Tag Archives: book review

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

The Enclave

Stars: 4 out of 5

There is a multitude of YA novels out there. Some are nothing exceptional and are just content to ride on the Twilight and Hunger Games hype. But others have well written original stories with believable characters that are a pleasure to read. Thankfully, Enclave by Ann Aguirre is one of those.

The story takes place in College, an enclave in what later turns out to be abandoned underground tunnels. It is a post-apocalyptic novel, but what exactly happened to the world is not really clear, because several generations had passed since the event. People of the enclave have never been Topside, most of them have never even ventured in the tunnels beyond the barricades. Life in the community is strictly regulated, because supplies are limited. Only those who are strong, healthy and useful are permitted to survive. The enclave is ruled by the Elders, and the population is divided into three very distinct roles: Builders make equipment, cook food and are in charge of the general maintenance of the enclave, Hunters venture in the tunnels to bring back meat and defend the enclave against outside threats, and Breeders well… breed (on a strict schedule) and take care of the young. Life is hard in the enclave and not many people survive past 25 – disease and malnutrition take their toll.

The main protagonist is a young girl named Deuce, who we meet at the day of her naming ceremony, when she gets her name and becomes a Huntress – something she had dreamed of and worked very hard to accomplish. I loved Deuce. She is strong, she is not afraid of making difficult decisions and accepting the consequences. She is an excellent fighter and an even better Huntress, and nothing is handed to her on a silver platter just because she is the protagonist. Ann Aguirre made the character believable: Deuce is good because she trained all her life for it. She watched the other Hunters fight when she was a brat, she listened to all the stories, she showed up to all the lessons and did three times what was asked of the Hunters in training. So when Deuce and her partner are ambushed by four Freaks in the tunnels and manage to kill them, I believe that it’s possible. And they don’t get out of this encounter without scars either…

I also loved the fact that the author never really says what happened to the world. The reader discovers some hints at the same time as the protagonists, but they don’t care about it that much. For them it’s ancient history and they have more pressing matters to worry about, like survival.

And it is absolutely fascinating to see the society the author created. Their values, rules and aspirations might look foreign to us, but in the context of that world they make sense, and that is wonderful.

I had a few minor gripes with the story though. First of all, the motivation behind some of the things the Elders did was really lacking. If they were so worried about the survival of the enclave, some of their actions really made no sense. And secondly, I didn’t appreciate the attempt at a love triangle in the second part of the book, or the fact that it was so easy to drive a wedge between Deuce and Fade. They are partners, for God’s sake! They fought together; they had each other’s back and saved each other lives countless times. How hard is it to just sit down and talk things through? No, let’s skulk and absolutely refuse to communicate instead…

But apart from that, I am looking forward to reading Outpost, the second book in the series and explore a bit more of this world.

Keepers by Gary A Braunbeck

Keepers

Stars: 2 out of 5.

The Keepers is the first book I read by Gary A Braunbeck and I must admit that I was a bit disappointed.

It had such a promising beginning, where the reader is following a seemingly ordinary man who witnesses a horrible accident on the turnpike. This accident triggers memories that he thought were long forgotten. The reader then follows the protagonist, as he tries to put these memories back together and solve the puzzle of his past, while strange things start to happen around him in the present.

I liked the narrative, I liked the pace, and I even kinda liked the protagonist and the story of his past. The story that was unfolding in his present, however, left me unmoved. I think it was party because the situation was never clearly explained and the “bad guys” were neither bad nor good: they even protect the protagonist and save his life several times. It’s like the author wasn’t sure either whether his antagonist was good, bad or indifferent.

I think another reason why the book’s conflict fell flat for me was the fact that the author never really explained what the stakes were for the protagonist in all this. So why would I root for him if I don’t know what’s important to him?

The author introduced an interesting intrigue to the book, but failed to explain it or to bring it to a logical resolution. He left too many questions unanswered. Did the Keeper’s plan succeed? Why was Gil important for it? Why were Beth and the dog important? The whole turning people into animals and animals into people angle could have been a bit more developed in my opinion.

The ending also fell flat, in my opinion. It was too rushed and didn’t really explain anything. Why were those Boiler-hat men after the dog? Why did they decide to kill Gil after all? What the heck really happened in the end? The author left too many questions unanswered which is really frustrating. He might have striven for the mysterious “make your own conclusions” ending, but here it doesn’t work.

Right now I am debating whether I should try to read something else by Gary A Braunbeck or if all his book are a bit like the Keeper. I want your opinion on this. Did you like some of his books? If so, which one would you suggest I read?

October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and RueA local Habitation

Stars: 3 out of 5

I usually try to read at least the first two books of a series before I review it and decide whether I will continue reading or move on to something else. So today I will be reviewing the first two books of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series: Rosemary and Rue and A Local Habitation.

Seanan McGuire depicts a modern day San Francisco in which ordinary humans cohabit with all sorts of fae folk, both pureblood and half-blood, even though they are completely oblivious of the fact. Indeed, the fae don’t want humans to know that they are real and use glamor to appear human when they are out and about. Some of them feel pretty much at home in our world. They thrive and have successful businesses, legal and not so much in some cases.

The main protagonist – October “Toby” Daye, is a half-blood Daoine Sidhe who is trying to fit in in the human world. She earns her living as a private detective, but also has to fulfill her duties as a Knight of the Shadow Hills. And she has a family – a husband and a daughter who have no idea that she isn’t human. This is how the first book starts, but this life is shattered in the very first chapter when the pureblood fae Toby was investigating turns her into a fish and leaves her in a pond to die. Only the spell eventually wears off and Toby becomes human (or half-human) again… eleven years later. She stayed the same, but life moved on without her. Her human family thinks she ran away and doesn’t want to have anything to do with her now. She has trouble adjusting to the new technological advances that happened in eleven years. But most importantly, she has trouble finding a meaning and a purpose for her life.

I will let the readers discover the rest of the story of both books for themselves. What I want to talk about is why I put only three stars on this series so far.

Let’s start with what I liked. I liked Toby and I can sympathize with her struggle to adjust to our modern world after eleven years of basically swimming in circles and thinking about fishy things. It is interesting to watch her reconnect with her old acquaintances and slowly get her motivation back. It is also interesting to see her developing as a character.

I liked the world Ms. McGuire created and I am looking forward to discovering more of its facets. I especially liked the mention that the fae are mostly nocturnal, because their magic is most potent under the cover of the night, and that the sunlight weakens it. Or that the transitions at Dawn and Dusk are the moments when they are the most vulnerable.

However, I was disappointed to discover that most of the supporting characters weren’t nearly memorable enough. In fact, it seemed like the majority of them were there just to act as background. So every time I saw a character that was more or less three-dimensional, I could bet that he or she would be either the villain, or the best friend, or the future love interest for the heroine.

Also, for a private detective who is (supposedly) good at her job, Toby does a lot of flailing about in the dark instead of actual detective work. Her logic sometimes baffles me as well – in Rosemary and Rue, why did she refuse to go to her liege for help and went instead to the crime lord that had basically treated her as a slave for years? In A Local Habitation, when a killer is on the loose and offing anyone who wanders the building alone, Toby consistently let’s people wander off unsupervised and then wonders why they end up dead.

And finally, I found the plot in both books slightly lacking in depth. In the first book Toby is cursed and needs to find the killer of her friend before the curse kills her. In the second book she is sent to check on her liege’s cousin only to discover that someone is killing off her subjects, so she sets to uncover who the killer is. Those are good premises, but they are not enough for a full length book. And the subplots are sadly lacking.

All in all, I liked the world and I will probably stick around with the protagonist through the next installment of the story, but probably no further than that, unless book three is really good.