“Truth Seer” feels like you’re reading the fantasy love child of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. In it, Moody creates a world where people now have, essentially, a super power that they can learn to use and hone to perfection to help them in a future career. Everything from tasting the weather, to feeling wounds in order to heal them with something more than a doctors touch, to seeing people’s emotions, including if they are telling the truth. Enter the main character Imara, a truth seer who uses her ability—or hila—to see when someone is lying. She wants to use her gift to help the police during interrogations, and she is THIS CLOSE to getting her dream job, when a terrorist organization, based in her hila school’s city of Egypt, crashes the graduation party and takes several people hostage—including Imara’s older sister Naki. Now Imara must use her hila to see through the lies—the illusions—that are keeping her away from her sister before anyone gets hurt.
Everything you need to know about this novella can be found in the synopsis, in fact, maybe too much is there. Still, in the world of “Viral Spark” humans have come to rely on machines—specifically digital implants and robots—for pretty much everything. There’s this light, depressing vibe a-la-Wall-E going on in this book that I kind of loved: people cluster like insects in their massive buildings, rarely leaving. Everything from their food to their clothes is 3D printed, and changing the décor of your apartment is just a swipe away on your own augmented reality screen. There is a lovely undertone of a dystopian here that I wanted to see more of, but as this is a novella, the focus remained firmly on the glitches in the main character’s system, and not the world McConnell places the reader in.
All too often it seems as if steampunk authors stick to one location and one setting: a Victorian era European city. Think cobblestones and cold fog with women in full hoop skirts and men in three piece suits. It was refreshing to read a steampunk novel that took place—in both time and location—so far from the tried and true that I tip my proverbial hat to the author! “Bodacious Creed” is very much a western set in the early days of America, just after the Civil War, where California’s city of Santa Cruz could be considered very much a wild west. The feel of a railroad town that survives mainly from ranching, factories, the dying gold rush, and brothels is superbly well crafted and makes for a believable setting for this steampunk novel. But I don’t know if I’d really consider this a zombie book.
I’m starting to really love science-fantasy books, and the first book in the “Eden East Series” helped build that love and appreciation even more. This is the story of Eden, a young woman with elemental magic, whose purpose is to bring Balance to the world, namely Earth. Her people do this by Binding themselves (think soulmates) and together, finding ways to bring peace and harmony to others. It’s a cute premise to be honest, and I loved how different families became essentially city states for each type of magic. There are Sirens who control emotion, Elementals who are pretty self-explanatory, Sorcerers who have legit wands that they use a-la Harry Potter style, Dryads who are healers (obviously), and Shifters who can—you guessed it—change into different animals. It’s honestly a really fun world and Black makes wonderful characters and has the building blocks for a really amazing YA series, but I wanted more.
“Arena” is a futuristic dystopian story with some flavors of “Hunger Games” meets “Red Rising” but follows along a more traditional Roman gladiator structure—which shouldn’t be a surprise given the title and cover. The story follows Colston, the son of an abusive drunk and owner of an estate where murderers are sent to fight in gladiatorial combat, as he grows from a lonely 15 year old to the premier trainer of these fighting men. By befriending Cole, a giant of a man convicted of murder by trying to defend his slaughtered family, the two help each other survive in their respective worlds. When Colston falls for Anna, a debtor that his father purchased, he starts to plan for a future away from his father’s estate. Unfortunately, he never really gets to the point where he wants to better or change this dystopian society where those who fall into debt are sold like slaves, and those convicted of murder must entertain the masses in bloody combat, which you kind of expect from a dystopian story. Despite the feel of those other books present in “Arena”, Colston is only ever focused on him and his immediate circle, not changing an inhumane practice the way Anna encourages him, which never sat well with me. Now, some of these plot points are spread out between several books, but this is the omnibus with all three books rolled into one. I liked some of the books better than others, but as I received the whole collection, I’ll be rating it as the omnibus and not the individual stories.
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