Reads of the Week

Heart on Fire

Amanda Bouchet

Piatkus

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

Heart on Fire didn’t set my heart ablaze.

It is the final (thank heaven) book in a fantasy trilogy set in several realms, though all the action in this novel takes place in Tarva.

From there, the supernatural characters, which include bickering, mythological Greek gods, try to conquer a place called Fisa.

Conquering realms is what the main character, Catalia Fisa is destined for. The gods have greatly advantaged her for this destiny, giving her wings, invisibility, the power to detect lies, lightning, and some.

But Catalia is not sure of herself. So, instead of rushing off to claim her destiny she spends the novel dashing from life-or-death epic battles to drawn-out sex scenes.

Several chapters are 70 and above percent sex scene – the sex-less bits serving only to lead into another sex scene. And when they are not having sex, the characters are all fighting.

A few gods show up in the aftermath to fix the mess, only so that the characters can promptly dive straight into more sex and violence, or sex and sex, or violence and violence or any combination of the above.

And just when the novel finally builds up to the climax everyone has actually been waiting for – an awesome, magical showdown between evil, magic-endowed mom and amazing, recently-come-into-my-full-kick-ass power daughter – it falls flat, and dies a most anticlimactic death.I hope the author does not try to resurrect this series.

The Burning Chambers

Kate Mosse

Mantle

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

The Burning Chambers tells the Romeo and Juliet-like love story of Piet and Minou during the Wars of Religion in France.

Piet is a Protestant, or Huguenot as it is called in France, and Minou a devout Catholic – at least at the beginning of the book.

Their undercover romance is told against the backdrop of the French religious turmoil of 1562. The war is country-wide but the story is split across towns, villages and the city of Toulouse. Kate Mosse – an acclaimed author of several series, books and plays – accompanied this special reviewer’s edition – the book will only be on shelves in May – with a letter explaining her inspiration for the series.

It was inspired by a visit to the Franschhoek Book Festival, the letter says, and the story spans three centuries and travels between Carcassonne and South Africa, touching Toulouse, La Rochelle, Paris and Amsterdam in between.

The unresolved prologue in The Burning Chambers, which launches the series, starts with an unnamed woman examining a gravestone in Franschhoek in 1862. A chapter later, the story skips back a few centuries to Toulouse, France, where the novel begins the first of three converging storylines.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The story feels fresh, despite the Shakespearean copycatting.

The plot is dotted with a satisfying amount of loops, turns and mystery to keep the story intriguing and overshadow the odd, forgivable clichés. The protagonist characters are engaging and interesting. The major antagonists are caricaturish and – all of them – Catholic.

This brings me to the only thing about the book I did not like: it had a subtle, but tangible, anti-Catholic thread. Personally, it amused me that as the only Catholic reviewer in the office, I picked this book from the review pile.

Elevation

Helen Brain

Human and Rousseau

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

I had an irreverent thought while reading this dystopian, young-adult, fantasy novel.

Perhaps Muizenberg author Helen Brain doesn’t like the Cape Flats since she, ironically, put all of it under water during some obscure, post-apocalyptic event.

Perhaps the event is less obscure in the first novel of the trilogy but Elevation, the second novel, doesn’t give much detail about it.

Some of the more elite places in Cape Town survive the author’s drowning out but they have, for the most part, been renamed and that’s why Ebba, the main character, continues her super-natural, amulet-hunting adventures in a place called Greenhaven, which is in Table Island City – and no it is not the Greenhaven which currently exists in Athlone.

At the same time she has to navigate post apocalyptic politics while fitting in an occasional smooch with her boyfriend – who doesn’t really seem to be so much her own as she thinks.

Every now and then a literal ghost from her past pops in to lead her back on her destined path or, conveniently, stop the book from becoming too sexy for a teen audience.

The novel is full-up of all the young-adult fantasy staples – good friends falling in and out with each other, angry outbursts, dollops of insecurity and indecisiveness – and of course: a teen trying to escape the weight of too much sudden responsibility, including the key to everyone’s salvation.

I battled to like the main character – and a great many of the other characters too. I didn’t warm to Ebba’s inherent lack of wisdom – after all if you’ve been chosen for some great fate then one would hope you would have been endowed with even just a bit of brains.

The book didn’t rock my world but I also somewhat liked it. In teen speak that would mean: “It’s okay but not on fleek.”

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