The final book in Kimberly Derting’s Pledge trilogy is a thrilling conclusion. I was immediately swept up into it and powered right through. It was pr...more The final book in Kimberly Derting’s Pledge trilogy is a thrilling conclusion. I was immediately swept up into it and powered right through. It was pretty much what I wanted with a few surprises along the way.
* Spoilers for those who have not read The Pledge and The Essence *
Charlie has become the Queen of Ludania but at a high price. Her psyche was bonded with Sabara’s and she has done her best to minimize her insistant demands. After a gathering of Queens at a yearly summit goes awry Charlie is lucky to get back to Ludania intact. But someone has not made it back and thanks to a messenger from another Queendom that someone’s life is at stake. Charlie decides to offer herself in lieu of the hostage and ventures into enemy territory with two of her closest comrades in order to finalize the deal. It’s only anyone’s guess if she will see the people that she loves again.
If the second book, The Essence, is largely character development then this book is all plot. The Offering grabs you by the throat and never lets go. The slow pace of the second book was completely absent in this one. I was sucked into the action and could not put the book down until the final moment. There’s a tension to this book that I have learned to appreciate from Derting’s writing and she pulls no punches with her storytelling.
There were one or two things that I would have changed character interaction-wise, but other than that I thought this was a fabulous ending.
The Ring & The Crown is the first book in a new series by Melissa de la Cruz. Having been a fan of her Blue Bloods series I was curious what she w...more The Ring & The Crown is the first book in a new series by Melissa de la Cruz. Having been a fan of her Blue Bloods series I was curious what she would do with historic fantasy. I am very pleased to say that this book lived up to its potential. I enjoyed it from page one until the end. It’s a really great book.
That said, there’s not a lot that happens plot wise. It’s entirely character driven, so I’ll try to condense it as much as possible without spoiling it for everyone. Here we go.
In 1429 the English employed magicians to defeat the French in battle, destroying the dark witch Jeanne of Arkk. Now conquered, the English empire absorbs the French into their growing dominion. Henry VI becomes the ruler of five continents with the Merlin, a powerful, immortal magician, as his support. Now, five hundred years later at the dawn of the twentieth century, an aging Queen Eleanor II’s reign is at an end. The Queen is 150 years old and her ailing 17-year-old daughter, Marie Victoria, is poised to assume the Franco-British crown. Marie suffers from tuberculosis and many doubt that she is fit to rule.
A new season is approaching and Marie’s marriage to Leopold VII of Prussia is about to be announced. This year’s season is bound to be the best, drawing a number of ambitious nobles to court. Aelwyn, Marie’s childhood friend and bastard daughter of the Merlin, Emrys Myrddin, has left Avalon to assume her place at Marie’s side. She has been trained in the deepest secrets of magic and is about to be bonded in immortal servitude to the crown just as her father was before her. Mages give up any rights to personal happiness when they accept the bond, eschewing family, love, and possessions. Aelwyn knows that her promise comes with a high cost and the sacrifice sometimes weighs on her.
Also venturing to London are two very different groups of people. There are Ronan Astor and Wolf, two people whose paths cross on the Saturnia, a luxury ship crossing the Atlantic from the Americas. Ronan is hoping to secure a marriage that will save her family in New York from bankruptcy. Several mix-ups occur that allow her to enjoy the season in high style, and Wolf is one of them. He has a connection to Marie and the Kronprinz Leopold and is much more than what Ronan’s initial impression of him proves to be.
The second group is the french contingent from Burgundy, Isabelle of Valois and her ruthless guardian, Hugh Borel. Borel owns a lush vineyard and supplies much of the Empire’s wine. He is grasping and cruel and exercises his power over both Isabelle and their other cousin, Louis-Phillippe Beziers, another ward of his estate. Isabelle was Leopold’s fiance and the Kronprinz exerted his rights as betrothed on her before their marriage. As a result of his engagement to Marie their union must be dissolved. Isabelle has come to court to plead for their love but finds that Leopold cannot circumvent a marriage that was entirely conceived without his approval.
There are numerous other characters involved in this court drama, but those seem to be the main players. At one point as I read I began to blur the lines between every character. It does take some time to establish just who everyone is, and I resorted to drawing up a list to keep them all straight. It’s worth the time though, as the characterizations in this novel are rich and rewarding. I was completely drawn into their schemes and intrigues and reveled in every new plot development.
The Arthurian bend was a nice touch as well. While the book does not completely follow the Arthurian myths there are shades of the origin tales that flavour the social-political ethos of the Franco-British empire. de la Cruz mentions Lanselin and Genevieve and Arcturus, though Merlin is the only person that we frequently see in the story. Avalon and Viviane (the Lady of the Lake) also features in the book. Initially, I was dubious about the idea of an alt-Arthurian premise but de la Cruz has handled it extremely well. I can’t wait to see where she goes with it.
This is one of those books that draws you through the pages. I felt like the characters were grabbing me by the hand and pulling me through the castle walls into their own machinations. It’s fast-paced and completely absorbing, a brutal game of politics and affairs of the heart. One likes to imagine that royalty has this much drama.
I am, once again, impressed with de la Cruz. She has tugged my heart out from my chest and wrapped the pages of her book around it. I entirely loved this story, and I cannot wait for book two.
I took time away from the stack of ARCs to read a short classic, The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole. Otranto is the original Gothic story... as...more I took time away from the stack of ARCs to read a short classic, The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole. Otranto is the original Gothic story... as in the first... as in a template for all others to come afterwards. As a fan of the genre I thought I should sneak the origin point in. And, as a fan of the genre, I was bored with this book. It was a "meh" read.
Many Gothic themes pervade this slight volume - the tense, creepy mood and woman fleeing from a man spring immediately to mind. In Otranto Manfred, lord of a kingdom, is attending the wedding of his son, Conrad, to Isabella. Shortly before the wedding Conrad is crushed to death by a falling, over large helmet. Manfred, suddenly afraid for his familial line, becomes obsessed with fathering another child, so much so that he throws over his wife of many years for Isabella. The remainder of the novel follows his pursuit of Isabella and all of the subsequent preventative hindrances that befall him.
Well, where to start... This novel is very dated in its gender equality. That's being kind, it's sexist, straight up. Seeing as how it was written in 1764 that is not entirely surprising. All of the female characters are wooden archtypes of the day. The men aren't much better, but at least they were crafted with slightly more depth. More or less this is one long attempted rape that gets foiled at several turns. There's no nicer way to put it than that. It's rape fetishism.
Manfred was a trip. I was so reminded of what I have read about Henry the eight while reading him. The obsessive need to procreate coupled with the dominant male ego was just too much for me. I felt like I was watching the silent films where the man chases after the screaming heroine in a black cape with his claws raised in the air. The drama was just too much in this book. I'm a fan of the over-the-top-ness of this genre but this took the cake. I can see why it shaped centuries of novels to follow that I adore (Frankenstein, Dracula, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, etc. etc.). However, that doesn't mean I am a fan. It's very dated. And not very good. The end.
Crown of Midnight is the second book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, an eagerly anticipated sequel. I enjoyed this book far more than...more Crown of Midnight is the second book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, an eagerly anticipated sequel. I enjoyed this book far more than the first one, though it is still far from perfect in my eyes. It is a book that will please Maas’s ardent fans and I know that I will be reading the sequel.
* Spoilers ahead for those who have not read the first book Throne of Glass *
In the last book Celaena triumphed over adversity. She is now the official royal assassin of Adarlan. Though the job has its downfalls she is thoroughly enjoying the life of luxury such a position warrants. Once a prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier Celaena now enjoys a life of fabulous food and new clothes, a wealth of books and the quiet of the palace… until duty forces her hand to kill. Defiant and angry, Celaena abuses the orders of the King to her own end, a direction that could forfeit her life if he became aware of her actions. But things are stirring in the world. Old grudges are reborn and no matter who Celaena has become she cannot turn her back on who, or what, she really is.
Despite my enjoyment I still have mixed feelings about these books. On the one hand I find some of the action sequences tedious and overdone. In this book there is quite a lot of sneaking about and trying to investigate new plot paths. I wasn’t a fan of those passages and grew a little weary in the midst of them. What I do love about these books are the intimate moments between the characters, the threads of humanity that weaves all of them together. I adore the bonding moments between them all. It’s good to see them get some down time considering the story surrounding them.
As I said before Maas’s writing improved significantly just in book one alone. In this book she has definitely solidified her skill. The writing is sharper and the dialogue crisper. I found this to be an infinitely more entertaining read than book one which is clunkier overall. Were it not for the drag I felt during the scenes that were supposed to be high intensity this would have been a wow for me.
As is, it’s a 4 out of 5, but I do look forward to seeing where Maas goes with it. Particularly after the cliffhanger ending.
…Yes, you read that right. Cliffhanger. Which means that fans will be desperately awaiting book three. Which will please both the fandom and the publisher, I am sure. The theories are going to run rampant about the next book. I know I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Seraphina is Rachel Hartman's YA fantasy debut coming out in July. I saw this book all over the interwebs and it's lit up the book world like a light...more
Seraphina is Rachel Hartman's YA fantasy debut coming out in July. I saw this book all over the interwebs and it's lit up the book world like a lightning storm. I was very happy to receive an advanced copy from the fine folks at Random House and I've only now gotten to read it. Wow, where to start? This is going to be one hard review to write.
Seraphina Dombegh has come to work in the court of Goredd where the Prince Rufus has just been killed. Because the manner of his death feels rather Draconian the kingdom suspects their dragon allies of doing the deed. The emotionless dragon allies, called Saarantras, have a peace treaty with the humans stretching the last forty years. The Saars transform into Human shape and move about the court in this manner. The fact that one of the Royalty has turned up dead has everyone in court on edge. Seraphina is the assistant to the court composer, Viridius. Her singular music talent impresses everyone, but there is a reason behind her ability - Seraphina is half-Dragon and half-Human. Seraphina is blasphemy personified; she should not exist. That she does flies in the face of the treaty and of the oldest Human beliefs.
Seraphina gets drawn into the murder investigation. Assisting the Prince Lucian Kiggs she begins to sniff about the list of suspects, which are all dragons - including her beloved teacher (and Uncle) Orma. Seraphina has mixed feelings about everything, but she becomes even more confused when she starts to develop an attachment to the bastard Prince himself. And all the while Seraphina must hide who she is or she too could be considered a suspect.
Seraphina is one of those books that comes around rarely that firmly grips the imagination by the scruff of the throat and shakes it. Intensely. The way which Hartman has constructed her narrative world is sick. It's like reading A Clockwork Orange in that you have no idea what the language means and then suddenly, amazingly, you are aware. It's one of those books you have to completely give up your expectations and immerse yourself in it in order to enjoy it. I had a hard first day of the book, got to my usual 80 pages, and then debated if I was going to go on... then yesterday I read the rest of it, 370+ pages in one shot, and I began to understand why so many people are talking about this book.
The medieval world that Hartman sets the novel in reminds me of our own but is completely unique. Within the novel she has set up a series of Saints, dream world avatars, and a rich multi-culture. There are the Saars, but there are also the Quigs, which are a species of sub-dragon lizards. They mime our social/power structures to a tee. There is also a heavy theme throughout the book concerning bigotry and racism, and the fear of not trusting others. It was only when the book degenerated into a witch hunt I finally knew I was absolutely in love... and by that point there was so many other things I was hooked on as well.
Seraphina herself is a great narrator - poised and subtle and full of doubt about herself. Her daily regimen of dealing with her draconian attributes will haunt the reader and make them empathize with her. It's such a great way of handling self-doubt and a lack of confidence in a YA novel. As is her fierce protection instincts of all her new friends, which literally sneaks up on her. There's so much to love about this character.
I can't wait for a sequel. However, and I strongly advise this for you as well - plan a reread of this book when Seraphina 2 comes out. There is such a rich tapestry to the world that you will need to revisit it layer by layer in between each book release. This is the book for the fans of George R.R. Martin, Megan Whalen Turner, Kristin Cashore, and Mercedes Lackey. If you folks want something new, well here you go. Try this one when it releases in July. You won't be sorry.
... and I absolutely love the cover ... *pets cover* *so shiny*
International. Multiple entries encouraged. Ends 10/5/14. Come enter!
Robin LaFevers has written a very cool book. Grave Mercy is the start of a new young adult trilogy set in 15th century Brittany... that's in France for those of us (myself included) who do not remember our late Middle Ages/Northern Renaissance History. It follows young Ismae as she escapes the shackles of an arranged marriage and finds purpose for herself; as an assassin in the service of God.
Ismae is a chosen of the God of Death, Mortain. Training in a convent with other women like her Ismae hones the skills of her trade, becoming intimate with different weapons, poisons, and, most importantly, politics. When she is assigned to a young man who is the bastard half brother of Anne of Brittany Ismae's journey takes her into the heart of the royal court where intrigue knows no limits and danger lurks behind every door.
Ismae is a great character. She struggles with a lot during the course of this book and overcomes many of the trappings of her time. This book is also a fascinating look at many of the things going on during this period of European History; the fervor of Christianity verses the downfall of Pagan beliefs as well as the place of women in society (and as monarchs) being two of the most notable. The historic aspect of this book is rich and detailed. The plot between Ismae and her potential love interest was also consuming.
Unfortunately for much of the book the plot focuses on these things and doesn't give enough time on Ismae as a harbinger of death, which I very much loved. My biggest gripe with this book is really that I wanted to see her practicing her art more throughout the book. For a book with an assassin as a main character I felt she didn't kill enough to suit my bloodthirsty taste. There was a lot of sitting and waiting...and waiting...and drama building...and more waiting. It set my teeth on edge in a bad way. I felt that the flavour of this book could have used a bit more spice.
That said, it's a damned decent read and worth wading through the occasional morass moments. I dug the hell out of this idea. I hope that the next book proves just as promising.
The Crown of Embers is the second book in the Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson. I have had a copy of the book forever but I only got in the mood t...more The Crown of Embers is the second book in the Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson. I have had a copy of the book forever but I only got in the mood to read it in the last week. To get back into the series I read the two novellas The Shadow Cats and The Shattered Mountain, which are available in e-book format only. The two served as a good reminder of what was going on in the world as well as the tone of Carson's novels. I'm glad I thought to download those ahead of time.
In The Crown of Embers Elisa has become the triumphant victor. She now rules after a successful war campaign, but her troubles are far from over. Elisa doesn't understand the terrifying power that is growing inside of her. It is so different from the resident warmth of the Godstone embedded in her navel. Since she is the Queen her enemies have grown in numbers. A decoy must be planted to prevent assassination and Elisa has new responsibilities, including channeling her own growing power. She embarks on a quest to seek out a source that would help her control her abilities taking with her a warrior, her lady in waiting, a former enemy, and her loyal captain of the guards, Hector.
I'll admit, the beginning of the book seemed long to me. I loved being back in this world but the pacing was rough in the first third. I'm sure that would have been minimized had I read this book just after reading its predecessor The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Much of it was tension build up, granted, however it worked in reverse for me. I liked it, so I kept going. It was just, well... slow.
However, once the quest began I was hooked and I couldn't put this book down. So there's that.
Elisa is a likable heroine. She is fallible and flawed and this makes her a delight to read. She doesn't necessarily make the smartest choices. She rules with her heart rather than her head. Because of this she gets into a lot of situations that might be otherwise prevented. And I like her for that. Her sense of self-worth is also endearing. In the first book Elisa was lazy and overweight, or as one character so kindly puts it in this book "portly and unattractive". By the end of the book she slimmed up a little, but I get the impression that she is still curvy and healthy. Her self esteem suffers from the occasional bout of unworthy moments that lends credulity to her age. She's seventeen and susceptible to the normal highs and lows of a teenager's moods. And I find her that much more real because of her whims.
Carson did something amazing in the first book concerning the love interests - something that is rarely seen in YA. In this book the love interest is consistent and grounding, an ideal match. When he was first introduced in book one I said to myself "Oh, she's going to fall in love with him." In this book she seems to be heading in that direction. I appreciate that Carson wound the story around to him. It makes the tale that much richer, and believable. True love always comes from the strangest places, and Elisa's tale reveals the twists and turns beautifully.
And the ending... wow, that ending! I'm so glad that I waited to have access to book three before reading this one. It's more than a cliff hanger... it's falling from the edge and catching yourself 50 feet below. By your fingernail.
Yeah... it's that good. I said it. And I'll own that statement.
Because Carson drew together the ending so fine I will give it 5 out of 5 stars, despite my early misgiving in the beginning third.
The Bitter Kingdom is the upcoming third and final book in Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns high fantasy trilogy. It marks the end of an adventure for Luc...more
The Bitter Kingdom is the upcoming third and final book in Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns high fantasy trilogy. It marks the end of an adventure for Lucero-Elisa, a former princess of Orovalle and now Queen of Joya d'Arena. It's been quite the journey for our heroine. Through turmoil and strife, through uncertainty and despair, Elisa has held her own and come out a woman instead of a child. And I cannot love the series more for that.
* Spoilers ahead for those who have not read The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Crown of Embers *
Elisa has a mission, to rescue the man she loves. Imprisoned in the heart of her enemies homeland Elisa sets out with her closest companions to recover him. Along the way the group encounters many dangers that threaten to tear them apart, as well as a new traveling companion. But the only thing on Elisa's mind is this - can she reach him in time? Can she save him before it's too late?
Finishing a beloved series is always (pardon the title pun) bittersweet. The end of the book is satisfying, but also a double-edged sword. The ending was beautifully written; all of the plot points ended well and the character dynamics handled spectacularly. But now it's done, and there is a Rae Carson hole in my heart. I could have kept reading this series a little longer. But I'm happy with the ending. More than happy... Elated.
The thing that makes these books so good is Elisa. She is a perfect heroine, both in her flaws and in her strengths. She's believable and entertaining and that's what a reader really wants in a narrator. I admire her for the growth that she has undergone since book one. There's only a short time gap in all three books. She starts book one at age 16 and ends this book with her at 17. This has been a tumultuous year in Elisa's life. She has survived the desert, the sea crossing, the island, and now The Bitter Kingdom, a world of cold and ice. And death. And oppressive sorrow.
Elisa is a survivor. She's a fighter. She's also one of the softest, deepest, most viable characters in the Young Adult market. She is, simply, wonderful. And I'm sad to see her go.
But there is hope. Rae Carson has a new series coming out, which I am very much looking forward to reading. She has shot high into my "must-read" pantheon of readers with this trilogy. I will be reading her other books. Always.
For this book, and for the ending... and for the series - 5 out of 5 stars.
I loved this entire trilogy.
Every word. And every moment.
Farewell Elisa. I look forward to rereading you in another ten years.
The Gathering Storm is a Young Adult debut novel by Robin Bridges. I tried to read it in 2011, made it 100 pages, and gave up. At the time I chalked u...more The Gathering Storm is a Young Adult debut novel by Robin Bridges. I tried to read it in 2011, made it 100 pages, and gave up. At the time I chalked up my disinterest to mood, that I would like the book at another time. I told myself I would try again when I was more in the proper mood. This year I instituted a personal challenge by which I attempt books that I once gave up on... the ones I thought might be worth it.
Tonight I gave up on this book a second time... and 50 pages away from the ending. It's just not worth it anymore.
Katerina (Katiya) has an unusual ability that she discovered as a child - she can bring the dead back to life. When she enters St. Petersberg society she knows that this ability could cost her reputation and her family's social status. Despite her attempt to hide her powers they are noticed by a few people in her expansive social circle. Most notable are two very different and powerful men, Danilo and George. Both could ruin her if they spread her secret around. Both endanger her potential future. Katiya is ambitious and wants to become a doctor. She wants to cure disease and save lives. Her powers jeopardize everything she wants from life... particularly when both men find different ways to threaten her.
Overall, I liked Katiya. There was something about her that kept me reading. I liked her wit and I liked her spunk. Those were the good parts of this book - Katiya being Katiya. In many different situations Katiya found a way to maintain her own point of view and be herself despite the odds being stacked against her; most notably one memorable time under compulsion.
The bad parts were numerous, but it took me over 300 pages to be able to articulate them. One thing that is really noticeable is how much unnecessary information Bridges floods into the text. This hides the fact that not much is actually occurring in the story. It's dense and dulls what little sense of action there is for the reader. I found myself reading one out of every five pages and wondering where the plot was. I certainly don't feel like I missed much even though I didn't absorb everything. This is a heavily character driven novel filled with one dimensional nobodies. The only character that is halfway fleshed out decently is Katiya. The remaining people just distract the reader from not noticing that there really is nothing happening. It's all smoke and mirrors. The plot, which is described so interestingly on the back of the cover, is all implied. The book could have been told in 100 pages. That's probably, realistically, all the reader needs to go on. That was certainly the case with me.
So what fills the remaining 300 pages? Dances. And parties. And balls. And teas. And people. And people. And more people. It's rather Austen-like in that regard (and I'm so not an Austen fan). Oh, and the occasional poisoning. Or ailment. Or some plot point involving duress so that Katiya can flex her medical know-how. The Court Intrigue in this book was the only thing that really interested me. However, after the initial introduction to the (numerous) characters in the story I promptly forgot who most of them were. So the intricate threads that were being woven were lost on me. I couldn't keep anyone straight. And, in a novel rife with Court Intrigue, you need to keep everyone straight.
And the paranormal/supernatural element that I was so looking forward to? Watered down. And uninteresting after the initial premise was set up. It felt like mesh draping on cardboard, see through and insubstantial. And more smoke and mirrors. I sort of feel tricked by this book. It's so many things I should like and yet so poorly presented. And yet I liked the main character. I just wish that she were in a different book.
It reminds me of Libba Bray's historic books (she now has two series that I wasn't a fan of). They both have the same heavy handedness to the writing. If you are a fan of those books this might be up your alley. If not, veer away! There are so many other books to read.
I got a little distracted this week from the book I was reading due to some personal goings-on this week... but today I finished my book... and I am e...more I got a little distracted this week from the book I was reading due to some personal goings-on this week... but today I finished my book... and I am excited to tell you about it. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson is beautiful and fascinating...and very hard to describe.
Elisa is the second Princess in the kingdom of Orovalle. She has spent her years devoted to religious studies of the Scriptura Sancta. Due to a religious prophecy Elisa was endowed on her naming day with a Godstone in her navel, the sign of the chosen one of God. She is on her way to meet with her arranged husband-to-be, the King Alejandro of Joya d'Arena. Their impending nuptials will ensure him a power beyond imagining in a violent war brewing between Joya d'Arena and their enemies.
Elisa is a complicated heroine. At first she is a child, subject to the whims and vices of children. Her older sister, Juana-Alodia, has instilled in her numerous complexes about her unsuitability to be Queen. As a result of her poor self-confidence Elisa has developed an eating disorder that prompts her to stuff herself silly whenever anyone makes disparaging remarks about her...at least, that seems to be the trigger. Whether she has a food addiction, or some other neurosis entirely, Elisa concentrates a lot of her energy on, well... eating. Throughout the course of this book Elisa faces a number of trials that forces her to shed the skin of childhood and grow into a woman. Very early on in the book she is captured by rebels who want to use her as a pawn in the war. Elisa develops Stockholm Syndrome as she begins to know the captors, particularly Humberto, the dark and generous one.
Elisa's journey is captivating and remarkable. The religious mythos that Carson has created is layered, and complex, and engrossing. It's very rich, and very, very addictively readable. I loved so much about this book. It's great to see how Elisa comes into her own, becomes empowered, and grows into a believable young woman who will be a joy to follow throughout this series. Like I said, it's very hard to describe, but I will say this... it's one of the most unique books I have read in a very long time. Carson is going to acquire an interesting cadre of fangirls and boys out of this one.
Also, Carson did the thing that I have been wanting YA authors to do for ages...the plot point...and I'm not going to tell any of you what it was. We'll talk about it after the release date.
Well, that was just the palliative I needed after the birthday weekend of hell. Thanks to the fine folks at Penguin for getting this to me at just the...more Well, that was just the palliative I needed after the birthday weekend of hell. Thanks to the fine folks at Penguin for getting this to me at just the right moment. You made my week.
So, Bloodlines by Richelle Mead picks up shortly after the events of Last Sacrifice - the final book in the original Vampire Academy series. I say "original" because this is a spin-off series (for those five VA fans online who have not heard yet). Bloodlines follows the misadventures of Sydney Sage and co. as they move house and home to Palm Springs, California. The company includes a motley bunch of folks - Adrian Ivashkov, Jill Dragomir, Eddie Castile, and newcomer (and Alchemist) Keith Darnell. The group is forced to take this action after it becomes obvious that there are people in the Moroi Court who are unhappy with the new Queen - Lissa Dragomir, Jill's sister. Jill is currently the only legal tie Lissa has to the throne and there are those willing to remove said impediment in order to promote their own political agendas.
Posing as high schoolers Sydney, Jill, and Eddie enroll at Amberwood Prep. The students have a current trend with metallic tattoos, all the rage from a local parlour called Nevermore. Sydney suspects the Alchemist secrets, particularly when it becomes known that certain colours have performance enhancing abilities.. as well as psychotropic qualities. Sydney wants to get to the bottom of this, especially if it means a compromise in the Alchemist's security.
There's more, but that is plenty of spoilers already. Here are my thoughts:
Mead has a kind of magical ability to tell a story. It's obvious in the Vampire Academy (as well as her Dark Swan books) that she loves crafting narratives. It shows; there's a lot of passion in her work. In Bloodlines Mead seamlessly transitions us from one story to another, almost as if there was not a break at all. I feel as if I just finished a VA book, even though the stories (and tone) are quite different between the two series. For those of you who don't see that this makes a difference, believe me it does. It's a rare, creative talent that can write a nearly perfect series and then follow it up with a just as strong offspring.
I was so excited when I learned that Sydney was going to be a strong component in this series. She was one of the characters I wanted to get to know better in the VA series. Sydney, for the record, is the polar opposite of Rose Hathaway, the previous series ballsy heroine. Sydney is rules and logic, whereas Rose is chaos and impulse. But, Sydney makes for just as compelling of a narrator. Sydney has an edge to her that is "scary as hell sometimes", according to one character. Sydney also maintains an almost fanatical devotion to the precepts of the Alchemists that smacks of zealotry. Her religious qualms have a superstitious tint to them. This is, no doubt, owing to her very strict upbringing of course. Her father, it seems, was not a kind man.
It will be interesting to see how this character develops. Right now she is battling with moral dilemmas that she always thought were wrong. Sydney is completely black and white, no gray-scale what-so-ever. I am intrigued to see what Mead will do over the course of this series to shake her up. I want character developments to the scale of earthquake proportions and volcanic blast magnitudes with Sydney. I expect that Mead, in all of her awesome, should be able to deliver this.
It's more than great to be back in this world, and back with Adrian and Jill as well. I talked so little about them, but really I am waiting to see what happens with them strategically speaking. For now, 5 out of 5 stars. Brilliant beginning.
Anthologies are not my usual thing. However, I have been making an effort to better myself about this literary deficit (as I own a lot of them and th...more Anthologies are not my usual thing. However, I have been making an effort to better myself about this literary deficit (as I own a lot of them and they largely go unread). Recently, I acquired an advanced copy of the upcoming book by Melissa Marr entitled Faery Tales and Nightmares. Being a huge fan of Marr's work I scrapped every other thing I was reading to focus solely on this book.
Faery Tales and Nightmares is not your usual book of fiction. It is a book of short stories that she has written over the last few years, both previously unpublished and published works. Several of them will be familiar to readers as they take place in the same world as her Faery Court found in the Wicked Lovely books... and feature many of the same characters we all know and love.
Most of the stories in the book are impeccably written and precisely beautifully... but some of them are more enjoyable than others. I particularly loved two of them, neither of which were offshoots of the Faery books. Perhaps this means that I am ready to read something new from Marr? The stories were Winter's Kiss and Love Struck. I do believe that these are the strongest ideas in this book.
There is much to fall in love with about this anthology, even if you are not a reader of the Wicked Lovely books. Between Vampires and Selchies and horror elements and fantasy there is much to play around with. You also get stories of betrayal, first love, new beginnings, and trust. There's a lot of range here story wise.
I really enjoyed this. 4.5 out of 5 stars. I can't wait for Carnival of Souls.
Disney Press put out a book in 2009 by Serena Valentino entitled Fairest of All. Unsurprisingly, it's a retelling of the events of Snow White and the...more Disney Press put out a book in 2009 by Serena Valentino entitled Fairest of All. Unsurprisingly, it's a retelling of the events of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The twist with this book is that it details the life and times of the wicked Queen, whose first name is Grimhilde.
...yeah, I didn't know that either...but that's not brought up in the book. She's only known as the Queen.
In this treatment Valentino attempts to explain the events leading up to the point where the Queen tries to kill Snow White. Unfortunately, it's a little too close to the feel of Wicked by Gregory Maguire for my tastes. It didn't feel truthful in this version, and the on/off nature that signified the Queen's mental state was unbelievable. One minute she was a good mother, than she defined why she had a horrible childhood, and then she snapped and wanted beauty and power. And it didn't make sense. It was too abrupt and I felt like I had skipped a chapter in the book. Or three.
It's a real brief read, but it's not great. There was not enough to make it great, and I don't have much to say about it. It's mediocre.
For the record, I started to read this book three times before I got any further than the first chapter. I was never in the mood for High Fantasy this...more For the record, I started to read this book three times before I got any further than the first chapter. I was never in the mood for High Fantasy this year (until recently) and, as a result, this went unread until this week, when I actually finished it after starting it yet again. This week I received a copy of the sequel, Crown of Midnight, and I thought it was time to delve back into this world… or, at the very least, attempt it again.
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin. She is, in actuality, the most deadly assassin that has ever been known in Erilea. It is for this reason that she is approached by Chaol Westfall, the captain of the guard for the King of Adarlan. The King wants her to represent his son, crown Prince Dorian Havilliard, in a duel to the death against 23 other competitors – all of them trained in the deadliest of arts.
The prize? Her freedom; the most intoxicating of all treasures. Celaena accepts and is thrown, full force, into the fatal game of cat and mouse. When competitors start dying Celaena begins an investigation that unearths ancient secrets and threatens her future.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. I found it to be a bit clunky, both with characterization and tone. There were times where I felt like I was reading middle grade fantasy. I kept forgetting how old the character was supposed to be. I never would have pegged her for 18 had the book not told me that initially. She seemed far too young.
Celaena begins as a prickly heroine. She is all lash and bite. She is a fighter. Now ensconced in the palace she doesn’t know what to do with herself. The one thing you can count on though is that she will survive. Or, at the very least, take out her opponent while she dies trying. At times I really adored her and other times I felt that she was slipping out of her own character. You want her to be the badass assassin but the scenes where she was going “soft” from palace life were really unflattering. It was like I was reading two completely different people. Perhaps it was the back and forth third person narrative, but it felt like I had a severe case of whiplash by the end of the book. I attribute this to some of the problems with her as well. It felt like I was reading other characters even when it was blatantly her.
There’s a few predictable plot points, most notable the dreaded love triangle between her and a few choice admirers. I think I am officially over said triangles in young adult, unless I am specifically reading romance. I just couldn’t summon up the interest to invest in this one, despite liking all of the players involved. It’s obvious who she will end up with, so this plot line is futile to the reader. I hope I’m not annoyed with it for the entire next book (which is usually when the main character goes ooey-gooey and wishy-washy over the love interests). Like I said, over it. Officially.
There was also a struggle reading the contest. For me these scenes of testing never gelled. I found myself far more interested in the building-up scenes between Celaena and Chaol, more so than the actual tests. There seemed to be less tension instead of more. Or perhaps it’s because I was completely uninterested in this plot point.
So what kept me reading? Oddest thing is, everything I have just described. There’s something compelling in all of this experience that I can’t quite put into words, despite many reservations about this book itself. I’m not sure if it suffers from bad editing or if Maas will improve the more she writes. There was a notable improvement of her writing in this book alone. I felt her growing better as the story went on, more confident, and with far less exclamation points to imply intensity. It makes me curious to read the sequel and see if my thoughts are correct.
So with that, and after all of that, I am off to read Crown of Midnight. Fingers crossed that it will prove a tighter read. As for Throne of Glass – 4 out of 5 stars.