A solid second book in The Raven Cycle, held back only by slow plot development

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I’ve surpassed my good reads target for 2017 and now I’m trying really hard to continue on with series I’ve started this year trying where I can to progress them and keep myself engaged before too much time passes and I lose touch with the characters and plotlines. I read The Raven Boys a few months ago and having heard really good things about the second book in the series it made sense to delve into The Dream Thieves and spend some more time with Blue and her Aglionby boys.

Book 2 is a direct continuation from The Raven Boys and picks up immediately from where we left our characters but what becomes clear about this book is that it is going to be focused on Ronan Lynch, the darkest and most dangerous of the group of Raven Boys. With the reveal at the end of The Raven Boys that Ronan was able to take things from his dreams and bring them into the real world, we were left wondering just how this would link into the story of Gansey’s search for Glendower the lost Welsh King.

To be honest this book didn’t progress Gansey’s search for Glendower by much. This book is really about Ronan exposing his secret to his friends and then exploring how it links to his past and his father’s death and coming to terms with how to use and control the power that he has. All of this is done against the ticking timebomb of people who are trying to find the mysterious Greywarren an object which is allegedly linked to the gift Ronan has.

Initially, I struggled to gel with the book, for the first few chapters I considered putting it down and coming back to it later but slowly I kept going and then bit by bit I realised I was working my way through it and actually fairly quickly. I became more engaged by Ronan’s story and actually one of the characters I probably wasn’t meant to like became my saviour, Kavinsky. Kavinsky was like a breath of fresh air. He was a little bit dangerous, lurking around on the sidelines and then suddenly he became a vital part of this book and any chapters which featured Ronan and Kavinsky shone for me. I am sure I was not meant to like him quite so much but against the lack of plot movement in this book he was a shaft of light.

I am still struggling a little with Adam’s character as the books progress, he has gone from being quite a stand up trustworthy guy to being dark and a little isolated from the other boys. His ongoing need to do everything alone and to raise himself from the circumstances of his birth is beginning to grate a little. Yes he does work towards redemption towards the end of this book but I found I didn’t enjoy reading about him as much this time around.

I am still in love with Gansey, he didn’t feature as strongly in this book as the search for Glendower took a back seat but he is still the father figure, the one watching out for everyone and I love that he and Blue are starting to draw together and any time they were together on the page was lovely. But can we just take a moment to talk about Noah, and that kiss! That was one of the really standout moments in this book for me.

I enjoyed this book but I couldn’t give it a 5 star rating because for me Ronan’s story was almost a standalone book that could have been read apart from the Glendower story. I’m hoping that book number 3 will return to the central story and will allow our characters to be more evenly featured in the narrative.

A satisfying and tear jerking end to the wonderful Infernal Devices

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3) by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This month I feel like I’ve gone on such a wonderful journey through the world of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters and her Infernal Devices Trilogy, I’ve been what I would term a transient reader for the past year and have struggled to read sometimes one book a month but somehow in May I have managed to read this entire trilogy and a few other books besides. The other books were there as fillers to stop me from reading The Infernal Devices books back to back but my desperation to return to Clare’s world meant I found myself devouring those books quickly too lest it takes me too long away from the world of Jem, Tessa and Will.

I had tried to begin The Mortal Instruments, the companion series to these books, and each time I had stalled. I just couldn’t build that picture in my mind of the world Clare was building but now I can see it as clearly as day. I feel it’s been fundamental for me to read this series, essentially the prequel to The Mortal Instruments books in order to be able to fully prepare myself to go back and delve into the modern world setting of the other books. I think I needed to have that gothic, historical setting and wonderful love stories to make me fall in love with the Shadowhunter world and to build the family background of all the characters that I will meet as I move into The Mortal Instruments.

And what a story this was, from the opening chapters it is full of a wonderful mix of adventure and suspense and emotion and love. It picks up immediately after the end of Clockwork Prince where we find that Will Herrondale’s sister Cecily has arrived at The Institute and is training now to be a Shadowhunter. We are still trying to track down the mysterious Magister and his army of clockwork automatons and to piece together how Tessa forms such an integral part of his plans. We also are still questioning how Tessa has the ability to shapeshift when both of her parents were apparently mundane’s. All of the characters we’ve come to love are there and it’s like coming home to family, you feel like part of the Institute and care about each and every single one of them. From Bridget the cook and her somewhat annoying if not insightful singing to Charlotte, head of the institute who is now pregnant with her first child.

Alongside all of the adventure of this book, the story is fundamentally about the one story we are all desperate to know the end of, the love between Jem, Will and Tessa. When we left them Tessa was engaged to marry Jem but his health is failing and unbeknown to him his best friend and parabatai Will is also in love with his fiancee. For the first time in any love triangle, I was so desperately rooting for them all. Jem and Will are so intricately a part of each other and such wonderfully written characters that you want to be able for Tessa to love them both. This book had me wrung out emotionally throughout, there were so many moments of wonderful writing where Clare would move their story forward but also take great care not to rush past the difficult emotions that were going on within. At times there is humour and light moments to lift us from the darkness and this balance is a very special thing.

We do reach a wonderful and very satisfying conclusion at the end of the book, one I certainly didn’t see coming. In fact, throughout this book, there were so many moments where Clare would so utterly surprise you with how the story changed and moved that I found myself catching my breath and in sheer joy or amazement. Those surprises you don’t see coming make this an amazing end to her wonderful Infernal Devices series. Coming away from them I feel like I’ve made a whole group of new friends, not real friends but as a book lover, I’m sure you know that feeling that the people you read about when written well leap so off the page that they feel as real to you as can be. I am still utterly enraptured by Magnus Bane, I don’t know what it is about him that makes Clare write him so vividly that each time he is on the page he totally consumes it, he is so utterly three dimensional you feel you could reach out and touch him. I want to learn so much more about how each of the families of Shadowhunters will move forward in The Mortal Instruments. I want to see how their children’s children and great grandchildren will reflect the characters of their ancestors.

These books have been such a wonderful experience to read this past month. Someone said to me recently that if you are in a reading slump maybe it’s not the reading that’s the problem but what you are reading. Never has a truer word been spoken. To break away from my usual genre’s and to enter a world unfamiliar has paid me such dividends and rejuvenated me so much that I feel more enthusiastic about reading than I have in such a long time. For that, Cassandra Clare, I thank you.

Absolutely joy and escapism in the historic Shadowhunter world

Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2) by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading is such a precious thing and it’s the ability it has to transport you to another time and place and to fully immerse you in a world that is not your own that makes it such a magical thing. For some time now I’ve struggled to find books that have absolutely engaged me fully but I’ve been very lucky recently to find books that have helped me to really rediscover the joy of reading which had been not fully there for a time. I find myself somewhat breathless with joy as I write this review for Clockwork Prince, the second book in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices Trilogy because I’ve only just finished it and so enraptured was I with it that I want to tell the world to read it, immediately if they haven’t already.

Often I will read the first book in a series and then leave it a long time before I progress to the second, and subsequent books in the set but having loved Clockwork Angel I took a break of only one book between reading that and returning to the Infernal Devices to read Clockwork Prince. Therefore the story was absolutely fresh in my mind and the characters were crystal clear. Clockwork Prince picks up immediately after the events of the first book and is a direct continuation of the story laid out in book one. We are still following the search for the mysterious Magister and trying to understand why he hates Shadowhunters so much and why he is so intent on marrying Tessa Grey.

The action moves very quickly in this book, unlike book one, Clare doesn’t waste time recapping any of the Shadowhunter history or building the characters but immediately moves the action on from the end of book one with a meeting of the Counsel of Shadowhunters and the challenge from Benedict Lightwood to Charlotte Branwell’s guardianship of the London Institute of Shadowhunters. Charlotte is given two weeks to prove her suitability for the role by finding out where Axel Mortmain, the Magister is and what his intentions are otherwise the guardianship of the Institute will be handed over to Benedict Lightwood and his sons Gideon and Gabriel. It is also agreed that his sons should provide training in combat to both Tessa and Sophie, the Institute’s servant to help them protect themselves in the future.

From this point, we follow the group of Shadowhunters we grew to know so well in Book one as they try to find out all they can about Axel Mortmain’s whereabouts before the two-week deadline expires. All of the familiar characters from Book One return along with some new faces. We learn more about why Will Herrondale pushes people away as he works with warlock Magnus Bane to try and free himself of a curse. We learn more about the complex Lightwood family and the two sons of Benedict and just why they have been sent to the institute to instruct Tessa and Sophie and why their father seems hell bent on gaining the institute.

This book is so rich with atmosphere, again we are drawn into a dark and gothic London of the late 1800’s where we are aware of dark going’s on that are hidden from the view of mundane’s as downworlders mix with the dark side of London’s alleyways. Clare paints such vivid pictures of the world she is building that we lose ourselves entirely in it. In this book, she also paints wonderful pictures of the bleakness of Yorkshire and the landscape there.

It is her character writing that truly stands out. The way she writes the wonderful triangle between Jem, Will and Tessa would take your breath away. We know that both Jem and Will love Tessa deeply and in most occasions when this happens in books we pick a team, people will post and say #Will or #Jem but honestly, she has so brilliantly written all of the characters and has given them such deep emotional range that we cannot pick. We don’t want either to win the heart of Tessa, we root for them both and feel distraught that Tessa cannot have them both. We don’t want her to break either’s hearts. Instead, we want them all to be happy.

And as for Magnus Bane, well, I am falling in love with that character, you can tell there is so much more we have yet to discover about this Warlock and his past that every time he is on the page it lights up. I want to spend chapters with him, his enigmatic personality and his history and his depth of emotion. I could literally read about him all day long.

There are so many unresolved issues at the end of this book that I am itching to read book 3, Clockwork Princess, I want to know the answers to all the loose ends now. I am going to take a break between this and book 3 but I know I’m going to be so desperate to get back to this story it will be an immediate TBR (to be read) after I have finished the book I choose to read next. I can say, even without reading book 3, that this is a world I have fallen in love with completely. I now cannot wait to read The Mortal Instruments, I am literally itching to get started in the modern Shadowhunter world. I love that Cassandra Clare has built a whole world for us to escape to and at the end of the day, whether we are an adult reader or a Young Adult reader, isn’t that really what we all want from the books we read? To escape completely for a while to a place we can leave ourselves behind and feel part of the world we go to so completely that when we return to real life we feel a little bereft?

The first of the Infernal Devices Trilogy is a wonderful, atmospheric read

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has been on my TBR (to be read) shelf for a while now along with the other two books in The Infernal Devices series, Clockwork Princess and Clockwork Prince. Written by Cassandra Clare and based in her world of Shadowhunters it is a companion to her Mortal Instruments series. The only reason I hadn’t already picked this book up is I wasn’t sure if it was ‘okay’ to read The Infernal Devices books before I’d finished The Mortal Instruments and so I’d been trying and trying to get into the second book of The Mortal Instruments when I saw a great YouTube video that reassured me it’s okay to read The Infernal Devices first and that was all the information I needed to have me delve into Clockwork Angel immediately.

I had already read City of Bones, the first in The Mortal Instruments series, and so I had a little background knowledge on Clare’s Shadowhunter world but I read it a few years ago now and my knowledge was hazy and so I went into Clockwork Angel hoping that I would be able to glean as much information as I needed to understand the narrative. Also, for me a book with a historical, in the case of this book Victorian, setting really helped me engage with the world more than the modern setting of The Mortal Instruments series. I kept thinking Penny Dreadful, the TV show, when I was reading this and imagining a similar vibe of gothic London in the 1890’s and it helped me build the atmosphere in my mind and I found that really helped.

The story begins when Tessa, a young American, travels to London after the death of her aunt to be reunited with her brother. When she gets to London she is taken prisoner by two sisters, known as the Dark Sisters who are trying to train her to use the powers that she has that allow her to physically change into another person. She is told that if she learns to use her powers she is to be married to a powerful man known as ‘The Magister’ who is currently holding her brother prisoner and that only her co-operation will guarantee her siblings freedom.

Rescued by a mysterious young boy, Will Herrondale, Tessa is introduced to the world of ‘The Shadowhunters’ a group of angelic fighters whose role it is to protect the human world from the dangers of ‘downworlders’ which consist of Vampires, Werewolves, Faires and Warlocks. While helping Tessa to try and understand the strange powers she has they begin a quest to find and rescue her brother Nate from the mysterious ‘Magister’ and deal with a new threat to The Shadowhunters that may be able to wipe them out forever.

I loved this book. It was dark and gothic and the action within the chapters was non-stop. It has a totally new collection of characters from The Mortal Instruments series except for the Warlock, Magnus Bane, whose name I recognised from reading City of Bones. Tessa is a great lead character, she begins the book with little confidence and much confusion in her abilities but by the end, she’s clearly learning to use her strange powers and has grown in maturity. There is also somewhat of a love triangle in this book between Tessa and two young Shadowhunters, Will and Jem. Will is a dark, cocky and enigmatic young man who is confident in his abilities but whose attitude splits the opinions of those around him. On the other hand, we have Jem, Will’s best friend and fellow Shadowhunter. Jem is more guarded, more thoughtful and also frailer. He is suffering from a mysterious illness that weakens him but he battles through it to ensure he is there for his friend when he needs him.

I liked the different relationships Tessa has with Jem and Will. With Will it’s almost a gentle sparring between them, a teasing relationship but he is her protector and the one she looks to when she feels unsafe. With Jem, Tessa shares more about her inner feelings, how she feels confused by the new world she’s learning about and what it means about who her parents were and her new life in London. At the end of this book things are left wide open and clearly are going to be explored in more depth as the series progresses.

I really needed to read this book in order to open a door for me into Cassandra Clare’s world. I felt much more connection to the characters in this book than I did to those in City of Bones. I came away from this book desperate to delve into Book 2 in the series, Clockwork Prince. I genuinely have not felt that same calling back to The Mortal Instruments. This doesn’t mean however that I do not intend to go back to them. I am using this series as a way to lose myself in the Shadowhunter world so much that I will then go back and reread City of Bones with a fresh perspective and then with my wider knowledge and background to the world move forward from there and after having read Clockwork Angel I’m sure I will do so with more insight and awareness than I did first time around. I am also studiously avoiding the TV series, Shadowhunters, so I do not spoil anything for the books but am saving it till I’ve finished both series.

I know I am coming to this series very late as much of the book community has already digested them and are already awaiting the second book in Clare’s new series The Dark Artifices but I am so glad that now I am finding my way into the series and cannot thank Emmabooks and her channel on YouTube enough for giving me that reassurance that it was okay to pick this up before I read The Mortal Instruments. I had recently been in a bit of a reading slump, not finding anything to really engage me but I’ve changed up my usual genre’s in the past few weeks and it’s really re-energised me and given me a boost. Rather than sticking to my normal contemporary or historical adult fiction novels I’ve found an escape in Young Adult fantasy novels into worlds that really take you away from the normal and it’s been really refreshing. Clockwork Angel has been such a joy and a book I would highly recommend if gothic adventures are your thing.

I delve into a brand new series and love it!

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been doing really well knocking out lots of series I’ve been planning on reading this year and having now completed all of the Cassandra Clare novels I was looking for an intriguing new series to pick up as we move into the second half of 2017 and I had heard such wonderful things about Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle that it didn’t take me long to delve into The Raven Boys.

This book was one I wasn’t quite sure how I would get on with, sometimes as I’m an older adult reader of Young Adult fiction I sometimes do find some novels just don’t quite grasp me due to the writing style and content but I have to be honest that The Raven Boys was a book I flew through in a few days and did enjoy very much. It’s difficult not to be intrigued when the very first thing we learn in the narrative is that one of our lead characters Blue has been told that if and when she kisses her true love he will die.

This revelation leads us to a major discovery about this book which is that the paranormal and psychic worlds will play a large part in this series as Blue has been raised in a house full of psychic women and is indeed about to take part in the St Marks’ Day ritual at her local ruined church where she and her mother go annually to see the spirits of those who will die within the next 12 months. Blue herself is unable to see the undead, instead she is an amplifier for the powers of those who can, however on the night of St Marks’ she sees the spirit of a young boy named Gansey, a pupil of the local private school Aglionby. Her aunt informs her that if she is able to see him this means one of either two things, either he is her true love or she killed him.

With this revelation under her belt it is then somewhat worrying when Gansey stumbles into her life seeking a psychic reading from her mother in order to help him find the local ley lines which will lead him to the body of a dead Welsh king who Gansey hopes to raise from the dead with the help of his friends Adam, Ronan and Noah, the members of the books title The Raven Boys.

This book is full of twists and turns, all of them based in the supernatural and the mystery surrounding the ley line in their town of Henrietta and it’s a gripping journey that you slip through without really realising how quickly the chapters are flying by. It is also helped by the sheer range of characters within and their different personalities. I loved Gansey who is seen as others as being the ultimate privelleged rich boy with his whole future ahead of him but instead he is the father figure to his friends, their rock and the one who has everyone’s backs. In return they give him unquestioning loyalty and support him in his strange search for a dead Welsh king of whom they otherwise would not have known.

I also loved the character of Adam, the obligatory scholarship kid who has struggled his whole life to attend the school which will give him the opportunity to escape his lot in a small town life and run from his abusive father who beats him badly. I found it nice that despite the author moving immediately to bring Blue and Gansey together she allows a relationship to develop between Blue and Adam which leaves us wondering just how if Blue’s true love is Gansey this will leave Adam feeling as the series moves on.

For me though one of the most intriguing characters was Ronan, the bad boy of the group, the one who is struggling to remain in school due to non attendance and bad grades who is at odds with his family. It is clear Ronan has just lost his father and is struggling to come to terms with this and it is clear that we have not fully uncovered the secrets in his story and there is going to be lots more to explore as the series progresses through the remaining 3 novels. I especially loved that Ronan, whilst often sullen and withdrawn is the one who ultimately stands up for Adam and helps him escape the abuse he is suffering at home.

All in all this novel really was hugely enjoyable, the ending did leave me with lots of questions about why characters made the decisions they did. The last sentence left me thinking if I’d just totally missed a page as it literally leaves you hanging on a sentence which is going to take lots of explaining but I’m sure is linked to the title of the second book in the series. I am definitely excited to dive into book 2, The Dream Thieves and would give this one a 4 out of 5 stars.