This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, The Immortal Rules, or don't mind knowing some spoilers for it. The Ete...moreThis review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, The Immortal Rules, or don't mind knowing some spoilers for it. The Eternity Cure, however, will remain spoiler-free.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I'm so glad I gave this series another chance. If you'll remember my review of book one, The Immortal Rules, I harped on Allie and her motivation (or lack thereof) pretty hard. Yet I was still captivated by the world and the writing style, and thus expressed my hopes for its sequel(s). So when NetGalley knocked on my door/inbox with the offer of book two, I gladly accepted.
I'll admit starting out that I had some heavy reservations against this book. I considered re-reading book one, as I like to do before moving ahead in a series, but couldn't bring myself to push through the boredom I'd already gone through once. And the beginning of this book presented me with a few cases of missed opportunities that had me worried. But after the story got going, familiar faces appeared, and the action ramped up, I found myself enjoying this more and more.
Picking up almost exactly where The Immortal Rules left off, Allie is now hunting for her sire, Kanin. Very little time has passed, maybe a couple months, but there's no doubt that Allie has changed (for the better, in my opinion). She's been exposed to the highs and lows of both humanity and vampires, and is still seeking her place among them. But her existential quandary is put on hold for the moment as her blood-tie to Kanin shows her that his time is running short, so it's road trip time for our heroine as she chases an obtainable goal.
Allie is much more fully formed here, aided in no small part by the fact that she's striving toward a location, a person, a thing. Motivation goes a long way toward characterization in my book. (Okay, I'll shut up about that now.) But on the whole she is both jaded and hopeful, realistic yet oddly optimistic, moralistic yet still demonized. She's not yet come to terms with her experiences from the last book, but is determined to find her place in the world. She's strong and street-smart, but could use a bit of help in the political department, especially when it comes to dealing with vampires.
Which is where Jackal comes in. You heard right. Jackal. The main villain and Allie's vampiric blood brother from the end of the last book. He's also feeling Kanin's psychic call for help and offers Allie help in rescuing him. Allie doesn't trust him as far as she could throw him, but accepts the help knowing there's no way she could take down Kanin's captor—a vampire even more powerful than Kanin and more psycho than Jackal—by herself.
Personally, I liked Jackal a lot. He was sarcastic, cocky, and a jackass a lot of the time, but what can I say? I really liked him as a character. He was interesting, smart, funny, and provides some great dialog. There were a couple parts where he hinted at a possible tragic backstory, telling Allie that all vampires lose to their demon eventually, like maybe he'd dealt with a loss that jaded him beyond humanity already. But I'm also a sucker for redemption story lines, so having him go from ultimate evil to chaotic good guy was perfectly acceptable in my book.
So both vampires set out to find and rescue their sire. And yet for some time I questioned Allie's pull toward Kanin. Not in its science/magic, but in its importance. Allie seems to stake everything on finding Kanin, putting him above love, revenge, and at times even her own safety. Granted, her having a goal is much better than the boredom of the last book (sorry), but I continually questioned what he meant to her.
Thankfully I wasn't alone in this quandary, and eventually Zeke asks Allie that exact same question. In the end, Allie and Zeke come to an understanding by comparing Kanin to Zeke's father, Jebbadiah. Unfortunately, I saw very little to compare. Zeke was raised with/by his father for all of his life, able to experience both the good and the bad. So even though they disagreed on morality and principles, and even though Zeke was physically abused by him, Jebbadiah was still his father and earned his love and respect. Allie, on the other hand, knew Kanin for a few weeks at most, and even in YA super-speed, that's hardly enough time to form an everlasting fatherly bond. If it's vampire magic, just say it's vampire magic. If it's stronger than that, you'd better back it up with something more.
And yes, Zeke's back. Come on, he's a main love interest, did you really think he'd be gone for long? Though I didn't fully understand the chemistry between the two (Allie being attracted to Zeke, I got, but Zeke's pull to Allie I didn't), once I kinda blindly accepted that it existed, I didn't mind the romance. Yeah, it's kinda mushy, but considering how dark the rest of the environment was, I welcomed a little lightheartedness. And that's not to say that it's out of place in this world either. They discuss and deal with a lot of tough issues, and there are times when it looks like they'll call it quits. So I found it believable, in as much as the entire premise is believable, and handled fairly well.
However, I could see the possibility of a triangle brewing. I'm not sure if there was ever one in the works and it was edited out, or if it's written intentionally vaguely, but I can see a lot of readers gravitating toward a Allie/Jackal pairing. I'm sure the whole vampire brother/sister thing is supposed to dissuade readers from thinking that way, but who knows how vampire culture works in regards to that? Jackal keeps telling Allie that they'd be a great team, that they're a lot alike, and Allie even states a couple times how Jackal's personality is rubbing off on her. Flirting or just sibling affection? I'll let you decide.
In terms of the story as a whole, I saw a lot of things coming before they were revealed. Not to say that I wasn't ever surprised, but after the story got going a bit I was able to read hints very easily and knew some 'surprises' were coming eventually. Not sure whether these were due to the story itself or due to my own reading history. Still, I found the twists enjoyable and exciting, even those I expected, and I remained engaged and entertained throughout my reading.
But as much as I enjoyed the story, the writing, the characters, and the progression as a whole, it's time for a couple things that ground my gears.
One of my biggest peeves in the entire book happened within the first couple chapters, and my rage toward it has only grown stronger with time. In one of the first cities Allie enters in the book, she stumbles across the vampire prince ruling Washington D.C., who just so happens to be female. A female vampire prince? A female who isn't a total bitch or trying to tear her head off? A female who seems diplomatic, controlled, and might actually offer some advice to Allie who is currently struggling to find her way.
Please, sir ma'am, can I have some more?!?
Haha, no, just kidding. She gets maybe 5 lines of dialog, all of which is only exposition, and then we never see or think of her again. WHY!?! Is it because Allie has to be so super special that giving even one other female to compare to might make her shine less? Heaven forbid we give anyone that our main character might relate to — no, she's got to forge her own path and be even more super special awesome than all the stupid, violent, cruel boys she's surrounded by. Ya know, except when they've got to come to the rescue in a fight. Or except when we're loving on one of them. But, yeah, girl power!
Ugh. I understand how the story is obviously already mapped out and everything, but this one wasted character was so enraging to me. To have this idea of a female vampire prince, then show how civilized she acts with her humans, and with other vampires in general, and have her be completely glossed over in a matter of two chapters was such a let-down for me. And it doubly didn't help that it came at the beginning when I was still being extra suspicious and critical of everything. So, yeah, sorry, but I'm horribly disappointed with Azura's treatment.
But I'd say my biggest disappointment was in the cure itself. I can't say too much, obviously because of spoilers, but I will say I was disappointed in the staging of the cure. The cure comes into being completely off screen. And as such it seemed like more of a plot convenience or deus ex machina than an actual integral plot point. I appreciate that the timing was kept brisk for the story as a whole, but I felt that something as HUGE as this cure could have been integrated a bit more cleverly.
So this brings me to one of my biggest questions before, during, and after reading The Eternity Cure...can you, or should you in fact, read this without reading its predecessor, The Immortal Rules? Honestly, I think it could be done, but probably shouldn't. If there's one thing that The Immortal Rules did well, it was setting up the world for these characters. The grit, the terror, the despair, and so much of the pre-apocalyptic history was covered so well in book one, that book two's short recaps to boost your memory just don't do them justice. The Eternity Cure builds off of The Immortal Rules just as a sequel should; taking the elements that were good and amping up the stakes so that we're on the edge of our seats throughout and eager to pick up book three. So while a lot didn't work for me in book one, I'm glad I experienced it before tackling book two.
Overall I found The Eternity Cure an exciting and well executed installment in what is turning into a gripping series. I'd highly recommend it for those who enjoyed (or managed to get through) The Immortal Rules, or those who are interested in a gritty YA romance with a lot of bloody vampire action. There were three F-bombs and a fair amount of violence and gore, so I'd rank this appropriate for high-school and older. The Blood of Eden series might have had a rough start (for me), but its second journey proved to be even more gripping than the first. So if you're looking for a vampire thriller that has more than a little bite to it, then you'll definitely want to pick up The Eternity Cure.
This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, Halflings, or don't mind knowing some major spoilers for it. Guardian,...moreThis review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, Halflings, or don't mind knowing some major spoilers for it. Guardian, however, will remain spoiler-free.
If Halflings had me torn, Guardian has me ripped apart. And not in a good way. Sure, Halflings disappointed me in some respects, but it at least still had enough to make me hope for improvements. Guardian managed to nothing but infuriate me chapter after chapter. But let me start at the beginning.
Nikki Youngblood has lost everything she knows and loves. Her parents were murdered. Her house was emptied by her mysterious godfather. Even her dog was slaughtered by hellhounds. All she has left to cling onto is her half-angel protectors, two of whom are trying to become a bit closer than protectors. So it just stands to reason that they all need a vacation.
Yep, no Twilight rip-off here; this love triangle is on the move. And what better way to solve angsty problems than trapping eleven teenagers on a boat together? Obviously God knows what he's doing here.
Okay, all joking aside, there seriously are eleven teenagers on a private boat crossing the Atlantic for about half this book. During that time Nikki is both focusing on training herself in otherworldly matters and trying not to cause either of her love interests to give up their eternity for her. Add that to thrilling activities with the other Halflings such as shopping (with the girls Vegan, Winter, and Glimmer), homework (with Zero), and admiring the view (of Ocean, Sky, and Dash [characters, not scenery]) and she has a busy schedule indeed.
Nikki's emotional range for the majority of this book went from Woe is me to I'm a horrible person. The few times of happiness she experiences are always overshadowed by the fact that she's hurting her other love. That's right, she's still deeply in love with both Mace and Raven. But when she finally makes a decision between the two, she happens to overhear everyone talk about how she's damning him, and how selfish she is, and how it would be better if they'd never met.
And therein lies one of my biggest peeves of the book: the villanization of women. Yes, Nikki is being an idiot stringing along two guys, but they're allowing her to do so. Neither of the guys seems to have a problem with knowing they're both under consideration. But to everyone else, she's a whore and a temptress. During one of the eavesdropped conversations, they even go so far as to make this reference:
"God was the perfect father, yet Adam still chose sin." "Yes. For a woman." [Location 2588 of ARC]
In one of the other overheard conversations, Glimmer, who has never liked her, makes the comment that if [Boy] is too stupid, then Nikki should be taking matters into her own hands and leave. Vegan and Winter stay silent, which Nikki takes as agreement. Once again, the blame of the matter lies not with the boy, but the inherently evil woman. Obviously Nikki, and her feminine ways have seduced the half-angels into romancing her. And if their minds have been overcome by her poison, then it falls to Nikki to do the right thing.
Oh, please. I'm all for girl power, but there's only so much for which Nikki can be held responsible.
But speaking of the guys, here's how they hold up in this book. Mace is still head-over-heels over Nikki. He may have feigned trying to cut back on courting the human, but he's back in full-swing here. From close-quarters maneuvering to giving gifts, he's one love-sick puppy. That is, until he thinks Nikki has made her choice and is now his property.
I kid you not. Once Raven is out of the picture, and Nikki is supposedly his for the taking, he gets super pissed off at every independent decision she makes. She decides to try training against a hellhound without his supervision (but other Halflings) and he flies off the handle. She goes out for a motorcycle ride without him, and she's being reckless. She gives someone a goodbye kiss, possibly for forever, and he tells her she needs to "Stick to the rules" before storming out. Even rag-doll Nikki realizes that's going a little far.
But it's okay because Mace is instantly sorry that his actions had repercussions and totally wants to accept Nikki for who she is now.
And then there's my boy, Raven. Raven comes off as a little douchy-er at times, but other times he's just as deep and romantic as ever. I'll admit, his attitude of 'you know you love me, and I can wait for you to figure it out' ground on my nerves. I remembered his cockiness, sure, but for him to tell her that to her face was just a turn-off.
I mentioned that Raven left the picture, and spoiler-ish, yeah he does. There's this huge event maybe halfway through where Nikki reaches out to Mace first/more than Raven, so he decides enough is enough with this mushy stuff, it's time to get some real work done. It's a little more complex than that, but you get the gist. He's still torn with the darkening of his soul and this quote really sums it up:
Raven cared about the society of one: himself. At least he had until Nikki. She'd changed him—both destroyed and remade him. There was a soul beneath his flesh. It had been a cold and shriveled empty place until she ignited it. Now it burned, and the awakened fire might kill him—if, of course, he wasn't already dead. [Location 2017 of ARC]
Love has reawakened his hope to keep fighting the darkness, but at the same time that Love would condemn him to the darkness.
Which leads me to my greatest disappointment of the book: the twist. It wasn't completely out of the blue—I could see evidence for it in both the last book and this one—but instead of sucking me in, it was more of a let-down for me. Also, the explanations for why it was a surprise to absolutely everyone, including the semi-omnipotent ANGEL, read more like weak excuses than plausible reasons. No me gusta. *
And did I mention there are also villains in this book? I mean, we know about creepy Damon Vessler (though, it seems no one EVER informs Nikki—bit of an oversight?) from book one, but apparently there are also Halfling hunters. Yes, apparently there are people who know about the existence of Halflings, and are trying to capture them with titanium. Also, these hunters know the Halflings are based in France and enjoy attacking innocents there whenever their plans are foiled. Want to know more? Too bad, 'cause there's no more information about these people.
Add in the constant female bashing, the disappointing twist that shouldn't have been, and sloppy writing including the Halfling hunters and two random instances of Vine narrating, and by all rights I should not be continuing this series. I shouldn't, I really shouldn't.
...But I will.
For two reasons: 1) I still like Raven. Like, really like him. And 2) Nikki post-twist interests me. There's such a huge, HUGE change that I feel like I'm reading a completely new story. I don't know that I'm looking forward to the next book, but at this point I'm intrigued enough to give it one last try. Oh, and did I mention it ends with a cliffhanger? That might have something to do with it as well.
Overall, I was disappointed with Guardian, but I think most fans of Halflings will continue enjoying the series. Most of the issues I had with the book were simply continued from the previous, so if you didn't mind them there, you probably won't notice them here. No language or sex to worry about, but it does have violence and dark overtones toward the ending. Based on the violence and the nature of some situations, I'd recommend it for high school and above. For someone already invested in the characters, this book will be impossible to put down.
Approximate Reading Time: 6.5 Hours
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Zondervan via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
* Due to formatting restrictions, I had to leave out a couple hidden spoilers from this review. If you are interested, you can read the unedited review at The Wolf's Den.(less)
Disclaimer: This review is based on a 9 chapter Sneak Peek I received from Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thi...moreDisclaimer: This review is based on a 9 chapter Sneak Peek I received from Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. This review is subject to change upon completion of the full text.
First of all, I hope they don't change a thing about that cover. It's gorgeous! Be sure to click on the image to get a larger view. Okay, maybe a little tweaking to the author name, as it can get a little lost up there. But still, great design guys. I only wish I'd gotten to see it on my Kindle - but that's neither here nor there.
I don't honestly remember what drew me to request this sneak peek from NetGalley two months back, but when I picked it up this week I had absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into. An organization that keeps secrets and souls, a world where the dead don't always rest in peace, and a fiery heroine who hunts down Histories while struggling to come to terms with her own... How could I not want to read more?
Mackenzie, or Mac to her family and friends, sucked me into her story instantly. Whether she was leading me through the present, navigating memories with her grandfather (Da) or brother, or exploring the other worlds of the Narrows and the Archive, I couldn't pull away. She's the perfect combination of strength and fragility; carrying out her duties to the best of her ability but still being raw from her recent loss, not to mention being so young in a job that deals with life and death situations on a daily basis.
The formatting was a bit wonky in my copy. Of course, I can't really fault it since it's not even an ARC and it has over 3 months before its proper release. Still, even with the strange fi & fl errors, the on-and-off red text, and the only sometimes bold flashback sections, it was very easy for me to tell what was happening at all times. Mac's narration (aka Schwab's writing) guides you through both past and present effortlessly, so even though there are a lot of switching tenses and flashbacks, I was never once confused. ...Okay, maybe just the first time when the formatting didn't change. But that's obviously a gimme.
Frankly, I was most surprised to find myself tearing up in a couple parts. Perhaps it's the fact that I lost a very dear companion (a cat, but still), and have attended a few memorial services recently. But nevertheless, I'd say this book's handling of the subject of death and the afterlife is extremely well-done. Not only is it innovative and completely new-to-me, but it's also tactful and sensitive.
Needless to say, I cannot wait to get my hands on the finished book come next January. There's a lot more I could say and a lot of theorizing I could make, but I'd rather save that for my eventual review. These 9 chapters are more than enough to suck you in and never let you go, so I'm more than eager to know what the rest of the book — and the series! — has in store! (less)
This was another offer NetGalley was kind enough to e-mail me about. I've heard so much about Kagawa's Iron Fey series (though I haven't read them yet) that I was eager for a chance to finally read her work. And it starred vampires, for crying out loud. Why wouldn't I jump at the chance?
Perhaps it was so much hype going in, but this book never clicked for me.
The book starts out with Allie, our narrator, living in the slums of a vampire city. She's tough but kind, realistic yet idealistic, and intelligent without knowing too much. Your typical street-rat/diamond-in-the-rough character.
Oh, and she's human.
Yeah, that introduction (above) from the book cover? We haven't gotten there yet. So I spent all of Part I waiting. Sure, I got to read about the city, learned a little bit of history, listened to rants about the evil vampires, but the whole time I knew that something was gonna go wrong and she was gonna end up a vamp. I mean, you can tell from the cover picture! I found it tedious.
And then we get to Part II...which was nothing but one long lesson. Allie's finally a vampire, now she has to learn the real history, how to fight, how to eat, and the ways of the vampire. But rather than getting to experiment on her own, make some discoveries or mistakes, she's given an all-knowing teacher to guide her through everything. Granted, she doesn't listen all the time, but even those parts are fleeting. In short, this is all setup so we know the world and, to some extent, the characters we'll be dealing with.
185 pages (36%) through and we're finally to the good stuff; the end of the exposition! That's right, the main story doesn't begin until Part III. All that stuff before was, in essence, a prologue—a telling of Allie's tragic backstory. Really?
But now it's time for the good stuff, right? Allie's finally allowed to venture out on her own. Unfortunately, she's a completely blank slate. That's right, by the time Part III rolls around, Allie's past has completely resolved itself. She's a vampire now, so all her human aspirations (Part I) are defunct, and she doesn't have to interact with all-knowing teacher (Part II) because she's on her own. She has absolutely no clue what she's 'living' for. Except she doesn't want to be a monster...which is the definition of what she is.
This is the crux of my problem with Allie. Like I said earlier, Allie is made up of cliché contradictions, things we know every strong female character will be, and honestly, I didn't find anything unique about her. I never understood her motivations, what she really believed in, and thus all her decisions felt half-assed. Like she could take them back if things didn't work out right. It wasn't until well into Part IV that I actually felt some conviction behind her actions. Which is great for the sequels, but for this book I felt cheated out of a character.
So that's the main character, what about the supporting cast? Well, they're pretty much vampire chow. Okay, actually I'll divide them into three groups: annoying, somewhat sympathetic, or integral to shaping Allie's story. You have the teacher, the antagonist, the villain, the love interest, and that basically sums it up. Because, see, Allie's a monster and can't get too close to anyone, so we never learn much about anyone, and thus I didn't care about anyone.
Okay, there is Zeke, the story's love interest. You can tell from his first scene that he's important because Allie actually seems interested. Zeke was quite possibly the strongest character of the story (though that's not saying much). He's got a tortured past (but who doesn't in this story?), yet he still has hope for himself and the world in general, and he's willing to fight for it. Finally, a character with some conviction! In terms of romance he was kinda bland, but then again so was his partner.
Blandness seems to be the reoccurring theme of this review. The writing as a whole just seemed that way. I looked at what was there, all the elements, and just wondered why Kagawa had chosen to write it that way. I wanted to love the story, I wanted something new and innovative, I wanted to be wowed and enchanted, but all I got was blah. The characters never popped, the dialogue was stiff, and the world was interesting but nothing I hadn't seen before.
On the bright side, I could picture everything happening. It was a very clear, visual read. But that only made me think of it as a movie. Or a novelization of a movie. That it's already been optioned as a movie only makes sense—the screenplay's practically already written. And really, I think it worked well as a movie—given the right actors and director, I'd pay to see it. But as a near-500-page book, I wanted more than what I could see.
But I feel like I've harped on the book a lot. Here are a few things I did genuinely like.
The vampires were really awesome. They were gritty, tough, non-sparkly— they weren't romanticized, which I loved. Even the 'good' vampires were demons in their own right. The Hunger was completely non-negotiable, and if they went too long without human blood (accept no substitutes) it would make them kill. I did take some issue with the physics of speaking, the fact that if you wanted to speak you'd have to take a breath to do so, yet vampire breathing was something so rare it had to be pointed out every single time, but never in speaking. But really, other than that, the vampires were believable, detailed, and deadly.
The whole apocalyptic story line, with the plague, the rabids, and the vampire uprising, was great, too. I do wish a little bit more explanation of the rabid disease had been present—like what, if anything, made them different from vampires, other than insanity. But the Red Lung disease thining out humanity, making it easier for vampires to take control, was well thought-out and explained, making a plausible backdrop for Allie's story.
Also, I loved the ending. No, not that way. Obviously, I can't go into it too much, but let me just say this ending made me excited to pick up the next book, despite all the things I hated. I finally feel like Allie has some experience and conviction under her belt, so now she can go be the character I always wanted her to be. And, for a book that is so filled with darkness, doubt, and hopelessness, the ending gave me a tiny bit of hope.
Ultimately, I'm a character-driven reader, and this book just didn't give me the character I needed. I thought the story was interesting, but I couldn't find anyone to latch onto to make me care. This is an origin story, but because I never connected to any of the characters, it felt more like one huge prologue. Now that Allie is motivated (read: fully-formed), I'm eager to find out what the next books have in store, so I guess this wasn't a total loss. I just wish I hadn't had to struggle through nearly 500 pages to get here.
Overall I found The Immortal Rules to be an interesting concept but kinda forgettable in the scheme of things. I'd recommend it for those with a lot of patience and who enjoy YA angst with some bloody vampire action. There is a good amount of violence and gore, so I'd rank this appropriate for high-school and older, despite the absence of language or sex. This first installment wasn't my favorite, but now that introductions are out of the way, I think the Blood of Eden series has a lot of potential to be great. So if you're looking to add a little more fang to your collection, you might give The Immortal Rules a try.
Approximate Reading Time: 9.5 hours
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.(less)
When I got the e-mail from NetGalley offering a limited (2-day) offer for the ARC of Grave Mercy I jumped at the chance. The premise sounded interesting, and if not completely unique, then a welcome change from the majority of YA lit being released these days. I applied and was accepted within a day or two.
Upon discovering that the book was 500+ pages I'll admit I was pretty intimidated, especially since I was only two weeks away from the April 3rd release. Nevertheless, I promised myself I would try to get it read near the release date.
I started reading on March 27th and my heart sunk. The narration was dry and choppy, details were minimal, and, most importantly, I couldn't find any personality in Ismae whatsoever. I couldn't believe I was dooming myself to read over 500 pages of this.
And then I hit Chapter 6—glorious Chapter 6—which takes place three years later. Now Ismae is seventeen and has had three years of training, friendship, and (most notably) learning to read and write. I absolutely loved the contrast of the two Ismaes and the ingenuity of the transition. Suddenly I couldn't wait to dig into the rest of the book.
Ismae turned out to be a fiery character. Determined to prove herself to her betters and Mortain, God of Death, she at first appears confident and cocky. But once she's out in the real world, her confidence takes a nose-dive and she's much less sure of anything, especially her own feelings. Normally a huge change in personality would throw up red flags—it's so rarely done well—but thankfully, this was one of the rare exceptions.
I think it's partly to do with the pacing of Ismae's story. Too often these days you have a character trying to go through their arc within two-or-three hundred pages. Honestly, that's not much room for change, so we're often given near-perfect characters becoming nearer-perfect characters. Grave Mercy has 549 pages to take us through Ismae's self-discovery, and it uses every single one of them.
But as much as I loved reading through Ismae's struggles and triumphs, I did think the 'overcoming her past' segments were covered extremely quickly. I would have liked to have seen more struggling with it besides when she was in her home village. The mother segment, especially, felt kinda out of the blue and rushed to me.
Nevertheless, I was hard-pressed to put this book down—in fact, I only did so twice. Between the assassinations, political intrigue, and romantic undertones, there was a lot to keep me interested. And that doesn't even cover the historical setting and information that kept being woven through. I've always been a bit of a history buff (even minored in college), so I savored each and every new tidbit I found—including the only swear word used in the whole book, Merde (pardon my French).
The fantasy of this book, even though it's a major plot point, is actually pretty subdued in comparison to the rich history. There aren't any spells or incantations, no witches brews or magic wands, and the closest things to magical creatures are the crows used as messenger birds. Pretty much, the only magic here is attributed to Mortain, God of Death, and it's pretty simple. He casts a marque upon someone—a black spot of sorts that shows how the victim will die— and his daughters follow his commands. Throughout the course of the book the mythos does evolve slightly, but on the whole I wouldn't worry about it if you're adverse to fantasy.
Similarly, I have a hard time calling this book a romance. Though Ismae eventually does fall in love, I found it to be more a part of her journey towards self-discovery—finding she's able and allowed to love—than an actual romantic plot. Conversely, there are many mentions of sex (Ismae masquerades as a mistress for much of the novel) and a couple allusions to rape but, keeping in the YA genre, there aren't any actions of either. Well...actually, there may have been one, but I honestly couldn't be sure.
After all this, I don't know if I've conveyed how much I loved this book. There's so much there that I don't know how to cover it all, nor do I really want to since it's just too good to spoil! I will say this about the ending: perfection. I'm excited to see what the next book, Dark Triumph, has in store for us, especially since it's about— Oop! Don't want to give too much away...
Overall I found Grave Mercy a refreshing and intriguing start to what I can only imagine will be a wonderful series. I'd recommend it for those who love Historical Fiction and YA, but don't mind a little Fantasy and Romance thrown into the mix. There is a fair amount of violence and many references to sex, so I'd place this as appropriate for late high-school and older, despite the young characters and inconsiderable language. Daunting as the length may be, Grave Mercy is one book you surely don't want to miss.
Approximate Reading Time: 9.5 hours
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.(less)