Thursday, September 25, 2014

Skylark - Review

Its rare for a modern author to jump immediately onto my best authors list. Meagan Spooner did just that with her (and Amie Kaufman's) These Broken Stars, so I was very interested in reading her debut novel Skylark. It's been out on the market a while, with the third book in the trilogy just being released earlier this year. Even so, I thought I'd toss in my two cents.

While I didn't devour Skylark in a day like Meagan's other book, it is a good read. For those who think that Brian Sanderson and some of the other new masters of fantasy are the be-all and end-all of world building, they haven't read Meagan's work. The world of Skylark is first and foremost incredibly creative. I've read a lot of fantasy and don't know of anything quite like the rich, horrific and beautiful landscape containing her story. It combines magic, clockwork technology and distopia. Secondly, it is believable in a way that I do not find of the new "masters'" works. Her characters are rich and well fleshed out and leave you wanting to know more about them rather than seeking desperate resolution to some cliffhanger ending.

Like These Broken Stars, Skylark doesn't follow the tropes of any one genre. There's a lot of fantasy to it, some distopian, survival-horror, and naturally, romance which is nice because you don't always know what to expect, so when the rare trope does pop up you're more pleasantly surprised rather than exasperated.

The one issue I had with the book was its pacing. The beginning was a bit of a stagger step of action for me, starting and stopping in a manner that made it hard to really get into. Once things got moving though, they moved along at a brutal clip that kept me turning pages until part 2, where a long journey slowed things down.  Please, don't misunderstand, it's still interesting stuff, the plot just isn't advancing very quickly. For some readers, this middle slump will quickly become tedious.As a reward for soldiering through the journey (and paying attention) Meagan has written some great twists, which make the book a really fun read.

Skylark is a book for young adults. It has some grim torture-esque scenes, and a few parts with bloody violence, though nothing I thought particularly graphic and some mention of nudity--again nothing graphic. With beautiful language, an interesting world, and great characters this is definitely a book to pick up if you're looking for something original for your brain and imagination to digest.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Cekme fought listlessly, his sword hardly making into place to parry his opponent’s savage stroke. The weariness of too many blows, too much lost blood covered him, threatening to drag him to the featureless ground. He feared, as he always feared at this point of the fight. His chest heaved. His wounds burned. His hands trembled. The end was a few strokes away. Death reached out its harsh hand.

His opponent, his twin brother Itmek, stepped back for a moment rather than pressing his advantage. He was young, sixteen, and darkly handsome just as Cekme.

“Ten thousand. Time to be free,” the boy said and smiled mockingly and poised his wicked blade above his sweat sodden head, his curling black hair hanging lank. “You know. I’d have thought I’d get bored with this, brother, but no.”

If he hadn’t said anything Cekme might have just let the blow land he was so weary but the taunt seared a red line through his mind. For centuries they had fought. Could he let his brother win? Could he accept ultimate defeat? Itmek’s smile broadened. His sword chopped down and the battle fury finally came upon Cekme. He twisted aside at the last instant. His brother’s sword scraped the ground but the point darted back up, twisting, lunging for his throat. The the lethal blade suddenly seemed absurdly slow. Cekme let the lunge slide past and drove the heavy bronze pommel of his sword into his brother’s shoulder. His knee shot up, thudded into his brother’s thigh. His elbow made a short, sharp circle and cracked against Itmek’s jaw. Muscles, weary from endless battle gave way beneath the blows, and Itmek went down, his sword spinning away into the blood stained dust.

Itmek scrambled for his blade but Cekme stepped on his brother’s back, forcing him down. He lifted his sword.

“No!” Itmek screamed, his voice high and panicked.

The sword fell. His brother’s life gushed out, red and bright. Cekme stepped back from the suddenly still body and hobbled slowly away. He stopped perhaps twenty feet away, where in the smooth white grit of their featureless prison 9,999 little hash-marks had been scored. One for each time his brother had killed him without being killed himself. He spat on the closest marks and kicked them contemptuously, scuffing them from existence. He turned back to his brother’s body and sat down, his bloody sword resting across his knees. He let his eyes close. With the battle done, the weariness had returned.

He didn’t know how much time passed. There was no way of knowing in the ever-even light of the prison the gods had locked them within. A footstep scraped. Steel rang as it was dragged up from the hard ground.

Cemke sighed and opened his eyes. Itmek’s baleful glare scorched across their eternal battlefield to meet his gaze.

“We agreed! We would end it, thwart the gods’ punishment!” Cemke shrugged but his brother continued. “We were so close. Ten thousand battles.”

Such was their punishment for the foolishness they’d exhibited in life. Ten thousand deaths in a row, each hard won or the oblivion of the afterlife would not find either of them. Cemke supposed he had not yet ceased to be a fool. Almost, but not quite.

“I changed my mind.”

“Idiot!” Itmek snarled and pointed his weapon. “Pick up your sword!”

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