The Decaying Empire (The Vanishing Girl #2) By Laura Thalassa

The Decaying Empire (The Vanishing Girl #2) By Laura Thalassa

Title: The Decaying Empire (The Vanishing Girl #2)
Author: Laura Thalassa
Published: Published April 21st 2015 Skyscape
Length: 338 pgs
Genre: Fantasy, Thriller, Romance
Publisher: Skyscape

Warning this Review Contains Spoiler for Book 1 The Vanishing Girl.

The Decaying Empire is book 2 in Laura Thalassa’s Vanishing Girl series. This book picks up right where The Vanishing Girl left off. Somehow Ember has survived splicing. Having been in a coma for the past ten months has had an impact on her memory as well as her physical condition.

Thalassa opens the book with an unexpected and emotional reunion between the couple, especially since Ember is having trouble remembering things, and for the last ten months, Caden thought Ember dead.

Dane Richards and Desiree set Ember up and nearly succeeded in killing her. For some reason, they saved her from splicing, hoping she’s “learned her lesson” but she’s left with both physical and emotional scars. The kids in the Prometheus project are just tools to be used according to their usefulness. To the director Dane Richards these kids are government property, merely a means to an end. If they become too much trouble, they are eliminated or put in their place.

Ember Pierce isn’t so easily Cowed, in book one Adrian a character I didn’t mention in my previous review, talked to Ember about how specific genes in her genetic code, under the right nature vs. nurture circumstance would encourage a distrustful and disobedient nature. Ember returns from the dead with a vendetta. Ember always feared the program would turn her into a killer, and at this point, they are quite close. They thought to put fear in her heart. Instead, they have nurtured a savage vengeance they ultimately find extremely hard to control.

Caden meanwhile is still on the fence; he grew up nurtured in a military home born and bred to follow orders and be a good little soldier. He’s seen all the signs that Ember was betrayed; yet is still more inclined to believe that Embers behavior is due to PTSD. Honestly, it was almost as frustrating for me to read as it was for Ember to experience.

Because of these events, the relationship dynamic between Caden and Ember changed for a while. Caden allowed himself to be driven by his fear of abandonment, putting more trust in the program than he should. Ember is solid as a rock. Still driven by her need to survive and be free, maybe to the point of recklessness.

The two eventually agree on one thing, that whatever happens they face it together. Ember turns to Adrian, the son of the Deceased scientist who created the Prometheus project for help. Caden is opposed but agrees despite his suspicions. Ember believes Adrian to be sincere, either way, she knows they can’t escape on their own.

As with book one, the author answered some questions and left some up in the air. I’ve asked it before. I ask it again. Who in the heck dresses them when they teleport? How is it that the leave naked but then poof they arrive at the target location entirely dressed and sometimes with instructions and they have no memory of it. (This is nagging me)

Unlike The Vanishing Girl, The Decaying Empire opens with a running start and is primarily action from beginning to end. I enjoyed that. The book continues to follow the Dystopian tone, and although the surface plot is the same, there’s an unexpected plot twist which, while subtly hinted at throughout the book wasn’t insanely obvious. The ending alludes to a gritty, action-packed third book in the series, which has been pushed back.

While the author has every intention of completing the series and the book currently has a scheduled release of winter 2018. Some financial issues combined with contractual obligations with the author’s publisher have led to an indefinite delay in the publishing of book three. But I’ll be standing by; I’m on the mailing list.

You can read more about this on the Authors Blog and subscribe to her mailing list here: Visit Laura’s Website and subscribe to updates

 

The Vanishing Girl (The Vanishing Girl #1) by Laura Thalassa

The Vanishing Girl (The Vanishing Girl #1) by Laura Thalassa

Title: The Vanishing Girl (The Vanishing Girl #1)
Author: Laura Thalassa
Published: March 15th2014
Length: 338 pgs
Genre: Fantasy, Thriller, Romance
Publisher: Lavabrook Publishing Group

The Vanishing Girl is the fourth book I’ve read from YA Author Laura Thalassa. I completely inhaled Thalassa’s Fallen World Series. I was happy to read more of her work. The Vanishing Girl is an earlier work of Thalassa’s published before the Fallen World series. It’s interesting to see the progression of Thalassa’s writing; her writing is more intense in the Fallen world series which is newer. But either way, the gal’s got a talent for creating evocative works which tear your heart into pieces.

 

The Vanishing Girl is told in first person POV through our main character Ember Pierce; she’s also the book’s namesake. Ember has a unique ability she can teleport. But it’s not your X-men, superhero cliché ability. Ember can only teleport for 10 minutes at the beginning of REM sleep, having almost no control of where she ends up. For five years Ember has coped with this ability while trying to live the life of a typical teenager and hiding it from her parents.

In an instant, the course of Ember’s life changes. Without warning, Ember finds out that she’s part of a government research project and her parents signed a contract for her to work for the government for two years in exchange for the free experimental fertility treatment that brought her into this world. Ember is forced to leave her family and everything she knows on the spot.

Ember Pierce is the first character to take the stage in the novel, and she seems like your typical rebellious teenager, but even she doesn’t realize how much more there is to her until she begins training at the teleporter facility. Unlike the rest of the wards there, Ember isn’t quick to believe everything she’s told. She is observant and inquisitive. Over the last five years teleporting has taught Ember one fundamental rule: Survival is the most important thing.

The next character to take the stage is Caden. Caden is embers pair. Each of the gifted wards at the facility has a pair. Caden has been waiting to be united with his pair a long time. He’s looking for someone to love him the way his family failed to. When you learn Caden’s history it gives you some perspective on why he stopped Embers escape; he needed her. But Caden has much more depth. He wears a mask, he sees much more than he lets on. Caden is loyal to a fault, so much so that as their relationship develops Ember realizes it will come down to Caden choosing her or the program.

The villain is Dane Richards. Well, at least he’s the front man since technically the villain is the Government. Dane Richards has no qualms about using these kids for his ends. I often got the distinct vibe that Richards’ agenda and the government’s, are not 100% the same. These kids are an ongoing experiment. And will eventually die on a mission unless Ember finds a way to shut down the project.

Thalassa is expert at stringing her readers along. Situations are created to incite questions within the reader’s mind. Dropping hints and revealing the purpose along the way. In fact there are several questions I had while reading for example: how do they control where the teleporters go? The author makes it clear in the beginning that the teleporters only have very minimal control over where they go, and we later find out that it can be overridden by whoever it is behind the scenes controlling their ability. And this question gets a partial answer but not a full explanation, you have to pay attention to catch it.

Another question was about the pairs and what precisely that meant. We do get a full explanation. I’m not going to spoil the book for you so… it’s none of your business. In the end, some things were left in the air. Also, the book ends with a cliffhanger (sad face). I wondered for most of the book… who-the-heck dresses them when they teleport, heads up you do not find out in this book.

Intimacy is probably one of the hardest things to write, and I’m only guessing based on how many cheesy, romantic scenes I’ve read over the years. Sometimes even the best book from your favorite writer can have a cheesy, horribly unrealistic romantic scene that makes you want to throw your book across the room. Well, guess what Thalassa’s got it down pat.

Our characters are 17 and 18, inexperienced sexually, at least I’m pretty sure Ember is. Things are kind of Vague about Caden. But either way my point is the author understands how interactions work in real life. Thalassa has managed to accurately capture the progression of the intimacy of the characters from nervous uncertainty, to the point where they are ready to jump in. Honestly, it was refreshing. Authors so often fail to capture this in a way that makes it realistic. Thalassa paced the romance, slowly building up to the inevitable climax of the characters getting together. They did what normal teens do they made out, exploring each other, and the relationship progressed naturally.

On a Random note, I think Caden is my new book boyfriend. For now, anyway.

The pace of the book is even. Once I buckled down and started reading, I finished the book within hours. I would’ve finished several days prior, but I had been having trouble getting motivated to read mostly because of an emotionally charged reading slump.

There was one instance where I felt the Ember’s reaction, was a little “extra,” but that was it.  The characters were realistic, personalities believable, and throughout the book, I felt the characters stayed true to who they were while growing and showing the reader who they are.

The Overall theme of the book is a Governmental abuse of power. And the overall tone is dystopian. Thalassa has created a world inside a world. The teleporter facility is a separate ecosystem. Dane Richards controls the program and every aspect of these kids’ lives other than missions, some of these kids haven’t had access to the outside world since they were 13, and for the others, once they are brought to the facility the only way they leave is in body bags.

The Vanishing Girl is an Upper YA/ New Adult book. I would recommend for ages 16 and up. The book contains scenes that are intimate as well as sexual situations which are descriptive but not erotically graphic; there are also possible triggers for teen pregnancy.

I read a few reviews of this book, which I usually don’t do when writing a review; a few were very critical. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I’ve also written critical reviews but, I think sometimes people read more into things than what’s there.

One reviewer was upset that Ember was, so “easily swayed” against escaping by Caden. Did this reviewer skip the part, where Ember cased the facility and realized that escape was going to be a little more complicated than she initially thought. At no point did Ember ever give up on escaping she just decided to be smart about it.

Another reviewer issue was how Ember could dare fall in love with Caden after he continuously failed to respect her privacy, and, in the reviewer’s, opinion was a misogynist. I wondered about the reviewer’s grasp on reality. Sometimes you don’t like a person when you meet; they may do things you don’t like and act like a complete A-hole. However, it does happen in real life, that as you get to see a different side of people and get to know them your perception of that person changes. They grow on you and friendship, or romance may blossom.

I enjoyed this book, and I’m immediately starting book two The Decaying Empire now that I’ve finished this review. And that review is forthcoming.

Interested in more From Laura Thalassa?

Laura’s Books on goodreads

 

Trail of Lightning By Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning By Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning

Trail of Lightning is the debut book by Native American Author Rebecca Roanhorse; the first in Roanhorse’s The Sixth World Series which is destined for greatness. Rebecca Roanhorse creates a unique dystopian world, unlike anything I have read before. What would happen if there was another great flood if all that we knew washed away? What if the Navajo built a wall to control their borders? What might become of our world if we continue to abuse it? The world that we know would be no more. That’s the premise of the novel. The characters here dwell in a new world; that which was left, after most of the former world washed away. The fifth world is reborn into the Sixth world; where magic returns to the Dinè Clans. Where the old gods, their immortal children, and monsters return.

“This last flood, the one you call the Big Water, ended the Fifth World and began the Sixth.”

But the rise of the Sixth world may have been the end for the rest of the world. It was a new beginning for the DInè. As tensions rose in the fifth world the Dinè had the foresight to build a wall separating their lands from the outsiders; singing blessings as the bricks were laid until it grew in both beauty and strength. While the rest of the world washed away, the Navajo land became Dinetah.

” They say the hataałii worked hand in hand with the construction crews, and for every brick that was laid, a song was sung. Every lath, a blessing given. And the Wall took on a life of its own. When the workmen came back the next morning, it was already fifty feet high. In the east it grew as white shell. In the south, turquoise. The west, pearlescent curves of abalone, and the north, the blackest jet. It was beautiful. It was ours. And we were safe.”

“But I had forgotten that the Diné had already suffered their apocalypse over a century before. This wasn’t our end. This was our rebirth.”

Trail of Lightning is written in first person POV through our protagonist Maggie Hoskie, as well as through character dialogue, interactions, and memories. Roanhorse waste no time inducting the reader into this new world by immediately opening the story with conflict, creating a lasting first impression of our reluctant Heroine and setting the tone for the novel with powerful a powerful message and evocative language.

This is the first thing the reader learns about Maggie Hoskie:

“ I’m the person you hire when the heroes have already come home in body bags.”

Maggie Hoskie is a Monster Hunter. Trained by the Immortal Monster hunter himself Neizghání a child of the gods, Maggie is also an outcast. When we met her she’s at a low point in her life reeling from heartbreak and abandonment; she’s lonely and feeling sorry for herself.

“Killing is the only thing I have that makes me worth anything to Neizghání? And Neizghání was the only thing I had that makes me worth anything at all?”

I don’t know a woman or girl who hasn’t felt like this at some time in their lives.

In some ways, Maggie is your cliché Fantasy Heroine a loner, scared to get close to anyone, an ass-kicking badass who doesn’t believe in her beauty.

“I’m sure a beautiful woman like her has her choice of men.” My eyes shoot to Kai, looking for the joke. I clean up okay, but no one has ever accused me of being beautiful, and I know damn well I’m not as pretty as he is.”

But as cliché as that may be, in my experience this is the recipe which has proven to be essential to the construction of a great heroine. Many of my favorite Heroines made up this way. Maggie has Honàghà K’aahanáanii, clan powers which make her, faster, stronger, but it also has a dark pull. She’s always fighting against the dark side of her clan power the bloodlust that brings out her baser nature. Imagine a little devil on your shoulder whispering sweet nothings in your ear every time someone pisses you off.

“I’m Honágháahnii, born for K’aahanáanii.” He nods, thoughtful. “Honágháahnii I know. ‘Walks-Around.’ And that means you’re . . . ?” “Fast. Really fast.” So what’s your other clan? What does K’aahanáanii mean?” “ ‘Living Arrow.’ ” “So does that mean you’re good at archery or something?” “No, Kai.”
“Living Arrow means I’m really good at killing people.”

“K’aahanáanii whispers to me that it would be simple to pull the Glock I still have tucked in my pocket and put a bullet through the back of his skull.”

At the same time, Maggie is more human than she’s willing to admit; the author allows us a more in-depth look into her life. Maggie has suffered so much pain and loss first the tragic murder of her grandmother which was the catalyst to the emergence of her power, and the most recent and still open wound being her abandonment by her mentor Neizghání who she is in love with. As someone currently recovering from the end of an eight-year relationship, I found Maggie’s experiences to be both relatable and emotive. If you thought your breakup was hell, imagine recovering from a breakup with a god. An inhumane being who cannot love on a human level (sounds a lot like my Ex). The origins of Maggie’s pain, and the motive behind her way of existing both humanized and made Maggie more real to me. When I began to understand her motives and thought processes I knew that the author had hit the mark.

Kai Arviso is the secondary character, the grandson of a Maggie’s friend a medicine man name Tuh. Kai has been exiled from the other side of the wall a town known as Burque formerly known as Albuquerque. Kai is a devilishly handsome man with a way with words. He’s also a medicine man, and he’s hiding something. Maggie and Kai are opposites Kai is a people person, and adverse to violence. However, he appreciates the necessity of violence as well as Maggie’s violent nature together they are a balanced pair what Kai lacks in his capacity for violence he makes up for in both charm and power. Balance is essential in Native American Culture.

“Kai steps forward. Starts to sing. Navajo words, soft and low. Closer, within twenty feet, he lets them come. Voice still steady. Fifteen. Twelve. And then he flicks the lighter alive, leans in over the flame, and blows. His breath catches the fire, sends it whirling. Small at first, but then it grows. Tall as a child, but then taller. And it circles, twisting into a cyclone of blue and orange and yellow and red, until it’s a massive whirlwind of fire that builds, builds. “

As the series grows, I expect Kai to emerge as a force to be reckoned with.

In almost every fiction book with a Native American element Coyote, the trickster is often a common theme. He pops up frequently in both fantasy and urban fantasy, in fact, he’s the father of one of my favorite characters Mercy Thompson.

Coyote is most often written not as a benevolent god by usually not as one purposely out to cause harm, even though his trickster nature often does. Coyote’s character has been written in many different incarnations, but Roanhorse’s Coyote is a character I’ve never met before.

Although some elements remain the same, there are nuances that separate Roanhorse’s coyote from the rest of the pack; making this version of Coyote distinctly different. This Coyote is dark a little twisted and reminds that the gods are not like us, mere mortals cannot comprehend their motives.

“I think now that it must have tickled him, a creature who could change his shape as easily as humans shed clothes, to dress the white man’s frontier dandy when visiting a Navajo girl. He looked splendid, of course, but the choice was subtly cruel. I knew the stories of the Long Walk, of duplicitous land agents and con men. To remind me of them was no accident on his part.”

“I shudder at the blast of fury that pours from his body. For a moment, the pretense of the Western gentleman falters and I glimpse his true form under the facade. Shaggy gray-and-brown muzzle, dull yellow eyes, a mouthful of teeth meant for tearing carrion. He fills the room, frightening and unnatural”

While we often get the “gist” of cultural references, it’s evident that when writing second hand on the lore of other cultures; while assuming to have a full understanding of their ways, you are bound to fall short; this is the reason why own voices books are so important. It’s a testament to how powerfully written Roanhorse’s Coyote is, that as I read, I had the impression that every other version of Coyote I ever read was wrong. And the author acknowledges this.

“ So that was the Coyote?” Finished, he pushes the bowl away and leans back, stretching his lithe frame out and crossing his legs under my coffee table, arms behind his head. “He wasn’t what I expected.” ”

“ “What did you expect?” “I don’t know. A little less serious, I guess. All the Coyote stories I’ve heard portray him as kind of a fool.” He shrugs. “He didn’t seem so bad.” ”

I look forward to the development of this series and revisiting the Sixth World.

According to 23 and me, I’m only 1.7 percent native American but 100% proud of this book. Trail of Lightning is a fantastic debut novel I loved it! And you should grab a copy too!

Roanhorse is currently working on, Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) which is Scheduled for release April 23rd 2019 by Saga Press and available for pre order.

Visit Roanhorse’s Website here

Storm of Locust Amazing book cover

RR - Storm of locusts