There are various reasons why I love this book, but I'm only listing two. One, obviously is because I have an older si...moreReview posted at Amaterasu Reads
There are various reasons why I love this book, but I'm only listing two. One, obviously is because I have an older sister (and a twin brother) and I definitely know what it feels like to live in the shadow of someone who is just "more" than you think you'll ever be, and yet they're someone you virtually spend your life with. Nell grew up believing that she and Layla are the same, Nellayla. But as they grow older, Nell realized that they're not, and while Layla is the Golden sister everyone knows, and she'll always be "N. Golden", Nell still adored, looked up, idolized and believed in her older sister. But what if she's not what everyone thought she was?
As two people, Nell and Layla grow up experiencing life differently and Nell as the younger sister wanted to know everything about their sister. Nell is a complicated mix of emotions, envy, and always that nagging, lingering feeling inside her that asks 'why not her?' and 'why is it always Layla?'. I felt for her at that point, and I understand that feeling, sisterhood. You want to be there, and the way both of their feelings were portrayed were heartfelt and convincing. I was frustrated, worried, afraid and disappointed like Nell was, and surprisingly, like Kayla. This was written in Nell's point of view, but I loved how I was able to also take a peek in Layla's life, see what's behind that seemingly perfect facade. It was fascinating, interesting and somewhat terrifying.
My second reason: Dana Reinhardt's masterful writing style. When I first read The Summer I Learned to Fly, it took a lot for me not to cry. The way she was able to convey what Nell feels through everything just gets to you. You're not human if you don't feel anything while reading this book. She was able to craft Nell and Layla, two sisters seemingly inseparable, as similar characters and yet different in ways that matter. Dana Reinhardt made sure both sisters navigated through teenage life the way a teenager should: they make mistakes, fall in and out of love, get confused, get hurt, get frightened, get angry, desperate. It's a painful, but amazing experience in more ways than one.
Felix deserves a special mention in this book. He's this adorable, charming guy, the perfect example of that right person you're looking for all your life, but was there in front of you all along, loving you in the way he knew how. He's funny and sarcastic and caring, a boy who's all smiles but also vulnerable and afraid of the trials life is throwing his way.
We Are the Goldens is a memorable read for me. The concept of family, sisterhood and the lengths one must go to in order to keep a secret, to preserve the fragile bonds between two people growing up, experiencing life and love and what they're willing to do to keep everything 'perfect' was written in such a simple, mysterious way, the suspense holding you off the last minute. And you wait, and wait, and wait some more until it was time to reveal everything. Until you start to wonder, what happens next? One can only guess.
That familiar pinch to the heart, that lightning quick searing pain, the bittersweet emotions welling up, gone the moment you feel it and then you find yourself saying "Ah, yes... this is how it feels when I read a Dana Reinhardt book". I loved and hated the feelings her books always make me feel right after I finish reading them. This is a good one.(less)
So cute! Yokozawa must be the most insecure guy in the world! Hard to believe since he's a great salesman... and Kirishima is TOTALLY ADORABLE! ADORAB...moreSo cute! Yokozawa must be the most insecure guy in the world! Hard to believe since he's a great salesman... and Kirishima is TOTALLY ADORABLE! ADORABLE!(less)
A 19 year old who lived all her life in the forest, hidden, suddenly thrust into a world she has prepared for all her...moreReview posted at Amaterasu Reads
A 19 year old who lived all her life in the forest, hidden, suddenly thrust into a world she has prepared for all her life but knew nothing of. Kelsey was raised strictly, in secret, and she was suddenly given a title she didn't want, a title that can get her killed as soon as she step out of the forest she grew up in. I immediately liked her. From the start it was established that Kelsey, at best, is a plain looking girl, and even though she had her own insecurities to deal with in terms of appearance, she's a girl vastly unlike her mother: witty, strong with a tough resolve and a kind heart. This is one of the books I've read in a while where the girl is not "pretty" or looking fabulous or stunningly beautiful and it's totally okay. Beauty is not an advantage for her, but what Kelsey lacks in physical appearance, her wit and intelligence makes up for. With her, you believe that appearance isn't everything. And in this book, it's not.
Queen of the Tearling had an ensemble of lively, supporting characters that helped drive the story forward and in good time. A good example is The Queen's Guard. Among them, The Mace, Lazarus, is one of my favorites. He's an unexpected ally that will make you think twice if it's alright to make him stay or let him go. He's fiercely loyal to Kelsey, and more than being a guard, he's like a mentor and adviser to her. The Mace is feared throughout Tearling, and even in Mortmesne, and with good reason. He's not the amiable, caring type. He's a fearsome warrior who has his own demons to battle with. but Lazarus had unexpected, surprise moments that endears him to a reader like me. He's the closest thing to a father Kelsey will ever have.
Another interesting character that caught my eye in this novel is The Fetch, for reasons the quite similar and still somewhat different to why I liked Lazarus. He's a very mysterious character, who warrants a close, second glance. His real age, heritage and character is unknown, whose alliance with Kelsey is still somewhat unclear and undefined. Is he a friend? A foe masquerading as a knight in shining armor? He might have saved her life, but will he be the one to kill her when she fails to help her Kingdom? The Fetch hopes for a good Queen to lead the Tearling, and he expects a lot from Kelsey. He's straightforward and vague, ruthless and playful, extremely clever, crafty and powerful. It's like he's born out of the assumptions and guesses of people, because there's nothing about him that seemed true. He reminds me of the Darkling! I'd also like to know what it means for Kelsey when it's time for the Fetch to get his due for saving her life. Is anyone also keeping an eye to Pen? Was it just me or is he also another potential love interest for the Queen?
I've always stressed how important world building is in a book, and sadly that is what Queen of the Tearling felt lacking for me. It's not that the author did not make an effort to build a world good enough to grasp, as the explanation of the "Crossing" helped, but the time references used added to the confusion instead of establishing it. A world where technology took a huge step backwards, where books are scarce and warfare and invading was the norm. The references to the present we have now (J.K. Rowling books, for example) didn't seem to fit the world of the Tearling, making it hard to put down the exact time the story takes place. What kind of age? Modernly backwards? Medieval? Were this Kingdoms isolated that whatever they lost (doctors, equipments, gunpowder and other modern amenities) cannot be recovered or remade? What kind of world really is it?
But Queen of the Tearling had a good mix of intrigue and conflict, and vile villains you'd loathe in an instant. The author took time to dive into the perspectives of these characters as well. The Red Queen, ambitious, evil and heartless, with her own agendas and problems to solve in a Kingdom powerful enough to destroy everything in its path. Arlen Thorne, the scumbag with a black soul who treats the people of the Tearling as nothing but mere commodity, a tool to get rich, to name a few. The story also touched based with slavery, cruelty, the never ending struggle for power in a Kingdom slowly deteriorating, a Kingdom left to rot under incompetent hands. Even Kelsey's struggle to accept the fact that what she knew wasn't true, and that certain truths about her mother, her guardians, their roles in her life, were sometimes tough and hard to slowly, but she knew she had to move forward and strive for the best for the sake of her Kingdom.
There's a lot in this book that I loved, hated and got confused of, but it made my reading experience rich, memorable and enjoyable. From page one, I found myself being swept along by the pace and what the story has to offer. What existed for me is just the story of a girl, one filled with magic, trials and a constant battle for a Kingdom left to ruin and fall into the hands of a tyrant. How can one girl change the fate of a Kingdom that is doomed to be subservient? You have to read this book to find out how a nineteen year old girl starts her journey to become the only hope for a Kingdom she didn't know how to lead, how she grows up and becomes a force to recon with in such a delightful, fast paced, character driven story.
Still, it's obvious how much effort it took to give birth to this novel. A great start for a debut author! (less)