Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Ink Ink
by Amanda Sun

ISBN-13: 9-780373-210718
Publication: June 2013 from Harlequin Teen
Source: BEA 2013
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

When orphan Katie Green goes to live in Japan with an aunt she barely knows, she must learn to embrace a foreign world that will open her eyes forever to the unimaginable. Katie can’t deny her attraction to the aloof Tomohiro, but there’s something unnerving about him. Ink reacts strangely around him. Drawings seem to come to life in dangerous ways.

Somehow Tomo is connected to the kami, ancient beings who once ruled Japan as gods, and being close to Katie is making his powers spiral dangerously out of control. Hunted by the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, and an even darker underworld, Katie and Tomo must find a way to control the ink before their relationship unleashes a power that will shake the very foundations of Japan – and the entire world.

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I had so much fun reading Amanda Sun’s debut novel Ink. Set in Japan, Ink follows Katie as she meets and falls for Yuu Tomohiro, finds out kami (gods) are real, and that she has more to do with everything than she thinks.

There are so many aspects of Ink that worked for me. I’m going to break it down and talk about a few reasons why. First, characters. I loved Katie. She’s very smart, determined and capable of looking after herself (with a bit of help sometimes, but everyone needs help sometimes). Katie is incredibly curious, a little awkward, sad (understandable, considering the reason she is living with her aunt in Japan is because her mother passed away) and even a little lonely. Throw in Tomohiro who is mysterious, protective, artistic and caring with a dash of angry loner boy thrown in and there is some awesome scenes and interactions between the two. The pacing of the book works very well with a mix of quieter moments and action packed, breath-catching ones. There are some secondary characters that throw quite a wrench in things, and really help flesh out the mystery and mythology of the story.

Which leads me into the love I have for the setting and mythology of Ink. I’ve always had a fascination with Japanese history and culture (it’s the history major in me, that I love old cultures, I swear) and I feel that Ink delivered a descriptive and engaging, though brief, glimpse into Japanese society. Amanda Sun herself lived in Japan for a time, so I felt comfortable trusting the picture she is showing us. Language is used wonderfully, and there is a glossary in the back for the Japanese words and terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader. The mythology that Amanda Sun created around the kami is very well developed and intricate – and though I’m still a little confused where some of the ink that is a sign of the kami comes from, I still quite enjoyed it!

4.5 heart

Ink by Amanda Sun is a slow-burn romance that winds its way through Yakuza thugs, gods in human flesh, high school, mysterious pasts, secret societies and family. There is a wider threat to Tomo and Katie that comes because of Tomohiro’s connection to the kami, and this first book only touches the tip of it. The out of control powers and the interest from the Yakuza are only the beginning. I am very excited to see where the sequel takes Katie, Tomohiro and the others involved. Should be an interesting ride!

ARC received at BEA through an author signing at the Harlequin booth.

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Review: The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

The Lost Prince
by Julie Kagawa

ISBN-13: 9-780373-210572
Publication: October 2012 from Harlequin Teen
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them. That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs — including his reputation — begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world — the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa starts another series in The Iron Fey world, this time focusing on Meghan Chase’s little brother Ethan – who’s not so little anymore. Growing up being able to see the Fey, Ethan has become adept at avoiding their own unique brand of trickery, but not without some hiccups along the way. Quite a few schools later, and Ethan is sullen, broody and anti-social (with very good reason). This newest school will prove interesting, though.

I really liked that we get to see the Fey from Ethan’s point of view. He knows them as trickster, problems and more than a little mean and vicious. He’ll do anything to avoid the Fey and the Nevernever. That all comes crashing down with the intrusion of a half-breed Phouka, a girl named Kenzie and a new Fey that seems to be wrecking terror on any fey found in the mortal realm – exiles and half-breeds alike. Ethan gets dragged into the conflict against his will, and we get a story full of action, intrigue and lots of familiar faces! It’s so nice to see Ethan fleshed out and given more character. Yes, he’s broody, but he’s also loyal, smart, strong and determined. Ethan’s got a good head on his shoulders and he uses it. Also his kick-ass fighting moves.

Grimalkin is everywhere, and it was great to see Meghan and Ash from a different point of view. While in the land of Iron there are some new faces, particularly that of Keirran. Very mysterious, and you know he plays into things somehow. And how cool is it that Ethan has more to do with the Fey than he’d want – prince? Definitely! He can’t avoid Meghan forever, but he tries his hardest. There are some beautiful scenes in the book, especially the fairy rings in Ireland – amazing description, very vivid. Emotions flow through Kagawa’s writing and she can spin a mystery extremely well.

While The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa is a whole new chapter in The Iron Fey, it develops seamlessly from the first series featuring Meghan. With a fast-paced, interesting plot, well-developed characters, a good beginning mystery and wonderful writing, The Lost Prince is an excellent addition to The Iron Fey series and a definite must read for any fan!

e-ARC received from Harlequin Teen and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules
by Julie Kagawa

ISBN-13: 9-780373-210510
Publication: April 2012 from Harlequin Teen
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

First and foremost, thank you Julie Kagawa for the vampires in The Immortal Rules. She has put her own twist on the vampire legends while still keeping them fairly traditional – no sunlight, the hunger for blood, fast and strong. Just the way I like my vamps.

Allison lives in a post-plague world, where the vampires have risen up to rule over walled cities and outside the walls the world is mostly a ruin. As an un-marked human, Allison lives on the outskirts of her city, struggling to eat and survive – until one night, she doesn’t. Needing to make a choice between death or becoming a vampire, Allison chooses to live (or un-live, I guess). This decision leads to more changes in her life than just becoming a vampire. Allison leaves her city and is swept up into a search for Eden and family problems she didn’t know she had.

Allison is awesome. She’s strong in so many ways, and yet still impulsive and petulant like any teenager. She doesn’t always make the right decisions, but she works to correct it and better herself. Allison knows she’s technically a monster, but tries so hard to still seem human and even find a balance between who she was, and who she is. She knows humans are food to her now, but it doesn’t stop her from falling for Zeke, a human in the group she comes across once outside the wall. Honestly, I don’t blame her for falling for Zeke. He’s kind, a natural leader and always tries to do the best for the group. He’s got a bit of a problem with following the groups leader, Jeb, a bit blindly, but he manages to overcome some of that. And as we find out more about Jeb and his mission to find Eden, and how he’s raised Zeke, I don’t blame Zeke for wearing blinders sometimes. And I can’t not mention Kanin, Allison’s maker. So studious, full of a need to repent and he cares for Allison in his own brash and tough kind of way. He’s very aloof, but decent.

There’s a religious background to Zeke’s group that I found was very well managed. It’s a part of the plot without being overpowering for those readers who are not particularly religious (like myself), but is present enough so that we can understand the impact that religion holds for Jeb, Zeke and the group searching for Eden. Julie Kagawa’s writing in The Immortal Rules is very gritty, and she holds nothing back. Death, gangs, gladiator-style games, the ruin that the plague has left on the world…it is all present and accounted for and not sugar-coated. The voice in which this story is told is wonderful, and is bolstered by the worldbuilding and mythology that went into the story. It’s easy to see yourself with Allison in her world, and it’s kind of depressing, though always with that edge of hope I so love to see in post-apocalyptic and dystopian books.

Despite the grit, suspense and intensity of The Immortal Rules there are moments of pure awesome that liven up the atmosphere. There’s a small poke at the myth of vampires being able to turn into bats, Allison wonders why she’ll ever need long division (even in a vampire led post-apocalyptic world math is still an annoyance), and there’s a great moment where Kanin makes a comment about a lumberjack and Allison just replies “I don’t know what a lumberjack is.” (Page 138, ARC) You’ll find the whole range of emotion and tension in The Immortal Rules and if you’re anything like me, it will keep you up reading all night because you just have to know what comes next – and that never ends, so you end up reading right through the book. Also guys, for a bit of the beginning I thought I was getting not just vampires but zombies, too. And that would have been all kinds of amazing. But no! Not quite. It’s even more awesome, and I’m not going to say anything more because it will ruin it, but ah. So good. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa is definitely a must-read for any vampire or paranormal fans.

e-ARC received from Harlequin Teen through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Daughter
by Julie Kagawa

ISBN-13: 9-780373-210138
Publication: August 2010 from Harlequin Teen
Series: Book 2 in The Iron Fey
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it

Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey — ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.

Worse, Meghan’s own fey powers have been cut off. She’s stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can’t help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.

SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1 – THE IRON KING

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa is the second book in The Iron Fey series. In good sequel format, The Iron Daughter throws you right into the action where book one left off and takes you on a crazy ride through the Nevernever that results in Meghan, Ash and Puck confronting foes they thought gone and the courts of Summer and Winter.

I’m kind of in love with Julie Kagawa’s writing guys. It takes nothing at all to lose myself in her books and just completely forget where I am, what I was doing and how much book I have left. It had been a while since I read The Iron King before I read this one (umm, 2 years, holy crap) but I could still remember everything clearly and still felt connected to the characters. Puck is still a funloving, rambunctious, sometimes slightly annoying goofball that will do anything for Meghan and Ash is still broody, takes Meghan’s breath away and annoying in his own way. This second book in the series shows Meghan leaving her capture in the Winter court to follow the Scepter of the Seasons that has been stolen from the courts by Iron fey. We are introduced to the Between where Leanansidhe rules as Queen over the exiled faery and provides some valuable help to Meghan while managing to still be mysterious and horde her secrets.

Ironhorse is also back, but as a friend to Meghan which is definitely leading to some huge revelation. I love all the hints that are dropped throughout the course of the book that you just know are going to lead to something but not when and what. The battle scenes are amazing, both the one between Summer and Winter, and Meghan’s battle against the Iron fey that stole the Scepter. Even though times are tough, Meghan still manages to luck out in finding people that can help her which is kind of convenient and I’m still not sure if I like Grim or not – he seems to have an agenda, and I’m hoping he’s not just a big dues ex machina that just helps to move the plot along (I’m thinking no, since that would be odd in fitting with Julie Kagawa’s storytelling).

Meghan goes through all this crap for Faery and she still gets the short end of the stick in the end. There is some great building to Meghan and Ash’s romance that just adds an extra depth to the plot and pace of the story, and The Iron Daughter brings out a lot of development in the characters. I’m excited to see where it’s all going in the third book!

Winter’s Passage by Julie Kagawa

Winter’s Passage
by Julie Kagawa
ISBN-13: 9-781426-858321
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥

Meghan Chase used to be an ordinary girl…until she discovered that she is really a faery princess. After escaping from the clutches of the deadly Iron fey, Meghan must follow through on her promise to return to the equally dangerous Winter Court with her forbidden love, Prince Ash. But first, Meghan has one request: that they visit Puck-Meghan’s best friend and servant of her father, King Oberon-who was gravely injured defending Meghan from the Iron Fey.

Yet Meghan and Ash’s detour does not go unnoticed. They have caught the attention of an ancient, powerful hunter-a foe that even Ash may not be able to defeat….

Winter’s Passage is a free novella (until July 31) that takes place between Julie Kagawa’s books The Iron King and the upcoming release The Iron Daughter (August 1, 2010). For downloading, see Enter The Faery World, or NetGalley. The novella follows Meghan’s and Ash’s journey from her house at the end of The Iron King to Winter, and Queen Mab. Their journey is not easy, though. Aside from the regular dangers to Meghan from the Unseelie court, something new is hunting. Something old and dangerous.

I really enjoyed this look into what happens between book one and two of the Iron Fey series. We get to see how Puck is making out, Grimalkin makes an appearance and we get some more romance between Ash and Meghan, albeit reluctant romance. The novella helped me remember – in the wait period between books – what I loved about Julie Kagawa’s writing style, and that I’m invested in these characters. What I liked most was that we got to see another glimpse into faery, and some of the creatures that live there. Meghan and Ash are being hunted by an old, dangerous faery that always catches is prey. We get a look into some of the politics of the Nevernever, and maybe even a bit of foreshadowing.

If you liked The Iron King and are (im)patiently waiting for The Iron Daughter, Winter’s Passage is a great tidbit to keep you tied over and really just helps flesh out the storyline.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

The Iron King
by Julie Kagawa
ISBN-13: 9-780373-210084
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny – one she could never have imagined…

Something has always felt off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friends becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth – that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

 

Julie Kagawa’s debut book, The Iron King, was wickedly fun. It has action, adventure, good-looking faeries, romance, intrigue, danger and oh yea, Shakespeare references! Who doesn’t love a good Shakespeare reference?

When Meghan was six, she saw her father disappear. Nothing has ever been quite right since then. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, Meghan is beginning to see some pretty crazy things – black imps that possess a computer, a black rider silently watching her, her best friend Robbie being over-protective and her four year old brother? Well, he seems to have gone a little evil. On a mission to save him, she discovers long-kept secrets about herself and ventures into the Nevernever, the land of faeries. Along the way she finds some unexpected help, and some situations that she could never have prepared herself for. She even finds a little bit of love.

Julie Kagawa’s writing was smooth and flowing and I was able to fall into Meghan’s voice completely. She has such a strong sense of personality. I even felt able to connect with the secondary characters in the book, which is often hard for me. I was a little disappointed in the romance of the book, I felt it happened a little too fast. I suppose that can be attributed to the fact they’re faeries, but still. I really enjoyed the adventure aspect of the novel; the action was quick and full, with the just the right amount of tension, fear, sadness and adrenaline rush. Likewise, I was very impressed with the world-building. Julie took well-known mythology about faeries and made it her own. Although the first book in a planned series, the ending did not leave on a crazy cliffhanger. We had sufficient resolution to the plot, with a few loose threads that can be picked up in the next book.

The Iron King was a great debut novel, and I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series.

The Iron King is part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge.