The Glittering and the Tatterdemalion in “In an Absent dream” by Seanan Mcguire

“Wood does not customarily glitter. Few things do, unless they are attempting to lure something closer to themselves. Sparkle and shine are pleasures reserved for predators, who can afford the risk of courting attention.”

“Their offers should not charm us, 
Their evil gifts would harm us.” 

In An Absent dream – Seanan McGuire

Stats

  • 5 out of 5 Stars
  • 187 pages
  • Published January 8th, 2019 by Tor.com
  • Original Title In an Absent Dream
  • Edition Language English
  • Series Wayward Children #4

About

From the publisher, “This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.”

My Thoughts

“In the way of bookish children, she carried her books into trees and along the banks of chuckling creeks, weaving her way along their slippery shores with the sort of grace that belongs only to bibliophiles protecting their treasures. Through the words on the page, she followed Alice down rabbit holes and Dorothy into tornadoes, solved mysteries alongside Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, flew with Peter to Neverland, and made a wonderful journey to a Mushroom Planet.”

In An Absent dream – Seanan Mcguire

In an ordinary town, on a very normal garden path, Katherine Victoria Lundy came to an incredible tree with an impossibly carved door. Through it, she strolled down a hallway whose walls are carved from a single piece of wood that seemed to have no beginning nor end, and came upon signs in neatly done cross stitch declaring rules for this realm, this place that could not be:

  • Rule One – Ask for nothing.
  • Rule Two – Names have power.
  • Rule Three – Always give fair value.
  • Rule Four – Obey the curfew.

Katherine Victoria Lundy was six years old. This is her story and how she came to the Goblin Market.

In 1964 six-year-old Katherine, never Kat, Kitty, or Kathy, always Katherine, realized that her life was going to eventually end someday. Before that fateful day, her life would be full of planned moments all taking part in a sequence she could already see: School, husband, work as a librarian, eventually children, then death. She neither dreaded nor welcomed the impending onslaught of events, it just was. Even her family was remarkable in its lack of remarkability. Her father is a plain and ordinary school principal. Her mother was round with the impending birth of her younger sister, and her brother was not interested in his much younger sibling. Everything just…was.


“She was ordinary.

She was remarkable.

Of such commonplace

contradictions are weapons made.” 

In an absent dream – seanan mcguire

Katherine is in many ways a typical 8-year old, but her personality shines in many unique ways.  Like many kids, she does not understand the vagaries and behavior in her peers – yet she surpasses other children (and probably adults) in her ability to understand the broader picture. It is as if Katherine has a gaping hole in her sense of self and how it is to be a socialized person. Katherine is calm, collected and assured of herself, but she knows that the social aspect of being a kid is something she lacks. So she yearns for that connection. Time passes in the story as it does in life, both very slowly in the minute to minute and all at once like a gale force wind.

Katherine is now 8 years old.

The story progresses, and Katherine becomes more of herself if that is even possible. She is more secure in the knowledge of who she is and what she likes. This is mostly books, something I can identify with. What I enjoy about Seanan Macguires ability to write can be summed up in this chapter, “When is a Door Not a Door.” Children have personality and souls. They are people in all respects except for age, and authors tend to write about children as if they are not people, but characterizations of what we, as a reader think a child should be. Seanan does not. Katherine is a fully developed, albeit young character.

Katherine is presented a door in a twisted Oak tree with the words, “Be Sure” carved across it. And for reasons that even Katherine does not fully understand, she passes through it into the Goblin Market. Here she is assailed with exotic sounds, adventures, and creatures out of imagination and myth rather than reality. As a reader, I can almost picture this scene like when we meet the worm from Labyrinth, “don’t go that way…” We also meet a character that becomes a friend, her first therefore best friend, Moon. Katherine, who is now Lundy because true names have power, learns from Moon and The Archivist, another important character, the ins, and outs of the Goblin Market.

The Goblin market is both a setting for the story and even in its own way, a character. The Market is entirely based on perceived fairness. If any deal is struck, words spoke, or actions are taken within the confines of the Market, the Market weighs it against its own standard of fairness. If one fails to make a fair deal, or what is called “fair value,” the market takes action against the perpetrator in the form of debt. Debt, rather than being its typical elusive and abstract concept, actually makes a physical change on the wearer. If the wearer of the debt continues to act against fair value, they will eventually physically transmogrify into a bird. This is the crux of the story. What is fair value?


“She was Katherine,

she was the teacher’s pet,

and when she grew up,

she was going to be a librarian,

because she couldn’t imagine

knowing there was a job

that was all about books

and not wanting to do it.”

In an absent dream – seanan mcguire

Does Lundy want to come back? Does she want to stay? How does she give fair value to her family both blood (the human world), and adopted (the Goblin Market.) How does she live in two worlds, and give fair value to herself? Because the Goblin Market is always watching and taking account? I am not going to give it away, and even with the ending of the story and what will be a beginning for Lundy, it is oddly unsatisfying. This isn’t a book that wraps morals in a tight and tiny little package to be opened at a later date. Even if I wanted a sweet and happy ending for Lundy, that isn’t in the character of the Market and in the bigger picture, The Wayward series. Fairy tales and fairylands are unique and magical and very seldom kind or gentle.

Each of the Wayward Books touches on essential lessons. Seanan creates a character and place around a crucial social concept. This is no different. The resounding lessons I took from reading this book were two-fold. Firstly, a chosen family is as strong and vital as a blood family. Secondly, Fair value is up to the user and is becoming increasingly scarce in our world of apathy. What is fair for one, is not fair for another. Context and experience flavor the users perspective. This story is a small allegory for that concept.

In an Absent Dream can function just as easily as a standalone novel as it does as the fourth in the Wayward series and it is a masterpiece folks. An utterly magical story and I highly recommend reading it.

Acquisition

Thank you to the publisher, Tor.com for providing me with an ARC of this in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author

From Goodreads, “Hi! I’m Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I’m also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.

Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).”


Swine Hill is full of the Dead in Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones

eARC Review of “Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones”
by Micah Dean Hicks

Stats

  • 5 out of 5 Stars
  • Hardcover
  • 304 pages
  • Expected publication: February 5th, 2019 by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

About

“[T]his novel is extraordinary . . . It is Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, mixed with H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, set in the creepiest screwed-up town since ’Salem’s Lot . . . [A] major achievement.” — Adam-Troy Castro, Sci-Fi magazine

Swine Hill was full of the dead. Their ghosts were thickest near the abandoned downtown, where so many of the town’s hopes had died generation by generation. They lingered in the places that mattered to them, and people avoided those streets, locked those doors, stopped going into those rooms . . . They could hurt you. Worse, they could change you.

Jane is haunted. Since she was a child, she has carried a ghost girl that feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane what they are thinking and feeling, even when she doesn’t want to know. Henry, Jane’s brother, is ridden by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is possessed by a lonely spirit that burns anyone she touches. In Swine Hill, a place of defeat and depletion, there are more dead than living.

When new arrivals begin scoring precious jobs at the last factory in town, both the living and the dead are furious. This insult on the end of a long economic decline sparks a conflagration. Buffeted by rage on all sides, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them.


My Thoughts

“They could hurt

you. Worse,

they could

change you.”

Swine hill is a place that will hurt your body, wrack your soul at the altar of human selfishness, and destroy you. Imagine living in this place. Imagine working at the store or a packing plant here. Imagine having to share part of your soul with the undead. Hick’s characters do, and for a short time, we readers also do.  Hick’s has invented a story that is so rife with pain, imagination, and horrors that if you could take the spawn of Dr. Moreau and The Haunting of Hill House you would have something close to this. Haunt is unsettling in ways that made me uncomfortable deep down in my bones.

Hicks explores the premise of a haunted family in a haunted town. It centers around the protagonists Jane and Henry. Brother and sister trapped with the souls of unsettled ghosts inside them. In Jane’s case, it is the soul of a woman who thrives on conflict and secrets. The spirit silently whispers to jane the horrible thoughts and intentions of those around her. Henry has the ghost of a mad inventor inside him seeking to create incredible and awful machines whose purpose is sometimes unknown. The pair is also influenced by their mother and father, both haunted. Her mother is haunted by a person so craving affection that her body physically radiates heat. Enough to burn and scar. Jane is the heart of the family. Silently she pounds away at life and looks after her family as best as she can within the circumstances.

The crux of the story rests around Henry and how his mad ghost creates things. This time Henry invents pig people. Upright human-like animals that are built to self-slaughter and could eventually render the town and by extension humans obsolete. Henry creates many, but individually we meet Hog Boss and his kind son Dennis. Both are good-natured and thoughtful people set at deliberate juxtaposition to the rest of the “human” inhabitants of the town. Enter the fearful townsfolk, frightened of the unknown, in both the pig people and the loss of their livelihood. What happens next can only be described as an explosive clash between the old ways and the new all within the context of Jane attempting to save people.

“Her mother’s ghost

made the house

a suffocating place.

She didn’t touch Jane

often for fear

that she would burn

her.”

The setting in the story is unrestrainedly unworldly. The writing drips darkness and moisture from every page and sometimes, I could swear my kindle was fogging up from the cold. Hicks absolutely has created a world where you should be very afraid that ghosts will settle in your bones.

The underlying theme of this story is relationships: sister to brother, mother to son, lover to lover. In this, it is the immense power of links that can drive a person to the unthinkable or the extraordinary. What would I do for the person I love? What would I do to the person I hate? Person to person a spiderweb of narrative and relationships is created. This web holds the town together and eventually culminating in it blasting apart. 

It is poignantly cruel that these characters, so afflicted, must also contend with the worst problems we see in our own world. Hicks will unflinchingly show you the horrific visage of ghosts and nightmares pulled from the headlines of our own world, leaving you to wonder whether one lot is truly fundamentally worse than the other. And yet, perhaps it is true that they who would grow must first be made to suffer. Certainly, the growth we see in these characters is the result of a purposefully built set of trials and woes; it is not an easy journey for us to follow but it rewards us as only a master-crafted tale can.

Things get harsh and really painful for the characters in this story. I know I have alluded to it vaguely, but I don’t want to give away the cleverness of the story. It is scary, mystical, and bittersweet. It absolutely deserves all of the forthcoming awards that are going to be thrown at it. If you are a fan of the horror/bizarro genre, look no further than this book, but even more so if you are a fan of the written word and the power it can wield, this is a worthy read.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon publication.

About the Author

Micah Dean Hicks is the author of the novel Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones. He is also the author of Electricity and Other Dreams, a collection of dark fairy tales and bizarre fables. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Hicks grew up in rural southwest Arkansas and now lives in Orlando. He teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida.

10,000 Bones – A Science Fiction Action Packed Thriller that Asks the Question, “What if there were no Calcium?”

eARC Review – 10,000 Bones by Joe Ollinger

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Paperback
  • 240 pages
  • Expected publication: February 5th, 2019 by Diversion Books
  • ISBN 1635760569 (ISBN13: 9781635760569)
  • Genre: Science Fiction

About

From the publisher, “On the planet Brink, calcium is cash. The element’s scarcity led the world’s government to declare it the official currency. In the decades since, the governments of other colonized worlds have suppressed shipments of calcium in order to maintain favorable exchange rates, while Brink’s Commerce Board has struggled to negotiate importation quotas to keep the population alive and growing.

Taryn Dare is a Collections Agent, a specialized detective tasked with finding black market calcium and recovering it so that the Commerce Board can recycle it and distribute it as currency. Taryn is fueled by one goal: to save up enough currency units for a one-way ticket to a better world. But when a job recovering a human corpse uncovers a deadly conspiracy in the system, Taryn is drawn into an investigation that may threaten her life, and the very fabric of her society.” 


My Thoughts

Stop Taryn, breathe.

You’re a professional.

If you let this world and what it

has done to you get a grip on you,

it will swallow you whole.

10,000 Bones by Joe Ollinger

The Author, Joe Ollinger’s timing is just right. The science fiction genre is saturated with dystopian novels that ask questions of the reader, “What if there were no water? Or Food? Or Sunlight?” None I have seen until now have asked the question, “What if there is no calcium?” It is a perfect question to ask. In the reader’s mind, calcium is the most benign of things, and it surrounds us. Ollinger creates a vibrant world built around the procurement of calcium tinged with mystery, adventure, and a kick-ass female protagonist. 

The world Ollinger creates resembles a world that, to me, is a cross of a wild west town and a city from the TV show Firefly. Named Brink, it is all hot and bright with a thin patina of red dust the encapsulates everything. It is full of inhospitable people scrabbling out a living in the dirty, dusty land, and always in need of calcium and water. Ollinger describes it as “…a last chance gas station on one of Earth’s old, long highways – a staging area, a waypoint to more promising, more hospitable worlds…” Also present is the very visible Oligarchy of the rich described as having more elegant clothes, healthier bodies and a distinct lack of hypocalcemia bruising often found in the poor.  The dichotomy of the poor versus the wealthy is fascinating here. Something as simple as drinking a glass of milk is considered the highest of high falutin living. 

This book is in the classic “who done it” style. We have our heroine, Taryn. A rough and tumble collections agent described as muscular and robust that wears body armor. Her job is to seek out leaks of unauthorized calcium currency and return it to the government. In this world, calcium is cleverly written as tradeable currency.  Doing her job, she is always surrounded by the unlawful, the dying and the dregs of society. This brings up shattering moments from her past that often play a part in her decision making in the present. She also has a wealth of empathy, tho to function in her position as a collections agent, and by extension survive in this society, she has to suppress it. She reminds me very much of Marvel’s Jessica Jones. She has a similar attitude and position minus the superpowers. 

The story progresses with Taryn becoming enemy #1 of the state as she hunts for who is stealing the calcium supply. It is exciting and turbulent all within the context of an investigator type mystery. Along the way, we meet various side characters including a sidekick/romance interest of a sort in the form of a wealthy calcium auditor, Brady. He is a described as “looks more like a business executive than a bureaucrat.” The absolute only complaint I have in this story is I found Brady to be a tad unbelievable. His motivations as a character and dialog were muddy. This threw me out of the story at points. I just could not suspend belief when it came to Brady’s and Taryn’s interactions. However, this book could easily have a sequel. If so, as a reader I would love to know more about Brady’s backstory and have him fleshed out as a more substantial character. 

There are beautifully created images throughout the story that keep the pages turning as the reader seeks out the “who did it.” All of this climaxes into a rather explosive denouement. This, in turn, finalizes into an open ending that is rife with a possibility for sequels. 

The author asks us, “What if there is no calcium?” As a reader, I can say “I know that one. It looks like this…”


About The Author

Joe Ollinger grew up in a small swamp town in Florida. After graduating from the University of Southern California, he worked for several years as a reader and story analyst for an Academy Award Winning Filmmaker. Currently residing in Los Angeles, he works as an attorney when he’s not writing

eARC Book Review – Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant

“Ring around the rosies
pocket full of posies
ashes ashes.
we all fall down”

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 Stars 
  • Hardcover, Limited, 128 pages
  • Expected publication: December 31st, 2018 by Subterranean Press
  • Original Title  – Kingdom of Needle and Bone
  • ISBN159606871X (ISBN13: 9781596068711)
  • Edition Language
  • English URL https://subterraneanpress.com/kingdom-of-needle-and bone

About

From the publisher, “We live in an age of wonders.

Modern medicine has conquered or contained many of the diseases that used to carry children away before their time, reducing mortality and improving health. Vaccination and treatment are widely available, not held in reserve for the chosen few. There are still monsters left to fight, but the old ones, the simple ones, trouble us no more.

Or so we thought. For with the reduction in danger comes the erosion of memory, as pandemics fade from memory into story into fairy tale. Those old diseases can’t have been so bad, people say, or we wouldn’t be here to talk about them. They don’t matter. They’re never coming back.

How wrong we could be.

It begins with a fever. By the time the spots appear, it’s too late: Morris’s disease is loose on the world, and the bodies of the dead begin to pile high in the streets. When its terrible side consequences for the survivors become clear, something must be done, or the dying will never stop. For Dr. Isabella Gauley, whose niece was the first confirmed victim, the route forward is neither clear nor strictly ethical, but it may be the only way to save a world already in crisis. It may be the only way to atone for her part in everything that’s happened.

She will never be forgiven, not by herself, and not by anyone else. But she can, perhaps, do the right thing.

We live in an age of monsters.”

My Thoughts

Ring around the rosy
Pocket full of posies
Ashes, ashes
We all fall down

Children’s rhyme

Humans can be many things. Saviors and Sinners. Hunters and the hunted. Monsters or the divine. We are given ample opportunity to show our true colors during our lifetimes. Often humanities true colors are somewhere in the grey area as no one is any one thing and as such, we are a collection of moments. Most writers often overlook the many faces of human nature, but great writers give a plurality to their characters. It may not be easy to understand who is good and evil without thinking about it, but isn’t that real life? Mira Grant aka Seanan Mcguire is one of those great writers that celebrate the pluralism of morality in her characters, and this novella is an excellent example of this. 

Dr. Izzy Gauley, the protagonist,  is as morally gray as any character could be. She is distraught, caught in the guilt of her previous choices, and she must continually make ethically ambiguous decisions to further what she believes is the truly right thing. Those choices may or may not bring the entire proverbial glass house on top of herself. Much of the plot hinges on whether her choices in this story are wicked and self-serving or genuinely in the best interest of all are up to the reader. She is a good character. But, this is not surprising as Mira Grant has a tendency to write real people. 


“…Salvation at the tip of a needle”

The Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant

Plot-wise, Grant has written a novella that is absolutely terrifying to a parent. What happens when herd immunity fails? The whole premise is based on a parent’s worst nightmare, losing their children. Even worse is that it is through the parents own actions that global calamity happens. Although the delivery of the message regarding immunizations and the importance thereof is a bit ham-fisted at times, her point comes across. Vaccinations are essential and the backbone of a healthy society. What I really liked about the plot is that it developed from, “How important immunizations are,” to a discussion on bodily autonomy. Do we sacrifice bodily freedom for the sake of a healthy society? A very real and prescient argument that could play out in the courts in the next upcoming years.

“Are we doing the right thing” she asked. 

The Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant

I hope to see this turn into a full-fledged series. There is enough meat on the bones of this novella to expand the characters and plot into a great story very much in the vein of the “Newsflesh” series.  

I am so glad the Mira Grant is such a prolific author. I enjoy her work often and repeatedly. She is one of the few authors that seem to be just as good on a reread as it was initially. I can’t tell you how many times I have read Newsflesh and October Daye. If you have an opportunity to check out this novella, I dearly hope you do. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for providing me with a copy of this in exchange for my honest review.

Review – Diary of An Oger by Valeria Dávila, Mónica López, Laura Aguerrebehere (Illustrator)

Change your underwear you stinky ogre.

 

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Image courtesy of goodreads.com

Thank you, NetGalley, Chouette Publishing, and CrackBoom! Books for an advanced English translated readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

Synopsis from the publisher, “My dear diary: this is the end. There are no ogres left. The world is wrong. What does this ogre hide? Is it true that he teaches wrestling with sticks and belching and snot courses? Is it true that the pant is never changed?
The intimacies never before revealed of an ogre with style. Surprising, crazy, secret: a newspaper that you have to spy on yes or yes.”

I am always thrilled when I get an opportunity to review a children’s book. In general children’s books bring a genuine smile to my face, and this book is no exception. Oger’s are funny creatures. Who demonstrate poor hygiene, and poorer life choices. Generally, from Shreck to Harry Potter their depiction is of a smelly, but a lovable brute who is steadily falling all over themselves, and eating fly ice cream. Pratfalls and fly ice cream are funny concepts and relatable for kids. The author took something that could be scary and made it funny which is excellent for kids! This is why this is such a great book. I mean, who doesn’t think that an award given to an ogre who never changes their underwear isn’t funny.

My only real complaint is that it doesn’t have much of a plot and because of this, it relies heavily on the great graphics. I think plot-wise, the author could have hammered home how important it was that ogers need to become ogers of old. She touches on it, but it seems a bit disjointed.

Graphically, Laura Aguerrebehere did a great job conveying the silliness of the ogers. The graphics are bright and again fun to look at.

This is hilarious! Graphics, pacing, everything. I think boys or girls would get a total kick out it!

 

 

Review of “Year One” by Nora Roberts

 

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goodreads.com

I was very excited to read Year One by Nora Roberts. First off, I have read close to thirty of her books. For a while there I was plowing through them. She writes great characters and exciting plots. Especially her later work. I also have read pretty much all the post-apocalyptic books I can get my hands on. Except for “The Road” which I won’t touch with a ten-foot stick.

 

My first observation is a positive one. The entire novel rests on an interesting, if not a slightly trite premise. World plague that decimates human the population. The thrilling thing is that the epidemic is based on lore mythology and magic. The disease is itself named “Doom,” and is made of these dark energies escaping and infecting the world. I think. Nora Roberts was a little fuzzy on it. In response to these increasing darkness and sickness infecting, a reaction in people with any spiritual and/or magical is that the latent power these people had increased exponentially. Another point I’m fuzzy on. Otherwords, some people get big woo-woo, others not so much. No idea what it is based on or why. Some people get nothing at all and remain human. Also no clue. It just is. Plot points like these that lay the foundation in novels, in my opinion, need to be rock solid. Otherwise, niggling questions remain and throw the reader’s mind out of the story.

The second observation is also a positive one. Nora Roberts knows how to write good dialog. It may be a little schmaltzy, but it flows like people talk. The dialog was well written. I may not have liked what the characters were saying, but she is damn good at writing it.

Character-wise, it is just damn confusing. She has some well-written ones in there that are fleshed out, and some that are flat as a board (I am looking at you Eric and Allegra) and you scratch your head wondering what the hell. Why are the ones that are vapid come from out of nowhere and give so much page time? Also, the pacing and plot arcs are jarring as hell. I have never read a novel that jarred me like a car accident from one vignette to another.

Lastly the third act of the story. I am going to speak in broad terms so as not to do any spoilers, but I spent 75 pages scratching my head. It was all so bland and wrapped up in a neat little bow. I didn’t give a damn about the characters at the end. The ones that I really liked and thought were interesting got unceremoniously excised from the last act of the novel which was a weird pacing and story arc thing to do. Maybe I was just slightly miffed at that. Where are my Arlys, Fred and Jonah? She should have at least nodded her head at them and told us a little of what was going on.

I want to be very clear here. This isn’t a crap book. Nora Roberts is a master storyteller, but this isn’t her best work. That’s ok not everything is going to be a shining star. It is a serviceable book with highs and lows and is very readable. I will read the next book in the series to see what happens. If I had to give it a rating, I’d rate it 3 out of 5.

ARC Red Rising – Sons of Ares by Pierce Brown

 

 

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The book of meh. image courtesy of goodreads.com

 

I received a Kindle Arc from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

I really wanted to like this. No. Scratch that. I really wanted to love this. The four book story of red rising; “Red Rising,” “Golden Son,”  “Morning Star,” and “Iron Gold” is some of the best new fantasy I have read lately. Some say that it is too similar to Hunger Games but when I read it I didn’t get that vibe at all. The only thing that is similar to me is the factions for occupations. The characters are interesting and intriguing. The story has a great arc. That is why this is such a letdown. I wanted to love it but really I was only, “meh.” 

A little backstory on this graphic novel, it is a prequel to Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Series and revolves around one of the subsidiary characters in the 4 novel story, However, other characters that are in the Red Rising series are featured. That being said, this graphic novel can be read on its own but the reader will not get the nuances had they read the entire 4 book story beforehand. What is missing is Brown’s great writing. It just doesn’t have the same flow and storytelling that the novels do.  It seems much flatter. If you are a diehard fan of the Red Rising series, absolutely read this. Otherwise, you might skip it till you read the novels.