Book Review: Day Zero by Kresley Cole

Ashes to ashes . . .
Evie Greene’s story of the Flash is just one of many. All over the world, those connected in some way to the lethal Arcana game—like Death, Jack, and Fortune—must first survive a horrifying night of blood and screams.

We all fall down.
Some will have to grapple with new powers; all will be damned to a hellish new existence of plague, brutality, desolation, and cannibalism. Find out who they lost, why they endure, and what they sacrificed in order to live past Day Zero. . . .

This novella/short story collection is set up a bit differently from most, and Cole acknowledges that at the beginning with a small forward explaining the original intention of this collection.  Originally, this was going to serve as a guide for the possible television series that was proposed for this story, so each card in the major arcana, all 22, are given names, descriptions, information on their Arcana powers and traits, and those that are still alive during the game are given their own short story about where they were and what was happening to them on “Day Zero,” or the day the Flash occured.

Readers are treated to a bonus story featuring Death toward the beginning, showing him as he prepares for the new games, each of the icons fading from his skin.

This is a kind-of spoiler-y review, but since all but maybe one or two of these characters have shown up in the main novels, I don’t really find it too pressing.

We pretty much just get to see where each of the cards, including a rehash of Evie, were on the night of/day of (depending on where in the world they were at the time), and it gives small glimpses into who they were prior to their participation in the game.

The Sun is with his two romantic partners, their polyamorous relationship is going so well he was planning to propose to them on the day that the Flash happened.  You know, after they throw a bitchin’ rave in an abandoned insane asylum.  He also *Spoiler Alert* wakes up to them attempting to suck his blood, having been turned into bagmen (Queue The Princess Bride gif).  But he pulls a Michonne and keeps them around by chaining them together and dragging them along.

Fortune is a gun cartel leader’s daughter in Brazil with a wicked desire for revenge and her ability to steal luck from others pretty much causes her father’s death, although I’m not sure if she is aware of that, or if it is just something that the reader realizes.

The Hanging Man is still the inactivated card, and a lot of fandom members speculate that Jack is actually the inactivated card, but considering the entire entry in the book is blacked out (clever), Cole keeps us in the dark on this.  I assume that in the fifth installment the Hanging Man will come into play, as all players in the game must be either killed or participate, so it seems unlikely that we’d continue to not know who this card is. To be honest, I’d be a bit disappointed if Jack turns out to be the inactive card, because it just seems to predictable to put Evie in the middle of a love triangle with two major cards.  Not only do we already have to deal with the triangle as it is, but if it’s between two cards? It just seems too…obvious?

You get a glimpse into the life of Tess, The World, and how she can apparate to her crush’s house, where she finds him masturbating to her yearbook photo.  So romantic.  She also almost takes herself out of the game by simply attempting to save her parents’ lives, which is really sad.

Poor Circe, though.  She’s my little ocean queen. She not only lost the love of her life, but also ended up leaving him at the alter during the Flash because the ocean called her to her watery temple. She’s probably my new favorite addition to the canon of characters, and I’ve liked her since she showed up at the end of Dead of Winter.

Overall, I give this book a solid 3 bards.  It doesn’t really give us that much insight into things other than the character backgrounds.  These backgrounds are limited, and I’d consider this really just a collection of information that benefits the author to help keep her canon in order rather than something readers absolutely had to know.

My review of Arcana Rising will be up Thursday, September 8.





Book Review: The Secrets of a Fire King by Kim Edwards

fire king
With The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards touched hearts across the nation. In this, her first collection of stories-now with three new stories added-she explores the lives of those who exist on the fringes of society: a fire-eater, an American and his Korean war bride, Madame Curie’s maid, and others. Though their tales vary dramatically, each comes up against the barriers of place and circumstance in the most universal of experiences: the quest to discover and understand the elusive mysteries of love. Transporting readers to exotic locations, this beautiful collection reinforces Edwards’s presence as an extraordinarily gifted writer.

I remember reading Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter years ago and absolutely loving it. The first short story, and really the rest of them, reminded me why. Everyone of her stories has breathtaking imagery and she has such a great way of transporting the reader into the story, even though each one is only about 20 pages long. Each story is so unique in the plot and the characters, but also has the common thread of human struggle and coming to terms with their life and their choices.

The first story, The Great Chain of Being, drew me in with a great story about a woman reclaiming her power after living under her father’s thumb for her entire life. Anything that has a strong feminist sense to it, automatically has my attention. As a young girl, Eshlaini’s father deemed her “too crazy” and would not allow her to marry. Instead she was to stay with her father and care for him throughout his life. She agreed to stay only on the condition that she would be left his house on his death. When he died, the house was worth more than anyone thought, and her brothers tried to convince her to give it to them. Her refusal and subsequent sale of the house for her own gain showed her power; power over herself and others. She may have felt powerless throughout her life, but she surprises herself and everyone else when she does not back down from giving up the house.

My second favorite story, Thirst, is, what I think, an interesting take on The Little Mermaid. What happens after the girl gets the prince she’d been dreaming of? Well, they get married have three kids, and she continues to long for the sea. It’s great story about trying to keep your past while living in your present, and really how impossible that is. You can’t have both. (Also, she turns her husbands mistresses into fish to keep in her aquarium, which I don’t recommend as a healthy coping mechanism, but I still thought it was cool.) It’s a great story of regret and longing and how what you want may not be what you need.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this collection, and give it 4.5 Bards.

Book Review: Corsets and Clockwork by Various Authors

Dark, urban fantasies come to life in the newest collection of Steampunk stories, “Corsets & Clockwork.” Young heroes and heroines battle evils with the help of supernatural or super-technological powers, each individual story perfectly balancing historical and fantastical elements. Throw in epic romances that transcend time, and this trendy, engrossing anthology is sure to become another hit for the fast-growing Steampunk genre!This collection features some of the hottest writers in the teen genre, including: Ann Aguirre, Jaclyn Dolamore, Tessa Gratton, Frewin Jones, Caitlin Kittredge, Adrienne Kress, Lesley Livingston, Dru Pagliassotti, Dia Reeves, Michael Scott, Maria V. Snyder, Tiffany Trent, and Kiersten White.

I will admit it; I judged a book by its cover. The cover of Corsets and Clockwork attracted me from the minute I saw it, and when I found that a couple of my favourite authors (Lesley Livingston and Maria V. Snyder) were contributors to this collection, I knew I had to read it. And then … it didn’t quite live up to what I expected. Maybe it was the different authors; maybe it was the subject matter was too broad, but there did not seem to be enough of a flow throughout the stories. Yes, they were all tied together by the idea of Steampunk, but that wasn’t enough to hold the book together. A couple of the stories were great, but others were definite let downs.

As I entered the Steampunk world of Corsets and Clockwork, the first story hit all the right notes. Rude Mechanicals, by Lesley Livingston was just what I have come to expect from her. It was a little Steampunk and a little Shakespeare with just enough of a twist to keep me guessing. Unfortunately, it was followed by Frewin Jones’ The Cannibal Fiend of Rotherhithe, which hardly seemed to fit into the Steampunk genre at all. It was much more a fantasy/horror match up featuring a cannibalistic half-mermaid. There was no smooth transition from the first story to the next, and it was quite jarring to jump from one world to the next. The lack of smooth transition, or unifying theme throughout the book really affected my enjoyment while reading.

I did like that Corsets and Clockwork introduced me to some new authors. I will definitely be looking for other works by Ann Aguirre, who contributed the story Wild Magic to the collection, and Tessa Gratton, who contributed King of the Greenlight City. The possibility of discovering new authors is something that draws me to anthologies, so perhaps it is too much to hope for that I would love every story. If you enjoy a combination of fantasy and Steampunk, I do suggest picking up a copy of Corsets and Clockwork. If you are anything like me, you will find a couple of stories in it that make you wish it was all real, and a couple that make you very glad that it is all fiction. It is hard to come to an overall conclusion for the book since there were stories that I loved as well as stories that I did not enjoy at all. This also makes it hard to for me to conclusively recommend the book. My overall reaction was really one of ‘meh’, and that is not a strong recommendation at all.

3 Bards.






This review was submitted to A Midsummer Night’s Read by Sarah.


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