Title: The Broken Lands

Author: Kate Milford, illustrated by Andrea Offermann

Genre: Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, PoC

Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication date: September 4 2012
Hardcover: 464 pages

A crossroads can be a place of great power. So begins this deliciously spine-tingling prequel to Kate Milford’s The Boneshaker, set in the colorful world of nineteenth-century Coney Island and New York City. Few crossroads compare to the one being formed by the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River, and as the bridge’s construction progresses, forces of unimaginable evil seek to bend that power to their advantage. Only two orphans with unusual skills stand in their way. Can the teenagers Sam, a card sharp, and Jin, a fireworks expert, stop them before it’s too late? Here is a richly textured, slow-burning thriller about friendship, courage, and the age-old fight between good and evil.

Stand alone or series: A prequel to The Boneshaker but can be read as a standalone

How did I get this book: Review copy from the publisher via Netgalley

Why did I read this book: Because I loved The Boneshaker so freaking much. Because I wanted more stories set in this same world.

Review:

In these lands, these broken lands of these United States of America in 1877, the Civil War and the Reconstruction have left ugly scars. In these lands, these broken lands, the new cohabit with the old, poverty with riches, ancient traditions with wondrous technologies, bigotry with tolerance. In the crossroad formed by the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River, a man without a country wishes to claim this place for his own – by blood, by fire and by getting rid of its five pillars.

Teenagers Sam, the son of an Italian immigrant and a card player, and Jin, a Chinese girl and a fireworks expert are part of a group that stand on this man’s way: a group formed by people from all walks of life who embody these broken lands and are old and new, rich and poor, traditional and modern, prejudiced and tolerant.

A crossroads can be a place of great power; this should not come as any surprise. It is a place of choosing, of testing, of transition, and there is power in all of those things.

These motifs permeate The Broken Lands – a prequel to Kate Milfod’s excellent The Boneshaker – to tell a story that inevitably wishes for these broken lands to be mended and to be healed. Not that this is an easy thing. It can’t be an easy thing when so many different threads coexist. But a conscious effort is made by the characters that inhabit this story – they are tested to their limits, they are allowed to choose and they are central figures in a transitional moment of their story. I loved the themes of this novel as much as I loved the incredible characters and the development of the plot to thwart the villains – all of it blended together seamlessly.

If Boneshaker was definitely Middle Grade, The Broken Lands is firmly set in YA territory: its main characters are a bit older, its horrors are lot more graphic and a lovely romance develops between its two main characters. Just like its predecessor, The Broken Lands is a novel that seeks its inspiration in folklore and religious themes but which shapes and bends stories in a way that is both old-fashioned and extremely bold:

There is the development of an idea about a mythical as well as mystical creation of a country, via its cities and its people. In it, each place is held together by its community’s pillars – men and women who hold offices and positions like for example, that of a history/story-keeper. What is all the more interesting is that these pillars change over time, as do their functions: here, power is a fluid thing and as changeable as the times. It comes as no surprise that – without spoiling too much – the people that hold New York together are not simply old white folks but a mixture, an encounter of immigrants that helped shape America: from Ireland, from China, from Italy; as well as American born and bred, including African Americans. Its concept of family is that of bond rather than blood and heroism is what you choose to do rather than what you are.

Its central character, Jin, is a Chinese girl who is strong, determined, enterprising and fierce. Who takes to what she must do to save this city and its citizens with aplomb and only a little reluctance. Her Italian friend Sam shares the point of view in this story and is equally enterprising but functions more as a side-kick. Someone who is full of admiration for the very characteristics that make Jin so independent. These two develop a relationship – friendship and eventually something more – in a natural way that is superbly well-done.

There is also a lovely appreciation for the art of reading and for what a reader brings to and takes from a book.

And this is what I take from this book: The Broken Lands goes beyond formulas and clichés. It has an awesome plot, full of twists and turns and adventurous moments and also, EXPLOSIONS. It has romance and awesome characters left and right. It is truly scary as any horror novel should be. Ultimately, it is more than a simple story: it is a book that has heart and soul and whose ideas will engage each reader in a different way.

This is the sign of a True Book and Kate Milford is a Master of Methods.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

The arrival of the four o’clock train at the terminus of the Prospect Park and Coney Island Railroad line announced itself with a squeal of brakes battling the forward momentum of two hundred tons of iron. The freckled man in the white linen suit scowled as a fine dust fell onto his cuffs. He looked up at the luggage rack, malevolence in his red-rimmed black eyes, and stared at the carpetbag that had fallen over onto its side.

He brushed the dust from his sleeve with fingers tipped with nails that had been filed to points. It had been about a week since the man had last used those nails to mark a hand of cards, though, so the points were dulling a bit.

With the handle of the bag in one fist and his slim wooden gambler’s case under his other arm, he joined the stream of holidaymakers spilling onto the platform and surveyed his surroundings. To the west, he knew, were the streets of Norton’s Point, all full of thieves and gamblers and criminals in hiding from the law. A few miles to the east, wealthy guests lounged in grand hotels where piers stretched like manicured fingers into the water. The expanse in between, the bright festal wilderness of West Brighton, was given over to bathers, garish painted banners, grifters, mugs of lager that were two-thirds froth, questionable intentions, and carousels.

Taken all together, this jumble of folks, rich and poor and working and thieving, was Coney Island, the notorious seaside town just south of Gravesend, Long Island.

The black-eyed man leaned on the rail watching, listening, and acclimating while he inhaled the brew of sea air and coal smoke. There was something else in the air, too; a deep note, buried far below the scents and sounds that stirred on the summer breeze. It would’ve been nearly impossible for anyone else to detect. Humans were notoriously blind to the simmer of violence—which always amused him, considering how like a drug it was to them.

The freckled and black-eyed man, not being human, could smell it as sharply as cologne. It was everywhere here, just like it was everywhere he’d been in this country in the last twenty years, at least. Maybe more. It was easy to lose track of the passing years. He was far older than the flashy young fellow he appeared to be.

Rating: 8 – Excellent

Reading Next: Shift by Kim Curran

Buy the Book: (click on the links to purchase)


Ebook available for kindle UK and nook

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5 Responses to Book Review: The Broken Lands by Kate Milford

  1. Romance and YA and folklore and explosions? Hello sign me up I am SO pumped for this.

    Also, I totally submitted this review to stumbleupon because it rocks.

    Job well done, Ana!

  2. Ana says:

    :mrgreen: Thanks April. I know you loved The Boneshaker so I am looking forward to seeing what you think of this one. I bet you love it.

  3. I’ve been away from the fantasy scene for a long time and wasn’t sure where to jump back in. As The Broken Lands is a prequel and a sure sign of good things yet to come this might be the one.

  4. [...] Work: The incredible The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands, both works of extraordinary quality and two of the best books Ana has read this [...]

  5. [...] Review: August 2012 | Original Rating: 8 – [...]

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