A Wounded Name Giveaway!

March 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm (A Wounded Name, Giveaway) (, , , )

After the rather surreal experience of designing and ordering swag, the first wave has arrived, which means: IT’S TIME FOR A GIVEAWAY!!!

There’s one major prize pack, and other small prize packs- the number of them depends on you. (yes, you!)

One lucky person will receive a SIGNED ARC of A Wounded Name, personlized if you’d like, and a pack of signed swag, including stickers, bookmarks, and a bookplate. The other packs are going to be signed swag, but the more people participate, the more swag packs there will be.

Want a peek at the prize?


And here’s how to enter:
The actual entry: comment below and tell me what book you’re reading right now, OR, if you’re between books, tell me what you just finished and what you think. (I just finished The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, and it was GORGEOUS, absolutely amazing writing, beautifully flawed and balanced characters, and hope and death walking hand in hand)
Extra entries: you can get +1 for each of the following:
-Add A Wounded Name on Goodreads
-follow this blog
-follow me on twitter (@dothutchison)
-tweet about this giveaway
-like me on Facebook
-blog about this giveaway

Any and all of these that you do just let me know in the comments, and if you already do them, again, just let me know. You can get a total of SEVEN entries, and like I said, the more people who enter, the more prizes there are going to be. If we hit over 100 entries, I’ll also add a Barnes and Noble gift card with the ARC. And make sure you leave an email so I can contact you if you win!

The ARC has to be US only (sorry) BUT the swag packs are open to international entries! I’ll pick a winner at the end of the month.

Good luck to everyone!

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2012 Favorites + Giveaway!

December 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , , )

This was going to be the weekend I got back into the full swing of things, but then life happened in a pretty amazing way. After a weekend spent crashing around Orlando with very good friends I haven’t seen in far too long, I came home to our rescheduled Thanksgiving, with lots of food, laughter, and card banter.

Cards are a blood sport, at least in my family, and the banter that flows through the games is truly inspiring.

And terrifying.

So, to make up for another lost week, I’m hosting a giveaway!

There are two prize packs up for offer. Prize pack one includes the paperback of Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star, a hysterical, utterly creeptastic in the best possible way book that pits Rory, an American student currently enrolled in a London school, with a mysterious murderer re-enacting the murders of Jack the Ripper- with no one seeing him. Prize pack two has the paperback of Laini Taylor’s amazing and grogeous The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, with the enigmatic Karou, the mysterious Brimstones, and an ancient war that could destroy entire worlds, in one of the most beautiful expressions of language I’ve ever read. BOTH PACKS include a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card.

And there are lots of ways to get entries.

The only mandatory one is to leave a comment below telling me what your favorite book of 2012 has been, and why. There have been so many amazing books out this year, and I want to know which ones you’ve loved. (And tell me if you have a preference for a particular prize pack)

For example, although it’s really hard to choose, I’d have to say my favorite of the year so far has been John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. That book was beautiful and shattering and uplifting and devestating, and probably the only book that’s ever made me laugh and sob simultaneously. It’s an astounding work of art, something so much more than the sum of its parts, and has become one of my favorite books to handsell at work because it’s one of the very few books that I genuinely believe EVERYONE needs to read.

But there are extra ways to enter!

For +1, follow this blog, and in your comment, tell me that you’ve done so. If you already follow, tell me that too.
For +1, follow me on twitter at @dothutchison, and in your comment tell me your twitter handle. Again, if you already follow me, just tell me.
For +1, add A Wounded Name on Goodreads, and tell me in your comment. Again, if you’ve already added it, just let me know.
For +1, like my Facebook page, link on the sidebar, and tell me that you’ve done so. If you already like me (they like me, they really like me!…okay, done now) just tell me so.
And for +1 for each medium, you can tweet about it, blog about it, mention it on facebook or what have you, and just include the links in your comment.

I’d like to stress that the only thing you HAVE to do to be entered is to comment with your favorite book of the year and why you love it. Please make sure you leave the correct email address so I can contact you if you win. All the other ways to enter are purely optional, and additional- it’s your choice whether or not to do them. If you DO choose to get the extra entries, please make sure you tell me what you’ve done- I’m not going to troll through the deep stretches of the internet to see what people have done. I’m going to trust y’all on this, so please just include the links and handles.

And it is US only, I’m sorry. International gets very pricey, so I’m going to save that kind of shipping for when I have ARCs of A Wounded Name to give you. Just a few months til ARCs!

So, enter in the comments below, entries accepted through Saturday, 15 December, and best of luck to you all!

Until next time~

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Giveaway Times Two!

September 30, 2012 at 11:59 am (Giveaway) (, , , , , , , , )

So I’m a horrible person, who feels very bad about not posting meaningful content recently because life just keeps kicking me in the pants.

Today I’d like to make that up to you, not with meaningful content unfortunately, because life is still happening in a kind of bad way at the moment, but with two giveaways.

Normally I don’t like to giveaway ARCs of books that have already been released. The first few weeks of sales are so critical for an author’s success with a given book that I don’t like to detract from that in any way. However, quite simply, the money isn’t always there. If it were, I think we’d all rush out and buy ALL THE BOOKS as soon as they came out but all too often we have to make choices. If it’s between books and food, I choose books every time, but sometimes that second option is…oh, RENT.

Recently I received two ARCs of books I’d already purchased, books that I wanted the finished hardcopies of no matter what, so I am offering them up to you. First one is Origin, by Jessica Khoury, and the second is Hidden, the third book in the Firelight series by Sophie Jordan.

All you have to do to enter is comment below and tell me which one you want and why. That’s it. (Well, and make sure your email address is tucked away there somewhere, that will be important). If you want both books, you can tell me that and why, and you can be entered for both, but you cannot WIN both- winning one will remove you from the draw for the other.

I’ll draw the winners next Sunday (7 October) and contact them, so you have a full week to enter! Feel free to spread the word (please?) but it doesn’t actually get you any extra entries.

Best of luck!

Until next time~

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The Diviners Giveaway!

August 26, 2012 at 9:49 am (Giveaway) (, , , , )

I said there’d be another giveaway, right?

There’ll be an actual review for this on Wednesday, but I move tomorrow and still have a bunch to do, so once again, YOU WIN! This book absolutely blew my mind and I want to share it with you all, so I am giving away my advance copy. Seriously, you want this book; Libba Bray is an absolute genius, and despite the length and the incredible humor, you’re held in thoroughly creepy suspense the entire time.

Part of that creep factor comes from the book trailer.

Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not a huge book trailer person. Every now and then a really, really good one comes along, but this is the first time I’ve ever been influenced to read the book based on the trailer. Normally it’s a function of wanting to read the book in spite of the trailer. (Fair’s fair, I already wanted to read The Diviners, but the trailer clinched it). If you watch the trailer before reading the book, you actually HEAR the song throughout and it’s just so…


Well, you may or may not want to read this book in bed, and if you do, keep a nightlight handy.

And all you have to do to enter the giveaway is watch the trailer and tell me below what you think.

Isn’t that amazing?!

Entries will be accepted through Wednesday, August 29th, and I’ll be choosing the winners for all three giveaways bright and early Thursday morning so I can get the books out on Friday. (Haven’t seen the other giveaways? Up for grabs is Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr, and a combo pack of For Darkness Shows the Stars AND Seraphina, by Diana Peterfreund and Rachel Hartman respectively)

Until next time~

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Not A Book Review

August 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , , , , )

So, today is supposed to be a book review day. It’s a Wednesday (or at least it is as I’m writing this) so it’s supposed to be a book review day.

And I even finished my book yesterday- spent the entire book going o.O and LOVING IT and thinking of all the wonderful things I wanted to say about it. But even before I finished the book, The Grossness hit. I spent most of yesterday in bed with the cat, even though I was supposed to be packing, because of The Grossness. I don’t know what this thing is, if it’s a cold, if it’s sinus issues, if it’s allergies on sterioids, what, but what I do know is that it’s majorly kicking my ass. I’ve reached the point where I can barely breathe (nose stuffed, chest tight) and blowing my nose produces a feeling equivalent to getting stabbed through the ear with a knitting needle.

Fighting The Grossness all day yesterday and all day today (and today was a full work day) has left me with a mental level on par with Ron Weasley in Advanced Arithmancy. (Yes, I know he never took it- there are reasons for that.) So, incoherence is strong with this one today. Seriously, it’s disgusting how many tries it’s taken me to get things right just to this point. The thought of trying to intelligently discuss a book I loved, in all its intricacies, is actually painful.

Buuuuuuut I feel kind of guilty for piking off a review.

You get to reap the benefits of my guilt.

I am giving away a finished copy of Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars AND Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina. You can enter through Wednesday, 29 August, and I’ll contact the winner the next day.

All you have to do to enter?

Comment below with your favorite read of 2012 so far, and why you love it so much.

That’s all you have to do!

(Plus, the giveaway for the ARC of Melissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls is still active through Wednesday 29 August, and check back on Sunday for ANOTHER giveaway of the book that blew me away even before the descent of The Grossness)

Until next time~

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Carnival of Souls Giveaway!

August 5, 2012 at 10:39 am (Giveaway) (, , , , )

Have I caught your attention yet?

This is kind of a crazy month for me; I’m packing up the apartment in prep for a move at the end of the month, I have to actually figure out the logistics of said move, and I’m forcing myself to work through severe heat with no air conditioning (which SUCKS!).

So I want to do something fun.

My birthday is at the end of the month, and I’d like to share the day with you. I’m giving away an ARC of Melissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls, out in store September 4th, plus swag from Jill Hathaway, Kathleen Peacock, Hannah Moskowitz, Nova Ren Suma, and Sophie Jordan.

You’ve got three ways to enter, and they’re all easy. Plus you can do all three for three entries!

Method 1: follow me on twitter at @dothutchison
Method 2: like my facebook page. As I get more information about the book, and as we get closer to having things like swag and ARCs, I’ll post things up there as well.
Method 3: add Elsinore Drowning on Goodreads

If you’ve already done any of these, just let me know (and list your handle) and you’ll have that entry. (Shameless self promotion? Yes- but it’s my birthday gift to myself) Just make sure you comment and tell me which ones you do and who you are(new or current), so I can count it all up.

Entries will be accepted through 29 August (my birthday!) and I’ll contact the winner the next day.

And don’t forget, this is the beauty you’re up for:

Until next time~

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Book Review: Rift, by Andrea Cremer + Giveaway!

July 18, 2012 at 8:24 pm (Book Reviews, Giveaway) (, , , , , )

Ember Morrow has just one chance to escape the life of docile marriage and motherhood that awaits girls in 1404 Scotland: her father owes a life debt to Conatus, a branch of Church knights who fight the lesser known evils of the world. If they accept her, her vows will protect her from her father’s plans and expectations, will free her to follow the life of action she’s always dreamed of. What she doesn’t know is that the evils faced by Conatus are worse than she could have imagined, and her trial of entrance is hardly the most difficult trial she’ll face. A terrible force is rising, and soon she’ll be cast in the middle of it.

In the interests of full disclosure, I won this ARC through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway, and tell you what, the arrival of this book was the ONLY good thing about a truly horrible day. I stayed up way too late reading this book, and I’m pretty sure that will be a very common statement after the book’s release.

I’m a character junkie, I make no bones about that, and Ember Morrow is a very likeable heroine. She’s intensely vulnerable, fierce, determined, a little awkward, and very aware of the fact that whatever choice she makes for herself, there is always someone who can override it. All the drive in the world can’t change the very basic fact of her existence: there’s always someone who can successfully tell her no. She’s unaccustomed being seen for herself, for who she is, and equally unfamiliar with being judged for her own merit. With the exceptions of Barrow and Sorcha, and a few other smaller characters, everyone seems to want something else of her. She’s not insensitive to that, but what really impressed me is that she isn’t dismissive of it either. Though her sister is in an arranged marriage, she genuinely wishes her every happiness, even acknowledges at times that a life of security like that might be pleasant, or at least not terrible. She understands the society in which she lives and doesn’t rail against it- she just doesn’t want that for herself.

That understanding is part of what makes her so appealing. Just as it can be hard to sympathize with someone who doesn’t fight for anything, it can be hard to feel much for someone who fights everything. Ember is a beautiful balance of living in her world as it is and wanting to have something better for herself. She comes to her training honestly and with a great joy that reaffirms her decisions even when she has cause to doubt or question them. Though the physical ease of some of her training sometimes strains credulity, it’s never completely over the top. She’s just this utterly fantastic character who was wonderful to read with.

I could definitely stand to know more about Barrow Hess, and I hope we’ll get that in the second. We come to know him as Ember does, so the mystery is understandable, but the enigma could stand to be penetrated a bit. He’s sexy and skilled, and we know his qualities, but nothing of his history, nothing truly personal. We get the sense that there’s a great deal of depth to his character, but we don’t get to learn any of it yet. He’s still alluring- and let’s face it, pretty hot-but he’s such an intriguing character that I was a little disappointed not to see more of him.

And can I just say how much I love Sorcha? She is absofrickinlutely awesome. And um…wait, no, can’t say that. Spoiler. But, oh my God, Sorcha. Seriously.

Most of the other characters are touched on more lightly. We get a sense of them, enough to leave a sketch of impression on the memory, but we don’t really know them. Even Eira, who shares the shoulder of the narration, never really comes off as less than cold. Cian, her sister, is more rounded, a blend of caution, duty, and excitement, but Eira’s dissatisfaction colors her so thoroughly that it’s difficult to have any true suspense about her decisions. Subsequent (or rather prior) knowledge aside, you always know she’s going to do something reckless and terrible. She fights against everything (which, in some respects, makes a nice parallel to Ember’s sense of balance) but she’s tempered by intolerance. She’s in a position of power but while she certainly has the skills to merit the position, she lacks the more difficult aspects of leadership. It’s hard to feel sympathy for her setbacks because she very clearly brings them upon herself.

Well, that and her setbacks are usually good news for everyone not on the reckless side of things.

I loved the care and detail given to the weapons and gear, in both the variety and quality of the pieces. It helps keep things interesting- because everyone having the same weapons gets a little boring- and also helps tie specific details into the personalities. When we see a type of weapon, we know who it belongs to, so we know at a glance who’s in the scene even before a name is given. It also gives a solid nod to the fact that the order, or at least its purpose, is universal. Unlike their non-Conatus counterparts, the Guards have a good reason to have weapons that would otherwise be exotic and frankly out of place in the fifteenth century highlands. And, of course, I love that we get to see the weapons in use. There was one part so unexpectedly gross and gory and wonderful, I wanted to hug Andrea Cremer and say thank you. That scene was exquisite, both in its appalling sense of setting and the way it uses that setting and the subsequent events to tug on the heartstrings. Just a wonderfully crafted scene.

I wished we could have seen a little more of the rest of Conatus. It makes sense that most of what we see is the Guard, but the trial is so rich with promise in the other aspects of the keep that I thought that would carry over into the rest of the book. Each arm of Conatus contributes something valuable, all are equally necessary, and I wanted to see them just a little in their natural habitats. Even if it was just at meals or something of that nature. Conatus as a group, as an institution of sorts, is an amazing, richly wrought creation, but we only get to play in the shadows of its greatness.

This is definitely a study of character rather than plot. That’s partly a product of the leisure of us knowing from the original trilogy that a Very Bad Thing happens and people try to stop it- we already know that. Why we’re here is to find out how and why it happened, and when the end event is known, it’s a less stressful journey to the reveal. Despite a few sharp incidents- oh, Dorusduain- most of the book feels like it’s just getting to a point where it can set up the next one. It’s not that the pacing’s off, because it isn’t- it moves along very well, carefully interspersing heavier scenes with ligher ones, action scenes with conversation scenes. It’s not something you can really put your finger on, but when it comes to the end, you’re exactly where you expected to be, and it feels like it didn’t take any time at all to get there. That’s not a complaint- this is a book you devour in as close to one sitting as possible, so the ultimate timeline can feel a bit deceptive.

Given the original trilogy, this isn’t surprising, but I absolutely loved the attention given to gender roles, expectations, and limitations. Specifically, how even when women seem to break from their pre-defined roles, they’re still constrained by having to act within them for the sensibilities of external society, and for their own protection. It’s a careful compromise between building strong characters and being honest to the setting and time period, and it was fantastic. It can be something as simple as a dress and a hairstyle that offers safety for women stepping deeper into a man’s world. I love the exquisite dance be see between politics and faith, the two extremes of the Church represented in directly opposing- though not directly confrontational- figures. The history geek in me was nearly swooning.

This book isn’t out until 7 August, but guess what? I’m giving away my ARC! Open to US residents only (sorry), and all you have to do is answer a question.

The members of Conatus are split into three branches: Knowledge, Craft, and War. Each branch has its own secrets, its own purpose, but each branch is necessary to the survival and well-being of the other two. With Knowledge comes the legacy of accumulated wisdom and histories, with Craft the ability to create and enhance, while War can be used both to defend and vanquish.

Want to win this advance copy?

Comment below and tell me which branch you would choose- and why. Entries will be accepted through 25 July.

And mark you calendars, because the second book, Rise will be out in stores 8 January 2013!

Until next time~

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Mini-Vacation and GIVEAWAY

May 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , )

So I’m actually away from my computer this entire weekend because one of my big brothers is graduating with a Very Important Degree and we’re going up to see him be all important and stuff. (Don’t let the sleepy grammar fool you- I’m ridiculously proud of him)

To make up for my absence, I’m giving away an AMAZING book!

I got an ARC for Christopher Healy’s fabulous The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and just about hurt myself laughing. Despite having the ARC, I had to go ahead and buy the finished book anyway, for two reasons: one, I love to support the authors of books I love; and two: because I had to have the interior illustrations. They’re wonderful! They’re funny and pitch-perfect and only add to the atmosphere of this fantastic story.

So now I’m passing on that ARC! You too can laugh yourself into pained incoherence with the adventures and misadventures of Princes Gustav, Frederick, Liam, and Duncan! Trust me, you WANT this book.

And all you have to do is answer a question: who do you think got the shortest end of the stick in fairy tales?

For my part, I always felt bad for the Little Mermaid (the real one, not the Disney one). She tries so hard and gives up so much, every step hurts like knives underfoot, but in the end she still can’t get the guy she’s risked everything to be with. In her case, you really can die from a broken heart, and it’s not that there’s anything wrong with her, it’s not the prince hated her, it just…didn’t work. Her story brings tears to my eyes every time.

So who do you think got the short end of the stick? Tell me below and you’ll be entered to win- that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to follow me here or on twitter, you don’t have to like my facebook page, just comment. (Of course, if you WANTED to do those things, I’d love you and give you virtual cookies, but it’s optional). Open to US residents only, and you can comment through Saturday, 2 June 2012.

Can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

Until next time~

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Book Review: Masque of the Red Death, by Bethany Griffin

March 14, 2012 at 6:17 pm (Book Reviews, Giveaway) (, , , , , )

Araby Worth just wants to forget.
Forget her dead twin brother and all the things he’ll never do, forget the plague that devestates the city, forget the pain and the misery and all the things that used to be true. For the rich of the city, the answer is the Debauchery Club and others like it, where drugs and drink and dubious pleasures can be had merely for the asking, and for a few precious moments she can simply forget.
But there are some who don’t want her to forget. There’s Will, the doorman at the club, drawn to glittery girls with unnaturally colored hair, who wants to show Araby the good that’s worth living for. And there’s Elliot, the prince’s nephew, who looks to her- the daughter of the scientist who’s made the only significant advances against the plague- for help in staging a revolution. In a city where life is fragile and fleeting, where contamination can help at any point, wracked between the murderous impulses of a crazy prince and the rioting forces of a rogue reverend, Araby has to decide for herself if there are things worth dying for.
And the harder choice- are there things worth living for?

If the title sounds familiar, it’s because it draws its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s story of the same name. And if I may say, rather does it justice.

It’s a captivating world of extremes. The city and country are never named, there are never any dates given, so it could be anywhere that has a deep harbor and swamp. We get a definite Victorian sense- the basic level of technology, the clothing, some of the remnant attitudes- but it lends flavor rather than nailing us down into a specific mindset. It gives us a city entirely isolated from everything else, nearly floating in time and space and becoming something entirely defined by the plague. In a world where death is imminent, there’s still a huge divide between the rich and the poor. The poor are more susceptible to the disease from hunger and privation, from more constant exposure. The rich are locked away in clean towers, and if the foods aren’t the imported luxuries they were before, they have more than enough. The rich have easy access to the masks developed by Dr. Worth; though not foolproof, the porcelain half-masks significantly reduce the risk of exposure. Where the poor struggle to earn another day, another week, another meal for their children, the rich go play in the clubs where decadence and decay coexist.

It is an incredibly tribute to the skill of the writing that we have so much interest in characters that are generally unsympathetic. For a great deal of the book, Araby is simply adrift. All she wants is oblivion, so she goes along with what she’s told, goes places she doesn’t have a particular interest in going, because as far as she’s concerned her life ended the day her twin brother Finn died. She made a vow that she wouldn’t do anything he wouldn’t get to do, but every day she’s still alive breaks that. She’s cold, inside and out, and the prickly return of warmth is genuinely painful. Despite that, she has a deep goodness to her as well. Even when she tries not to care, even when she can be callous about a starving child’s potential to survive, she does care. She doesn’t think there’s much of a difference she can make, but what small things she can, she does. Small things, like trying to get a mask for a child who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford one. Handing out apples, sending a care package of food.

Her course over the story is captivating, as she slowly emerges from a cage she’s constructed for herself. It’s a terrifying prospect, and she comes into a world where nothing is certain and she doesn’t have any idea who to trust. There’s a core of strength that always had the potential to be there but this is the first time she’s had to rely on it- the first time she’s had to decide to use it.

Elliot, nephew to insane Prince Prospero and older brother to Araby’s best friend April, is a destructive force of nature, even as he’s a large part of the impetus that forces Araby to grow. He’s damaged, perhaps even broken, vacillating between extremes of personality that make it difficult to trust him. He can be ruthless, even admits he shouldn’t be trusted, but there’s something painfully vulnerable about him that’s…endearing is the wrong word, but I think compelling would be apt. He’s dangerous to everyone and everything around him, reckless and intense and not nearly steady enough to place faith in him as the leader of a revolution. That he’s ultimately well-intentioned isn’t exaggerating the truth- that he’s capable of carrying out these intentions without dragging everyone to hell is more in question.

For all that Will is a better person, he’s just as dangerous in his own way. Where Elliot forces Araby to act, Will forces her to feel, and with the ice that coated her heart after her brother’s death, that may be more painful. He’s guardian to two younger siblings- easily my favorite characters of the book- and has the sense and maturity to acknowledge that the allure of glittery girls is too often without substance. His hope that Araby might prove to be more is part of what pushes her to become more. He’s earnest and open- except when he isn’t. For all that he’s willing to speak of, there’s more that he doesn’t mention. His openness is deceptive, but his warmth isn’t.

The politics of the city are both murky and restless. Prince Prospero rules from a castle three hours from the plague-ridden city, but there’s little doubt that his word is both law and death. There’s also no doubt that he is absolutely insane. Araby’s family plays a delicate dance in serving the prince but keeping a safe distance from him, a manuever far more involved than Araby’s ever realized. Prospero makes it a point to control all the scientists of the city, and thus control in some measure access to preventative measures. But there’s another power rising in the city, more sinister than Elliot’s attempts at revolution. Reverend Malcontent appeals to the frightened masses, the panic stretching into terror as more and more come to feel that science has failed them. Religion has been a lost art long enough that Malcontent proposes his own, and he has a large share of followers that are more than willing to shed blood to bring about their vision of grace.

This is an amazing book, moody and dark and atmospheric, full of choice and life in a world of death and despair, and it’s one you don’t want to miss. Release was moved up to 24 April 2012, so put it on your calendars!

And in the meantime, I’ve got an ARC up for grabs. All you have to do is answer this question in the comments: what classic book or story would you love to see in a YA retelling? For example, I’d love to see a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s original The Little Mermaid, complete with tragic ending.Added 3.23.12- ARC will also be accompanied by fun swag from Bethany Griffin! In light of this, entries will be extended through 3 April 2012.

Until next time~

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Book Review: Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers + Giveaway

March 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm (Book Reviews, Giveaway) (, , , , )

The world is changing. Religion and politics shape the fate of entire nations, as new religions crowd out or subsume old ones and kingdoms are devoured by others. Into this world, Ismae’s father sells her into marriage with a brute-handed villager who nearly kills her when he sees the red scar on her back that marks her as being sired by Death Himself. Rescued by an herbwife and the village priest, she’s spirited off to the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters follow the old ways and the old gods, serving as Death’s handmaidens to ply His will and His justice. Trained in the myriad arts of the assassin, Ismae revels in a life unfettered by the dictates of a man.
Then she receives an assignment that thrusts her into the royal court of Brittany, a nation struggling to retain its sovereignty with a twelve-year old duchess against a grasping French regent and the ever-shifting alliances of Europe. Unable to trust anyone, uncertain how to interpret Mortain’s intentions, Ismae struggles to keep her footing in a den of treason, where not just her body but her heart is in danger every moment.

You guys, this book absolutely blew me away. In setting, in characters, in the things you carry away from it, this is an astounding book.

Even before the first page, you know this book stands out. The rich detail in the costuming, the mottled sky like a painted background, the castle behind her, all immediately inform you of the historical nature of this book. But in her hand? A crossbow. She’s holding a frickin’ crossbow. Even the title is provocative-Grave Mercy. But is it referring to mercy of a solemn nature, or the mercy of death? It’s not a question we ever get an answer to, but it’s a debate that runs through nearly every discovery in the story.

This book takes place in a very interesting part of history. Brittany was still a sovereign state but struggling to remain that way after their loss in the Franco-Breton war and the death of Duke Francis. Twelve-year-old Anne needs a strong marriage to protect her sovereignty but there’s no simple solution- her official fiancee, a prince of England, disappeared from his tower prison (yes, one of those princes). A treaty signed by her father requires the consent of the Crown of France to any marriage she might make, and Madame la Grande (Anne, Regent of France for Charles) is not inclined to give permission to an alliance that will strengthen Brittany against the French Crown. It’s also a time of great religious change- the Grand Inquisition is about to start and the papacy was making a great effort to strengthen its hold on the religious heart of the people and nations it touched. In nations like Brittany and Navarre, the old religions faded slowly and reluctantly, often adapting in appearance to avoid closer scrutiny by inquisitors of the church. All of that is actual historical fact.

It’s also a large part of the story. This book is brilliantly researched and the history comes alive within the pages. It isn’t he did/she did; it’s high stakes and it’s personal, every step of the way. The characters are rounded and dynamic, many layered, and defined by the roles into which they’ve been born.

In a sense, this could be called a feminist story. There are a number of female characters, each reacting to a sense of societal helplessness in different ways. Some, like the sisters of the convent of St. Mortain, escape from the world of men to make their own decisions. Some, like Duchess Anne, struggle to balance their duties of rank with a society that expects men to rule. Some seek to play men, some to merely endure them, and still others try to please them. No matter which path they choose, the women are still defined by the men. However, they’re not on a crusade to change that, not on a grand quest to liberate women from the bonds of an uneven societal and personal relationship. These women are too busy trying to simply survive.

Ismae is an amazing character, rich in strength but aware of her own weaknesses and slowly awakened to the dual nature of vulnerability. She doesn’t hate men like Sybella, nor she does have any particular love of them. She’s intelligent and resourceful, with generous faults, and a sincere belief in what she does. That her Crisis of Faith is in the service of an older god doesn’t change the basic fabric of the decisions she has to make. She has a genuine love her for tasks and abilities, not because she glories in the act of death but because it’s something she can do, a talent and a set of dearly bought and finely honed abilities. She’s appealing as a character, someone with whom we can easily sympathize. The fact that we sympathize with an assassin simply makes it an example of stellar writing.

And then there’s Duval: Gavriel Duval, bastard half-brother to the duchess and her sworn protector, stands at the heart of the dangers in the Breton court. It’s Ismae’s job to learn the exact nature of his position there. He’s a complicated man, a riot of emotions and seemingly conficting actions, with a web of information that frequently skirts the gray areas of moral inquiry. He plays things close to the chest, parceling out only what information he must, trusting minimally, but trusting effusively in those very few who’ve earned that. He’s a man consumed by what he does, but we spend most of the book uncertain about what, precisely, he’s doing.

The details in this book are gorgeous. Whether it’s the depths of the political intrigue or the different poisons or even the (completely realistic!) ways in which one might hide a variety of weapons in clothing, it’s the details that really make this book. That it’s woven so seamlessly through real history and characters is just…just…gorgeous. Unutterably, instrinsically, mind-blowingly gorgeous.

Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers, out in stores 3 April 2012. DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK.

In fact, want to win my ARC? Easy-peasy, US only, open through Tuesday, 20 March, all you have to do is answer a question below: if you could read an historical fiction about any person or set of events, what would it be?

Until next time~

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