A late post, but November was a month for favourite book series as I revisit part of a fantasy franchise and pick up a new sci-fi dystology. Now that we are down to a month before 2021 ends, let me know what else I should read ahead of the new year! x
Six of Crows Duology (Leigh Bardugo, 2015 – 2016)
The knowledge that they might never see each other again, that some of them — maybe all of them — might not survive this night hung heavy in the air. A gambler, a convict, a wayward son, a lost Grisha, a Suli girl who had become a killer, a boy from the Barrel who had become something worse.
It’s been a few years since I last read and loved the Six of Crows duology. Earlier this year, the screen adaptation Shadow and Bone finally pushed me to pick up the Collector’s Edition as gorgeous hardbacks – just for an excuse for a re-read.
And so we reunite with our favourite thieving crew in this excellent pageturner. None more charming than Kaz Brekker, the bastard of the Barrel and master of schemes. He cleverly enacts an exciting heist in the world of Grisha, relentless in pace and twisty in places.
Full of magic as well as wit, not only are the events tautly strung together. Every character is brought to life with distinctive personalities that made for endlessly fun banter. Add to that a compelling backdrop rich with history and diverse cultures, and the thrill ride genuinely surpasses the average fantasy read.
This isn’t the end for there seems so much left to tell after Six of Crows after all, and Crooked Kingdom fills that void perfectly. As the charismatic murder of Crows take on their last misadventure, so do they grow beyond their years. They change through trauma, heartache, and struggles, never taking the easy way out.
As with the characters, the story is brilliantly crafted too. Delivering satisfying comeuppance with more complexity than the average revenge plot, the bittersweet end also dares deals them a bad hand at unexpected times, as life often does, leaving emotional moments that linger.
The Unwind Dystology (Neal Shusterman, 2007 – 2014)
Please what? the teacher thinks. Please break the law? Please put myself and the school at risk? But, no, that’s not it at all. What he’s really saying is: Please be a human being. With a life so full of rules and regiments, it’s so easy to forget that’s what they are. She knows — she sees — how often compassion takes a back seat to expediency.
The pro-life/choice war comes to an end with an unusually cruel Accord, allowing parents to consent for their wayward teenage children to be unwound. Harvested for their body parts, they will live on in a divided state, or so the nation claims.
It is hard to believe that such a senseless compromise can ever end this complex debate. Nevertheless, the extreme idea of Unwind makes for a fascinating dystopia with much to think about, especially in how the law plays into dirty politik and further disadvantages the poor.
Is it ever right to sacrifice one for another? How do we then decide who’s to save? Can we value one’s future more than another? What does it mean to have a soul? These difficult questions accompany the looming terror of Unwinding, its visceral prospects more disturbing than most horror authors can imagine.
There are so many things to love about the series – its accidental heroes, endless thrills, and the cathartic uprising made possible by every individual’s action, no matter how seemingly minor. Above all, the brilliance is in how grounded the story is, despite a premise that could easily appear absurd. Yet interspersed with real-world articles that mirror its plot in little ways, we come to believe how far society may devolve, all because of capitalistic greed.
Its protagonists are imperfect too, prone to mistakes that they learn to live with. Trauma remains to be resolved, even as a manipulated society finally rises from their collective nightmare. This layered plot plays out brilliantly, continually raising the stakes while never ignoring the unintended consequences.