Tag: epic reads

Review: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd (2013)

Suggested age range: 14 and up

(Balzer + Bray, 420 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: Personal Copy

madman's daughter

The Book: Ever heard of the island of Dr. Moreau? If you have, you may recognize some allusions to H.G. Wells’ plot in Shepherd’s fantastic gothic YA novel, The Madman’s Daughter. The book opens with sixteen year-old, Juliet Moreau, who is barely making ends meet cleaning a laboratory in London. Her mother is dead and her father abandoned the family years earlier, after terrible accusations were made against him about his research. Juliet assumes her father is dead. Otherwise, why would he have left her to the life of poverty and hardship she is enduring?

Of course, Juliet discovers her father is very much alive, and sets out with his assistant, the handsome Montgomery to the island where Dr. Moreau is living. Juliet has known Montgomery since she was a child, so there is history in their friendship. However, something more significant seems to developing between them. What is Montgomery’s role in her father’s strange life on the island? Why are they transporting so many animals there? And who are the strange islanders? These and more questions are uncovered within Shepherd’s exciting story.

Expect to encounter surprises, plot twists, terror, and romance on the pages of this novel. Also, expect a complex heroine who makes a discovery about herself that readers may or may not be prepared for.

Spirituality in The Madman’s Daughter: Humans possess a need to know where we came from. Sometimes this relates to seeking revelation about our parents. Juliet Moreau is on this journey as she seeks to uncover who her father really is. By doing so, she discovers more about herself, but she struggles with the idea that, in some ways, she might be like her father. Or is she? Her spirituality is revealed on the island through her being vocal about how she thinks animals should be treated. Though she has to make some violent decisions in the story, these decisions are actually fueled by a kindness deep inside her.

The book assuredly brings up discussion about our responsibilities as humans towards animals. How should we treat animals? Can we justify causing them pain for human advancement? Are we in their territory or are they in ours? Is it right for humans to play God? If we have the power, should we seek to create life?

In relation to connections with other people, the story raises these questions: How do we treat those who appear to be different from ourselves? What do we owe our own flesh and blood? Should we stand by them in every situation?

These are just some of the issues that surface in light of a spiritual reading of the story.

Who Should Read This Book: Young adults (and adults) who enjoy historical fiction with a gothic twist would enjoy this fast-paced story. This book is seriously good because it features a strong heroine, includes allusions to H.G. Wells’ science fiction work, and contains a good balance of action and character development. The narrative includes romance and some violence, but it isn’t excessive.

Note: If you are squeamish, be careful about the passages in the doctor’s laboratory. I have to admit: there were a few parts I had to skip over. However, the book is well worth the read!

The Final Word: I gave this book five stars due to its exciting plot structure, character development, and themes; additionally, I love books set in the Victorian period. The themes in this story are excellent for discussing some profound issues, as mentioned earlier. I strongly encourage you to read this novel—the sequel is out at the end of January, and I have been recommending the story to every reader I talk to. I am definitely looking forward to all that Megan Shepherd, a native of North Carolina, is going to write. Having just moved from North Carolina back to California, I am sorry I did not know about her earlier! Very excited about the sequel, Her Dark Curiousity, to be published on January 28th, 2014!



What Katie Read

Review of Rae Carson’s The Crown of Embers

Review of Rae Carson’s The Crown of EmbersThe Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
Published by Harper Collins on September 18th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Love & Romance, Royalty, Young Adult
Pages: 432

The second book in Rae Carson's award-winning The Girl of Fire and Thorns fantasy trilogy, perfect for fans of Game of Thrones and Kristin Cashore. Tamora Pierce called the first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, "A unique and engrossing read!" A seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.In The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa won the war. She saved her kingdom. But no one prepared her for how hard it is to recover from a battle, or to rule a people who still don't trust her. She's still fighting—against assassination attempts and more—and her enemies lie both outside her court and within it. So Elisa will cross the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. With her go a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume to Rae Carson's ambitious trilogy. Cinda Williams Chima proclaimed about the first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, "I LOVED this book!" and Veronica Roth agreed, saying, "Definitely recommended."

“My faith has been greatly shaken in the last year, but not broken. I have this conduit, after all, this constant reminder that someone or something listens to my prayers, grants me strange power in trying circumstances, warns me of danger. So I know to trust where it leads.”

The Book:

The second installment in Carson’s trilogy opens with action and intrigue, similar to the first book. It is Elisa’s birthday celebration, and she is now a triumphant queen, taking on more responsibility in leading her subjects. In the first chapter an animagus surprises Elisa and her entourage; he makes a chilling promise: “ ‘You think you’ve beaten us back, but we are as numerous as the desert sands. Next time we’ll come at you like ghosts in a dream’” (p. 8). Tensions in her kingdom erupt, Elisa’s life is threatened, and she embarks on a quest to find answers to questions, which might just save the world of Joya D’Arena.

Will Elisa find the Zafira, which may be the solution to endless tensions between Joya D’Arena and Invierne? Will she survive, even in the midst of multiple attempts on her life? How will these events affect the relationship between Elisa and Hector, her protector? Many questions are raised during this action-packed narrative, complete with more revelation and insight into Elisa’s developing identity as queen. Though she struggles with insecurity as she did in the first book, the Elisa in Crown of Embers is assuredly more confident and ready to embrace her destiny.

Spirituality in The Crown of Embers:

Elisa’s adventures and struggles depicted in the story reflect spirituality in several ways. Like the first one, this book really gets into the spiritual culture of Elisa’s world, and I loved the way Carson presents this culture. Some of the phrases Elisa says to herself when she is in the midst of very stressful situations resemble Biblical scripture, but this in no way turns the book into anything stuffy or too religious. In fact, I appreciated that I could recognize some of these phrases.

Elisa often taps into her Godstone and begins “praying” when she needs peace or is in danger. This is yet another example of how her spirituality is vital for her life and the trials she experiences. Her ability to help those close to her heal from life threatening wounds also illuminates the notion of making sacrifices for people. Elisa possesses significant love and compassion for people, and this is highlighted many places in the story. A spirituality of connectedness is definitely present in the story.

Who Should Read This Book:

Young adults and adult who read the first book, of course! Fans of fantasy should pick up this trilogy. Even high school English teachers might consider introducing the books alongside curriculum about plot, character, and theme. Carson’s book is a perfect one for discussion, so this would also make a fabulous book club read.

The Final Word:

I really enjoyed The Girl of Fire and Thorns but I think I may have enjoyed the second book even more. Carson does leave readers on a bit of a cliffhanger at the end, but since the third book has already been published, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I strongly recommend reading this trilogy.



What Katie Read

Destined for Fire & Thorns

Destined for Fire & ThornsThe Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Published by Harper Collins on September 20th 2011
Genres: Royalty, Young Adult
Pages: 432

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.

The Book:

I was captivated by Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns from its opening chapter. In the beginning, sixteen year old protagonist, Elisa, is being married off to a king she does not know. She is forced to travel with this stranger to his kingdom and say goodbye to her home, and her family. Adventure and danger ensue. Upon arrival she discovers the marriage is meant to remain secret—at least for a period of time. Elisa is powerful and brave, though she may not know it at the beginning of the book. She carries the Godstone, a gem that sets her apart as one who will carry out a significant task, and this is only given to one person a century. Her journey to a new kingdom, and the subsequent adventures and challenges that befall her there will keep you turning the pages of this fantasy. There is betrayal, romance, and political intrigue. There is danger.

The story includes plenty of action, but not too much—throughout the story Elisa becomes more grounded in her identity, and as a realistic character, she wrestles with insecurities. The book highlights this identity development in Elisa, providing a refreshing balance to an action-packed narrative.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns contains all the ingredients for an epic fantasy that left me wanting to read the second and third installments in the trilogy immediately. This is definitely a page-turner with many surprises along the way. I have to admit I am glad I didn’t discover the book until all three installments had been published!

Spirituality in The Girl of Fire and Thorns:

The religious culture of the narrative is fascinating and this book definitely reflects multiple spiritual aspects. Elisa’s struggle with the fact that she is the bearer of the godstone is apparent throughout the story. The way she comes to term with this part of her identity invites discussion about how sometimes we feel a desire to do something significant, but actually doing it feels impossible. Other times, we can sense a “calling” to do something, but we do not feel adequate.

The relationships portrayed in the story communicate ideas that appearances can be deceiving and sometimes compassion and kindness is what should be offered, even if undeserved. If someone betrays a person, can that relationships ever be redeemed? These are some of the issues and questions that this book brings up, reinforcing yet another spiritual dimension of the story. More discussion of spirituality in Carson’s trilogy will follow with my reviews of the second and third books.

Who Should Read This Book:

Young readers and old—if you like fantasy, particularly fantasy set in a world with ongoing political and religious tensions. If you like a strong heroine who is compassionate, brave, and growing into her identity as someone who is destined for greatness, read this book!

The Final Word:

I’m already reading the second installment in the series, and am invested in the characters even more. Elisa’s character develops in interesting ways as the series progresses, and the adventure and mystery particularly keep me glued to the pages of these books.

What Katie Read
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