Book Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel

The Clan of the Cave Bear is the first book in the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel.

Summary (from back of book)

The first novel in Jean M. Auel’s magnificent epic of life on the glacial continent of the last Ice Age, when two kinds of human beings, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, shared the earth.

Its heroine is Ayla, a courageous and indomitable young woman whose story beings when she is a five-year-old orphan adopted by the Clan, a group of Neanderthal.

Ayla inspires first surprise, then wariness and finally acceptance by the Clan.  She is cared for by its medicine woman Iza and its wise holy man Creb.  But she makes an implacable enemy of the group’s future leader. Broud does all he can to destroy her, but Ayla is a survivor.

Favourite Quote

“Accept her into the clan!  She’s not Clan, she was born to the Others.  Who said anything about accepting her into the clan?  It wouldn’t be allowed, Ursus won’t like it.  It’s never been done before!” Brun objected.  “I wasn’t thinking of making her one of us, I only wondered if the spirits would allow her to live with us until she gets older.”

“Iza saved her life, Brun, she carries part of the girl’s spirit now, that makes her part Clan.  She came close to walking in the next world, but she’s alive now.  That’s almost the same as being born again, born to the Clan.”

Review

I absolutely adore this series, and The Clan of the Cave Bear as the first book in it is simply magnificent.  I have read this book (and the subsequent instalments) so many times, and as soon as I open the covers I am transported back in time to the last ice age.  I find this period in time fascinating, and the amount of research that was carried out in order to make it as accurate as one can so many millennia later, is clear as soon as you begin reading.  From descriptions of the landscape and the processes involved in their evolution, to plants and their medicinal properties, this book is rich in, and overflowing with, information and detail.

The characters were engaging, and Ayla’s adopted family – Iza, the clan’s medicine woman, and her brother, Creb, the mog-ur or spiritual leader of the group – were wonderful, and are my favourite characters after Ayla herself. Brun, as the strong but fair leader who often finds himself torn between tradition (which to the Clan means security) and something new (which they fear), deals compassionately with the problems Ayla’s presence gives rise to.

This story is packed full of emotional drama that left me in tears on more than one occasion.  The storyline was captivating, and though you can work out how the book is going to end, it still comes as a bit of shock and is highly emotional.  Ayla is a strong young woman with a desire to learn anything and everything, so that she is always growing and developing, and it is this, rather than the fact that she looks different that sets her apart from those around her.

The Clan of the Cave Bear is imaginative and unique, and the storytelling abilities of the author are amazing.  We get to hear the story from the viewpoint of all the characters without it getting confusing, but we are also not in any doubt that the story is that of Ayla, a young orphaned girl taken in, raised and loved by a group of Neanderthals.

This book is one of my all-time favourite reads.  I would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction and are interested in the Palaeolithic. However, if you struggle reading great swathes of detailed description, this might not be the book for you.  Also, it is worth remembering that although Auel extensively researched the book, it is ultimately a work of fiction not a science text book.

Rating

 

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Book Review: Listen by Sarah Doughty

Listen is the third book in the Earthen Witch series by Sarah Doughty.

Summary (from Goodreads)

When vampires Liam and Jon go missing, it’s up to Aisling Green and her friends to find them, but doing so and surviving what awaits won’t be easy.

Battling against things she cannot fight isn’t something Earthen witch Aisling Green is used to, but she must act quickly and outsmart the one that wants her dead and save the lives of her friends before it’s too late.

As they follow the trail, they rescue a most unlikely person, and uncover a deeper, more sinister plot. With the lives of the two vampires on the line, they must fight for their lives, try to rescue their friends, and stop the evil plans. In the face of so much danger and uncertainty, they are forced to go to war and make a discovery that will change everything. The question then becomes at what price will they be forced to pay to survive?

Favourite Quote

And then I felt his lips pull back into a smile.  “In order to kill the Earthen you must wear a pink tutu and sing I’m A Little Teacup,” the vampire responded in that same old Romanian accent.

Review

Having enjoyed the first two Earthen Witch novels, Just Breathe and Focus (you can find my reviews for them here, and here), I knew I had to read the third instalment in the series to see how Aisling and Connor and their friends were fairing.

I love this world Sarah Doughty has created.  The unique mythology is detailed and fantastic and just adds richness to this supernatural fantasy series. Witches, vampires, werewolves, shamans and sphinxes, this book series has them all and more besides.  Both the major and minor characters are engaging, each with own background story to tell, adding further depth to an already captivating cast.

Aisling is a great main character.  She is so very strong even though past experiences have left their mark.  With the love and support of Connor, she overcomes, and that is a great message.  It makes her believable…realistic…human, and reminds the reader that anything is possible.

The story is well-paced and there is action throughout, leading to an entertaining, engaging read.  And as for the ending, all I’m going to say is that it sets the story up nicely for the next book.

If you like the paranormal romance genre, you will love this series, but I recommend you start at the beginning with Just Breathe so you can fully immerse yourself in the scope and magic of the Earthen Witch world.

Rating

I downloaded a copy of Listen by Sarah Doughty for Free via Smashwords

Book Review: Torment by Lauren Kate

Torment is the second book in the Fallen series by Lauren Kate.

Summary (blurb taken from back cover)

Love never dies…

It took Lucinda an eternity to find her beloved angel, Daniel.  But he waited for her.  Now they are forced apart again, to protect Luce from the Outcasts – immortals who want her dead.  During their separation, Luce learns about her mysterious past lives.  But the more she discovers, the more she suspects that Daniel is hiding something.

What if Daniel’s version of the past isn’t true?  Is it really their destiny to be together?  Or is Luce actually meant to be with somebody else?

Favourite Quote

Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere.  We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them.  I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.

Review

After struggling to enjoy reading the first book in the series, I don’t know if I would have read the second, Torment, only I had already bought it when I purchased Fallen.  The covers pulled me in and persuaded me to buy them.  And I’m sort-of glad they did, because I enjoyed Torment more than the previous instalment and I wouldn’t have known that.

I’m still not a big fan of Luce – I think her attitude is all wrong and she just comes across as a really selfish person on occasion.  Again, it is her friend who I am more interested in as a character.  In the last book it was Penn.  This time round it is Luce’s hippy roommate Shelby.

Parts of the book were still slow-going in places, and still there is stuff going on which is alluded to but never explained.  It doesn’t make it mysterious, only confusing.  However, it was certainly more enjoyable than Fallen to read, and the end really set up the third book in the series nicely.  So much so, that I’m intrigued to find out what happens next, something which I couldn’t envision myself thinking at the end of book one.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate

This is the first book in the Fallen series by Lauren Kate.

Summary  (blurb taken from the back of the book)

Some angels are destined to fall.

Instant. Intense.  Weirdly familiar…The moment Luce looks at Daniel she knows she has never felt like this before.  Except she can’t shake the feeling that she has…and with him…a boy she doesn’t remember ever setting eyes on.

Will her attempt to find out why enlighten her – or destroy her?

Dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, Fallen is a thrilling story about forbidden love.

Favourite Quote

Trust is a careless pursuit at best.  At worst, it’s a good way to get yourself killed.

Review

This was another book that hooked me via a really cool front cover.  Gothic, dark, mysterious artwork coupled with an engaging blurb (see summary above) had me buying not only the first book in the Fallen series, but book number two too!

And it was an all right story.  I didn’t really like Luce though.  My favourite character of the book was Luce’s friend Penn – full name Pennyweather Van Syckle-Lockwood.  She was the saving grace of this book.  The other characters lacked enough depth for me to really be interested in why they were there.

I expected more from this story.  It tried to be too mysterious, I think, and in so doing, basic explanations of what was going on were sacrificed.  However, I did read to the end of the book, I loved the front cover and Penn was an interesting character, hence the 2.5 / 5 score.

Had I not already bought the second book in the series, I am doubtful as to whether I would have read it.  But I did, and I have, and I will be sharing the review shortly.

Rating

2.5 / 5

Book Review: Guenevere: The Queen of the Summer Country by Rosalind Miles

Guenevere: The Queen of the Summer Country is the first novel in the Guenevere series by Rosalind Miles.

Summary

Guenevere is the last of the queens of the Summer Country, a pagan kingdom of ancient Britain, where the Great Goddess is venerated above all.  But times are changing.  Under the guidance of Merlin, Arthur, the secret son of the last High King of Britain, is on a quest to reclaim what is his by rights.  At the same time, a new religion is sweeping across the land.

The future seems uncertain.  When it is time for Guenevere to choose a husband and king to rule beside her, she must pick carefully.  The wrong choice could have disastrous consequences for the Summer Country.  So, in her hour of need, she summons to her the one man who can help her…Arthur.

Favourite Quote (or rather, 3 Favourite Quotes)

*

As Guenevere watched and listened, the power of the ritual stole over her, and her dread began to fade.  Lulled by the chanting, cocooned by the warm air, she fell into a trance. Now she could hear the secret music at the heart of things, and feel the breath of the mystery brushing against her cheek. Her senses swam in a pearly light like Avalon, and a great sweetness filled the air.

*

He came in a silver sunset at the end of a sweet spring day. The evening star was shining in a pearl-grey sky when the message was brought in.

*

On the far horizon, a white moon sailed up into the sky, bathing the earth with light. She could hear an owl calling from the nearby wood, and the soft cooing as the doves nestled down for the night.

*

Review

I thought I would really enjoy this book, and although there were parts of it that I did really like (such as the pagan descriptions of the Britain during the Dark Ages), the problem was, I didn’t really connect to the main characters.

When I first saw the title of the book, I thought that it was definitely a book for me. Then I saw the cover and I was smitten. Arthurian myths and legends are my thing; I’ve been reading about the subject since I was a child, both fictional stories (fantasy, historical, re-imaginings) and the history (or lack there of) behind them. So when I came across this, a story being told from Guenevere’s point of view as a strong queen in her own right, I was quite excited.

However, I think the book tries to do too much. Arthurian myth spans centuries, but this book attempts to weave a story from the pagan past, the spread of Christianity and the conflict between paganism and monotheism, as well as the early medieval obsession towards chivalry and courtly love. And in the midst of all this, I think something gets lost.

On the upside, the tale is full of beautiful passages of evocative descriptions, and it is this, above all else, that I will remember from this book.  I have included three quotes from Guenevere instead of the usual one to illustrate this and also in the hope that this review doesn’t come across as too negative, which isn’t my intention.  After all, I did read the book from cover to cover, and found the story itself to be well written, not to mention I adored a number of the locations found within the story, especially Avalon.

The question is, am I going to read the second novel in the series, The Knight of the Sacred Lake? At the moment, I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that I will at some point in the future.

Rating

Book Review: Switched by Amanda Hocking

switched-front-coverSwitched is the first book in the Trylle trilogy by Amanda Hocking.

Summary:

Wendy Everly knew she wasn’t like everyone else when her mother tried to kill her when she was six years old, convinced that she was a monster.  A decade later, Wendy is living with her brother and her aunt.  They move around a lot because Wendy, who can’t settle, keeps getting thrown out of school.  But she has a secret…a secret power that means she can influence peoples thoughts and decisions to her own advantage.

When Finn, the new boy at school, starts staring at her intensely whenever they are in the same space, Wendy begins to worry.  Does he know her secret?  Or does he know more about her secret than she does?  One thing’s for sure…Wendy’s life will never be the same again…

Favourite Quote:

I look at you because I can’t look away.

Review:

I have only read one other Amanda Hocking novel before this one, Hollowland, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so when I came across Switched at the bookshop I knew I had to read it.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It took me a few pages to connect with the character of Wendy, but after reading further, if felt like that was intentional and the reason behind it unfolds as the story does.

Switched was a very easy book to read, thanks to the author’s writing style.  Also, the mythology around the Trylle is very different from what we know of trolls from myths and legends and that made the story fresh and exciting.  The other characters are likeable, and the story moves along at a good pace.  There is action, romance, loss, secrets and revelations all nicely woven into the plot.  The bonus short story at the back of the book was a great read too!

I have added Torn, the second book in the trilogy, to my “To Be Bought” list.

Rating:

four-stars

 

Book Review: The Ambassadors’ Mission by Trudi Canavan

the-ambassadors-mission-front-coverThe Ambassadors’ Mission is the first book in The Traitor Spy trilogy by Trudi Canavan.

The Traitor Spy Trilogy is the sequel to The Black Magician Trilogy (my reviews for which you can find here: The Magicians’ Guild, The Novice, The High Lord)

Set twenty years after The High Lord and the Ichani invasion, Sonea is now one of two Black Magicians in the Magicians’ Guild.  The Guild is still fearful of black magicians, so by having two, they can each ensure that the other is not getting up to anything they shouldn’t.  And that’s not the only change – Kyralia and the Guild have come quite far since our last visit.

Sonea and Akkarin’s son, Lorkin, has now completed his own studies at the Guild, but struggles a little, living in the shadow of such famous parents, and is feeling restless.  When he hears that Lord Dannyl, his mother’s friend and the former ambassador to Elyne, wants to go to Sachaka and become the new Guild Ambassador to the strange land to the north, Lorkin is determined to become his assistant.  But being Akkarin’s son has consequences, as he comes to discover.

Whilst this is going on, Sonea has problems of her own to deal with back in Imardin.  A “thief hunter” is on the loose in the city, killing off Thieves.  When an old friend is targeted, she is drawn into the hunt for the one responsible, especially because there is a suspicion that they might be a rogue magician…something she knows more than a little about…

As some of you may know if you’ve been around this blog long enough, Trudi Canavan is one of my favourite fantasy authors, which came about upon reading The Black Magician Trilogy. (Which, in my opinion, is one of the best trilogies ever written.)  And, the first book in the sequel trilogy certainly lives up to them.

It was great to catch up with some of the old characters: Sonea, Rothen, Cery and Dannyl, as well as get to know to some new ones: Lorkin, Tyvara and Anyi.  The way the plot has advanced over the twenty years between the series is consistent and believable, and the story flows with ease between the different story threads and points-of-view.

Sachaka is an interesting if harsh country, with customs quite different to those found in Kyralia.  There are no servants employed there, only slaves, something that makes Kyralians understandably uncomfortable.  And magic is quite different there too.

All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Ambassadors’ Mission, and look forward to reading book 2 in The Traitor Spy TrilogyThe Rogue.  I would gladly recommend this book to those who enjoy fantasy fiction, but would suggest that they might want to read The Black Magician Trilogy before embarking on this one.