science fiction in general, has never been a great point of interest for me. The Hunger Games never appealed to me, I found the first book in the Divergent series solid but not captivating and I grew up with a dad who had an unhealthy Star Wars obsession. If I would pick up a science fiction book, it would more likely be a dystopian.

Why? I find it the most insightful within the science fiction sub genre. In books such as those we learn far better about the human condition than a space opera, for example, and I find great value in that.

Therefore, Scythe is worth its mass in gold.

Humanity has achieved a state of immortality and perfection, aside from one aspect. Population growth. Nobody dies of old age or disease or accidents anymore. Only the Scythes have control over who dies, a group of specially trained humans who statistically cull the population to meet the demands of resources and match the statistics of the A.I. the Thunderhead. Two teens are taken under the apprenticeship of a Scythe, and Citra and Rowan soon learn of the responsibility and the moral grounds held by these people. But these beliefs are not shared, as the two soon find corruption within the Scythedom that threatens a seemingly perfect balance. And soon, they are put under a fate no Scythe’s apprentice has ever gone through before. One apprentice may become a Scythe, but the other shall live no longer.

From the very first page this was filled with insights deeper than oceans. I was so here for it! Shusterman perfectly captured concepts and insights surrounding suffering, mortality and privilege in this world to the point where this future version of Earth was so alien and yet so familiar. These comparisons being made really emphasised it, sometimes a bit too on the nose but in a young adult novel that is just fine. It was especially fascinating to see such varying perceptions of death and how it compares to a very linear perspective today – they use statistics, religion and sympathy in the Scythedom variously to determine how one in “gleaned”. In a world like that in Scythe, it really puts into perspective how much weight we put on death today in all that we do. Fascinating stuff.

Let’s talk about our main characters, Rowan and Citra. They were clearly written as Everyman characters – ones with personalities easy enough to relate to everyone while still able to be described. Like Luke Skywalker. I was fascinated at how my perceptions on them shifted over time, how I favoured Rowan over Citra initially but by the end of it I favoured Citra more. I think it was because I liked Rowan’s character more but Citra’s arc and journey better. I was glad to experience both of my favourite character experiences in one book – liking a character the moment they’re introduced and falling in love with a character by how they grow. This is what I love to read!

I also enjoyed how far this novel strays from the typical sci-fi and dystopia that brought along its popularity in the early 2010s. This isn’t about teens overthrowing an unfair system, but teens working and learning to make the system fair from the inside. At least that’s what the conclusion lead me to believe. I’m not saying I will be mad if this turns into another government overthrow narrative, because I know that Shusterman will make it work. His main focus and theme in this novel surrounds morality, but the spectrum of it instead of a right and wrong. I think that’s what makes this novel appeal to me so much. I may be cutting this review short, but I think I can summarise all the is complex and valuable in this book in such a short few paragraphs without spoilers.

And as soon as I finished reading this book, I bought the rest of the series. I am looking forward to 2022 solely from the fact that I will be reading the other two books Thunderhead and The Toll. The hype is real!

Scythe gets a score of 5/5. Nothing better explores the human condition than death.

Yours in writing



Harmonious End – A review of Sacrifice by Brigid Kemmerer

I’ve never finished a novel within a week. That’s either indicative of a short page count or a really good read, especially when my average for a really good book is two weeks.

So how did finishing Sacrifice by Brigid Kemmerer within a week fair up?

In the final installment of the Elementals series we focus on the oldest brother of the Merrick family, Michael. With the Guides seeking to exterminate his family and his allies and their presence looming ever closer, his concern of keeping everyone safe has him losing sleep. But as his entire street is set on fire by the Guides, his girlfriend Hannah is put at risk and Michael himself is suspected of arson. He must choose whether him and his loved ones should run and hide or stand up against the Guides before the entire county gets subject to a warped perspective of the greater good.

This would be the first book in the series to go outside of a high school and the formal classed “young adult” perspective, instead being classed more as an adult perspective as the audience grew up. But it was an interesting adult perspective, as the two main characters, Mike and Hannah, became adults and acting parents arguably too soon. This really highlighted and heightened the stakes when each of them had so much at risk. From the get go I was thoroughly engaged with what was present because I knew the stakes from the first word. This made for very action packed and harrowing moments. It really felt like the final book of the series as a result.

Kemmerer continues to succeed with her characters and their relationships, even without the typical narrative of finding love but instead having a preexisting relationship be explored. There is something really relatable and incredible about a story of losing everything you’ve built up, as a reality or as a threat. The inner thoughts of each characters’ POV were very insightful and engaging, especially seeing their respective struggles.

In terms of the plot, this plot was probably the best of the whole series. As mentioned before, the stakes felt so real here. I also liked how various plot points from the rest of the series were tied in to this – the arsonry from Book 2, Hunter’s family involvement from Book 3, Adam and Tyler from Book 4, and of course the grounds based in Book 1. I would have hoped that the partners of the main brothers were a bit more involved with the plot rather than some of them being supportive and this book being the big finale – especially Becca, being a Fifth herself. But I was still very pleased with how it ended and won’t complain about that.

In fact, I don’t think I have any complaints. This is rare. Other 5 star books on my site would have very minor complaints, but my only complaints as seen previously is minor squared. It is rarely that a final installment in a series would go so right. But this one did.

Sacrifice gets a score of 5/5. I couldn’t think of a better end to this series which I literally grew up through high school and university with.

Now we gotta rate the whole series! You’ll also catch my reviews of the first 2 books which I read before my blogging journey, albeit short.

Storm – 5/5, loved the characters, loved the plot. A breath of fresh fantasy air for 17 year old me.

Spark – 4/5, characters started to lack a little bit, but this plotline was something else.

Spirit – 4/5, absolutely incredible until the climax was rushed.

Secret – 3.5/5, an amazing blossoming romance that sadly wasn’t tied with the overarching plotline.

Sacrifice – 5/5, brand new and mature takes on pre existing elements to conclude the series.

If you want romance with high stakes set in a contemporary fantasy environment, this is the series for you. Kemmerer expertly portrays romances with deep connections in high risk settings across all books in this series. She understands her characters well, even greater when they have connections to their powers and how they are personified. While the plots get mixed up in places, the stakes are always very real. Even for it being a fantasy, it feel so damn real. This will definitely be one of my favourite series of all time. I cannot recommend it enough.

The Elementals series gets a score of 4/5. This one’s a keeper.

Yours in writing



With A Pinch of Salt – A review of Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

I was excited to get to this book – the final book in what I quickly assumed from book one would be one of my most favourite series of all time – the Reckoners series! With the first two books being highly rated in my eyes, I jumped into reading Calamity with hype.

But you know how they say that sequels don’t quite hit the original, especially with a third sequel? Why is it that the third one is the most frequently the worst in the series? But I don’t mean one star when it comes to this book, anyway.

With his mentor and leader having been corrupted by the sheer nature of Epics, David Charleston steps up, whether he wanted to or not, as the new leader of the Reckoners. And he’s got plans. His knowledge that the Epics’ descent into darkness isn’t permanent sends him not only on a quest to make his mentor safe again but to stop the one responsible for their corruption, Calamity. His quest takes him to Ildithia, the former Atlanta, as he tries to discover the weaknesses of the Epics around him not to kill them, but to have them face their fears to bring out the inner good inside of them.

So about that Calamity, the main antagonist… the way he was defeated, in the most spoiler free way possible, was pathetic. You know how villain monologues are frowned upon? This was the reversal. A hero monologue. That somehow defeated the main antagonist. After a high action climax for it to slow down in such a way, it was just plain BS! This was not what I came to read this series for. It made the conclusion feel absolutely hollow and feeling like there was a catch, a plot twist, a rogue’s sneak attack. But nothing came. For a series conclusion!

In spite of that, there was one character’s conclusion and character arc that really shone in this book. I didn’t really like this character too much in the first book, and she grew on me in book two. But in book three, Megan Tarash was at her best. The way her arc concluded made me thoroughly enjoy her, which I didn’t even think would be possible. She went from average to great. Books two and three really added some depth and points of interest to her which really shone in book three especially. Other characters were very nicely explored as well, even less serious characters showing some depth that previously felt hidden.

What also shone like an oily pimple was how much Sanderson didn’t understand his audience, more so how smart they were. For some reason, he withheld plans that David had made and their intentions from the audience even though the story is told from his perspective. This happened on multiple occasions where the solution to this plan we didn’t know got built up like crazy and it made for cheap plot twists. On the other hand, there were some plot points which were so obvious it was ballistic that David hadn’t noticed so either. It was almost like I was proven done when one plotpoint and plan David made went right over my head, and to forgive me Sanderson made a point that I noticed a quarter of the book earlier than the main character. And sometimes I’d forgive this, but not this time.

Still, none of that took anything away from the worldbuilding, what this series excels at. The world didn’t quite expand in the way that I expected, but it was still fascinating to see it occur in such a way. The powers, abilities and origins of the superhumans known as Epics were the focus of this worldbuilding here. I wasn’t quite a fan of how much it focussed on two Epics’ abilities more than the rest, but it was still very insightful to see how everything connected. If I wound up satisfied with anything in this book, it would be getting closure on the nature and abilities of Epics.

The same can’t be said about the narrative.

Calamity gets a score of 3.5/5. While retaining the core of the series, it leaves me wanting more in a bad way.

And what’s this? Another series done on this blog? Well I suppose I should review the whole thing now!

Steelheart5/5, an action packed start to a very unique series.

Firefight5/5, more great worldbuilding and the depth of the characters was incredible.

Calamity – 3.5/5, a conclusion that works well but is not quite satisfying.

Right from this start I knew I was in for something great with the worldbuilding and the uniqueness of it alone. I haven’t seen any piece of media quite like it with such high action and stakes. As many reviewers had previous said, it’s a blockbuster in book form. The characters were also of great interest, various ones getting their chance to shine in many different ways throughout. My only major complaint would be how it finished. I wished it was just as engaging, full of stakes and just overall exciting as the rest of the series.

The Reckoners Trilogy gets a score of 4/5. This series is a keeper.

Yours in writing



Deep Water and Deep Characters – A Review of Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

I had high expectations for Firefight. After loving its predecessor, Steelheart, I was hoping Brandon Sanderson would deliver.

He didn’t just deliver, he delivered something new. While Steelheart was a pepperoni pizza, Firefight was a vege trio pizza from Dominos. Both very exquisite pizzas, if you ask me.

After rescuing Newcago from the tyranny of the epic Steelheart, David Charleston and his fellow Reckoners have defended the city from other superhumans wanting to take over the city. They soon realise each have been sent by Regalia, the epic who runs the now flooded New York, renamed Babilar. While the leader of the Reckoners wants to go to Babilar to kill the epic, David has second thoughts. After all, the leader himself is an epic not yet corrupted by his powers. And somewhere out there resides Firefight, another epic David wishes to save from her powers. Could the Epics be saved from themselves after all?

Again, a strong aspect of this novel was the unique atmosphere of the world. If you thought Newcago had its own personality, then Babilar is something else. Even the way the world was built was very fascinating, seeing different cultures and the political standpoints of epics in this city versus the distance from the ones in Newcago. That and the way the city became rundown was amazing – an epic flooding the city so everyone has to live on skyscrapers AND vines overgrowing inside of buildings? Legendary.

The world was expanded upon well with the lore surrounding the epics too. One key aspect was studying what the core weakness of each of them was, especially when rumors were thrown around of a connection between an epic’s past and their Achilles Heel. This weakness became a key part of each epic it seemed and it was an interesting ride to analyse each of them and work out with David and the team what their weaknesses are. Granted I was often wrong, but it was still very entertaining to guess.

A significant improvement was with the characters as well. So much more depth was added to everyone that I thoroughly enjoyed. I especially enjoyed how David was developed, both with his goal of revenge gone and some fears adding so much depth to his character. He truly felt real in so many moments. Even characters I felt impartial to I wound up loving. But my favourite character has to be Mizzy, introduced in this book. She was fun, relatable and had great one liners right from the get-go. I can’t wait to see more of her in the future.

I found it wasn’t quite as engaging as when I read Steelheart up until the final quarter, but that wasn’t to demerit it. It had a lot more to think and reflect on in the novel rather than things to react to. This was mainly because David’s mentality had changed from react to reflect as well, making it a nice book to get through at an easy going pace. A distinct difference made for a different experience, allowing me to take it all in. It suited the atmosphere of Babilar too, especially being a new environment for David to be in. He had a lot more to take in than in Steelheart. So what it lacked in action it made up for in depth.

I suppose it just served as a calm before the storm that is Calamity: the final book in the Reckoners series. One I plan to tackle later this year. Can’t wait.

Firefight gets a score of 5/5. What can I say? The depth of the characters especially made this epic.

Yours in writing



The Rogue Thief and the Monk/Paladin of Vengeance – A Review of Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

My first impressions was that I was reading about a rogue and a monk/paladin. Just your typical D&D obsessed brain taking over you. I failed that wisdom save.

Let’s move onto talking about something you guys will actually understand.

Hope’s village was slain by biomancers, turned to killer wasps. She found refuge in a monastery and was trained in secret to become a Vinchen warrior. Red was orphaned at age 8, seeking a mother figure in a criminal matriarch and becoming a skilled thief of New Laven. When these two meet their fates intertwine as the rough and poor of New Laven are set to be new fodder for the cruel experiments of the biomancers.

The world was built and described really well. There was much attention put to the details of these places and each location had new life within them. What really made them feel real was the grittiness of the urban lifestyle in New Laven, reminiscent of the central city I visit on a regular basis in my own home. Just a few centuries older is all. And still it was beautiful and endearing. Anything filled with so much character always is. I live of refreshing fantasy settings, and though Hope and Red is based in a similar time period to most other fantasy stories it was still a beauty to read.

The same couldn’t be said about the actions scenes. With a rogue and a monk, you expect some great fight scenes. But these were short and barely described, to the point where they seemed unbalanced. The moments I read that there was a struggle of them mention of blood or exhaustion, I wondered where they came from. There were never hints of any details in previous paragraphs. The moves were very generalised. Having two characters whom have skills pivotal to fighting and not describing the fights themselves? Sounds like Skovron should’ve written different characters or researched a bit more into fighting.

Another thing that wasn’t quite as enjoyable was how rooted the patriarchy was in nearly every aspect of society. Female empowerment was a bit too much of an underlying thing for a lot of conflicts. “It’s bad luck to sail with a woman on board.” “A Vinchen warrior can’t be a female.” “Female Biomancers are too strong to be considered alive anymore.” The fact that nearly every organization or circle in the book had some form of resentment towards females made for a very tiring trope. I’m not saying I’m against feminism, but without unique origins that don’t mirror our own world tropes like such become tiring.

But what I enjoyed was the magic system being used, conveyed through the Biomancers. Skovron wasn’t afraid to make this magic gruesome. I also enjoyed seeing magic from a villainous perspective with the two main heroes being out of touch with magic themselves. If it weren’t for the poorly described fights, it made for the Biomancers being quite the threat.

The dynamic between Hope and Red was very enjoyable too, with the morals and the streetsmarts teaming up with their fighting prowess. Both characters shone up against each other, but not out of the whole story. The world shone a great deal more than the characters.

Hope and Red gets a score of 3.5/5. Please note that rogues and monks are combat heavy, but the world overshadows that fact.

Yours in writing



Poohrple Prose – A Review of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

Disney wasn’t my go to animation studio growing up. However, Winnie the Pooh was always a joy to watch, even today as an adult. There was so much whimsy and wholesomeness portrayed in the characters that made them very hard to dislike.

Until now.

We follow Winnie the Pooh and his friends in several short stories of their antics, from overeating and getting stuck in a front door, to tracking down Woozles and interacting with new neighbours. These include some come to life from various Disney movies as well as some ones I was not familiar with.

I’m usually all for unique styles of narration, which is evident in many of my favourite books and series. Percy Jackson, The Book Thief, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time… but while it was a nice narration style at the start, it quickly became convoluted to read. Milne was very fond of songs and poems interrupting his work, and would often make up a paragraph with one incredibly long sentence filled with purple prose. It was supposed to add character, but it just added confusion to me. And a narrative within each short story that was far from concise. It makes me wonder how a child would wrap their head around stories like that being read to them when I had trouble as an almost fully grown adult.

The characters saved the story for me. Seeing the way that these characters were written and their adorable little quirks was incredible, especially seeing how in depth some of the characters go from a single quirk. One favourite for me was Owl portraying himself as a smart person but being ashamed when he knew nothing. It was downright adorable. Rabbit was a favourite too, far more likeable and sweet than how Disney portrayed him. I wonder why they decided to make him so bratty when Pooh was far more bratty and sassy to Rabbit in the actual book.

However, some of these characters were incredibly problematic. For instance, Eeyore. Hate to go and compare books to movies, but Eeyore in Disney’s various adaptations was sad, loveable, and in need of some cuddles. I wanted to punch Eeyore in the books sometimes. A lot of the time it felt like he was using his depression just to get attention, especially with his choice of words. And Winnie the Pooh himself had similar problems too! He was self centred and at times sassy.

This could just be culture shock as I transfer from the cinematic portrayal of the bear with very little brain.

The language was absolutely better in the form of a bedtime story. Just silently reading this on the bus is NOT the ideal way to read this story. Maybe reading this to a kid, things would be a bit more amusing.

Winnie the Pooh gets a score of 3/5. I’m pretty sure I read this the wrong way; not aloud.

Yours in writing