Thank you to Random House Australia for the ARC!
Chasing The Valley came out on July 1st, 2013.
Escape is impossible. Escape is their only hope.
Danika is used to struggling for survival. But when the tyrannous king launches an attack to punish her city – echoing the alchemy bombs that killed Danika’s family – she risks her life in a daring escape over the city’s walls.
Danika joins a crew of desperate refugees who seek Magnetic Valley, a legendary safe haven. But when she accidentally destroys a palace biplane, suddenly Danika Glynn becomes the most wanted fugitive in Taladia.
Pursued by the king’s vicious hunters and betrayed by false allies, Danika also grapples with her burgeoning magical abilities. And when she meets the mysterious Lukas, she must balance her feelings against her crew’s safety.
Chasing the Valley is the first book in an epic trilogy of magic, treachery and survival.
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The premise was awesome! Premises make up a good 50% of the adoration factor, for me. There’s a billion books about kids who go on a journey to a mythical “paradise”. But most books don’t have over-sized foxes, alchemy bombs, a smart-mouthed pick-pocket, and the ability to create illusions. THAT is why Chasing The Valley stands apart. It sets up an awesome world, but better yet – the world-building increases in epic-ness as the book continues! That, ladies, gentlemen, and aliens, is really good writing.
The plot, on the other hand…meh, not so good. Like I said, you’ve probably read a Journey story a hundred times. Particularly in fantasy. I think the premise and world-building were good enough to stop the plot from being boring…buuut, to be honest, sometimes it dragged. The chapters never ended with cliff-hangers. I was COMFORTABLE the whole time. That’s bad! There wasn’t a pull keep-reading-keep-reading, because I knew nothing hair-raising would happen. It’s a safe read. So, while I kind of enjoyed that (relaxing, okay?), my attention was never 100% caught.
The magic rocked. It was solid! I love it when something fantastical like that is a way of life. There’s no oh-my-gosh-squee-I’m-sixteen-and-therefore-will-discover-I-can-fly/shoot balls of flame/be invisible/have perfect hair. Everyone has a “proclivity”, and it matures when they’re 18. It can be Beast, or Darkness, or Bird, or Fire. Cool stuff. It varied from the usual (ice/fire/water/air sort of thing). The world-building is just epic. Honest! It is. I was swallowed by the detail.
Magic I expected:
Also: HUMOUR! This book is stinking funny. The dialogue? Gorgeous. I could hug it.
Characters? Because it’s a journey, there’s a crew of escaping teens: Danika (narrator), Teddy Nort (pick pocket), Randor (leader), Maisy and Clementine (the rich, snobby twins), aaaaaand Lukas (mysterious gorgeous boy). There’s lots of personalities and they all clash really well. That’s a good thing! The dialogue is awesome. Clementine and Dankia like to have a go at each other every three sentences, and Teddy is HILARIOUS. Laugh-out-loud style. My only problem was with Danika. As a narrator, I expected more from her. She was awesome: street savvy, humorous, tough, and (sometimes) kind. Buuuut, she didn’t grow. I wanted to see her character mature/change/grow by the end of the book. Nope. Nuffin’.
Honestly? I liked this book a lot. But I didn’t love it. It had nearly everything I demand in a book (good dialogue, good writing, excellent premise, humour), but it just didn’t evoke my feels.