I really love Lo’s world she created in “Ash”, but she’s gone to an entirely new level in this companion-prequel, “Huntress”, which takes place severa...moreI really love Lo’s world she created in “Ash”, but she’s gone to an entirely new level in this companion-prequel, “Huntress”, which takes place several hundred years before “Ash” does. Either way, the imagery, the setting, and most importantly, the romances, are on entirely new level of storytelling compared to the earlier work.
I loved “Ash”, but to be honest, I think I love “Huntress” more. Everything feels so much more honed and heightened compared to the previous work, and while they take place in two totally different time periods, they’re still in the same world. And the romance between Taisin and Kaede is fraught with “oh no, this is so not going to end well”, unlike the happy ending given to us in “Ash”. I love how Lo is completely unafraid to give us an gay romance AND also unafraid to tell us that sometimes, ultimately, there are no happy endings.
Regardless, this is the story of how the position of the King’s Huntress (as seen in “Ash”, the girl she ends up with in the end) is established. This is Kaede and Taisin’s story – of two girls separately treading two very different paths, and how those paths will meet and merge and split again and again. There’s not enough of this reality in YA romance lit as it is – sometimes there aren’t always happy endings, but there is a happy now you can take advantage of even if the ultimate fate of your relationship is doomed to fail. I applaud Lo for reminding the YA audience of this really unpleasant reality, but even more so in presenting it in a LGBTQ-friendly way. There’s definitely not enough YA LGBTQ-friendly paranormal lit out there as it is, either.
I can’t wait to see what Lo does next, and I hope she stays within this world she’s created. I’d like to know what happens to Kaede and Taisin after the events in “Huntress” – maybe a few years later or something. Will Kaede stick to her post, and Taisin to hers? Lo seemed to leave this open-ended, and while I love stories with open-ends (if you could call them that), I’d still like another story/novella/anything to take the audience closer to Ash’s time period and tie all of the loose ends together. I guess I’m a bit OCD like that about my stories.
Looking for a refreshing summer read where you don’t need to read the first novel first? Pick up “Huntress”, and immerse yourself into a world long gone but fondly remembered.
(crossposted to librarything, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
You guys, high/epic fantasy is having a hell of a year in YA. First "Shadow and Bone", then "Seraphina", then "Stormdancer" (more steampun...more4.5/5 stars.
You guys, high/epic fantasy is having a hell of a year in YA. First "Shadow and Bone", then "Seraphina", then "Stormdancer" (more steampunk/alt history than epic/high fantasy, but you know what I mean), and now "Throne of Glass"! I don't think I've seen such a great string of high/epic YA fantasy titles in one year released like this ever! "ToG" has been floating around online (through fictionpress) until Mass took it down in 2008, but I can see why it was so popular when it was a thing of the internets. Are you tired of your heroines being passive, self-loathing, and full of indecision? "Throne of Glass" is definitely something to cure what ails the weak heroine part of the YA market. While I admit that I am very, very sick of love triangles, the rest of the book more than made up for that bit of the plot. Girls, your assassin queen is here, and her name is Celaena.
What I loved most about this book? Celaena herself. While I still haven't gotten to the four prequel novellas that prepare us for the main part of this book, I adore how cocky Celaena is. She's awesome and she knows it. She's beautiful and she's not afraid to hide it. And she will take you down if you cross her. She knows she's the best and isn't afraid to show it. But at the same time, dealing with the horrors of Endovier and the things that are stalking her in the dark makes her vulnerable, and I like the way she handled that - with anger. She was strong, and she behaved, but only out of self-preservation (at least, at first, until she learned to trust certain people). Yet she gets her own story arc, so she does undergo character transformation by the end of the book - which is always important and sets up a lot left to be used for book 2.
I don't know whether I want to date her or be her, to be honest.
The worldbuilding - I could have used more of it, but I guess I'll have to read the prequels and the sequel to get the full flavor. I wish the prequels had been included in the main book as it might have given me a fuller sense of the world, but I did get one that was adequate enough to enjoy where and when I was - both externally (Endovier, the Palace, etc) and internally (the final battle against the Big Bad at the end of the book - a rare example of internal worldbuilding). The whodunnit mystery of the murders helped build the world up with the history of magic and the fae and humans and really just helped glue everything together. While I wish during the assassin trials things had been a little more geographically varied, I'm satisfied with what I got. It worked, and I'm hoping things can only get better from here.
The magic/fae element - LOVED this bit because it was so ambivalent until about halfway in. It all worked, especially with the internal worldbuilding and people from history coming into the picture. The final battle with the Big Bad was my favorite because we finally saw how much Celaena grew as a character throughout the book - she had allies, where she might have scorned them at the beginning of the book. Parts of that big fight definitely felt Whedonesque, I won't lie about that, and it was awesome.
The love triangle: the one downside to the book. Celaena falling for the prince felt very out of character, no matter how charming he was because of her past grudges against the crown. Chaol felt much more natural, and I wish Maas had stuck with him only. If anything, it felt like the triangle just kind of impeded things. HOWEVER, I do see why it was used (in terms of Celaena's character arc and her transformation by the end of the book). So I guess I can pardon this one. Plus all of the action, murder mystery, magic, and Celaena's badassery makes up for it and makes it tolerable.
Final verdict? If you're a high/epic fantasy fan or you just want a great, strong heroine, this book is definitely for you. "Throne of Glass" is a great new series, and I look forward to reading more of Celaena's capers in the future. Its place on my best of 2012 so far list is very well deserved indeed. "Throne of Glass" drops August 7, 2012 from Bloomsbury Kids USA in North America, so be sure to check it out then! Highly recommended!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
Wow. That’s pretty much all I can say after two days of processing an amazing ending that was NINE BOOKS in the making. If “Naamah’s Blessing” doesn’t...moreWow. That’s pretty much all I can say after two days of processing an amazing ending that was NINE BOOKS in the making. If “Naamah’s Blessing” doesn’t propel the “Kushiel’s Legacy” series into epic fantasy, I don’t know what will, or even what epic fantasy even is anymore. It really amazes me how Carey managed to tie up pretty much everything from the first book in the “Kushiel” series (“Kushiel’s Dart”) up until this last book in the series, number nine. Any loose ends that readers might have picked up at the end of each trilogy was brilliantly tied together by the end of “Naamah’s Blessing”. Seriously. Guys, this is talent. Any doubts I might have had about Carey as a writer are more or less absolutely gone now.
All I can hope, though, is that this isn’t the last we’ve heard of the “Kushiel’s Legacy” world. It seems that per trilogy time in that world progressed somewhere from 100-300 years from the last book of one trilogy to the first of a next. That’s just an estimate for me, but it felt about right. I think we started somewhere in what might be the mid-to-late 15th century in Kushiel’s Dart and ended in the 18th Century (or possibly the early 19th century). But the mirrors that Carey built from her world to ours (or perhaps the reverse) were striking in detail with nothing left to the imagination in terms of a firm and solid setting.
And it was good to see all of the old characters coming back in some way or another by the end of this book. It was good to see Moirin reflecting on not only her own journey, but the journey of humanity within the “Kushiel” world, and where it might be going. How in the end, we’re all connected, regardless of color, creed, etc. It seems too grandiose when I say it now, but if you read it, you’ll surely feel it on the same epic scale I did. This is the final message of the “Kushiel” series, should it choose to end here. And I really hope it doesn’t. Not by a long shot. I’d love to see what might turn out to be America in that other world, and the other countries, the wars, and everything that comes with them. I want to see the evolution of the people of Terre d’Ange to what they might be like today. If that makes sense.
If this is the end, then it’s a good ending. If not, it’s a fantastic place for a new story to begin. I can only hope it’s the former, though, because I’m addicted to the “Kushiel” world. Definitely one of my picks under the romantic fantasy catagory for 2011.
(posted to librarything, goodreads, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
Wow, I was not prepared for the last fifty pages of this book at ALL. Taylor proves herself a master at the magical reality/fantasy genre in “Daughter...moreWow, I was not prepared for the last fifty pages of this book at ALL. Taylor proves herself a master at the magical reality/fantasy genre in “Daughter of Smoke & Bone” and I can barely get the words out to tell you guys how much I loved this book. Everything about it was glorious, there was never a moment that had me bored or losing interest, and it’s a fabulous blend of all kinds of current myths and legends in one huge melting pot. If you’re going to read a magical reality/fantasy YA book this year that’s not about (traditional) angels/werewolves/etc, make it “Daughter of Smoke & Bone”
What I loved the most was the idea that angels are not connected to a Judeo-Christian god (even though Taylor takes a lot from Judaism myths about angels for this book), but rather, just to another universe where they co-exist with other races/species on a planet not too much unlike Earth (well, except for the flying and magic part, of course). Out of all of the angel-related YA books this year, I think that Taylor’s book is the only to raise this question/topic of other life in the universe, other universes close to ours. And then there is the question of why we wage war, and what can be done to stop war (even if those efforts may fail). It’s a serious topic that definitely demands our attention, but not until the second half of the book.
The first half – oh god, I so want to go to Prague now. I’ve never been to Europe (though I have galloped my way around Japan), and now I’m positively dying to go. The way Taylor writes her locations is so real that I can practically smell the alleys, feel the chill in the air from the snow, and taste the tea at Poison. She effectively makes her setting as a separate character, and that depends on where we are in this world – whether it be Paris, Prague, or Turkey. I’ve never been to any of those places, but Taylor took me there with her words, and that’s very difficult to pull off. I’m happy to say she way exceeded my expectations for this book, and not just in this aspect of things. Setting as character is hard to do in any kind of medium – be it in TV, film, traditional art, or writing. Many try and fail. But she breathes life into everything she touches, and it’s so refreshing to be immersed in, guys, I can’t even tell you.
After finishing this last night, I basically babbled to my mother for half an hour or more about it. Embarrassing. This doesn’t happen often. But it happened with Taylor’s book. Obviously I need to go read her other work now.
We’re left hanging as to whether Karou will forgive Akiva, so I’m dying to read another installment should it be coming (and I sincerely hope it does). Her characters are charismatic, even if they’re the villains, or the characters you love to hate. She makes them whole and real, and the scene with Zuzana’s marionette street theatre piece was so real I could practically hear the clicking of the marionette strings above her. It was lovely.
So obviously, I just can’t get enough of this book/world/author. But don’t take my word for it. “Daughter of Smoke & Bone” is due to hit shelves in North America on September 27th, later elsewhere (consult your local bookstore if you’re located elsewhere). Seriously. It’s worth the money, guys, so go buy it once it comes out.
(posted to librarything, goodreads, shelfari, and witch of theatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
“The Snow Queen” has definitely always made my top ten list for tales from Hans Christian Andersen. It’s hard to find YA fiction that u...more(Rating: 4.5/5)
“The Snow Queen” has definitely always made my top ten list for tales from Hans Christian Andersen. It’s hard to find YA fiction that uses that as its base and expands upon it, but Wendy Delsol really brought it when she published “Stork” last fall. “Stork” is hilarious in the same vein as other recent awesome YA pregnancy-related book “Bumped” (though without the sinister dystopian future behind it), and I found myself literally unable to stop reading this book. Yes, it was that good. But not without its pitfalls.
I guess I should get my nitpicks out of the way first. What distracted me from getting further into the story was Katla’s repeated name dropping of brands whenever she put an outfit together. Yeah, Katla, I get that brands are important to you and fashion’s even more important to you, but it’s pretty distracting trying to imagine your outfit when you mash all of these designers together. I notice that this happens more in the beginning of the book rather than the end, and I guess you could say the lack of name-dropping (and complaining about how she’s in the middle of nowhere, though that complaint is pretty valid as I’d feel the exact same way) ebbs as she accepts her place both in Norse Falls as a resident and her role in life as a Stork.
I have to hand it to Delsol – coming up with a mythology based on “The Snow Queen” that doesn’t completely center around a boyfriend-snatching woman is very difficult, but she did it. And she did it well. This is Katla’s story, not Katla-and-Jack’s story, and Delsol makes that point repeatedly throughout the book, even at the end when the “Snow Queen” part of the mythology really starts to come into play the most.
It’s so nice seeing a flexible YA protagonist that’s a girl – so many of them are resistant to everything until the very end of the book, but you see Katla already starting to give ground as she realizes how very important her role is in life (and, by proxy, how the world isn’t centered around her and her whims) in the latter part of act 1 of 3 of the book (if we’re going to divide it into acts, I guess you could say). It’s refreshing to see this quality in anyone these days, fictional or real, with a lack of an entitlement complex that so many have developed. At first, it was hard for me to sit still and not want to shout at Katla for being selfish about things concerning her mother, the divorce, and the Storks (and I can relate to the whole divorce/single child/parent relationship thing, too). But Delsol crafted her character to be a real girl, and real girls aren’t always so selfish and filled with entitlement complexes (unlike so much of the female-targeted YA lit that’s not dystopian or “dark” would have us believe). For that, I give Delsol major props.
I’m now reading the second book in this series, “Frost”, and even though I’m only a few pages in, I already love it. If you want a new kind of mythology that still builds off of the old, that makes the protagonist a real girl, and that also has the perfect, palatable amount of romance thrown in, choose “Stork”. I think you’ll like what you find.
(crossposted to librarything, goodreads, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
This one was a little hard for me to get through, guys. The writing was absolutely fantastic, but the pace was really sluggish, and that's...more3.5/5 stars.
This one was a little hard for me to get through, guys. The writing was absolutely fantastic, but the pace was really sluggish, and that's what took my score down. Otherwise, if you like high fantasy in your YA, Marillier's a virtuoso in her genre for the adult world and she's created a wonderful world for you to plunge into in "Shadowfell".
I've read parts of some of Marillier's novels before (her series are lying on Mr. Nook right now) - but that was a long while ago. I'd forgotten how Marillier crafts her book, and for me, it took awhile to get back into her style of prose in order for me to enjoy things. It's not a bad style, but it's a bit dense, and it unfurls slowly, letting you linger on things. For me, though, in this YA debut, I felt like in some places, we lingered a bit too long, and thus, the pace meandered between being too slow and too uneven for me to be patient with.
That, and much like in "Lord of the Rings", there's a LOT of walking that happens.
However, the rest of this book is crafted absolutely gorgeously. The world, the characters, the sensory imagery and language are all very rich, very detailed, and generally masterfully done. They all felt very, very real - the characters were well-rounded, complex, and sympathetic (both human and fairy), and the world was well-built and sturdy with lots of mythology backing it up. The sensory imagery brought Alban to life, as if I were there with Neryn making her journey right along with her.
So why only 3.5 stars? The dense prose, while very rich and lovely, along with the stuttering pace, really had my mind wandering quite a bit. I'm definitely going to be reading book two, and hopefully by then, I'll be more used to the style used. "Shadowfell" is out now from Random House in North America, so be sure to check it out!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
I’ve always loved the idea of dragons – I even asked my mom for one (yeah, instead of a pony) for a birthday one year. Sadly, she couldn’t oblige. But...moreI’ve always loved the idea of dragons – I even asked my mom for one (yeah, instead of a pony) for a birthday one year. Sadly, she couldn’t oblige. But I still love ‘em, and the idea of were-dragons, as it were, is even more interesting than regular dragons. In the first book in this series, we were introduced to the race known as the Draki, were-dragons hiding from humans and trying to survive. Now we come back to the world of the Township and the Draki, where Jacinda is now paying for her “crimes” against her own race, and for following her heart. While this was a wonderful sequel, there were a few points that stuck in my craw a bit, but otherwise, it’s definitely worth the read.
First, I have to say that I literally stood up and cheered when Tamra finally manifested for the first time (spoiler: pretty sure that’s her on the cover). Her manifesting literally changed the game within the pride and its social ranking, and thus set the scene for the rest of the book (to go even further, for the rest of the series). When dragged back to Township, it was nice seeing that even though she was having to adjust to the shock of finally manifesting, she gained more confidence and was the only person who really stuck by Jacinda the whole time. I think this gave her more courage than what she might have had as just a human, and it was a very sly move on Jordan’s part in order to give Tamra’s mini-arc a kick in the pants forward into change.
Second, I kind of wanted to kick Jacinda in the face for 1) wallowing in self-pity for the first half of the book (though under the circumstances, I probably would have done the same) and 2) for trusting Will once more (and I won’t go further, lest I spoil you all). Maybe because I’ve never truly been that much “in love”, but I just wanted to scream at her to stop it. Even in captivity, she and her sister are now the (literal) genetic treasures of the entire pride, so they should just act like it. Tamra did that for her, which made me love her even more.
Regardless of my irks with the characters, this book really kept me on the edge of my seat the entire book. Once Jacinda finally snapped out of it and realized how awesome she was once more, it was another standing ovation from me (or rather, a standing and yelling ovation) to the book and its world. There is no safe harbor in Township, none. Nada. Zip. And I think, to a certain extent, this is Jordan’s message to her readers – sometimes, within families, you can’t get away, ever. Not if you keep identifying as apart of it. Once you figure out who you are (as opposed to what you are), you’re free. It really is that simple, though the process leading up to that realization isn’t, not one bit.
As for the ending – what a cliffhanger. Yet at the same time, I feel like I’ve watched all of the characters involved within the ending grow up throughout the entire book at a far faster and more significant clip as compared to the first book. And that kind of character develop makes me on happy reader. Hats off to you, Jordan, for making a sequel almost more enjoyable than the first book! Now keep it up in the third book and we’ll be square.
So, if you want a sequel that definitely exceeds expectations, go for “Vanish” and take a flying leap of faith off a cliff with the rest of the Draki for some dragon-filled fun.
(posted to goodreads, librarything, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)