Monday 23 October 2017

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Publisher: Orion's Children Books
Format: ARC**
Published: 21st September 2017
Number of Pages: 464
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Science-Fiction, Action-Adventure, Historical, Mystery, Romance, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Death, Alcohol References
Author's Site: Ryan Graudin

Blurb From Goodreads:

Time flies when you're plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 
But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

“There wasn't much solitude among four souls, one mannequin, and a red attack panda...”
Farway McCarthy is unique.  He is a boy born out of time aboard a time travel machine, the son of one of the greatest time travellers around.  He's always wanted to follow in his mom's footsteps, explore history like she did.  
Which is why he isn't going to let a fexing sim of Marie Antoinette foil him. 
And it’s also how he ends up with the Invictus, the captain of his own TM, chasing through history for treasures with his crew.  It's aboard the Titanic that everything begins to unravel. 
Eliot is a mystery and a nuisance, an enigma and a thief.  Far doesn't trust her, but he must – it's the only way to stay alive.  
But Eliot has more secrets than just her last name and where she hid that fexing enormous yellow dress she wore aboard the Titanic.  And her secrets could mean the end of everything Far holds dear – the end of history itself...
I adore Ryan Graudin.  She is an amazing amazing author – and Invictus has proven she can write bloody anything.  I fell in love with her Wolf By Wolf series so when I saw they were giving away proofs of Invictus at YALC, of course I had to join the queue.  I made friends, I waited, I chatted and then finally I had this beauty in my greedy little hands and wanted to cheer.  I also wanted to start reading it right that very second, but anyone who's been to YALC knows there's ironically not all that much time for reading while you're there!  So I waited, took Invictus on holiday, started reading on the plane, and was over 100 pages in without even realising it. 
Oh. My. God!  I love all of Ryan's books so much that I can't choose a favourite – but Invictus is just phenomenal!  It has everything – sci-fi, history, romance, adventure, mystery, a blue box, a red panda and more!  I fell in love with everything about Invictus – it's just hashing marvellous! 
The characters – oh how I loved them all!  I fell for each and every one of the Invictus crew – although a certain fuzzy beastie stole my heart good and proper!  I want a red panda like Saffron now – I never knew I could want a red panda so much.  I may need to buy a cuddly one and call it Saffron because I'm pretty sure having a real one is all kinds of illegal.  
Onto the human cast now!  It's hard to make third person POVs sound unique to each character – especially when you're writing from as many as Ryan did over the course of Invictus.  And yet she managed – each character had their own way of narrating, their own way of thinking, and I bloody loved it.  Plus the characters were all just so three-dimensional and likeable – and all had brilliantly unique senses of humour! 
Far was brilliant – brave, clever, determined, a hero I could really get behind and root for.  He also wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I loved him more for it.
Imogen was literally adorable – I love my cousins to pieces, but I must admit Far’s cousin was just amazing and I want her!  I loved how cheerful she was, I loved how she changed her hair colour every day, I just loved her so much!
Eliot was an intriguing character and I loved how we slowly learnt about her over the course of the book.  She was mysterious, funny, brave and badass – I loved her!
Priya was also really adorable!  The medic of the crew, she thought anything could be cured with some chai tea – and as a Brit I can relate the this notion of tea fixing everything whole heartedly!  I also loved her relationship with Far, although I do wish we’d seen more of how they got together.
Gram was really cute – a scientist at heart, he was very logical and practical and not brilliant at the human interactions at times!  I adore him and his relationship with Imogen was just everything!
Oh my god, this story!  I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, reading like a mad thing, totally unsure about what would happen next.  The twists were insane – and truly brilliant!  I loved the beginning of the story, where the crew of the Invictus go about time stealing priceless artefacts that would otherwise be lost to disaster.  That was awesome and a lot of fun to read!  But then the second half, where the stakes kick up by a million and the race is on – not to save an artefact or two but life itself?  Yeah, I loved that!  
Also I really really wanna live in Far's time – travel through history, recording and experiencing, observing and learning.  It just sounds amazing!  And while the futuristic aspect could be hard to grasp, I found it so easy to immerse myself in everything about Invictus – and loved every minute! 
Anyone who knows me is aware that I am normally a total fantasy girl.  I love dragons and magic and potions.  I don't really read sci-fi all that much – but god am I glad I read Invictus!  Invictus was hazing amazing and I loved every single second of it!  So whether you live for sci-fi, fantasy or fuzzy red pandas, read Invictus!  This book has just secured Ryan’s place on my auto-buy list for all of time and space and I really just cannot recommend it enough!

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Doctor Who

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Orion in exchange for an honest review
** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book

Saturday 14 October 2017

The Last Namsara Blog Tour: Q&A With Kristen Ciccarelli!

I am so very excited to be taking part in the blog tour for the wonderful The Last Namsara! I adored this book and I was so excited when I got the chance to pick Kristen Ciccarelli's brain for more information about her book! If you haven't read The Last Namsara, I really can't recommend it enough! There be dragons in it! Dragons!!!
But first, here is my interview with the lovely Kristen Ciccarelli! 

Hi Kristen!  Thank you so much for answering all my fangirly questions!  It’s a real pleasure to have you here today!

Thank you for asking them! It’s a pleasure. :)

For those who haven’t read The Last Namsara, can you tell us a little about your wonderful book?   

The Last Namsara is about a dragon slayer who must hunt down the deadliest dragon of all and bring her father its head, or she’ll be forced into a political marriage!

The Last Namsara has the most amazing setting - I adore your world building!  Especially the fact that, in this world, certain stories are dangerous and can get you killed.  Where did the idea for the world and story come from?

Thank you so much! I essentially stole the story from my own life. I’ve spent a lot of my life being ashamed of the things I love most: creativity, imagination, and storytelling. So when I started writing The Last Namsara, I wanted to explore a world where these things actually were shameful. So I made them dangerous things that get people hurt. That way I could write a protagonist who was a) good at wielding these stories and b) ashamed of herself as a result—like I was. That was how it started. And then I built the world around that character and concept.

Ok, so anyone who knows me is aware of my dragon obsession (it’s alarming, honestly).  Where did you get the inspiration for the dragons in your story?!  

I was completely dragon-obsessed growing up. So obsessed, in fact, that my art teacher actually banned me from drawing them for all of high school (I kept sneaking them into my projects). I first fell in love with Smaug, then Draco (from Dragonheart—I can still recite the old code off by heart, lol) and Toothless. So in lots of ways, my dragons were influenced by the dragons I grew up loving. Where my dragons differ, though, is in the fact that they’re lured by stories. They covet stories the way traditional dragons covet treasure.

The Last Namsara has a cast of amazingly badass girls!  Are they inspired by yourself, anyone you know or a kick-arse girl of YA? 

All of the above, but most especially: I wanted to write the kinds of girls I needed growing up. I will never forget the day I read the chapter in LotR when Eowyn defeats the Witch King. Eowyn gets hardly any page time in that series, and yet there she was, a girl doing what no one else could do. Vanquishing a monster. It felt like Tolkien was throwing me a bone, you know? I clung to that bone. I clung to all the girls wielding weapons and going up against monsters and tyrants (Eowyn, Sabriel, Lyra—to name just a few). These girls were my mirrors. They showed me what I was capable of.

I know it’s like making you choose between your babies, but do you have a favourite character in The Last Namsara?  

Definitely Asha. She’s so strong and fierce and ambitious, yet so wounded and vulnerable. I feel a bit protective of her. Torwin is a close second, though. :)

You are an amazing writer - do you have a favourite thing about being an author?  

You are very kind! And this is a really good question. I think my favourite thing about being an author is hearing from readers—especially young adult readers. It’s amazing to me knowing there are people out there (sometimes on the other side of the world!) reading my story and getting what they need from it.

What advice would you give to all the aspiring fantasy writers out there?

Don’t be afraid of failure. (All the best things come out of failure.) And definitely don’t let it stop you. If you write because you love it, if you truly deeply believe in your stories, if you stay hungry & improve your craft, then you’ll make it. It might take a while, but you’ll get there.

While we’re on the topic of authors and writing, what has been your top read of 2017 so far?  The Last Namsara is one of my favourites! 

Oh gosh. This is such a tough question! Most of my favourite reads this year are actually books coming out in 2018, so it doesn’t feel fair to list them here. I think my top read of 2017 is FIRE BLOOD by Elly Blake. If you like Kristin Cashore’s books, chances are high that you’ll like this book too.

A suitably fantastical penultimate question: If you could have any mythical creature as a pet, which would you have?  And, to the surprise of no one, I would have a dragon.

Definitely a dragon! I mean, it could a) protect me, b) fly me places, and c) keep me warm by making fires. ;)

Finally... what can we expect from book two of the trilogy?  Any chance we could get a little spoiler?

Book two, The Caged Queen, picks up right where The Last Namsara leaves off, only its told from Roa’s point of view. You get more of Asha and the dragons, but you also get to learn who the mysterious Roa is, why she makes a certain deal with Asha’s brother in book one, and what the consequences of that deal are.


Ah, I can't wait for
The Caged Queen! Thank you so much for letting me pick your brain, Kristen! And everyone, go read The Last Namsara! I know I've already said this, but it bears repeating: There are dragons!
Everyone, definitely check out Kristen's website, follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and add The Last Namsara to your Goodreads TBR ASAP list! 
Oh, and check out the awesome The Last Namsara official book trailer too!  God, I love this book!

Happy Reading Everyone!