The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross

The Girl With the Iron Touch by Kady Cross“It seemed humans, the scientifically minded ones at least, were either tempting death or trying to prolong life. Surely that was an indication of madness.”

Emily is kidnapped by automatons who want her to transplant The Machinist’s consciousness into another automaton so that he will be resurrected. Finley and the rest of the group try their best to find out where Emily is being held, but meanwhile Griffin is being tormented by the Aether and isolating himself from the others. Finley seeks help from Jack Dandy, but must deal with his feelings for her and her feelings for Griffin.

I loved the previous two books in this series so I was really looking forward to this, but I was a little bit disappointed. I absolutely love all of these characters so I enjoyed this book regardless, but I felt like the book was a little bit repetitive of itself. Finley and Griffin kept having the same argument over and over throughout the book and after awhile I was tired of reading the same conversation again and again.

I loved Emily and Sam’s moments in this book though. It was nice to see them both finally realize just how much they care about each other–especially Sam since he was always so surly and aggressive. When Emily is taken, Sam will stop at nothing to find her and his dedication to her was really sweet.

Jack Dandy is one of my favorite characters, and I was glad he played a big role in this book. There isn’t really a love triangle in this book–Jack is mainly just a source of tension between Finley and Griffin–but I love what Jack brings to the group and I love his interactions with Finley. I can’t say I would be happy to see him involved with Finley romantically because I love her with Griffin, but the two definitely have chemistry.

A big focus of this book was Emily and her abduction by the automatons. I love Emily because what she lacks in strength and size, she makes up for in intelligence. While she still needs help from the rest of the group to end The Machinist’s plans, Emily uses her brain to delay his return and the others use Emily’s creations to find her.

Overall, The Girl with the Iron Touch was a fun story but a slight disappointment. I will still be continuing on with the series because I love this group of characters, but I hope the next book will bring something new to the series.

The Girl with the Iron Touch was released May 28, 2013 and is the third book in The Steampunk Chronicles.

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Splintered by A. G. Howard

Splintered by A. G. Howard“No one knows what he or she is capable of until things are at their darkest.”

Alyssa Gardner is able to talk to insects and plants, a curse that stems from her ancestor Alice Liddell, the girl who was Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa’s mother has the same curse, and has been living in a mental hospital for years. As her mother’s condition worsens, Alyssa realizes that the only way to break the curse is to find a way into Wonderland, if it actually exists. What she finds is a much different Wonderland than Lewis Carroll wrote. She must pass a series of tests that will allow her to fix Alice Liddell’s mistakes before she is allowed to leave Wonderland and return home. She also has to decide between trusting her friend Jeb, who she has been secretly crushing on for years, or the mysterious Morpheus, who seems to be hiding something.

I’m not going to lie–ninety percent of the reason I picked up this book was because of the gorgeous cover. I’m usually not one to judge a book by its cover, but this cover really drew me in! I also really love retellings, so I was very excited to read this. Honestly though, I was a little bit disappointed.

I was never hugely into Alice in Wonderland, and I’ve actually never read Lewis Carroll’s book. Splintered presents a much different Wonderland than the Disney version, which is pretty much where my limited knowledge of the story comes from. A lot of this book is super creepy. I’m not usually one to shy away from a creepy book, but some of the stuff was a bit out there for me. For example, Alyssa’s favorite past time is murdering insects and using their dead bodies to create “art”. Now, I know there are many different forms of art, but while some may view this as artistic, I was just plain grossed out. And also–how cruel! I’m no fan of bugs, but killing them for art is really unnecessary.

Alyssa herself was pretty uninteresting and she tries too hard to present a certain image of herself that seems to cater to her crush’s interests. I also didn’t like either of the male characters in the story. Alyssa’s friend Jeb is a jerk–he leads her on by flirting with her all the time but meanwhile is dating her high school rival, a girl who cruelly teases Alyssa and throws her relationship with Jeb in her face. Morpheus, Alyssa’s guide in Wonderland, is just super creepy. He has insect wings, is extremely manipulative, and weirdly possessive of Alyssa.  Also, the love triangle is focused on way too much and takes away from the rest of the story.

While the world building of this very dark version of Wonderland was really well done, the rest of the story seemed really dragged out. The tasks that Alyssa has to complete in order to reverse Alice Liddell’s mistakes were really interesting but made the story seem tedious after awhile. I feel like it took me forever to get through this book, and it was one of those times that I was eager to reach the end just for the sake of the story being over. The ending really disappointed me also because while it was definitely not something I had expected, I was still left feeling like the story had gone nowhere.

Overall, Splintered presented a much darker version of the traditional Wonderland and while the world building was excellent, the love story took too much of the focus and the characters were not very likable. This is one of those books where I feel like the idea had a lot of potential but it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Splintered was released on January 1, 2013 and is the first book in the Splintered series. The second book, Unhinged, is set to be released on January 7, 2014.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

“My name is Celaena Sardothien,” she whispered, “and I will not be afraid.”

Throne of Glass is a debut novel for Sarah J. Maas and what an incredible debut it is! It is a fantasy YA novel about a young assassin, Celaena, who has been serving a prison sentence at a salt mine for the past year. She is called before the Crown Prince who offers her a chance at freedom. The catch? She has to participate as his champion in a contest to find the king’s new royal assassin. 18 year old Celaena must fight against other assassins and criminals (all men) and eliminate them all in order to win the competition and her eventual freedom. Once Celaena is living in the castle the prince begins paying extra attention to her, a girl different from any other he has ever met. But she is also drawn to Captain Westfall, who is the captain of the guard and her trainer in the competition. Soon after the competition begins however, a fellow competitor ends up brutally murdered. As more competitors fall victim to the unknown killer, Celaena must search for the killer before she becomes a victim herself.

This book had everything: sword fighting, political turmoil, romance, and a kick ass heroine. Celaena had a fantastic humor and spunk that made me like her immediately. She is strong and independent and able to defeat men twice her size. However, under her tough exterior she has a softer side that is still suffering from the wounds of her past. She lost her parents at a young age, trained as an assassin most of her life, and was forced to work as a slave in a salt mine as punishment for a year. But what I love about Celaena is that she doesn’t let any of that wear her down because she is determined to achieve her freedom in order to live her life the way she wants.

I loved the fantasy elements and the romance in this book. It’s rare to find a book that has magic, a ruthless competition, a murder plot, and romance all in one (other than Harry Potter of course), but Throne of Glass delivers all of that and more. I can honestly say that this is one of the best books that I have read this year, and is definitely the best fantasy book I’ve read in awhile.

Throne of Glass was released August 7, 2012 and is the first of a series. The author also has four published novellas available on the Kindle for those of us who are already craving more!