The Silvered by Tanya Huff

It’s actually been ages since I read this one (my very wonderful husband gave it to me for Christmas last year), but I recently read on Tanya Huff’s blog that she won a 2013 Aurora for this novel, and I wanted to do some online cheering. Such a fantastic novel, this one. Jennifer Lynn Barnes was the first to make me eat my words about werewolf and vampire books, and Huff has certainly added fuel to that fire. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First of all, where have I been all my life? I had no idea there was even such a thing as an Aurora! Which, by the way, is the Canadian equivalent of the Hugo award. So, hooray for discovering this because I can now search out all past winners and read them. YUM. But, back to the topic at hand:

The Silvered book review

Mirian has dropped out of the mages’ university. In spite of her incredibly high test scores, she was not excelling. Naturally, she hasn’t told her parents. Meanwhile, trouble is a-brewing in the kingdom and the Emperor is running amok, destroying important members of the mage pack because of a prophecy made by the Imperial Soothsayer. When Mirian witnesses the kidnapping of five members of the mage pack, she knows she has to help. And the prickly yet attractive Thomas, younger brother to the pack leader, is her co-conspirator in the quest to save the kidnapped.

I’ve read a few of Huff’s other books (The Wild Ways, The Fire’s Stone) and really liked them. This was by far my favourite, I have to say. I’ve been waiting anxiously to hear whether she’ll be doing a sequel….

I really believe that Huff is one of Canada’s most talented fantasy writers, and I love how she works a Canadian sense of place into many of her contemporary fantasy novels (many are set in Toronto, and parts of the Wild Ways were even set in Calgary! Imagine!).

If you haven’t read this one, do it. I mean it. Especially if you are into fantasy and werewolves.

Congrats, Tanya Huff on your Aurora!

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Trial by Fire – Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I’ve been waiting and waiting for this one while the library ordered it. Finally! I have to say, I was disappointed. The problem is that my expectations were too high, because it was a great book. It just wasn’t as great as I expected. Le sigh… no one to blame for that but me. 🙂

Trial By Fire reviewBefore I get ahead of myself… this is the second book in a series (I wrote about the first one, Raised by Wolves, in May). So it’s the continuation of Brynn’s story. As suggested by the first book’s title, Brynn is a human girl who was raised by a pack of werewolves. She’s a pretty badass heroine for a teen novel – not in an annoying, stereotypical kind of way, but in a very real way. (Well. As real as can be when you are referring to a story about werewolves.) In Trial by Fire, Brynn has become the pack leader of a collection of misfit werewolves, and struggles to keep them alive in the face of threats from neighbouring packs as well as some human threats.

Barnes is truly a gifted writer and her books always have an authenticity to them that most writers for teens struggle to achieve. Brynn is forced to let some of her independence go, to trust in and rely on the members of her pack, in order to survive and to do what’s best for the pack.

I wonder if there will be a third book in this series; if so, I’m definitely interested to see where Barnes takes the plot.

In other news, I’ve been re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series. So genius, so great. I got through the first four and I think I am now on Anne overload… either that or the books are getting worse. I’ve also been continuing my (somewhat reluctant and incredibly slow) exploration of non-fiction, so stay tuned for more on that…

Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar

You know how I feel about werewolf and vampire books, but, like many other people, I read a bit of praise about this one from Neil Gaiman so I decided to try it. After reading a few chapters, I decided that I’d like the book, and went back to read the blurb on the back cover. I was surprised to find that this is the same guy who wrote The Good Fairies of New York. I tried to read that one earlier this year and could NOT get through it. I found it really, really annoying. I tried fairly hard to stick with it, because there’s something really interesting and refreshing about Millar‘s style, and I really liked the idea. So I’m glad I picked this one up, and got to enjoy Millar’s style.

Kalix hates being a werewolf. She’s the youngest in the royal werewolf family, the most powerful werewolves in Scotland, and she hates them all: her brothers and her father especially. She has run away from home, at 17, and is drowning her sorrows in laudanum (how very Victorian of her). She wants to die, but the strong werewolf inside of her will have none of that. Many want to kill her, both werewolves and humans alike, and since she sold the magical pendant her sister gave her, she’s no longer untraceable. As the book goes on, she is drawn into the battle for the throne that is going on between her two brothers, and makes friends with some unlikely humans.

Lonely Werewolf Girl is a much longer book than what I’ve been reading lately. It’s some 520 pages and there is no messing about in it’s layout: the book starts right at the top of the third page, and there are no page breaks between chapters (all 200+ of them!). Long book,  short chapters? Interesting approach. Anyway, at first I found that while I really liked the story, Millar was quite repetitive. If he’d cut out most of his descriptions of the characters the book could have been 25 pages shorter without losing any meat of the story (we KNOW the colour of all characters’ hair. you told us the first time you introduced them, so you don’t need to tell us every time we get back to that character’s story again! Mental picture does not need to be re-established every second page). Luckily the repetition petered out by about halfway through the book (or else I was just able to tune it out?!) and I really enjoyed it. I liked the sub-plot about her sister Thrix, the werewolf fashion designer.

There’s a sequel to this one, so I’ll probably pick it up and see what happens to Kalix!

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I’ve been seeing this one (and its sequels) all over bookstores, and, after enjoying Raised by Wolves so much, I thought I’d try it. (ok ok, also I was drawn in by the cover. it’s cool.)

Unfortunately, I kinda thought ‘meh’. I didn’t really buy into the love story (though to be fair, I’m sure I would have when I was 13). Shiver is about Grace, a girl who lives in a Minnesota town where a pack of wolves (werewolves, as it turns out) frequent the nearby forest. Not surprisingly, it turns out she’s in love with one of the werewolves. Some of the fantasy elements of this book were really well done (I liked that the werewolves just looked like regular wolves,  Stiefvater’s descriptions of how wolves communicate, and what makes them change from humans to wolves), but some of them were too far-fetched and I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief (if you’ve read it, you probably know what I’m talking about – meningitis? for real?).

I did, however, enjoy that it was a quick, engaging read (like many teen fantasy novels). I notice that Stiefvater has written a few books based on faeries rather than werewolves, so I may check those out rather than continue with her Wolves of Mercy Falls series.

I’m still making my way through Anansi Boys (Gaiman) but I confess my progress is slow – it’s such a clever book but I’m having trouble because I don’t trust that I’m going to get a happy ending… and you know that’s what I’m all about these days.

I’ve just started Pegasus by Robin McKinley, and I like it already. (It seems more likely to produce the desired happy ending.)

I’m also waiting patiently (ha), along with all the teenage girls I’m sure, for a book that is supposed to be released this month:  Trial By Fire, the sequel to Raised by Wolves (Jennifer Lynn Barnes) which is apparently going to be out June 14. I may have to actually purchase this, as I don’t think I’ll be able to wait for the library to get it.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes – x3

I just finished reading my third book by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: Raised by Wolves. I LOOOOVEDD it. This, coming from someone who thinks the whole vampire/werewolves theme right now is ridiculous.

So, here’s the sitch. Our girl Bryn is a human that was raised in a pack of werewolves. When she was four, her parents were killed by a werewolf. Now she is fifteen and finds out that her pack has a human boy who was bit by a werewolf and survived (and is thus now a werewolf himself). Despite objections by the pack leader, Callum, Bryn knows she has to see the boy, Chase. She knows it will answer questions about her own past. Like all of Barnes’ heroines, Bryn is smart, sassy, and strong-minded (love that alliteration).

I can’t tell you how surprised I was to LOVE a werewolf book, but such is the power of Barnes’ writing and characters. I will admit that when I first read the title, I thought it would be a book about a girl who was raised by *actual* wolves, and that plot idea was much more compelling to me (but probably not to most of the intended readers, and likely much harder to write convincingly about). But Bryn is totally kickass: she only plays by the rules when she has to, and she’s gonna get what she wants no matter what it takes. As I think I’ve said before, Barnes creates her worlds so effortlessly that you can’t help but believe in them right away.

So, of course, immediately after I finished the book, I had to go online and find out when the next one would come out: lucky me, Summer 2011! I only have a few months to wait.

Before I read Raised by Wolves, I had just finished Tattoo. This is the first book in the series about Bailey and her four friends, Delia (fashion, boys); Zo (brawn), and Annabelle (brains). I read the second book in the series, Fate, first. This one’s about faeries, kinda, and the three fates (life, death, birth). As it turns out, two of the fates have fallen in love and the third one feels left out, so she decides to take that out on the mortal world. It’s up to Bailey and her friends to stop the third fate from wreaking havoc. Luckily, they get some temporary tattoos that give them each a special kick. For such a short book, I found it amazing how alive the characters felt.

I can’t recommend these books enough – they are quick reads with happy endings (which you know I am all about these days) and they all have sassy female main characters. What more does a girl want in a book?