Category: Reviews

Kopievsky-resistanceRebellion is an elemental creature. It takes shape within the air, the water, the earth, and the fire. In the soil of dystopia, the seeds of defiance are slow to bloom, but spread faster than wildfire once it takes root. When the population is oppressed, belittled and degraded, told what to do and who they can be, the only thing left for them is Resistance.

Set in the post-apocalyptic city of Otpor, orthodoxy is expected of everyone; every individual is brought up into an Elemental caste – Fire, Water, Air, Earth – which dictates their position in society in an almost Brave New World level of genetic manipulation. Once you have been placed, you cannot change, don’t rock the boat, observe the status quo. Any disobedience is punished immediately, publicly and violently. The worst offenders, those who spread the crime of Heterodoxy (having opinions against those of the masses) are executed as an example to the rest.

Resistance is a harsh, gut-wrenching story about Anaiya, a top-caste Fire Elemental who has been chosen to infiltrate a resistance cell of lower-level insurgents who have been spreading anti-establishment messages throughout the city; a trend that could topple the fragile balance.

Trapped between the desire to expunge the taint of heterodoxy laid upon her by her insurgent mentor, and the new emotions she feels after her brain is altered to allow her to blend in with other Elementals, Anaiya is quick to lose her sense of self as she attempts to track down the resistance leader, experiment with her new-found abilities, and keep her superiors happy.

Written in an unforgiving and blunt manner, Kopievsky has illustrated a new world of distrust and struggle where even the most basic natural functions are controlled or sterilised. No trees grow within the high walls of Otpor. In such a world relationships are strained and interactions between the castes terse to the point of aggression. Escapism is sought in any way possible and leads to excess; mood altering drugs a normal state of affairs to keep the populace under control.

Characters are written with depths that will no doubt be revealed as the series evolves, with each caste maintaining their own attitudes and slang. Settings are starkly contrasted between the authoritarian bleakness and artistic embellishments, drawing strong walls between those of the establishment and the free-spirited. When it comes to the smaller-scale world building Kopievsky has done an incredible job of establishing both a setting and society that is unique, while at the same time portending of a future that could all too easily become our own reality.

The first book in the Divided Elements series, Resistance a great read for its incredible prose and its unsettling message. When life is oppressive, all we can do is Resist.

 

Mather-Refuge Official Coverrefuge

noun

A place that provides shelter or protection.

Twelve year-old Nell McLellan’s world is in turmoil. At school she’s suddenly got the attention of the most popular girl in the class but it has alienated her safe and steady best friend Josie; at home her work-obsessed parents appear to be on the verge of divorce.

When Nell is shunted off to North Queensland and the care of her rarely seen Grandfather for the holidays her problems seem magnified. Doesn’t anyone care that she’s struggling?

Well, someone does…some ‘place’ actually: Nell just doesn’t know it yet. Stumbling around the grounds of the local high school in search of the holiday drama class her parents insisted she attend Nell finds herself following a series of curiously worded signs. Feeling lost? one beckons. Follow the stairs, instructs another. Before she knows it Nell has turned the handle on an old wooden door and stepped straight into a world she could never have imagined: Refuge.

This rapidly paced fantasy novel targets middle grade (8-12 year-old) readers and is written in full-colour and high definition. The beguiling cast of characters who inhabit Refuge — a world created as a safe haven for lost souls — take Nell on a twisting, turning journey of self-discovery (and manage to give young readers some sumptuous but ever so subtle historical insights in the process).

There is the Doctor, Refuge’s mad scientist-style creator who hails from early 1700s London; then we have tortured Gideon, an English ‘wharf rat’ from the late 1700s still ruled by his past; there’s shape-shifting 1920s aristocrat Fox, as charming and cunning as his name suggests; the frightening Deuce, straight from America’s Deep South in the 50s; and Janus, probably the most mysterious and hard-to-pinpoint of the bunch (I won’t ruin it for you by revealing too much about her). Each of them pull Nell (and us) deeper into a riddle that seems impossible to solve.  

Stranded in Refuge, our lost girl Nell finds out she has just three days to choose her future: stay in this strange, supposedly ‘safe’ haven forever or return to the life where she felt lost?

Refuge is the debut novel of former scenic artist and teacher A.V. Mather and it is clear she is a writer who is very much at home in the realms of fantasy. Refuge is a world well imagined. The city-scape with its era-hopping evolution feels rich and enchanting — I really enjoyed spending time there.

And Nell’s journey kept me guessing in lots of good ways. However, I did feel her character’s growth, which was realised at the end of the book, could perhaps have been built more incrementally as the story progressed. I love a character with chutzpah and while I know that isn’t who Nell was at the beginning of her journey, there were junctures along the way when I was frustrated by her willingness to be led rather than make her own decisions.

Perhaps this is all part of the author’s plan, though. When I turned the last page of Refuge I was ready to dive into book two…Nell’s adventures don’t feel finished yet. I hope A.V. Mather is planning to send Nell back to Refuge with another book in the series because I see her returning and this time as a very different girl.

 

Hoagn-shatteredPicking up from where Blood of Innocents left off Mitchell Hogan returns us to his chaotic realm of sorcery and subterfuge in book three of the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence; A Shattered Empire.

Familiar protagonists return in this blood-fueled third volume of Caldan’s life as he seeks to find a cure for his beloved Miranda; to free himself from the nefarious plans of the corrupt and sorcerous Emperor; and maybe even save the world from Kelhak, the man who brought destruction and death down upon the world in the most apocalyptic game imaginable.

The narrative is, like the previous volumes, split between protagonists and antagonists alike: Caldan, the once regal but now destitute Lady Felice, honourable and misjudged Aidan, homicidally insane Amerdan and more getting to tell their sides of the story. It reveals that in times of war and great confusion things are rarely black or white; in the end people will do what is necessary in order to survive or help those they care about. While others are using the time to accumulate power or practice their craft on a panicked populus.

All the elements of the game are now revealed to our young protagonist. Sorcerous warlocks demand his blood to extend their lives, violent Touched demand his loyalty unto death, and the creatures that seek to overrun humanity see him as little more as a distraction towards their ultimate victory.

A Shattered Empire is a master-crafted piece of world building, going deeply into historical backstory, character arcs and both technical and philosophical discussion as to how such a land and people develop. In doing so Hogan has answered so many questions that remain lodged in our minds since the A Crucible of Souls, such as what happened to Caldan’s parents? What is the purpose of the mysterious trinkets he carries? Can anyone truly be trusted? And is there any way he can save the world so that he and Miranda will be left in peace?

In this, the most deadly of games, all rules are going to be broken. The pieces are arranged, schemes and strategies plotted, each possible move a risky gamble that could lead to supremacy or disastrous defeat. In the game of Dominion there can only be one winner; but what if winning comes at too great a cost? Only Caldan can make that decision.

If he fails all that will be left is A Shattered Empire.

 

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

 

 

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