April 24, 2012

ATS Officially Launches!

Hey everyone,
After months of construction, A Thousand Ships is finally launching! Gemma and I would like to wish you a very warm welcome to our site, and we hope you enjoy it. Every Tuesday, starting today, a new book review will be posted by either Gemma or I. Today we have two reviews, in celebration of the launch of ATS. Feel free to comment and tell us what you think of our site! 

I made cupcakes to celebrate... :)

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Leviathan
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Ships Launched: 811
Pages: 484
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year Published: 2009
Genre: Steampunk/Historical Fiction
Synopsis: It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way...taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.

I really enjoyed this book. I have read a few books by Westerfeld before, and I enjoyed them very much as well (Uglies, Pretties, etc.) So naturally, I expected much of the same style from this book.
Westerfeld surprised me. It almost seemed like the different people wrote Leviathan and Uglies. His voice switched perfectly into the best type of narration for this book. The world of Leviathan was fascinating. It was like a parallel universe to WWI, but with fabricated animals against machines.

It was really fast-paced, almost too fast-paced at times. There was endless non-stop action. Sometimes it was a little overdone, but it was not nearly as bad as mindless action movies, where it seems like a lot of action with a smidgeon of plot thrown in. In Leviathan, the action supported the plot without overwhelming it. At times, the story got a little confusing because the world that Westerfeld created was so complex that it was difficult to understand what was going on. 

I thought that the plot was intriguing. Having just studied WWI, I found it interesting to link up what was going in the book to the real events of the war. Even with all of the action, the plot was still strong. Leviathan was never boring.

The characters in this book were excellent. Deryn’s masquerade as a boy was so convincing that sometimes, when a “she” popped up in the writing, I was surprised to recall that she was, in fact, a girl. Alek’s growth from a scared, orphaned boy into a confident young adult was interesting to watch. But again, with all of the action, it did not feel like you really got to know the characters. I liked the switching viewpoints between these two characters, however. It gives the reader a different perspective on everything that is taking place.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was mesmerizing and never boring, and the characters were interesting and original. The action sometimes threatened to bring everything down, but the plot remained strong in the end.

+20 – WWI Plot – I enjoyed the references between this mostly fictional book and the real war that took place very much.
+15 – No clich├ęd romance (yet): Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cute love stories, but I’m glad that this book didn’t do that. It’s just too overdone, and the romance would not have fit in with all of this action. We'll just have to see what the sequel has in store!
+15 – The Illustrations: The illustrations in this book were beautifully done, and they gave you a clearer image of the intriguing world that Westerfeld created. They really added another level to the story.

Graceling By Kristin Cashore

Title: Graceling
Author: Kristen Cashore
Ships launched: 909
Pages: 480
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Year Published: 2008
Genre: Fantasy
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
     When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
       Filled with captivating adventures, Graceling is truly an enticing story. Kristin Cashore creates a world that readers yearn to journey too and never want to leave. The book has the perfect plot: a heroine that shines above others, an intriguing adventure, and an earth-shaking romance.  Best of all, the book is filled with romance and fantasy without either overtaking the plot. As readers delve deeper into the novel, they will find themselves unable to stop reading.
      Cashore creates unbelievably unique characters. Katsa, who has an invaluable skill for killing, is a persevering young woman who takes control of her life and meets Po, a young man who captures her heart. The two young lovers soon set out on a dangerous adventure that alters their future forever. Although the complex characters are extraordinary, readers will still be able to identify with them.
         Throughout the novel, phenomenal writing kept me flipping through the pages.  The storyline had many surprise twists and turns that kept me guessing what would occur next. There are some non-descriptive sex scenes in the novel but I will definitely be reading this book again.

+10 interesting plot
+5 unique characters
-6 some inappropriate scenes for younger readers