The Trials of Koli (Rampart Trilogy#2) by MR Carey

Trialsof

The Trials of Koli is the second in Mr Carey’s Rampart trilogy and was an enjoyable instalment that has left me keen to read the final chapter when it arrives. The first book in the series, The Book of Koli didn’t work out quite as well for me as I’d hoped but this is an author that I really like so I was determined to continue with the series to see which direction the story would take.

I felt that book 2 was much improved by the addition of a new pov narrator and also by the inclusion of some very interesting world building.

Anyway, not to get ahead of myself here, let’s start from the beginning with a brief introduction and obligatory warning that being the second book in series this review may contain spoilers. Also, in my opinion, I do not believe this should be read as a standalone so if you haven’t read the first in series my suggestion is to pick up The Book of Koli first.

So, the story continues almost immediately where book 1 concluded. Koli, Cup and Ursula are making progress travelling across the country, following some sort of signal, in the hopes of reaching London (where they believe they will find new hope). Along the way they meet with a number of distractions, not least of which seems to be a band of hunters who are intent on separating them from their tech. In some respects this is a dog eat dog type of world and the few existing remnants from bygone times are much sought after. Koli and Ursula between them have two very impressive piece of such tech and so it’s no surprise that they find themselves encountering difficult situations from time to time.

Added to this we return to the village where Koli was born, raised and eventually shunned where we follow in the footsteps of Spinner. Spinner recently married into the Ramparts, seriously disappointing Koli at the time who had romantic feelings towards her. We observe her as she is (rather frostily) welcomed into the new family home and then follow her progress from there onwards. I really enjoyed this aspect to the story, the politics of the small village, how the villagers are manipulated and how Spinner, herself a clever young woman, goes through strife before finding a comfortable foothold.

I won’t elaborate further on the plot but let you discover things firsthand. What I will share here instead is the aspects that particularly worked for me.

Firstly, the return to Koli’s village and the inclusion of a fresh and bright POV that continued to deliver a narrative that demonstrates how difficult life is in this new brutal world.

Secondly, observing a little more of the world via Koli’s travels. The group eventually come upon a small fishing village and it’s here that we learn a lot more about some of the key characters, particularly Cup, and also witness the power of this new world and some of the more dangerous aspects, such as Knotweed.

Thirdly, I think, having read quite a number of post apocalyptic style stories there is the inevitable, almost weariness, that comes through witnessing the downward spiral in the way people treat each other, and there were definite elements of that in book 1 and also in this instalment. Group A becomes bigger than Group B and so resorts to brute force to take what it wants and thus become even more powerful and bullying. However, this book quite pleasantly surprised me in that respect by actually offering up a village of people that were kind (mostly) and that whilst struggling to survive, retained some modicum of decency (although there was one particularly twisted individual determined, like a fly in the ointment, to cause trouble).

In terms of criticisms. There is still an element to this that feels very similar to stories that are already out there, but, I thought this became a lot more intriguing when some of the local flora and fauna became more menacing. There is also an element to Koli that prevents me from totally liking him as a character – which seems quite unreasonable in many respect because he certainly isn’t an offensive person. But, I find that I’ve become more attached to some of the others and I thought Cup and Spinner made for very interesting reading. Also, be aware if you’re intending to pick up this series that this is a story being told by Koli who has his very own style of narration that can take a little getting used to at first. This is an aspect however that I thought was well done and a good reflection of how language changes and adapts over the years.

Overall, I enjoyed this one more than I expected, I guess that could be as a result of not over-hyping myself this time around and, given the ending, I’m very curious to read the final instalment.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars

The Book of Koli (Rampart Trilogy #1) by M.R. Carey

bookofkoliThe Book of Koli was one of my most  anticipated books this year.  I’ve read a few books by this author and really enjoy his work so perhaps you can imagine how excited I was to be approved for this particular book.

BoK takes us on one young boy’s strange journey, a first step into adulthood, and a period of great change and no little amount of danger.

We start the story by meeting Koli, who is our narrator, and I will just warn you now that he has his very own way of storytelling that you may find a bit disconcerting at first, but does grow on you (or at least that was my experience).

Koli is a young boy on the cusp of manhood.  He lives in one of a few villages, sparsely populated and surrounded by countryside.  This is a post apocalyptic story and whilst we don’t discover a great deal of what actually took place to cause such devastation we soon learn that travelling beyond the walls of your own village can be incredibly dangerous.  Not only might you meet outcasts (shunned people) but the local flora might also take a fancy to you.  Trees that attack and vines that whip up from the ground.  The sunshine is now the enemy as it awakens the forest and brings with it a multitude of dangers.  But, Koli, his family and friends are very aware of the dangers posed by the forest and know how to survive.  Life is simple and people are delegated certain tasks that usually pass down from family to family, for example Koli’s family are woodsmiths who collect and treat timber to make it fit for purpose.  The most desirable tasks in the village involve using the few remaining pieces of old ‘tech’ that remain and help to protect everyone – however, in order to attain such a coveted role you must be able to ‘wake’ the tech in the first place, which few can do.  If you do manage this task you will become a ‘rampart’ and live a more privileged life as a result.

So we meet Koli as he’s about to face his first trial – his first step on the road to manhood.  Still a child at this point, Koli will be given a chance to operate a piece of ‘tech’ of his own choosing.  As a child he still has hope that his life can be singularly remarkable and believes that he can achieve anything – of course, he’s soon to learn that these simple hopes and wishes are somewhat naive.  At the same time that Koli’s trial looms he is also forming an attachment to a childhood friend known as Spinner but is too nervous to make his feelings known to her.  Now, to be honest, I’m not going to elaborate further on the plot because I think you need to discover the story for yourself, suffice to say that Koli’s innocence and naivety are about to set him on a dark path.

I really enjoyed the start of the story, discovering about life in the village and getting to know Koli and his hopes and desires.  The tone then gradually starts to change, Koli discovers that not everything is quite as simple as he first suspected and in fact there is unfairness in the world.  Darkness and threat start to seep into the tale as he faces the consequences of his actions.

The world building is interesting.  I really enjoyed getting to know about life in the village but, as the story is told by Koli, and he only knows so much himself, we learn little of what caused the world to change so dramatically.   Similarly with the forest and trees.  we discover that they pose a threat to life and that the villagers have to be incredibly careful to keep new growth and seedlings under control but there is little other explanation.  I didn’t mind this to be honest and just went with the flow.

The writing may be a bugbear for some readers, although I didn’t find it to be so.  Koli isn’t a literary genius to say the least and his narrative is full of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and colloquialisms but this is his story after all and of course he’s going to tell it in his own style and although that style not be particularly eloquent he does have a certain charm. I couldn’t help wondering how difficult it must be for an author to write in this style, you must continually want to be correcting things – not to mention auto-correct and spell check must be nightmares!

The characters.  Well, I liked Koli but in actual fact my two favourites were side characters who become quite pivotal to the story.  One is Ursala – a traveller and healer who travels between the villages spreading news and helping with ailments.  She has her own forms of protection including a drudge, a piece of tech that the ramparts from Koli’s village would like very much to get their hands on.  The other is Monono – such a great addition to the story and very unusual – I loved the way she develops but I won’t say more here, you’ll have to make her acquaintance yourself.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I did have a few issues that held me back a little, not least my own high expectations, and let’s be honest, my concentration is not the best at the moment.  I think the first issue I would mention is that the story is a little slow.  Koli has his own speed of telling things and although you know that changes are imminent the story does slow down a little (around the 40% mark.  The other issue for me was that I probably didn’t enjoy the second half of the story as much as the first.  I can’t really go into why that is without giving away spoilers but I think because I’ve read quite a number of post apocalyptic stories over the years there was a certain familiarity to the second half whereas the first half felt very fresh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it was like a.n.other book – just that the territory felt well trodden in some respects.  That being said, if you’ve not read many books of this type I think you’ll be bowled over.

Okay, so I didn’t love this quite as much as I’d expected but to be fair I think my head has turned into a turnip at the moment and also I’m a victim of my own impossibly high expectations for this particular author. Basically, I think it’s more a case of ‘it’s me not you’ – MR Carey is an impressive author and one that I will continue to be excited about in the future.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Rating 3.5 of 5 stars

 

Someone Like Me by M.R. Carey

Posted On 12 November 2018

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Woman wearing a red hoodie by a river

Woman wearing a red hoodie by a river

Someone Like Me is such a difficult book to review.  I don’t want to give away spoilers or ruin the read for others and whilst that might sound like a bunch of excuses I mean it most sincerely.  It would be like somebody telling you the ending to The Sixth Sense and completely spoiling the final reveal, you know that feeling, where you finish something and then you have to start casting back asking questions, looking for missed breadcrumbs or clues – that’s what this book makes you do.  I mean, in fairness, this isn’t so much a final reveal as a bunch of reveals – but still, the sentiment remains the same.  Check out the blurb for the book and the cover even – they’re a pair of sneaky suckers aren’t they?  They’re giving nothing away and neither am I.  I think the biggest clue that we have here is in the title – and I realise I’m being evasive and the title could mean a number of things but there is a clue in there – of course it’s easy for me to say that now, all superior like, with the benefit of having read the book, but that’s all I’ve got.  Read the book. Go on.  Do it.

MR Carey is such a great author.  I love that his books are never what you expect or more to the point they’re all so completely different that you actually don’t even know what to expect in the first place.  It would be difficult to ever put this author in any particular category.  I like that in my favourite authors – pigeon-hole immunity.  Mr Carey has that in spades.  Obviously it helps that his writing is excellent too but picking up one of his books is almost unnerving because you just don’t know what it’s going to be about and the sense of anticipation is quite delicious.

What I can say is I loved this.  It made for compulsive reading and I read it in two days which for a book that sits at just over 500 pages is some going.  I mean this wasn’t just compulsive, it was nail bitingly good.  All the cliches – name them – I couldn’t put it down, I read into the early hours, I was on the edge of my seat.  Yes, yes, yes.  All of those things and then some.

So, what can I safely tell you.

Well, the book follows two main characters.  Two characters with two things in common.  Firstly, they’ve both suffered traumatic events.  Secondly, they both share the same therapist.

Liz is a divorced mother of two.  Her ex husband is manipulative and controlling and he used to use Liz as his own personal punch bag.  She’s a likable character, her neighbours and colleagues rally around her and her two children adore her.  She can come across as a little bit weak but to be honest the gradual spiral into domestic violence that her relationship eventually took would be enough to wear anyone down.  Starting with mental abuse and eventually becoming physical it took a lot for Liz to finally walk away and in fact she really took the step to protect her children, not herself.

Fran is a teenage girl.  When she was a little girl she was abducted by a man named Picota and was missing for a couple of days before the police found her.  Her abductor is now held in a state facility after being deemed mentally unstable.  Fran still suffers a great deal from the attack experiencing nightmares and hallucinations.  She has an imaginary friend named Jinx, a protector and cartoon character from an old favourite show about knights and codes of honour.  I think everyone is going to love Jinx.  Trust me on this one.

There are a number of other significant characters.  Liz’s ex husband Marc for example, the children, Fran’s father, the therapist and what really worked for me is how well the dynamics are between them all.  They’re believable characters.  They’re relatable.  They’re imperfect.  They have typical lives, some of the time quite bland but they’re basically getting on with living – it’s almost like you’re reading about the normal lives of normal people but before you get too comfortable (aka just as you’re getting comfortable) Carey pops in a little seed of something different and before you know it it’s grown into something else that’s totally unexpected and chilling and you have to read more, you have to know what’s going to happen next, things have gone to hell in a handcart in fairly short order and you really didn’t see it coming – and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.  Send help.  And who is this other character who I shall not mention?

I’m not really sure what else I can tell you.  This is partly mystery, partly thriller, partly magical realism.  It’s subtle and unusual.  The writing is excellent, the pacing is good and the ending is tense.  I wouldn’t say the concept is totally unique, I’ve read or watched similar things but to be honest this one takes the idea in it’s own direction and one that I didn’t foresee.

I think if you’re expecting a straight up, no nonsense, no para-normal elements type of read then this might not be for you – although, I would say, cast aside any pre-determined notions and give it a shot anyway.  It’s a really great story and it defied my attempts at second guessing what was going on.  I  started out thinking maybe this was a look at mental health issues, I had a moment of maybe thinking it’s a ‘what if/Sliding Doors’ type of story but I eventually realised that whilst both of those have a part in the story they’re not the complete picture.

I’m sorry if this isn’t helpful.  All I can hope that you take from this review is that I thoroughly loved reading this and I hope you will too.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

 

 

The Boy on the Bridge (The Girl With All the Gifts #2) by M.R. Carey #SpooktasticReads

Spook

mage credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

theboyThe Boy on the Bridge is my final review for Wyrd and Wonder’s SpooktasticReads event.  I’ve loved the inspiration that this event has given me to read all sorts of creepy, spooky or chilling reads and The Boy on the Bridge fits in perfectly because whilst this isn’t a scary read as such it is about a post apocalyptic world, overrun with Hungries (think zombies) and the potential extinction of the human race.

I genuinely don’t know how to start this review so I’m going to go with my overall feeling upon finishing.  Wow.  The end of this book was nothing short of amazing, I kid you not, it gave me goosebumps and set my mind racing.  I can’t deny that part way through the read I was thinking that this couldn’t possible top or match The Girl With All the Gifts.  To an extent having already read book 1, and this being described by some as a companion novel or prequel to that book, you expect to have lost the element of surprise, and that much is true with regard to the plague (for want of a better word), but in spite of that there’s a gripping story as we follow a number of people, scientists and soldiers, as they travel the country, cooped up in an armoured vehicle and just wait for heads to start to butt.  Definitely a few great character studies here and some desperate struggles along the way.  However, with Book 1 in mind you can’t help trying to put together the pieces of how everything fits together and obviously you’re more than well aware of what the real threat really is – and it isn’t the hungries per se.  On reflection I actually think that’s part of the beauty of this book.  Misdirection.  Whilst you’re reading with the first book in mind, thinking ‘how does this person fit into what comes later’, the author is pulling the rug out from under your feet because the eventual conclusion to this story – and I won’t spoil things so don’t worry – actually jumps forward in time. It’s totally not what I expected and I was most happily surprised.

So, what does this book bring to the table?  Well, as mentioned there’s this claustrophobic story as we watch a team of people fall apart slowly but surely.  There’s betrayal and conspiracy, chases and death along the way. We have an unexpected event that plays a central role which I won’t discuss and obviously there’s the desperate attempt to find a cure – which actually becomes the catalyst for a couple of other events – which again, I can’t really elaborate upon without spoiling.  Oh dear, how to write a review when everything you want to discuss involves spoilers.  Look, I’m not going to be that person, the one who spoils the read for others so I’m going to move on to some other thoughts instead.

One of my favourite books, and quite possibly the book that was the inspiration for so many later zombie stories, is I am Legend.  The ending of that book is also, for me, jaw dropping and amazing and well, all sorts of other things that I can’t even put into words.  Now, clearly this is just my interpretation but The Boy on the Bridge is an odyssey to survival that gives a little nod in the direction of I am Legend .  Again, it’s really difficult to say what I want to say without spoilers but I just loved the way this concludes and without doubt it changed a 4 star read into a 5 star read for me.  I love endings that make me think and I now find myself in a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts as I try to backtrack through both books in an attempt to place all my thoughts in order because basically, the ending to this changes everything else.  That is all.  Is that a big enough teaser to make you pick it up – I hope so.

Anyway, I have no doubt that this is quite possibly the most annoying review I’ve ever written, not to mention frustrating and even medal award winning in being the only review ever to use about 800 words saying very little at all.  With the benefit of hindsight you could have stopped reading after that ‘wow’ in the second paragraph.

The TL:DR version is this:  read The Girl With All the Gifts, take a moment and then, read The Boy on the Bridge.  It’s that easy.  I’ll even throw in a pretty please for good measure.

For information, both books are standalone novels but personally I would suggest it’s necessary to read both, and in the order of release, in order to gain the best from both.

Where I got a copy: bought (this was the audio version and it was very well done).