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Friday, April 6, 2018

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo review

     Okay, I know I am so late to the party on this one but now I see why it has such a following.  The characters absolutely make you fall in love with them.  I am particularly fond of Inej but there wasn't a single character that I was like "please can we just get back to the other person's story!" Nope, they are all great and equally as unique.  
      I got a lot of "The Night Circus" vibes from it with the different types of magic and the time period it seems to be set in but I felt that it was more well written and thought out than that book was, plus there's more than just magic at play; it includes badass ninja thieves who are amazing at hand to hand combat so yeah, much more exciting than Night Circus was for me!
     My one sadness is that the book ended on such a cliffhanger.  I knew there was a second book but for some reason I thought it was more of a prequel than a sequel, so of course I had to immediately buy the second one from Amazon!  I bought Six of Crows in a softcover so I'm not sure what the hardcover variant looks like but OMG book 2 is GORGEOUS in hardcover!  The edges of the pages are red and yes, it smells realllllly good (you guys know I'm a sucker for a good book smell haha)!
     Anyways, all I can say about this book is READ IT! So many twists and turns I was always kept guessing and wondering who's good and who's evil and where the plot was leading, and then once it happens you're like "wait, WHAT!"  
     The author does an incredible job with the world building too, I felt like I could truly see the cities she describes in my head and I can still picture them clearly even a few days after finishing.  As I was reading it I kept thinking of that movie "Now You See Me", i.e lots of heist stuff with magic thrown in.  I know a lot of people didn't like that movie so I'm sorry to make that comparison, but rest assured that I believe this was written waaaaaaay better than the plot of that movie with much more interesting characters too.  I can't wait to start the 2nd book!  

4.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman (Arc of a Scythe #2)

     This picks up a few months after where book 1 left off.  Rowan is in hiding and has taken on the identity Scythe Lucifer and has been killing corrupt and immoral scythes.
     Citra is now a scythe apprentice known as Scythe Anastasia and lives with Scythe Curie.  She has started gleaning and developed her own style, giving her victims a month to get their affairs in order before coming back to glean them.  A meeting was held at the Vernal Conclave (seasonal scythe meeting) regarding how she was handling her gleanings but nothing could be found in the rules about why she couldn't do it the way she does so she has been allowed to continue.
     Rowan meanwhile is living nomadically while doing his "calling" as Scythe Lucifer.  He was living with Faraday for a while when he found out Faraday was alive but the calling to get rid of corrruption among the scythe order was too great for him to stay and so he hasn't seen Faraday in months.
     His friend Tyger shows up one day to see him at his temporary apartment.  Tyger had been able to track Rowan down because he had helped Rowan get his fake identity when everything went down after his apprenticeship and he had to go on the run from the scythes.  Tyger has no idea Rowan is Scythe Lucifer so he doesn't realize the amount of danger he has put Rowan in by coming to see him in case he was followed.
     Tyger tells Rowan he tracked him down to tell him that his father was gleaned.  Rowan thinks it is an omen that the scythedom knows he is Lucifer and it's a warning that if he doesn't stop they plan to kill all his family.  Tyger also tells Rowan that he has accepted a job in Texas which is one of the 7 charter regions*.  He doesn't know what the position entails, only that a scythe offered him the position.
     Later on when Tyger goes to his new job the scythe tells Tyger that he will do nicely and Tyger assumes the scythe has hired him for pleasure purposes (Tyger is a professional "partier" and escort) but the scythe tells him that isn't the case and he will be a sort of "apprentice".  Tyger gets excited then thinking the scythe is going to train him for a scythe apprenticeship but we can all tell from the tone of voice the scythe has that this isn't true.  We find out later that this scythe is Scythe Rand, one of Goddard's apprentices who Rowan thought he had killed in the fire. More on that later.
     Meanwhile, Xenocrates, head over the scythedom, has requested a meeting with a Nimbus agent to relay a message to the Thunderhead.  Nimbus agent are like the task force of the Thunderhead; they enforce the laws the Thunderhead has put in place to protect humanity and are also the voice of the Thunderhead to speak with scythes.  Since scythes are outside the realm of the Thunderhead's jurisdiction they are not allowed to speak directly to the Thunderhead or vice versa but only through Nimbus reps.
    Xenocrates inquires as to why Scythe Lucifer hasn't been stopped since he isn't a real scythe.  The Nimbus agent confers with the Thunderhead and says that the Thunderhead sees Rowan as a real scythe since he carries a scythe ring (Rowan had stolen Goddard's scythe ring after he killed him in the last book) and completed his apprenticeship.  The Thunderhead further notes that being ordained by the scythedom is merely a custom, not a requirement for someone to be a scythe and so it will not/cannot take action in scythe matters.
     We see bits and pieces of what the Thunderhead is thinking throughout this book (which was really cool) and we find out that the Thunderhead wants Rowan to succeed where it cannot.  It has also seen that the scythedom is becoming more and more corrupt but its laws prevent it from doing anything so Rowan has become its voice in this matter.  The Thunderhead also keeps stating over and over that Citra (Scythe Anastasia) is very important to the outcome of humanity too, whether she be alive or dead.
     This is where we meet Greyson.  Greyson is a teen boy who is a Nimbus agent in training.  He has always wanted to be a Nimbus agent because the Thunderhead has been like his own parent, throwing parties for him, encouraging him, helping with homework, etc because his parents aren't very caring and are usually mia on the homefront.
     Greyson is called to the Nimbus command center in his town (called the Authority Interface, A.I for short, these command centers exist all over the world) one day and is given info from one of the upper agents named Agent Traxler that the Thunderhead wanted him to know that two scythes might be in danger; Scythe Curie and Scythe Anastasia, but he must NOT intervene because it goes against the laws of Separation of Scythe and State.  Greyson knows he is being told this because the Thunderhead wants him to help the two scythes since it isn't allowed to help so he goes against the rules and goes to find Curie and Anastasia.
     He does find them but is almost too late because a tripwire has been placed across the road they are driving on (Curie is teaching Anastasia to drive a mortal age car so Anastasia is the one driving).  He jumps in front of the car and commits suicide to force them to stop before reaching the wire.  As he is dying Anastasia goes over to him, thinking he's just a thrill seeking "splatter" (someone who commits suicide for a rush since they know they'll be revived soon) and realizes that with his dying breath he's trying to warn her of the booby trap in the road once Curie sees the wire and calls her over.
     When Greyson is revived at the revival center he is called in to the AI and is told he is banished from becoming a Nimbus agent since he broke the law of Separation of Scythe and State and that the Thunderhead has branded him "unsavory".  Greyson knew he would lose his place at the school since he broke the law but he doesn't why the Thunderhead has branded him as an unsavory since he knows the Thunderhead wanted him to protect the two scythes.
      Unsavories are required to have monthly meetings with an assigned Nimbus agent, kind of like a probation officer is in our world, and at Greyson's first meeting he sees his assigned agent is Traxler.  Traxler tells him that the Thunderhead set it up this way so that they could talk each month in private without suspicions being aroused.  Traxler informs Greyson that the Thunderhead wants him to delve deeper into the world of the unsavories to help Curie and Anastasia.
     Greyson takes on the identity of an unsavory named Slayd and Traxler sets it up so that everything in his file reflects he is this person so that it is more authentic in case anyone digs into it.  He begins hanging out with the unsavories at AWFul clubs.  These clubs are set up like they are from different time periods throughout history.  The employees are paid to let the unsavories do whatever they want to them; for example- there is a 50's diner where you can push around the other diners and get into brawls with them, a prison cell you have to break out of, etc.
     It is at one of these clubs that Greyson meets and falls for a girl named Purity.  She leads him down the rabbit hole to the "dark side" of the unsavories and asks him to join her.  He agrees and after hanging out for a few weeks (maybe months? doesn't give a timeline for it in the book) and making trouble around town he earns her trust and she tells him that they have a job and are going to kill a couple scythes.
     At Greyson's next meeting with Traxler he is anxious to tell him this turn of events while still trying to find a way to protect Purity but he is surprised to see that it isn't Traxler at the meeting but a new agent named Agent Kreel.  He demands to speak with Traxler and she tells him that she's sorry but Traxler was gleaned and she is his new representative.  Purity reveals to him before they are about to attack the scythes that she mentioned to their proprietor that he didn't like his Nimbus officer and so the proprietor killed him for him.  Greyson realizes then that it must be a scythe as their proprietor to have that kind of clout.
     When he tries to discuss everything with Agent Kreel and tells her his name is actually Greyson she doesn't believe him and he realizes that the rest of the world now thinks he really is this unsavory named Slayd and no one knows his real name now except the Thunderhead who isn't allowed to talk to him since he has been deemed an unsavory.
     Meanwhile, Citra and Curie have been living a nomadic lifestyle while they try to figure out who wants them dead.  The scythedom has sent their best representative to help them named Scythe Constantine.  Between the 3 of them they decide to set up a trap for the person hunting them.  Citra (Anastasia) has been told that her in-process gleanings have all already been taken care of except the last 3 to protect her from going back to the same place twice which would make her more of a target.        She says that instead of someone else gleaning her other 3 she should do as normal and wait the 30 days out since the person tracking them will know she will be at the spots her subjects end up choosing (she allows her subjects to pick their place and method of death after their 30 days are up).  Constantine and Marie agree to this plan.
     The first two gleanings are uneventful but at the third all hell breaks loose.  Anastasia's third subject/victim is a theater actor and he tells her that he wishes to be gleaned onstage during the death scene in his Caesar play and she agrees to his terms.
     Greyson has still been undercover even though there is no one to help him now and when he goes to the theater with Purity and the other unsavories hired for the job he is in the dark as to what they  are doing but sees as it's unfolding that they plan to put acid in the sprinkler system at the theater and start a fire to make the sprinklers come on.  Acid and fire are some of the only ways to truly destroy scythes since there is nothing left to revive afterwards.
     When Greyson sees what's happening he lunges backstage to stop them and he sees the look of betrayal in Purity's eyes.  Even though she is evil Greyson loves her and he had hoped he would find a way for both of them to come out of this together but he knows this has to be stopped.  He sees Scythe Constantine and tells him that there is acid in the sprinklers and he has to stop it.  Purity is chasing Greyson and when she gets near them Constantine gleans her by slicing her throat. Greyson runs to the sprinkler system and grabs a fire axe next to it and chops open the pipe so that the acid won't be released through the whole theater. As he does this one of Constantine's men is caught in the acid because he was chasing Greyson since he thought Greyson was with the unsavories attacking them.
      Anastasia was also chasing Greyson and she sees that he messes up the sprinkler system to protect her and Curie (Curie was in the audience watching the play while Anastasia did her gleaning).
      A few days afterwards, Greyson sends her a note to meet him and he requests that she help him because now the scythes, unsavories, and the AI are after him and he has nowhere to go. She sends him to a Tonist church where he will be safe. She had met one of these tonists when he showed up at her and Curie's hotel room a few weeks ago.  She thought he was undercover as a tonist but was actually their attacker so she had broken his arm when he reached into his pocket.  When she realized he really was a tonist after seeing all the pamphlets in his pocket she and Curie patched him up because this particular tonist group has had all their healing nanites and pain nanites removed and he wouldn't go to a hospital.  He and Anastasia became amiable during this time so that is why she sends Greyson there.
      At the same time this is happening, Faraday has found Rowan and told him that he is disappointed in what Rowan is doing but that he won't stop him either since it's his choice but that there is a better way to solve the corruption in the scythedom and he is going to the land of Nod to find it.  Rowan tells him that place is just a mortal age fairtytale and Faraday says that means there's no better place to look.
      Before he leaves Faraday tells Rowan about how Citra (Anastasia) is in trouble because so many new scythes look up to her.  He says that the "new order" scythes (those with beliefs like Goddard's were, that they should enjoy killing and live extravagant lifestyles) are taking over and they don't like the fact that Anastasia supports the old ways and is causing a stir among the divide between new/old scythe ways.  Upon hearing this, Rowan sneaks in to see Xenocrates to try to save Anastasia.
     He tells Xenocrates that he will temporarily stop killing the corrupt scythes if Xenocrates will pull the scythe forces searching for him and use all the forces to try to help Anastasia and Curie.  Xenocrates tells him he already did that anyways because he supports Anastasia and Curie and the old ways and doesn't want them dead.
      Before Rowan leaves he asks Xenocrates to tell him who killed his father and Xenocrates tells him it was Scythe Brahms.  Rowan is taken aback because now he feels like his father's death is his fault due to the fact that he spared Brahms a while back since he wasn't completely corrupt and Rowen had told him that if he changed his ways he would let him live.  Instead of doing that, Brahms continued his ways and gleaned Rowan's father in revenge.
      Rowan tries to find Anastasia to help her but he isn't able to track her so he instead heads for Brahms house to kill him.  When he breaks in he is captured by Brahms guards and Brahms takes Rowan's scythe ring and tells the guards to beat him up.
     When Rowan next wakes he is in a bed and Tyger is sitting next to him.  Rowan has no clue what's going on and Tyger tells him he's a scythe apprentice now and that he sent for Rowan to be his sparring partner.  In walks Scythe Rand and she sends Tyger to make Rowan some food while she talks to him.
     She explains that Brahm was working for her and she knew that if she had Brahm kill Rowan's father he would eventually come for him.  She tells him that she was burned badly in the fire but that Rowan couldn't kill her that easily.  She took off for Texas when she dragged herself out of the ruins and had the hospitals here patch her up (she came here since they don't ask any questions in Texas hospitals) and she's been plotting to find Rowan ever since.
     She has Rowan and Tyger spar for a few weeks trying to train Tyger to get better, and eventually Rand tells Tyger that he is ready for his scythe ring.  Rowan is stuck in his room while they're gone and he is worried about Tyger.  He tried to warn Tyger that Rand was using him but Tyger confessed he had fallen in love with Rand and would make her love him too.  When Rand comes back she comes into Rowan's room with Tyger and when the light is clicked on Rowan sees that Tyger's body is sitting in front of him but Goddard's head is the new head.
     He realizes that Rand has rescued Goddard's head from the fire whenever Rowan decapitated him and they have had it transplanted on Tyger's body.
     Goddard tells Rowan that his vocal cords were ruined in the decapitation and so now Rowan gets to "enjoy" hearing his friends voice come out of Goddard's mouth.  Rowan demands to know what they did with Tyger and Goddard says they threw him out with the trash but once Goddard is gone Rand tells Rowan that she took his ashes and spread them in a field of bluebonnets, showing that she did care about Tyger at least a little even though she did this to him.
     Meanwhile, Scythe Faraday has gone to the scythe library which houses all the scythes journals about their lives to see if he can find any info on Nod.  He asks the librarian there for help in his search and she agrees because she recognizes and admires him.
     She becomes his colleague in the search and they eventually find that there is a section of ocean where a group of islands sit that no airplanes travel and they realize this must be a blind spot for the Thunderhead.  Faraday and Minira(the librarian) explain this to Curie and Anastasia during a secret meeting and explain that they will be heading there to try to find the information that might stop the madness happening in the scythedom.
     The winter conclave for the scythes happens and Xenocrates announces that he will be stepping down as high blade because he has been offered a position as one of the seven on the World Scythe (Grandslayers) Council.  These are the highest tier of scythes; there is one representative on this council from each continent and one of the current Grandslayers has decided it is his time to glean himself.
      The scythe conclave is allowed to make nominations for who the next high blade will be and then the votes are tallied at the end of the day and a new high blade will be announced.  Scythe Curie is nominated by Constantine and she starts to turn down the nomination but Anastasia asks her to wait to see what will happen.  One of the new order scythes is nominated as well and so a dividing line is drawn and Curie has no choice but to accept the nomination because none of them want to see the new order scythes win uncontested.
     Before the nominations can be set in stone Brahms stands and says he would like to nominate another scythe and announces Goddard as he comes in.  Everyone is in shock since they all thought he was dead but he has become a martyr for the new order so they all readily agree to let him take the other new order scythe's place in the nomination.
      A debate between Goddard and Curie ensues, with Goddard saying that if he becomes high blade he will delete the scythe quota and allow scythes to glean as much or as little as they choose to along with numerous other promises.  Curie of course wants to stick with the current scythe traditions since they are the most honorable.
     After the debate the votes are about to be cast and those on Curie's side including Anastasia are afraid they are going to lose because of all the outrageous promises Goddard made.  Anastasia's brain begins working overtime to find a solution, and when another junior scythe mentions to her that Goddard doesn't seem to stand as tall now it gives her an idea.
      When the votes are cast the scythes all have 10 seconds to make their choice.  At the 8 second mark Anastasia stands up and claims that she wants an inquest.  She states that since the votes have been cast but not read that by the scythedom laws she has the right to do this.  Xenocrates consults with his 2nd in command and they confirm that this is true and Anastasia is allowed to proceed.
     She addresses the scythedom and tells them that Goddard cannot be the high blade because he is only 7% scythe at the moment and the parts of him that were ordained as scythe and held his scythe ring are no longer present since he is in another body (he admitted this when entering the conclave but of course didn't mention the devious method by which he acquired a new body, only the part about how Rand managed to save his head from the fire and "found" him a new body). 
     The inquest is passed and Xenocrates announces that his 2nd will take over as high blade until the inquest is resolved before the Grandslayers in the spring.
     Goddard is of course livid and proceeds to randomly glean passerby on the streets outside the conclave in a fit of anger for all the other scythes to see.  Rand pulls him into their car and when they get back to the apartment he begins taking out his anger on Rowan daily, forcing him to fight with him.  Rowan always wins and Goddard always kills him afterwards and he is sent to a revival center so that Goddard can repeat the process.
     During one of his revivals the Thunderhead speaks to him while he's deadish, the same way it was able to circumvent the law before when it talked to Anastasia since while deadish he isn't technically a scythe at that moment.
     The Thunderhead tells him that it knows he has a purpose and that there is a 39% chance he will have a profound impact on the world as either himself or Scythe Lucifer, and a 61% chance he will die before this can happen.  Rowan isn't comforted by this statistic but the Thunderhead tells him this is a much greater percentage than most people ever get in their lifetime to make an impact.
       Faraday and the librarian head to the Library of Congress to try to research more about the islands they are heading to to find out which one in the little cluster of islands holds the secrets they are looking for.
     They know that it has to have been saved in print rather than in the Thunderhead's backbrain because they've figured out that the Thunderhead has been programmed to avoid this place since it has no cameras on the islands and doesn't even send planes over it like it doesn't exist.
     They find the right one but all of a sudden hear a slight clicking noise and realize there is an old camera in this room and the Thunderhead now knows the location too and they realize they've made a terrible mistake in not checking for surveillance first since this is information the scythes purposely kept from the Thunderhead all these years although they don't know why yet.
       Anastasia and Curie head to the Island of the Enduring Heart, also called Endura, for the meeting with the World Scythe Council (the Grandslayers).  When they arrive they are escorted to their rooms which are underwater, and Anastasia sees that there are a ton of fish outside the window and she is mesmerized.  Xenocrates has come to meet them and he shows her how the fish can be controlled by remote since they have been embedded with nanites. He makes a school of fish swim away and some jellyfish swim up next to the window (I know this seems irrelevant but bear with me).
     Goddard has also shown up with Brahms and Rand in tow and they have brought Rowan as a prisoner.  Goddard plans to present him to the Grandslayers the next day to gain their favor.  His plans are thwarted when Rand tries to give herself to him that night and he shuns her.  She realizes it's not even him that she is in love with but Tyger and she had killed him for Goddard.  She frees Rowan and tells him to escape the island before the meeting tomorrow.  When he asks her why she's letting him go she tells him that if she can't have what she wants then neither can Goddard but that if he loses at the meeting tomorrow Rowan will not want to be anywhere near the island so he needs to leave NOW.
     The next day when Goddard wakes up and sees Rowan gone Rand blames Brahms for it, saying that he must have let Rowan steal the key from him.  Goddard kills Brahms in a fit of rage.
      They go to the meeting and the Grandslayers end up ruling in Anastasia and Curie's favor, saying that they still consider Goddard a scythe but that in order to meet the requirements to be a master scythe again he will need to train his body as an apprentice under Rand for a year.
     Rowan finds Anastasia instead of leaving the island to warn her that Rand told him Goddard had something up his sleeve and to be careful because he doesn't know what it is.  Curie sees him and tells Anastasia to get away from Rowan before she is seen with him and her reputation in ruined by associating with Scythe Lucifer.  Before Anastasia can even respond the whole island falls apart.
     Endura is free of any Thunderhead help since the whole island is devoted to scythes, so anytime repairs are needed on machines or security is needed manpower is required.  Based on this, Goddard has been recruiting engineers and other workers to tamper with the machinery on the island for months, making everyone think that stuff was just starting to wear out and break down.
    His big finale for this comes today though because he has messed with the buoy system for the island and it starts sinking.  As everyone frantically tries to get to higher ground, the wildlife scientists on the island see on their radar that all the fish and sharks controlled by nanites have been hacked and are now bearing down on the island, so as it sinks people are dying to the jaws of the animals that are now programmed to kill.
      Goddard flies over the Council in a helicopter and acts like he's going to save the Grandslayers but as he opens the door to give his hand to them he instead laughs and flies away.  All the Grandslayers are killed by the sharks except Xenocrates who instead jumps in the water and sinks to the bottom due to his heavy robe and he dies by drowning.
     When Curie sees that there is no getting off the island by ship as they had planned on (whales are attacking the boats at the docks) she instead leads Anastasia and Rowan to the Vault of Relics and Futures where all the deceased scythe rings are kept along with the robes of the founding scythes.  The place is sealed up like a bank vault so it is waterproof and she tells Anastasia and Rowan to get inside because it's their way off the island.  They don't understand but do as she says, thinking she has a plan once they are all in there.  She instead slams the door shut, locking them in.  Rowan realizes that she did this because even though they will still sink and die by hypothermia at the bottom of the ocean, their bodies will not be eaten by the animals and they have a chance to be revived in the future.
     Curie heads back up to the top of the tallest buildings which are all almost underwater too and she begins leading all the scythes in gleaning the humans there so that they don't suffer a fate of being eaten and can instead go out peacefully.  Once the humans are dead the scythes all glean themselves as well, including Curie (I hated that part so much, I loved Curie and can't believe she's dead!).
     After Endura sinks the Thunderhead cries by turning on every siren, cell phone ring, radio transmission, etc in the world and having it wail for ten minutes.  We switch over to Greyson's POV when this happens and his Tonist group is celebrating, thinking it's the "Great Resonance" they always talk about coming (they believe in the Great Resonance in the kind of way that Christians believe in the Rapture, I think the tonists are supposed to be a bit like an overzealous religious cult).  After the cry, every phone and device in the world now shows that every human being has been labeled as an unsavory by the Thunderhead.
    Greyson goes to his computer and looks at his name and he is the only one not labeled unsavory anymore.  He calls out to the Thunderhead and it replies "Hello Greyson, we need to talk".

End of book 2

*The 7 charter regions were set up by the Thunderhead, one on each continent.  They are places where the laws and customs are different from the rest of the world.  For example, one region requires body modification to live there, one region forbids employment but the people receive a higher monthly allowance from the Thunderhead, etc.  Texas defining characteristic is that it has a bit more anarchy than the rest of the world-people allowed to own guns, exotic pets allowed, and the most defining factor is that the Thunderhead has turned off cameras in people's homes to allow them total privacy.  The Thunderhead created these charter regions because it said it realized the world had a need for diversity and it's also an experiment to see if those without constant monitoring by the Thunderhead are still able to live normal lives without hurting themselves or others.