I was excited to read this when I first heard about it. It sounded pretty awesome, and that cover, yeah, that had me pulling towards it faster than an...moreI was excited to read this when I first heard about it. It sounded pretty awesome, and that cover, yeah, that had me pulling towards it faster than anything else could. When Netgalley accepted my request, I was so anxious to dive right into the story. I was never really worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. And it did. Even going beyond what I was hoping for, and promising so much more.
I find pirates rather intriguing. Maybe that stems from my liking of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but don’t pillaging, sword fighting, treasure seeking pirates have a ring of adventure and mystery to them? Even if some of them are good for nothing scoundrels. The pirates in this here book were fashioned quite well. The story is told from a young pirate girl’s point of view. Which I honestly find quite appealing. A pirate girl isn’t going to be a TSTL heroine who relies on her hero to save her. Ananna was fierce and independent. She takes action, and she doesn’t wait for the dazzling hero to get her out of the situations she gets herself into. And this is what drew me completely into the story.
I found myself falling in love with Ananna’s voice. She was just such fun to read. She was a strong character. She was the fierce, independent pirate girl, but she also shows a soft side. A side that cares about people and that could love. And she shows that she’s not completely fearless. There are things that scare her senseless. But she doesn’t let her fright get the better of her. She rises after the scare with strength and determination to set out to do what she needs to. Then there was Naji. The assassin whose life Ananna saved and now they’re bonded together and they have to find a way to break the curse. Naji was a pretty cool character, and I felt was created really good. He’s an awesome assassin. Black as night that can move without a sound and can kill with precision and skill. But Naji isn’t your typical prince charming who has girls falling over their feet to get him, who dazzles everyone, including the heroine, with his charms and extremely hot looks. Naji is scarred, physically and internally. And this shows the reader his weakness. It shows that he is not just the fearless, stealthy assassin. He has demons he’s trying to fight, and he tries to hide it. And I really did feel for him. I find myself liking the tortured hero, because it shows they’re not perfect, and that they have a past.
I liked the subtle, slow growing romance. I liked that Ananna didn’t immediately fall in love with him (which would be pretty hard to do when he just tried to kill her). I liked that they were forced to be together which they both resented, but that through this bond, this curse, they grew to understand each other. I liked that Ananna was able to see past Naji’s scars, and focus on the man who desperately needs help. I felt that the buildup of their friendship, and potential, inevitable romance was done well and was beautiful. I’m extremely excited to see how their romance will blossom.
And the ending. The ending was perfect! The last line made me smile and made my heart grow warm because of its beauty and love. This novel was beautifully crafted and executed. It was by no means perfect. When I really think about it, there are a few flaws, but I just don’t want to think about those, because the book was otherwise so awesome that I don’t want my love of it tainted in any way. So, I’ll focus on the bright spots instead. K? The characters were very well rounded, and I loved them, the plot was exciting and intriguing, the world was luscious and wonderfully built, the writing was amazing. Pretty much I just loved the whole book. Clarke did an awesome job, and I cannot wait for the sequel. Which should be coming out any day now. Sometime next year. Or maybe sooner if I can bribe the publisher, and find some ingenious way to force Clarke to write faster. Because we all know how readers hate to wait. Anyway, I applaud Clarke for writing an incredible, worthwhile young adult novel that hopefully readers everywhere will love.
Thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for the arc.(less)
Glamorous Illusions follows the journey of a young woman as she tries to discover who she is, and what she can become. At the beginning, she learns ab...moreGlamorous Illusions follows the journey of a young woman as she tries to discover who she is, and what she can become. At the beginning, she learns about a secret her parents kept from her her whole life. She feels betrayed by what happened, and that they never told her. Then she is offered a chance to go on the Grand Tour of Europe with her new found siblings, who may just hate her for who she is. She goes a little grudgingly, wary of the man who she knows now as her blood father. But she finds as she travels with her siblings, and comes to accept who she is, that she can’t be mad at any of her parents, her mother or her two fathers, because they each gave her a life that helped shape her into the woman that she is, and is becoming.
Cora was a nice protagonist. I didn’t always like being in her head. Not that she was annoying, or stupid, I just couldn’t quite connect with her. It helped that her narrative was broken up by the viewpoints of Will. I did like seeing Cora’s journey, and how she coped with her new, extravagant life, and having to leave the people she loved. She was strong, and didn’t let her siblings dislike of her keep her down. I appreciated her humility, and determination to stand firm, and her accepting herself for who she is, no matter what her past is. People could treat her however they may, but she knew there were people who cared about her, so their disdain couldn’t hurt her. But, I also felt that she was kind of boring. She’s just a normal girl, trying to find where she fits in; which is, you know, cliché. And nothing terribly original or exciting happened to put a twist on that storyline. So maybe that’s partly why I couldn’t connect with her.
The plot also, was kind of boring. It wasn’t bad, or completely disinteresting, but it wasn’t interesting enough to keep my attention focused solely on the book, so that I couldn’t bear to be stop reading. I did enjoy learning about the history, and whatnot. I can tell that Bergren did her research well, and cared enough to get the details right. It wasn’t until the ending, where the real excitement began, that I became really interested, and excited, and couldn’t stop reading. Too bad that happened at the end, and not sooner. Don’t get me wrong, not all books have to be exciting and adventurous to be worth reading, or to have deep meaning. I love books that are slow, and contemplative, with lush descriptions and wonderful characters who triumph not by fighting a dragon, but by coming to know their heart and the hearts of others. And Glamorous Illusions did do this. It did have wonderful descriptions of the places the characters visited, and well-rounded characters that the reader comes to understand and like. I just felt that something was missing, for me at least.
I did like the romance, and actually, the biggest reason why I would consider reading the second book would be to see that romance develop. I’m interested to see where it goes, and to see Will and Cora fall in love. Will was a wonderful hero. He was a gentlemen who only wanted to teach his clients history, and to protect them on the tour. He just wasn’t ready to have his heart stolen. And he tries to fight it. Cora is above his station, and he isn’t supposed to get involved with the clients. But he can’t help what he feels. I liked seeing his perspective. Being able to see his side and Cora’s, seeing both of their uncertainties, and wondering if the other could possibly like them, but then telling themselves that it could never work. And then there’s Pierre, a Frenchman who falls for Cora, and she can’t help but be pleased by his attention. So, there’s a little love triangle, which will probably be explored more in the coming novels. But this triangle isn’t angsty or annoying, where the girl flip flops between the guys. It’s done well, and is believable.
So, in the end, I liked Glamorous Illusions well enough. I loved the ending, and would like to see more of Cora and Will. I think fans of the River of Time series will like this novel, and probably history fiction buffs. As for me, I’ll just have to see what the next novel has to offer before I invest in it.
Thank you to David C. Cook and Netgalley for the arc.(less)
This was such a wonderful love story. As promised on the cover, the story of Leigh captured my heart, and my soul. The cover here on Goodreads actuall...moreThis was such a wonderful love story. As promised on the cover, the story of Leigh captured my heart, and my soul. The cover here on Goodreads actually has a different sentence. On my copy it says A love story so powerful it captures more than your heart. It was a beautiful story about a girl finding herself, going out to live in a more liberated world with no overly protective mother hovering over her shoulder every minute of the day. The messages found within made my soul smile. Seeing the characters growth and love and faith strengthened mine and made me want them to have their happily ever afters!
Some scenes were so poignant I had tears in my eyes. Leigh is a survivor of ovarian cancer and has moved to BYU Utah with her brother to attend college. We’re taken inside Leigh’s head, and see the love she has for her brother and Nathan and Brian and her parents. We see her fears and uncertainties and her strengthened faith as those who love her help her to see the light and as she overcomes trials and finds who she is. I loved her strength and determination to do things herself, to do what she loves. She is rather stupid about boys. She never knows when one likes her, and fancies herself deeply in love with one who is so obviously not right for her, and doesn’t notice when the one who is her only true friend loves her. I knew from the very start that Noah was not good for her. He seemed too presumptuous and perfect with no charm or kindness. I loved that Leigh finally realized he wasn’t right. A little late, but not too late.
And then Brian was always there for her. Whenever she needed something he was there to help, to watch over her, to let her lean on him. He was so perfect. Not perfect in that he was godlike and flawless, but perfect in the sense that he was a good man who had faults, but his love was true and his faith was strong. He was such a sweet guy. Intimidating at first, with his broad build and tattoos, but kind and gentle and loving underneath. His and Leigh’s relationship was great. They started out as friends, then became pretty much best friends, and then Leigh realized what she was feeling for him was more than just friendship. Her realizing this, and me reading Brian looking at her deeply, made my heart go pitter patter and long for them to come together with love.
This novel wasn’t perfect. The pacing of the plot was disjointed sometimes, the dialogue stilted at times. The execution wasn’t amazing. But, the emotions were very apparent, the characters endearing, the romance sweet and beautiful, and the spiritual messages inspiring. I would recommend this book to any LDS member who loves a good romance. Don’t read it for the brilliant plot and wonderful writing. Read it for the love and spirit you will find. (less)
Seraphina was a beauty. And not just because of the beautiful writing, or the characters I came to love, but also because of the emotion suffused into...moreSeraphina was a beauty. And not just because of the beautiful writing, or the characters I came to love, but also because of the emotion suffused into the story. There is so much heart in this novel, in the characters, that it took my breath away, and I was literally swept away into this fantastic world of dragons and humans striving to coexist, yet harboring ill feelings toward the other because it is their nature. And defying this nature is a seemingly impossible feat.
Here enters the heroine of the story, Seraphina, who is harboring her own secret that could threaten to destroy her if anyone found out. Her mother was a dragon, her father a human, making her a very rare person, as dragons and humans do not mix. The very thought is unheard of, and disgusting to both dragons and humans. Yet the unthinkable happened when Linn fell in love with Claude, and Seraphina was born. But knowing that she is different, doesn’t keep her from excelling. She rises above this horrid secret, always striving to do her best, and trying to unite the two diverse groups.
There are moments when her secret becomes too hard a burden, from lying to the people she cares about, to trying to understand dragons better, while still wishing that she wasn’t one. There was one part where Seraphina realizes something, and her hatred of her dragon half is more than she can bear. She tries to cut her scales, and then, with great difficulty and pain, she pries one scale off. Even thinking back about it, it makes me squirm. Hartman, through that scene, was able to make me hate the dragon part of Seraphina, and I saw the revulsion and hatred that Seraphina has for herself, which prevents her from truly accepting who and what she is. I sympathized for her, and I wished that she could find someone, a friend, who could love her even despite her dragon half, and accept her, scales and all. And that moment did come about. One of my favorite parts of the novel was the end, when (view spoiler)[Lucian gently takes Seraphina’s wrist and kisses it. (hide spoiler)] That was a beautiful scene, showing that if someone can love her despite her scales, then so can she.
I loved how music was incorporated into the story. I have a thing for music in novels. It brings a special beauty and wonder to the story. I find myself being drawn in deeper with its musical tones, and lilting songs. Even though it’s only presented to me in prose, I can feel the music, and how it affects the characters. Seraphina especially, as this is her specialty. She tutors Princess Glisselda in music, and is assistant to the choir director. And when she plays her instruments, it fills her soul with vivacity and love. I would love to hear her play. It would be an unforgettable experience.
Princess Glisselda is one character I enjoyed immensely. She’s energetic, and seemingly naïve, but when placed in positions when she must fall into her role as heir to the throne, you can see the majestic queen she will become. She’s determined to do what is morally right, while being diplomatic, while keeping a measure of her innocence within. Her engagement to Lucian was created for political advancement, and while they are fond of each other, and perhaps love each other, I never felt that there was any romantic love. I felt that Lucian understood Seraphina better. What they have is something that is blooming into love, and it was beautiful, and executed well. But of course there are complications, seeing as he is engaged to the princess. But, I feel that Glisselda would be understanding, and maybe even support them.
Emotion is a big player in the novel. Dragons are emotionless. They don’t understand human emotion; they think it’s beneath them and their intellectual minds. But through a few dragons human eyes, we see them discover emotion, not understanding it, but not being able to turn away, because they are feeling something, and it’s broadening their understanding of humans and the world. As a reader, being given this fresh view of emotion made me connect with the novel more, because I was feeling those emotions. Then there are the human’s feelings (Seraphina, Lucian, Glisselda) about the dragons, and the evolution of those feelings as they’re given new insight about them.
The world-building was spectacular. The base of the story really did read like a classic fairytale with knights in shining armor, damsels in distress, and dragons. In a very loose, light way. The world Hartman created takes this storyline and turns it upside down, mixing everything up, while still retaining a ring of truth to the classic tales. We have the knight in shining armor, Lucian Kiggs, captain of the Queens Guard, who protects the royal family, and in a way, Seraphina. Then there’s the damsel in distress, Seraphina, who is distressed with her secret, and hideous dragon parts. And then, of course, dragons. But then it has political intrigue, and religion, and a murder mystery, and words of wisdom from past literary scholars in their world; all of which was handled with tact and skill. Not being too complex with the politics, or being overbearing with the religion. There was one line Lucian quoted from a scholar that I particularly liked. “Let the one who seeks justice, be just.” That could be applied to everything. If you want to be treated kindly, you must be kind to others, if you want to be loved, you must love, etc. Basic law of reciprocity. If you look closely, there are deeper meanings to be found in Seraphina.
I am just, in awe of this book. It was incredible, executed with finesse, created with love. I enjoyed every second of it. With beautiful prose, Hartman spun a tale reminiscent of fairytales, darkened with dragons, and hatred, lightened with music, and love, infused with breathless wonder, underlined with excitement. This book deserves so much praise, and I’m glad to be one singing my love of it. I would reccommend this book to fantasy lovers, dragon lovers, and people who like mysteries and mind puzzles, kind of like Bitterblue. I hope that you endeavor to step into this wonderful book, and I hope that you come out of it completely enthralled. So, bravo Rachel Hartman, you’ve won me over, and I cannot wait for Dracomachia["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)