Book Review: Elite by Mercedes Lackey

September 6, 2016

Title: Elite

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Series: Hunter #2

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars

The Overview: Joy wants nothing more than to live and Hunt in Apex City without a target on her back. But a dangerous new mission assigned by her uncle, the city’s Prefect, may make that impossible. In addition to her new duties as one of the Elite, Joy is covertly running patrols in the abandoned tunnels and storm sewers under Apex Central. With her large pack of magical hounds, she can fight the monsters breaking through the barriers with the strength of three hunters. Her new assignment takes a dark turn when she finds a body in the sewers: a Psimon with no apparent injury or cause of death. Reporting the incident makes Joy the uncomfortable object of PsiCorp’s scrutiny—the organization appears more interested in keeping her quiet than investigating. With her old enemy Ace still active in Hunts and the appearance of a Folk Mage who seems to have a particular interest in her, Joy realizes that the Apex conspiracy she uncovered before her Elite trials is anything but gone. As the body count rises, she has no choice but to seek answers. Joy dives into the mysterious bowels of the city, uncovering secrets with far-reaching consequences for PsiCorp… and all of Apex City. -Goodreads

The Review:

“Elite,” the second book in the “Hunter” series, is about a teenage girl named Joyeaux who moved from her humble home in the mountains (where she’d learned to fight Otherworlders from a young age) to the city hub to become a Hunter. A Hunter’s job is to keep the land surrounding the city clear of invading Otherworlders. They are also filmed each step of the way for the civilians’ entertainment. “Elite” is an action-centric series that takes a few chapters to get going at the very beginning, but once it hits its stride, it doesn’t let up!

“Elite” was addicting. I read so continually that rarely do I feel the need to spend more time than I already do buried in a book. “Elite” kept compelling me back to see what happened next, which was a lot of fun because I hadn’t felt super drawn to a book in ages. I attribute that to a slew of positive attributes: great writing, excellent storytelling (which builds with each chapter), good pacing, a cool concept, and a memorable cast of characters. These are the reasons “Elite” is now one of my new favorites of the genre.

The “Hunter” series offers a plethora of interesting characters, none more so than Joyeaux, the heroine of the story. I love reading about her because 1) she’s a smart cookie, always thinking things through (which keeps me engaged as I try to figure out things along with her). 2) she’s resourceful, especially when dealing with the Otherworlders (which gives each action scene a little more variety). 3) she’s relatable. She has weak moments and makes mistakes like a real human (which makes her all the more realistic and endearing). 4) and finally, she’s independent, standing solidly on her own merit and convictions. I especially like that she’s interested in a romance but isn’t driven by it. It’s nice to see a YA heroine who realizes there’s more to life than cute boys. There’s still romance in the book, but it takes a comfortable backseat to all of the other conflicts. And because the love story is not what primarily drives the story, that leaves plenty of pages for Joy to build friendships, train hard, and get to the bottom of a few mysteries.

I’ve read a few of Mercedes Lackey’s high fantasy novels (with the “Dragon Jesters” series as my favorite) and I can see a slight simplification in her writing style for the YA market. She explained things a little more thoroughly than I think she needed to but I wouldn’t go as far as to say she dumbed it down, only that she made it a little more accessible. That said, the “Hunter” series is easily among the best of her works and I might even consider it my new favorite from her if the rest of the series goes as well as these first two books. Although “Elite” had a little less Hunter-to-Hunter competition, it still remained very action-centric, which went a long way towards making up for it. It also uped the complexity by focusing more on the dynamics between all of the different factions in this post-apocalyptic world and weaving them all into a compelling mystery. This book had a lot of layers to peel back and was a lot of fun because of it.

Overall and very impressed with “Elite” and the series so far and am super eager to read more. I’d recommend this series to anyone who loves the YA Fantasy genre, especially to those who are suffering from a Hunger Games hangover.

Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Horde by Ann Aguirre

HordeTitle: Horde

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: Razorland #3

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: The horde is coming.

Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they’re not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn’t run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade’s love. Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn’t been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them. This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

The Review:

This is the final book in the Razorland trilogy, and I have to say it was a really good series-ender. I was oddly fearful to pick it up and even stalled for a full year because I was worried it wasn’t going to like it. I’m not sure where that irrational fear came from because it’s no secret Aguirre is one of my top authors. Whether it’s a post-apocalyptic zombie story, a science fiction about an alien prison (The Dred Chronicles), or new adult romances (The 2B Trilogy), Aguirre consistently delivers books that I absolutely love with her great writing, amazing characters, and fun storylines. I think my hesitance with Horde was that I couldn’t really see the vision on where the story was headed. In addition, there were a few gruesome (in concept, not detailed in writing) scenes in Outpost that left me a bit sickened and depressed after reading them (I know, I’m a weenie).

Either way, when I finally did read it, I really dug it.

I think horde was just as conceptually disturbing, but I must have been in a much better mood to read it because I devoured it. I also appreciated where Aguirre took the story – finally giving me some answers behind how the “muties” emerged, which also allowed me to finally understand why she was vehemently offended that people referred to them as zombies… an attitude I find a little strange considering she never really describes their origins until the 3rd book. Anyway, it ended up being rather thought-provoking, which I liked.

One of my favorite things about this series was the way the author incorporated all the different humans subcultures in this post-apocalyptic world. She had everything from gangs to religious zealots, and I thought they all added a different wrinkle of perspective to the story. None of it was ironic, and really made the story seem more realistic. I also especially loved Deuce – the main character. She had a lot of conviction, and within all of these different subcultures still managed to adapt and make the best out of each situation (which is why I named her “most adaptable” in my Top Ten Female Characters That Inspire Me! post a few years ago). The Razorland Trilogy might not be my favorite work from Aguirre (which is only a solid 4-stars), but Deuce is easily one of her best characters. I know Aguirre has another series planned for the same world (the first book is called Vanguard, and I think it comes out sometime in early 2017), and I really hope Deuce makes at least a cameo appearance.

Although I really liked Horde, the characters do an awful lot of traveling, which got a bit repetitive. Honestly, I don’t know how else the author could have progressed the plot to where she wanted it to go without all the back and forth, but pacing suffered a little bit. Also, when I think of the word “horde” I think a plethora of creatures too numerous to count… not a group of creatures numbering a couple thousand (:/). So in that regard, the overall story conflict felt a lot more narrowly focused than I thought it was going to. It was still good, mind you, it just didn’t escalate to the level that some other books in the genre have. Arguably though, the logistics for this post-apocalyptic story were a lot more realistic, so I guess there’s your trade-off.

Overall, I’m really glad to have read this series and am excited to see what Aguirre does with it next.

Recommended Reading: I would suggest the Razorland Trilogy to people who love zombie stories and teen books with an edge. Even though I’m not fully on the zombie bandwagon, I think others who are would really enjoy Aguirre’s take on them (even though they’re not technically zombies… close enough to count though).

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


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