Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Title: The 5th Wave

Author: Rick Yancey

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Science-Fiction, Mystery & Trillers, Young Adult

Published: 7 May 2013 by Penguin Books Australia

Format: E-book, 457 pages

Synopsis: The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.” (Taken from Goodreads)

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“We’re here and then we’re gone, and it’s not about the time we’re here but what we do with the time.”

Everyone is raving about this book, because they’re right – this book is great! Some goes as far as calling this the next Hunger Games. While I’m not going to agree with that (nothing can really beat the intensity and originality of HG), The 5th Wave is definitely a good contender for being 2013’s most popular young-adult book, read by the masses.

Two things keep me hooked on a book:

  1. Plot line
  2. Characters

I’m not someone that dissects each and every paragraph looking for the themes the author has scattered through the book. I read for enjoyment, not to analyse. So what I need to keep me entertained is a well thought-out plot with a good pacing, and characters that I can invest my time in. If I’ve gone through 300 pages and want to punch everyone in the face, you know there is something wrong with your characters.

What makes this book great is that it meets both my criterias. Fast paced adrenaline pumping plot? Check! Amazing characters that have made me cry more than once? Double check!

While his writing is a little choppy, Yancey makes up for that with his cast of amazing characters that you just can’t help but root for. There’s Cassie for Cassiopeia, Zombie, Evan Walker and Sammy. Each has such a unique voice of their own, and it was sad to see one go as the chapter with their point-of-view ends.

In the midst of an alien invasion, it was so good to see a very sassy and bad-ass heroine take center stage. Cassie was so smart and intuitive, you can’t help but wait in bated breath every time she does something. It’s refreshing to see a female-lead stand on their own two feet and be able to SURVIVE by themselves, even when the world around them falls apart – literally. My only issue with Cassie was her behaviour after she meets Evan Walker. There was a point where I wanted to shake her and go, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING CASSIE. AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THIS!” but luckily, I doubted her too quickly. She is a bad-ass karate girl, I tell you! Her unwavering love for her brother and her need to keep the promise she made to find him was such an emotional part of the story. He is her drive to survive, and the reason she chooses to fight rather than give up.

Then there’s Zombie. I can’t say that his real identity was all that shocking, not with all the hints Yancey kept dropping about him. A lot of the ‘twists’ in the story was quite predictable, but The 5th Wave is much more a character driven story than a plot driven one. I really enjoyed reading the novel through his eyes as well, it was a good change to the pace of the story. What he goes through to survive is entirely different to Cassie, but like she has Sammy to fight for, he has the need to prove that he will not run away again when things get tough. Zombie crawled out of his grave as a new person, and his character grew stronger because of his will to change himself.

Evan Walker; now there’s an enigma. Once again, who he really is was not hard to figure out. Yancey’s plot twists are basically handed to you on a silver platter. At first, I found him extremely creepy, but he definitely grew on me. His devotion to Cassie transcends everything and I really, really need to know what has happened to him. How can you leave it off like that Mr Yancey?!?!!?

I am definitely looking forward to book two, but my gosh, August 2014 is to far away!

Thank you to Penguin Books Australia for providing an e-copy in return for an honest review. 

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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)

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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.