{Blog Tour} Stray by Rachel Craw Review & Author Interview

Friday, 4 September 2015

23784978Stray by Rachael Craw
Series: Spark #2
Released: 1st September 2015
Published by: Walker Books Australia
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 425
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads | Bookworld | Booktopia
It’s hard to remember hating anything as much as I hate Affinity; a bone-deep loathing for the faceless unknown and the concrete walls of my own DNA.

 Evie is a Shield: designed to kill in order to protect, and the Affinity Project have finally come for her. But Evie isn’t ready for the sinister organisation to take control of her life, her body, her mind. She isn’t ready to follow their rules about who may live and who must die – not when it condemns the innocent. She has one option: risk losing everything and everyone – including Jamie – and run.
Thank you to Walker Books Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Spark totally reinvigorated my interest in the YA sci-fi genre, and in this second installment of the trilogy, Rachael Craw has once again blown me away with her awesome storytelling skills and creating a plot which is action-packed and dynamic from the word go. Not only is Stray building on the foundations of its predecessor in terms of the worldbuilding, but the characters have been through so much and now have even more difficult decisions to make. In all, what you get is a book which you can't put down because it will grab you with the kick-ass scenes, make you swoon with the romance, and shock with the inevitable twists to come. Brace yourselves folks!

Don't say I didn't warn you

In Spark there were some detailed references to Affinity and how all the sciency-stuff worked between Synergists and Harvesting etc. - but Stray really ups the ante and this is where the organisation gets really involved. This is where worldbuilding and the creation of a concept can shine, where us readers can grasp the ins and outs of what is happening to the characters and the multiple dilemmas they face. Evie is placed in an even more difficult situation than ever, especially having to deal with the responsibility of harnessing the abilities she has and using them for good. With some new characters on the scene and tensions running high, there's certainly never a dull moment in this book and even with all the information the pacing never slows. 

To break this up though is where the writing style makes this an easy read. I LOVE some good humour and witty dialogue which makes this a fun read above all. Rachael Craw's interjections of normalcy, like a Halloween party at the beginning with some cheeky references, or Kitty's little quirks make the whole novel that much more relatable. This isn't hardcore sci-fi, but then again it isn't meant to be. This is has become a series that seamlessly melds normal life with a big dose of something special to create the perfect balance.

Of course, there's also the relationships to consider. This is a time where the romance doesn't take centre stage, but also has its special role to play. Evie and Jamie are really good for each other (despite the fainting), and though they face challenges along the way I think it's important to see that their bond is realistic and is different from many others considering the Synergist side. He's not someone who would ever take advantage of her, and she is a strong character on her own who continuously seeks to do what is best for her family and friends; both commendable qualities.

But wait - it's not JUST the romantic kinds of relationships in this case either. Stray goes deeper than that and looks at the special dynamics between best friends, parents and children, and colleagues as well.

I love this insight from Miriam on pg. 60
It's all about trust and inconceivable decisions to have to make, trying to stay alive and protect those they love. It's this multitude of character developments and links which makes the story so compelling. Although, with great love can also come great sorrow - and all I'm going to say is once again - be prepared for ALL THE FEELS.


Stray met and exceeded my high expectations, leaving me reeling and seriously NEEDING Shield - the finale in the trilogy coming in 2016. Rachael Craw has done a fantastic job crafting this series into the masterpiece it has become so far, and I can't wait to see where it goes next.

Author Q&A with Rachael Craw!

I have to say, STRAY was absolutely A-MAZING! I didn't think it could be any better than SPARK was, but wow it really delivered. What would be the one thing you would say to people about to read this book - how should they prepare?

Thanks Eugenia, I’m thrilled you enjoyed it! Oh crumbs, I’m not sure how readers should prepare, ha! In the promo-letter that went out with the ARCs I joked that readers ought to carbo-load and brace themselves.

I felt like Stray took it out of me in the experience of writing it, that it dragged me out into deep water, gave me a pounding and left me for dead on the rocks. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Stray is probably more intense than Spark and certainly darker. Evie is really taken to the brink in this story.

Jamie is of course one of the best book-boyfriends around (well, he is genetic perfection), but every hero has at least one flaw - what's his?

This question reminded me of a passage I wrote describing Jamie, years ago, and it never made it into Spark. It was a comment about the Gallagher men and that they don’t easily forgive. Jamie carries a tremendous sense of responsibility which makes him a bit of a control freak and this stems from a deep rooted fear that he will not be able to protect the people he loves.This is Jamie’s unbearable feeling and when this fear is poked it makes him lash out.

Evie is also a really strong character, and I love her fierce determination to do what's right by the people she loves. Where did you find the inspiration for her character?

Evie’s character evolved quickly for me. I started with grief because it was the first thing I knew about her, that she had just recently lost her mother. I used myself as the basis for the way she deals with grief. Not so much how I manage it now but how I remembered dealing with it as a teenager. I couldn’t bear to share my grief with anyone after my grandfather died when I was 16. I refused to let anyone see me cry. I was a bury-it-deep-until-it-becomes-a-stomach-ulcer type of kid. (Not any more, I assure you. I’m a very healthy crier!) I also have Evie’s aversion to unwanted attention but she is far more reserved and cautious with people than I am. Evie is not gregarious. Once I had those elements established, as someone suffering grief, I let her lighter side shine through the cracks. You see her warmth and sense of humour in her relationship with Miriam and Kitty. Jamie pushes lots of buttons for Evie, with their history and all, but she also gets to be her true self with him in her strength and vulnerability.

I would also say Evie has a highly developed sense of justice, she has zero tolerance for bullies (Richard Dean, Robert Knox) which is also a trait of mine, I guess. She has courage I could only dream of. There was a line I cut from Stray where Ethan Tesla comments on Evie and Jamie being as stubborn as each other and unafraid of pain. Evie says, “I’m afraid of pain.” Ethan responds, “The fear of pain does not keep you from doing what you have set your mind to do.” (I deeply admire this trait as I am a gigantic wuss.) But Ethan’s right, Evie and Jamie are motivated by the same driving sense of fear and need to protect the people they love.

The concept around the 'Affinity Project' and sci-fi elements of this series are really well thought-out and original. With so many other YA novels out in this genre, how hard is it to make new novels 'stand out from the crowd'?

It’s not something I gave any conscious thought to. My only concern was writing the best story I could. I spent a lot of time growing the world of the Affinity Project by inquiry. I wanted to understand what made them tick, how they started, what their motivations were, how the Fixation Effect changed everything. I spent huge amounts of time asking questions and refusing to be content until I had all the answers. I needed the world of the story and the sci-fi premise to be absolutely water-tight for me to suspend my disbelief and throw myself into Evie’s narrative. But I would say a crucial element for me as a writer and reader, to consider a book a standout, is the sense of authentic voice in characterisation. This includes dialogue and interior monologue. I need to believe the character’s voice to invest.

I know after writing these two fantastic books there are some really excited readers out there who would love to be authors too - what advice would you give aspiring writers?

Read a lot. Work hard on developing your craft. Dream big. Get help. Learn to receive criticism. Trust the creative process. It’s a long tough road but it’s worth it.

And finally - we're all dying to know what happens in SHIELD - can you give us just a tiny hint at what's to come?

Hmmm … Post-traumatic stress. Exclusion. Threats. Search for validation. Assignment. Sparking. Secrets. Worst fears. All. Hell. Breaking. Loose. Kissing. Telepathy. Telekinesis. Nudity. Dreams. Death. Love. Family. Heartbreak. Choices. Will that do?

Check out the other stops on the Tour!

September 1
September 2
September 3
September 4
September 5
September 6
September 7

@RachaelCraw | RachaelCraw.com | Subscribe to Rachael's Newsletter http://rachaelcraw.com/subscribe/ 


  1. Eugenia, your review is just so beautifully written. I am so massively delighted that you loved. Thank you for your kind words and OMGOSH your Stray graphic is gorgeous!

    1. Aww thanks Rachael! It really blew me away, can't wait for SHIELD :D

  2. AHHH THIS WAS SO FABULOUS! And I loved and adored the interview questions, Eugenia! (Really unique and thoughtful ones *nods*) and omg am I desperate for Shield or what. Those teaser words on what it'll be about...*hyperventilate and dies*

    1. Thanks Cait! OMG I think it's going to be a-mazing :) *looks for a time-turner to make it 2016 already*

    Actually this now inspires me to finish with homework today (I have the rest of the weekend and I've already done 6 hours) and go READ MORE STRAY!!!!
    Great review Eugenia!!!! And good work to Rach!!!!

    1. Good! Glad this could act as some motivation :) Go the #SparkArmy, I think we're already set for 2016! (in excitement anyway)

  4. EXCELLENT INTERVIEW QUESTIONS, EUGENIA. And omg, perfect Loki gif use for the Shield teasers - A++++ for that :D

    1. Haha I saw it and went 'now that's the one!'. Thanks Em :)

    And those teasers...*faints*

    Great review/interview :)

    1. Haha TRUE! It sounds fabulous already...time to start counting down the days again until the release ;)


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