Bookish Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published: April 2017 by Walker Books UK

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life. 

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Review: I actually finished The Hate U Give a couple of weeks ago but I’ve been stalling on writing a review because I was worried about doing this stunning book justice. The hype has been strong with this one and whilst THUG isn’t actually out in the UK yet, I came across it whilst on holiday in Singapore earlier this month (so technically I few halfway around the world to get my hands on it – dedication!) proceeded to grab it and devour it in a day or two. Also fair warning, this review is a bit of a long love letter…

Let’s start with the characters because that is easily one of my favourite things about this book. The protagonist, Starr Carter has one of the most compelling voices I’ve come across in YA fiction. There are points where she is speaking directly to us, the reader, and seriously it’s difficult to remember that she is a fictional character. Her personality is so colourful and she is searingly honest about how her life is divided in two: the Garden Heights Starr and the Williamson Starr but at the same time naive about what she is sacrificing by having it so. In this way, Starr is brilliantly realistic – she is hyper aware of reality but at the same time just wants to fit in and initially doesn’t want to rock the boat. I loved reading about her relationships with her friends and family, the conflict of feelings she experiences when she becomes witness to the worst crime, and also how she bravely finds her voice. 

Being two different people is so exhausting. I’ve taught myself to speak with two different voices and only say certain things around certain people. I’ve mastered it.

And Starr isn’t the only standout character. Every other character felt fully formed – not one of them felt like they were trotted on to depict ‘Label X’ and then shown the exit never to be seen again. Instead, all of the secondary characters were given backgrounds, page time, interaction with the protagonist and most importantly, an original voice. Khalil is a good example – his death is what sets off the chain of events that make up the plot. I wouldn’t be surprised if this character wasn’t fully formed, I mean it happens often enough in books. But not THUG, no siree.. Even though Khalil is ‘on screen’ for a couple of chapters, his presence is felt throughout the book and Thomas makes you care about him and want justice for him which contextualises Starr’s response to her experience.

The drug dealer. That’s how they see him. It doesn’t matter that he’s suspected of doing it. “Drug dealer” is louder than “suspected” will ever be.

The same goes for the other characters. They were all distinct and real – and honestly I would be happy to read a book where Kenya is the protagonist, or Maya, DeVante, Khalil, or even freaking Uncle Carlos. Because Thomas writes in such a way that makes you care – you want to know these characters intimately, you want to know their history, how they got to where they are. A shout out here to the portrayal of Starr’s parents. I’ve often complained about absent parent syndrome in YA but this is most certainly not the case in THUG – not only are the parents present but they are parenting hard. I really liked how realistic Mr and Ms Carter were, the latter’s past was always acknowledged but never glorified, and their own difficulties were also made clear; they might be parents but they are also people.

That’s the hate they’re giving to us, baby, a system designed against us. That Thug Life.

I also want to mention the setting. The contrast between Garden Heights and Williamson was stark but not overdone – everything about Thomas’ writing is very much show not tell. The deprivation of Garden Heights was clear but the sense of community in spite of this was palpable to me. It felt like a real neighbourhood, one with the entire spectrum from young to old, ordinary to eccentric. I loved how Thomas showed us the best, like when the community band together in times of need, as well as the worst, like the gangs and turf wars that tear it apart.

This is bigger than me and Khalil though. This is about Us, with a capital U; everybody who looks like us…

The crowning glory of The Hate U Give though is the subject of the novel – a shooting of black boy by a white policeman, something that is sadly all to common these days. Thomas deals with the topic so deftly, she puts the big questions to us, specifically, ‘just because a person isn’t a saint, is that enough to condemn him to death?’ Thomas takes the narrative beyond the usual black and white and lays out the grey for us. At no point does THUG shy away from the big issues it grapples with whether it’s police shootings, casual and institutionalised racism, social deprivation and crime etc.

That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us.

In short, The Hate U Give taught me A LOT. It’s difficult to overstate how much of a landmark this book is – both in the publishing world but also, personally to me as a person of colour. I became very conscious of the fact that I’ve ‘experienced’ casual racism, and how it’s important to confront it rather than excuse it for the sake of keeping things cordial because this only serves to normalise such behaviour. In case it’s not obvious, I ADORED this book and think it should be made into a required text! This is one of those times that the book not only deserves the hype but surpasses it. And if you needed further convincing, I’ve already got both my sisters to read it with very positive results! The Hate U Give is out on 6 April but I recommend having it on pre-order 😉

Have you read The Hate U Give already? Or have it on pre-order – if so what about THUG are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!!

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Bookish Event: Caraval & Wing Jones Signing

Yesterday was the Dark Societies event at Waterstones Piccadilly with the wonderful Stephanie Garber and Katherine Webber. It was a sold-out event so I wanted to do a recap for those that couldn’t make it.

Steph was on the UK leg of her Caraval tour whilst Kate was promoting Wing Jones. I’d been lucky enough to have met Kate at her Female Heroines event a few weeks back but this was my first time meeting Steph, plus I’d actually finished Caraval a few days beforehand and adored it, so I was super-duper excited. 

We started the event with Steph announcing that she’d made a few handmade bookmarks for fans. She asked if it was anyone’s birthday recently or upcoming and I timidly put my hand up (on the 28th ya’ll!) and STEPHANIE GARBER ACTUALLY GAVE ME ONE OF HER HANDMADE BOOKMARKS! I still can’t believe I have it – look how gorgeous it is! Easily the best early birthday present ever.

Right, now onto the actual event and questions. I’ll stick to summarising a few of the questions, but we seriously got through a huge amount courtesy of the lovely Leila of the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club chairing.

1. Leila started by asking what the inspiration behind Caraval and Wing Jones was. 

Steph started out saying she’d read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and there was a particular scene where the characters and motivations are ambiguous – it was difficult to tell who was telling the truth or lying, and what was real and what wasn’t. This actually was the birth of Caraval, as a game! She also explained that she loves Baz Luhrman movies and she remembers watching the party and fireworks scene in The Great Gatsby which inspired the setting and atmosphere that Stephanie wanted Caraval to have.

Kate spoke about running track and country in high school and this inspired her to write specifically about a female runner. Wing’s character came fully formed and the dual heritage aspect was something that Kate knew she wanted to explore. The sibling relationship was important in Wing Jones and Kate mentioned this was inspired by her own experiences with her siblings, whilst the multi-generational family that Wing has was also based on the close relationships she had with her grandparents – she’s glad Granny Dee and LaoLao have gone down so well with readers!

2. One of the questions was about magic in both books and how they dealt with it. 

Kate said that the first drafts of the book had magic in them, but that she decided in later drafts to remove this aspect. Instead, the final draft was rooted in reality but had hints of fantasy through the magical realism that Kate decided on. She liked that it was more subtle and left the book open to readers’ interpretations.

Stephanie said that for Caraval she wanted to go with something that was easy to slip into – a “non-indexed fantasy” if you like. In the book, she treats magic like religion, some people believe in it, others are raised believing it, whilst others still see its existence in things that happen. She didn’t want there to be any hard or fast rules and wanted to show magic as something elusive and unconfirmed. 

3. With both Stephanie and Kate being debut authors, one of the questions was on their journey to being published. 

Stephanie answered this in a really raw, honest and quite emotional way – I think the whole audience was hanging onto her words. She relayed her story from the 100-200 queries she’d sent out for other manuscripts and attended conferences with no luck to the point that people close to her were suggesting she call off her attempts at becoming a writer. However, she knew she could do better and decided Caraval would be her last shot – she got eight agent offers and it kind of blew up from there!

Kate spoke about also having written multiple other works before Wing Jones (including the tree people one we’ve all heard about and are dying to read!) She said she had a great experience working with sensitivity readers for her dual heritage protagonist and she did it because she wanted to write responsibly – she was more worried about writing something harmful than being criticised for writing a dual-heritage character. Kate also praised the YA book community for being so supportive and said she was glad Wing debuted in the UK first (yay us!)

4. Leila mentioned that Wing Jones deals with tragedy and asked what motivated them to write their books. 

Kate said she wanted to write about what happens when someone you love unconditionally does something very wrong. She spoke about losing friends to drink driving and having friends who drove under the influence whilst growing up and she wanted to explore how a community responds to a tragedy where blame is apportioned. Ultimately, though Wing Jones is about a teen girl finding her own strength.

Stephanie said she wanted to tackle the same strength issues through Scarlett in Caraval. Growing up, she struggled with fear – she explained there were parallels between herself and Scarlett in that it was her dream to be an author like Scarlett’s dream was to go to Caraval, but once the opportunity presented itself, fear kicked in. So she wanted to write about an unconventional female protagonist – although she loves badass heroines she wanted to validate the fear and timidness she and others feel at a young age. 

5. One of the last questions was about deleted scenes and if there were any they were really fond of. 

Kate mentioned she’d written a 6000 word kissing scene that although she loved writing had to be edited down a lot… especially as this was for NaNoWriMo and the scene made up more than 10% of her book! She also said she really likes metaphors and keeps them on standby as fallback options.

Stephanie said Caraval was quite short for a completed manuscript and she actually ended up adding more detail rather than cutting down. But she did say the clock scene in Caraval came about after her editor insisted the original setting of a cabin and Scarlett and Julian looking for clothes whilst half-naked was boring!

6. Final question was: Dante or Julian?

Kate was quick to say she was Julian all the way, whilst Stephanie controversially chose Legend – he is her favourite character even though she doesn’t trust him one bit!  

Have you read Wing Jones or Caraval? Any recs to fill the WJ and Caraval shaped void in my life?? Let me know in the comments below!

Top Ten Tuesday: Galentine’s & Valentine’s Day Picks

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/ hosted by the brilliant ladies at The Broke and the Bookish with the idea of putting together bookish listicles according to the week’s theme. Today’s theme is obviously Valentine’s Day related: All About Romance Tropes/Types. However, I’ve decided to mix it up a little with my own take on this theme!

As some of you may know, whilst today is Valentine’s Day, February 13th was Galentine’s Day!! Galentine’s Day was introduced in Parks and Recreation (if you haven’t watched it, get on it now – it is hilarious!) by the brilliant character Leslie Knope. She describes it as “only the best day of the year” and rightly so, because this is a day for us ladies to celebrate our amazing female friends. 

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So to celebrate both, I’ve decided to split my Top Ten into Top Five Books With The Best Female Friendships in celebration of Galentine’s Day and Top Five Romance Books on my TBR List for Valentine’s Day. Without further ado then…

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Top Five Books With The Best Female Friendships

1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas – Feyre, Amren and Morrigan are basically squad goals. 🙂 I love how fiercely loyal and supportive they are of each other. I adore how they have really distinct personalities and are really strong characters but at the same time can be really girly with each other – especially Mor and Feyre. 

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Cath and Regan are the ultimate roomies! One of my favourite things about their friendship is how Regan gets that Cath isn’t as confident as her but whilst she encourages Cath out of her shell she never pushes too hard or too far. Exactly the definition of a great friend!

3. The Lunar Chronicles by Melissa Meyer – again the ladies in this series are the definition of squad goals! I love that they’re all totally different personalities and ages but still really close friends. Plus they have each other’s back through thick and thin, even when they’re planets apart…

4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Nina and Inej are my spirit animals. I adore how they understand each other without words, and get each other’s fears and aspirations – all the deep stuff – whilst at the same time encourage each other to eat to their heart’s content (well eat to Nina’s heart’s content) and laugh about it. Eating + Friends = perfection.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – this one is slightly different as it’s more the bond between sisters which is so hard to find in YA. This classic has it all though, and from the first time I read it, it rang so true because I can see me and my sisters in the Bennets. Lizzie and Jane are so supportive of each other and Lizzie is so fiercely protective of Jane that I can’t but help feel an affinity towards her!

Top Five Romance Books on my TBR List

6. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – I recently read Everything, Everything and thought it was an amazingly original story. I’m looking forward to reading Yoon’s latest book, and if Everything, Everything was anything to go on, I’m expecting an equally amazing romance!

7. Vendetta by Catherine Doyle – I went to an event recently with Catherine Doyle on the panel, and honestly cannot tell you why I’ve not read this book already. It’s Romeo and Juliet but with a mafia twist – what more could you possibly ask for?! 

8. Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt – I’m sooo looking forward to reading this because I’ve never seen conventions be the setting for a YA book. I’m saving it until YALC (my first YALC – I know, shameful) because I want to get the full experience when I finally read this!

9. Dusk by Eve Edwards – This has been wholeheartedly recommended to me by time and time again my little sister as a timeless romance. I’ve not read very many war books, so I think a romance might be the way to ease me into the genre, especially if it comes as highly recommended as this one!

10. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson – Morgan Matson is something of YA contemporary romance royalty and her books always sound so intriguing and genuine. I’ve heard great things about Second Chance Summer so I’m trying to get around to some of her newer books!

Which YA books are in your top five for female friendships? What romance books are in your TBR pile? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love recommendations!

Bookish Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Published: March 2016 by Andersen Press Ltd.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia.  But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending – one that will rock his life to the core.

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Review: This was another book club read, (so far all two of my 2017 reads have been book club ones…) and again another one I would never have picked myself. The blurb is an odd one and the title didn’t give anything away either so I wasn’t hugely interested going into this book and had no idea what to expect. 

One of the things that came of the book club discussion was that the pacing was a little off. The first 2/3 of the book didn’t have any discernible plot and we essentially just followed the characters as they went about their lives with little variation. It is the last third of the book that the pace picks up and the writing and character development gets really interesting. We all agreed that it would’ve been much better had the book started with the climax because what follows was infinitely more fascinating.

And most of all, there was the crushing weight of destiny. The ossifying conviction that he was living out some ancient and preordained plan… Something horrible and inevitable.

The setting is rather unique and I think it was this aspect of the book that kept me turning the pages. There are quite a few Americans in my book group and it was interesting to hear that in their opinion Zentner’s portrayal of the ‘rural’ American Deep South was quite accurate. He deftly handles the spectrum of religion and political attitudes in a way that makes racism and class disparity not the focal point – instead they’re in the background, quietly influencing the way characters behave. I thought this was such a brilliant and subtle way to highlight issues without making the book and characters the sum of their views or into caricatures.

He didn’t think Lydia would understand because her family was so awesome. And he didn’t think Dill would understand because his family was so awful.

Moving onto the characters, I must admit that I didn’t really connect to Dill or Lydia, even though I could sympathise with some of their dilemmas. I was totally cheering on Lydia when Dill was accusing her of deserting him – even though you can understand where his fear is coming from, there is no justification for him to take it out on Lydia. But on the other hand, I found Lydia rather naive when it came to her rose-tinted view of her new life in the big city which irked me somewhat. Travis on the other hand did make an impression on me. He was quietly optimistic at the bleakest of times and found happiness in the simplest of things like books and being a fanboy online – I guess I could relate!

They’re amazing. I forget about everything I’m not good at and everyone I’m not when I read them. They make me feel brave.

One of the things that struck me about The Serpent King was the all-pervasive bleakness. This is not an airy fairy read by any means and I wasn’t expecting sunshine and unicorns, but at points the grim reality that some of these characters exist in was pretty overwhelming. The Serpent King to me was about the resilience of the human spirit after it’s been through hell and, even though Dill’s experience is on the more extreme end of the scale, I saw it as a great message to keep going even when it feels totally fruitless. 

Times are simpler when no one hates you because of your name and it doesn’t occur to you to be ashamed of it.

On a lighter note, I’m going to acknowledge something which I think is wholly underrepresented in YA: responsible and present parenting. Lydia’s relationship with her parents, especially her father, was beautifully portrayed. He was her advocate and supporter, giving her the best in life, whilst also taking pains to make her aware of her privilege in comparison to her friends. I for one would like to see more healthy parent-child relationships in YA – especially ones that are feel genuine like Zentner has written. 

You’re destined for great things, Lydia. That comes at a price. Everybody wants to be close to greatness and get a piece for themselves… You have two friends right now who may not be glamorous, but they love you for you.

The Serpent King was an interesting read but not for the plot itself. Instead, I found its merits lay elsewhere like in the authentic setting Zentner has created and some of the characters and relationships he has written. A good read if you’re after something that is a little different to the conventional YA novel. 

Have you read The Serpent King? Or do have any recommendations in a similar setting or dealing with similar issues? Let me know in the comments below!!

Teaser Tuesday (#1)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading, with the idea of sharing two “teaser” sentences from the book you’re currently reading! It’s a great way to find out what’s being read around the blogosphere and find some gems to add to your TBR list (not that most of us need help on that front…!)

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Publication Date: 31 January 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton (UK) 

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Series: Caraval (Book #1)

Scarlett always saw flashes of colour attached to her strongest emotions, and for an instant goldenrod desire lit up inside her. Briefly, Scarlett let herself imagine what it would be like to go to Legend’s private isle, to play the game and win the wish. 

What are you reading at the moment? Drop me a comment below and share your teaser! 🙂

ARC Review: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

Release Date: 9 February 2017 (UK) by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Series: Untitled (#1)

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods–only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and other like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone other than his victims, X casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not in any way influence my views on the book.

Review: Well The Edge of Everything surpassed my expectations! And that was partly to do with the fact that I’m an idiot and, having read the Netgalley blurb, thought this was a contemporary (realistic) romance?? I did not clock at all that this was a fantasy until quite a few pages in… But when I did, an already promising start just improved 10x over. The story itself is an intriguing one, not much good comes from having a boyfriend literally from hell it turns out (!) It took a while for me to get the gist of the Lowlands but when I did I was totally immersed in the star-crossed lovers’ fate and the thrilling ride that Zoe and X embarked on to save themselves and stay together.

A frantic beetle was flitting back and forth between the panes of glass, trapped forever with the wide world in full view. X knew what it felt like to be that bug.

The Edge of Everything is one of those rare books where I could forgive the instalove and actually get behind it! Jeff Giles has crafted the characters in such a way and with so much depth that it’s almost inevitable that they would be attracted to each other and you cheer them on because they complement each other really well. I loved that Zoe is the badass, fierce and bold one in the pairing whilst X is very much the shy, naive but hopelessly in love one. I loved that the sweetest stuff between them was often unsaid/thoughts or physical gestures. 

I really warmed to Zoe – she’s dealing with some pretty horrific stuff but manages to stay strong throughout. She’s by no means perfect, and I liked that we saw this part of her. At times she’s pretty mean to her little brother but it is the way she loves fiercely and loyally whether it is her family or her friend Val that really shines through. X on the other hand is less snarky but so resilient considering how he has grown up and what he is expected to do. The fact that X is able to hold on to his ‘humanity’ having never experienced it is such a beautiful thing. Reading about their first meeting and what follows, the sweet moments and the heart wrenching really swept me up and just totally immersed me in their story.

He realised now that he didn’t know very many stories – and certainly no pleasant ones. So he told her their story. He began with her knocking him down on the ice.

I also loved how the other characters all had their own stories and personalities – whether it was Regent, Banger and Ripper in the Lowlands or Jonah, Val and Dallas (loved the dialogue between him and Zoe!) in Montana. The female characters were very badass and inspirational – with brilliantly sharp tongues! The sibling relationship between Zoe and Jonah was also interesting, especially how far she was willing to go for him, and I liked how her protectiveness brushed off on X too. In that sense, I’m really glad this is the first in a series, because I seriously need more page time for these secondary characters! 

The world building was top notch and Giles writes beautifully. The Lowlands was fascinating and I liked how some of it is recognisable and other bits totally original. Again, this book set us up with lots of questions about how the Lowlands works and I’m looking forward to discovering more in the next installment. This is the second book I’ve read in so many months where it’s set in a snowy location. Zoe’s Montana was beautifully described and the bits on caving which I’d probably usually find rather dull actually had me vividly imagining (and later googling!) chandelier-esque rock formations. The story weaves together a good mix of fantasy elements and romance and moved along at a thrilling pace.

The light, meanwhile, was dying fast. The coffin lid over Montana was getting ready to shut.

One of the things that really stuck out to me about The Edge of Everything was how Giles dealt with ‘big’ issues like morality, grief, and the afterlife but did it in a non-claustrophobic or preachy way. I found it really interesting to see how the characters dealt with different, and often uncomfortable, feelings like remorse and mercy and it was actually quite emotionally stirring. I liked that Giles does not shy away from the worst base instincts of humanity but doesn’t glorify them either – if anything he highlights the ambiguity inherent in things like morality and that was a fascinating thing to see in YA. 

The Edge of Everything is out on 9 February in the UK – it is a stunning debut, so make sure to grab yourself a copy. I am already eagerly awaiting the sequel which sadly (and worryingly!) isn’t even up on Goodreads yet (don’t leave me hanging Mr Jeff Giles!!!)

Are you looking forward to The Edge of Everything? Any recs for great urban fantasy YA? Drop me your thoughts in the comments below!

Bookish Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Published: March 2016 by Simon & Schuster

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult

Series: The Dark Artifices (#1)

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word… Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles… When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge – and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks… and before the murderer targets them. Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets… 

Review: This was my first read of 2017 so I had high hopes for it, wanting to start the year on a high. It was actually a book club read, and one that if I’m being totally honest would not have picked myself. I actually abandoned The Mortal Instruments part way through the third book because I just could not engage with the plot, couldn’t relate to the characters, and just did not care for what was going on. 

However, Lady Midnight was a very pleasant surprise! I’ll start with what was easily my favourite thing about Lady Midnight which is the story itself. Cassandra Clare has crafted a brilliant story. It was a solid mystery which moved along at a good pace and I liked how all the different story arcs and elements wove together at the end without leaving any glaring plot holes. Plus, a big bonus was the fact that there was no mahoosive cliffhanger to be found at the end – always a thumbs up from me. 🙂

What did you do, what could you do, when what threatened the ones you loved was something else you loved just as much?

I really liked how the mystery was the main plot line but it was woven with relatable issues like family, responsibilities, secrets etc. One of the reasons fantasy, especially high fantasy, is my favourite genres is because it is pure escapism – it’s totally removed from reality and lets you immerse yourself in a completely different world. For this reason, urban fantasy doesn’t usually appear to me but I found that wasn’t the case with Lady Midnight. The California setting was also a nice change to the New York setting of TMI. The world building was great, but I found it even more impressive as I was essentially relearning the whole Shadowhunter ‘verse and Clare really helped brush up on the TMI and TID series without coming across like a dry history lesson and regurgitation of the plot lines of previous books.

The characters also left an impression on me – I found them so fascinating! Julian’s multi-layered personality was refreshing compared to some of the ‘tortured soul’ 2D male characters you can come across in YA – frankly, Julian had way bigger fish to fry than nurturing his angst (although there is a tiny bit of that – it’s not YA without it!) i.e.playing father to his younger siblings. I loved how family was so important to him and a tangible part of him, his paternal instincts, and how many of his decisions revolves around being a father figure. The sacrifices he makes to keep his family together really made him across as a properly complex character to me.

When you were twelve years old and you were all that stood between your family and annihilation, you didn’t learn moderation.

Emma, on the other hand, was a little irritating in that she came across as priding herself on being sharp and on top of things but her obliviousness to a certain plotline was a bit much for me and had me rolling my eyes. But I loved the other characters! Again it was brilliant to see the same representation in LM as in TMI whether it was sexuality, autism, suicide or mental health. I also really liked how the secondary characters felt like fully formed characters – each one had a distinct personality and this was given quite a bit of page time rather than token nods. Mark and Ty were easily my favourite characters, struggling with their differences to ‘the norm’. 

My only criticism of Lady Midnight was the flowery and overly-descriptive writing Cassandra Clare seems to be fond of. The book was really long at 500+ pages and honestly I think she could easily have cut down by just removing repetitive descriptions. I got tired of hearing about how many different shades of yellow made up Emma’s blonde hair, how bodies look through what I assume must be completely translucent shirts, and dark and long eyelashes against sculpted cheekbones. Some of the metaphors and similes were also very overwrought and jarring that I often stopped to try and figure out what Clare was trying to get at. For example:

A pearlescent lightening of the water, as if white paint were spilling into the world through a crack in the sky.

Those slight annoyances aside, I really recommend Lady Midnight to anyone who wants original and interesting characters wrapped in a solid mystery. It goes without saying that this will go down well with fans of the Shadowhunter series and may convert others like me who gave up on TMI! I’m now eagerly awaiting the next installment!

Have you read Lady Midnight? What did you think? Is it better than The Mortal Instruments or The Infernal Devices? Let me know your thoughts!!