Book Review: The Torturer’s Daughter (Internal Defense #1) by Zoe Cannon

Title: The Torturer’s Daughter (Internal Defense #1)

Author: Zoe Cannon

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Published: 22 October 2012

Format: E-book, 274 pages

Synopsis: “When her best friend Heather calls in the middle of the night, Becca assumes it’s the usual drama. Wrong. Heather’s parents have been arrested as dissidents – and Becca’s mother, the dystopian regime’s most infamous torturer, has already executed them for their crimes against the state.

To stop Heather from getting herself killed trying to prove her parents’ innocence, Becca hunts for proof of their guilt. She doesn’t expect to find evidence that leaves her questioning everything she thought she knew about the dissidents… and about her mother.

When she risks her life to save a dissident, she learns her mother isn’t the only one with secrets – and the plot she uncovers will threaten the lives of the people sh

It’s easy to be a hero when you can save the world, but what about when all you can do is choose how you live in it? THE TORTURER’S DAUGHTER is a story about ordinary teenage life amidst the realities of living under an oppressive regime… and the extraordinary courage it takes to do what’s right in a world gone wrong.” (Taken from Goodreads)

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Book Review: Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti

Title: Other Systems

Author: Elizabeth Guizzetti

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Genre: Science-Fiction

Published: 1 April 2012 by 48Fourteen

Synopsis: “Without an influx of human DNA, the utopian colony on Kipos has eleven generations before it reaches failure. With Earth over ninety light-years away. Time is short.

On the over-crowded Earth, many see opportunity in Kipos’s need. After medical, intelligence, and physiological testing, Abby and her younger siblings, Jin and Orchid, are offered transportation. Along with 750,000 other strong young immigrants, they leave the safety of their family with the expectation of good jobs and the opportunity for higher education.

While these second-generation colonists travel to the new planet in stasis, the Kiposi, terrified that Earthlings will taint their paradise, pass a series of indenture and adoption laws in order to assimilate the savages.

When Abby wakes up on Kipos, Jin cannot be found. Orchid is ripped from her arms as Abby is sold to a dull-eyed man with a sterilized wife. Indentured to breed, she is drugged and systematically coerced. To survive, Abby learns the differences in culture and language using the only thing that is truly hers on this new world: her analytical mind. To escape, she joins a planetary survey team where she will discover yet another way of life. (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

The premise of this book is truly exciting, I took one look at it was immediately hooked! I haven’t read a lot of science-fiction novels before, but it’s a genre that continues to intrigue me. I was excited to dive straight into Abby’s story, which is why I was a little confused to be reading about someone named Cole, and his children. Although Cole’s story was fascinating, I did not really like the jumps between his perspective and Abby’s. I honestly found that while it was good background information, Cole’s chapters added nothing to the story once I look back at it. It could very easily have been incorporated later on.

A few chapters in, we finally get to the nut and ball of what was described in the synopsis. We are introduced to Abigail Boyd Lei, a mixed girl living on an overpopulated Earth with her family. We are shown what life is like on this futurist Earth, and it certainly doesn’t sound inviting. When Abby and her siblings are offered the chance to visit a colonised planet called Kipos, they jump straight at the opportunity. I mean, who wouldn’t when your life is so monotonous and dull on Earth? Of her three siblings, only the two youngest follow Abby and the Kiposi to a new life, leaving everyone else behind. I felt that while the farewells with her family was moving, it could have been a lot more emotional than it was. For people that Abby would never, ever see again, I had hoped that she would express a deeper understanding of loss, yet we never get to see that. All we were given were a prompt goodbye and then off the siblings go to the awaiting spaceship. I kept wondering why the rest of the family couldn’t follow them and farewell them from there.

As Abby and her siblings traverse through deep space, we are once again back with Cole and his kids. We get some more background information until we’re back again with Abby as she wakes up. It has been a hundred years since they left Earth, so everyone they have ever known is gone. I quite liked the fact that Abby was able to keep her composure in front of Orchid, in order to not scare her. I saw the inspiring older sister qualities in her character at that point. As we progress along, we learn that the Kiposi is extremely worried that the Earthlings would taint their paradise (even though they are Earthlings technically), so they introduced a set of indenture and adoption laws. Abby is ripped away from Orchid, and her younger brother is no where to be seen at all.

Abby is taken to a place where horrible things are done to her. She is alone, scared and have no idea what’s going on. As part of the indenture laws, she has to provide the Kiposi family who bought her ‘bond’ with three children or serve them for seven years. This part of the story is where things get a little confusing for me. Perhaps this was due to my erratic reading patterns for this novel, but I was continuously wondering how Cole’s story even fit in with Abby’s. We were given so much background information, but then we jump to Abby and it’s like he didn’t even exist. In fact, this part of the novel was probably the hardest to get through because I failed to see the link between the two characters and I was frustrated with Abby’s silly personality. She was continuously moaning about loving this person, or that person. I saw her as such a weak ‘Earthling’, which reflectively I now believe was the author’s intention in the first place. But honestly, I could not stand her at all during this section.

However, she does grow and becomes stronger as a person. Abby manages to escape from her bonded buyers and finds her way to a spacecraft docking area (FINALLY), where she happens upon the Alekos crew (Cole’s children). They generously take her on as an intern even with all the risks of losing their licences. I guess this is where the background information finally fits in – although I still think it was unnecessary. While I enjoyed this part of the novel a lot more – seeing Abby grow stronger, more independent and smarter – I felt it was quite lacking of a plot. I kept wondering if Abby would leave and embark on a journey to free all her indentured Earthlings but no such thing happened. We hear a little about the Earthlings back on Kipos revolting, but that’s as far as it goes. In Abby’s case however, she remains on the spaceship and explores new planets. I have to admit that that was pretty boring. I hoped she would at least lead a rebellion, fight to get her sister back, or take revenge on the people that killed her brother … but unfortunately, none of that happened. We see a lot of Abby adjusting to her new life, which is great and all, but not all that exciting.

I think I must commend Ms Guizzetti on creating some very believable and three dimensional characters. However, a novel that is 460 pages long needs to have a discernable and exciting plot. I found myself wondering more than once about where the story was heading, and kept waiting for that one scene where Abby turns into a hero and frees her fellow Earthlings.

Overall, a well written novel with some very interesting explanations of other systems in the universe.

THANKS TO: Elizabeth Guizzetti for providing an e-copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman

Title: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ½

Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Mystery

Publication Date: 2 July 2012 by Random House Children’s Books

Synopsis: “An new vision of knights, dragons, and the fair maiden caught in between…

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisite debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina’s tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they’ve turned the final page.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

I took a glimpse through the ratings for this book on goodreads prior to picking it off my book shelf, and was amazed by the number of 5-stars littered throughout the page. Everyone seemed to love this book and it’s even won a few prizes. I tried not to get my hopes up too high in case the book did not meet my expectations, but unfortunately, I did fall to the hype and was expecting a wondrous story with epic dragon battles akin to other high fantasy novels. It didn’t even have to be filled with battles, I loved The Hobbit for its characters, journey and wit – even though Bilbo blacked out during the final epic battle and basically missed the whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong though, I did thoroughly enjoy this story as a whole when I look back on it. It was probably due to my own tastes as a reader that lowered the overall score. This is really a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.

Seraphina starts off so strongly. I was dazzled by the first chapter in which we learn that she remembers being born. How trippy is that? With a knowledge like that, I was instantly interested in her character. And she doesn’t disappoint. Like every other review out there on this book, I agree that Seraphina meets all the expectations of being a brave, smart and loyal heroine. It wasn’t all words and no action. Hartman has truly created a character that could stand up for herself during hard times, and she’s become one of the best heroines I’ve had the pleasure to meet in a book. She will have a spot on my ‘Top 5 kick ass girls'” list for a long time.

When I think about it, Seraphina’s world is full of fantastic female characters. The royal family is ruled by Queen Lavonda, and the first and second heirs are also female. I love that Hartman has created a world that doesn’t spit upon the idea of females being in power – it is so refreshing to read about female characters that don’t need to be continuously rescued by men.

I would also like to praise Hartman on the beautiful world she has created. While I cannot say that Goredd is a city that I can picture in my mind, its characters are as vivid as they come. They all feel so real, it’s almost as if I’ve known them all my life. My favourite would definitely have to be Orma. His eccentric dragon personality is so quirky and loveable that you can’t help but wish he really existed. Then there is Fruit Bat, Loud Lad and Miss Fusspots – the grotesques of Serphina’s mind who are all so unique and wonderful. And the dragons – the saarantras – definitely a very refreshingly new take on them. If I had to praise Miss Hartman on one thing, it would be on her characterisations and development.

However, and here comes the bad part, I did rate Seraphina a 3.5 star novel for a reason. A part of it was because of me, and I found that half the novel was so slow and boring that I almost gave up on finishing it. If it wasn’t for the lovely characters that I rooted for, I don’t think I could have continued. Miss Hartman’s Goredd is extremely religious, and we learn this through the many religious teachings Seraphina throws at us. There are seriously way too many Saints to even keep with, and if it weren’t for the glossary at the back, I wouldn’t even understand what half of them stood for. While I don’t mind reading about a religious city, there are limits to the amount I’m willing to endure when all these teachings have no relation to the overall plot of the story. Aside from St Ogdo, whose faction hates dragons and despises the treaty of peace made between the dragons and Goredd, all the other Saints play little to no role in the story.

And the plot – my god was it slow! I am someone that loves a fast placed plot with lots of action. While I understand that this is a fantasy story of mystery and politics, it has dragons too. Who can really say that they don’t expect lots of action and adventure when dealing with a story that has dragons? What we get instead is a small mystery about a rogue dragon being sighted, with the main focus on the celebration of 40-years of peace. Seriously, half the story is really about Seraphina organising the music for the celebration of the treaty. Make that around 80% of the story … and the only fight we see is at the end of the novel, which probably lasted two or so pages and was resolved much too easily.

What I really wanted to read about was Seraphina’s ‘mind garden’, which holds these grotesques that end up being other half-dragons like herself. This was the most intriguing thing brought about by this novel, and I wanted to learn so much more about it, but sadly it was barely touched upon, overshadowed by the need to talk excessively about the different Saints being worshipped in Goredd. However, Seraphina is setting out to find her grotesques in the next book so I may just pick up the sequel to find out how that goes. It sounds like a much more promising story with an actual war brewing and potential action. Hopefully that rings true or I would be more let down than I am right now.

Overall, a very well written story that lacks the oomph I was so looking forward to.

Book Review: Rape Girl by Alina Klein

Title: Rape Girl

Author: Alina Klein

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Contemporary, Young-Adult, Coming-Of-Age

Synopsis: “Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl.

But not the rape girl.

That’s who she is now. Rape Girl. Because everyone seems to think they know the truth about what happened with Adam that day, and they don’t think Valerie’s telling it.

Before, she had a best friend, a crush, and a close-knit family. After, she has a court case, a support group, and a house full of strangers.

The real truth is, nothing will ever be the same.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

A beautifully written story of survival during the aftermath of an event that can ruin a young person’s life forever.

Rape Girl was certainly a very quick read, but it resonated a strong message to all victims of rape: “Hold your head high even if you feel like your world is crashing down around you.” The story follows Valerie, a 16-year-old teenager that threw a party and got drunk while her mum was out of town. During the night, she was witnessed by many of her peers to willingly walk into a room to spend some time alone with her crush, Adam. What they didn’t witness was her throwing up all over his shoes and passing out, only to wake up the next day with a major hangover. Falling asleep on the couch once again, she wakes up to Adam having taken off most of her clothing and telling her he was back to pick up where they had left off the night before. Valerie tells him “no”, but we obviously know what happens next.

The book focuses mainly on the present, while we do get a glimpse into prior events during the beginning of the story. We go through the journey of being a victim of rape with Valerie, and watch as her world falls down around her. But we also see her pick herself up again. We see many victims of rape blaming themselves for what happened, and it’s no different with Valerie. She is fighting a battle within herself as well as with Adam. She experiences the loss of reputation for telling a truth no one believes, and watches as her ‘best friend’ leaves her, rather than staying loyal. Such is the world of high school.

I really, really enjoyed watching Valerie pick herself up through this mess of an event – even when her lawyers drop her case and charges against Adam. I understand the message behind Valerie’s story is not able winning against the raper, but to speak up and piecing your life together even when everything goes to crap. Reporting the incident is so important to turning your life around, because you realise who the supportive people in your life are. It is the first step to being able to move on from the incident.

I really loved this story and its messages, but what I would have liked to see was maybe an epilogue to really conclude Valerie’s story. I know her talk with Adam was supposed to be the point where she turns her life around, but it fell a little flat for me. But irregardless, this was a wonderful read, written really well by Klein. It’s a wonderful contemporary story I would recommend to everyone.

THANKS TO: Namelos for providing an electronic copy of the book on netgalley for me to read and review honestly.

Book Review: Matt Archer: Monster Hunter (#1) by Kendra C. Highley

Title: Matt Archer: Monster Hunter (#1)

Author: Kendra C. Highley

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Shelf: Read-in-2013, 4-out-of-5, Children-Fiction, Adventure, Paranormal, Released-in-2012, Author-Request-Review

Synopsis: “Fourteen-year-old Matt Archer spends his days studying Algebra, hanging out with his best friend and crushing on the Goddess of Greenhill High, Ella Mitchell. To be honest, he thinks his life is pretty lame until he discovers something terrifying on a weekend camping trip at the local state park. 

Monsters are real. And living in his backyard. 

But that’s not the half of it. After Matt is forced to kill a strange creature to save his uncle, he finds out that the weird knife he took from his uncle’s bag has a secret, one that will change Matt’s life. The knife was designed with one purpose: to hunt monsters. And it’s chosen Matt as its wielder. 

Now Matt’s part of a world he didn’t know existed, working with a covert military unit dedicated to eliminating walking nightmares. Faced with a prophecy about a looming dark war, Matt soon realizes his upcoming Algebra test is the least of his worries. 

His new double life leaves Matt wondering which is tougher: hunting monsters or asking Ella Mitchell for a date?” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

Fourteen-year-old Matt Archer is out camping in the woods of Montana with his uncle Mike when they are attacked by a paranormal grissly bear with tusks. Not knowing what to do as his uncle is attacked, Matt grabs the first weapon he finds in his uncle’s bag – a sharp knife that glows at his touch. The knife takes out the monster and Matt is thrust into the mist of a mission to save the world from armageddon.

For a fourteen-year-old thrust into the tough ordeals of a military nightmare, Matt handles himself extremely well. He is a well-rounded character written unbelievable well by Highley. He acts as a fourteen-year-old would when faced with girl-troubles, but is also smart enough to obey command when necessary. Matt is not irrational and stubborn as most teenagers would be when told that they’re wielding immense power – and that is what I loved about him. Highley has created a person that all readers could root for – rather than another annoying kid given power they’re unable to comprehend.

I found the entire story very well written and paced. Most scenes were definitely filled with action and Highley does not shy away from the prospect of death, which I admire her for. While written for children, it is still to be expected that when you’re fighting a war with monsters, death would always be lurking around the corner.

I have only high praise for the character developments within this story. All the characters were well-rounded and felt completely real. I enjoyed the strong bond of friendship between Matt and his best friend Will, but what I loved most was his bond with his family. His sister Mamie is one tough cookie, even though she’s known as a nerd to people around school. While we don’t see much of Matt’s brother Brent, he is always there when Matt needs him the most. He has his back and that’s what counts the most. And how can I forget the relationship between Matt and his uncle Mike? With Matt’s father M.I.A, Mike is the closest father figure he and his siblings have. Being deployed to Afghanistan serves the family a huge blow, but it is because of Mike’s leaving that pulls the Archer family together. They’re all just so supportive of each other, and it’s such a great thing to read about.

While you may think that this book is just about hunting mosters in the dark, Matt is still a teenager in high school. He has problems just like any other adolescent boy full of testosterone, and the glimpses offered into his ‘normal’ life was quite enjoyable to read about. Not once did I get impatient and want to fast forward to the fighting, because Matt chasing after is dream girl Ella was fun to read about too.

Matt Archer: Monster Hunter was an extremely enjoyable read and I will definitely be reading the next one in the series – Matt Archer: Blades Edge. I hear it’s set in Australia, my home country, so I’m very, very excited!

THANKS TO: Kendra C. Highley for providing me an electronic copy to review honestly.

Book Review: Zephyr The West Wind (Chaos Chronicles #1) by R.J. Tolson

Title: Zephyr The West Wind (Chaos Chronicles #1)

Author: R.J. Tolson

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆☆

Shelf: Read-in-2013, Young-Adult, Fantasy, 2-out-of-5, Released-in-2012, Kindle-eBook, Netgalley-Read, Book-Tour

Publication Date: 21 August 2012 by Universal Kingdom Print

Synopsis: “Seventeen years ago, in the island village of Dentro, lived a large and powerful demon. With just a howl, mountains were obliterated. With the help of an outsider, the chief of Dentro destroyed the demon and sealed its dark power within three powerful ancient weapons: a spear, a shield, and a sword. After leaving the unwelcoming village, the man who had helped destroy the demon took the sword in an effort to keep the village and its people safe.

Months later, a villager bore the son of the outsider. Carrying the child of a stranger was in violation of a sacred village law, and everyone knew whose child the boy was. Born into a village filled with hateful people, Zephyr grew up not knowing why he was so hated. With no friends, and eventually no family after the passing of his mother, Zephyr was forced to survive by himself as an outcast.

Zephyr’s only wish was to make his mother proud and force the village to recognize him–while surviving in a world filled with demons, paranormal abilities, love, hate, and undiscovered lands.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

I think this book started out very strongly. I was entranced by the prologue with its promises of ancient Greek mythologies and was very, very excited to devour this book. However, that was just it – the prologue was full of promises that Tolson did not deliver. What I did like about the book was that Zephyr is a good role model for children reading his story. His strong afflictions towards being the best person he could possibly be, even to people that had treated him like trash, was a message that put a smile on my face. I think Tolson created a character that was strong in this sense. This was the one consistent trait of Zephyr’s that I liked, because there were SO many inconsistencies riddled throughout the book.

The biggest problem I found with Zephyr’s character was when he said he wanted to gain power to protect the people he loved. These were people that he’d only met recently. While that could be overlooked, I couldn’t read about him leaving his boy tour guide unconscious within the palace that he was touring while he ran away from a fight that he’d started. At that point I was like, ‘Really? You left him unconscious and you’re just going to leave?’
There were many other inconsistencies that I couldn’t bring myself to overlook. On his quest to recover the ancient weapons in order to save his village, Zephyr had to visit two cities that were at war with each other. They were called Cheshria and Sleeves. At Cheshria, the guards manning the gate didn’t even bother to check the carriages that held Zephyr and his companion, Leon, and let them through into the city without a second thought. The driver of the carriage was a friend of Zephyr’s and had told the guards that the carriages held his servants. I found it hard to believe that the guards would not bother to check the carriages at all, or question as to why servants are riding in the carriage while their master drove it.

What irritated me more than these inconsistencies was the way this story was written. At the beginning of the story, Zephyr narrates the story as if he’s addressing the reader. Thankfully this doesn’t last long because I really dislike novels that are narrated like that. Moving from that, Zephyr then continues to narrate the story by repeating things the readers have already learned by voicing them aloud as if we were stupid. And as if that wasn’t irritating enough, the story suddenly switches to Leon’s perspective suddenly and without warning for a few chapters near the end. Not only was that change in perspective abrupt, it just totally ridiculous because Tolson does not tell that audience that it’s Leon’s perspective, you have to figure it out yourself. When this first happened, I had gone halfway through the chapter before I stopped in my tracks and was like, ‘Wait…this cannot possibly be Zephyr narrating this…what’s going on?!’
And please don’t get me started on the ‘love’ story. Was it really necessary? Because it was just so cringe-worthy reading through it. While I do think Zephyr and his love interest, Autumn, are good people, I really couldn’t root for them. From the beginning, Zephyr turns into a blubbering idiot when he meets her. And from then on, she’s The One. Yeah, ok. And don’t even get me started on how he manages to have visions of her sneaking away from her village in order to come find him and help. That is not even explained. Was he thinking about her so much that he just suddenly have these visions in his sleep that actually turn out to be true?

While you may think I hated this book, it wasn’t horrendous. I really enjoyed the fight scenes and they were exciting to read about. Especially the ones at the end when they really felt genuine and you couldn’t tell that Zephyr was definitely going to win. However, this was a book that I did have to force myself to finish – and that is never a good thing. I will probably be giving the next one in the series a miss.

THANKS TO: Samantha Lien from JKSCommunications for providing me an electronic ARC to review honestly.

Book Review: The Darkest Minds (#1) by Alexandra Bracken

Title: The Darkest Minds

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Shelf: Read-in-2013, Young-Adult, Science-Fiction, Adventure, 3-out-of-5, NetGalley-Read, Kindle-eBook, HarperCollins Australia

Publish Date: 11 December 2012 by HarperCollins Australia

Synopsis: “When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

The Darkest Minds is about the outbreak of a mysterious disease called IAAN that killed a majority of America’s children whilst leaving the remainder with abilities that scared the government enough to put them in ‘rehabilitation’ camps, which are really nothing more than concentration camps. At the start, we are introduced to Ruby, a 16-year-old who’ve been sent to the camp, Thurmond, by her parents on her 10th birthday. While I found Ruby’s backstory of how she arrived at the camp intriguing, the storytelling was a little choppy as we were suddenly thrust into Ruby’s past without warning. Also, how exactly did this disease come about?

These camps classify their occupants by colour according to their special abilities. I found myself quite lost throughout the majority of the book as I don’t think the abilities of each group were explained properly, you just had to read to understand what they did. I guess Bracken took a ‘show-don’t-tell’ approach, but this got confusing because there was so much being thrown at you at once. (But maybe it was just me, and she did explain it but it completely went over my head? In that case, then it’s my fault for being completely confused.)

Ruby kept her head down throughout her time at Thurmond by pretending to be a Green (someone with intelligent mental capabilities) – but in fact, she is really an Orange (someone with the ability to control minds). While I found the pacing of the beginning to be quite slow, I enjoyed it because it was really fascinating learning about Thurmond and Ruby’s time there. The camp was horrifying. Adults (known as psi officers) walked around with rifles and abused children left and right. It was just horrible to read about Ruby’s time there, so props to Bracken for creating such a creepy environment encased in this horrendous atmosphere.

I think what made up the majority of the book was the world-building and character development. Liam, Chubs and Suzume became characters that I loved, and even Ruby grew as a character. Seen as weak and vulnerable to everything at the start of the book, she became stronger and made hard decisions for the benefit of others by the conclusion.

However, I found that the plot was sacrificed for world-building and character development. The beginning and ending was strong and exciting as things actually happened quickly. There was action, there was suspense and I went through those chapters so quick! But the middle fell so flat for me. Aside from a few chases/escapes from the the psi officers and skiptracers (bounty hunters), all that really happens is the characters getting to know each other. I found myself saying that certain scenes could definitely have been cut out/molded together with others to make the journey more exciting. At more than one point, I kept wondering where Bracken was actually taking this story. While I wanted to put the book down halfway through, I gave the story the benefit of the doubt as I saw so much potential in it. It was just not executed as flawlessly as I’d have liked.

One advantage for this slow story building is that the romance didn’t feel forced. I love, love, LOVED it. You could obviously tell from the beginning who that love interest to Ruby would be, but the slow plot made the ‘getting-to-know-you’ phase all the much sweeter. I was definitely rooting for them – which is why the ending REALLY floored me. SO MUCH SO that I cried.

I think what really killed me was finding the playlist Miss. Bracken has made for the book right after I finished reading and was still feeling so vulnerable and emotional. Because of this, the first song on the playlist almost put a dagger through my heart because it was just so perfect and fit the ending so brilliantly.

I think it’s really a song that you need to have read the book to feel extremely emotional about. The rest of the playlist is just brilliant also, it just captures the essence of the novel completely. CLICK HERE FOR ‘THE DARKEST MINDS’ PLAYLIST.

I really thought this book would be a standalone, I think it works well as one for such a thick book – so much so that I was really disappointed to find out that it’s meant to be a trilogy. As the majority of this book was spent on character development, it’s almost as if Bracken held back the plot developments in order to stretch out the story. While I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing as there are still so much left to be resolved, but it almost feels like I can pinpoint what would happen in the next two books.

  1. Ruby goes around doing things for the Children’s League … she either becomes corrupted or is a double agent.
  2. Clancy Gray becomes more reformed (less evil with using his mind powers) and works with Ruby secretly to take down his dad’s government regime, and actually cares about breaking the kids out of the rehabilitation camps.
  3. Chubs does not die, he joins the League and probably works with Ruby as a double agent or watches as Ruby becomes corrupted in the second book, only to realise what she is becoming and reforms in the third book as Liam reappears.
  4. Suzume is found by the League.
  5. Ruby keeps close tabs on Liam and they cross paths somehow. I have a feeling he may reconsider joining the League again, convinced they’re not so bad after letting him go. Ruby facepalms. They spend more time together, relationship rekindles.
  6. Ruby becomes stronger and stronger. Perhaps she’ll learn how to place memories back in someone’s head.
  7. Rehabilitation camps will be shut down, Clancy will be so reformed and good that he becomes the President after killing his dad.

There was also a lot of inconsistencies in the editing of the book. For example, ‘Rob’s’ name was used before he was even introduced. I think I really noticed that because it was just so abrupt. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m reading an electronic ARC, but I found myself stopped abruptly in the middle of sentences throughout the whole book because words were either missing or misused. This became a really frustrating because it felt so jarring to the overall reading experience.

While I found many problems with this book, I did like it overall. I think Bracken has come up with a very interesting story that could perhaps have worked better as a standalone. The ending was heartbreaking as the characters were developed so well, but I wish it could have just been left off like that – almost as if to say life’s not perfect, deal with it. I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series as I’ve really become invested in these characters, I just hope there is more action now that the world is built and the characters are well-formed!

An electronic ARC was provided to me by HarperCollins Australia for an honest review.