Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

maze-runner-classic-redesignThe Maze Runner by James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult / Sci-Fi / Dystopian / Apocalyptic

Publisher: Chicken House

My Rating: 5_star_rating_system_4_stars

Synopsis: When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

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My Review

I decided to pick up The Maze Runner series after watching the first two film adaptations. I was pleasantly surprised by the first film and, whilst the second wasn’t as good, I still enjoyed it. So, I thought it was finally time I picked up the books.

The Maze Runner tells the story of a group of boys, known as Gladers, who are trapped at the centre of a seemingly unsolvable maze for some inconceivable reason. They have no real, concrete memories, except their names, and must carry on with life with no proper answers. Each month, one new boy is sent to the centre of the maze, known as the Glade, in a lift. They must learn the one rule of the Glade: no one, except the Runners, goes into the maze, especially after dark. At night, the doors to the maze close and the Grievers come out.

Yet, when Thomas turns up, the sense of order within the Glade begins to unravel. I thought the opening was done well; we’re just as confused as Thomas as he travels in the lift, before reaching the Glade and being greeted by a group of unsympathetic boys who won’t really tell him what’s going on, mainly because they don’t know themselves.

The characters were clear-cut from the beginning: curious Thomas, short-tempered Alby, intelligent Newt, innocent Chuck, distrustful Gally, confident Minho. I also realised that the films had been very true to the characters in the books, which was great. There was no worry here of the characters bleeding into one another, where the reader is unable to tell who’s who and who’s talking.

The suspense and mystery is also palpable from the outset. We learn everything as Thomas does, and I thought hints and revelations were dropped just at the right moments to keep you intrigued. I’ve seen some people complain that the beginning lagged, and yes whilst it did take a little while to get to the action, I was enjoying myself just learning about the characters, the dynamics of the Glade, and the mystery of the maze.

In fact, I think seeing the films first enhanced my enjoyment of the book. Like I said, I can see why some people would say the beginning wasn’t pacey enough, but having seen the film adaptation, I knew generally what was coming and was excited to see how scenes from the film panned out in the book, and what differences there were between the film and novel. Also, because I already liked these characters from the films, I didn’t need to learn to like them whilst reading the book.

However, one way in which the novel really fell short was the writing. It was pretty average. There was a fair bit of telling, not showing, and it was just quite clunky; that was obvious from the start. I felt at times the awkward writing bogged down the pace as sentences often didn’t flow well, but a lot of the time I managed to overlook it because of the plot points, which kept me reading.

Also, Thomas was definitely a bit more of a Gary Stu in the novel than in the film. Dylan O’Brien gave Thomas a lot of depth in the film, creating a character that was both confident and unsure. Whilst novel-Thomas was suitably flawed, the way he was a Gary Stu was that he seemed to have all the answers. Boys who had spent years in the Glade would not have thought of the same things as Thomas. In actuality, the author spent a lot of time having Thomas list things and other characters going “tried that”. However, whilst the characters would have “tried that”, they would not have been able to join the dots like Thomas, which felt a little unbelievable at times. Are you telling me no one else had really given that much thought to the WICKED acronym?

In addition, Thomas could also be quite passive. Things would happen to him, rather than him outright causing them. I felt that Thomas was much more active in the films, rather than someone who has things happen to them because they’re special in some way. This was also heightened when Teresa turned up, for reasons I won’t divulge as it’s spoilery, but I’m glad the films left out one particular plot point involving Thomas and Teresa.

However, back to some positives. I did really like the characters. I think Teresa is actually more interesting in the books than she is in the films, although I think Kaya Scodelario is a good actress. In a total contrast to Thomas, novel-Teresa was much more active than film-Teresa. I think Newt is also more passive in the films than he is in the books. In addition, the characterisation of Minho was executed a little better in the books. The same goes for Alby and Newt, and Frypan as well. Gally, however, was a better antagonist in the film adaptation than in the book.

Lastly, I didn’t mind the slang, such as “shuck” and “klunk”. I thought it would annoy me, as I presumed it would be used more in the book than in the film, but it was fine. It was a good way for characters to get their emotions across sometimes as the slang was clearly used in place of swearing, which is often taboo in YA that is marketable to younger teens.

So, overall, I think this was a solid start to the series in terms of plot and characterisation. However, it was definitely let down by average writing, so that knocked a star off the rating. But yes, whilst it was clunky, and some things were just a bit too convenient, I still enjoyed it. I honestly do recommend that maybe you watch the films before you try the books. The first two films are available on DVD, and the third is due out next year. I found, for once, that seeing the films enhanced my enjoyment of the novels.

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Have you read The Maze Runner? What did you think of it? Have you seen the film adaptations? Let me know in the comments below!

caitlin

 

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ARC Review: Ariadnis by Josh Martin

51a2b9y2f2hlAriadnis by Josh Martin

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette, Feb 2017

My Rating: 5_star_rating_system_3_stars

Synopsis: Joomia and Aula are Chosen. They will never be normal. They can never be free.

On the last island on Erthe, Chosen Ones are destined to enter Ariadnis on the day they turn eighteen. There, they must undertake a mysterious and deadly challenge. For Joomia and Aula, this means competing against each other, to end the war that has seethed between their cities for nine generations.

As the day draws nearer, all thoughts are on the trial ahead. There’s no space for friendship. No time for love. However much the girls might crave them.

But how you prepare for a task you know nothing certain about? Nothing, except that you must win, at whatever cost, or lose everything.

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This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinion of the book in any way.

So, Ariadnis. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of this book from the lovely Books With Bite once again, and I was really excited to read it; the book even came with little cards depicting the characters.

However, Ariadnis fell short of expectations for me. Let me just say, this book mainly got three stars because the imagination behind it was excellent. The story and setting were fresh, and there was a lot of diversity too. I really applaud the author for not regurgitating the same old YA Fantasy story.

Yet, for me, it fell short in other areas. Mainly: writing, pacing, world-building and characterisation. And yes, I am contradicting myself by saying it fell short in world-building. So, let’s start there.

The story is set on a magical island where huge trees grow beneath a cliff face, housing the city of Metis, and huge trees also grow atop the cliff, home to the city of Athenas. The setting was really imaginative, but I just could not get my head round the concept; I really struggled to picture this cliff face and the trees so massive they could hold up cities. And I’m not talking about a big forest, I mean nine trees per city. And you can also travel down or up through the cliff to get to each city. And in the cliff is a magical place called Ariadnis. And the city on top of the cliff, Athenas, has hollowed out its trees, filled them with machines, encased the trunks in metal, and built their city atop huge dinner plates on the trees. My brain just could not wrap itself around the entire concept; it was almost too imaginative.

So, not only was I totally mind-boggled from the get go, the characters then start mentioning a place called ‘Erthe’ that was destroyed by big waves and a comet. ‘Okay cool,’ I thought, ‘so it’s like a different world just named similarly to ours.’ But then one of the characters mentions Hindi and India and suddenly I’m confused all over again. It’s our Earth, but there’s magic. Normally, this is a pretty normal concept  in Fantasy, mainly magical realism, but where did the magic come from? It hadn’t been there before, so why does suddenly everyone on this island have the ability to wield magic when no one alive in modern times could?

I was entirely confused, once again. I’m not a huge Fantasy reader; I like it, but I’m quite picky about what Fantasy I read. So, maybe a big Fantasy lover would be able to wrap their head around this world-building better. After all, I seem to be in the minority with these opinions compared to other reviewers.

Now, onto the writing and pacing. The writing was okay at the beginning – nothing special, but also nothing awful. However, I felt it began to unravel as the book progressed. The story is told in alternating POVs between the main characters Aula and Joomia in their respective cities. At first, their voices and story lines were easy to differentiate. However, when they eventually met up, I began to feel lost, especially because the POV would switch multiple times in a chapter. I would think I’m reading from Joomia’s perspective and then confuse myself, backtrack, and see actually it was Aula talking. I thought it would be easy to differentiate them as Aula is headstrong and uses ‘en’t’ all the time instead of ‘isn’t’, and Joomia is quiet and can only communicate via telepathy, shown in bold lettering, but I did end up becoming confused (again).

Really, what I think this book was lacking was precision. The ideas were great, but they needed a lot of skill to be pulled off correctly, and I felt that skill was lacking. It is a debut, so the second book may vastly improve, but it just felt too big and in need of more control.

The same goes for the pacing. The entire middle portion of the book sagged, which can often happen after the excitement of the inciting incident dies down and the climax is currently out of sight. Yet, oddly, things were happening, but it just didn’t feel like it. There were twists and a bit of action, but it all lacked a punch. I think this was also down to the writing; it wasn’t exciting enough. I don’t think it fell prey to telling instead of showing, but rather it just skipped over the action. Fight scenes were cut down to a couple of short paragraphs. Emotional scenes only took up half a page. I think it focused on the wrong details, and as such there was no suspense or tension.

In addition, as I didn’t really connect with the characters, any attempts at tension didn’t make me that nervous. The characters were clear-cut – I knew who was who – but for some reason they just didn’t excite me.

Also, one thing that did annoy me a bit was that everyone was horny all the time. Like all the time, at totally inappropriate moments. Someone would die and Aula or Joomia would be sad for five seconds before lusting over another character. It was like instalove but instead it was instahorny.

So, that concludes my main comments. I think Ariadnis was a great idea, but it lacked finesse and just wasn’t for me. Others might enjoy it, and certainly on Goodreads and Amazon there are a lot of glowing reviews, but if you’re not a big Fantasy fan, it may not be for you.

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Have you read Ariadnis? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to read it? Let me know in the comments below!

caitlin

Stacking the Shelves | Sci-Fi with a Sprinkle of Fantasy

STACKING THE SHELVES

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme from Tynga’s Reviews where you showcase the books you’ve received or purchased.

I’ve been on a bit of a book-buying ban since Christmas, mainly because I’m struggling to find the time to read since I started full-time work. However, now that I’m settling into the world of work a bit better, I’ve treated myself to a few more books.

So, first up, we have the much-talked about Caraval, that my friend Vicky @ Hung Up On Books kindly gave to me as she had two copies.

Caraval edit.jpg

I’m really excited to read Caraval. A small part of me is worried it may be over-hyped, yet I’ve seen nothing but good reviews.

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Goodreads

Maze Runner edit.jpg

Next up, I’ve finally caved and bought The Maze Runner series. I really enjoyed the first film adaptation; it had great acting (Dylan O’Brien is A+++) and pretty good cinematography. The second film wasn’t quite as good but still entertaining, and I heard it deviated a lot from the book, so I’m keen to find out what really happened. Also, these books get quite mixed reviews. I think the premise is so interesting, but whether the writing and characterisation lives up to it, I’ll just have to wait and see. (Please excuse the blurry photo, it didn’t look blurry on my camera screen).

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

Goodreads

Sign edit

Lastly, I got The Sign of One by Eugene Lambert. I’ve heard good things about this dystopian series and have been wanting to get my hands on a copy for a while.

ONE FOR SORROW, TWO MEANS DEATH.

In the Barrenlands of Wrath, no one dies of old age. Kyle is used to its harsh laws, but the cold-blooded separation of identical twins and execution of the ‘evil twists’ at the Annual Peace Fair shocks him.

When Kyle himself is betrayed, he flees for his life with the reluctant help of Sky, a rebel pilot with a hidden agenda. As the hunt intensifies, Kyle soon realises that he is no ordinary runaway, although he has no idea why. Fighting to learn the hideous truth, their reluctant, conflicted partnership will either save them – or kill them.

Goodreads

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Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you want to read them? Let me know in the comments below!

caitlin