Monday, August 31, 2015

Guest Post - Toby Downton, author of Solarversia

Drawn into an epic year-long virtual reality game, eighteen-yearold Nova finds her life fractured and her strength tested as she fights to become the last player standing in this action-packed novel inspired by the revolutionary Oculus Rif - and written by a groundbreaking digital innovator who is already turning fiction into reality. In the year 2020, London-based gaming company Spiralwerks will launch their ambitious year-long virtual reality game, Solaversia. Over 100 million players from around the world, each given a unique number in The Player’s Grid that corresponds to their individual profile, will compete against each other across the solar system to be the last person standing and win the £10 million grand prize. Nova Negrahnu and her friends Burner and Sushi cannot wait to start playing. But when an international terrorist organization sets its sights on the game and it’s creator, Nova finds her life turned upside down, as the line between simulation and reality blurs. Can she navigate between playing the game, coping with all the issues an eighteen-year-old girl faces and avoid the very real and present danger mounting outside Solaversia?

Getting Into the Mind of my Teenage Protagonist by Toby Downton

I never consciously chose to write Solarversia from the perspective of Nova Negrahnu, an eighteen year-old girl; I always felt that she chose me. 

Nova was there from the very beginning, asking - demanding - to be the star of the show. It was slightly daunting at first, writing from such a foreign perspective, so I tried a couple of things to get into her mindset.

First, I spent a lot of time reminiscing about school and university. I jotted down memories: the things that made me laugh and cry, the names of fellow pupils and teachers, and the way things worked back then (the prefect system, detentions, attending lessons and lectures). I wanted to know her fears and desires, to know her heart as well as her mind. Most stuff didn’t make it into the book, but I’ve learned that’s usually the way with writing. You search far and wide, hunting for gold in them thar hills. Most of what you find is dirt … but if you’re lucky, hidden among it, you might discover a couple of nuggets shining bright.

The second thing I did was to pay more attention to strong female leads, both in fiction and in the real world. Nova was always a force of nature: strong-willed, stubborn and determined. I wanted these traits to come across naturally, and worked hard to make her appear authentic. Fortunately, I had a (brilliant) female editor to help achieve this. I remember one scene in particular: Nova and her best (male) friend, Burner, were running from a horde of crazed circus animals when I had Burner help her through a smashed window. My editor amended the scene, leaving a comment that said, “Nova don’t need no help getting through no window.” She was correct of course. If anything, Nova would be the one helping Burner through the window. 

Looks like I still have lots to learn.

Thank you so much for joining us today Toby.

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About the author: Toby Downton lives in North London and is head of business development at Matter, a digital innovation consultancy he co-founded. He has previously worked at the London Stock Exchange and has also lived in Australia. Solarversia by Toby Downton (published by CreateSpace, RRP $14.00 paperback, RRP $4.50 ebook) will be released August 31st and will be available to purchase at online retailers including and can be ordered from all good bookstores. For more information please visit

From the Press Release:

The world of virtual reality is about to fundamentally reshape the way in which we live, work and play. The Oculus Rift — the much-lauded and potentially transformational VR headset, which broke crowdfunding records in 2012, and was recently acquired by Facebook for $2 billion — is scheduled to launch in early 2016. While its most obvious impact will hit the world’s 700 million plus gamers, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes the potential VR impact to be far more profound: “Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face - just by putting on goggles in your home.” 

The relatively new genre of virtual reality inspired science fiction, centered around the gaming industry is booming, with Ernest Cline’s bestseller Ready Player One already in production for a major movie adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg. Downton is emerging as a driving force in the VR revolution. Solaversia is just the first step in his thrillingly ambitious multi-platform story-telling experience that will explore the relationships between artificial intelligence, technology and the human spirit. Downton will be incorporating his tech-company - Spiralwerks - in the real world, developing Solarversia as a commercially available game, ready to storm the games market in 2020. Accompanying the publication of the Solarversia book, A Golden Ticket promotion will be launched this year, enabling games enthusiasts to win 100 specially reserved places within the Player’s Grid”, through competitions, charity auctions and book sales. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Published: September 1st, 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 384
Copy: Publisher/Netgalley

Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.

Joyeaux Charmand is a mountain girl from a close knit village who comes to the big city to join the Hunters. Joy thinks she is only there to perform her civic duty and protect the capitol Cits, or civilians, but as cameras follow her every move, she soon learns that the more successful she is in her hunts, the more famous she becomes.

With millions of fans watching her on reality TV, Joy begins to realize that Apex is not all it seems. She is forced to question everything she grew up believing about the legendary Hunters and the very world she lives in. Soon she finds that her fame may be part of a deep conspiracy that threatens to upend the protective structure built to keep dark magic out. The monsters are getting in and it is up to Joy to find out why.

I have loved Mercedes Lackey for many years.  While I may not go out and buy her books the instant they hit the shelves, I am always aware of new books and I try and read as many as I possibly can.  Her Obsidian trilogy and 500 Kingdoms series are amongst my very favourites.  What I love is her variety.  Her books range from SciFi, to fantasy and every possible shade in between.  She has fairytales, dragons, mages, elves, owls and spaceships, and just about anything else you can think of.  She writes by herself and she writes with other authors.  A very versatile author indeed.

Hunter is the newest YA novel and captivated me from page one.  Joy is a down to earth, pleasant, well adjusted protagonist who is comfortable in her own skin.  She thinks problems through, isn't impulsive and allows herself time to break down and recharge once she has the job done.  I just loved her non -confrontational way of dealing with bullies and the very special relationship she has with her hounds.  I also loved that she acknowledges that she still has a lot to learn.

Josh, Karly and Mark were all great characters too. We get to know them a little, but are aware that there is still more to learn.  There's friendship and fun,  work and stress, fighting and dying - yup, she's not afraid to kill off characters, much to my distress. There is also a little romance, although only a very little and it is by no means a focus of the story, which makes this book fairly suitable for younger teens.  Expect to see all those nasty creatures from old fairytales - goblins, tommyknockers, wyverns, vampires, 'folk' and any number of unusual nasties and they are all up to no good.  

I'm thinking that, given the ending, there are going to be one or two more books, although this one ends fairly satisfactorily there are definitely some non-resolved issues.  I will be keeping my eye open for sequels. With lots of mystery and tension, lovable characters and some intense action, Hunter was pure delight to read.  I'll definitely be recommending this one.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Vengeance Road

 Published: September 1st, 2015
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 336
Copy: Edelweiss
Summary: Goodreads

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there's room for love in a heart so full of hate.

In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.

What to tell you about Vengeance Road?  This was an interesting historical novel set in the old west that is loosely based on an old western legend about a lost gold mine.  Ms Bowman has obviously studied the history of the period and knows the location well, but where the book fell short for me was the characters, or the main character in particular.
For some reason I didn't really connect with Kate.  She was fairly well written and her naivete about some things did ring true, but .....   I did enjoy Will and Jesse however.  In fact I adored Will's dip spitting, somewhat tarnished view of life.  The romance?  Slow.  Very slow, which was actually quite nice and entirely believable given the characters and the circumstances.  The way things play out may surprise you.  There was a big reveal towards the end that I don't think many will see coming, I certainly didn't.  I didn't find the book very suspenseful though.  For me it just sort of ambled along at a steady pace and the outcome was never really in doubt, and other than my strange almost dislike of Kate, I really quite enjoyed the story itself.

In the end it was fun but not outstanding and I'll be really interested to hear what you all think of it.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Guest Post by Patricia Vanasse, author of Awakened.

We originally showcased Patricia in one of our Shout Out to Indies posts when she released her first novel Resilient.  Now she's here to tell us a little about the characters in the sequel, Awakened

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Under the control of The Agency, a secret, governmental organization that created genetically engineered teens who posses a combination of extraordinary abilities, Adam is serving the purpose for which he was created while his girlfriend, Livia fights to save him. Manipulated to forget his love for Livia and his past, he lives a life crafted by fake memories that enslave him to a life of following the orders of an organization, whose intentions are unclear. Now Adam battles with vivid “dreams” of a life he does not remember and the strong connection he feels to the girl with familiar blue eyes. 

Livia’s desire for vengeance lead her and Daniel on a dangerous race to disrupt the destructive string of events that The Agency initiated seventeen years earlier. As they travel across parts of North America in search of other teens who are just like them, Livia will face an ethical battle over genetics, loyalty, and love. The race is on, and it is up to Livia to destroy The Agency and rescue Adam, but even if she succeeds at saving him, there are no guarantees she’ll be able to save the deep connection they once shared.

In Resilient, you got to meet Livia, Adam and Daniel. In Awakened, you’ll meet new characters that will bring this story to whole different level. Each has their own stories to tell and abilities to explore. Please, allow me to introduce you to these amazing people.

Brooklyn Mathews
Looks Like: AnnaSophia Robb
Special Ability: Memory Manipulation, including projecting lost memories, creating new ones, or deleting all memories from one’s mind.
Favorite Song: Radioactive by Imagine Dragons.
Desire: To redefine her life.
Profile: Raised in The Agency, Brooklyn never desired to live a normal, mundane life, until she met Adam. As she slowly allows her humanity and emotions to surface, Brooklyn decides that the world has more to offer her than she’d ever imagined.  
Quote: “Love has never been a part of my life. Not that it didn’t live somewhere within my heart, it just has always been suppressed. Affection was never an option, and I have never expected it or even really wanted it until now.”

Mason Wailer
Looks Like: Alfred Enoch
Special Ability: Accelerated probability, which allows him to sense all the variables of any situation. With that, he can foresee the outcomes of the choices he can make to reach the conclusion he wants.
Favorite Song: Felling Good by Muse.
Desire: To understand his abilities.
Profile: Mason entered college at the age of 16 and is perceived as genius by his Yale peers. Determined to find answers for his special abilities, he hacked into the FBI classified files revealing dirty business within the bureau to the world , but found nothing on super humans. Now chased by government officials, Mason has to escape his life if he wants to find out who and what he is.
Quote: “What the hell, Adam?” he yells. “Next time get one of the pretty girls to whisper in my ear if you want to wake me up, man.”

Jordan Sanchez
Looks like: Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Special Ability: Clairvoyance. Jordan can see visions of people by thinking about them. She can also see glimpses of what that person is doing
Favorite Song: Rebellion by Linkin Park
Desire: To belong.
Profile: Abandoned by her adoptive father, Jordan blames her ability for the destruction of her family. After her mother is taken to a rehab facility, Jordan is forced to use her ability for money and gets involved with a gang who threatens her life if she refuses to help them.
Quote:When I was thirteen, I started cutting. It was a way to relieve all the emotions boiling inside of me. After a while, I started healing instantly after the cuts, and that’s when I knew for sure that I wasn’t normal.”

Alexis Monte
Looks like: Maia Mitchell
Special Ability: Persuasion, the ability to force others to obey one's spoken imperatives.
Favorite Song: Beggin For Thread by Banks
Desire: To make a difference in the world by working with The Agency.    
Profile: Alexis left her adoptive parents to join The Agency and its causes.
Quote: “Adam, you just don’t get it.  I grew up out there among humans, they’re prejudice, racist, judgmental creatures. They reject their own kind because they have different skin color, or different lifestyles. Do you really think you can be yourself and be part of their world?”

Ethan J├Ąger
Looks like: Austin Butler
Special Ability: Telekinesis, the ability to move objects with the mind.
Favorite Song: Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes.
Desire: To be accepted for who he is.   
Profile: Forced by his adoptive father to fight at illegal fight clubs, Ethan pretends to be this cold-hearted guy, when in truth, he is a caring young man.
Quote: “When my adoptive father found out about my ability, he used me to make money. He set up all those fights. He told me over and over that if I didn’t fight, he would make more money by turning me in to government officials near Area 51.”

Now tell me, who do you want to hang out with?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves allows us to share the books we have added to our collections - physical, virtual, borrowed, bought or received

This week I got: 

Summary (by Goodreads)

When Simon is kidnapped by the fey, he’s amazed to find a friend in former Shadowhunter Mark Blackthorn. One of ten adventures in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy.

After Simon is kidnapped by faeries (why is he always kidnapped?), he uncovers rumors of a secret weapon Sebastian left behind for the faerie queen. He must escape the Fey, relying on his only ally, former Shadowhunter and Dark Artifices character Mark Blackthorn.

This standalone e-only short story follows the adventures of Simon Lewis, star of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments, as he trains to become a Shadowhunter. Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy features characters from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments, the Infernal Devices, and the upcoming Dark Artifices and Last Hours series. Bitter of Tongue is written by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan.

Firstly, are you really that surprised that this would be my Stacking the Shelves choice?
Bitter of Tongue is #7 in the Shadowhunter Academy series of novellas.  Look for a review shortly.  Cassie is gearing up for the next series in her Mortal Instruments spin off.  She seems to be carefully laying out the groundwork for readers to get comfortable with new characters such as the Blackthorns and the Carstairs.  Can't. Wait. Have you pre-ordered The Dark Artifices yet?
- Christinabean

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Shout Out to Indies - Blue Sun by Tracy Abrey

We here at The Paperback Princesses often receive emails from Indie authors requesting reviews and are blessed with free book copies. Often we are unable to get to so many titles before our mass market published books take over our TBR shelves. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of great reads though! We want to give back to those Indie authors and are declaring EVERY SECOND SUNDAY our SHOUT OUT TO INDIES MEME. For those of fellow bloggers, please feel free to add our meme to your regular schedule. We only ask that you quote and link back to us as a courtesy. For all of you Indie authors, we invite you to contact us at the contact link to your top left. We will select 1 - 3 titles (each time we post) that sound interesting.

This week's selection is:

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A mysterious island with secrets. A brilliant teenage girl whose driving curiosity
leads her to probe too deeply. A detached father who disappears. Stalkers at every 
turn marked with a mysterious tattoo. An unreachable castle that holds all the 

American teenager, Imogen “Genny” Hazard, dreads moving to the Isle of Man when 
her scientist father gets the opportunity to work there. Aside from leaving behind 
her home and school, she has to deal with her father who has been distant ever 
since her mother died in a tragic accident. Once on the island, Genny’s father quickly
abandons her to work through the evenings, leaving Genny alone to cope with fitting
in at her new school. She soon befriends a group of geeks, however, as well as the 
hot captain of the swim team, Ken.  He and Genny click right off the bat, even though 
she secretly questions why someone like Ken would be interested in a geek like her.  
Despite her reservations, she finds herself falling for him, but backs off when she 
learns the disturbing truth about Ken.

Plagued by paranormal mysteries and tattooed stalkers, Genny doesn’t know who to 
trust.  In time, she discovers the true circumstances behind her mother’s death and 
her father’s motives behind moving to the Isle of Man.  It turns out that the island is 
more a part of her life than she could have ever imagined. With the help of an 
enigmatic, glowing blue boy, Genny faces a threat from someone she cares about 
and fights to prevent her world being destroyed. 

The fate of the island rests in the hands of one girl.

Tracy Abrey on writing YA

“Storytelling has been a calling since I was young.  It is indescribably fulfilling to 
weave a story that keeps the reader turning pages.  My favorite thing to hear from a 
reader is that she stayed up too late at night reading Blue Sun because she couldn't 
wait to see what happens next.   I’m hoping that readers will lose a little more sleep 
when reading the sequel, Dark Waters, that’s coming out this fall!

Writing YA fiction is the most natural branch of storytelling for me.  My son is a 
teenager and I am blessed to re-experience this beautiful time of life vicariously 
through him.  For young adults, the future is still unfolding and there’s potential for 
a lot of optimism and also a lot of questions.  In YA fiction, the characters are less 
jaded and more open-minded.  They also have a self-imposed pressure to discover 
who they are and what their purpose is.  That vulnerability makes it so easy to love 
and root for the characters.”

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Tracy Abrey has been passionate about writing since stating in her
second grade “school days” book that when she grew up she wanted to write books. Earning a BA in English literature and French from Houston Baptist University and having taught high school English as she pursued her MA in English literature at DePaul University, her childhood passion has morphed into an adult career focused on young adult urban fantasy. Tracy has lived in Canada, France, and England and currently resides in the US with her husband and two children.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Published: May 19th, 2015
Publisher: Del Ray
Pages: 438
Copy: Library
Summary: Goodreads

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Well, what can I tell you about Uprooted other than 'Read It!'.  I will admit that I first took this one home because I thought it was about dragons, but of course it's not.  It's about wizards and magic and horrible scary creatures in a deep, dark, terrifying wood.  It's fantasy at its best, that reads a little bit like a cautionary tale or fairy tale, but is so much more.

I loved Agnieszka.  She was normal and real and had to work hard to find solutions to her problems. I loved that things didn't come easily for her and that when she does realize she has gifts  she has to research to help herself.   Some nasty things happen to Kasia and Agnieszka never gives up on her, even when Kasia's own family don't want her back.  The wizard, Sarkan, is a bit of an enigma and his relationship with Agnieszka was interesting.  The affection between the two of them takes a long time to grow  and was all the more believable for it. 

The antagonist in this book is not a person, but an entity.  A weird, frightening, awesome entity that grows and destroys.  It was so different and unusual and gave me the shivers on several occasions. The story behind the wood, which we find out right at the very end, was complex and took some serious unraveling, but ultimately made sense.   The ending may surprise you - it did me - but it works really well.

 Agnieszka is 17 or 18 in the story, but it is not a YA book. It's a long book that will suit YA readers if you like complicated fantasy stories with complex characters and I highly recommend it.  It's also a stand-alone which gives it bonus points in my mind, since we see so few of them these days.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Follow Friday

Friday Follow is a blog hop that was started by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  Each week a different question is posted by our hosts and we will answer!  This is a great opportunity for bloggers to network and interact. 
This week’s question –

If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would you pick? Fictional ones count too! – Suggested by Book Cat Pin.
This is a tough question for me because I recently saw this video and it was SO ADORABLE that it made me want a chameleon - 

I REALLY like seahorses and dolphins
but then my rational side kicked in and I thought - I prefer cuddly furry creatures....kinda hard to hug creatures that live underwater and a chameleon...I'm kinda leaning towards a Luck Dragon right now...Like the one from the NeverEnding Story....
- Christinabean

Welcome to the Paperback Princesses! Make yourself at home, take a look around our blog and let us know what you think in the comments section. We would love to hear what you have to say about our posts. We often try to comment on your comments as well so feel free to start a conversation! Since there are two of us running the show, we always have a variety of titles and event postings. Be sure to check out our own personal meme page. Check out Fantastic Fairytales, Let's Hear it for the Boys, In Case you Missed it and a few others. We try to not only focus on new YA books but also great titles from the past.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Court of Fives by Kate Elliot

Published: Today, August 18th, 2015
Publisher:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 448
Copy: Edelweiss
Summary: Goodreads

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test Kal's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

Ever have one of 'those' days?  The day I started Court of Fives was one of them.  It started with me putting my knickers on backwards - stupid right?  Swiftly followed by putting my bra on inside out - yes I can see you smiling.  Then I realized that every single pair of summer pants I own was in the wash - you see where this is going right?  Well I decided just to sit down and have a cup of tea and read and give the day a chance to right itself and I opened my advanced copy of Court of Fives - which had no cover pic.  I'm sitting there reading away thinking, gosh this reminds me of Kate Elliot. I must have thought that at least three times before it dawned on me there was a very good reason it reminded me of her writing.  You've had one of those days right?  It can't just be me!

Anyway, on to the book.  Court of Fives started out a little slowly for me.  I really wasn't too sure of the characters.  Seems like there were a lot of them and everyone had at least two names, some even ended up with three and it took a long time to get them all sorted out.  So much so that I wasn't really connecting with the characters themselves.  But, Ms Elliot writes a good story and Court of Fives was no exception.  It was exciting and often suspenseful without seeming dragged out. My ecopy told me I had 287 pages but the hard copy seems to have almost 450, and it certainly didn't seem that long.  The story skipped along and there always seemed to be something happening.

It was a nice change from the current dystopian craze where games are a matter of life and death with dire consequences if you fail.  Yes, you can die on a Fives Court - but because of an accident, not because someone is out for your blood.  These games are tests of skill, stamina and aptitude and I could imagine them being played.

The characters - well as I said there were a lot of them and it took me a while to get them sorted out and to connect, but in the end I did.  Jessamy (Jes, Spider) was particularly driven by her desire to compete on the Fives court, although her loyalty to her family was admirable.   She made a decision at the end of the book that had me cheering.  It was rather unexpected, but very believable. Can't say much more or it will be a spoiler, but it made a huge difference to me in accepting her.   Kalliarkos (Kal, Beacon, Lord Garon) was kinda cute.  All he wants is to run the Fives, but his family has other ideas. There is romance here.  Not the love at first sight until the end of days kind, but young and kind of sweet.  There are also a couple of surprises where Jes's sisters Amara (Amiable) and Maraya (Merry) are concerned.  Those relationships were interesting, as was the relationship between Jes's parents.  Some good messages there.  

In the end though, it was the fast paced storytelling that kept me reading. There is a fair bit of political intrigue that keeps the story going. I loved reading about the Fives courts and the trek through the tombs was harrowing.  Where Ms Elliot came up with the idea for the funeral practices I do not know.  Court of Fives is not going to be for everyone, but it certainly gets a reserved thumbs up from me.