Monthly Archives: September 2014

Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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By now, most people are associating this book with Emma Watson and the inevitable forthcoming of the movie franchise. When books are immediately associated with celebrities, I can’t help but be a bit dubious about how good the book actually is, and how much I will (or will not) enjoy it.

But enjoy it I did.

Kelsea Glynn has had a sheltered and isolated upbringing, with only her foster parents for company. This all changes on her 19th birthday when the soldiers come for her. For on her 19th birthday Kelsea comes into her inheritance – to rule the kingdom of the Tearling. The kingdom she is about to become Queen of has certainly seen better days – it is corrupt, poor and dangerous. With her enemies putting a price on her head, and traitors everywhere she looks, Kelsea faces the greatest challenge of her life, to survive and be the ruler her kingdom so desperately needs.

Although this book, the first in a proposed trilogy, is set in the 24th Century, this is not made very clear through the narrative. For the savvy reader, there are a number of passing moments and pieces of the kingdom’s history that imply that this novel is set in the future, however the reader needs to be able to see beyond the obvious to get this. With the novel having a largely medieval Britain feel about it, the reader could certainly be excused for thinking that this is more of a Game of Thrones style set up. And this book certainly does have a very Game of Thrones feel about it. I think it would be a good novel for those young adults (16+) who may not yet be ready to tackle George R.R. Martin’s mammoth (and still unfinished) fantasy saga.

This book kept me hooked right from the beginning, and the character of Kelsea, although at times infuriatingly naïve, is very likeable and relateable. The physical descriptions of all the characters as well as the landscapes of the Tearling, are so well thought out and clearly presented, I felt like I was there in the novel at every scene and every chapter. I would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoyed The Game of Thrones series, and also to those who may be a bit reluctant to have a go at reading a fantasy novel.

One parting thought though…

With Kelsea characterised as a rather plain girl, with a little too much weight upon her 19-year-old frame, I am not quite sure how Emma Watson fits the bill for this role. After all she is perceived the world over as being the complete opposite of this character. I wonder what will happen to the character of Kelsea – I guess we will have to wait and see if she is subjected to what I have dubbed the ‘Jack Reacher’ effect.

Rating: 9/10

Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

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I have a confession – I love Matthew Reilly.

And his books.

Mostly his books, but him as well. He seems like a nice guy, with a great sense of humour.

But back to the books.

For many years I have ranked him in my top three favourite authors. I love his fast-paced, engaging stories that obviously come from a very vivid imagination.

Basically, I wish I had written his books.

So when I saw the proof copy of Reilly’s latest book, The Great Zoo of China, on the desk at work, I quickly snapped it up before anyone else could. I was in China on a two-week holiday earlier this year as well, so I was intrigued to see how he used that as the backdrop to the story.

Wow!

I was not disappointed!

China is on its way to becoming a modern superpower; they are leaders in manufacturing and they have an intimidating, and sizeable military force. In an effort to become a dominant cultural power to rival the USA, the Chinese government have been working on a highly secretive project for the past forty years – the greatest zoo ever constructed. But this is not just any zoo; this is a zoo to rival Disneyland. This zoo is to house a species of animal that are believed to exist only in myth. This is a zoo of dragons.

The Great Zoo of China introduces us to a new character in the Reilly canon, and his first (adult) female lead – the resilient, fiery and independent Dr. CJ Cameron. CJ, an expert on reptiles and a writer for National Geographic, and a small group of VIPs and journalists have been invited by the Chinese government to preview the zoo and its magnificent creatures. Despite being shown around and reassured that nothing can go wrong, naturally it does. After all, it wouldn’t be a Matthew Reilly book unless something went wrong. And on a drastically huge and life-threatening scale!

True to form, this book had everything I love about a Reilly novel – fast paced storytelling, lots of action, good guys, bad guys, death, destruction, whiz bang tech stuff, monsters, and no time for breathing between crazy action sequences. It is an epic book, with Reilly writing at his explosive best.

However, there were two big things I noticed about the novel that I can already see being the subject of some comments and scrutiny, so I have given my two cents worth on them:

This story isn’t very original – Matthew Reilly has pretty much just re-written Jurassic Park.

Um, no. This is not the case. Yes, that parallel can be drawn and yes it does have similar aspects. Reilly has always said that Jurassic Park is his favourite novel of all time, and he was evidently very aware that people would want to draw parallels between his new book and the classic Crichton novel. Reilly does directly deal with the similarity in the book though, so he is very self-aware of the potential for comparison. I think, if anything, it’s more of an homage to Michael Crichton’s story. I don’t think it’s fair to say that Reilly is being unoriginal here. After all, since when did Jurassic park get as crazy as a Reilly novel?

Matthew Reilly is just jumping on the dragon bandwagon because they have come back into fashion – Smaug (The Hobbit), Drogon (Game of Thrones) and now Reilly’s dragons.

I am pretty sure Matthew Reilly would be chuffed to have his band of dragon creations mentioned in the same breath as Smaug and Drogon. Reilly always spends a great deal of time thinking, researching and developing his ideas for books, so I am sure The Great Zoo of China would be no exception. With that in mind, it would have been years between the initial thought/concept/trigger that got Reilly thinking about this as a novel, and then actually releasing it in all it’s glory. It just so happens that dragons are the craze right now, which certainly won’t hurt book sales!

I devoured this book in 2 days, and cannot wait to buy my own shiny new hardbacked copy on 10th November!

Rating: 10/10

Matthew will also be doing a national author tour around Australia in November/December for the release of The Great China Zoo, so check out his website here for details.

EDIT: Read my summary of Matthew Reilly’s launch event for The Great Zoo of China (complete with Q&A) that I attended here.