I love Numair. I love these books. I love the world that Pierce has built/expanded on in these four books. This reread was just as fun as my first reaI love Numair. I love these books. I love the world that Pierce has built/expanded on in these four books. This reread was just as fun as my first read was 10 years ago.
I absolutely loved this. Ismae's inner monologue was enjoyable and oh, boy do I have a bookcrush on Gavriel Duval. Full review to follow but this oneI absolutely loved this. Ismae's inner monologue was enjoyable and oh, boy do I have a bookcrush on Gavriel Duval. Full review to follow but this one definitely lived up to all the hype for me.
Assassin nuns sound like fun, and in Grave Mercy, they definitely are....more
Really more of a 4.5 but benefit of the goodreads system = 5. Deeper thoughts later. Now: In a setting worthy of Zelazny with its intricate and deadly fReally more of a 4.5 but benefit of the goodreads system = 5. Deeper thoughts later. Now: In a setting worthy of Zelazny with its intricate and deadly familial intrigue, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was a more than pleasant surprise. I expected a typical high fantasy novel: full of magic, scheming, unwitting heroines, dastardly but lovable rogues, you know, the whole usual bit. I think Patrick Rothfuss said it best about this novel when he said, "I have a great love of fantasy that does something a little different, and this book is a little different in a whole lot of ways." I got all that I expected and more, with twists and surprises I never saw coming. The entire novel, from the innovative world/political system to the mythological aspects of the Gods, was a well thought-out, superbly-executed, hugely entertaining-to-read first novel.
The story jumps right off from the first paragraph; we meet Yeine, our Darre protagonist immediately. This novel is much more about her inner struggle, or with her relations, than an epic war or battle; it's more personal and close. The first-person perspective is used very effectively with Yeine: I constantly felt like I was reading/speaking with her the entire time. The narrative is scattered and hesitant; a clever device as she's slowly remembering, constantly re-fitting this story as she's imparting it to the readers (Yeine even occasionally breaks the third wall and addresses the readers directly, but it's appropriate and works for the novel). Her style is very informal and as a "barbarian" of the High North, it fits. The first of many intriguing twists on fantasy cliches: Yeine is not white, nor of the ruling caste, and is from a barbaric matriarchal society. Instead she's described as "darkling" and is constantly reminded of her low status among her pale, cruel Amn relatives.
A lot of themes are touches on throughout the novel. Race (and racism), gender, slavery and even religion are not shied away from. In a world where the ruling race is the pale-skinned Amn, who in turn are truly controlled by a single large, monstrously cruel family (the Arameri, to which Yeine reluctantly belongs) who are regarded as the height of civilization while being the depth of depravity, the "barbarian" Yeine is actually the most humane. The Arameri do not allow slaves on their lands, yet they house four of the most enslaved creatures in existence. This was yet another twist of Jemisin's; this time on the fantasy cliche of a God's War or the Fall of Gods. Enslaved former Gods after the war among the The Three in which the Itempas won. For millennia, the Arameri have caged these expunged-from-history Gods as weapons to ensure their power and a gift from the winning side. There was Nahadoth, the Nightlord and his three surviving godling children Sieh, Kurue, and Zhakkarn. The mythology and origins of the Gods from the Maelstrom was creative and well-planned.
There was almost an East-Asian feel to the atmosphere of the story. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms certainly did not feel Eurocentric or written with the Western world in mind, though Yeine's homeland felt almost Amazonian in its ferocity and independence. This individuality in a time of many medieval-type fantasy novels was a another nice touch I appreciated: these creative ideas can make or break a novel. The novel felt fresh and new, unlike a familiar retread of a much-used storyline. There is no over-reliance on magic to solve the world's or even Yeine's problems; it's more cerebral than that. When the magic does come into play, it's restrained or deftly applied to the characters. (view spoiler)[ I thought that unwittingly possessing a part of a fallen Goddess's fractured soul was uniquely witty way to reinvent the young girl with immense but hidden power stereotype. (hide spoiler)]
The only complaints I had were these: the love scenes between Yeine and Nahadoth. They were a little cringe-worthy and cliche; I think for the next book I'd like to see a little more finesse, perhaps more belief in a relationship before two people (Gods? Swirling masses?) hop into bed. I'd also like to see a wider view of these Hundred Thousand Kingdoms that the Arameri control. Only Sky, center of the Amn, is described at length, though even then only the nobles or privileged Amn are shown with any details. Yeine's homeland Darr warranted an occasional mention and one visit, but that was nowhere near enough to sate my curiosity about the warrior-women society.
The ending, though it what was expected even foretold throughout the novel, had quite the surprise attached to it. While completely concluding and resolving the stories and plots within this first novel, it managed to be the perfect cliffhanger for the next in the series, The Broken Kingdoms. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This strange novel definitely, understandably is not for everyone, but it was a perfect fit for me. Billingsley's etThis. Was. Beautiful. Odd. Unique.
This strange novel definitely, understandably is not for everyone, but it was a perfect fit for me. Billingsley's ethereal and lovely prose is filled with vibrant imagery and, coupled with such a strange and mysterious plot, help to make Chime such a clear standout for 2012 for this reader.
Review to come after my trip to Vegas this week!...more
THIS BOOK. This book right here. It just... It wrecked me. It played with my emotions. It gleefully tossed me form the height of happiness to the depths of despair. You know that saying "heart wrenching"? That is Crown of Midnight in two words. I get it now. I am wrenched; my heart is so wrenched it may never recover.
I wasn't expecting to have such an emotional, visceral reaction to this book. I readily admit that I went into it with a lot of trepidation. Though there were things I enjoyed from Throne of Glass (Chaol, strong female characters, hints of magic, Chaol), there was a lot of room for improvement as well. Celaena herself was a bit of trope, she didn't assassinate nearly enough people to back up her incredible arrogance, the mystery tied into the plot was overt and way too obvious, and don't even get me started on the love triangle. But, here in the series' second outing, almost none of those issues reappear. Maas has grown into a much more deft and subtle author; I understand and can empathize with her characters better; Celaena's romantic life is an important facet of the story but not a main focus.
Crown of Midnight may not be technically perfect. I can see some of the technical issues others will have, but my rating is 4 stars for the writing, plot, characters and another star for how much I was engrossed and captivated by the entire novel. This book left me feeling so very many things. Vindication because I called it - a big reveal. Despair because Maas whiplashed me from joy to despair so many times in just 440 pages. Anxiety because I don't have a sequel in my hands waiting to be read. Excitement because Celaena kicks so much more ass in this installment. Hope because I refuse to give up. Envy because this book is so good and I know I will never write like this. Worry because I absolutely can't predict where the story will go from here.
The plot of the novel is more straightforward than the murder mystery/race to the finish at the heart of Throne of Glass. There are some minor questions that Celaena has to work out, but she does, and not dozens of pages after readers have already figured it out. The mysteries are less intrinsic to the plot, and the more subtlety Maas writes with, the less predictable her books and plots become. The solid hints about Celaena's past are also woven into the story with more care, and though I had that figured out before the start of the book, the big reveal at the end was set up very neatly and works well to hint at future plots in the next books.
Celaena was a big obstacle for me in Throne of Glass. I didn't exactly sympathize or identify with her before. Thankfully, I was directed to read the four prequel novellas before embarking on this heartbreak of a book (thank you, Gillian!), and it really adds to Celaena's depiction. I understood her better going into Crown of Midnight, and Maas took more time to flesh out her protagonist into a truly three-dimensional person. I like a flawed, human character better than any paragon of perfection, and oh boy is Celaeana flawed. She's stubborn, arrogant, tends to underestimate anyone without the last name Sardothien, and she makes a lot of mistakes. However, for all her imperfections, this is a great, strong female character. She might make mistakes, but she learns from them too.
Let's talk about love triangle, because it's still hanging on here in Crown of Midnight. Happily, Maas doesn't jerk her main character from love interest to love interest as she did before. Both Dorian and Chaol may have tender feelings for the deadly Celaena, but for all her flaws, the girl isn't indecisive. She makes a choice, and though there are complications between the two, it isn't about what man Celaena wants to be with. I can't say the love triangle is entirely dead (this is YA, after all) but Maas handles it with maturity and I didn't mind how it was used for tension amongst the three principles.
I may have been a tepid fan before, but no longer. I'm fully on board this ship (and the Chaol + Celaena ship), and will be buying copies of this series. I was so entertained by this actiontastic thrill ride; I was heartbroken at some of the twists and turns; I was emotionally whiplashed as Maas kept the reveals and betrayals coming. For better or worse, I am invested in this series, these characters, this world. It's going to be a long hard wait for book three, but I am counting down the days. This is an author that has grown into her story and really impressed me with her sophomore effort.
If you're on the fence like I was, if you liked but didn't love Throne of Glass -- don't give up. Read the prequels. And then read the second because you won't be disappointed. Crown of Midnight is the rare sequel that exceeds expectations and surpasses its predecessor. This is YA fantasy - with a female main character! - done so right....more
2014 Reread thoughts: Five stars now, five stars always.
2013 Reread Thoughts: I finished my reread! And though it took me a lot longer than I thought,2014 Reread thoughts: Five stars now, five stars always.
2013 Reread Thoughts: I finished my reread! And though it took me a lot longer than I thought, it was well worth it. This is one of the very best fantasy novels I've ever read - even on a third run-through. Detailed, complex, highly original worldbuilding complemented by nuanced, three-dimensional characters with a strong plot and a decent pace - especially for a 1,000 page tome. I can't wait for book two....more
More than warrants all the hype. I LOVED this; easily in my top ten books for the year. Full review if when I can consolidate my thoughts about all thMore than warrants all the hype. I LOVED this; easily in my top ten books for the year. Full review if when I can consolidate my thoughts about all the awesome....more
looks a lot like Dave Grohl has a lot of imagination a tendency to pull no punches the ability to craft a viable, complex, interesting world breaks my brain with every book he has written
Last year, Jay burst onto the scene with his steampunkian fantasy of an almost-Japan (here called the Shima Imperium) with his debut novel, Stormdancer. The hype began early, built over months of anticipation, and swelled to immense proportions before the book dropped. And when it did, Jay delivered -- Stormdancer was a tour de force of fantasy, steampunk, kickass characters, and rebellion. Immense in scope, in creativity, and filled with unforgettable writing, and complex, realistic characters, it exceeded my expectations in every way -- and they were HIGH.
I am here to tell you that Kinslayer, book two in this Lotus War series, is even better. You want more death, destruction, struggle? You got it, in spades. The scale is bigger, the stakes are higher, and this is an author that can, and does, improve on his already-impressive first book. If you liked what Kristoff had to offer in Stormdancer - chainsaw katanas, a fresh and inventive take on steampunk technology, an incredibly well-drawn world, betrayals, secrets, conspiracies, rebellion, action aplenty - then you'll love what he serves up for round two. The Lotus War is a story told on a grand scale and one that doesn't shy away from making readers flinch.
While in book one we were told, "the lotus must bloom", now the rebels have modified it to the more ominous, "the lotus must burn." This is a darker book. The lines have clearly been drawn and a civil war is on the brink. Yukiko wrestles with her role, with what she has done, and with what she will do. People die. People you like will die. People you like will surprise you -- and not always in a good way. The risks that Jay Kristoff takes with his plotting and characters more than pay off. He creates suspense with ease as well a genuine fear that no one -- and nothing -- is truly safe with Shima on the brink. He writes with a clear eye for the visual and a lot of the action scenes read cinematically. The detail is dense, the worldbuilding intricate and complete, and it all serves to create an Empire that feels dangerously real and frighteningly familiar.
Kinslayer is epic. It's an epic story with several major plotlines across an empire; there's Yukiko and Buruu going about doing what they do (no spoilers!), there's the Kagé stronghold in the mountains, and there are the subversives hiding in Kigen city, waiting for a chance to hit back at the authorities. Widening the focus of the story allows for more prominent characters than just Yukiko and the antagonist of the soon-to-be-Emperor/Yukiko's former lover, Tora Hiro. Both Yukiko and Hiro play important parts, but they are mostly removed from the main action - Hiro through the dense administration system surrounding a clan Daimyo, and Yukiko through her own struggles to rectify what has happened to her life in the previous novel. Buruu remains a key participant in Yukiko's storyline, and remains one of the best animal characters to ever grace a page. However, even he is full of surprises as the hundreds of pages race by.
We've met Michi before as a minor character, but here in Kinslayer, she gets the time and pages to shine. Her storyline is taut, full of deception and suspense. While Yukiko has spearheaded the fight against the Guild and the Emperor, Michi is in the trenches (credit for that line goes to the lovely Christina at Reader of Fictions!) fighting however and whoever it takes to win. She emerges as a major player and easily surpassed Yukiko in my affections, due to her pragmatic and bad ass approach. Hana, another newcomer with more to her than meets the eye, also more than proves her worth. Between her characterization and Michi's, it's obvious there is more than one strong, dangerous woman in Shima. Yukiko may be the Arashi-no-odoriko, but these two women are capable, smart, cunning, and each play pivotal parts in all that plays out in the pages. While most of my appreciation, character-wise, is for these two newish characters, older and more familiar faces continue to operate in various functions. Akihito, Kin, Kaori, etc. all are prominent and important, but do lack the liveliness of Michi and Hana's storylines.
Though there are clearly the good guys and the bad guys, Kristoff creates a cast that is not black and white. Yukiko is the heroine, but not everything she does is heroic, or even right. The Kagé are the good side, compared the power-hungry Guild and the omnivorous Empire, but not all of its members are truly good people. Similarly, the people that surround Hiro, the book's clear antagonist and foil for Yukiko, are not all evil power despots. The shades of grey that the author imbues into his characters make them all more realistic, more complex, and thus, interesting. Clearly the most sympathy will lie with the Kagé and their struggle to topple a corrupt government, but I appreciated how deftly Kristoff handled the creation the characters on all sides of the conflict. I always say I want a complex antagonist over a one-dimensional psychopath, and that a conflicted heroine is better than a perfect paragon, and I am proved right by the layers each of these two key characters possess. I may not like either of them too much, but I can understand where both are coming from and what they hope to gain.
The worldbuilding is truly some of the best I have ever read in the fantasy genre. It's on par with series that have taken twice as many volumes to create their version of Earth. In just two books, Jay Kristoff has created a viable, deadly, believable world. He has shown how a once-prosperous country can find itself on the verge of failure. From the mythology to the government, there is more than enough detail to flesh out the culture of the Shima Imperium to a reader's satisfaction. No stone has gone unturned, no idea unexplored. New cultures are shown, and new ideas are explored. Above all, Kinslayer never stagnates or dawdles. While the steampunk technology is less featured here (exception: Earthcrusher, clockwork arm!), it retains its originality, usefulness, and flair. Jay proves that less is more and doesn't oversaturate his plotline with nifty gadgets and chainsaw katanas. This isn't a version of steampunk featured on dirigibles and tea -- this is steampunk focused on war, domination, and destruction. And it. is. AWESOME.
Kinslayer is a book with everything you could hope for in steampunk fantasy with arashitora and sea dragons. It's packed to the brim with action, drama, and suspense. It takes characters we know and changes them, makes them evolve and hopefully grow. It proves that in war, no one is safe and anyone can betray you. It shows all sides of a conflict and doesn't flinch from murdering off favorite, beloved characters. It's a brash, loud, completely fun read. It's dense, and detailed, and still the pages fly by. If you want originality, or an inventive fantasy, or a book that combines dire straits with a dash of humor, or all of the above, this is the book you want to read. This is one of my favorite books of EVER, and I will be rereading it for years to come.
My only worry is how Jay Kristoff will manage to top this.
--And when I can get a copy of the third book. ...more