Monstress by Marjorie Liu (DNF)

Title: Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening & Vol. 2, The Blood
Series: Monstress
Author: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Date Added: August 9, 2018
Date Started: August 13, 2017
Date DNF: August 16, 2018
Genre: Graphic Novel/Comic, Dark Fantasy, Horror, Dystopian, Steampunk

Pages: 72 & 152
Publication Dates: November 4, 2015 & July 11, 2017
Publisher: Image Comics
Media: Paperback


Set in an alternate world of art deco beauty and steampunk horror, Montress tells the epic story of Maika Halfwolf, a teenage survivor of a cataclysmic war between humans and their hated enemies, the Arcanics. In the face of oppression and terrible danger, Maika is both hunter and hunted, searching for answers about her mysterious past as those who seek to use her remain just one step behind…and all the while, the monster within begins to awaken.


This series is as beautifully brutal as it is convoluted.  It combines Lovecraft mythos with Egyptian mythology and Irish folklore (The Fair Folk) among other things to weave a world of magic and savagery.  Where “there’s more hunger in this world than love” is exemplified by starving slaves eating the contents of a dead boy’s stomach.

Maika Halfwolf has a monster living inside her, and her quest for the truth leads to her enigmatic mother and beyond, while she hides from those who would use her in a land full of political intrigue and betrayal.

Sana Takeda’s artwork is absolutely gorgeous,

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A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #3)

An Ember in the Ashes

<–A Torch Against the Night

Title: A Reaper at the Gates
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Date Added: August 23, 2017
Date Started: July 2, 2018
Date Finished: August 4, 2018
Reading Duration: 33 days
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Young Adult (YA), Romance

A Reaper at the Gates coverPages: 464
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill
Media: Paperback


Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.


***Spoilers for all previous books in the series***

Tahir has the gift of making characters on both sides of the conflict sympathetic, even casting some compassion on Keris Veturia.  Though a tortured past doesn’t excuse the horrible things one does, it often provides an explanation.  It is no easy feat to do something like this, and it is one of the better attributes of ASOIAF, as well.  Like Martin, Tahir not only titles her chapters by the character whose viewpoint we follow, but she adds additional ones with each volume.  This is merely logistical, though; what’s more interesting is how Tahir, like GRRM, seems to subscribe (whether consciously or no) to William Faulkner’s philosophy:

The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.

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The Vagrant by Peter Newman (The Vagrant #1)

Title: The Vagrant
Series Title: The Vagrant
Author: Peter Newman
Date Added: March 20, 2017
Date Started: December 30, 2017
Date Finished: March 21, 2018
Reading Duration: 80 days
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian

The VagrantPages: 400
Publication Date: April 23, 2016
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Media: Paperback


The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape, carrying nothing but a kit-bag, a legendary sword and a baby. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the sword, the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.


This was a tough one to review.  I noted that back when I finished it and I still feel the same way.  The novel has both issues and merits, and it’s not a straightforward story, which is not only due to the fact the main character never speaks.  The number of enemies/villains also complicates things.  There’s the Usurper, the Uncivil, the first, and the commander among others.  They’re all part of the tainted essence that made the world the broken place it is now, but it was very hard to keep track of them (the Hammer was my favorite for some obvious reasons).

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The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau (Book of Ember #4)

Book of Ember

<–The Prophet of Yonwood (BOE #3)

Note: Since this is a sequel there are spoilers for the prior book even in the blurb.  Something to keep in mind if you haven’t read the prior books and don’t want to be spoiled.

Second Note:  TSN gets (US) political for comparison.


Title: The Diamond of Darkhold
Series Title: Book of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Date Added: September 17, 2017
Date Started: January 14, 2018
Date Finished: February 19, 2018
Reading Duration: 36 days
Genre: Mid-grade/Young Adult (YA), Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian

The Diamond of Darkhold coverPages: 285
Publication Date: August 26, 2008
Publisher: Yearling Adventure
Media: Paperback


It’s been several months since Lina and Doon escaped the dying city of Ember and, along with the rest of their people, joined the town of Sparks. Lina knows they are lucky to be there, but life aboveground is hard. Instead of opening a can for dinner, they must plant and harvest their food. And while there was no sun or moon in Ember’s sky, neither was there rain, sleet, or wind. Now, in the middle of their first winter, Lin finds herself feeling homesick for her old city.

It’s during this dark time that Doon finds an unusual book. Torn up and missing most of its pages, it alludes to a mysterious device, a piece of technology from before the Disaster. Doon becomes convinced that the Builders of Ember meant for them to find the device when they left the city, to help them in their new lives. Together, Lina and Doon must go back underground to retrieve what was lost and bring light to a dark world.

In the fourth Book of Ember, bestselling author Jeanne DuPrau juxtaposes yet another action-packed adventure with powerful themes of hope, learning, and the search for truth. 


The final installment to the series finds Lina, Doon, and the other Emberites fully integrated into Sparks so they all live as one people, but times are hard, and Lina finds herself longing for the warm familiarity of her underground home.  Doon’s discovery of the blurb’s mentioned book gives them a reason to return to the now dark and dying Ember where things don’t go quite according to plan.  There are people living there, but if squatting were still a thing in this post-Disaster world then the Trogg family would be squatters.

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The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau (Book of Ember #3) (DNF)

<–The People of Sparks (BOE #2)                              The Diamond of Darkhold (BOE #4)–>

Title: The Prophet of Yonwood
Series Title: Book of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Date Added: September 17, 2017
Date Started: December 23, 2017
Date DNF: December 27, 2017
Reading Duration: 4 days
Genre: Mid-grade/Young Adult (YA), Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian

The Prophet of Yonwood cover

Pages: 289
Publication Date: April 1, 2006
Publisher: Yearling Edition
Media: Paperback


Nickie will grow up to be one of the first citizens of the city of Ember. But for now, she’s an eleven-year-old girl whose father was sent away on some mysterious government project.

So when the opportunity to move presents itself, Nickie seizes it. But her new town of Yonwood, North Carolina, isn’t what she’d anticipated. It’s a place full of suspicion and mistrust, where one person’s visions of fire and destruction have turned the town’s citizens against each other. Nickie explores the oddities around her–her great-grandfather’s peculiar journals, a reclusive neighbor who studies the heavens, a strange boy who is fascinated with snakes–all while keeping an eye out for ways to help the world. Or is it already too late to avoid a devastating war?


There seems to be some disagreement with whether or not this is the 3rd or 4th book.  Goodreads has it marked as the 3rd, but in my set The Diamond of Darkhold is the third installment and Yonwood doesn’t even have a number.  I can kind of understanding putting the prequel in the midst of the series to have readers reflect on how the world arrived at this point while the resolution to the narrative is still up in the air, but I see better advantages of reflecting when the original story is full told.

Regardless, The Prophet of Yonwood wasn’t nearly as engaging as the other books.  This is disappointing since the lead up to what caused the conditions prompting Ember’s construction could’ve been a gripping tale.  While I didn’t finish it, it seems like the author’s focus was on prophesy and proselytizing instead.

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Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender (Low #1) (DNF)

Title: Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope
Series Title: Low
Authors: Rick Remender
Artists: Greg Toccini & Dave McCaig
Date Added: September 4, 2017
Date Started: October 25, 2017
Date DNF: November 8, 2017
Reading Duration: 14 days
Genre: Science Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Graphic Novel

Low coverPages: 144
Publication Date: March 25, 2015
Publisher: Image Comics
Media: Paperback (Library)


Millennia ago, mankind fled the earth’s surface into the bottomless depths of the darkest oceans. Shielded from a merciless sun’s scorching radiation, the human race tried to stave off certain extinction by sending robotic probes far into the galaxy to search for a new home among the stars. Generations later, one family is about to be torn apart in a conflict that will usher in the final race to save humanity from a world beyond hope. Dive into an aquatic fantasy like none you’ve ever seen before, as writer Rick Remender (Fear Agent, Uncanny Avengers) and artist Greg Tocchini (Last Days of American Crime) bring you a tale mankind’s final hour in the cold, deathly dark of the sea.


Low is about the sun going super nova far sooner than expected, and humanity taking refuge beneath the waves, while sending probes out into space to search for a new home.  It has more of a Rapture (BioShock) vibe to it insofar as there’s a city under the sea as opposed to SOMA’s derelict facility horror.

Per Remender’s foreword, the author was inspired by our sun’s eventual violent death, which will scorch the Earth beyond recognition (if humanity hasn’t already), and how if we don’t discover a new home among the stars (or a way to stop it), our species will be rendered extinct.   While this time is billions of years away, it’s still a reminder that everything is temporary and nothing ever lasts: a recipe for nihilism if ever there was.  Of course the ephemeral qualities of the universe could imbue it with meaning for some, though when you recall the nature of memory and how there needs to be someone to remember, this argument falls apart.

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The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau (Book of Ember #2)

Book of Ember

<–The City of Ember (BOE #1)                                      The Prophet of Yonwood  (BOE #3)–>

Note: Since this is a sequel there are spoilers for the prior book even in the blurb.  Something to keep in mind if you haven’t read The City of Ember and don’t want to be spoiled.


Title: The People of Sparks
Series Title: The Book of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Date Added: September 12, 2017
Date Started: October 22, 2017
Date Finished: October 23, 2017
Reading Duration: 1 day
Genre: Mid-grade/Young Adult (YA), Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian

The People of Sparks coverPages: 338
Publication Date: May 25, 2004
Publisher: Yearling Adventure
Media: Paperback


When Lina and Doon lead their people up from the underground city of Ember, they discover a surface world of color and life. The people of a small village called Sparks agree to help the Emberites, but the villagers have never had to share their world before. Soon differences between the two groups escalate, and it’s up to Lina and Doon to find a way to avoid war!

In the riveting sequel to the highly acclaimed The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau explores the nature of conflict and the strength and courage necessary to overcome it.


We will renounce violence, which is so easy to start, but so hard to control.

In the second Book of Ember, Lina and Doon play Moses in leading the exodus from their dying city.  The find a settlement called Sparks where the descendants of the Disaster survivors live.  Having absolutely no experience or even knowledge of the world they’ve found themselves in, they ask the leaders of the village for help.

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The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (Book of Ember #1)

Book of Ember

The People of Sparks (BOE #2)–>

Title: The City of Ember
Series Title: Book of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Date Added: June 28, 2016
Date Started: August 30, 2017
Date Finished: September 12, 2017
Reading Duration: 13 days
Genre: Mid-grade/Young Adult (YA), Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrauPages: 270
Publication Date: May 13, 2003
Publisher: Yearling Adventure
Media: Paperback


Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness….

But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them?


“But what if they don’t find them? What if they never come out again?” “I think they will. People find a way through just about anything.”

The City of Ember is a marvelous example of the necessity of a prologue in some cases since it lays the foundation of the story to follow: how Ember came to exist, created by the mysterious and long dead Builders to harbor humanity from some unknown disaster two centuries ago.   The only record they left of their existence was a timer box set to open in 200 years with instructions therein.  Each mayor of Ember was supposed to safeguard the vessel, passing it on to their successor when their time came to an end, but as things often go, the vital information was lost ad now Ember is dying.  Food is growing scarce and famine is imminent, but even more dire is the instability of their aging generator, because if it fails, Ember will go completely dark.

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A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

An Ember in the Ashes

<–An Ember in the Ashes                                                                               A Reaper at the Gates–>

Title: A Torch Against the Night
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Date Added: June 7, 2017
Date Started: July 12, 2017
Date Ended: August 23, 2017
Reading Duration: 42 days
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Young Adult (YA), Romance

The cover of A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa TahirPages: 452
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Media: Paperback


Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.


“So long as you fight the darkness,
You stand in the light.”

The second installment of Elias and Laia’s saga is just as compelling as the first.  The stakes are even higher, the perils more vast, and not even once believed allies can be trusted.  The soldier and the scholar are joined in their point of view chapters by Helene, whose duties as Blood Shrike threaten to rip her apart as they cannot coexist with her loyalties to her once best friend and brother-in-arms.

While there are love entanglements in this series, they in no way diminish the narrative nor seem shoehorned in for the sake of its YA status.  Laia develops feelings for Keenan due to their mutual goals in the resistance, while Elias and Helene have always had their odd relationship due to being friends forever behind their Masks.  Oddly the strongest bond is the most star-crossed in Elias and Laia, which forces Helene to acknowledge her feelings for him in dealing with her jealousy.

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The Quantum Ghost by Jonathan Ballagh (The Quantum Worlds #2)

The Quantum Worlds

<–The Quantum Door (TQW #1)

Title: The Quantum Ghost
Series Title: Quantum World
Author: Jonathan Ballagh
Illustrator: Ben J. Adams
Date Added: April 14, 2017
Date Started: April 29, 2017
Date Finished: May 20, 2017
Reading Duration: 21 days
Genre: Young Adult (YA), Mid-grade, Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic/Dystopian, Speculative Fiction

Pages: 206
Publication Date: April 29, 2017
Publisher: Self-Published
Media: eBook/Kindle

Shares Paradigms With: The Matrix, Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger

On a cold autumn night, twelve-year-old Remi Cobb makes a startling discovery—a mysterious object floating on the pond in her backyard. With no idea where it came from, or how it got there, Remi is compelled to unravel its secrets. Her quest for answers takes her on a perilous journey across realities, where she finds a crumbling world—and the dark forces behind its ruin. Here she learns the truth about her connection with the strange object, and of those that will stop at nothing to destroy them both.

But even if she can find a way to survive, can she find a way home?


Mr. Ballagh not only does it again with this second foray into his Quantum Worlds, but he manages to do it better.  Any of the minor issues I had with The Quantum Door were utterly absent from novel.  The author doesn’t waste any time with the narrative.  He jumps right into the action of the book, and it’s instantly engaging.

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