If you hated Throne of Glass because the supposedly violent assassin acted out Cinderella instead of Buffy, then you'll absolutely adore Crown of Mi...moreIf you hated Throne of Glass because the supposedly violent assassin acted out Cinderella instead of Buffy, then you'll absolutely adore Crown of Midnight. Rare is it these days, that an author will read critical reviews such as mine and actually make a concerted effort to make their readers happy by upping their game. And boy, did Ms. Maas raise the bar.
Let's address the issues that I brought up in my 2-star review of the debut.
Poorly constructed insta-love love triangle: Quashed. Winner is determined.
He would move on. Because he would not be like the ancient kings in the song and keep her for himself. She deserved a loyal, brave knight who saw her for what she was and did not fear her. And he deserved someone who would look at him like that, even if the love wouldn't be the same, even if the girl wouldn't be her. So Dorian closed his eyes, and took another long breath. And when he opened his eyes, he let her go. [p119]
Dorian shows surprising maturity and with the help of Celaena's bestie, Princess Nehemia, he attempts to move on without bitterness leaving the well-suited Chaol to win her affection.
"Don't cause trouble for them. You and I... We will always stand apart. We well always have... responsibilities. We will always have burdens that no one else can ever understand. That they" - she inclined her head toward Chaol and Celaena - "will never understand. And if they did, then they would not want them."
They would not want us, is what you mean. [p135]
Chaol and Celaena's romance deepens and heats up, finally culminating in consummation. 18-year-old Celaena was a virgin, and though it hurt, afterwards she was 'Tired but happy.' And in love. She felt whole and full of hope - something she'd never felt before.
The spoilt prince: Grows Up.
Dorian stands up to his father by opposing his proposal to expand the slave camps filled with the innocent of conquered foreign lands. Dorian's rage brings out his magic that he never knew he had and is desperate to hide it from everyone so he can't be executed by his father, the King. Dorian knows he's vastly outnumbered when it comes to his father's council, and yet he begins to fight back anyway. I worry about his newly arrived cousin. That guy has been positioned to become Dorian's confidant - he agrees with everything the prince says, while plotting behind his back.
An inconsistent heroine: Blood, death, intrigue - all on stage - and not a dress in sight. Celaena's far more tactful, except for a major and understandable incident - more on that later.
Celaena reached a gloved hand into the sack and tossed the severed head toward him. No one spoke as it bounced, a vulgar thudding of stiff and rotting flesh on marble. It rolled to a stop at the foot of the dais, milky eyes turned toward the ornate glass chandelier overhead.
Pages 221-3 of the UK paperback depict the most beautifully written fight scene - Celaena against multiple opponents as she infiltrates a building to save a kidnapped Chaol. Bloody and violent, yet graceful and beautiful. What follows is brilliantly written - more on this below.
"Enough! We have enough enemies as it is! There are worse things out there to face!" Calaena slowly turned to him, her face splattered with blood and eyes blazing bright. "No, there aren't." she said. "Because I'm here now."
Predictable: Much less so now. You get a feeling about certain people and situations but nothing is so painfully obvious that you're frustrated at what seems a slow pace or the ignorance of any characters. And there's a major incident I didn't see coming that has sad and disheartening ramifications - more on that in a moment.
'I wanted more action, politics and mystery...': I got all of these. There was no way I was DNFing this one.
****HUGE SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT****
Part II Nehemia's death. Celaena runs full speed to Nehamia's aid when she found out about the threat to her best friend's life via Archer and Chaol, only to find a corpse in Nehamia's now blood spattered rooms, obviously tortured before she was killed. This tips our heroine into the blinding rage and agony of grief.
They had done this. Her bloody fingers slid down Dorian's face. to his neck. He just stared at her, suddenly still. "Celaena," that familiar voice said. A warning. They had done this. They had betrayed her. Betrayed Nehemia. They had taken her away. Her nails brushed Dorian's exposed throat. "Celaena," the voice said. Celaena slowly turned. Chaol stared at her, a hand on his sword. The sword she's brought to the warehouse - the sword she'd left there. Archer had told her that Chaol had known they were going to do this. He had known. She shattered completely, and launched herself at him.
It's absolutely heartbreaking, and I felt every second of it.
"You will never be my friend. You will always be my enemy." She bellowed that last word with such soul-deep hatred that he felt it like a punch to the gut.
Dorian accidentally uses magic to stop Celaena's blade from stabbing and killing Chaol. It turned out Archer had Nehemia killed - Celaena kills him.
Celaena can't bare to live without Nehemia so she tries to bring her back to life, all the while Nehemia's last words to her at the end of an argument ringing in her ears:
"You are nothing more than a coward."
Risking life and limb for others who've done nothing for her, isn't in Celaena's nature. Going against the King is to court the possible pain and death of those she's come to love. Understandably, relative safety is a valuable commodity to her. Nehemia challenging this hurt her deeply because she may seem a hardened, almost unfeeling assassin on the outside but her personal history has left her soft and vulnerable on the inside.
By opening a portal, Celaena is able to speak to Nehemia one last time where the princess reveals her level of dedication to her people; her last act of bravery, the ultimate self-sacrifice - her death would bring them hope of a better future.
"You will not understand yet, but... I knew what me fate was to be, and I embraced it. I ran toward it. Because it was the only way for things to begin changing, for events to be set in motion."
Chaol finds out Celaena is part fae (she can shift between forms) and has a shit-ton of raw magic. Chaol trades his position and a chance to be with Celaena again to send her away - back to the safety of the fae. He made a deal with his father - he has to return to his homeland to be heir again.
In the process, Chaol makes an enemy of Dorian because Dorian doesn't know she's fae with magic, too dangerous to be so close to the King, who executes magic users. Her mission is to execute the royal family of a land yet to fall to Dorian's father.
As Celaena is sailing away she gives Chaol a clue as to her real identity; his research reveals: she's the last queen of Terrasen - the only person who rally an army large enough to defeat Dorian's father.
I'm incredibly impressed by this sequel. The series has gone from 'abandoned' - until I heard about the improvements in this one - to 'must read the next one'. I will say, I'm disappointed that Chaol and Celaena have been broken apart by his mistake, grief and now distance, but it was done so well that I can't 'hate' this development. Bring on book #3 of 6, Heir of Fire.(less)
By reading Eternity Embraced I was hoping to finally finish the series with Ecstasy Unveiled. Unfortunately, dipping my toes back into the Demonica universe again with Eternity Embraced wasn't the motivator I was hoping it to be.
I expected too much, for starters. This is a mid-series short story - those can be notoriously unfulfilling. Adding 'paranormal romance' into the mix can result in tired cliches, which I've apparently outgrown. On the positive side, the couple were together before the events in this story take place, meaning there's no 'love at first sight'. On the other hand, these characters are completely new and hail from an Aegis Guardian cell in Portland, bringing little to the Demonica universe which is primarily based in New York City, though the main couple featured in the debut novel do appear at the end.(less)
Assassins are cool. Super powers, who wouldn't want some? That this is set outside the US and the UK, a huge plus. So what went wrong?
Early on I assum...moreAssassins are cool. Super powers, who wouldn't want some? That this is set outside the US and the UK, a huge plus. So what went wrong?
Early on I assumedAcross the Nightingale Floor had been translated due to inconsistent, simple and superficial language. And I wasn't alone in my thinking. However, a quick search revealed the author to have been born and raised a few miles from where I live in England.
Very little emotion is shown by Takeo, our hero, despite what should've been some harrowing scenes in the beginning in which he lost his entire family in the massacre of his village, witnessed by him. Balancing 'show' and 'tell' is a common problem and unfortunately there's far too much 'tell' than there really should be. Long conversations, flimsy explanations and detailed summaries are shortcuts used here contributing to a severe lack of depth concerning Takeo's character and a level of unreadability to his chapters as I was unable to connect or sympathise with him.
On the other hand, Kaede, our heroine, manages to engender sympathy for her plight right away. Her chapters were noticeably different in quality, contained more action and the feminist-themed commentary was intriguing.
"Even beauty is dangerous for a woman. Better not to be desired by men."
Again and again this is proved in this patriarchal, feudal Japan. Including superstitious nonsense regarding the powers of women cursing men just by being arbitrarily associated with them. If a man happens to die at the hands of the woman he tried to rape it's the would-be rapist's fault, not the woman's. That's the social norm of the time period this is set it.
Kaede's insta-love at first sight towards Takeo and its reciprocation turned me off for it's commonality and overuse amongst young adult novels but THT suggested it could be taken as "fated to be mated". I think, in the end, it was a mixture of both. Their relationship was engineered to be Shigeru and Maruyama's history repeating itself, an ill-fated one where being together would mean death. Our hope this second time around is that they'll finally be reunited and gain a happy-ever-after. For me, this isn't something I like, this repetition in the vain hope all will work out in spite of history attesting to that fact it most likely will not. I can see the poetic beauty and note the tragic Shakespearean nature of these circumstances, though I can't appreciate them here, not with this writing. And certainly not when it looks like the other books will draw out the angst-ridden will-they-or-won't-they. No, thank you.
Hearn gives away her ending early on via heavy foreshadowing. Predictablity isn't something I'm a fan of, although I am grateful the author didn't go full Romeo and Juliet on her characters, close call though it was. I'm also glad the issue of sex wasn't glossed over or ignored. Sex was heard, had with prostitutes, and had next to a rapidly cooling corpse in what must've been a blood-spattered room and clothing. Sexy.
Usually I'm an ardent lover of politics and dastardly machinations, I wasn't in this case. I had zero invested in the plot and no side ever revealed itself to be a favorable one to champion. Takeo, Shigeru, Iida, Kenji and the Tribe. I hoped for nothing. No, I tell a lie. I hoped they'd all die quickly so I could finish the damn book and move on.
As super secrets assassins go I wasn't terribly impressed with the Tribe. Like everyone else they had an agenda, not one I could get behind, and possessed no members I could warm to. They were petty and patronising with no respect for free will, what's to like about that? Their skills were only mildly paranormal, mostly standard stuff to use to fight, escape and evade: enhanced strength and hearing, fast reflexes, creating temporary shadow doppelgangers to distract, and hypnotic gazes that can send you to sleep. Out of all the assassin scenes Takeo's acts of mercy were the ones to make a good impression on me and a bad one on Kenji, Takeo's teacher:
"It's that softness he has," Kenji said. "It drives him to act from compassion, even when he kills."
Villain, Iida, is defeated unbelievably fast and easy. You could argue a stroke of luck, a fortuitous accident, if you will. Not in my eyes. Iida lost his credibility as a convincing foe in the moment he was beaten. For someone so completely paranoid and obsessed about security he underestimated his opponents and ignored possible threats, not just the one that brought him down either.
I understand what the author was trying to achieve with Across the Nightingale Floor and no doubt it would make for a beautiful, graceful yet tragic movie. As a book, it failed to seduce me. Reading shouldn't be hard work. Just skimming I struggled to stop my eyes from glazing over in utter boredom until the last 20% when the pace picks up. I couldn't, in good conscience, recommend this to anyone.
Dragons. So that's what the Mayans were talking about. 2012 is the year of the fire-breathing, human-killing dragon. It's true. The Chinese came to th...moreDragons. So that's what the Mayans were talking about. 2012 is the year of the fire-breathing, human-killing dragon. It's true. The Chinese came to the same conclusion.
Previously thought to be mythological beings will rise up and decimate the human population. The best of the best of the military, the Marines -the epitome of "Protect and Serve" decide it's survival of the fittest and seem to believe the marauding Vikings had it right: rape, pillage and plunder, and occasionally slay a dragon.
25 years on and their actions have wiped out many a surviving community. There are rumours about: a) the Marines stealing not only resources and women but dead bodies too, and b) the existence of Dragon Warriors, men who wield heavy swords made of diamonds -the only weapon that can pierce their tough hides, supposedly used by the Marines. This puzzles and upsets Rain, our protagonist, of the survival camp, Sanctuary, when it appears disturbing and sinister things are being done she stumbles onto startling information as she attempts to follow through on a promise to a loved one.
The cover + dragons + post-apocalypic dystopia = must read for me. I loved the concept, the history and the world-building, but the Dragon Warrior's personal revelation and his response to it was too fast as was his love-at-first-sight which as a result was a little cliched and over-the-top. However, considering the shortish length of the book it's understandable. I liked Rain, she's tough and hard to fool. Give her a challenge and she will succeed. She's no wallflower, she won't wilt in the face of overwhelming odds or a troop of Marines planning on gang raping her. Eek.
The end...I can only assume who...and how...and hope there's a sequel.
The Highlander's Touch resonated with me. No wait, let's be more specific. Lisa resonated with me. Her experience as a carer is so accurately portraye...moreThe Highlander's Touch resonated with me. No wait, let's be more specific. Lisa resonated with me. Her experience as a carer is so accurately portrayed I have to wonder if Moning has ever been one. Many times I read something and said, "Yes. This is what it's like. Exactly." So thank you for that. What an unexpected to surprise. This is the reason for the 'favourites' shelf.
I appreciated Cicernn's knight-in-shining-armour routine, his understanding Lisa's refusal to enjoy herself while her mother lay dying and alone, and feeling she didn't deserve to be happy having had no reason to feel much positive emotion in years. Everything else...was okay, worthy of a 3-3.5★ rating, but a solid 4★ for what this meant to me personally. Moning's author note is a stark warning for all women to ensure they attend regular cervical smear tests.(less)
Thank you for this book. I see you're growing beyond the boundaries of paranormal romance and straying into urb...moreDear Ms. Laurenston (A.K.A. Ms. Aiken),
Thank you for this book. I see you're growing beyond the boundaries of paranormal romance and straying into urban fantasy and horror (See, I added this to my horror shelf). Some may say you focused a little more on the war than the romance, but I valued the descriptions of that war and the further character development of Annywl, Eibhear, and the children (Talan, Talwyn and Rhianwen) far, far more than the very funny but not all-consuming romance.
Never have I admired a female warrior, hunter or assassin more than Annwyl. She stole the limelight away from Rhona and Vigholf in this one. Focus and determination; pushing beyond her own physical and mental limitations; the willingness to torture, lopping off limbs and penises (of rapists); sacrificing the few to save the many, even the safety of her own children, an incredibly tough decision to make, all for the welfare of her people, human and dragon alike.
"It means she's amazing -and terrifying. Annwyl kills without question, rules with an iron fist, and has little patience for anyone. She can be cruel, she can be loving, she can be heartless, and she can care too much. She is blindingly loyal, but demands the same loyalty from everyone and is devastated when she doesn't receive it."
Annywl may seem more batshit crazy than brave, and also appears incredibly arrogant and unlikeable to some but if I could be any fictional character Annwyl would be one of my choices, despite the hardships she's suffered.
'There was a time Annwyl would laugh at that kind of reaction. She was only as crazy as she needed to be to get the job done, she's often tell her mate. But these days, Annwyl was beginning to feel as crazy as everyone thought she was. Probably the loss of sleep. She was pretty sure one needed sleep, to function properly. How could she expect to function properly when she couldn't sleep? When they wouldn't let her sleep. Why wouldn't they let her sleep?'
Annwyl's reunion with her mate and then her children brought a tear to my eye. She's not one to cry or bitch and moan so when she finally broke down after all the pressure she was under, I completely understood and sympathised.
Feminism is a strong theme in many of your books, Ms. Laurenston, and never have you addressed that theme in a manner so right than in this book, where I see true equality between the sexes compared to the age-old ways of the Northlanders' recent-ish past.
The children, oh how I love them so. Their uniqueness, idiosyncrisies, and inherited family traits put together with their youth (6 and 7 years old) innocence (haha, they've all ready killed!) and secret abilities made them adorable and fierce, like their mother. They'll be a ruling trio when they're older and woe betide anyone who gets in their way, with the twins' power of the sword and Rhianwen's mighty power of magic they'll make formidable for formidable enemies. I desperately want to follow their stories, watch them learn and grow.
Eibhear, I felt so sorry for him. He has the biggest conscience and what happened was not his fault. We have never seen him angry, he's a softie which the Northland dragon warriors deplored. Killing wasn't in his nature despite his enormous size, big even for a dragon, until an unforeseen incident, and then pure, unadulterated rage saw him do the uncharacteristic, cutting down every single enemy soldier he could find and even that wasn't enough for him. Rhiannon's attempt and comfort and his conversation with Izzy at the end was supremely sad. I hope Izzy can rouse him from his "emptiness" and make him feel again. Only a few more days to go until their long-awaited book.
I hope you one day write an urban fantasy or horror book, if you do, I'll be first in line to read it. I've very much enjoyed the story arc in your dragon books, and as always your ability to create lovable and distinctive characters who form the most caring and loyal of communities of which I'd love to be apart.
Thank you for becoming a writer and giving me the joy of reading your books which brighten the most crappy of days. Your imaginative sense of humour is much appreciated. (view spoiler)[Vigholf punching the horse unconscious and his battle of wills with the stallion -LMAO! (hide spoiler)]
A Most Devoted Fan["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
"It says here Jamar bought a toilet seat for fifty thousand dollars," Ascanio said. I looked at the screen. "It says it's from Amarna, from the eighteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt." "It's a toilet seat," Ascanio said. "It's four thousand years old." He looked at me incredulous. "Some ancient Egyptians sat on it and took a dump." "I assume so." "He paid fifty thousand dollars for a used toilet seat." [...] "You could buy a car for fifty thousand dollars. A really nice car." Ascanio's eyes lit up. "A Hummer. You could buy a converted Hummer." "You don't need a Hummer," I said. "Chicks dig the Hummer." "You don't need any chicks either." "He gave me an injured look. "I have needs."
No chemistry, clichéd language and actions but it's too blink-and-it's-over short to really flesh out the story and characters. Bit dubious about 'One...moreNo chemistry, clichéd language and actions but it's too blink-and-it's-over short to really flesh out the story and characters. Bit dubious about 'One thing about being a vampire, if she had been bleeding internally, he would have scented it.' How exactly would he have been able to distinguish between internal bleeding and the rest of the blood in her veins?(less)
A novella's worth of content in a full-length novel. What was done with the rest of the pages, I hear you ask? Were they blank? I would've preferred t...moreA novella's worth of content in a full-length novel. What was done with the rest of the pages, I hear you ask? Were they blank? I would've preferred them to be.
My name is Gin Blanco...
I know! I've been reading about your life for four books now.
...and I'm an assassin
Yes, you're a hitwoman, we know this, can we get on with the killin' now?
This is Finn. He's my foster brother.
I do have a memory, no matter how dysfunctional it sometimes is, it's never THAT bad.
And this is Bria...
You can see where I'm going with this, can't you? Every character is reintroduced to us along with their backstory and history with Gin. Lots and lots of repetition. And yet more repetition. Ironically, eye colour-love, the most repeated thing in the first few books was toned down.
Character histories aside, the plot is a wash, rinse and repeat too. 1) Gin gets in a bind. 2) It gets worse. 3) Her friends rally round to do anything to keep her alive because they've all benefited from Gin's talents in the past. 4) Gin gets in huge fight which she barely survives. 5) Jo-jo heals her. 6) Some happy stuff happens then we learn of what Gin plans to do next. The End.
The trouble with #6 concerning this book: the drawn-out story arc is now complete. Am I willing to stick around for another? I'm not sure. One positive about this one, it was skim-city so it took only a couple of hours to read. On the other hand, I shelled out hard cash for the privilege. Venom and Tangled Threads were good reads. I like the characters, the way elemental magic is used, the pretty gory fight scenes and Gin's unapologetic violent ways but based on the pros and cons, By a Thread is likely to go unread unless I see some stellar reviews.(less)
The best book I've read by Moning so far. I'm so surprised I liked it so much I'm tempted to give it 5 stars. I couldn't get into the Fever series but...moreThe best book I've read by Moning so far. I'm so surprised I liked it so much I'm tempted to give it 5 stars. I couldn't get into the Fever series but I'm glad to have found something else by this author.(less)
The flaws in Bitter Night I accepted due to being the first in the series with sequels usually surpassing the first. Crimson Wi...moreGrade: F for Epic Fail!
The flaws in Bitter Night I accepted due to being the first in the series with sequels usually surpassing the first. Crimson Wind doesn’t follow this pattern. No, it goes the other way. It may be unfair to make this judgement after only 74 pages but I don’t think so.
Characters: Max is a tough bitch, an Uber-Alpha. It’s over the top. Alexander is also supposedly Alpha but um, he’s a bit wet and dull. We didn’t need his POV, it only served to add pages where none were required. Giselle is presented as the powerful witch presiding over the group when in fact she is Beta to Max’s Alpha, which is confusing considering their history as torturer and victim. The characters are misrepresented, under-developed and unappealing though the cast is a large one so there’s little time to get to know them all individually.
Romance:Forced. Max is reluctant to be with Alexander...because he’s a stalker. He worships the ground she walks on. She doesn’t say or think this. It’s my opinion of him. We’re told they have this hot sexual tension between them when there’s no evidence of that. There’s more chemistry between her and warrior angel, Tutresiel. Their witty banter was the only element I enjoyed which covered a very tiny percentage of the book.
Plot:To find, save and bring Max’s family back to Horngate. Procrastination. By the time I gave up, Max hadn’t made it out of Horngate for this mission. She wasn’t even prepared to leave yet and I was almost 25% in. What took place in this time wasn't very interesting to me. It was just a lot of foreboding nonsense. However, I was intrigued by the fact that Max hadn't interacted with her family in 30 years which threw me. I was curious as to how Francis was going to make that work.
World-building: I was unconvinced by the world created in Bitter Night and wasn’t reassured in this one. It’s too easy to poke holes in it. There‘s a melding of mythologies that doesn’t quite work. The angels seem out of place. It’s a closed world where everything supernatural is a secret from the main population. However, Armageddon has now been unleashed on the world but we’ve yet to see the effect it has had outside of Horngate. Perhaps if I had read on this would’ve been rectified. On the whole, there are just too many questions and not enough answers.
For being a modern 20th century girl from 1997, Ari adjusted too well to 16th century Scotland for my liking. I thought she would've missed modern tec...moreFor being a modern 20th century girl from 1997, Ari adjusted too well to 16th century Scotland for my liking. I thought she would've missed modern technology more than she did. She only mentioned missing hot water. Only hot water?! And she didn't even seem bored when her days were mostly empty. No TV, no internet, no job and only a limited number of books -I'd die of boredom! Even with a hot husband and his loving mother for a companion.
Overall, it was quite slow but the characters were more likeable than those from Fever series and this was a much better first book than Darkfever. I will definitely be continuing with this series.(less)
"What are you thinking about?" he [Finn] asked. "Nothing much. I‘m just wondering how exactly I went from being the Spider to the Robin fucking Hood o...more"What are you thinking about?" he [Finn] asked. "Nothing much. I‘m just wondering how exactly I went from being the Spider to the Robin fucking Hood of the greater Ashland area. Three months ago, I was killing people for money. Lots of money. Buckets of it. Now, tell me a good sob story instead and I‘ll take care of all your problems for free. Instead of stealing from the rich, I‘m stabbing them to death for the poor."
LMAO! The best book so far. The plot progresses nicely with the arrival of Detective Bria Coolidge, Gin's long lost sister who replaces Donovan after he left in Web of Lies. With her arrival, Mab is alerted to her survival after her attack on their family all those years ago. Mab will do everything she can to get rid of Bria and so Gin takes drastic action to distract her enough to forget her and focus on the Spider. Goodbye retirement.
I was quite impressed with how good this third book was. I love Bria and Owen. They both surprised Gin in being tougher than she expected after her negative experiences with Donovan as an uncorrupted cop and as a lover. I'm looking forward to the new war on Mab and dealing with her hired assassins in Tangled Threads but the thing I'm most looking forward to is the moment Gin reveals all to her baby sister and how she'll deal with it.(less)