Book Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

When I first bought this book, the first thing my husband and son said to me was “Why are you buying such a big book?” LOL…

Well, to answer the question, I was captured by the description on the inside front cover page which reads, “A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.”. Then it goes on to describe in three short paragraphs three strong female characters, each with their own goals/agendas and troubles. Plus there were mentions of dragons and a hidden society of mages; all of which I think can make a good fantasy story.

And I was right!

I LOVE this book! On the front cover, there is a quote which says, “Deserves to be as big as Game of Thrones – Laure Eve”. I could not agree more.

A multi-layered story told from multiple points of view and across several kingdoms could have left a reader lost BUT Shannon does such a great job that not only was I never lost but I remembered details from where I left off. It is quite amazing as I took a long while to read the whole book because it was such a big book (more than 800 pages) I only read it at home and didn’t take it with me everywhere. (Well, I did bring it with me when we quarantined during our recent trip to Singapore.) This is all down to the strong characters, intriguing storylines that Shannon has created and her wonderful writing style.

I love how the dialogue is slightly reflective of old royal courts. The words Shannon has selected to use in her descriptions of places and clothing etc have certainly enriched my own vocabulary. I enjoyed learning about things such as partlet and palanquin.

I also enjoyed how Shannon was able to weave the individual stories of the three main characters and the histories of their various countries together to form a cohesive narrative. The exploration of how myths and legends form and how over centuries the truth of these can be distorted to serve whoever is in power is so interesting. She also shows brilliantly how people hold so tightly onto their beliefs and how secrets are created to keep those beliefs, even at the expense of many lives.

I have not outline any of the storyline or even named any of the characters because I really don’t want to give anything away. I do hope what I have written has sparked in you a curiosity to want to read this fabulous book.

Happy Reading!

syc

Book Review: Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar

I chose to read this book because I am interested in history, especially of Asian countries and this book promised a different perspective of a very significant time in India’s history; a time when Gandhi started his campaign towards India’s independence from British rule.

I had read a bit and heard much about what Gandhi had done and how he advocated for civil disobedience as a non-violent way to make his point. But it was always from an adult perspective and usually from a rather politically-one-sided recount of various different events.

Kelkar made a ten-year-old girl, Anjali, the centre of the story and we see how the independence movement affected her and her family; how it confused her and turned her world upside down, how she coped with all the conflicting emotions within herself and the incomprehensible reaction of her best friend, who was a Muslim.

As we walk through the story with Anjali, we learn how these historical events affected the lives of the ordinary people and how the caste system was very much a part of life in India. We also see what might be the motivation of different people who joined the independence movement, also how political will, even if it seems to be for the greater good, might not translate into immediate benefit for every citizen.

All these are written in an easy to understand language yet Kelkar kept a good pace which maintained my interest in not just Anjali’s story but also in the lives of the people around her and in the outcome for Anjali and her family and also for India as a whole.

I think this book is a great way to introduce middle-graders to what might have otherwise been a very serious and complicated historical event.

Have you read other historically based books which you would recommend?

syc

Book Review: Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray by Jess Keating

This is one of the books i read during lockdown and it is also one which is part of my research into how much literary liberties one can take with historical figures. See this post for the first book i read for this research.

This is the first book in the Elements of Genius series, published by Scholastic. And i think it’s absolutely fab!

Nikki Tesla is based on the historical figure, NikolaTesla, who invented alternating current (AC) and has much to do with the production, transmission and application of electric power. Keating has taken this well-known person and his amazing genius, and created an exciting, fun-filled, yet so relatable story from the perspective of a young Nikki (female) who desperately wants to fit in but knows and has accepted that she will never be one of the “normal” people.

When her death ray lands her in “serious” trouble, Nikki is given a choice; join a special school for history’s greatest brains, Genius Academy, or else… Nikki feels she has no choice but she is determined that she is there on her own terms and will not be making any friends.

At Genius Academy, she slowly learns that she is not the only genius who does not fit in and that she can be part of a team, and people do like her and even care for her. Genius Academy is full of … well, geniuses… in different areas such as music, story-telling, mathematics, nature, etc… and together, they take on a villain who has grand plans for Nikki’s death ray and they must stop him.

i really like the way Keating writes; witty yet so on point, heartfelt with a great pace to the story. i think this is a wonderful story, which will turn into an amazing series, and will definitely get middle graders reading, even if they say they don’t like reading. i am so looking forward to the next book in the series.

Have you recently discovered a new author or a new series of books which you are excited about? Care to share?

syc