Monthly Archives: August 2015

OF BEAST AND BEAUTY: Ashley’s Review

of beast and beautyTitle: OF BEAST AND BEAUTY

Author: Stacey Jay

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling

Pages: 400

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Review

I stumbled upon OF BEAST AND BEAUTY while searching for books on Amazon. I guess you can tell by my other review of A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, I love reading BEAUTY AND THE BEAST retellings. Let me say, this really isn’t a retelling of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. It’s more like…a story with elements of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Namely, some beast-like creatures and some enchanted roses.

We start with Isra who is the Princess of Yuna. She’s basically imprisoned and she’s also blind, and believes she has a mutation like many of the Desert People/other people in this world. Honestly, I’m not really sure where we are—I think it’s some planet or something? Basically, Isra lives in a dome that’s all bountiful and beautiful while the world outside the dome is desert and dangerous. There are magical roses that Isra likes to visit because sometimes they let her see…also, she must sacrifice her blood to them at some point if the dome around them starts to fall to pieces.

I liked Isra. She didn’t let blindness disable her and she learned to live with it. In the beginning she seems really childish, which I found strange. She isn’t raised with the intent that she will rule, but to be a sacrifice. Because of this, when it comes to changing things, she’s pretty whiny.

The other main character, Gem, agrees with me but he doesn’t understand the circumstances under which Isra has been raised. All he knows is that he’s a Desert Man and Isra is a Smooth Skin and he’s supposed to hate her. But he doesn’t really hate her, he actually loves her and just keeps fighting the love because it’s supposed to be disgusting for Desert People and Smooth Skins to feel any sort of attraction toward each other.

The Isra/Gem love didn’t bother me. I felt like it was a little fast, but you can tell the author means to imply a lot of time has passed and the two have had several ‘get to know you sessions.’ That being said, I didn’t find Isra capable of anything beyond that teenaged, angst love.

There’s also a third perspective in the book from a guard named Bo. In my opinion, Bo is weak minded and his perspective would have served better had he actually learned something.

My main complaint is probably this—I wanted this story to be Isra learning of her own power and embracing it. I wanted her to actually do something to deserve to rule her people. I wanted her to show us exactly how she can change the world she lives in for the better…but we don’t really get that. Instead, she’s really a pushover. She lets the men have power over her (and FOR REAL if there is one thing I dislike seeing in books, it’s that). In contrast, the author has Gem talk about how the Desert People give power to their women. Maybe an intentional contrast, however, Isra does nothing to rise to the occasion. At the end of the book, she’s building a brick wall—literally—around herself! That’s not helping your people, that’s hiding from problems! I don’t care if your city is coming down on top of your head.

Jay set up a really good foundation for this to be a real female empowerment novel…but…it sort of fell flat. This book also comes to a close very quickly—as if the author just wanted the book to end. The beginning is very detailed and patient, and the end is not so detailed and rushed.

Another thing to note about OF BEAUTY AND BEAST – the writing is really…poetic. It is very pretty. I found it strange at first, but it finally grew on me once the voices of the characters took root in my head.

Overall, I enjoyed OF BEAST AND BEAUTY. It’s not like other retellings for sure. 3 stars

 

3star

Find this book on Amazon

Advertisements

Friday Fandom: Castle

Castle

Nathan Fillion. Need I say more?

Okay, I will.

Castle is an absolutely fabulous show for many reasons, and its writers are definitely folks to be admired. What makes it doubly fun is the number of different ways Castle’s authorly expertise comes into play.

He finds inspiration in the strangest places. He uses research sources to help his cop partner Kate Beckett (Played by the amazing Stana Katic) get information. He has literally helped the NYPD solve crimes by using the phrase: That’s not how I would write it.

Why else do I like it?

The characters

First of all, Castle and Beckett are an exceptional onscreen team and couple. Their chemistry has been impeccable since episode 1, and has matured and deepened over the seasons as they fell in love, dated and married. A lot of TV couples falter or slow down when they hit the “married” stage. Or, the writers hold it off for too long to keep the show’s will-they-won’t-they momentum. Not Beckett and Castle! Even now, their banter is some of the best on TV.

The rest of the cast is equally strong. Ryan and Esposito are not only smart, capable partners for Beckett on the job, they’re friends to both her and Castle, and fully-formed, hilarious characters of their own.

And also badasses.

Same goes for Laney, Martha and Alexis, whose presences are always relevant and meaningful without feeling like filler. I especially love seeing Castle’s family side and his dad/son role with Alexis and Martha. Captains Montgomery and Gates also play their roles superbly—here’s more about my favorite kickass scene with Montgomery and why he is just all kinds of awesome!

As my Castle-cowatcher Katie says, the entire cast feels like an actual family.

The cases

Though Castle is a “cop show,” its cases still feel fresh and intriguing eight seasons in. The writers and cast do a great job balancing humor with mystery. The Old Haunt and the Blue Butterfly episodes are wonderful examples of this. I’m also impressed at how the show carries storylines from one season to the next…and the next. 3XK anyone?

It’s a credit to the show’s writers that the personal storylines meld so seamlessly with the case storylines without dragging or losing their light edge. Which brings us to…

The writing

Each element of this show is balanced so skillfully without getting heavy-handed or taking itself too seriously. While each character has grown and changed, no one has shed what and who they were at the beginning. Martha is still the theatrical mother. Beckett is still driven by justice and certain demons from her past. And, Castle is still the silly, clever writer who’s thrilled like a little boy about the macabre. The power of the show is still it’s humor, wit and heart. And that’s why we love it!

RADIANT: Nicole’s Review

RadiantTitle: RADIANT

Author: Karina Sumner-Smith

Publisher: Talos

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 400

Synopsis: Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.

When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.

Review:

Karina Sumner-Smith’s debut novel is an edgy tale of friendship and the dark economies of magic. She twists traditional fantasy elements in utterly unique ways and creates an overall enjoyable read.

Xhea lives on the rough streets of the Lower City, below the floating towers of the City where those with innate magic trade and horde power in a cutthroat game of houses. Without her own magic (aka currency), Xhea’s left alone to face night-wandering zombies and the ever-present threat of starvation. Her single source of income is her strange ability to interact with ghosts.

When a city man approaches her, desperate to hand her the tether (think spiritual anchor) for Shai—the ghost girl he’s carrying—Xhea’s all too happy to accept his magical payment. But the payoff leads to more than a temporary high, and as she unravels Shai’s story, Xhea finds herself drawn into a friendship and adventure fraught with city politics, magical intrigue and danger.

RADIANT’s worldbuilding incorporates a lot of potentially dynamic elements. It’s no doubt a dystopian society, but it begins in far enough beyond the era of destruction that it doesn’t feel like your typical dystopian. The Lower City mirrors a fallen New York or London, while the City hovers above it in an impressive collection of floating spires. A great example of worldbuilding elegance is Sumner-Smith’s “elevators,” discs opened and powered by magic that carry individual users from the Lower City to the towers. Simple, yet sophisticated!

She also has an interesting interpretation of the “dark underside” of magic. It’s one of the things that caught my attention most while reading.

  • Magic as a class system: This has been done in a number of ways in previous books, but Sumner-Smith is adept at making it feel exclusive and privileged in RADIANT—partly because she ties magical ability so closely to her world’s economy and payment. Xhea, who doesn’t possess innate magic, isn’t looked on as simply poor (like she might be in other variations of magical class systems); in RADIANT’s society, she seems more like a leper, completely ostracized without any real ability to get ahead in the world.
  • Magic as payment and fuel: Again, while other books might house magic in certain coins or gems for payment, Sumner-Smith takes it a step further and internalizes it as a life-force, similar to the way time works in the movie IN TIME. Each person has a certain store of magic built up inside them, and they can pay or gain against that. This, rather than hard currency, is the fuel and power of RADIANT’s society. So, when Xhea gets a “payment,” it’s actually a physical transfusion of magic from her customer to her. Very cool!
  • Magical highs, overdoses and detox: Xhea is a fascinating character, in part, because she’s a stereotypically “bad” street kid. She smokes, she’s addicted to magic almost like a drug, and she craves payment for the “high” it brings her. When she’s paid, the magic enables her to see in color instead of the gray spectrum she naturally sees, and it fills what she calls her “emptiness.” It’s unsettling and compelling all at once, and makes for a very powerful introduction to this character and what she’s faced in her young life. Later, we also see her come down off a scary magical high reminiscent of a detox. I like that Sumner-Smith grafted these grittier concepts together with our more traditional views of magic. It felt entirely fresh!
  • Magic as illness: We also see a dark, disturbing side of magic in Shai’s circumstances. She possesses such a font of magic, her home tower uses her to run not only its facilities, but its economy and trading power as well. No matter the physical toll to Shai herself. Almost like a human battery. As if that’s not enough, Sumner-Smith shows us twin consequences of that model: magic working as a machine to falsely sustain the body while draining away true life, and magic as something very close to euthanasia.

While the darkness of the subject matter didn’t make this a particularly happy read, I appreciated Sumner-Smith’s skill in flipping traditional concepts the way she did.

The book is broken into three parts, and the first and last have high-emotion endings.

One of the repeated talking points for RADIANT is its focus on the female friendship between Xhea and Shai. I’ll give it kudos for this, since it’s something I’d like to see more of in SFF, and the friendship definitely drives Xhea’s actions. However, I found it touching more so because it’s Xhea’s ONLY friendship, than because it’s particularly strong  or unique.

Xhea as a character left me torn. She opens strong and there are continual layers to her backstory, which keep her intriguing as an anti-hero (which I like in contrast to a lot of the perky heroes these days), but at times she skews a little too moody or gets stuck on something that doesn’t seem important to the plot. The girl is not the wisest decision-maker!

Overall, Sumner-Smith creates a nice mix. Her short story experience shines through in her turns of phrase and atmospheric descriptions, and she captures the mood quickly in a scene. I wanted to feel a deeper connection among each plot element. While it was all interesting, I didn’t get a good sense of history or why certain things happened the way they did. The same goes for character introductions. It’s the first in a series, though, so I’m guessing she’ll weave it together more strongly in future books.

RADIANT leaves a lot of unanswered questions that will pull readers into the rest of the series!

4 Stars

4star

-Nicole

Find it on Amazon.

Review initially posted on Fantasy Faction.

Fandom Post: Shadowhunters

shadowhunters

Photo Credit: @Shadowhunters

Because CITY OF BONES did not do well at the box office, they’ve decided to take a different route with the Cassandra Clare’s MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series and make it into a television show.

Now, let me just say that I didn’t dislike CITY OF BONES, but I felt like it didn’t capture the truth of the story. It was too lovey…Jace and Clary were not that lovey in the books. Basically, I felt like they wanted CITY OF BONES to be the next Twilight, and can I just say, the love story is not why I liked CITY OF BONES.

So, SHADOWHUNTERS has a whole new cast (which I’m really excited about) to include:

Katherine McNamara as Clary:

Photo Credit: www.imdb.com

Photo Credit: http://www.imdb.com

Dominic Sherwood as Jace (from Vampire Academy…don’t get me started):

Alberto Rosende as Simon (though Robert Sheehan was pretty awesome):

Emeraude Toubia as Isabelle:

Photo Credit: www.listal.com

Photo Credit: http://www.listal.com

Mathew Daddario as Alec (wayyyy better choice for Alec in my opinion, though I like Kevin Zegers well enough):

Photo Credit: @shadowhunterstv

Photo Credit: @shadowhunterstv

All in all, they are a handsome cast and I’m excited to see them in these roles. Now, from what I’ve read, they’ve made a few changes to the characters. They are all older, and Clary is in college at the Brooklyn Academy Of Art. Simon is also in college and is an accounting major. He has a band (I don’t remember the band from the books?) and Maureen who has a crush on Simon in later books, is actually apart of the band and is in her 20s.  Luke is now an NYPD officer. I will have to see how this factors into the plot. I’m not against it because I think it could be well done.

This is a series I will have to see, but I’m keeping positive that I will enjoy it. It will appear on ABC Family in early 2016. What do you guys think?! Are you read for more Mortal Instruments? Does anyone else wish they’d make the INFERAL DEVICES into movies/series?! 

 

Author’s Couch: Q&A with K.A. Stewart

JJD1When I stumbled upon the cover of K.A. Stewart’s first Jesse James Dawson novel–A DEVIL IN THE DETAILS–several years ago, I knew it needed a home on my shelves. A demon-fighting Samurai-sword wielding Midwestern father? What’s not to love about that main character?! 

I devoured the other Jesse James Dawson books, including Stewart’s most recently self-published fourth in the series. Turns out, it’s not just JJD that I love. I also enjoyed Stewart’s steampunk-mythology mash-up SECOND OLYMPUS. You can find my full review here in the archives, and we’re thrilled to have her on the blog today to share a little more about it.

-Nicole

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00025]Synopsis

The war amongst the Greek gods lasted over three decades and when it was ended, the sun was snuffed from the sky, Artemis sat on the throne, and the muses were murdered.

Without the power to create or invent, the human race languished for generations, trapped within the walled city of Elysia, their lives governed by the steady tick of the great world clock and the watchful eye of their increasingly erratic goddess.

But in the lower wards, far from the shining beacon that is Olympus Tower, a crippled boy named Geoff has grown to manhood, unaware of the legacy contained in his own mysterious bloodline. When his loved ones are threatened, the world will finally wake under the power of the muse, and the insane goddess Artemis will remember the very dangerous power of human imagination.

Q&A

1. What’s the story behind the story? Tell us a little about where you got the idea for your book.

SECOND OLYMPUS came about when a friend of mine was lamenting that he seemed to be able to inspire others with great ideas, but he wasn’t good at creating anything himself (his opinion, not mine). That got me to thinking about what a world without inspiration would be like, and I was watching the movie Dark City at the time, and so a world of perpetual night seemed logical to add to the mix. Which then begged the question, what happened to the sun? It just kind of went from there.

BFF: Isn’t it funny how things come together to spark that inspiration? I loved the perpetual night angle – it added the perfect ambiance for your world.

2. What’s your personal favorite part about the story? A character you loved writing, a scene that gives you shivers in all the best ways, etc.

Even eight years after I first set down words on this story, there are still pieces that give me chills and bring tears to my eyes. I hate to say too much, for fear of spoilers, but the scene where Geoff finally exercises ALL his power is… Yeah, that’s my scene. Goosebumps, just thinking about that last heartfelt cry.

BFF: Love hearing this! It’s all about making us readers weep with you. 🙂

3. What do you hope readers take away from your story?

Really, I just hope the reader comes away with a sense that they’ve visited another world, and they had a good time. I’ve never been one for deeper meanings, or lessons to be taught or anything. I just want to entertain people.

4. Who/what are some of your favorite authors or books? Can you share how they’ve inspired you?

My absolute favorite author is Jim Butcher, and most people know him for his DRESDEN FILES series (which I adore). But my true favorite series is also his, the CODEX ALERA, and I’m just in awe of the world building that went into that. I’m kind of a world building junkie, it’s my favorite part of the writing process, and with every new book, I try to push and challenge myself to come up with a world that is truly my own.

BFF: We should share bookshelves! Jim Butcher has a hefty portion of mine too.

5. What is most likely to draw you in to a book?

Like I said above, I’m looking for unique worlds. Give me something with unusual rules, but make them work. If your character has an odd trait, give me a crazy, but totally plausible, reason why. I want to spend time in another world too. 😉

6. What do you wish authors would do more of?

This one was hard. We’re currently in a time in publishing where more things are possible than ever before, both with traditional and self-publishing. I think maybe I would just say that I want authors to take more risks. Not sure a book will sell traditionally? Write it anyway. Someone, somewhere, will love it.

BFF: Fantastic advice! We might need to turn it into a bumper sticker.

7. Tell us a little about your publishing journey.

I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil (literally), but I didn’t actually try to get anything published until I came up with A DEVIL IN THE DETAILS (JJD Book 1). I got an agent in 2008, sold the book in early ’09 and it came out in 2010. Since then I’ve had three more books traditionally published, and two books self-published, and I’m loving every second of it.

8. What’s next on your plate?

I am currently writing the fifth book in the Jesse James Dawson series (BFF: Pause for excited dancing!!), to be self-published hopefully toward the end of this year, and my agent is shopping around something else unrelated but that I’m very excited about.

BFF: And, of course, the fun stuff…

Favorite dragon: Ruth, from the Dragonriders of Pern series
Favorite Shakespeare: Sonnet 29 – “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes…”
Favorite fantasy food: Klah, also from the Dragonriders of Pern series. Get the recipe!

BFF: What we’re hearing is we basically all need to visit Pern together. Done! Thanks so much for joining us on the Author’s Couch, and best of luck on your upcoming projects.

More About K.A.

KA StewartK.A. Stewart has a BA in English with an emphasis in Literature from William Jewell College. She lives in Missouri with her husband, daughter, two cats, and one small furry demon that thinks it’s a cat.

More About SECOND OLYMPUS

Silver in the Blood: Ashley’s Review

Silver In the BloodTitle: SILVER IN THE BLOOD

Author: Jessica Day George

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Pages: 368

Synopsis: As debutantes in 1890s New York City, cousins Dacia and Lou knew little about about their mysterious Romanian relatives, the Florescus. Now, upon turning seventeen, the girls must journey to Romania–a journey that seems to be both reward and punishment–to meet their cousins and their tyrant of a grandmother and to learn the secrets of their family. Secrets spoken of in whispers. Dangerous secrets known as the Claw, the Wing, and the Smoke.

But as dangerous as those family secrets might be, even more dangerous is the centuries-old bond between the Florescus and the royal Dracula family, and it seems that it’s time for Dacia and Lou to give up their life in New York society and take their place among the servants of the Draculas. When the devilish heir, Mihai Dracula, sets his sights on Dacia as part of his evil, power-hungry plan, the girls must accept or fight against this cruel inheritance. Do they have the courage to break the shackles of their upbringing and set the course of their own destiny?

Review:

I really enjoyed SILVER IN THE BLOOD. We have two cousins who are more like sisters, Dacia and LouLou (sometimes called Lou, real name is Louise). Dacia is the more outspoken and hardheaded of the two, while LouLou is reserve, shy, and almost brittle. I really liked Dacia probably because she wasn’t afraid and she stood up for herself, while I found LouLou to be frustrating, mostly because she seemed so fragile.

The cousins are taken from their home in New York where they were born and raised, and are sent to visit their Florescu family in Romania. We are to understand that Dacia and LouLou are high-society ladies and come from very prominent Romanian and American families. Dacia and LouLou haven’t seen their Romania relations often, and some of them they have never met. I liked some of these relations and I disliked others. Radu is a cousin who pops up now and then, and he can’t seem to figure out where his loyalty lies, same with Aunt Kate, who is a stony presence in the book, but she has no depth, really–aside from her supposed love interest.

The Florescu family is tied up with the Draculas, a family they are supposed to guard. Within the Florescu family, there are different version of these ‘guardians’ I guess you could say–the Wing, the Claw, and the Smoke. These are all derived from powers Dracula could call upon. Dacia and LouLou are brought to their family to discover all of their secrets.

And let me tell you, there are so many secrets.

I didn’t mind how the story unraveled, though sometimes I got tired of reading about how much Dacia and LouLou really needed to talk. There is a point in the book where all the secrets are out on the table and while LouLou rises to the occasion (because she feels ‘light’ all of a sudden…?), Dacia becomes introverted and basically, childish. The two cousins switch rolls. It would have been much more refreshing for them to have both taken responsibility at this point. It was hard for me to imagine the opinionated and hot-headed Dacia suddenly loafing around and crying. I know the justification is that she is traumatized by what she experienced, but really, it came off more as she was just spoiled. In contrast, LouLou’s easy acceptance is very strange and the reasoning is because she suddenly doesn’t feel so heavy–shall we start with what this implies about women and their body image? While LouLou does gain confidence after the secrets are all revealed, she reverts back to, honestly, having little to no role in the actual ending of the book. It was very disappointing.

I will also say that the ending sort of fell apart for me. While a strong one, I could tell the intention was to leave enough room for this book to have a sequel.

Things that I did not like: 

First, LouLou had this obsession with her weight. “But Lou, no matter how many sweets she passed up, always felt a little too plump.” “But now that she’d even had Parisian dressmakers compliment her figure, she suddenly felt light as a bird.” “You struggle to be tall and slender like Dacia, but you aren’t, and that doesn’t matter. Everywhere we have gone today, the young men  haven’t been able to take their eyes off you.”

These things bothered me, mostly because they suggest that feeling good about yourself is all about compliments from strangers and men. I understand LouLou (and Dacia) are young. I understand these feelings, and I know many young girls who can relate, but I don’t think the addition of ‘well, I felt better about myself because other people think I’m beautiful’ is a helpful or healthy compliment.

Secondly, the phrase ‘whoop like a savage’ was used on two occasions. I understand this is supposed to partly be historical fiction, but this is also a fantasy you wrote in 2015. There are other phrases the author could have used, other words she could have chosen to describe Dacia’s behavior.

Thirdly, there is a point in this novel where a man threatens to rape Dacia and LouLou. This is something he does so he can have power. I really hate this sort of thing, and I didn’t feel like the main character had been this villainous before, so when he decided that this was the card he’d play when they wouldn’t listen to him, I felt both that it was out of character, and also uncomfortable.

It is one thing to tackle these issues and create moral lessons, or demonstrate problems in society, but it’s another thing to use them all as plot devices with no purpose or resolution.

Overall, I will read the next book gladly and hope that some of the characters are more developed, and that both Dacia and LouLou rise to the occasion faster than before. 3 stars.

3star

Buy it on AMAZON

Fandom Friday: The 100

The100The 100 – Ah! This show. Where do I start? I love so many things about it that the words will probably run together into a seamless, incomprehensible stream of fangirl flailing.

For the uninitiated, the show is about a future human civilization who fled to a space station (the Ark) to escape Earth’s radiation after nuclear war. As the show opens, all of that is several generations in the past—but now, the Ark is running out of oxygen, so humanity’s leadership decides to send 100 teen delinquents to the ground to see if Earth is survivable. Not only is it, but the 100 aren’t the only ones there! The human race has splintered into 3 (maybe 4) groups.

I think what impresses me the most is the unexpected depth of the show, the plot and the writing, week in and week out. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “It’s on the CW,” how deep can it be. Well, you just watch missies and misters! As a writer, I hardcore admire this show’s writers because, man, they are FEARLESS. They throw in twists and character deaths and dark no-win situations like it’s going out of style. It’s not an exaggeration to say there are at least one or two breathless viewer moments each week.

But what keeps me coming back without a doubt are the characters (I’m holding in the fangirl squeeing, guys. It’s hard.). I have never seen so many badass lady characters all in one place before in my life!! Let’s review:

Clarke Griffin – I’ve joked with friends that I would name my daughter after Clarke. It is only partially a joke. This girl is a leader with a capital L. She takes no shit from anyone, tells it like it is, and faces danger and challenge head on to protect those around her, all while managing to keep a sense of vulnerability, fallibility and humanity. Gah, I love her!

Octavia Blake – Octavia’s perhaps the best example of what makes The 100 so different from any other show. On other shows, Octavia would simply be the sexy popular girl, who occasionally shows toughness but mostly needs others around her to do the rescuing. Ha! She may hover in that arena for the pilot episode, but the gal’s got guts and she’s not afraid to use them. She takes risks, fights (No, not just a well-timed punch or two. The scrappy kind of fighting that leaves you bloodied and makes you get up again…and again…and again), and frankly wows just about everyone around her, fellow 100ers and Grounders alike. I also love the relationships she brings to the show—her sister-brother bond with Bellamy is real and tough and so, so strong, and she is probably the most constant and reliable friend for all of her fellow 100ers

Raven Reyes – Raven is the toughest of the tough. She’s a straight arrow and always comes through. A talented mechanic, she builds her own pod to get from the Ark to Earth to join The 100, AND she devises a boatload of other cool weapons and tech from the scanty found items at the dropship camp. Fever, broken heart, paralyzed leg! Nothing can stop this girl!! Even more so than Clarke or Octavia, she’s a scrapper through and through.

Abby Griffin – Clarke’s mom. Doctor on the Ark. The only one who really believes Earth might be livable at the beginning. It’s her idea to send Raven to the ground. She’s smart, tough and (except where her daughter is concerned) pretty darn comfortable backing the play of various 100ers. Her dialogue and sparring with fellow counselor Kane are always filled with awesome tension.

Misc. Grounder Gals – Anya, Lexa or Indra, take your pick. They’re all slightly crazy, pretty brilliant, hard as nails and 100% complete badass. And, let’s just take a minute to talk about the Grounders’ society. The worldbuilding on this show is strong enough to have developed an entire language for this people. That’s something I love in books, but is rarely done to this extent on television. I am in heaven!!

And, then, of course there’s Bellamy. I think it’s some kind of sin that it’s taken me this long to mention him in this post. Let’s just say that if none of the above reasons existed, I’d watch the show for him alone. Not just because, well, um, yeah, but because he has an incredible character arc.

I *get* characters like him and Clarke. They’re my favorite kinds of heroes and heroines whether on page or screen—leaders who understand all too well the price of leadership, but lead anyway because someone has to and they see their responsibility to others as higher than their concern for self. Ah, that is just all kinds of YES! I will follow leaders like that anywhere.

Bellamy starts out as a bit of a jerk who smuggled his way onto the drop ship to look out for his sister, Octavia (Kids are monitored closely on the Ark, so they’re the only set of siblings on the show), and is driven largely by his fear of being discovered. By the end of season 1, with a lot of help from Clarke, he’s transformed into this amazing, confident and kick-ass version of that earlier guy. He does the hard stuff, the things no one else wants to do, but that have to be done, and he has a heart of utter freaking gold.

The other 100ers–Lincoln, Finn, Jasper, Monty and even Murphy–each have their shining moments on the guys’ side. The Jasper and Monty friendship is one of my favorite aspects of the show. And, an aspect I really, really enjoy (and am constantly surprised by given its network) is the fact that the parent / adult storylines often are just as engaging as the 100’s.

Often, especially in YA, adults are relegated to the sidelines or seen more as enemies or obstacles than anything else. But on this show, I’m cheering just as hard for Abby or Kane or Jaha (okay, maybe not as hard for Jaha), as I am for the others. I’ve mentioned Abby already, but I must say Kane’s season 1 character arc was almost as incredible to watch as Bellamy’s. The strength of the character development is more what I’d expect to see from a book than from a TV show. I love it!!

Speaking of which, the show IS based off a book. I haven’t read it yet and—I can’t believe I’m going to say this—but I’m not sure I want to read it. The show has won my heart in a big way, and I’m a little scared to re-imagine those beloved characters on page because I know they won’t be the same.

So, there you have it, my resounding fangirl endorsement for The 100. Go catch the first season on Netflix and, if you’re not already 150% convinced the show will be awesome, go check out Sarah Rees Brennan’s parodies. Priceless!

-Nicole