Mini Book Review: Ruins by Dan Wells

Ruins by Dan Wells

Title: Ruins

Author: Dan Wells

Series: Partials Sequence #3

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Kira, Samm, and Marcus fight to prevent a final war between Partials and humans in the gripping final installment in the Partials Sequence, a series that combines the thrilling action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Blade Runner and The Stand. There is no avoiding it—the war to decide the fate of both humans and Partials is at hand. Both sides hold in their possession a weapon that could destroy the other, and Kira Walker has precious little time to prevent that from happening. She has one chance to save both species and the world with them, but it will only come at great personal cost.

The Mini Review:

I’d like to preface this review by declaring that Ruins was a really good book and definitely earned its 4-star rating… but I still find myself a little disappointed with it. The problem is, the first two books in the series were PHENOMENAL and I was hoping for an equally strong ending to what still amounts to my favorite dystopian series. “Really liking” a book is not the same as “loving” a book, yet that’s where I find myself with this series-ender. Did I have high expectations going into it? Absolutely. And, like I said, it was still a very entertaining read, I just wanted it to finish with the same bang it started with… kapeesh?

So now we get into the inevitable question of why it let me down, and that one is easy to answer: it felt rushed. Incidentally, it was rushed – written in just a few short months, but ALL of them had the same constraints, so why was this one different? I truly believe if Wells had just a little more time to brainstorm and really pull all of his amazing plotlines together, this book would’ve been killer! Amazing! And easily the best one of the series. Sadly, it falls victim to the industry’s strict deadlines. As it is, there was resolution, but not in a way that resonated with me.

So, aside from my probably unrealistic expectations, the story progression in this final novel was interesting, the characters were memorable, and (despite my issues with pacing) I really did love getting to immerse myself in this world for a final time. It’s important to note that the Partials Sequence is still my favorite teen dystopian/post-apocalyptic series, and I’m sure I will continue to recommend it often for many years to come.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


March 2014: Review Recap!

Review Recap

So, evidently I’ve fallen a little more behind on book reviews than I thought I had. Normally, I average about seven book reviews per month and this month have barely gone over half that. I have excuses, of course. Most of which involve me having a lot more fun than normal. :-)

In any case, here’s a look at the books that were reviewed this month:

The Lascar’s Dagger by Glenda Larke – 5/5 stars!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – 4/5 stars

Selvage by Alexandra Duncan – 4/5 stars

and my favorite:

Dragon Haven

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb – 5/5 stars!

It was, all things considered, a killer month in reading… Possibly my highest review average ever. Although, when you take into account that there’s only four of them, that’s not really an impressive sample size.

Waiting on Wednesday Features:

 Even though I am dying to read Invaded, I am most excited for the new Robin Hobb book!

A Q&A with Dan Wells:


That pretty much sums up my month of posting… I’m earnestly hoping for something a little more robust for next month, but will see what happens. Although, the Dan Wells interview was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever featured on my blog… So there’s that. :-)

by Niki Hawkes


A Q&A with Dan Wells!

Last week marked the release of Ruins, the final book in the Partial Sequence by Dan Wells. As this series is easily my favorite of the post-apocalyptic genre, I was positively thrilled when Wells agreed to answer a few questions on my blog (which, by the way, I think is one of the coolest things ever). If you’ve read my review of Partials and Fragments, you know I admire this author for the many things he does brilliantly in his novels. From world building to great characters to amazing plots, he can do no wrong. Now, join me in a geek-out as we learn more about inspiration behind this series!

Q&A with Dan Wells:


What was the inspiration behind the Partial series?

There are so many inspirations for this series, but I’ll narrow it down to three:

1) I love post-apocalyptic stories, and I wanted to tell one. I grew up in the Cold War, when we were certain that the world would end in a nuclear salvo, but I was more interested in writing a plague-based apocalypse because of how personal it is: it doesn’t destroy our cities or our structures, just the people. We’re all gone, but our stuff remains behind, and the few survivors would be living not in some barren wasteland, but in the ruins of our homes, with our clothes in the closets and our pictures on the wall. There’s something so evocative about that, I had to write it.

2) I love Battlestar Galactica, and particularly the human-like Cylons in the new series, and I every time I watched an episode I’d think about new stories to tell about them, and new ways to play with the idea of humanity, and what it means to be human, and how very subtle differences can divide us in vast, irreconcilable ways. My Partials are a hundred miles away from the Cylons, in terms of where they come from and how they work and what makes them different and what makes them the same, but that core idea of the artificial almost-human alien was a big inspiration.

3) I love Hermione Granger, but it always bugged me that she would find all the answers and solve all the puzzles and then stand to the side while Harry got the credit. I created Kira as the fiery, super-smart heroine because I wanted to give Hermione a chance to be the star.

Who was your favorite character to write about and why?

I love them all. I love writing Kira because her heart goes so much faster than her head, and she rails against injustice no matter what the consequences might be. I love writing Marcus because I see so much of myself in him, and I love writing Samm because he wants everything Kira wants but for such different reasons, an he goes about it in different ways. I love writing Afa because he was such a good-hearted, complex challenge, and I love writing Haru because he’s a complete douchebag who’s right way more often than we want him to be. More than anybody else, though, I love writing Heron. She’s so far removed from human thought and emotion, and so ready to do whatever it takes to survive, and so ripe for incredibly dark humor. Every scene she’s in was so much fun to work on.

Did you have any struggles while writing the series?

The single biggest struggle in this series was the time frame, which was incredibly short. I had just a few short months to outline, write, and revise each book before it had to be turned in and off to the printer, and I ended up with long hours and sleepless nights on all three just to get it done. We got better with each book, though, and everyone at Harper was amazing to work with, which made it easier. Still, though. At one point the deadlines were so tight we had to do two simultaneous edits, each focusing on a different thing, and then shuffle them together for a final proofread. It all turned out great in the end, but if I ever have to do that again it will be too soon. The next series I’m doing with Harper we pushed back a few months, just to give us more breathing room :)

What do your writing habits look like?

I have an office in my home, with a door I can lock to keep out the kids; it has bare walls, and a mostly bare table, and if I had to work in those conditions for a real office job I’d hate it, but for my purposes at home it’s exactly what I need. I have my laptop open to several different outline and planning documents, and then I write everything on my tablet and bluetooth keyboard. I spend a few hours each morning doing Internet stuff like twitter and facebook and awesome interviews like this, and then I’ll review everything I wrote the day before, and then I write for four or five hours–usually 2500 words a day on an average.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Allow yourself to write a bad book. Aspiring authors tend to think they’re first book has to be perfect, because they’re going to publish it and make a zillion dollars, but that’s not how art works. A painter doesn’t get his first painting hung in a museum, and a sculptor doesn’t get her first statue into an expensive gallery, and we authors need to remember that our first works are just like theirs: they’re practice, not designed to sell but designed to teach us how to write. Finish your first book, warts and all, and then your second will be better, and your third will be better than that, and so on until your writing is awesome. I wrote five books before finally selling my sixth, and now I’ve published eight, but if I’d insisted on perfection I’d still be revising that first one, over and over, all alone in a room somewhere.

What are you working on next?

Lots of things! Here are the main ones:

1) I have finished a manuscript I’ve been working on for about three years, tentatively titled Extreme Makeover: Apocalypse Edition. It’s a corporate satire about a health and beauty company that destroys the world, and I love it beyond measure. We’re still working on selling this one, but I hope you’ll be able to read it soon.

2) New John Cleaver books! My first trilogy, before Partials, was a supernatural thriller about a teenage sociopath who fights demons. I’ve just signed a deal to write three more in that same series, and it’s been great to get back to that character again.

3) An all-new YA science fiction series called Mirador, about a teenage hacker in a cyberpunk Los Angeles. It’s got high-tech mysteries and scary criminals and steamy romance. The first book is called Bluescreen, and it comes out in Fall of 2015.


Thanks again Dan Wells for taking the time to answer all of my questions. I loved learning more about the process of creating the Partials series, but was most inspired by your advice to writers – it described me to a T (which was a little freaky, by the way) and was exactly the advice I needed to push forward with my own projects. I am really looking forward to reading all of your upcoming books!

 I hope you all enjoyed this Q&A as much as I did. If you haven’t picked up the Partials Sequence yet you are sorely missing out – it is amazing!

 by Niki Hawkes


Coming Soon: Ruins by Dan Wells

RuinsTitle: Ruins

Author: Dan Wells

Series: Partials #3

Genre: Teen Fantasy / Dystopian

Release Date: March 11, 2014

The OverviewAs the clock ticks closer and closer to the final Partial expiration date, humans and Partials stand on the brink of war. Caught in the middle, thousands of miles apart, are Samm and Kira: Samm, who is trapped on the far side of the continent beyond the vast toxic wasteland of the American Midwest; and Kira, now in the hands of Dr. Morgan, who is hell-bent on saving what’s left of the Partials, even if she has to destroy Kira to do it. The only hope lies in the hands of the scattered people of both races who seek a way to prevent the rapidly escalating conflict. But in their midst appears a mysterious figure, neither human nor Partial, with solemn warnings of the new apocalypse-one that none of them may be able to avert.

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Hosted by Breaking the Spine:

The first book in this series, Partials, was by far the best YA I read in 2012 (and trust me, it had some stiff competition). I loved the characters, the story, the world-building, the pacing – everything! The second book was every bit as good, and now I am dying to find out what happens next! This series is responsible for reinvigorating my love of dystopians and I recommend it as often as I can. If you loved Hunger Games, Divergent, and Legend, this is the perfect series to try next!

 What book are you waiting on?


Your Pick for Nik! – April’s Review: Fragments by Dan Wells

FragmentsTitle: Fragments

Author: Dan Wells

Series: Partials #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Kira Walker has found the cure for RM, but the battle for the survival of humans and Partials is just beginning. Kira has left East Meadow in a desperate search for clues to who she is. That the Partials themselves hold the cure for RM in their blood cannot be a coincidence–it must be part of a larger plan, a plan that involves Kira, a plan that could save both races. Her companions are Afa Demoux, an unhinged drifter and former employee of ParaGen, and Samm and Heron, the Partials who betrayed her and saved her life, the only ones who know her secret. But can she trust them?


The Review:

I am so excited to report that Fragments was every bit as good as Partials. In fact, some of the elements were even stronger. The plot was dynamic and suspenseful, the world building was thorough and epic, and the plot advancement has left me staggering a bit. All this wrapped into a beautifully written package. I liked this one so much I can’t imagine the final book in the trilogy being anything less than spectacular. At this point, the only thing I don’t like is that I will have to wait at least a year to find out what happens next.

Story: There were so many good elements of storytelling in this book! It’s like the author sat down with every scene and thought “how can I make this better?” But asking the question is only half the battle.  Not only do you have to know what elements make for a great story, you also have to have the creativity to make it your own. Because Wells has these skills in abundance, we end up with a clever plot that surprised me at every turn. Many elements didn’t go the way I expected them to… they were better. And oddly, it’s not the main arc of the story but rather minor details in a scene that held the most surprise for me. Something about his careful attention to even the most minor story elements kept me incredibly invested in the story and eager for more.

I’ve heard a lot of dystopian readers comment that they like books like Matched and Delirium, but missed that “edge” regarding corrupt government, harsh living conditions, and basic need for survival that made Hunger Games so hard-core. Well, this book has all of those things in abundance! It’s definitely not a “fluffy” book, focusing more on events and story than relationships.

Writing: I often criticize writers for having too many viewpoint characters in a story. Not only does it give your reader permission to lose attention but it also makes it difficult to  get emotionally involved with any one character. After reading Fragments, I think I know why Wells was able to pull it off when so many others could not. First of all, almost the entire first book was written in Kira’s perspective which allowed readers to become fully  grounded in one story. Second of all, although the perspective changes a lot in this book, each viewpoint character was working towards the same overall goal. Finally, each perspective switch usually provided the reader plot-advancing information essential for moving forward with the overall arc of the story.

I applaud Wells for creating a suspenseful, nail-biting novel without introducing even an ounce of false tension. He’s so good at bringing the action to life and making me feel the heat of the moment that I literally held my breath through certain passages. I found it so absorbing that I completely forgot to take notes for this post until almost halfway through the book (as I did with the first one). This goes along with great pacing of the story, which I highlighted in my review of Partials but won’t delve too much into here. Suffice to say it was very well done.

Characterization:  I mentioned at the beginning of this review that I thought certain elements of this book were better than the first one. All of those elements have to do with characterization. Where the first book contain characters that were mostly vehicles to get from one event to the next, this one expanded on those characters giving them much richer personalities and internal conflicts. It delved me deeper into the story, if possible, and made me a lot more emotionally invested. Wells achieved a lot of this through excellent dialogue. There were a number of great verbal exchanges and conversations that reinforce personality without ever feeling forced. If I could to capture even a fraction of those exchanges in my own writing, I would be one happy camper. On another note, this is probably one of the slowest developing love stories I’ve ever read in a teen book, and you know what? I’m loving it, because it feels incredibly organic.

World Building: Wells has obviously done a lot of research on what a post-apocalyptic America would look like, and believe me, he doesn’t tone it down much to make it easier on his characters. His word choice and skill with description create strong images that are almost poetic. It’s beautiful and subtle and quietly brings the world to life. I really don’t have much to say other than it was done well enough that I never had to go reread passages to get a clearer picture. 

Overall, I am tickled that Fragments was chosen as April’s selection because I may not have picked it up so quickly otherwise. As book 1 was easily my favorite teen read of 2012, I can say that this one will be a strong contender for my favorite this year too. I love that I don’t have anything critical or negative to say about this book, I absolutely loved it!

Recommendations: While a lot of the dystopian and novels are geared towards the female audience, this is one I would feel confident recommending to men and women. If you mentioned that you are a Hunger Games fan, this is the first book I would show you.

by Niki Hawkes

Other books you might like:

Your Pick for Nik! – April’s Selection!

a9Thank you all for your votes!

This month’s winner is… Fragments by Dan Wells!

It was a really close one this month, as Fragments just barely edged out Darkest Minds (which will be included in next month’s nominations). I am so passionate about the first book that I can’t imagine the second one being any less spectacular. Great choice this month, people!

A thorough review and discussion for this book will take place on April 26th, so there’s plenty of time to pick it up if you want to participate. For more information on the Your Pick for Nik! book club,  click here

**Don’t forget to tune in Friday March 29th for the review and discussion of March’s Selection: Hounded by Kevin Hearne.**

“If you think reading is boring, you’re doing it wrong.”