Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book Review: The Broken Lands

A few years back I read Boneshaker by Cheri Priest and was pretty meh on the book in general. And then shortly afterwords confused since I saw people talking about a book called Boneshaker that was completely different from what I read, turns out it was this book by Kate Milford. I'm still a little surprised that Milford's book kept the same title since I can't have been the only person confused by these two but in any case I wasn't that interested in the book and the cover art was just odd enough to keep me uninterested. The cover for the prequel however grabbed me a bit more and something about the synopsis made me curious and, well, while some might disagree I think it's best to read a series chronologically so this was also the most logical place to start!

The Broken Lands by Kate Milford, illustrated by Andrea Offermann

Summary: It's the 19th century New York and, while the Brooklyn Bridge isn't quite finished yet the city of New York and Coney Island are becoming more and more joined regardless. And as any afficando of fairy tales knows, a crossroads, especially as one so massive as the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River, is a source of power and some, people, have come calling to NYC to take it over for their own purposes. Cities have protections however for these times but out villains already know about those and seek to twist them to their own dark needs. Sam is only a cardshark living on Coney Island and Jin is even less connected to the city but when both of them end up in the wrong place they become determined to do what they can to save the city and keep all of it's people safe.

The Good: There is just something about the way that this story unfolds which makes it work and it's one of my favorite books so far this year. Maybe it's the setting, I suppose you could call this book urban fantasy and it does a remarkably good job at focusing on both the mundane (urban) parts of Sam and Jin's lives and on the fantastical elements that have worked their way in. Often when I read urban fantasy I see stories that would rather focus on the magic and how another world, in a sense, lurks behind street corners and focuses on the fantastical instead of the ordinary. That's fine but here the city of New York is so pivotal to the story (and the time, the story is set roughly during the Reconstruction after the Civil War which isn't a time period I see many books set in, especially middle grade/young adult) that if the story had tried to focus more on the magic than the normal then it would have been hard to see where the characters got the motivation to save it. Much like the setting, the story balances out the page time that both Sam and Jin get quite nicely and both develop very well (and the development also feels very natural given that the story takes place over about a week, it's not too much yet with the circumstances the two face it's believable that they do change). After looking at the summary for Boneshaker I was sad that I didn't see either of their names in there since I would love to read more about their adventures and I'm crossing my fingers that they do appear after all.

The Bad: There were some moments towards the end where things just seemed to work out too well for both Sam and Jin which threw me out of the story a bit. Yes good/advantageous things will happen to characters in stories, that's what happens in real life. However, it was just the way that some things right near the climax occurred that frustrated me, other than that this was a really good book and I don't have any major complaints about it. I am curious to find out how it connects to Boneshaker, once I was completely finished with the book I looked up a summary for it but couldn't figure it out which also makes me wonder what purpose this story served then.

So I didn't give the illustrations their own section this time since 1) I don't have the book with me so I can't really talk about them without looking at them and 2) while okay I didn't feel like they added anything really important to the story that was worth mentioning. That doesn't mean I didn't like them, technically the ones in Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series didn't add anything either and I loved those, so I just didn't really have anything to say. Regardless, I give this book four stars out of five and now that I've finally reviewed it I'm going to go ahead and get a hold of Boneshaker and hope that I like it just as much.

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