3.5 stars. A very strong beginning that tapered off and lost much of its heart along the way, but overall, still a solid installment to a fantastic an3.5 stars. A very strong beginning that tapered off and lost much of its heart along the way, but overall, still a solid installment to a fantastic and well thought-out series.
I was spoiled early on about a character's identity, which fascinated me to no end, which of course led to my brain refusing to shut up and stop hypothesizing about outcomes, all of which were executed in a more disappointing manner than I was expecting, unfortunately: (view spoiler)[Going into the book knowing Balthazaar was Death made for an extremely enjoyable read: spurts of hypothesizing, trying to put the pieces together myself. But what the story revealed of Balthazaar's role was unfortunately less interesting than my (stupid) overactive imagination. Which is why I need to not read spoilers pertaining to characters/worlds that I love. There was such a fabulous build up to Annith's past in the first half of the book that I expected far more than her merely being revealed as the abbess' daughter. That was endlessly disappointing!
I was hoping, fervently, that Annith was either Amourna/Arduinna (whoever Mortain loved in the true version of the story) and had lost her memory, OR that she was either, reincarnated. That would have given such weight to Annith and Balthazaar's relationship, which was sketchy, at best. Mortain loved Annith because she worshiped him, what, more than his other daughters? sigh.
Ahh, why couldn't Annith have had a deeper connection to Arduinna? if you're basically going to do nothing with the daughters of Arduinna, why give them a good introductory chunk of the story? (hide spoiler)]
Anyway. I loved Balthazaar's character, and his devotion to Annith, but it was Annith herself I didn't care for. I'll acknowledge her rebellion made the story interesting, but she's your average good-girl finally realising she's been mistreated, so she rebels like crazy, and it's annoying. Annith acts like a nut, particularly where Balthazaar is concerned. He, on the other hand, is surprisingly honourable and princely, yet Annith tears him down any chance she gets. He goes along with it but it still bothered me, how she treats him. I especially balked when (view spoiler)[Annith discovered her parentage and was so upset and out of her mind she forced herself on Balthazaar, then when he hesitated because she was mad with pain, she threatens to go find a random soldier. What the actual crud? I lost all respect for her in that scene. (hide spoiler)]
I would have been delighted to follow the hellequin for this entire book. Instead, we're shifted from them, to a bunch of random situations, and Annith doesn't feel really invested in any of them--not the part with the daughters of Arduinna, not the political situation she's thrown into. And thus, the hellequin, once they finally do reappear, don't receive a proper conclusion. We're told what happens to them, instead of shown.
On the note of politics, enough of the council meetings. Man, I could care less about the politics here--they're dry and keep dragging on and on. In Grave Mercy, Ismae was directly involved enough to keep them interesting, but here, Annith's role feels empty. The story is jarred as the author tries to cram her into this political role in order for her to be in the same position as Ismae and Sybella, and the beginnings of her story are nearly forgotten. The heart of her own adventures, her own purpose, becomes muddled. I couldn't get a handle on Annith's motivations. Ismae's and Sybella's were both solid, but I kept wondering why Annith was doing what she was, other than the fact she's sincerely crazy.
It's kind of sad, because Annith had two missions--the rest is just boring politics, and equally boring conversations between the three girls (Regarding Sybella and Ismae... I enjoyed seeing them again, but I wish they would have had some other role in Annith's story if they had to be introduced; we're just rehashing the same ground. Ismae and Sybella read so false when we meet them in Annith's point of view--they're just your cliched super supportive besties). I wish the political situation had been wrapped up in Dark Triumph so it wouldn't steal so much steam from Annith's story, but alas. And what was the purpose of Annith even taking Mortain's Tears? That had the potential to grow into something amazing, but it did not.
I'm really on the fence about this one, because while I enjoyed it immensely, it had potential that didn't fully deliver. The four stars, I think, are due to Balthazaar, who was an amazing character--despite his being reduced to a "stalker" character who had no apparent role throughout 75% of the story, wasn't even involved in the politics until the end, and existed to appear and sedate Annith's whims whenever she had an emotional spasm (but she otherwise forgets he even exists).
Still, this series is one of my favourites, and I'll definitely reread it one day.
In her mind's eye, she saw again, for the thousandth time, the flash of sunlight on flying diamonds, the locket arcing through the air, and the tall fIn her mind's eye, she saw again, for the thousandth time, the flash of sunlight on flying diamonds, the locket arcing through the air, and the tall figure poised at the far edge of the clearing.
Necromancy and a villain protagonist. I have never read a book quite like this, and I doubt I will again (though I will search in vain). What a misleading cover! And synopsis, for that matter. Shalindra is most certainly not the main character, here, and this is no cheesy, sappy story of a captive maiden.
To say this was amazing falls somewhat short. This book was stunning in nearly every regard. First, the meticulous crafting of the world and its various settings, surging with colour and life through clear, pristine and rich description. Volsky holds nothing back, here, she immerses us fully. Normally, I find long descriptions tiring and boring to read and skip over paragraphs outlining the gilding on some palace door, but here, perhaps thanks to the subject matter, the descriptions were fascinating.
Another thought occurs to me: this book must have been utterly exhausting to write. To outline, sort, carry out. It’s too rich, too cleverly thought-out, and too meticulous. Cripes, it must have been exhausting to write.
I found this book recommended because Varis was described as someone's "favourite villain of all time." I went in expecting a clever guy. I got… someone who was completely out of his mind. In the best way.
The sketching of Varis’ character, from beginning to end, blew me away. He is introduced as a sympathetic character with a weakness—his eyes water unbearably in light. He wears shaded glasses and rimmed hats to combat this. His brothers tease him. Well, more accurately, bully him, especially Breziot. Varis’ deep-rooted hatred for Breziot is old, and illustrated to us in the disturbing scene when Breziot takes him to a prison full of mad sorcerers, and Varis sickens, only to be locked up by Breziot and abandoned there.
Varis’ feelings for his brother, and his family in general, come into play when he encounters necromancy for the first time. We’re allotted the journey from beginning to end, the vast majority of the novel centered on Varis, and Volsky’s take on necromancy was utterly enthralling. Any story I’ve read employing necromancy before this one merely scratched the surface; Volsky plumes the magic to its depths through events and emotional reactions until we not only fully believe in sorcery, we understand it, too, to a degree.
Incredible. I am a fan of making magic into a science in my own work; it seems contradictory, but even magic needs rhyme and reason to it in order, for me at least, to find it fully believable. Magic, when channelled through humans, needs limitations, stimulus, risk, repercussion. The way Volsky plays out this narrative of necromancy does just that, to an immensely effective degree.
Anyway, Varis’ character is truly dastardly, but detached in his drive as he summons ghosts to pick off his family members one by one. It’s especially chilling that he uses his dead brother’s ghost to kill their other brother—but amazing. I’ll admit discomfort when he then compelled his oldest brother, the Ulor (a sort of king), to murder his children in their beds. But the long process of these murders is so involved and fascinating, and knowing what occurred and how made the story, on the whole, all the richer. That’s the type of writing Volsky employs here.
Varis is chilling and apparently emotionless; though we understand him through his perspective, reading him through Shalindra’s too was a new experience. What if he actually can read minds? We don’t have any sustained conversation through his PoV, so perhaps we will never know. This element of mystery was potent, despite the fact we know what’s going on. I was torn; Varis is definitely evil. I wanted him to go down. But I didn’t, at all, want him to die. I fiercely wanted him to be redeemed. The ending was (view spoiler)[I suppose more realistic in that regard, but I was torn again—is it better for him to be spifflicated and alive or dead? Still, his sanity wasn’t fully gone, and that was satisfying. He remembered. Still, he had a rough time of it, this guy, and his unexpressed affection for Shalindra at the end was just a spark revealing what he’s needed all along. People. Someone, other than ghosts. His letting Shalindra go—to his own doom—was a really potent image, handled really nicely. He’s manipulated a controlled all his life, and despite his desire to contain her—he goes after her, we think she’ll be captured—but then we get her PoV, and he lets her go.
Okay, seriously, DANG IT. VARIS. I WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY FOREVER AND HAVE LOVE AND AFFECTION SHOWERED ON YOU. (hide spoiler)]
Ahem, anyway. I could go on. This book was spectacular, not at all what I was expecting, and it needs to become its own genre. Of a genre you need to qualify to get into, no bad books allowed. If it existed, it would probably be called “Only I understand,” and there’d be like three books in it. And this would be one of them.
In over seven years of working at a Christian bookstore, I've read a lot of fiction. And a lot of historical. There's a safety and expectation to thisIn over seven years of working at a Christian bookstore, I've read a lot of fiction. And a lot of historical. There's a safety and expectation to this genre that rarely disappoints, but also, rarely is anything new attempted in it. Jessica Dotta and Elizabeth Camden are two blessed examples of the reverse, and maybe having experienced such rich departure from the formula, I've become a little jaded when it comes to reading new books labeled historical Christian.
As such, this one was just okay for me. The romance and family dynamic were the focus of this rather thick novel, to the point there was very little plot, and the romance quickly became overwhelming--not in a good way.
All the men in this book are cheating sleazebags who have no concept of self-control when tempted. Granted, the women tempting them aren't helping matters, but the depiction here, of males on the whole, was a bit disconcerting. Patrick, Collin, Mitch, all of them cheat. There are so many passionate kisses in this book one couldn't possibly keep count. 40? 100? Cheapens the impact a little bit, but whatever floats your boat.
All in all, this wasn't a bad read. Just overwhelmingly saccharine and unrealisticly hormonal. I look more for plot and emphasis on characterisation nowadays--only by building into these elements, giving characters stories outside of their romances, then letting the romance develop naturally--can I get hooked in this genre nowadays. ...more
This was a really sweet story, but very simple, and became something I had to slog through. My mood is likely to blame, because there was nothing I diThis was a really sweet story, but very simple, and became something I had to slog through. My mood is likely to blame, because there was nothing I disliked about the story. Nothing I really loved, either, though. But personally, it's been harder and harder for me to get into children's fiction nowadays. Still, as far as children's lit goes, this was an outstanding book, one of the best I've read, and one I'd love for my kids to read.
The idea of girls "competing" for the affection of one boy, or a prince, put me in mind immediately of The Selection (which I unfortunately read first). But Princess Academy handles this well-trodden ground in a unique way--the girls may not all like each other, but they are vastly more pleasant. No true venom here, which I appreciated; Miri looked for the best in everyone, even the "meanest" girl Katar. She's a good role model for girls.
It was also quite satisfying, the way it ended (view spoiler)[with Miri's best friend winning the prince, and Miri being more than content to remain with her childhood friend and crush. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more