Tuesday, April 12, 2016

#Review - Titans by Victoria Scott (Young Adult, Fantasy)

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Ever since the Titans first appeared in her Detroit neighborhood, Astrid Sullivan’s world has revolved around the mechanical horses.
She and her best friend have spent countless hours watching them and their jockeys practice on the track. It’s not just the thrill of the race. It’s the engineering of the horses and the way they’re programmed to seem so lifelike. The Titans are everything that fascinates Astrid, and nothing she’ll ever touch.
She hates them a little, too. Her dad lost everything betting on the Titans. And the races are a reminder of the gap between the rich jockeys who can afford the expensive machines to ride, and the working class friends and neighbors of Astrid’s who wager on them.
But when Astrid’s offered a chance to enter an early model Titan in this year’s derby, well, she decides to risk it all. Because for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, it’s more than a chance at fame or money. Betting on herself is the only way she can see to hang on to everyone in the world she cares about.

"Don't let others do for you when you can do for yourself."

Titans, by author Victoria Scott, is a young adult, standalone fantasy novel featuring 17-year old Astrid Sullivan. Astrid lives in a part of Detroit where things are bleak. So bleak, that she and her best friend Magnolia Reynolds's families are in dire jeopardy of losing their homes to foreclosure. 

Astrid knows the dangers of gambling. She's seen what it has done to her father, and grandfather, but she still has an avid love for the Titan Races. She has studied the Titan's for four years, and is well aware of the dangers that the race brings to the participants. Titans are a mix of real horses, and race cars. They participate in a dangerous series of 6 races called the Titan Circuit where riders are eliminated after each stage. 

In the end, the winner gets to walk away with a nice chunk of change. Change that both Astrid and Magnolia could desperately use to keep them from becoming homeless, and losing touch with each other. The Titan races intentionally separate the haves and the have nots. There is a definite feeling of entitlement and superiority that bleeds from the very being of almost all of the jockeys.

Thanks to two adorably grumpy old men in Rags and Barney who built one of the original Titans who Astrid will call Padlock, and a surprising sponsor in Lottie who comes forward after the qualifying races, Astrid's future is now very much in her own hands, and that of 44 other backstabbing jockeys who want to claim the ultimate prize. The Titan Circuit is not like anything you've seen before, especially if you follow the Kentucky Derby or other races. 

Can I just say that I loved Astrid, Magnolia, and Padlock? Well I do. I loved Astrid because here is a math genius who has watched the races for the past 4 years. She may even have the natural ability of jockeying one of the Titans. So, with her family on the edge of being homeless not for the first time, Astrid gets a bit of hope. Thanks to either the hands of fate, or the grace of God, or just being in the right place at the right time, she has the chance in a lifetime to race her very own Titan horse.

She has her best friend right beside her and supporting her and encouraging her every step of the way. Rags and Barney are nothing to sneeze about either. They could have walked away from Astrid at any point, but they stuck with her to the end. I love the relationship between these girls and the old men. They made a fantastic team! 

I kind of get all emotional when talking about Padlock. He's just a great character and his relationship with Astrid had me reaching for Kleenex more than once! One could say that he has a mind of his own, or one can say that he was given a bit of personality by two men with a desire for revenge on the man who fired them. Either way, readers really will love Padlock and want one of their very own.

In the end, Titans is a bloody brilliant story that is close to being even better than the authors Fire & Blood duology. Never thought I would say that, but there you go. I am grateful that this is a standalone novel, but would not have shed a tear had there been a sequel with perhaps new characters taking the Titan challenge. Scott can't really return with Astrid for reasons that I will leave for you to figure out.

One of my favorite lines of the book:

"Strength is forgetting everything I've taught you and becoming a machine. It's reaching inside yourself and finding you are not someone to be toyed with. It's taking every doubt you have and crushing it beneath your heel. 
"You, Astrid Sullivan, are an Oleander--beautiful, graceful, intoxicating. 
"May God have mercy on the person who touches you, and brings their fingers to their lips."

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