Earth is no longer Earth. The Markram Empire has transformed its once colorful cities into conglomerates of white concrete and glass where combatant divisions continue to thrive amid the eager demands of a bloodthirsty society.
Thirteen has already chosen to fight for her freedom as a warfare entertainer. But the fight for her survival is just beginning. Her unmistakable connection with her Unit Leader spawns their biggest challenge yet. Seven cannot control her, nor does he want to. Their bond has become a weakness. A flaw. A frailty that could prove their ultimate undoing.
I think I loved this book even more than I liked the first one. While the first Markram Battles book felt like set up--which is good, because it gave me a chance to get a feel for the characters--this one felt like action. I understand Seven and Thirteen better now, I like them more, I feel for them when they hurt. Though sometimes I got the characters mixed up--especially since everyone is named after a number--there weren't too many to keep track of. I like it better when stories have a small cast of characters rather than large ones.
The length of each short story was perfect. They were short enough that I didn't feel overwhelmed and wanted to keep reading, but long enough to deliver a good story. Hall of Monsters was my favorite. There was a nice mix of action and description throughout all three stories, and the writing was lovely. This quote, for example, is one of my favorites:
"Most people picture hell as a fiery inferno of darkness. But they are wrong. Hell is white, white as snow. Spotless. Stark. Incandescent. A sandy cage of crystal glass where strangers come to gloat at the monsters they have created."
Seven's voice comes out flat. "You are not a monster."
"Are you sure about that? We kill for a living. Thrust our blades into the souls of our rivals only to satiate the blood thirst of a crowd that wouldn't enjoy watching more than to see us die."
He lets out a grunt, barely loud enough for me to hear. "We fight to live."
"We fight to survive. This is no way to live." I drop my head and look at the metal floor before me.
"What are you saying?"
For a second I don't think I am strong enough to answer, but when I open my mouth, my words come out in a whisper. "I'm saying that maybe this isn't worth it."
Seven leans closer. "I think we are worth it."
My eyes snap back up, tears pooling at the edges of my vision. "I think we are damned."
And the ending was perfect! The cliffhanger on the last story is one of the best cliffhangers I've seen in a long time. I can't wait for the sequel!
(Actual rating: 4.5)
Meet the author:
M.C. (Melissa Carolina) Muhlenkamp was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She is a lifelong reader, food lover, and slightly obsessive writer who loves nothing better than to lose herself in the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. Whenever she isn't writing, you can find her on Pinterest, unleashing frustration on her vegetable garden, or most likely, chasing her kids around the house. She lives and writes in sunny California, but you can visit her online at www.mcmuhlenkamp.com.
Connect with M.C. Muhlenkamp
1. Who or what inspired you to write?
I don't think I can pinpoint one specific event or person. Maybe it's because I can't remember a time when I didn't write something. Writing has always been there. Sharing my writing with others however, took place because I had to make a choice. I arrived at a point in my life where I knew I had to either do something with it, or just conform myself with writing and dreaming all by myself forever. I am not a conformist. Never have been. Never will be. So, I did the opposite. I plugged my nose and took the plunge.
2. What are your top three favorite novels?
Really? Can you torture me any more with this question? Answering it has left me depressed and practically bleeding over a giant stack of books. I feel like a traitor just so you know. However, after much deliberation and personal struggle here are my top three.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkien
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
My favorite thing is research. I love reading and I love reading with a purpose. Research is just an excuse to do just that. That's when the drafting part of a story comes alive in my head. Different aspects I have learned through research come to play and mingle with already existing ideas, and the result is pure magic. I get all giddy and excited and my creative wheels begin to spin. My least favorite thing is outlining. Some writers don't do it. I've found it indispensable, however tedious it may be.
A combination of things. I like to think of Markram Battles as a dream that went to play with the X-Men in ancient Rome. It merges three of my favorite interests into one project. Sleeping. X-Men. And history. It all started with Seven, one of the main characters. My dream with him was more like a nightmare, but it stuck with me enough to dig deeper. That led me to study the concept of the X gene, which is the mutant gene in X-Men, as a possible explanation for an evolved race of humans with supernatural powers. Ending with the speculation of gladiatorial games within that frame of work. Like I said, a dream that went to play with the X-Men in ancient Rome.
5. What is the hardest thing you've had to do in your writing?
I have to say editing. It is such a painful process, but, oh, so necessary. Slashing scenes, cutting sentences, digging deeper into subjects, killing characters all together is not fun. Especially when someone else is saying you have to do it. But the end product is always worth it.
6. What is your favorite writing snack/beverage?
Water. I can't write while I snack. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to take a break every once in a while and clear my head before diving in again.
7. What is the best way--in your opinion--to bust writer's block?
There is no secret formula. Just sit back down and continue typing. I know it hurts. I know you feel like your head will explode while your body remains glued in front of the computer dripping with blood. But there’s no way around it. You can take breaks, clear your mind with another project, spend the next few weeks or months reading while you procrastinate, and even spend hours trying all the little tricks and tips you read online, including that one about standing on your head while drinking a glass of water. But sooner or later you’ll have to come back. Sooner or later that same headache inducing feeling will come back, and you will just have to deal with it. Don’t think other things won’t help. I have certainly tried many things that have helped me spur a new wave of inspiration, but in the end the best thing for me has been to sit back down and continue typing.
8. What is the best piece of advice you could give to teen writers who want to get published?
Start now. Don't wait until later to get out there and explore. Share your writing, enter contests, meet other writers. Time's a waistin' when you already know what you love to do.
Chocolate or peanut butter?
Cats or dogs?
Cats or dogs?
Dogs. Cats don't like me.
First draft or edits?
Melissa will be answering any questions you may have for her, so feel free to leave her a comment at the bottom of the post! :) Thanks for stopping by, Melissa!