Book Review: Ringer by Lauren Oliver

36299564Ringer by Lauren Oliver

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 502

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Like its ambitious companion novel, Replica, this far-reaching novel by powerhouse bestselling author Lauren Oliver digs deep into questions of how to be a human being in a world where humanity cannot be taken for granted.

In the world outside the Haven Institute, Lyra and Caelum are finding it hard to be human—and neither of them knows where they belong or who they can trust. When Caelum leaves without warning to pursue the dream of a place he belongs, Lyra follows him, convinced that together they will hunt down a cure for the illness that’s slowly consuming her mind. But what they uncover is a shocking connection to their past—even as their future seems in danger of collapsing.

After discovering the uncomfortable truth about her connection to the Haven Institute, Gemma struggles to return to her normal life. But when she learns that her controlling and powerful father has new plans for Lyra and Caelum, Gemma and her boyfriend, Pete, leave in the middle of the night to warn them of the danger they face.When an untimely accident derails them, they are mistaken for the escaped replicas and seized by strangers hired to capture them. The Haven Institute wasn’t destroyed after all, and now Gemma is the one behind the walls.

Lyra’s and Gemma’s stories can be read separately—with either story first—or in alternating chapters, but no matter which way you turn the book, the two distinct stories combine into one breathtaking experience for both heroines and readers alike.

Ringer is the second, and final, book in Lauren Oliver’s Replica duology. You can read my review of the first book here. Before reading, I wondered why it was called Ringer, and having finished I was still none the wiser. It seemed like they decided it should start with an ‘R’ and plucked a random word out the dictionary. So I looked it up, and a ringer is someone or something that looks like something else. Essentially another word to describe a replica. Interestingly, while a replica is exactly the same, a ringer seems to mean that they look very alike but are not exactly the same. This seems rather fitting, since Ringer explores the question of whether the replicas are ‘human’ and whether they can be distinguished from one another. So it’s actually a well thought out choice for a title.

For those not familiar with the series, Ringer (like Replica) includes the stories of Gemma and Lyra, with the book formatted as two separate halves that has to be ‘flipped’. They can be read one half after the other, either way around, or in alternating chapters. When I read the first book, I read Lyra’s story first then Gemma’s, whereas this time I read Gemma’s story first and then Lyra’s.

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Book Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

9780147513861The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retellings

Publishing Info: April 2017 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons (first published April 2016)

Pages: 422

Star Rating: 3/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

 

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that this book didn’t blow me away, considering my fairly neutral reaction to the first book. But I felt invested enough to read the sequel.

It was very slow at first. A quarter of the way in very little had happened. I’m not talking about a lack of action. Action scenes aren’t required to move the story. The problem was that nothing happened to move the plot forward. About a third of the way through it started moving a bit but was still plodding. Perhaps some of the problem was Shazi and Khalid being apart, the spark their relationship created in the first book was missing as a result of them being apart for the first third of the novel.

After a slow start, it picked up half way as more magical elements were introduced to the story and Shazi and Khalid find out how they are going to break the curse on him. This gives them a more defined goal to drive their next actions which made me more engaged in the book.

While the first half was too slow, it picked up from the midpoint and I really enjoyed the second half. There were many twists which kept me glued to the pages. A character death made me shed a tear so I must have felt invested enough in the characters to care about their fates!

The first book explored one set of characters at the palace, then this second novel focused more on Shahzad’s friends and family, but that meant some of the characters from the first book felt left behind. They were there, but there wasn’t enough development of their characters, and since I had been invested in them in the first book, that was disappointing. A friendship between two of the characters that had been rocky during this book wasn’t really resolved which was also disappointing.

Overall, while I feared I wouldn’t enjoy it at first, the second half was much better, and if not for the slow first half and some things being left unresolved, I would have given it four stars. Too many threads were introduced and then left behind as the plot moved along. An important thread seemed to be introduced with Artan and his family but that subplot was abandoned in the second half and I was left with too many unanswered questions. Despite this, I’m glad I read the duology, and I would read more from Renee Ahdieh in future.

You can read my review of book one, The Wrath and the Dawn, here.