Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: Harper
Date of Publication: July 8, 2014
Pages: 448

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing this review copy! "The Queen of the Tearling" will be on tour for the next couple of weeks; check it out here.

Two Sentence Summary: Protagonist Kelsea Glynn, daughter of the former Tearling queen, has been in hiding until her nineteenth birthday. She is then called upon to take the throne, deposing her corrupt uncle and ending the slavery imposed on her people by the neighboring Red Queen. 

Things I Think: This book is the first in what is anticipated to be a trilogy by new author Erika Johansen. There's little information to be found about Erika online, so I'm eager to learn more about her background and current work. Erika, if you're reading this, let's be San Francisco friends! :)

Most interesting about this book is the futuristic setting, which reveals itself subtly as the book progresses. The world in which we find ourselves is "Post-Crossing," alluding to a movement from society as we know it now to an attempt at Utopianism. The Post-Crossing world does not have electricity, modern medicine, or any of the technology we have come to rely on so heavily. Books are a valuable commodity, as most of them were lost when society transferred to digital copies. With horses as the main mode of transport and antiquated weaponry, the world feels very medieval, and the economic climate of the Tearling is comparably bleak. I would have loved more details around this, more attention to this setting aspect, but perhaps these additional context clues are to come in the next two books. 

Snippets of magic come into play: a powerful heirloom necklace which grants Kelsea unique powers, or the Red Queen's occult genetic experiments that keep her forever young and beautiful. And I also appreciate that this book defies the genre standards of a love triangle (or heavy-handed love element in any form) and a waify, male-dependent ingenue. Kelsea is book smart as well as politically savvy, and what she lacks in physical strength she makes up for with fierce intuition and unflagging determination. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman

Title: A Replacement Life
AuthorBoris Fishman
Date of Publication: June 3, 2014
Pages: 336

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing this review copy! "A Replacement Life" will be on tour for the next couple of weeks; check it out here.

Two Sentence Summary: Slava wants nothing more than to be a respected writer; he toils at Century magazine (New York) to earn crumbs of recognition, and as a result has distanced himself from his boisterous immigrant family. When Slava's grandmother dies, her funeral brings the family back together and Slava finds his way into a new type of writing project, one that will ultimately change his relationship to his family, to his country, and to his past. 

Things I Think: Fishman's novel reminds me of the first time I read "A Clockwork Orange." (This may be an apparently random comparison, but bear with me.) At first introduction, entry into the protagonist's world seems challenging from a readerly standpoint. But after being ensconced (for a chapter or two) in the vocabulary, the names, the rites and quirks that make up this fictional account, passage through the rest of the tale is seamless and enjoyable. 

Though I've been unable to finish the last few chapters (my digital version of the Advance Reader's Copy expired! Ah!), I'm completely enamored with the family at the center of this novel. The characters that revolve around Slava (and his "special writing project") are so colorful, so pronounced, that it's difficult to believe they are fictitious. Slava, too, is endearingly complex, and the trajectory of his belief system makes the book both gripping and personal. 

This is not a quick and easy novel, so don't plan to gobble it up on your weekend off. It's humorous, but dark, and the language is beautiful but densely packed. The read is fully worth the time investment.