Stealing Snow (Danielle Paige)

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Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door and Snow knows that she has to leave

She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate …

(Bloomsbury Publishing)

☆☆ stars

I started reading this book at the beginning of August. It gave me a bit of a headache, but since I’d just finished exams I thought maybe I’d wait until I was a little more rested and give it another chance.

Unfortunately, I felt exactly the same way. I wanted to finish it because I had some vague curiosity as to what might happen at the end, but there was something about the way the book was written that had me rereading sentences every couple of paragraphs. Oddly structured and meandering doesn’t quite cover it, it just made me tired trying to make sense of what was happening.

I’ll be honest and say that from the first couple of chapters my hackles were up. I’m a little sick and tired of psychiatric hospitals written up as the source of all evil. I, personally, think the beginning section might have been better suited to a juvenile detention center…there’s a lot that can be said about the poor management of kids in the US criminal justice system, whilst psychiatric hospitals are actually there to do good. Maybe as a medical student and someone who has suffered with anxiety and depression I’m a little sensitive, or maybe the ‘evil psychiatric hospital’ is a trope that just needs to die.

I’ll say that there are one or two parts of the book that I really did enjoy, but that I didn’t think were built upon enough. There is a part near the beginning where we meet Kai and Gerde and there’s a wondrous house and lots of talk of different types of magic and the world they live in. The next is the section where we meet Jagger’s Robbers and their strange mansion which is a magpie amalgamation of all the architectures of great civilization. I had a very brief and pleasurable moment where I thought we might get something a little more ‘Six of Crows’-esque, but it never happened.

I struggled to work out where this book wanted to lie. Did it want to appeal to the upper part of middle grade or did it truly want to be gritty young adult? Quite a lot of Snow’s internal dialogue felt as if it was written for a younger audience, but then we had talk of drugs and slavery and graverobbing that threw my compass off course. I suppose it shouldn’t really matter but something about this book made it matter.

My biggest qualm with this book is that nothing of the plot or ending was satisfying or made sense. It leaped around like a frog on hallucinogens, had enough possible love interests that I honestly couldn’t tell which one was which, and, worst of all in my opinion, had no sense of threat. You did not feel as if anything truly could go wrong, or if it did then you weren’t particularly concerned. I wanted to like this book, I gave it a good month to grow on me when my stomach was telling me to just stop, but it just wasn’t to be.

I honestly felt as if the book needed to be entirely reworked and reshaped. Some meandering side branches needed to be chopped, the main plotline needed to braced into a coherent arc; it was a book without a central pillar, a book where sentences and paragraphs needed to be reforged so they didn’t make my eyes feel as if they’d read two identical segments one after the other.

I didn’t even dislike the premise of the story, was hopeful for the later segment of the book, but it just didn’t work.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for a copy in return for an honest review.

Gilded Cage (Vic James)

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☆☆☆☆☆

I have a bit of a thing for dark and despicable books.

You only have to look at my favourites shelf to know that much. From the pseudo Roman, genetically-augmented Golds of Pierce Brown’s ‘Red Rising’; the sin and smoke devoured pages of Dan Vyleta’s ‘Smoke’; to the wicked and wasteful young Aristocrat of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, there is a bit of a trend. So the moment I opened the first pages of ‘Gilded Cage’ and met a moonlit night and a young woman fleeing across a dark country estate, I knew I was onto something good.


NOT ALL ARE FREE.

NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.

NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED. 

 

Our world belongs to the Equalsaristocrats with magical giftsand all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. 

 

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

 

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price? 

 

A boy dreams of revolution.

 

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution. 

 

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

 

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberateor destroy?”

 

(Del Rey)


 

If someone forced me to put my feelings for this book into two words I’d probably go with ‘contemporary Dickens’. Despite its modern setting you really do get the sense of smog and chimney sweeps. Indeed, we have children as young as ten put to work and a smug parliament filled with extortionately wealthy families all jostling for power.


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(‘Scene of Huddersfield’ by LS Lowry)


The factory towns put me in mind of LS Lowry’s landscapes, the great belching chimneys and faceless, stick figure workers. Juxtaposed with the joyless lives of the indentured worker are the cold, elegant, horrible, and yet strangely fascinating overclass of aristocrats who wield the ‘Skill’. Chapters alternate between workers surviving day by day on the factory line and the gleaming, manicured world of the ‘Equals’, toxic with nepotism, narcissism and family secrets.


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(Chatsworth House, the closest I could find to how I imagined the great House of Kyneston)


‘Gilded Cage’ has broad swathes of that wild British darkness that I’ve come to love so much. Think of the iron sharp, back stabbing society of Bronte and Thackeray, but left to grow obese and wasteful on its own power. An upperclass that has begun to take its place in society for granted, a once strong muscle that has not had to work and has grown atrophied, leaving space for dissension and discontent.

Then add onto that the glittering, scintillating imagery of the skill, the strange ‘post Revolutionary’ glass buildings that seem to show shadows of another world.

It is utterly breathtaking, I can’t really say more than that. I adored it. It has taken me a good few weeks to mull and decide what exactly I want to write because, for a while, my thoughts were meandering all over the shop. How to decide whether to focus on character, world building, environment, the political wrangling, eugh…almost impossible. I loved it all.

So my one piece of advice would be to pick up a copy as quick as you possible can. The UK Paperback edition comes out on the 26th of January 2017, but the Kindle version comes out on the 1st of December this year…I will allow you to mull over that one.

 (I received an ARC from the Author and Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review)

Down Station (Simon Morden)

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DNF @ 52% after a good old slog of an effort…

I started reading this book a while ago, and at first the premise seemed really interesting. A ragtag group of survivors flee Armageddon through a door in the London tube network to a strange new world. But very quickly it lost its magic, mostly due to just being a little bit predictable.

The new world just wasn’t that interesting…which still baffles me because how can a world filled with strange monsters be boring? Yet somehow it was. For a book that spent so much time supposedly describing the world I still didn’t really feel as if I was in it.

I wanted to like the characters mainly because I was excited to see a POC protagonist, but they felt like cardboard cutouts and were often weird cultural stereotypes (mouthy girl whose been in care, the older black woman who mothered them all…yeah).

What frustrated me most, however, was reaching 50% and there still being no real discernible plot. Why put characters in an interesting new world and inflict upon them the same boring social hierarchy that we see in everyday life?

I went and read some reviews to try and get myself back into the mindset for continuing to read it but I just felt as if I was reading a different book entirely. Sadly, there was nothing that made me want to continue other than a lingering interest in how it ended. But not even that could keep me going. It’s a pretty rare thing for me to not finish a book but it felt as if the more effort I put into trying to finish, the more I began to hate the book. 52% seems a fair attempt to get into a book and it took me a month to get there. I think, for someone who usually reads books in a couple of days, that it’s time to jump ship.

I’m giving it 2 stars because I don’t think it’s a horrific book and I thought that it was well written but that it was just very much not for more. It’s pretty rare for a book to be ‘too slow’ for me, but I think I’ve found one.

Many thanks to Gollancz and Netgalley for a copy in return for an honest review. I’m sorry that I didn’t enjoy it more!