Okay, so I'm a sucker for anything Anno does, so I went and bought this first-run special edition for this final volume of the manga, too. And I'm glaOkay, so I'm a sucker for anything Anno does, so I went and bought this first-run special edition for this final volume of the manga, too. And I'm glad I did - we get a different cover, a complete-set manga holder you can build (you can check my instagram @thatusagiko for progress), a mini-artbook with new art from the REBUILD series as well as the old series, and a CD that the artist for the manga made (I still need to listen to it) all bundled together. The art is wonderful, and I couldn't be happier.
I'm really sad this run is over, and that the North American edition will NOT be getting this version for release (instead, Viz has been frantically putting together a final 3-in-1 omnibus that has volumes 12-14 in it), and that release has been pushed back until February 2015. I'll still be reading the translation, though.
For those who hated "End of Evangelion", well, I'm trying not to spoil you, but if you've been reading, you'll see where things in the manga have been going. It's had slight (but in some areas, very important) changes compared to the TV show, and this final volume is no exception. There's also a nod to the REBUILD series in the extra little chapter at the end, which made me really happy. All in all? A fantastic ending, and I think EoE haters will be a little happier with this deliciously different canon (since the manga is canon, right, guys? right?) ending. ...more
While this one started off kind of slow, "The Winner's Curse" is one of those books that sneaks up on you and won't let go until the very last page. IWhile this one started off kind of slow, "The Winner's Curse" is one of those books that sneaks up on you and won't let go until the very last page. It's almost a remarkable leap when compared to "The Shadow Society" in terms of nearly every technical area of writing. Plus, you have a wonderful high fantasy/political intrigue that would make George R R Martin quite proud. "The Winner's Curse" is definitely one of my favorites of 2014 so far, and for good reason. I'm definitely hungering for that next book. NOW.
Holy wow. This is a very hard review to write - I have to agree with other reviewers when they say that it's hard to really write reviews for Leigh'sHoly wow. This is a very hard review to write - I have to agree with other reviewers when they say that it's hard to really write reviews for Leigh's books, because they just kind of knock the wind out of you, they're so good, yet they leave you totally incoherent with it. All I can say is if you liked "Shadow and Bone"? You will LOVE "Siege and Storm". I know I did. The stakes are higher, your book boyfriend/girlfriend harem will grow by several characters, and there's a lot more character exploration in general. Oh, and new magical monsters. Yes, yes, yes. I need that next novella and book three NOW. Definitely up there in my top five faves of 2013, "Siege and Storm" is nothing short of breathtaking and will leave you aching for more.
I think my favorite part of this book is the deeper examination of Alina's character, and how no one gets away with being black or white, but with a very wide gray range of "darkness" or "evil" (depending on the situation). I'm trying to write this review without spoilers, but it's pretty difficult. So I'll try to minimize them as best I can. Alina definitely goes through a very interesting personal character journey arc throughout the entire book, and if book one was about discovering/unblocking memories of her true identity as a Grisha, then book two is all about really understanding what her role is, and in turn, learning how to deal with that role and everything that comes with it. With the aid of new characters like Sturmhond (more on him later), and good ol' Mal, we get a very deep, dark look at what Alina's going through - a continuing push-pull of "I want power/I don't want power" as she fights with the idea of going after the other two animals that create amplifiers - the Seawhip and the Firebird. I won't spoil any further than that, but let's just say that all of the initial interactions with Sturmhond do set the rather reflective and contemplative tone for this installment of the trilogy.
There's also the world expansion - we travel outside of Ravka for the first time, both by land and sea, and we see what life in these other countries/kingdoms are like compared to that of Ravka. We also get some "this is what's happened since the end of book one" information about Ravka - what the Shadow Fold has become, and how things have really changed in terms of who has power, who's been overthrown, and who's looking to get back into their seat of power. It's soldier against soldier, Grisha against Grisha, and it's absolutely brutal. But the little we do get to see of these other lands (and of the parts that are bordering Ravka) are nothing less than stunning - especially the scenes on the sea with Sturmhond. Those were among my favorites of the novel. Absolutely breathtaking in terms of sensory imagery and language - an area I didn't think Bardugo could get any better in, but she DID.
And then there's the characters. Sturmhond is by far my favorite in this book (alongside the Darkling, of course) - another character with a double identity, and a double agenda. He's absolutely wonderful, even at the times you just want to throttle him. I don't talk too often about book boyfriends/girlfriends, but man, if I had a harem? Sturmhond and Darkling would find themselves in there faster than you could say Jack Robinson. All of the characters get a tune-up this time around, and they're all a great contrast to Alina, really showing how isolated she's become in her role as the Sun Summoner and also highlighting her struggle just to find simple human contact with another person that's not out for her power, her prestige, or anything attached to her role as a Grisha. My heart really kind of hurt for her throughout this book, especially with seeing how happy she was in the beginning, outside of Ravka with Mal.
And then of course, there's that ENDING. And we're not going into that because I'm going to need a great deal of kvas to even think about talking about it.
Final verdict? This is a stunning follow-up to book one, which was insanely awesome in its own right. Definitely one of my favorites of 2013 and a must-read for the YA high fantasy genre, I seriously can't recommend the Grisha trilogy enough - and if you haven't started yet, what's stopping you? "Siege and Storm" will be out June 4th, 2013 from Macmillan in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance. Also watch for a review battle between me and co-blogger Ashleigh Paige before the blog tour stop on May 31st, 2013!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
WOW. This book so wasn't what I thought it was going to be - and that's not a good or a bad thing, just a "what the hell did I just read?4.5/5 stars!
WOW. This book so wasn't what I thought it was going to be - and that's not a good or a bad thing, just a "what the hell did I just read? And can I have some more?" thing. It's rare that I get books that confuse, bemuse, and dazzle me, and "In the Shadow of Blackbirds" is definitely one of those books. If you're looking for something fresh and new within the YA paranormal department that has a firm foot in reality and history, definitely check out "In the Shadow of Blackbirds".
To say that "nothing is what it seems" in this book is a total understatement. I was totally unprepared going in, and this was a good thing - especially considering that ending (which I won't be spoiling). I did NOT see that coming, and honestly, I didn't see most of what was coming in the big reveals or major plot twists department. Which made me cheer - because it feels like there's getting less and less of actual mystery to be kept in one's arcs and plots in YA as of late. There's so many twists and turns in this one, there was only one plot twist I could even vaguely see coming down the road (because it was an inevitability more than anything else), but everything else, especially the ending, really had me gasping for breath. No pun intended.
I'm also happy to see that Winters really did her research when it came to all of the major areas of the plot of this book - WWI, Spanish Flu, and the last gasp of the American Spiritualism movement, which I had no idea had lasted so late into the Edwardian age. This book is thick with realistic history overlaid with a sinister feel of fear and paranoia that was authentic to that year, that age with both the flu and the war bearing down on the US. The atmosphere to the book felt genuinely authentic, and seeing as I'm a SoCal resident myself (and have been in San Diego/around Coronado before), she got everything right. And that always makes me happy.
So with the combination of good research and knowledge of the area of which she was writing about, Winters creates a marvelous world for all of us to play in. The worldbuilding and character building are top notch, and definitely impressed me for a debut. It's all very thorough, and all of the characters (even the most minor bits of the main cast) are very sturdy and 3D. All can hold water (as it were) and are complex, all with their own motives on how to survive both the war and the pandemic (and in some cases, even to thrive, or come out on top of both). They're all deliciously layered, and just when you think you have the antagonist figured out? BAM, said the lady, it all turns around on you.
Also, I love how this is a semi-retelling of "Frankenstein". Semi-retelling. Not entirely, but it took me awhile to actually see it. I see what you did there, Winters. Very, very clever, and it'll have you asking (just like in the original "Frankenstein") - who are the real monsters? Who are the real enemies? Who can we really trust?
What I loved the most is that this is not the feel good read of the year - but it is one of the more important ones. It'll show you how far humans will sink (even as Mary Shelley says in the book) to survive. Conversely, it'll also show you hope and strength in the absolute worst of times, and is almost a Darwinian tale of survival, as the real 1918 flu was. So yeah, you might need to curl up with your blankie and favorite stuffed guy after this one, because it's not happy.
But all in all? I adored this book. Definitely one of my favorite debuts of 2013 so far, "In the Shadow of Blackbirds" is out now through Amulet/Abrams in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
I absolutely ADORED this and can't imagine any other ending. People hating on the author due to ship wars need to stop, because this was really well-wI absolutely ADORED this and can't imagine any other ending. People hating on the author due to ship wars need to stop, because this was really well-written. And that's what should be what matters most. I can't wait for the prequel!...more
Wow. Helen really takes a beating in this one, guys! I love how Angelini isn’t afraid to torture her characters, and the payoff is huge. Yeah, there’sWow. Helen really takes a beating in this one, guys! I love how Angelini isn’t afraid to torture her characters, and the payoff is huge. Yeah, there’s a love triangle, and I usually hate those, but Angelini really did a good job with this one, and made it work within the plot to really boost all of the sub-arcs and character journey arcs as well as the main arc. Make no mistake – “Dreamless” shows how far Angelini has come within the short span of a year, and shows how far she’s willing to go to make her stories unforgettable.
We get deeper into how the Furies seek their revenge and how the divergence of Greek and Roman myths further complicates the whole Hundred Cousins fleet that’s after Helen and the Delos family (and each other) in this book – and it makes for some fantastic worldbuilding that reinforces even more how dire the situation is, how much higher the stakes are for all of our heroes in this book. We delve deeper into the legend of Helen of Troy and “The Iliad” as we see Helen and Orion fighting together in the underworld, as well as see Helen’s mother Daphne make some surprising alliances without really truly knowing her endgame – and it all makes for a really explosive last third of the book with a really nice big payoff, setting things up nicely for the third (and hopefully not the last) book.
As I said before, I usually really am not into love triangles, but Josie worked it hard here, and made it all work so that in the end we know that Helen definitely still loves Lucas, but, as it seems to me, loves Orion more like a brother despite what happened when the Furies overtook them both. Incest being a major theme in both this series and classical Greek literature, it’s also heavily discussed in this book. So if this is your squick, be prepared for lots of talking about it and lots of self-torture on Helen’s part over her attraction to both Lucas and Orion over it. It’s fascinating how Helen tortures herself over it instead of giving into it – her blood debts with Lucas are paid, after all, and in a lot of places, it’s okay to marry your first cousin. So the question is – why doesn’t she give in? I’m curious about this, and would love to pick Angelini’s brain about it should I get the chance.
What was also great was finally including Claire and Matt more into things – this was badly needed after the ending of book one, but at the same time, even though they’re human, I feel like Claire out of the two of them wasn’t used to her full potential. Matt gets a pretty large role at the end of this book (I won’t say what or how – read it for yourself!) but it seems like Claire was neglected greatly here, and, to a certain extent, treated as if she were made of glass because she was mortal. I’m wondering why Angelini went this route, and maybe if Claire’s most at risk in the next book. Otherwise, I’m a bit puzzled as to why she was treated so gently when it’s clear that at times she was stronger than Helen when it came to a lot of things.
And the final kind of sad character arc transformation that I thought Angelini did brilliantly here – Cassandra turning into The Oracle. The way she painted the picture of this girl becoming something completely inhuman in such a short amount of time was absolutely heartbreaking, yet completely feasible in this situation. I hope she gets a larger part in book three, because she definitely deserves it. And I have the feeling she will, because of that final explosive last third of the book with Orion, Helen, and Lucas concerning the War of the End Times beginning.
I feel like everyone’s character here got sketched out a bit more fully, and a bit more rounded out. We got to see other places, and that filled out the world in the setting capacity even more. This feels like a fully functional real world now, and I can see the War coming, and it isn’t going to be pretty. I enjoyed watching the evolution of everyone and everything in this world in this book immensely and I just seriously can’t wait for book three now.
Best of all? NO MIDDLE BOOK SYNDROME. PARTY AT MY PLACE!
Final verdict? If you haven’t read the first book already, you must read it before this one. You must read it, period! This is on my best of 2012 list, and it’s just…well, at times, breathtaking. Sounds cheesy? Yeah, but it’s also the only way I can really express “all the feels” that couldn’t be held here when it comes to Angelini and her craft. “Dreamless” is out from HarperTeen in North America May 29, 2012 so be sure to pick up a copy then. Middle books of 2012 are on a roll this year, and “Dreamless” is just one more awesome book in that catagory. This is really worth the read, guys.
(posted to goodreads, librarything, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more