I'd had this book on my TBR list for awhile, as well as its companion novel (Fire), and then my sister gave me some Borders bucks she had and indicateI'd had this book on my TBR list for awhile, as well as its companion novel (Fire), and then my sister gave me some Borders bucks she had and indicated she was really interested in reading the series, so I went ahead and ordered both books.
I read Graceling a few weeks back, and I certainly enjoyed it, but I wish I had taken notes while I was reading because I don't remember exact instances where my interest in the story diminished; I just know that it did and can only list general points. For starters, I felt that the author was sometimes overly descriptive but still managed to build a less-than-stellar world for her novel. Also, some of the names were beyond ridiculous and I found myself skimming over them or simply using the first initial of the name for the remainder of the book. I liked the main character Katsa, but she did come off a little strong at times. Some may argue that the author is trying to force her feminist views on the reader via Katsa, but I never felt that way while I was reading.
I did like Katsa and all of the other characters, even the evil ones, and the story was definitely entertaining. It's just not going to make it on my favorites list. And I'll get around to reading Fire one day, but after the ending in Graceling, I just couldn't bring myself to pick up the next novel, knowing it wasn't going to continue where Graceling left off. I don't despise open-ended novels, but after all of the trials and tribulations that Katsa and Po overcame through the course of the novel, I was left quite unsatisfied at the lack of resolution in their own relationship....more
The first Dragoneye novel ended with a whirlwind intensity and brought about so much change in the kingdom, one has to wonder how they’ll ever recoverThe first Dragoneye novel ended with a whirlwind intensity and brought about so much change in the kingdom, one has to wonder how they’ll ever recover. The second book, and the conclusion to the series, explains just how that is to come about. Where EON built the story and world of the Dragoneyes, EONA serves to completely tear that world apart…and hopefully build something new and better with the pieces.
This story was so full of action and adventure; it was hard to make myself turn the audiobook off when it was necessary…like at bedtime. I was so invested in the book – which at 637 pages made the audio a whopping 18 hours and 41 minutes long (WORTH EVERY SECOND) – and, though the title gives you some idea of how this whole thing is going to go down, I never found the story predictable. In fact, I think EONA is even better than EON, which is saying a lot because I really liked EON.
One of the things that struck me about EON was the lack of a love interest for Eona. But I could understand the absence of one, considering the chaos already surrounding Eona. So, consider me pleasantly surprised to find Eona has not one but two potential love interests in the second book. Normally, I’m not a fan of the love triangle because it’s never done realistically and because it’s overdone. But I ate up the romance in Eona. Hungrily. Greedily. Especially one particular scene that heated up rather unexpectedly. Because the emotions are realistic and the reactions are human.
A great writer can take any scenario and make it work…make it real. Alison Goodman has taken this story and made it hers. She made every situation thrilling, and I was left breathless for the majority of the book.
Nancy Wu, the narrator, has yet again done a beautiful job of bringing this novel to life. Her portrayal of each character was awe-inspiring; so much power and emotion obviously went into her narration. I hope I have the opportunity to hear her narrate more novels in the future.
I had been told that Eon was a great fantasy novel, but that it was mostly history and back-story for the first half of the book and didn’t get reallyI had been told that Eon was a great fantasy novel, but that it was mostly history and back-story for the first half of the book and didn’t get really good until the second half. If you don’t like a rich history and spectacular world-building, then this is probably true for you. I’m not reading YA novels for an intense history lesson, and I don’t know if it is the result of the fabulous narrator (Nancy Wu), but I didn’t find the first half (or any other part, for that matter) at all tedious or unnecessary to the story. Quite the opposite, actually. Miss Wu’s performance was captivating.
That’s not to say that the book itself can’t stand on its own. This story is ripe with adventure, betrayal, and magic. Once the action starts, so much happens in such a small span of time. I was often parched while listening to this book, as my mouth was constantly hanging open in a state of awe. Eon is intense and clever and everything I want in a high-fantasy novel.
If the story itself won’t keep you entertained, the characters sure will. What a motley crew Eona has surrounded herself with. Eona is far from simple, but her allies in this exploit all lead some rather interesting lives, as well.
The descriptive elements in this novel are beyond reproach. Not only are you able to perfectly envision each character’s physical appearance, but also the emotions they wear on their faces and the secrets in their hearts. The depiction of the dragons and their movements and gestures are unequivocally realistic; if there was a dragon in the room with me right now, I bet he’d react and emote in just the way the author describes.
Eon is brilliantly written and beautifully told. This novel was such a fantastic adventure and Eona is a truly unique heroine. If you enjoy a kick-a$$ girl-on-a-mission story, this book is right up your alley.
I loved Incarnate. I love the whole idea of reincarnation and soul mates. Add to that dragons and sylph and other mythical creatures, and you’ve got aI loved Incarnate. I love the whole idea of reincarnation and soul mates. Add to that dragons and sylph and other mythical creatures, and you’ve got a book that I would have read in one sitting, had work and sleep not interfered.
This is the kind of book you need an open mind for. The premise is very unique, which means the author has to explain A LOT. And, understandably, she doesn’t explain everything in this book since it’s only the first in a series. But the world that’s been built up to this point is phenomenal. One does have to make some assumptions about the setting of Incarnate, such as what planet, when, or what dimension this story takes place in – at least for the time being – but I think that those with a more active imagination will consider this a flight of fancy and can overlook the more minor details.
The cast of characters in Incarnate was well-fleshed out, and I think that they were described well enough that should I run across them on the street, I’d recognize them immediately. Ana is a newsoul, though she disparagingly refers to herself as a nosoul throughout the entirety of the book because she was raised by her crass and unloving mother to believe that she had no soul and would therefore not be reincarnated upon death. She is the first of her kind, and no one really knows what to do with her. For the most part, she is ostracized for being different, but there are some who either take pity on her or simply don’t feel that she should be made an example of, especially considering her birth and resulting newsoul status is through no fault of her own. Sam is her most strident supporter, and he quickly becomes her closest friend and companion, once she allows him to get close to her.
And, yes, as her closest companion, Ana ends up spending the majority of her time in Sam’s company, and as is the way with these things, feelings of more than friendship blossom. The love story is a familiar one in young adult novels: naïve girl falls for much, much older man-boy, and in order to protect the girl, the guy tries to keep his distance and keep his feelings in check...to no avail. The guy always ends up falling for the girl in the end. The romance in Incarnate is much the same, but it’s still unbelievably sweet, and it progresses gradually.
The reincarnation aspect of the book is fascinating. It’s been going on for 5000 years, but with the sudden appearance of Ana, everyone begins to wonder if she’s a fluke or if her birth means the beginning of the end of reincarnation. It’s also interesting how many times the citizens of this world have been reincarnated, and that they keep their memories from previous incarnations. Stranger still is the idea that soul mates can transcend individual lifetimes, and though they may be different sexes or ages, they are still inevitably drawn to each other in the next life. Essentially, they’re all building on previous lives, not starting over each time. Well, everyone except Ana.
I really wanted to give this one the full five stars because I really did enjoy every minute I was reading it. But there were a couple of things that bothered me. First off, I really dislike the word stupid. It just carries such a negative connotation, no matter the manner in which it is used. And the word was repeated a lot throughout Incarnate. I just feel there are many, better alternatives to this word. Also, I felt that it showed no faith in the reader that the origin of the book’s title had to be pointed out in the text, rather than leaving us to infer how the title came to be.
Aside from that, this story was simply lovely, and I am already counting the days till book two is released. Rarely have I read such an inventive and imaginative story, and I was blown away with how it was all executed. This novel was one of my top picks for 2012 debuts and deservedly so.
I knew that The Girl of Fire and Thorns was going to be right up my alley. I even purchased a hardcover when it was first released last year. And thenI knew that The Girl of Fire and Thorns was going to be right up my alley. I even purchased a hardcover when it was first released last year. And then life and other books came along and stole my attention away, so this lovely book sat on my shelf, collecting dust. But it was not forgotten. No, I started seeing reviews for The Crown of Embers, and I knew I had to make time for The Girl of Fire and Thorns because reviews were pouring in, stating that The Crown of Embers surpassed The Girl of Fire and Thorns in awesomeness. I didn’t think that was possible, considering all of the rave reviews I’d already seen for The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but there it is.
Well, I realized I was accumulating quite a few credits on Audible, and I also realized that The Girl of Fire and Thorns had just been released on audio this summer. Jumping for joy ensues, obviously, because now I don’t have to try to fit the novel into my already full reading schedule…I can listen on my commute. Except, I can’t simply stop listening to this story when I get out of the car. I just couldn’t make myself. The book taunted me at all hours of the day: “Oh, won’t you listen a little longer and find out what happens to Elisa once she gets to Alejandro’s kingdom...assuming she makes it there!” And the evil audiobook would cackle and torment me some more, and eventually I was listening to this thing non-stop. I usually make an audiobook last a week or so during my drive, but The Girl of Fire and Thorns just wouldn’t hear of that. It was addicting, is what it was. Even now, I can hear it calling to me, begging for a re-listen. The ego on that audio...sheesh!
Elisa, Elisa, Elisa...where do I begin? Oh, I know…a funny little anecdote that has hardly anything at all to do with the story. So, I’m listening to the book at work, and I share a [spectacular] office with my sister – yeah, I have the pleasure of bossing my lil sis around all day at work...it’s like I never moved outta the house – anyway, I’m listening to The Girl of Fire and Thorns and I’ve only just begun it and it’s the part where Elisa is talking about her godstone. I’m trying to describe it to my sister, and I tell her that Elisa has this blue jewel in her navel indicating her status as The Chosen One, and she replies, “So...she’s essentially a troll doll?” I thought it might go downhill from there because I can be a bit weak-minded at times, and I might let a comment like that sway my opinion. But I needn’t have worried...the story swayed my opinion all on its own.
Okay, but back to Elisa. This girl finds herself in a predicament. Suddenly, she’s married and leaving home to help rule this handsome guy’s kingdom. Arguably, I tend to favor the self-deprecating, reluctant heroine. Elisa is no different. She opines the fact that she is neither beautiful nor trim nor eloquent like her older sister. Elisa shouldn’t be the one getting married and leaving her family…her sister should! Ah, but her sister is not The Chosen One, a fact her sister probably opines. (I might know the answer to that if I had already read The Shadow Cats, the prequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns told from Alodia’s POV, but alas, I have not had the time yet.)
The cast of secondary characters are just as beloved to me as Elisa. They were thoroughly human and realistic in both their actions and their motivations, and even when I wasn’t sure I could trust them, I still found myself liking them. From the love interests to the nursemaids, I wanted to give them all big hugs and tell them to have faith in Elisa, that even though they were worried about her, she was a big girl and could handle herself.
They heed my warnings whether they know it or not, but as much as I wish I could say it, not everyone comes out of this okay. There are daring escapes and chases and rebellions and any and all manner of maimings. And though this book brought about some really tearful revelations, I love that the author took it there…that she was unafraid to walk that path of death and devastation, regardless of how much it might hurt her characters or her readers.
I practically gave this book a standing ovation when I was done listening. This was my final status update on Goodreads upon finishing: “Holy eff-you-see-kay. If all that happens in the first book, I can't imagine how awesome the next book is going to be. Luckily, I don't have to wait too long to find out. :D” Lucky indeed. I’m undecided as to whether I want to listen to the audio for The Crown of Embers, though. Not because of the actual audio…Jennifer Ikeda’s narration was superb. I’ve listened to her work before, and it does not disappoint. However, I’m not sure I can wait until the audio is released, and since Audible doesn’t show it listed with next week’s new releases, I fear it will not be released in the immediate future. And although I haven’t had to wait near as long as some fans of this series, I already feel like I’ve waited long enough to continue Elisa’s journey as The Chosen One.
The things I loved best about this story were the magical elements and the strong heroine. I'm so over the paranormal reads with whiny protagonists whThe things I loved best about this story were the magical elements and the strong heroine. I'm so over the paranormal reads with whiny protagonists who simply can't survive without a boy. There is a love story in this book, but it is only a subplot and serves to further, not hinder, the main storyline.
I wouldn't say the plot was predictable but it was easy to follow along. The characters were very well-developed and took on a life of their own. Their actions were surprising and thought out and are what made this story so amazing. You just can't have a good story without good characters in my opinion.
The narrator for this audiobook was skilled at voicing each of the characters, though I never quite got used to the voice for the Commander. At least, not until the end, when I realized that maybe it was intentional. ;) I'm excited to start Magic Study now, also narrated by Gabra Zackman....more
Other than the Study series, I’ve not read anything else by Maria V. Snyder. I LOVED the Study series, though, and so I was worried that I could not pOther than the Study series, I’ve not read anything else by Maria V. Snyder. I LOVED the Study series, though, and so I was worried that I could not possibly enjoy Touch of Power more than that. I was wrong to have worried.
I loved the pacing of this novel, as well as the entire premise. It was very difficult to put this book down, once I finally allowed myself to get into it. Though, I do have to admit that I noticed some similarities to the Study series: (1) what I like to call the Man in Black character (a la Wesley from The Princess Bride – my most favorite movie ever…in other words, mysterious but handsome), (2) a formulaic love story, and (3) that whole “all magicians are bad” (or at least really creepy and dangerous) thing. But rather than detracting from the story, having that familiarity actually helped me acquiesce to this book. I drew many parallels between characters, but in the end it was kind of comforting. It made me want to go back and re-read the Study series…and move the rest of Snyder’s works up to the top of my TBR list.
This author writes some of the greatest characters I’ve ever read. Avry’s character was just what I’m looking for in a protagonist. She’s strong but soft-hearted, and she does what has to be done, even if it puts her life at risk. The supporting characters made this story even better. The troop of men start out as Avry’s protectors so that she may heal their friend, but in the end, they become something more like family. The fact that they can overcome their perceived prejudices against Healers goes a long way toward building their bond with Avry, with even Kerrick (my Man in Black, if you will) beginning to see Avry in a different light.
But if the Healer’s companions are good and trustworthy, then her enemies are deliciously evil. I’m finding it harder and harder not to fall, at least to some degree, for the bad guys in books. Why do they always have to be so pretty? It makes it hard to hate them. I guess if it was easy, though, the story wouldn’t be much fun. And, boy, does Tohon make this novel interesting.
Touch of Power is a fabulous start to a new series. The magic, the friendships, and the chase all make for one captivating novel. While I’m waiting for the next installment, I’ll take the opportunity to catch up on the Glass and the Insider series and see what else I’ve been missing. But I recommend you pick this book up, especially if you enjoy YA novels with high fantasy that are a little less Y and a little more A.
A copy of this novel was provided for review by Netgalley.
When I picked up a copy of Shadow and Bone at ALA in January, I hadn’t the slightest inkling how much hype it would receive in the*** 4 1/2 stars ***
When I picked up a copy of Shadow and Bone at ALA in January, I hadn’t the slightest inkling how much hype it would receive in the coming months. Once I did begin to hear whispers about how fabulous this book was, I was scared that it would be over-hyped as books so often are, and that I would walk away from the book, frustrated that it had not wowed me in the least bit. Two things I must get through my thick skull: 1) stop judging books by their covers because a pretty cover does not a pretty story make, and 2) let a book speak for itself, meaning stop listening to the rumors of awesomeness and reading the reviews that deem books unworthy.
In this particular case, the hype was justified. I read the book in about two days, though I could have sat and read it cover to cover if I’d had the opportunity. I was so swept away by this story, so engrossed in it, that I couldn’t even be bothered to take notes. But I personally think you should go into this story with low expectations so that you, too, can be completely blown away. It’s equal parts fantasy, romance, magic and destruction, and it’s 100% awesome.
Let’s start with the characters first, shall we? After all, they were what initially caught me off guard and continued to surprise me throughout the entirety of the novel. Of course, I have to make the obligatory mention of the handsome and powerful antagonist who shows just enough kindness to make me fall for him. This evil character is common enough, but the Darkling fits this description to a tee, much like Warner in Shatter Me. There’s just something about a bad guy who wants to exploit the beautiful, naïve protagonist but also has a soft spot for her. Even better when said protagonist is conflicted and MIGHT actually be falling for our villain. But Alina isn’t quite as naïve as she appears. She may have stumbled upon a hidden power, one she’s not yet sure how to control, but having grown up in an orphanage, she’s learned not to take everything at face value. Alina’s had a hard life, and it just keeps getting harder.
Alina does have one close confidant, one person she trusts more than anyone or anything: her fellow orphan and best friend, Mal. This guy takes the cake. He’s seen Alina through a lot, but when she needs him most, Mal seems to have found greener pastures. While she’s toiling away as a less-than-average mapmaker, Mal is proving himself a worthy tracker, rising in the ranks of the army. And he’s taken notice of a Grisha, completely oblivious to how Alina feels about him. I wanted to deck this guy for a good part of the book, but he does redeem himself later, so I’ll let it slide.
The world-building in this novel was incredible. Even without the help of the map you see below, I was able to accurately picture the layout of the land. The Fold is exactly as I imagined it, and I couldn’t imagine a more terrifying place. Devoid of light and inhabited by deadly creatures that would tear a man to shreds, attempting to cross means imminent death.
**having trouble adding image...if it doesn't show, check it out here**
This novel is a debut, but you wouldn’t know that from the writing. The words are powerful and thoughtful and they weave a story that stretches the boundaries of one’s imagination. Despite the horrors in the novel, I found myself wanting to be transported to the world between the covers, to experience every hardship right along with Alina. Maybe if the story had been more predictable, I wouldn’t have wished for that, but not knowing where this book was headed made for an exhilarating ride, one which I expect I shall be hopping on again and again.
I was pretty excited to get an advance copy of Defiance. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres because the story can take you anywhere a**3 1/2 stars**
I was pretty excited to get an advance copy of Defiance. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres because the story can take you anywhere and can cover any scope of what is considered possible. It is what its name implies: fantasy. And therein lies the biggest problem I had with Defiance.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of fantastical material here to make me happy, but it was the way it was presented that bothered me because it was such an odd mixture of illusory and modern-day ideas. Take the names of the characters, for example. In fantasy novels, I usually expect not to be able to pronounce the characters’ names and kind of skim over them as I’m reading – or make up my own names for them based off their given names. But in Defiance, the main characters are named Rachel, Logan, and Jared. That’s not a major drawback, and some probably appreciate being able to properly pronounce the characters’ names; it’s just something that bugged me and made the novel slightly less imaginative to me. Another thing that was less than imaginative was that the scientific elements were based on modern ideas, as well. Logan even mentions the Periodic Table in the second chapter. I suppose what I find most perturbing is that at times, it feels like our world, and at others, it returns to the fantasy world of Baalboden.
Other than some clumsy wording in a few places, that was really my only major gripe. The story flowed well overall, after getting off to a bit of a slow start, and the book kept me rather engrossed in its pages once the duo set off on their mission. Granted, that doesn’t happen until about half-way through the book, but they did have to prep for their adventure, after all. And during all that preparation is when they found time to fall in love.
I’m still not sure how I feel about the romantic aspect of this novel. Rachel was supposedly in love with Logan when she was a bit younger and he rejected her, not because he didn’t care about her, but because he was an outcast and had only just taken the apprenticeship with her father. He had nothing to offer her. Okay, so he’s a stand-up guy, I guess. But now that her father is missing and Rachel has been entrusted to his care, what does he go and do? He falls in love with her, despite the fact that nothing about his situation has changed. Rachel fights her feelings for Logan now, believing that they were the equivalent of a school-girl crush back in the day and he means nothing to her now, beyond his being her Protector. Yeah, right. I’d rather see both of these characters grow into their own individuals – especially taking into account their current circumstances – than fall into each other.
My favorite aspect of this novel was the mysterious monster, the Cursed One, that preyed upon the citizens of Baalboden...mostly because it's an enigma. Where did it come from? Why is it able to be controlled and manipulated? Where does it go when it’s not terrorizing the city? It’s described as having scales, possibly like a dragon, as it also apparently breathes fire, and yet it burrows underground and slithers like a giant snake, though it can’t technically be a snake because it has lizard-like feet. What exactly is the Cursed One? These are all questions I’d like to see answered in the next book. Less love story, more monster!
I love the world that the author has developed, and I’d like to see it further developed in subsequent installments. There’s plenty of room for this series to grow and become everything that I had hoped this first novel would be. Defianceis C.J. Redwine’s debut novel, though, and maybe I was expecting a little too much from the beginning, but I have high hopes for the rest of the series.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
I approached Wings of Arian with some trepidation. The last indie novel I read left me with a bitter taste, and I really wanted to like this novel. I'I approached Wings of Arian with some trepidation. The last indie novel I read left me with a bitter taste, and I really wanted to like this novel. I'm on a bit of a fantasy kick right now, and I really enjoyed the last few I read, so it became even easier to begin to expect the worst. But Wings of Arian surpassed all my expectations -- and not because I set the bar low...it's a truly awesome novel. This book really captured all of the fantasy elements that I enjoy so much: magic, mythical creatures, and of course, a world with secrets just waiting to be discovered.
First, let me touch on the characters. Our two champions, Kiora, the wielder of magic, and Prince Emane, her protector, are thoughtful, well-developed characters with established backgrounds. The chemistry between these two characters was immediately evident to me, though it took longer for them to see it. Their cause is truly a noble one, and I think the goodness in each of their hearts will prevail on their quest. Sometimes, I found myself wondering if Kiora was a little too good; the fact that she harbored no ill will toward anyone, even her enemies, could prove problematic in future endeavors, but at least she makes life interesting, right? And that Emane...the only time his anger bubbled to the surface was when Kiora was in danger. That fierce over-protectiveness, for which he was assigned the task of her Protector, may prove to be his downfall yet. But I sure hope not.
Ah, the world. Lush. Picturesque. And of course magical, though for the last thousand years, that fact has been kept kidden from the residents of the valley. But now that evil has returned, they have to be made aware, and they have to pick a side. The supporting cast of characters help to make the world fantastical, as they were as much a part of the valley as the trees or the grass, and they all serve to aid Kiora and Emane in their efforts to rid the world of the evil that has once again been unleashed on it.
Wings of Arian is relatively fast-paced, and it was a rather quick read, as well. The plot kept me interested, as one by one, secrets of the magical world were loosed upon Kiora and Emane, though they never got all of the answers at once...no matter how much they demanded it. My only complaint would be that the ending leaned toward the anticlimactic, though it did pave the way for a great future for this fantasy series.
Witty and humorous and full of magical potential, I'd recommend this novel to fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling and the newly-released Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.
Sometimes, a book comes along that just blows you away. Throne of Glass wasn’t that book for me. But not for the reasons you might be thinking. As sooSometimes, a book comes along that just blows you away. Throne of Glass wasn’t that book for me. But not for the reasons you might be thinking. As soon as I read the synopsis for Throne of Glass, I knew I was going to love it. So, no, it didn’t blow me away, but that’s only because I was expecting it to be awesome. And I was not disappointed!
Throne of Glass touts a protagonist with a will of her own, who doesn’t bow to pressure easily and is quite the opposite of mousey, as so many heroines are wont to be. Celaena is my favorite kind of heroine: strong, resilient, and whip-smart. But Celaena is also a bit of an opportunist, and I loved that about her. Celaena’s an assassin; she doesn’t normally do things out of the kindness of her own heart, though there are moments where the reader gets a peek at what type of person she might have been, had she not been drafted as an assassin at an early age. And not only is she a remarkably skilled fighter with an ultimately good heart, she’s also a book lover:
"She'd entered a city made entirely of leather and paper. Celaena put a hand against her heart. Escape routes be damned. "I've never seen--how many volumes are there?" Chaol shrugged. "The last time anyone bothered to count, it was a million. But that was two hundred years ago. I'd say maybe more than that, especially given the legends that a second library lies deep beneath, in catacombs and tunnels." "Over a million? A million books?" Her heart leapt and danced, and she cracked a smile. "I'd die before I even got through half of that!" "You like to read?" She raised an eyebrow. "Don't you?" Not waiting for an answer, she moved farther into the library, the train of her gown sweeping across the floor. She neared a shelf and looked at the titles. She recognized none of them. – p. 50 of galley
The world of Throne of Glass is at once beautiful and ominous. The author’s brilliant use of imagery to describe the setting left me at home in a world with stunning gowns, filthy mercenaries and an intimidating glass castle. Celaena evaluates her surroundings as one might expect an assassin to, but it’s her reaction to the breath-taking scenery that makes the world come alive.
I enjoyed the third-person narrative, especially since it transitions to Prince Dorian’s perspective at the most opportune moments. The reader even gets a glance at Captain Westfall’s inner-workings, which I very much appreciated. Yes, there is the potential for a love triangle, but Maas handles it in such a way that it never truly feels as if Celaena is caught between the two men, who also happen to be best friends. I adored the way Celaena and Dorian carried on with each other, but it was the quiet and respectful way Chaol and Celaena grew to care for each other that swayed my heart. And while Dorian was very forth-coming with his feelings for Celaena, despite how impossible such a pairing would be, Chaol often denied his feelings, even to himself. Does he do so to spare Dorian’s feelings? Or is it because of who Celaena is that he will not allow himself a dalliance with her? I have to admit I’m rather torn on this one. To choose the obvious passion with Dorian or the hard-won and long-developed love of Chaol?
The contest to find the royal assassin was just as exciting as the romantic aspects of this novel. And it upped the ante to include a murderer among the contestants. Of course, our heroine takes it upon herself to discover the identity of the assailant, but she uncovers far more than just a murderer in her search. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting the direction the story took at this point, but I’m definitely intrigued to see where the author takes the story from here.
Throne of Glass will probably go down as my favorite debut of 2012, barring any surprise contenders in the next few months. As soon as I finished this book, I wanted to read it again. I guess it’s a good thing there are several prequel stories to be had! This book is a perfect read for lovers of fantasy novels, but I think it has a little something for everyone.
She glared. "I hate women like that. They're so desperate for the attention of men that they'd willingly betray and harm members of their own sex. And we claim men cannot think with their brains! At least men are direct about it." -- p. 68 of galley, when Celaena and Chaol observe Dorian with Lady Kaltain
"Good. I thought so. And what of the others? Any potential rivals? Some of the champions have rather gruesome reputations." "Everyone else looks pathetic," she lied. The prince's smile grew. "I bet they won't expect to be trounced by a beautiful lady." -- p. 65 of galley, after Celaena first meets the king and the other contestants
Big thanks to Bloombsury & Netgalley for providing a galley of this title for review!
If I had my way, this is what my review would look like:
Or just lines and lines of this: Jen + Sturmhond = ♥
I had heard all about this Sturmhond charIf I had my way, this is what my review would look like:
Or just lines and lines of this: Jen + Sturmhond = ♥
I had heard all about this Sturmhond character prior to picking up Siege and Storm, and what I heard left me skeptical. People were switching teams left and right to ship Alina and this guy. But...but...but what about The Darkling? After reading S&S, I'm almost like, "The Darkling, who?" Oh, he's around...he's always around. But it's definitely in a much different capacity than it was before. And then in steps Sturmhond to set Alina on the right path, or at least, his preferred path for her. ;0)
It's no secret that I wasn't a fan of Mal in Shadow and Bone. I was all about the Darkling and his enticing, evil ways. But in Siege and Storm, I found Mal even more obnoxious than before. He never seemed concerned with what Alina was feeling or what she wanted, only ever thinking of himself and how things affected him. Listen up, pal...this isn't The Mal Show. Even still, if these two were better at communicating, I might see a future for them, but with all of the other attractive male counterparts involved, I'm doubtful. Especially because Mal would like nothing more than for Alina to stop using her powers and live a simple life with him, even though it makes her weak and sick to do so. Her gift makes her stronger, and I think he's intimidated by that, and ultimately, by her.
The Darkling on the other hand, wants Alina to use her powers. However malevolent the Darkling may be, he believes he's doing what's right. He wants Alina for himself, but he also wants her to help him with his heretofore nefarious plans. There is a bond between Alina and the Darkling, one that is not easily severed or overlooked, and he's probably the only person who truly understands what Alina's enduring. He was, afterall, the most powerful Grisha prior to the realization that Alina was the Sun Summoner. The Darkling knows a little something about wielding an obscene amount of power.
Sturmhond was -- and still is, if I'm being entirely honest -- a bit of an enigma. As a privateer (read: pirate, since it's very doubtful his actions were sanctioned by the king, *wink*), where do his loyalties really lie? Will Alina ever be able to fully trust him? Do we really care when he provides such swoon-worthy banter? This character -- and he IS a character -- oozes personality and sophistication, and I still would have enjoyed the book without his inclusion, but oh, I enjoyed it so much more because of him.
Alina, for the most part, is just as tortured and confused as we left her in Shadow and Bone. Maybe more so. Especially after certain truths were discovered in the Istorii Sankt'ya, and she's left with some difficult decisions. Her problem, though, is that she shoulders the burden all on her own. Alina doesn't confide in Mal because she fears she might be losing her mind, which is even more reason to ask for help, but there it is. And so Alina continues trying to prepare for a war that none of them are ready for, most especially her.
I love fantasy best because it's so unpredictable and magical and full of possibility. I love the Grisha series so much because the writing encompasses everything I adore in a fantasy novel: a realm unlike anything I've ever read, dialogue (especially the banter!) that keeps me entertained and makes me forget I'm even reading, and a quest that is at once impossible but also manageable...with the right comrades. I simply can't get enough of this world and its characters...the wait for Ruin and Rising is going to be absolute torture!
High fantasy. High stakes. Highly entertaining. And I highly recommend both Shadow and Bone (which just released in paperback) and Siege and Storm, which releases on June 4th. And not just for lovers of fantasy...but for anyone who loves to be transported to a world where magic exists and the struggle between good and evil starts from within.
***Big, huge, monster-sized thanks to Jen at YA Romantics for letting me be the first to read her ARC. I know what that must have meant to her, especially once I received my own ARC. =) But also, I wanted to say that it was fated that I should meet and fall for Sturmhond. I mean, at one point, I had two times the Sturmy in my possession and I was so giddy with the power of it all. Wonder if this is what Alina feels like with that amplifier on her neck...***
Some of that amusing banter I was telling you about:
"The Darkling will hunt you for the rest of your days." "Well, then we'll have something in common, won't we? Besides, I like to have powerful enemies. Makes me feel important."
"Next time you try something like that, I won't kick you," I said furiously. "I'll cut you in half." He brushed a speck of lint from his trousers. "Not sure that would be wise. I'm afraid the people rather frown on regicide." "You're not king yet, Sobachka," I said sharply. "So don't tempt me." "I don't see why you're so upset. The crowd loved it." "I didn't love it." He raised a brow. "You didn't hate it."
"Excellent," said [Sturmhond]. "I've come to issue an invitation." "Is it to a ball?" asked Mal, snagging the remaining bit of roll from my plate. "I do so hope it's to a ball." "While I'm sure you dance a magnificent waltz, no. Boar have been spotted in the woods near Balakirev. There's a hunt leaving tomorrow, and I'd like you to go."
[Sturmhond] froze. "I..." For once, words seemed to have deserted him. Then a crooked, embarrassed smile crept across his face. It was a far cry from his usual self-assured grin. "Thank you," he said. I sighed and we resumed our pace. "You're going to be insufferable now, aren't you?" [Sturmhond] laughed. "I'm already insufferable."
Thanks to Macmillan for providing an ARC for review!
I'll try to refrain from spoilers as much as possible, but I may allude to circumstances in previous books, so if you've not yet read them yet, get on that right now!
Likely, if you're reading this review, you've already read this final book and just want to know my thoughts. Or you've begun the series and want to know if you should continue, if the payoff is worth it. It is, my friend. It is. But this also means that you don't really need me to touch on all the things I normally would in a review, like world-building, characterization, romance, and the story's predictability. Right? Okay, well, there are probably a few things I could still add. ;0)
So...Leigh Bardugo is pretty daring with her finale here. Maybe not as daring as others in similar situations, but I think that most of her fan-base will appreciate the bold choices she made in this final book. Characters you've grown to care about die. Innocents die. This is a war Alina is waging, after all. But I think that Bardugo wrote the story that needed to be told, not the one that everyone necessarily wanted to read. And that's not a bad thing. It's honest. It's brutal. And these characters won me over from the very first page of Shadow and Bone, and I'll not disgrace them by disparaging the author or her story because of who may or may not have survived this battle or who may have ended up with who in the end.
I think you can tell by my rating how much I enjoyed this last book in the Grisha Trilogy. It was action-packed and much faster-paced than I was expecting, though much of the beginning came to pass with little effort, all things considered. I have to wonder if that's because I recently re-listened to the previous book in preparation for Ruin and Rising. What I mean is, Alina was quite alone there at the end of Siege and Storm. She had no idea who'd survived the vicious skirmish with the Darkling and his forces and few of her compatriots remained. Even Mal was distant. And yet, it wasn't long before a plan was hatched and Alina was back to being the oft-adored and somewhat feared Sun Summoner. Basically, it seemed as though things turned around pretty quickly for our rag-tag group of rebels.
The characters have all been pretty well fleshed-out at this point, so Bardugo focused primarly on the plot and she did so aggressively. Not that I'm complaining. I love where she took this story and how completely unexpected some of it was. And I mean spit out my drink while I'm reading unpredictable. And that didn't just happen once. One might think that the author wanted me to waste perfectly good kvas while reading her story. And while her bold decisions with this final novel were plenty, shocking, and somewhat unprecedented, I believe they were entirely true to the story she was trying to tell. In other words, I LOVED the shock-factor.
***Serious spoilers in the next few paragraphs but not for THIS book.***
I also really enjoyed where Bardugo took the romance, no matter how many directions and iterations it's been through, though this is probably where I'll differ in opinion among my peers. But I won't mention why unless you ask me in private.
Alina loved Mal for ages. Mal is a bit of a playboy and thinks of Alina as just his best friend. Alina finds out she is Grisha and has a tryst with the Darkling, only to discover just how evil he is and escapes. Mal finds her and they are in love. (I say that in my taunting voice because I never really felt that connection...or liked Mal all that much, to be honest.) End of Book One.
The Darkling finds Mal and Alina together, captures them and throws them on a ship. Because of the amplifier, Alina is tied to the Darkling, feels a pull toward him. Sturmhond, privateer and captain of the ship, mutinies against the Darkling and saves Alina and Mal, gets them back on dry land after helping Alina secure the second amplifier. Sturmhond is not who he says he is, propositions Alina. (I want her to say YES!) Mal thinks himself unworthy of Alina, distances himself from her. The Darkling visits Alina daily through visions, drives her to the brink of madness. Still, she feels the pull to him; he and she are the same, after all. The Darkling attacks, Alina sacrifices herself, and Mal collects what's left of her. Everyone regroups but Sturmhond is not with the group.
And that brings us to where we begin in Ruin and Rising. Mal starts off being his pig-headed self, but circumstances change and he's all about Alina again. Everyone is all about Alina again. Even Zoya, if you can believe that. I kind of love it.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite aspects of this series: the humor. It's such a serious storyline for the most part -- war against the most evil of evils, fighting prejudices against those with magic versus those without -- that I'm always more entertained than I probably should be by the banter and rapport these characters have with each other. That's probably why Sturmhond quickly became my favorite of the potential love interests, his gift for making light of any situation, but it's also the essence of the story: that you have to be able to see the light through all the darkness.
The Grisha Trilogy is easily one of my favorite high fantasy series. Its wonderfully intricate world, reminiscent of old-world Russia and its neighbors, is simply gorgeous to imagine. The characters, with all of their faults, through all of their trials and tribulations, make me want to know them in real life. And the story itself begs for a happy ending. And even if all of the characters didn't find their happy ending, I am completely satisfied with this conclusion. There was so much growth throughout the series, but what really made this series epic was the last 30% or so of this final book. I mean, WOW. I shall now wait impatiently for Leigh Bardugo's next book, which appears to be a story set in the Grisha world but with new characters to love -- and hate, as the case may be. This author definitely knows how to make us do both with her fabulous words. I hope you've enjoyed your time with this series as much as I have.
I love fantasy. I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I desperately wanted to read The Crown of Embers and be blown away, like I was with The Girl of FI love fantasy. I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I desperately wanted to read The Crown of Embers and be blown away, like I was with The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Was I? Oh, hells yeah. Abso-freaking-lutely, I was! It was amazing and perfect and captivating and when I was reading, the rest of the world dropped away and I had eyes only for this book. (Seriously, I looked up that first night while reading and realized that everyone in my house had already gone to bed, and it was nearing midnight. That's how fantastic this book is.)
So, The Girl of Fire and Thorns leaves us with quite the predicament. (I shall try to remain as spoiler-free as possible for both books, but everyone has their own idea of what constitutes a spoiler, so if you have not read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I suggest you read it and then come back to this review. I really DO NOT want to spoil this awesome series for anyone. Seriously.) Anyway, quite the predicament, indeed. You would expect Elisa to react as if her whole world has been decimated, but this girl picks up the pieces of her fractured life and moves on. No hemming and hawing or "What'll I do now??" for Elisa. She'll have none of that, and neither will her protectors.
I never thought of Elisa as immature. Sure, she was jaded and world-weary when she began her journey in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but she never lacked maturity. Elisa was sensible and capable and really proved herself quite competent as a leader in the first book. Even so, she has quite the battle ahead of her, and she only grows with each new challenge she faces. I think Elisa is one of my favorite YA heroines because even though she IS young and faces youth-related trials and tribulations, she handles them so gracefully. She constantly makes her guardians and protectors proud and leaves her enemies dismayed.
After the devastating losses in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, one has to wonder if Elisa will always be so unlucky in love. And I'll be honest, it was certainly looking that way for awhile. But lo and behold, her trusted protector steps up to the plate. I liked Hector's character in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I actually even thought then that he and Elisa would make a great match, if she hadn't already been married to Alejandro. At the very least, I knew they would be great friends and allies. But, oh, they would make the most honest and fair rulers Joya d'Arena had ever seen...if things were different. (By the by, the gall of that Ximena had me ready to ring her neck. I wanted to tell her to quit mothering Elisa so much and just protect her, to let her figure things out on her own and stop meddling.)
Oh, that lovers quarrel or spat or whatever you want to call it near the end of the book was priceless. But it really showed how much more Elisa had matured, that she could stand there and take that verbal tounge-lashing and remain calm. Even at 30, I don't know that I would have reacted half as well. And it was a testament to Hector's character, to how much he cares for Elisa, that he even allowed himself to show so much emotion and how hurt he was. I love this fictional pairing ever so much and I can't wait to see what the next installment holds for them, especially after that shocking ending. It is going to be so very interesting to see how it all plays out for Elisa and Hector. ;0)
I demand more swooning and less death and destruction, Carson. Okay, I lie. I am totally down for the death and destruction...that's what makes this author so awesome...she is sooo not afraid to go there. But I still want more swooning, especially after all that talk about lovers and lady's shroud (birth control for those of you not in-the-know) between Elisa and her hand-maid Mara. Oh my goodness...just the fact that Carson even approaches the subject of birth control in her fantasy novel puts her in my good graces. Seriously, she created a totally responsible, intelligent teenage protagonist that I adore in every way possible. Whodathunkit? :P Um, ME! And I say unto thee, behold the brilliance that IS Rae Carson. 8-)
So much is revealed in The Crown of Embers, and yet so much still remains a mystery. There is some serious world-building done in The Crown of Embers, even more than we saw in the first novel, and it is tantalizing, you guys. Their God put these people in this world, but how long ago was that, and what was here before that? Still so many unanswered questions about the godstones and the Invierne and the magic that surrounds them all. It's thrilling, and it makes me want to crawl inside the author's head to see how she ever invented such a brilliant world and story to accompany it. I never want Elisa's story to end. NEVER!
I had to go grab my reviewer hat for this one, otherwise I'd just be a fangirling mess all over this review, and nobody wants to see that. I've been aI had to go grab my reviewer hat for this one, otherwise I'd just be a fangirling mess all over this review, and nobody wants to see that. I've been a major fan of Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy since I picked up the audiobook for The Girl of Fire and Thorns last fall. And then I immediately inhaled Crown of Embers, which will forever remain my favorite in this series.
And then comes along The Bitter Kingdom, to further shake things up and break my heart a little more. I shall try to keep this review spoiler free, but I make no promises because of the aforementioned fangirling mess I am liable to become at any moment. Let's just kick it off with my favorite aspect of this series:
If I had to pick a male character from any book I've read to spend the rest of my life with, this guy would be it. He's loyal, honest, caring, strong, clever, and cunning, and about a billion other wonderful adjectives that all equate to his being pretty effing awesome. I love how he's stood by Elisa from the beginning. Watching this relationship develop was like watching one of those flowers that only blooms at night: magical.
I wouldn't say Elisa's had her pick of suitors, but of all those that she has been romantically linked with throughout the series, this guy's my favorite. I saw him back before Elisa ever did. So, he's pretty much just been waiting for her to see him. Well, that, and a bunch of other people to die. Which brings me to my next point, since this review isn't (all) about Hector...
Death, Destruction & Adventure
There's been a whole lot of all of that in this series. Some caused by magic, some caused by Elisa herself, and some caused by other powers that be. I'm going to blame all of the death on the author, though. She's been compared to George R.R. Martin and aptly so. Just remember this, kids, don't get too attached to anyone, and you'll be okay. That is no less true in this final installment...just a fair warning.
The more obstacles these characters were faced with, the stronger they become, and the more excited I got. I thrive on all of the fight scenes and the running for your life scenes, and yes, even the "Elisa's butt is tired from riding on a horse so long" scenes. Even when there's no action, there's still always something going on in this story.
These books are a quest for the source of magic in this world and a search to bring peace to the kingdoms. But they are also a journey of self-discovery for Elisa. She has matured so much over the course of these books. From an overweight princess, married off to a king she's never met, to joining a revolutionary movement, to becoming a strong ruler and making the really tough decisions that office dictates...oh, yes, she has definitely come a long way. But she's not so grown that she could come up with a better name for her mare than Horse. :0) Though, that might have something to do with her fear of the gentle beasts.
I love how the Spanish influence encompasses nearly every facet of this series. From the setting to the foods prepared and the importance of religion, it's everywhere. Religion is VERY important in these books, but it's not off-putting, as it might be in other stories, because it has a place in this world and in character motivations. Anyway, I'm glad I listened to the first book because it helped with a lot of pronunciations in the other books. I just hate when I've been saying/reading something wrong the whole time!
I'll never be able to fully convey how much I love these books, and I'm sure I'm forgetting to tell you plenty. I think it's always hardest to write reviews for the books you absolutely loved, and this was one of the hardest because I'm saying goodbye to one of my favorite series. So, I'm just going to let my inner-fangirl sum it up for me: Epic finale! Epic! Aaaaaahhhhh! I want to crawl inside Rae Carson's head and live there. I want more from this world. I want more books from Rae Carson. IwantIwantIwantIwantIwant!!!
Thanks to HarperCollins/Greenwiilow & Edelweiss for providing a copy for review!
Finally got a moment's peace so I could finish this after starting it before the holidays, and I am so glad I didn't rush to finish it then because OHFinally got a moment's peace so I could finish this after starting it before the holidays, and I am so glad I didn't rush to finish it then because OHMYGAWD WHAT IS LIFE NOW THAT IT'S OVER?!? I don't think it's going to be much of a stretch to say that this just might be THE BEST book you'll read in 2015. SO. MUCH. AWESOME.
Full review closer to release date!
First and foremost: You can read the first chapter here. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Reasons to read: It's Sarah J. Maas.
The story: It's a Beauty and the Beast, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and Tam Lin retelling, plus the genius of Sarah J. Maas all mixed into one amazing fantasy series. Or, ya know, the beginning of one.
The characters: Fierce. Loyal. Capable. Secretive. Vengeful. Murderous. I loved them all. Even the over-protective best mate grew to be one of my favorites.
The villain: I just love to loathe the evil queen in stories like this. Even if they have some tragic backstory. Everyone has one. Get over it.
The romance(s): From enemies to lovers, my very favorite kind. And so devoted once they break down each others' walls! *sigh* Not gonna lie, there is the potential for a second love interest in the sequel, what with that ending, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Like I said, devoted.
The swoons: Things get swoony in her Throne of Glass series, that much is true. But this is Sarah writing upper YA or NA fantasy, however you classify it. And. It. Is. HAWT. Gird your loins, ladies, it's about to get all kinds of steamy up in here!
Everything's coming full circle: Yep, just like in the original B&tB tale, everything has to remain a secret, but all will be revealed in due time. Although this is the first in a trilogy, it felt complete enough. Not that I'd ever stop at just this novel. I'm already planning a re-read. And not just for the steamy bits.
The quotability: Um, I read through this one so quickly that I neglected to flag much. So, I had to go back and find some. Which meant I pretty much just re-read the novel and yet I still want to read it again. But here's a sampling:
"What would happen if I were to drink the water?" Tamlin straightened a bit -- then relaxed, as if glad to release that old sadness. "Legend claims you'd be happy until your last breath." He added, "Perhaps we both need a glass." "I don't think that entire pool would be enough for me," I said, and he laughed. "Two jokes in one day -- a miracle sent from the Cauldron," he said.
"I was as unburdened as a piece of dandelion fluff, and he was the wind that stirred me about the world."
"This was such a lovely dream. I'd never slept so wonderfully before. So warm, nestled beside him. Calm. Faintly, echoing into my world of slumber, he spoke again. "You're exactly as I dreamed you'd be, too," he whispered, his breath caressing my ear, and then darkness swallowed everything."
He knew what I meant, and shrugged. "Because when the legends get written, I didn't want to be remembered for standing on the sidelines. I want my future offspring to know that I was there, and that I fought against her at the end, even if I couldn't do anything useful."
In summation: There just aren't enough words for how much I loved this novel! Hands down my favorite B&tB retelling, and that's saying A LOT because Cruel Beauty was one of my favorite reads last year, and I've read it three times already. I can only imagine how many re-reads I'll go through of ACOTAR. And it's also now my favorite SJM book. All the feels. All the swoons. All the needs for the next book, pronto.
In the same way that I didn't think I'd like reading Alodia's story in TheShadow Cats, I was hesitant to read Mara's story in The Shattered Mountain.In the same way that I didn't think I'd like reading Alodia's story in The Shadow Cats, I was hesitant to read Mara's story in The Shattered Mountain. But that Rae Carson is a freaking genius. She draws me into each girl's story, whether I initially wanted to be there or not.
Mara always seemed like such a strong young woman, like she was a survivor, despite how reserved and quiet she was. And after reading The Shattered Mountain, I know why. This girl has been through hell and made it out alive. And Mara has the scars to prove it. Unfortunately, with this being a prequel story, we already know she's going to suffer more before she gets anything resembling a happy ending. If she even gets that...you never know with that Rae Carson. She has a habit of maiming or killing any character you even look at twice.
But that's what I love about this series. It's so completely unpredictable. You never know what's around the next turn, so you'd best just stop guessing now. I, uh, couldn't help myself once I read this novella and had to immediately pick up my galley of The Bitter Kingdom, and even knowing how it all ends, I'm still in shock. There's just so much to take in. I highly recommend this series, even to those who aren't big on fantasy. It's truly one of my favorite YA fantasy series...ever. I'm sad that it's over, but at least we get one more novella before all is said and done...and it's from Hector's point-of-view!!!
I enjoyed this one even more the second time around, even with some of the surprise elements missing due to a re-read. And the audio was awesome. My fI enjoyed this one even more the second time around, even with some of the surprise elements missing due to a re-read. And the audio was awesome. My first experience with a Full Cast audio, but I can guarantee I'll be looking for more now.
First, an apology to all of the other books I will read this year: I am sorry that The Winner's Curse was the first book I read this year. I am sorry that nothing I read after it will compare. I am sorry that I now have unreal expectations for every subsequent book I pick up this year and forever more. It's not your fault any more than it's The Winner's Curse, but still I am sorry.
I wish I could have read this book three or four times before sitting down to write this review because I don't think anything I could say right now would do the book justice. Nothing seems adequate to describe my love for this novel. I read the book at the very beginning of the year, and it's stayed with me since. I've been mulling over different aspects of the story for weeks, and I'm starting to think that the only way to get past this amazing book is to read it again. Or am I just fooling myself so that I can read it again?
If I'd read Rutkoski's The Shadow Society prior to picking up this novel, I might have been at least a little prepared for what was to come. As it stands, The Winner's Curse caught me off guard completely. The writing is gorgeous, the story is breathtaking, and the world is different and familiar, all at once. I felt that the story started out similarly enough to Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars that I was on even footing going into it, but this story is also nuanced by the more present thrummings of revolution and the fact that the reader sees the world through the perspectives of both star-crossed lovers.
Despite the early hype for this book, I'd never read a book by this author at the time that I started The Winner's Curse and I paid little attention to the summary, so I had little to no expectations going into this story. I had no idea that a war was brewing in Kestrel's homeland. That Kestrel's only lot in life was to join the military or get married. There are no other alternatives for a young Valorian lady, despite what sharp-witted Kestrel may wish. I was also unaware that Arin was a slave fated to be so much more to his people. Also unexpected was the duel. Yes, I said duel. (Actually, my notes on the matter say, "A @#%$*&! DUEL!")
"And you will stop pressuring me to enlist. Whether I become a soldier is my choice." The general rubbed his wet palms together, his hands still dirty. The water that dripped from them was brown. "Here is my counteroffer. You will study strategy with me as my schedule allows. Your sessions with Rax will continue, but only on a weekly basis. And you will make your decision by spring." "I don't have to decide until I am twenty." "It's better for both of us, Kestrel, if we know soon on what ground we stand." She was ready to agree, but he lifted one finger. "If you don't choose my life," he said, "you will marry in the spring." "That's a trap." "No, it's a bet. A bet that you like your independence too much not to fight alongside me." "I hope you see the irony in what you have just said." He smiled. Kestrel said, "You will stop trying to persuade me? No more lectures?" "None." "I will play the piano whenever I like. You won't say a word about it." His smile shrank. "Fine." "And"--her voice faltered--"if I marry, it will be to whom I choose." "Of course. Any Valorian of our society will do." This was fair, she decided. "I agree." The general patted her cheek with a damp hand. "Good girl."
Which brings me to the importance of music in this story. In this land, the playing of music is a menial task, one reserved for slaves. And yet, Kestrel is drawn to the piano, despite her father's desires that she not toil away at it. Kestrel's love of music is palpable, as is Arin's, and it's described beautifully in this story:
She wished that Arin hadn't chosen music for the flute, of all instruments. The beauty of the flute was in its simplicity, in its resemblance to the human voice. It always sounded clear. It sounded alone. The piano, on the other hand, was a network of parts -- a ship, with its strings like rigging, its case a hull, its lifted lid a sail. Kestrel had always thought that the piano didn't sound like a single instrument but a twined one, with its low and high halves merging together or pulling apart.
There is such a rich history in this tale, full of political intrigue, military strategy and the undercurrents of a revolution. As the Valorians conquered their enemies, they enslaved them and essentially took over their lives. The Valorians live in the homes of the Herrani, while the Herrani bide their time, waiting till everything is in place to strike back at their aggressors. Kestrel is a Valorian lady, well-suited to stratagem. Arin is a Herrani slave, a skilled blacksmith destined to be placed in the household of General Trajan, Kestrel's father.
Kestrel herself has a commanding presence. She is intelligent, dedicated, and above all, open-minded. And Arin hates her the second she purchases him at the slave auction. Yet, it's her willingness to keep an open mind that eventually starts to melt the ice that's formed around Arin's heart. Arin was not born into servitude, and he has lost much at the hands of the Valorians. He manages to keep a lid on his defiant thoughts and actions, but his growing feelings for the privileged girl who might actually understand his plight are at risk of destroying all his well-laid plans.
So the Herrani thought his face held the mad delight of a warrior at the sight of battle. He let them believe it. You are the god of lies, Kestrel had said. He looked at his people and smiled, and the smile was a lie -- but like writing in a mirror, whose reflection is the inverse of a truth.
Kestrel and Arin are very pragmatic individuals. They realize that what they feel for each other can never be examined closer, that what they want means little in the scheme of things. Each has their own path and never shall the two cross. But that doesn't mean that their affection for each other doesn't continue to kindle. Though any relationship for these two is out of the question, they do embark on a slow-burning romance that cannot be doubted. Their positions in life will never allow them to be anything more, but there is no question that these two yearn for each other -- mind, body, and soul.
Arin smiled. It was a true smile, which let her know that all the others he had given her were not. "Thank you," he said.
The other characters in this story are unequivocally as unforgettable as the passion that burns between Kestrel and Arin. Enai may have had a bit part as Kestrel's nursemaid, but she is the reason Kestrel is the young woman she is today. Equally as important are Kestrel's friends: Jess, her best friend and closest confidante, and Jess's brother Ronan, whose designs on Kestrel's affections are somewhat questionable and entirely foolhardy. And then there's Kestrel's father, the gruff man who loves his daughter but also wants to see her follow in his footsteps. Their relationship was strained, but the love they felt for one another was obvious.
"Kestrel." The general touched her shoulder. When he spoke, his voice was uncharacteristically hesitant. "It's every child's duty to survive her parents. My profession isn't a safe one. I would like -- Kestrel, when I die, do not mourn me." She smiled. "You do not command me," she said, and kissed his cheek.
Do you ever read the acknowledgements of a book, discover how the idea for the book you've just read originated, and find yourself loving the book that much more because of it? That happened here. I absolutely devoured The Winner's Curse, and it's definitely one of my favorites for 2014, even though the year just got under way. But even crazier is that it's earned a spot on my favorite books of all-time list. This story is amazing, with its themes of love, loyalty, loss, and betrayal, and I honestly don't think I've read anything that quite compares to it. This novel is so promising and it offers up so much; it's just so poignant and clever and passionate. I'm sure I'll have read it several times before the second book is released. I just can't get enough of this gorgeous story, and I want to force it up on the masses!
I don't know if it's just because I listened to the audiobook -- narrated by the fabulous Katherine Kellgren -- which can completely change how a storI don't know if it's just because I listened to the audiobook -- narrated by the fabulous Katherine Kellgren -- which can completely change how a story is interpreted, but I loved this story waaaaaaay more than I had expected to based on the reviews I'd been seeing. And I can fully appreciate why studios would have been clamoring to option the book for film. It was quite the adventure.
An advance copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is based on the audiobook version obtained from my library.
I requested a review copy of this novel when the hype was just fueling up. Then I started seeing some very middling reviews roll in, and I decided to put it on the back burner until someone could convince me that it was worth my time. But then I kind of forgot about and it released to little fanfare. So what do I normally do in situations like this? Go the audiobook route.
And it absolutely paid off for me. I'm not sure if it's because one of my favorite narrators is reading the book or the fact that it was an audiobook at all, but I freaking loved this story. It was a bit convoluted at times, what with the story set in the distant future but with a very historical fantasy vibe, but I think it all came together admirably in the end. After all, I don't think it's that preposterous to think that we might revert back to our medieval ways should things not fare so well for us in the future. I mean, you've seen the mobs and the looting after a natural disaster hits, right?
The people of the Tearling are not total barbarians, though. I think Queen Kelsea is proof of that. She actually reminded me of Elisa from Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns series: not meek, not gorgeous, and definitely not confident, but someone with the power to change the world with the right tools and companions. And even before Kelsea has been crowned, she's affected major changes in her kingdom, changes that most certainly will bring war to their door. But she has set herself to the task of becoming a far better queen than her mother ever was, and I think with the upbringing she had and the companions she now keeps, she can certainly rise to the challenge.
Though I compare the main character to one in a favorite YA fantasy series of mine, this novel is unabashedly adult in nature. There is swearing. The sexual situations are numerous, though not terribly graphic. And there are all manner of vulgar references and circumstances. It didn't bother me in the slightest, but considering Emma Watson is set to play the lead role in the movie adaptation, I wanted to convey that this story is not written for her usual audience. That said, I believe Emma will bring the fiery temper yet quiet reserve of Queen Kelsea to life beautifully on the big screen.
There isn't a lot of romance to be had in this book, not that I minded that either. Kelsea is considered very plain, and at this point in her story, she is more likely to be used as a pawn than an object of someone's affection. There are hints at a potential romance in the future for young Kelsea, but it's also not obvious at this point if her feelings are completely one-sided or not. She has proven herself a very formidable queen, though, and to some, power is more attractive than actual beauty, so we shall see where that aspect takes us.
I found this story to be absolutely captivating. One of those where I found myself inventing chores so that I could listen longer. Its dark and atmospheric setting took hold of me and the characters just would not let me forget them, especially with the fabulous Katherine Kellgren narrating it all for me. I know what other reviewers are saying, but I think this book is just one of those that you have to try for yourself.
GIF it to me straight: Turned out sooo much better than I was expecting....more
Have you read Throne of Glass? Did you love it? (Of course, you did.) Then you must read The Assassin's Blade, a series of five novellas, all still from Celaena's perspective in the third-person narrative. (I realize that the full-length novels are third-person omniscient, but a lot of times, novellas are from another character's point-of-view specifically, and I wanted to assuage any doubts.)
I'm not going to go into each novella, but suffice it to say, they are all very enlightening and show Celaena's considerable growth as a character. I've just finished my re-listen of this series to-date, which obviously included this collection, so that I could start Heir of Fire with no reservations, and I have to say, Elizabeth Evans is a solid pick to voice these books.
If you haven't started the series yet, this is definitely a good place to start. If you've already read the first two books but have lingering questions about Celaena's past, you should pick up The Assassin's Blade. Of course, I'm a fangirl, so *I* think you should read all the books in the series.
Hey, I think this may just be my most succinct "mini" review yet!
This got off to a bit of a slow start for me, but it soon got around to being amazing, just as I expected. I really love how everything's coming togetThis got off to a bit of a slow start for me, but it soon got around to being amazing, just as I expected. I really love how everything's coming together, how much better I understand this world now after this third book. Lots of new characters to love and/or hate depending on where their arcs take them, but just in this one book alone, I saw so much development in their characters.
An advance copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
**As always, no spoilers for this book, but there are potential spoilers for the previous books. Read at your own peril. But if you haven't started this series yet, why the heck not?!?**
After I finished my re-read/listen of the THRONE OF GLASS series, I had to wait a bit because I was still overcome with Crown of Midnight feels. Again. Okay, AND The Assassin's Blade feels. I had so many emotions leftover from the previous books that I didn't want that to affect my feelings toward Heir of Fire. After several weeks, though, I just couldn't wait anymore. (The first 30% or so of HoF was a tad slow for me, but I knew the pace had to pick up eventually, and it did.)
Even after waiting so long to start it, I was still a bit overwrought with everything that happened at the end of CoM, but I kinda think it worked for me. I was feeling every bit as gloomy about Celaena's situation as she was, which is to say we were having an extreme pity-party all on her behalf. Things have taken a dark turn for all involved parties, but most especially Celaena, who's coping with her past and what it means for her future while also trying to fulfill her promise to Nehemia. (If you haven't read The Assassin's Blade yet, I highly recommend it. It's the five prequel novels to the series, and they give the reader some incredible insight into Celaena's character.)
BUT this installment has really upped the magic factor. And unearthed some major secrets from Celaena's past that have only been hinted at before. This includes Celaena's ability to wield magic, as we saw in CoM. This book may be the darkest yet, but Celaena is still her charming self. And I don't mean that sarcastically...mostly. Seeing her have to really work at accessing her magic and seeing others' reactions to her progress were something else. This is a character who's been adept at everything she attempts, and to see her struggle -- and give up only to come back fighting harder -- only endeared her to me more. Celaena may be beautiful and fierce, but she is not above reproach and she is not without her faults. Her character growth over the course of this series has been monumental but never more astounding than in this book, especially as we learn more about who she is and what that means for everyone else.
Everyone else. Yes, them...they're important to the story, too. Favorites, those that remain anyway, are still featured prominently, but for now, we're beyond petty romantic entanglements. A war is brewing and there are ever so many more players now than there were before. There's the heartless Manon Blackbeak and her wyvern, who bears a striking resemblance to Toothless. (I'm not making that up...Summer thought the same of Abraxos when we discussed it. :D) And Rowan, the ageless fae prince tasked with helping Celaena access her magic and teaching her how to control it so that she might get the answers she needs. Dorian finds a friend in Sorscha, the healer who is complicit in her knowledge of the existence of magic in the castle. Aedion is Aelin Ashryver Galathynius's cousin and there is much more to him than meets the eye, especially once he learns that his cousin has truly survived all these years. I loved the addition of all these new characters and new perspectives and what they all bring to the table, and I sense that the characters that survive this book will become very important indeed in future books.
As I said, unlike the previous books, this installment does not focus on romance nearly as much. I appreciated that even though Celaena dwelled on what happened with Chaol a bit, she concentrated her attention on the task at hand. Chaol and Dorian do their own fair share of dwelling on the subject, and their friendship has suffered for it. Dorian has to learn how to wield his own magic while also keeping it a secret. Chaol's sense of duty, his desire to protect his friend at all costs, his love for Celaena, and his promise to his father are all vying for his attention. These two are at odds with one another after Chaol's decision to send Celaena to Wendlyn and his discovery of Dorian's own magic, and it leaves them turning to others for help. And for better or for worse, they'll each have to live with those decisions and what they may bring.
The tone of this book is definitely darker, but the story also delves so much deeper into this world. Yes, this is somewhat of a typical middle book, intent on exploring the world and the rules it abides by over intense action scenes and swoonworthy romance. However, that's not to say that neither of those things makes an appearance in this book. Those scenes are just few and far between in favor of the overarching theme of war that looms over everyone's heads.
I'm very much looking forward to where Maas takes this series in the next three books. I doubt I adequately expressed my sentiments in this review, but I don't think I could honestly do that without spoilers. So, I leave you with this instead: this book does start out slowly with a wallowing Celaena, but give it a chance. If you loved the previous books, you will absolutely find something to love in this book, as well. I promise it's just as engaging as the rest once it gains momentum. And if you haven't even started the series, 1) why are you reading this? and 2) I suggest trying the audiobooks, which are beautifully narrated by Elizabeth Evans.
GIF it to me straight: Pretty much. Also, I want demand my own wyvern....more
I must admit, I've never read a book by Mary E. Pearson. So when Kristen practically forced her copy on me (hehe), I was all:
And then I got to chapter 2, and it was on.
Not only is Lia fierce and determined not to be pushed into a marriage she does not desire, but her friend and lady's maid is just as awesome.
I don't know if Pearson always writes such strong-willed female characters, but I am impressed. Not just with those characters, though...with everything.
The setting. The writing. The transitions between points of view. And there were several of them. All:
And as the story wore on, I found myself captivated, reading it anywhere and everywhere I could.
Then I found that I couldn't put the book down.
But when I got to page 300 or so:
I did a bit of this:
But then as I absorbed it all:
I can't say that the second half was lacking because my anticipation was still through the roof,
but it almost seemed like two separate stories after that point. Before: historical fantasy.
After: a quest-like fantasy, through the unyielding desert...
with the possibility of some magic.
I say possibility because, well, I haven't seen any true magic yet. But I sense it.
A love triangle that isn't
Log wrestling...but with ruggedly handsome men over a mud pit ;0)
All in all, this book was
And I think that it ended at the best possible moment, even if the wait for the next book is going to kill me. _________________________________
The Kiss of Deception is actually my first experience with a Mary E. Pearson book. I think the science-y medical and ethical issues in the plot kept me away from The Adoration of Jenna Fox initially, but having taken a glimpse at the synopsis again, I can't really say exactly why. I love a good, introspective amnesia story, so I'll have to give that series a try soon, especially considering how much I loved this fantasy story from the author. And her characters. Gawd, those characters!
Lia is a formidable heroine. She is fierce and determined and willing to do the unthinkable to escape a life she does not want, including running from an arranged marriage. I can definitely get behind a protagonist like that, especially as she continues to grow over the course of the novel. She also has good taste in friends. Lia's lady's maid and dearest friend sticks with her through thick and thin, and she just may be the Princess's saving grace when all is said and done.
The first half of this novel spent a good deal of time introducing us to the characters and it felt more like a historical fantasy novel, which is pretty much what I expected based on the cover and the summary for the book. However, I did not expect the turn the novel would take about halfway through the story. The setting and the story abruptly changed, and it became more of a quest. But the transition to this aspect of the story and the deception that led there is handled phenomenally by the author. Things got a bit chaotic there for a bit, but I loved every second of it. It was shocking, surprising, and I found much of it to be entirely unpredictable, much to my own delight. The writing was just fantastic, and there was no way I was going to be able to put the book down after that.
This novel is actually rather brilliant. There's mention of magic but little to be seen of it. There's a day of sporting events that culminates in a bout of log-wrestling, which is just all kinds of genius. There are gypsies and vagabonds and vagrants of all sorts. And there is a bit of a love triangle that I didn't find distracting in the least because of how the characters are written. It does get a tad messy toward the end with no resolution, but that's the least of our girl's worries at that point. And I honestly don't think you should worry about the "love triangle" either because it's mostly nonexistent. Mostly.
At the heart of the story, I think the issue is who do you trust when no one is supposed to know who you are but practically everyone does? And moreover, most of those people aren't overly concerned with your well-being. Of course, Lia is unaware for most of the book that her life is in any real danger, though she knows there are people searching for her after she ran away from her wedding. That's probably the biggest deception of the story: her perceived safety, especially when it comes to the two men who've worked their way into her heart. It's also one of my favorite aspects of the story: not knowing who is who and what their intentions are.
It's books like this and The Winner's Curse that have reaffirmed my fanaticism for fantasy stories. I've read some real duds lately, but I think I'm finally out of that rut, thank goodness, thanks to books like these. Granted, I'm now craving some sequels like never before, but I survived the waiting with The Girl of Fire and Thrones series, and I know I'll survive this wait, too. (BTW, if you liked those books, you'll more than likely love this one, too. Just sayin'.) If you don't have this book on your TBR, you should remedy that immediately. It's full of adventure, romance, and betrayal, all of which obviously make it a captivating fantasy novel. I can't recommend it enough, and I'm actually already considering a re-read, if that tells you anything about my adoration for this book.
Be sure to check out my stop on the blog tour on July 7th!
GIF it to me straight: Just absolutely phenomenal!...more
I am always, always on the lookout for a new fantasy series to flail over. So when early buzz started heating up over Snow Like Ashes, I told myself, "Jen...Jen...let's not get ourselves worked up over the book yet. Let's wait and see what some of our friends think before we go getting burned again." And I did. I waited. And I waited...not so patiently, I might add...until I could wait no longer and had to dive in. And I must say, those early reviews were spot-on. This book was fan-freaking-tastic. I couldn't put it down. I couldn't stop thinking about it when my family forced me to put it down in order to pay attention to them. Hell, I still can't stop thinking about it and it's been a couple of weeks since I finished reading it.
Just imagine Xena with white hair and you've got some idea of what Meira is like.
Meira is a character to root for. She's fierce and determined and skilled with a chakram. Meira is also loyal to a fault and wants nothing more than to be a functioning member of the ragtag group that managed to survive Winter's siege some sixteen years ago. She's plenty capable and more than a little strong-willed, and I really enjoyed seeing her come into her own as the story develops.
I did find her budding romance with the Crown Prince to be inexplicable, considering they each knew that it was impossible for them to become involved, what with Mather expected to rule the kingdom once they'd secured it for their people again and Meira only being an orphaned peasant girl, but that situation worked itself out, much to my delight. However, some readers -- particularly those not fond of triangles -- may find the way in which it does get resolved to be tiresome. I did not. It's one of those situations where the relationship never fully developed -- where the characters outgrew each other -- because of everything that stood in the way, and then a much more suitable candidate swooped in to steal our girl's heart. The circumstances in which Meira finds herself in this more suitable love interest's company weren't the best, but I found that even that was perfect, as if the whole scenario was fated to happen.
Sara did a great job of tying the magical elements into this story without ever giving too much away. I'd think I had a handle on everything, had the whole mystery of that fateful night sixteen years ago figured out, and then she'd throw me for a loop again. This happened several times until I just stopped trying to guess the outcome. Basically, the author surprised me at every turn, with her inclusion of magic in the story and how it was used, with her characters, and even with the romance. And I could not stop reading for fear of what the next surprise would bring.
Snow Like Ashes reads like a stand-alone, which I loved. There's the introduction to the world, which is a bit daunting at first but it becomes easier to understand the kingdoms and their monarchies as the story progresses. Plus, there's that awesome map to help things along. (I adore maps.) There are fight scenes and intense battles that solidly pit good against evil. And there's a firm resolution to this book, meaning no heartbreaking cliffhanger to wail over at the end. Though, if you're anything like me, you'll still wail over the fact that you don't already have the second book in your hands.