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Brett Michael Orr

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Review – A Million Worlds With You

Claudia Gray’s stellar Firebird series returns for the final instalment in A Million Worlds With You, and delivers everything I’d hoped for and more. 

It’s no secret that Firebird has been one of my favourite book series of all time – and with good reason. The parallel dimensions and intriguing exploration of love and fate has created a powerful narrative about our destiny and our actions.A Million Worlds had a high bar set for it as we follow Marguerite’s adventures through the multiverse and her quest to prevent the destruction of multiple dimensions at the hands of Triad and potentially psychopathic versions of herself and her parents. 

Where the first book focused on the similarities our selves share among the multiverse, and the sequel looked at the strong differences between ourselves, the final book naturally strikes the middle ground – coming to accept that every person has a good and a bad version of themselves. Heroes can have darker, twisted versions; and villains can be normal, good people. The potential for all points on that spectrum exist inside us.

Travelling through new and old worlds, we see strongly varying versions of our beloved characters, each grappling with the actions they or their other selves have made. Claudia Gray expertly wraps up the loose ties from other universes, while ramping up the tension right toward the end – and it’s a very satisfying ending, too. 

Not every dimension gets a happy ending, but the reader – like the characters – can accept this. Over the course of the trilogy, we’ve come to understand the multiverse and the ways each of the characters differ; it makes perfect sense that their endings will all be different too.

In the end, A Million Worlds is the perfect and most natural end to the trilogy – I didn’t want the series end, but at the same time, the story has been neatly finished and completely exceeded the high bar I had set for it. This is an excellent end to a perfect series.

5/5 Stars

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Review – The Malice

I absolutely loved this sequel to “The Vagrant”, which was one of my most unexpectedly loved books of all time. In The Malice, we follow Vesper, the baby from the first book all grown up, as she runs away with the living sword of Gamma, and realises she now has a burden to save the world from the Breach.

It’s less horror than the first book, filled with more comedy thanks to a new goat, and seemingly more self aware now. There are still moments when the depravity and darkness of the world presses against the reader though, and those moments serve to remind us of exactly what’s at stake and how bad the world has become. The continual conflict between Gamma’s bearers and her apathetic sibling gods is a powerful and subtly underlining aspect to this series, and it’ll be interesting to see this conflict come to a head in the next book.

With some extra backstory chapters thrown in to flesh out the history of the Breach and the Empire itself, the lore is starting to build into a more cohesive piece than the initially vague backstory of the first novel. These flashbacks also serve to throw the Empire into a different light, and really play into The Malice’s theme that not all internals are evil – and that not every righteous soldier is inherently good.

Overall I really loved The Malice, and can’t wait to see where the series goes in the third novel, The Seven, releasing April of 2017.

4 goats out of 5!

Review – Barefoot on the Wind

Thanks to Walker Books Australia for sending me a media release copy of Barefoot on the Wind.

The tale of Beauty and the Beast is an established and familiar story, stretching from its traditional roots in 1700’s France to the arguably best-known film representations by Disney.

Zoë Mariott offers a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set against a rich Japanese backdrop that weaves together the traditional story elements with rich Japanese folklore and characteristics. Mariott’s Barefoot on the Wind is not merely a reskinned fairy tale, but instead a clever and thoughtful expansion of the Beauty and the Beast tale in a new and exciting direction.

At its core, the tale is wonderfully familiar – a beast in a dark forest, possessing great strength and imprisoned by both external forces and his own mind; and a young and courageous girl who grows to know him and understand him. And yet, Barefoot is so much more — this is, fundamentally, a novel about grief and loss.

Hana’s family and village has been torn apart by a curse that lays over the Dark Wood – once a month, a person from the village is called into the Dark Woods and brutally murdered by an impossibly strong beast. Hana’s brother was taken years ago, and her father has blamed her for his death. When her father is subsequently attacked and almost killed, Hana embarks on a mission of revenge, determined to kill the beast using her impressive hunting skills.

Injured by the beast, she awakens to find herself in the company of a strong and silent companion who is, at times, seemingly unused to human contact – but he possesses a heart of gold. Naming him Itsuki – or ‘tree’, after his strength and calmness – Hana overcomes her initial distrust and begins to work with, and eventually love, her rescuer.

The greatest flaw in Barefoot on the Wind is a rather obvious one – based on such a classic fairy tale, the plot itself is rather easy to predict. There are a few small twists, but largely the plot follows the expected route, robbing the reader of any great surprises.

This is, of course, a minor complaint. Barefoot on the Wind is a wonderfully engaging read, painting a gorgeous Japanese-inspired world thick with colour and life, weaving together traditional Japanese culture and folklore with the original French fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast.

Opinion

A polished and entertaining retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with engaging characters battling grief and curses against a rich backdrop of Japanese culture and traditional folklore.

star-2-32star-2-32star-2-32star-2-32star-5-32

Review – Empire of Storms

This is a *spoiler-free* review for Empire of Storms. This review contains spoilers for previous books in the series.

The fifth book in Sarah J. Maas’ epic fantasy series was always going to be highly-anticipated and under pressure to deliver. As we reach the pointy end of Aelin’s journey to defeat the evil tyrant, the Dark Lord Erawan, and free her continent from enslavement, there are naturally dozens of plots and characters who have joined her on this epic quest – and unfortunately, Empire of Storms just can’t focus on them all at once.

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Review – Poison City

Poison City has a very prominent hook – essentially, it asks the question, What would Harry Potter look like several years (and drinks) down the road? Reading this gritty South African fantasy though, it offers far more than a potential Potter fan-fic. Instead, Poison City offers up a twisted, gripping ride that feels a Neill Blomkamp-directed version of Men-in-Black.

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Review – Maladapted

Like a science experiment, Maladapted by Richard Kurti feels like a strange creation made from various parts, familiar in some places but alien in others. The result is a somewhat confused YA sci-fi that doesn’t quite reach its own potential.

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Review – Desolation

Bring a strong stomach to Derek Landy’s latest demonic fantasy, Desolation, sequel to the surprisingly good Demon Road from last year. Blood drenches the pages (figuratively) from the very beginning, and the action doesn’t relent for the next five hundred pages – but there’s a rather human story being told beneath that devilish skin.

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Review – Six of Crows

What do you get if you combine the clever heists of Ocean’s Eleven with the multi-POV and superpowers of Zeroes? It’d look something like Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, a new series set in her existing Grisha universe – just make sure you’ve read Shadow and Bone first.

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Review – A Gathering of Shadows

There is no worse literary disease than the cursed middle-book syndrome, and unfortunately A Gathering of Shadows, sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, is a terminal patient. The second book in the Shades of Magic trilogy is five-hundred-pages of slow exposition that funnels the reader into the third book – an entertaining distraction, but nothing particularly memorable.

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