I loved both books in The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo; so much so, in fact, that I reread both Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm leading up to t...more I loved both books in The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo; so much so, in fact, that I reread both Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm leading up to this book (as well as all of her published shorts set in the same world). Ruin and Rising marks the third, and final, book in the trilogy. It was, and always will be, and absolute delight to read anything Bardugo has written in this world. This book proves no exception. It is everything that I wanted, and more.
* Spoilers ahead for those who have not read Shadow and Bone or Siege and Storm *
Following the destructive battle at Os Alta, Alina and the remaining Grisha have isolated themselves below ground in the White Cathedral. Now, aided by the Apparat and the Soldat Sol, a group of volunteers in the Apparat’s holy quest, Alina is trying to recuperate and rebuild. Broken and power-stricken she tends to Genya, who has been mauled by the Darkling’s demons, as she tries to regain control of her powers. Determined to find Nicolai, Alina and company escape only to come against Alina’s biggest challenge to date – locating the final amplifier… the Firebird.
There are many things I can say, but I would hate to spoil it for everybody. These books are so lush and visual that when I close my eyes I can see the events unfold in a sort of unparalleled beauty. One can almost hear the sounds of these books, feel the tension in your own muscles, and smell the food, blood, sweat, and tears. There’s a magic to Bardugo’s writing, an uncanny nimbleness to her craft that she wields with skill. I enjoyed watching her work through this book. It was well worth the reread.
Bardugo has outdone herself. This book is a treasure brimming with beauty. I loved every word. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
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.
Ignite Me is the final book in the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. The first book was in my top ten favourites a few years ago and I loved the sequ...more Ignite Me is the final book in the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. The first book was in my top ten favourites a few years ago and I loved the sequel, Unravel Me. Ignite Me released a few weeks ago to generally positive reviews. I have avoided every one of them in order to preserve my read of the book, not wanting any spoilers to corrupt my thoughts. I’m very happy that I did this because this was an excellent read. I love this trilogy, completely and whole-heartedly. For me, they are perfect books.
* Spoilers ahead for those who have not read Shatter Me or Unravel Me *
Juliette has escaped Anderson with her life barely intact. Now, in Warner’s stronghold, she learns that Omega Point has been destroyed and her friends along with it. Broken and grief-stricken she longs to destroy the Reestablishment. However, her fate rests squarely in Warner’s hands. He is the only one alive who can nurture her growing abilities, and the last person that she should trust. Can Juliette forget their pasts long enough to let him inside?
This series, these books, are nothing short of remarkable. There’s a poignant brilliance about every book that strikes the reader through the heart. I cannot begin to articulate the power of these books. They have found a home in my brain and I will never be able to let them go.
Much of the depth of these series lies in Mafi’s phenomenal character development. There’s an ease and beauty in how she draws her characters like a painter rather than an author. There are finite details she renders that reveal an indecipherable skill to her writing. The principle players are smart and hard to pin down. Juliette herself is a whiff of smoke, intangible and just out of one’s grasp. I can’t say precisely why I love her or what about her growth and her journey appeals to me. I just know that she does. There’s both a grace and an eerie presence to her that will stay with me for a long, long time.
What I enjoyed about this particular book is Juliette’s eventual embrace of herself. She’s been all over the map emotionally for the entire series and there are times when I hated her for it. In this book the man whom she loves calls her out whenever she proves to be intolerable. He berates and provokes her into action. But he never dismisses her. He serves as a brilliant counterpoint to her poorly adjusted social skills. It’s a tremendous thing to see a character in the Young Adult market who is forced to account for her own poor behaviour. There aren’t many authors who hold their own up to such high standards. But Mafi does and I cannot tell you how much I need it at this point in my YA reading career.
I adore Tahereh Mafi. She has made me care about characters that I never thought I would, and she has done it with style.
Gorgeous, lyrical, surprising, elegant, and haunting. I loved every word.
Thank you, Tahereh Mafi. You’re on my auto-buy list now.
I have been excited to read this book for some time. I adore Rachel Caine. I have long been curious to see what she would do with a historic fiction....more I have been excited to read this book for some time. I adore Rachel Caine. I have long been curious to see what she would do with a historic fiction. Prince of Shadows is Rachel Caine’s take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet told from the point-of-view of Benvolio Montaque, Romeo’s cousin. It is a standalone novel newly released in the young adult market. And it’s also a fabulous book.
Benvolio knows that he is not the favourite son of the house of Montaque. That honour belongs to Romeo, the heir apparent of his generation. But Romeo is a dreamer and a romantic at heart and Benvolio always fears for his well-being. Benvolio is the level-headed and soft-spoken man in the family. Benvolio is also a thief.
Guised in darkness, Benvolio sneaks into the upper echelon of Veronese society, lifting items from those who have wronged him or his house’s name. It is during one of these escapades that he meets Rosaline Capulet, the current object of desire of young Romeo. Rosaline is bound for the convent and Benvolio knows that she and all of her kin are anathema to his own. But he cannot stop thinking of the quiet, serious girl reading a book by the fire anymore than Romeo can, and he knows that this path can only lead to their mutual doom.
Much of the book serves as a prequel to Romeo and Juliet. In fact, it takes almost half of the book before the infamous star-crossed lovers actually meet. When they do the tale is told by Benvolio in snatches of glimpses and overheard conversations. He is only directly involved with part of their story. What Caine does to fill the void is invent a new path for Benvolio to carve out amidst the established story; a tale of familial inferiority, a scheming sister, an overbearing grandmother, and a well-placed curse. These additions give enough interest to lead the reader through this delicately plotted novel.
Caine also expands Mercutio’s character. In the play Mercutio is a kin to the Prince of Verona as well as a friend of the house of Montaque. In Caine’s novel he is a man in love with a young monastery student, Tomasso. This being the 16th century we can only imagine how a homosexual relationship is viewed. Mercutio and Tomasso must meet in secret and their clandestine relationship could destroy both of them. Benvolio and Romeo are both aware of their friend’s affairs and they turn a blind eye to his romance, knowing in their hearts that he is tempting fate in the worse ways. Since this has been a long-established theory about Mercutio’s character from academic scholars the application of his sexuality makes sense. It is also one of the more poignant parts of the novel, quite frankly overshadowing the infamous lovers own story. This romance is the heart and soul of Caine’s retelling, as it is this coupling that has the most impact upon all of the players within. This is the story that we end up sighing over, not Romeo’s and not Juliet’s.
Benvolio is also a shining star in this retelling. Caine has gone above and beyond at fleshing out the quiet stealthy Prince of Shadows. Benvolio is, at turns, fire and ice. He is a seething bundle of risk and adventure wrapped up under a mask. His conflicted feelings for Rosaline underscore the origin of the story perfectly. Where Romeo and Juliet’s relationship feels overdone and juvenile Benvolio’s is more realistic and subtle. His love for a Capulet torments him, but he cannot give into desires that he would abhor in Romeo so he (…almost…) never does. He manfully puts duty and blood above his own desires… and he is the only one of the novel who is capable of this.
I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s character driven, beautifully handled and brilliantly executed. I enjoyed every bit of it. It makes me wish that Caine would turn her hand over to retelling other prominent stories, or at the very least write more historic novels. I really loved seeing her style extended by time and tradition.
Archetype was among my favourite books of 2013. It was one of those books that I read very early and then had to wait to be able to put it into people...more Archetype was among my favourite books of 2013. It was one of those books that I read very early and then had to wait to be able to put it into people’s hands. Whenever someone asked me to recommend a thrilling book I told them to watch for Archetype in February 2014. I would tell them how absorbing it was and that I couldn’t put it down. And here I am, months later, simply dazzled by the follow-up book, Prototype, which I was fortunate enough to acquire early.
Dazzled, I say, because it’s a tremendous sequel.
* Spoilers for those who have not read Archetype *
Emma has escaped Declan Burke and fled their home after discovering that she is a clone. When he offers a sizeable reward for her return she must turn to her past for help. Now, with the resistance, she struggles to forget her time with Declan. She also begins to experience overwhelming moments of panic and obliteration which she brushes aside as trauma. In the midst of her adjustment Noah, her former husband before she was cloned, has moved on with another woman, Sonya. Sonya is raising Adrienne, Emma and Noah’s daughter whom Emma has never known. Emma, displaced and broken, tries to learn who she is and where she now belongs.
Emma fights fire with fire, turning Burke’s own manipulations back on him whenever she can. She is resourceful and courageous even in the face of insurmountable odds. She is the perfect blend of weak and malleable, strengths and flaws. She’s polarizing through and through.
The biggest thing about this book is the theme of identity and how Emma molds herself to her own, both past and present. Everyone has expectations of who she was and who she is now. This is a hard road to travel as she does not feel as if she identifies with Emma pre-cloning. Emma 2.0 (as she is jokingly dubbed by the members of the resistance) cannot reconcile the confusion of her own heart and is constantly pulled in every direction. As a result her conflicts are largely internal and the book reads as such. However, she finds ways to defy expectations and forges new paths for herself. Through it all she achieves the duality that comes from someone who has lived and lost, and fought with every step.
Emma’s gains are the reader’s gains, and her pain rings true as well. With every turn her endeavors become crucial, significant moments in the book. These moments are what makes Waters books so impressive; moments of incredible depth that stay with a reader long after the book’s conclusion.
Prototype is striking and poignant; a beautiful and terrifying glimpse of possibility. These books cannot be dismissed merely as potential, speculative fiction. They are plausible in every way.
Ends 4/15/14. Multiple entries encouraged. Come enter!
Black Ice is a standalone Mystery/Thriller novel written by Becca Fitzpatrick. The novel releases October 7, 2014 from Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers. I was fortunate enough to get a bound manuscript very early.
Britt Pffeifer has always been in love with Calvin Versteeg, even eight months after he ended their secret relationship. Now, as a senior in high school, she wants to prove to him that she can survive without him in every way. To that end she and her best friend Korbie, his spoiled younger sister, plan a backpacking trip in the Teton Range to Idlewilde, the grand Versteeg cabin. She has trained for a year for this and she is prepared for everything until a chance snowstorm strands them on the road.
Terrified of the elements Britt convinces Korbie to abandon the car. The first shelter they find is occupied by two young men with a surprise in store for them. They soon discover that Shaun and Mason are on the run from the police when they are taken hostage. What follows next is a frantic mix of high-stakes action and cerebral characterization.
I tend to not like this genre for its predictability. However, I devoured Black Ice over a two-day period. It’s a mercurial blend of nail-biting action and romantic trust gambles. Therefore, I couldn’t put it down. The paths that seem oh-so wrong are oh-so right, and the path that Fitzpatrick lures the reader along is powerful. This is an impressive book with a riotous, rapid-paced, adrenaline-laden pulse. I lost my breath several times trying to keep up.
What I liked was the way that Fitzpatrick told this story. Since Britt is recovering from heartbreak without proper closure much of the book emphasizes this. As such Britt copes with her current terrible reality with memories of the past. She and Calvin had a tumultuous relationship and this story is primarily told in flashbacks. Not all of them are good, in fact many of them are bittersweet. However, it serves as a great coping mechanism to remind her to do one crucial thing – survive.
Into the Still Blue is the final book in Veronica Rossi’s trilogy that began with Under the Never Sky. I have been reading them for the last week and...more Into the Still Blue is the final book in Veronica Rossi’s trilogy that began with Under the Never Sky. I have been reading them for the last week and have been solidly entertained. Reading a final book is always bittersweet especially when the previous books are so good. If it’s underwhelming it lets the entire series down and can fester as one of those disappointments you regret undertaking.
I’m happy to say that the disappointment never came. Into the Still Blue is just as fantastic as the first two books.
* Spoilers for those who have not read Under the Never Sky and Through the Ever Night *
The world is collapsing around the Tides. The aether storms are destroying everything and the Tides are forced into a cave for survival. The city dwellers and other outsiders are planning to decamp for the last bastion of resources – the fabled Still Blue. Perry and Aria must find the Still Blue before Sable or Hess claim it for the Horns and the Dwellers . The key to their survival lies in the hands of one young man with unbelievable powers and everyone will do whatever it takes to get him for their own.
To add to the drama everyone is grieving the loss of loved ones. Roar and Perry are at odds. Meanwhile Aria struggles with her own grief over the loss of her mother while trying to puzzle out the mystery of her absentee Father with little to go on… and there are so many other lives to consider.
These books. These books… I enjoyed the hell out of the whole series, novellas and all. Fantastic.
One of the things that Rossi does extremely well are the inter-personal dynamics between the characters. The side characters are just as compelling as the protagonists. I am thrilled by the relationship that she wrote between Roar and Aria. At first I was afraid that it would turn into the dreaded love triangle but Rossi keeps their friendship simply that – a friendship. It seems daring considering the young adult market of today. So many authors and publishers see a second strong male in a book as fodder for romantic conflict. I’m glad that Rossi created Roar and that she let him become his own man separate of Aria and Peregrine. This speaks volumes of her abilities as a writer, that she is willing to go in this direction and own the choice.
This book is extremely character driven, more so than the first two books. The first two books have a beautiful blend of plot and characterization. This book rests firmly in the final book camp. It’s all conclusion, tying loose ends until the finale. In that it is exceedingly simple and less plot divergent than the previous books. Everything in this book is propelled by the force of these people. Some readers might find it slow as a result. I love these characters and I love this world so this did not bother me at all. This was a great ending to this phenomenal series.
I hate to see it go, but I’m thrilled to see what Rossi does next. I love Rossi’s imagination and I want more of her worlds.
Second book syndrome is a thing I have come to fear, particularly when I loved the first book so much. In the case of Through the Ever Nig...more Roar = love.
Second book syndrome is a thing I have come to fear, particularly when I loved the first book so much. In the case of Through the Ever Night, the sequel to Veronica Rossi’s debut Under the Never Sky, the fear is completely unfounded. This book is just as thrilling, just as compulsively readable as book one, if not more so.
* Spoilers for those who have not read Under the Never Sky *
Perry has become the Blood Lord of the Tides. He has newfound responsibilities that weigh down his thoughts. The aether storms are increasing and the Tides are having difficulties surmounting them. Meanwhile, Aria has come to the compound and is having difficulty fitting in. To ease the transition she and Perry are keeping their relationship a secret, knowing that the Tides still consider her an outsider. Perry is still finding his stride being a ruler and his grasp on power is fragile. But Aria has a greater task at hand – she must find the Still Blue, a fabled paradise that is the only chance of survival. Consul Hess has Perry’s nephew, Talon, and if the Perry wants him back aria must find a myth.
The journey separates Perry and Aria and the trials mount up. Can the two survive the emotional strain to remain true to each other?
This book… this book. I cannot begin to tell you what I loved about it. Succinctly put, it’s bloody brilliant. So much of the book is plot spoilers for those who have not read it, so I won’t go there. I will say this though – I could read these characters over and over again. Especially Roar. No, scratch that… particularly Roar. Roar balances out the dynamics and makes this book a thing of complex beauty. But he brings out the best in everyone around him, so he’s a great addition to an already phenomenal book. The things that happen to him, the things that he brings to the big picture, are truly magic.
Perry and Aria… so many things to say. So many things I cannot say. Rest assured that this series is shooting into my highest heights and I have all the expectations for book three.
I first attempted to read Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi in 2011. I had acquired an advanced copy and picked it out of the pile at random. I wasn’t feeling the book then so I put it down, vowing to return to it. It took three years and numerous recommendations but I finally read it to completion… and I loved it. Every word. It’s fantastic.
Aria is from Reverie, an enclosed city in the middle of the Death Shop. The Death Shop is a wasteland where few survive and the aether, a series of lightning storms, is ever-present. Aria’s life has been one of frivolous virtual existences thanks to the Realms and her Smarteye, both devices allowing her to frolic away the time locked in Reverie. In the Realms Aria can experience anything and anything place in the blink of an eye, and one day an experience there causes her exile from Reverie.
Betrayed and dishonoured Aria is banished to the Death Shop because of an outsider named Peregrine (called Perry for short). Perry invaded Reverie and caused great damage to Soren, Consul Hess’s son, as well as a breach in Reverie’s walls. Aria’s involvement with his invasion is the reason for her punishment and she is not happy to see him on the outside. However, if she wants to survive life under the never sky she has to trust the savage outsider.
Under the Never Sky is a riotous debut; a quick-paced joyride. Part adventure novel and part science fiction this book has something for every reader. The plot is tidy and the character interactions rich. It has the right mix of sharp action and complex dynamics.
Aria is a great character; rounded and determined though she is completely out of her depth. Aria has been genetically engineered to have the gift of song but it’s her hidden talents that surprise everyone. Perry is important in his tribe. His brother, Vale, is the Blood Lord of the Tides. Though Vale was first in line, Perry thinks he should be the Blood Lord . Perry is also a Scire, marked by two bands on his arm to set him apart. He can see in the dark of night. He can also smell emotions giving him and advantage over prey and people alike. As the story goes on the two find themselves drawing on their mutual abilities to survive the aether.
I loved this book. It made me happy from the word go. I cannot remember such an original set of characters or circumstances. I loved this world. I loved the characters and the situations. Altogether these things made for an experience that will root itself in my consciousness for some time to come.