Forest of Ruin picks up where Empire of Night left off: the empire is on the verge of war, Moria and AshynOriginally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
Forest of Ruin picks up where Empire of Night left off: the empire is on the verge of war, Moria and Ashyn are separated and those that they care about are in imminent danger. Having LOVED Empire of Night, I anxiously awaited getting my hands on the final book of the Age of Legends trilogy. Did Forest of Ruin live up to my expectations? Well…no, no, it did not.
As soon as I cracked open Forest of Ruin it seemed that something was different. The tone seemed off and everything I liked about the second book seemed to not work for this time around. What I loved about Empire of Night was the author’s use of multiple perspectives. Both Ashyn and Moira get equal page time and readers are immersed into the twin’s perspectives and their very different personalities. I really appreciated this narrative style in the first two books, but I didn’t find either sister that interesting this time around. For me, the problem lays in the fact that Ashyn and Moira didn’t really seem to change that much in the final book. Ashyn continued to be reserved yet quietly strong, and Moira continues to be brash and impulsive. There was very little progression in either girl’s character development that reading their separate narrative felt like a re-hashing of Empire of Night.
Another disappointment for me was the depiction of the Ashyn and Moira’s relationship. These sisters are purportedly close despite their differences. However, for the majority of Forest of Ruin Ashyn and Moira were separated and when they do come together there is very little evidence of their bond. Rather, readers are told that they have a bond but readers never really see that bond in action, just several moments where the sisters get together for “girl talk”. Personally, I was hoping for a more complex relationship between the sisters. Instead, readers are treated to each sister’s focus on their respective romance.
I’m not usually a reader to complain about the romance plot, but again I felt the romance, like the character development, was rather lackluster in Forest of Ruin. The budding romance between Moira and Tyrus and Ashyn and Ronan was fantastically depicted in Empire of Night, yet when it came to book three, the charm of those romances seemed to fade. Again, the same romantic difficulties that were apparent in Empires of Night were once again explored and little new ground was covered, simply a resolution was put forth by the end.
Due to repetitive nature of the final book in the trilogy, I felt that Forest of Ruin was kind of an unnecessary conclusion. Yes, the greater conflict involving Alvar Kitsune needed to be addressed, but when it came to the lives of the characters themselves, little new ground was broken making for a somewhat tedious read....more
Flamecaster is the first book by the much-hyped Chima that I've read. I've wanted to read Chima's Seven ReaOriginally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
Flamecaster is the first book by the much-hyped Chima that I've read. I've wanted to read Chima's Seven Realms series for a long time, but alas, time, there is never enough. Instead, I decided to jump right into Chima's new series, which I understand is connected to the Seven Realms series. Having not read the other series, I think I can safely say that Flamecaster can be read as a standalone series.
Flamecaster follows the adventures and revenge plots of four people. There's Ash, a young prince who's family has been targeted by a rival king. Like Ash, Jenna's friends have been murdered by the same king, and now she is being hunted down by the king because of the mage mark on the back of her neck. Lila is playing multiple sides, but it's anyone's guess who's side she's really on. And perhaps the most mysterious of all, Destin Karn, son of the powerful general that serves the dastardly king seems to have his own operation running that is contrary to his king. Each of these characters have their own motivations, but what ties them all together is their hatred for the current king of Arden.
The revenge inspired plot of Flamecaster had me intrigued from page one, as did the introduction to four different characters who all get their own point of view in the novel (yay for complexity of storytelling!). However, I must confess to not absolutely loving Flamecaster. For some reason it took me forever to get into the book; the start of the book was slow in setting up each of the characters and their reasons for doing what they're doing. I impatiently waited for the four character's narratives to come together and personally, I wasn't overwhelmed when this did happen. There was a lot of build up to the second half of the book and I had to work to finish the book. The characters were compelling, but I found the plot to be slow moving despite the exquisite writing of the author.
The last third of the book is where the momentum really picked up, but ironically this was where I felt the plot started to get rushed. Everything happened so quickly at the end. I blinked and Ash was in love with the captive Jenna, and Lila's true purpose was revealed. It all just happened so quickly, and I wasn't expecting that considering the length of time I had to put in in the first part of the book.
To sum up, I struggled with Flamecaster. It was a hard book to be immersed in, which isn't exactly a constructive piece of book reviewing because that is a pretty personal reaction to reading a book. It's hard to review a book where intellectually I can see the merits of the writing and crafting of the world, yet that indescribable "something" was missing for me. I know there are many readers out there who loved this book, I was not one of them, and I think that's okay....more
There's absolutely nothing wrong with this book. The writing is lush and atmospheric. The characters strong and compelling. So why didn't I finish theThere's absolutely nothing wrong with this book. The writing is lush and atmospheric. The characters strong and compelling. So why didn't I finish the book? For me, this would have been a much more engaging read had I not read Cruel Beauty. There were way too many similarities plot-wise between this and Cruel Beauty that I lost interest. ...more
So Legends and Liars pretty much picked up after the ending of Swords and Scoundrels. I had felt rather ambivalent about Swords and Scoundrels and I can’t say that Legends and Liars really changed my mind. The characterization continuing to feel a bit weak and there was an over abundance of play-by-play description of all the fighting, which is never going to be my thing.
In Swords and Scoundrels, Kacha and Vocho fled the city of Reyes and into enemy territory. However, even in Ikaras the famed duelist are not safe. When the powers that rule Ikaras decide to move against Reyes, Kacha and Vocho have to decide whether or not they should lend a hand to save the city that has betrayed them.
What I was looking for in Legends and Liars was a greater emphasis on the characters. Kacha and Vocho are the main characters and I would have expected there to be a little bit more exploration of what makes them tick. To an extent there was a bit of digging into these characters. Kacha is conflicted about her true reasons for going back to Reyes and Vocho is less certain about his desire for fame. Surprisingly it’s other characters that I found more compelling that Kacha and Vocho. Alicia is styled as the villain of Legends and Liars and I found her perspective was really readable. There’s a reason that she’s turned to “the dark side” and this makes her a more complex and interesting character. Petri too has changed a lot in Legends and Liars. Petri is brought to the lowest point he can go after being tortured and mutilated and the consequences of those actions are going to have serious ramifications for the final book in the trilogy. I wouldn’t have expected to be more invested in characters other than Kacha and Vocho, but I was. In fact, I found both Kacha and Vocho to be a little bit dull as characters. There is only fleeting moments of greater characterization of them both, and because of this I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I would have expected.
The emphasis on detailed descriptions of what all of these characters were doing is another element that I didn’t enjoy in Legends and Liars. I am never going to be a reader that likes a lot of detail. I really don’t want to know how many times you blocked an opponent who was trying to kill you, nor do I want to know the gritty details about your trek through some goat trails. Many readers love this kind of detail; I am not one of them.
What I did appreciate in Legends and Liars were the moments of humour. You would have expected much of this to come from Vocho; however, it was Kacha and Vocho’s trusted companion, Cospel, that provided many of the moments of comic relief. Cospel didn’t play a huge role in the narrative (he’s not a duelist after all), but the moments that he did appear gave the story a much-needed lightness.
Legends and Liars is sequel that didn’t really work for me. Considering how I felt about the first book, I was hoping for something a little different in it’s sequel. For those that prefer their fantasy more focused on the characters and their personal journey, I might say approach this trilogy with caution. For those that enjoy action-packed adventures and lots of detail about those adventures, you’re much more likely to enjoy Legends and Liars....more
I enjoyed Dreaming Death. Similar to Cheney’s previous trilogy The Golden City, DreamingOriginally reviewed in a joint review at The Book Adventures.
I enjoyed Dreaming Death. Similar to Cheney’s previous trilogy The Golden City, Dreaming Death also combines a rich fantasy world with mystery. While there is a great deal of detail about the world that Cheney puts her readers into, at heart, Dreaming Death is a mystery and I like that. Anytime an author wants to defy the bounds of genre categorization I’m game. Unlike more traditional mysteries, this one is solved using unique measures, like two people with particular abilities that just so happen to feed off the other, making them quite the duo. Interestingly, Shironne and Mikael have not even met before they start their crime solving.
There is a lot of fear and apprehension surrounding Shironne and Mikael’s relationship even before they met. Shironne shares Mikael’s dreams and because of that she can help solve the murders he dreams about. However, the downside of this bond is that Mikael can influence Shironne and make her feel things that she just might not want to feel. Because of the nature of their bond, Shironne and Mikael have been kept separate but remain aware of each other. And therein lies my only frustration with Dreaming Death: how long it took for Shironne and Mikael to actually connect in person. The first half of the book keeps Shironne and Mikael separated. Readers get both of their points of view, but it’s not until much later that they actually interact. For me, it was when Shironne and Mikael finally met each other that the pace started to pick up. I had liked the story up to that point, but it was when these two met and started to explore their bond that I became truly hooked.
Separation of the main characters aside, the concept of individuals being bound to each other was really interesting with rather serious ramifications to individuality. Mikael is used to subduing his emotions since it discomforts the other sensitives that physically surround him, so in some ways he is more prepared for his bond to Shironne. Mikael is afraid of unduly influencing Shironne and forcing her to become someone that she’s not. Shironne, partly due to her blindness and her gender, has been shaped into a specific kind of person already, and again, Mikael recognizes this when he asks “Who are you when you’re alone?” (p. 233). Shironne does need to create her own sense of self as she has been very much shaped by her role in her family. Shironne's relationship to her family isn't a negative thing, but it does not allow Shironne to fully explore her abilities. By the end of the book, I think Shironne has come a long way to claiming her independence and I’m curious to see how the author explores Shironne’s personality considering the seemingly vulnerable position that she’s in. I think this concept will be much further explored in future books as Shironne and Mikael work with each other on a regular basis.
If you enjoy mystery, detailed world building and great characters, Dreaming Death will be a fun read. Shironne and Mikael are more subdued than you would expect of main characters, but I think it serves a purpose in the author’s questioning of fate and individuality. I can’t wait to see where this goes next!...more
The Bloodforged is Lindsey’s follow-up to The Bloodbound, which I reviewed last week. After cracking open The Bloodforged it is immediately clear thatThe Bloodforged is Lindsey’s follow-up to The Bloodbound, which I reviewed last week. After cracking open The Bloodforged it is immediately clear that this is a much, much stronger book. The addition of new character perspectives goes a long way in making The Bloodforged a more complex and compelling fantasy story, and leaves the reader wanting more.
The Bloodforged picks up a few months after the events in The Bloodbound. The war continues to rage on; however, Alden’s forces are flagging and without reinforcements it is likely that the kingdom will fall. Erik White, king of Alden, proposes a risky, diplomatic plan. To gain the much-needed reinforcements Alden will have to seek out allies and convince them to join their fight. Erik and his bodyguard, Alix, will cross the border to win over the King of the Harrami, and Erik’s brother, Liam, will venture to Onnan city to see why their allies are delaying in providing help. If these diplomatic missions fail, Alden may fall. It's also risky to, you know, send the king and his heir off on this missions during a war. Should they fall, the leadership of Alden will be in flux.
Readers of the previous book will recall that Alix and Liam have recently wed, so neither are thrilled to be separated. The complicate love-triangle of The Bloodbound is mostly resolved (thank goodness!) and plays little part in The Bloodforged. However, that’s not to say that the author has not fleshed out the relationship between Alix and Liam. Creating a lot of dimension to Alix and Liam’s relationship is the addition of Liam’s narrative. Readers are finally treated to what’s going through Liam’s mind and his struggle in being a prince of the realm. A diplomacy mission’s not exactly his preferred task, soldiering it what he wants to do and he's not at all convinced that he's right man for the job he's given. How refreshing to have a guy character feel vulnerable and ineffective. Yes please, let's have some more.
What I also liked about the relationship element in The Bloodforged is the fact that Alix is also struggling with the changing dynamics in her relationship with her husband. In the previous book, Liam was an anonymous, illegitimate young man. Alix cared for him, but a relationship seemed impossible. Now that they have married and Liam is a prince, Alix has to deal with the fact that Liam no longer lives in her shadow; her wants are not always going to come first. I think this adds some great tension to their relationship and I would have liked there to have been more time spent exploring this. However, Alix and Liam spend the bulk of the book apart on their respective missions. Here's hoping that the next book plays with this conflict a bit more.
Another fabulous addition to the book is the heightened presence of Alix’s brother, Rig Black. Like Liam’s perspective, Rig allows the story to focus on another part of the war effort, specifically the front lines of the battle. This plot thread provides readers with the bulk of the action in the story, as well as a small romance plot. Rig is a great character and a nice counterpoint to both Liam and Erik.
Ultimately, there is a lot going on in The Bloodforged but instead of creating an unnecessarily complicated plot, readers are giving a more considered story than its predecessor. Characters are further developed, the world is more fully explored, and plot is moved in an unanticipated direction. Given the ending of the book, I can’t wait to return to this world and see how Alix and Liam are going to resolve the latest problem. And, if I’m honest, I hoping for more of a focus on Alix and Liam’s relationship; there’s a lot of meat there and I’d like to see the author take advantage of the potential for conflict. The first installment may not have impressed, but The Bloodforged succeeds in giving readers a story to be invested in.
Sorcerer to the Crown is a charming, Regency-styled historical fantasy. Zacharias Wythe, freed slave and Sorcerer Royal, is determined to discover whySorcerer to the Crown is a charming, Regency-styled historical fantasy. Zacharias Wythe, freed slave and Sorcerer Royal, is determined to discover why the available magic in Britain is declining. Unfortunately, due his race and the mysterious circumstances of his predecessor’s demise, Zacharias has an uphill battle. Members of the respected Society of Unnatural Philosophers refuse to take Zacharias seriously. In addition, Zacharias also has to contend with paralyzing headaches, attacks from an unknown foe, and educate an unexpected student, Miss Prunella Gentleman.
Prunella was orphaned very young and taken in by the mistress of a school for gentlewitches, of which the aim is to suppress all magical inclinations in young ladies. After all, convention dictates that “Magic was too strong a force for a women’s frail bodies – too potent a brew for their weak minds – and so, especially at a time when everyone must be anxious to preserve what magical resource England still possessed, magic must be forbidden to women” (p. 57). Unfortunately, women do possess magic, and one talented young woman is about to become a thorn in the Society’s side.
After Prunella has the misfortune to embarrass the headmistress of the school where she teaches and lives, Prunella finds herself the ward of Zacharias. While Prunella has little interest in cultivating her own magic, she is in possession of several magical objects, which would grant her power in this male dominated world in which women possess very little:
A woman possessed of a key to magic, however – a woman who might at her pleasure grant or withhold men’s access to power – that was a different matter! Such a woman need never worry about poverty or obscurity. With such leverage Prunella did not doubt she would gain all she desired – position, influence, security – provided she were canny and careful (p. 78).
And Prunella is determined to be canny and careful, even avoiding telling Zacharias the truth about the powerful objects that have come into her possession. It’s only after coming to London and being forced to learn how to wield her magic that Prunella starts to consider the possibility of another path before her.
One expects Sorcerer to the Crown to be a rather light and entertaining read, and in some respects, this is the case. However, there is a lot of intelligence and introspective moments throughout Sorcerer to the Crown that makes this book something more than a fun, magical romp (although it is that as well). Considering the status of both Zacharias and Prunella as “other” because of their skin colour is it unsurprising that the author chose to explore what this means for both of them. For Zacharias, it means that the Society is continually trying to usurp him of his status as Sorcerer Royal in favour of a more “worthy” candidate, never mind that Zacharias possesses are the important qualities (i.e. magical abilities). For Prunella the fact that she is not only half-Indian, but also a woman who has a strong magical ability complicates her mission to secure her precarious future.
For me, it is how Zacharias and Prunella deal with the adversary that they encounter that I found so compelling about Sorcerer to the Crown. Both characters deal with their so-called disadvantages in very different ways. Zacharias is quiet and reserved and Prunella outspoken and controversial, and each approach yield differing results. For example, Zacharias’ relationship with his mentor Sir Stephen is complicated by the fact that Sir Stephen bought Zacharias, separating him as a young boy from his parents. On one hand, Zacharias feels an obligation to the man that has raised him from childhood, given him a home and made it possible for him to rise to the position of Sorcerer Royal. On the other hand, this is the man that took him from his parents, so of course, there is resentment there, but is difficult for Zacharias to actually voice this or any opposition of any kind to Sir Stephen:
Affection there had always been between them, whatever their disagreements – and there had been more of these than Zacharias had permitted Sir Stephen to know. But their relationship could never have been mistaken for one of equality while Sir Stephen lived (p. 120).
In addition to the cultural study, Sorcerer to the Crown has a lot of great humour with Prunella’s sense of fun and outspokenness as well as a lovely charm with its magical atmosphere. Magic is not always frightful or powerful, it’s also delightful as can been seen when Prunella is instructed in cloud riding:
“Now, Miss Gentleman, if you will submit to being helped onto my old cloud – a steady, good-tempered mount, who will show you the way of it – you are quite balanced? You must think yourself into equilibrium. Cloud-riding is an act of disciplined imagination. Splendid! Away we go!” (p. 276).
An act of “disciplined imagination” – a turn of phrase I find completely charming and lovely and basically sums up why Sorcerer to the Crown is such a wonderful read. After all, isn't reading itself an act of "disciplined imagination"?
If you're a fan of traditional Regency, comedy and magic, Sorcerer to the Crown is a book that combines all three to perfection.
In all honesty I picked up Swords and Scoundrels because of the cover; seriously it looks badass. When I re Originally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
In all honesty I picked up Swords and Scoundrels because of the cover; seriously it looks badass. When I read the description I was even more intrigued. Here we have two siblings, Kacha and Vocho who are disgraced duelists, exiled from the guild for Vocho’s apparent murder of a priest, whom they were supposed to be guarding. Now having taken to a life of crime, Kacha and Vocho find themselves embroiled in a larger conspiracy when they rob the wrong carriage and come to the attention of dangerous men.
What I loved about Swords and Scoundrels was the dynamic between Kacha and Vocho. Their relationship is your typical responsible older sister to the irreverent and frequently annoying younger brother. There was a lot of resentment between these two. Kacha has always envied her brother’s freedom, feeling trapped in her own need to be perfect for the master of the guild. Vocho has always hated how his sister was the favourite of their father and then the master of the guild, questioning why he is always second best to Kacha. These resentments come to head in Swords and Scoundrels when larger forces at work start to manipulate Kacha and Vocho. The dynamic between these two was fantastic, and I personally would have liked a little bit more development in Kacha and Vocho’s relationship. But, since these two are on the run, there wasn’t a heck of a lot of time for heart-to-heart sibling chats.
The author also uses a number of “Interludes” that flashes the reader back to Kacha and Vocho’s childhood and their years in the guild. I really liked how these technique was used. Not only did it give the readers a sense of how Kacha and Vocho’s rilvary developed, it also showed how these two were manipulated by outside forces without their knowledge. I always love it when a book puts the reader “in the know” and the characters “in the dark”. These interludes also offered new perspectives, including that of Petri Egimont, one of the men after Kacha and Vocho, who also happens to be Kacha’s former lover. The inclusion of Egimont’s perspective went a long way to making him a more complex character and less of a black and white villain. While I didn't think all of these characters were fully developed using this technique, I think that each of these narratives will be expanded upon in subsequent books.
So why didn’t I give this one more suitcases? Well, I have to be honest, all that action and sword fighting doesn’t always appeal to me. For me, I would have liked a character balance between the sword fighting and the character development (like Django Wexler's The Thousand Names). Reading about what’s happening in a fight scene is never going to be my preference and since there is quite a bit of that in Swords and Scoundrels, I didn’t completely love the book. That's not to say I'm not reading the next two books in the trilogy, just that I didn't love the story as much as someone who likes a lot of detail in the actions of their characters.
So, if you like your fantasy fill with action and adventure, Swords and Scoundrels is sure to appeal. Those that are more inclined to character rich fantasy should proceed with caution....more
The Price of Valor is the third book in Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, I’m left wondering how a book that is soThe Price of Valor is the third book in Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, I’m left wondering how a book that is so long (512 pages) can leave me with so many questions and have me anxiously awaiting the next book. It is absolutely masterful how the author creates and sustains an action-packed plot and balances it will truly compelling characters.
The Price of Valor picks up directly after the events of The Shadow Throne, and indeed turns it’s attention to the cost of victory. While Janus may have helped to install Raesinia on the throne, the war is far from over. Now Vordan has to fight outside forces as well as dissent from within. Fighting external forces is Winter, who has been promoted to Colonel and is leading her own regiment under the leadership of Janus. Back in Vordan City, Marcus pushes back against the Deputies-General alongside the unconventional queen. Winter, Marcus and Raesinia are the focus of the book, each chapter broken down by their viewpoint.
While the world that Wexler has created is interesting and the politics play an important role concerning the momentum of the plot, what continues to stand out in this series is the fantastic characters that inhabit this world. Winter, Marcus and Raesinia are all fascinating characters who each have to deal with unique situations and repercussions of victory. Winter, in particular is a favourite of mine. She’s a woman who has been disguising herself as a man for years and she finds that she has quite unexpectedly found a home for herself as a soldier, a place that she doesn’t want to give up, which is why she continues to hide her gender from the majority of those that she leads.
“It’s all right for the Girls’ Own,” she said. “They joined up because Vordan needs them, and when the war’s over they’ll go home. I…I haven’t got anywhere to go.” She tugged at the collar of her uniform. “This is who I am now, for better or worse. This is my home. After the war, maybe it will be all right for a woman to keep this on, but…maybe not.”
Winter found her throat getting thick. She’d never put it that way before, never even though it so bluntly. This is my home (p. 314-315).
However, while Winter recognizes the fact that being part of the army is home for her, it leads her to personal problems with her lover, Jane. For years Winter thought Jane dead and being reunited with her in the previous book, Winter was pleased to pick things up from where they were left. Now Winter finds that perhaps she’s changed in ways that Jane cannot appreciate. The fact that Winter is exploring these changes is her own outlook is masterly done, making Winter a very human character.
Like Winter, Marcus and Raesinia are equally realistic characters and Wexler excels at showing the human characteristics of leadership. In The Price of Valor readers get to know Raesinia a lot more and watching the traditional Marcus have to deal with the unconventional queen is amusing. It’s these characters that keep me coming back for more and while I will continue to be a devoted fan of this series.
In terms of plot, The Price of Valor furthers the idea that Janus, the hero of Vordan, has an ulterior motive for getting involved in the war and pursuing the magical artifacts of the Thousand Names. I think readers get a sense of why Janus has recruited Winter and Marcus to his allies, they have something he lacks as he expresses to Winter:
“So I left the decision to you. You understand the…the feelings of the men and women in the ranks, in a way I do not” (p. 364).
There’s no question that Janus is manipulating events for his benefit, but the question of who this is to the benefit of becomes more explicit in The Price of Valor.
The Price of Valor was an extremely strong addition to The Shadow Campaigns series. Characters develop, the plot moves in new directions and the author masterfully maintains a fast-paced plot despite the length of the book. A read that I highly recommend and a must if you were a fan of the first two books in the series.
I absolutely loved the first book in Marillier’s Blackthorn & Grim series, Dreamer’s Pool, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an advance copyI absolutely loved the first book in Marillier’s Blackthorn & Grim series, Dreamer’s Pool, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an advance copy of its follow-up, Tower of Thorns. In fact, Tower of Thorns is one of my most anticipated reads of the fall. And let me tell you, it completely lived up to the exceedingly high expectations that I had. It's beautifully written, filled with magic, and inhabited by two fascinating characters.
What appealed to me in the first book, are the characters and Blackthorn and Grim. They are both so tortured. Blackthorn in particular is haunted by the murder of both her husband and son and burns to take revenge on the man that had them killed and her locked away. In the first book, Blackthorn had made some progress in moving away from revenge, but that quickly changes when she is confronted with a friend from her past who encourages her thoughts of revenge. In Tower of Thorns, Blackthorn seems to truly move past her revenge; it's not the only thing she desires and she starts to recognize that the new life she has been forced to create is worth living. There is one instance where she longs for her home at Winterfalls, and for me, that is the turning point in Blackthorn’s character:
And I felt, for the first time, a longing to be back at Winterfalls, in the cottage, just Grim and me with the woods close by and the settlement a safe distance away across the fields – close enough so folks could reach us if they needed to, far enough so they did not often disturb our peace. “A pox on it, Grim,” I said to my absent friend. “I’m turning soft, I’m becoming an old woman.” (p. 264)
Unlike Grim, Blackthorn has never really been content with her new life. As soon as a person from her past arrives she’s quite willing to reconsider her bargain that states she must not seek out revenge for seven long years. Blackthorn's tentative reconsideration of what is truly important is what I found so engrossing in Tower of Thorns. Character development, Marillier does it so, so well.
The other standout character is Grim. In Tower of Thorns Grim’s back story is shared and readers begin to understand what drives his intense motivation to protect Blackthorn. The way Grim sees it is that he’s failed so many in the past, he absolutely refuses to fail another. There’s an interesting vulnerability about Grim that is incongruous with his rather fearsome appearance, but this only serves to make him a more compelling character. Grim is self conscious and uncertain about his place in Blackthorn's life, yet on every occasion Grim displays his willingness to go to bat for her. For a man that too often viewed as simple, he is one complicated dude.
Together, the characters of Blackthorn and Grim are dynamite. I love the supportive relationship between these two. Blackthorn shows a lot more consideration for Grim in Tower of Thorns; they are on a much more even playing field in their relationship. No romance between the two, but I think we can safely say that hints are dropped. My romantic heart is happy and I have high hopes for book three.
Aside from the truly fantastic characters, the story is also beautiful and sad. Like Dreamer’s Pool, Tower of Thorns is also grounded in a mystery. This time round, the pair are investigating the presence of a howling monster in a tower, but all is not what it appears. The woman asking for their help is keeping secrets, which just might have disastrous consequences. The tale of the monster is the tower is interspersed with Blackthorn and Grim’s narratives. It’s a tale that’s both sad and horrifying – the lengths that Lady Geiléis will go to solve the problem of the monster doesn't exactly endear her to the reader. At the same time, its difficult not to feel feel sympathy with Lady Geiléis and all she has suffered for one instance of youthful pride. If you like stories that have an old fashioned fairy tale feel, look no further than Tower of Thorns.
Marillier introduced two flawed and well developed in Dreamer’s Pool and she continues to reveal new facets of each character while thrusting them into magical mysteries in Tower of Thorns. I can’t describe how much I love these characters and the relationship they have with one another. Blackthorn and Grim are the foundation of this series and I cannot wait to see what mystery they are involved in next.
Uprooted was a fantastic read for me. The writing evokes the old fashioned, atmospheric quality of a a fairy tale from the very beginning:
Our Dragon d
Uprooted was a fantastic read for me. The writing evokes the old fashioned, atmospheric quality of a a fairy tale from the very beginning:
Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as through we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.
In Agnieszka’s village the Dragon chooses a girl once every ten years. The young woman selected is bound in service to the Dragon, and when they are released at twenty-seven they are set free, usually leaving the valley by the Wood for good. In this story it’s Agnieszka who is unexpectedly chosen to serve the Dragon. Agnieszka was never considered refined enough to serve the illustrious wizard, rather it’s her best friend, Kasia, who was thought to be chosen. Naturally, Agnieszka is terrified to be selected and her fear is not unfounded especially when she’s pressed into using magic that she had no idea that she even possessed. It doesn't help that the Dragon is a rude and detached man that seems to care nothing for the actual people that he protects by holding the Wood at bay.
While Agnieszka’s abilities don’t manifest in the expected, methodical practice that the Dragon would have liked, Agnieszka does have a connection with the land of her village and more dangerously, the Wood that they protect everyone from.
The Wood has slowly crept forward over the years, taking land and people alike, transforming them into the unrecognizable. When Kasia is taken, Agnieszka risks everything to find her friend, setting off a chain of events that has serious repercussions for Agnieszka and the Dragon.
While the setting, premise and language used are evocative, what I really enjoyed about Uprooted was its depiction of the friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia as well as the symbolism of the Wood.
Agnieszka was an excellent character in her own right. I loved her naivety and drive to do good, but I also liked her commitment to her friendship. When Kasia is taken into the Wood, Agnieszka is well aware that it is unlikely that she’ll be able to save her friend, but she must try. This leads to a wonderful moment in the book where both young women see each other’s petty jealousies and grievances towards one another. Agnieszka is jealous of Kasia’s poise and beauty, Kasia is jealous of Agnieszka’s relationship with her parents and the freedom that she experienced as the unlikely choice for the Dragon. What’s fantastic about this moment is that Agnieszka recognizes their differences and anger towards one another and goes forward. There’s no real conflict from their mutual grievances, there’s just a steadfast friendship between two young women thrust into a difficult situation who continue to remain friends with an awareness that neither are perfect.
The Wood was also an interesting concept in Uprooted. The author plays around quite a bit with the theme of “rooting” to a specific place or person. Agnieszka is the embodiment of an attachment to a specific place. She loves her village and the people that she shares that life with, even if it means living in the shadow of the dangerous Wood. In contrast, the Dragon would do anything to avoid making a commitment to the people and the land of the village. And it’s the idea of an attachment or “rooting” that is at the heart of the problem of the Wood. The theme is beautifully executed and flows extraordinarily well with the overarching plot of the novel.
Ultimately, Uprooted is a wonderful, adventurous tale perfect for those who have seemingly outgrown fairy tales. This one has great writing, great characters, a compelling plot, and a subdued romance. I only wish that I could read this again for the first time to appreciate its loveliness.
For the second installment of Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, readers are introduced to a new and forOriginally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
For the second installment of Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, readers are introduced to a new and formidable character, Thorn Bathu. Thorn is the only young woman training to become a warrior, hoping to avenge the death of her father. When she accidentally kills a man during training, her death appears imminent. However, Father Yarvi swoops in and saves the day, but not without his own ulterior motives. Anyone who’s read book one will remember that Yarvi is a manipulative young man, and that certainly hasn’t changed in book two.
Accompanying Thorn on her travels with Father Yarvi is Brand, a young warrior that was left behind for speaking out. Of course, like Thorn, Brand also has his uses in Yarvi’s plans…
Half the World is the middle book of a trilogy and while it certainly sets the stage for the final battle, this one stands strongly on its own. What makes this one work so well is that it introduces readers to new characters. Thorn and Brand are both caught up in Father Yarvi’s schemes but this only plays a small part in Half the World. Rather, with Thorn and Brand we dive into the murky waters of what makes a hero. Like Abercrombie’s other novels, using such labels as “heroic” are quickly muddied since to be a hero means many things. As always, this look at the harsh reality of violence is much appreciated.
Both Thorn and Brand were interesting characters. Thorn was the strong, violent warrior and it’s Brand that’s ruled more by his conscious. However, both characters are more than they appear. Thorn for all her outward confidence and bloodthirsty nature, is just as vulnerable as others:
She was a killer, that there was no denying.
She hunched over as if she’d been punched in the guts and coughed thin puke into the grass, straightened shivering, and staring, with the world too bright and her knees all a-wobble and her eyes swimming.
She was a killer. And she wanted her mother (p. 155).
And Brand, for all his outward weaknesses, fears and seeming dullness, was strong in his convictions. He didn’t always do the right thing, but when push came to shove, he refused to back down.
The contrast between Thorn and Brand was obvious, and it added to the exploration of what it means to be a hero, a question that was asked throughout the book. Thorn and Brand both offer different aspects of the heroic, neither are conventional but it makes for an engaging and compelling story.
What I also thought was well executed was the use of multiple perspectives in Half the World. Instead of focusing on Yarvi, the central character of book one, readers are given two new characters: Thorn and Brand. The use of new characters added so much more to this trilogy, adding layers to an already complex world. Abercrombie excels at using multiple perspectives and this is no different in Half the World. In some fantasy books the use of a slew of characters can be confusing, but I thought this was handled extremely well in Half a World. Thorn and Brand offered up different parts of the story, making for a richer exploration of the larger conflict that is happening in Abercrombie’s world.
Half the World was an excellent book on it’s own and outstanding middle book to a trilogy. So often the middle book to a trilogy falls flat and this was not the cause in Half the World. I think I might even like Half the World better than the first, in part, due to the fact that it focused more on the characters than the larger conflict. I can only assume that the strong writing and characterization continues in the final book. ...more
The Great Hunt is a romantic, historical fantasy, and as a romance, I thought this one was pretty good. How Originally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
The Great Hunt is a romantic, historical fantasy, and as a romance, I thought this one was pretty good. However, there were several times I felt that suspension of disbelief was required and because I really couldn’t shut off the logical side of my brain, I had a hard time enjoying this one as much as it deserves.
There is a beast stalking the kingdom of Lochlanach. The commoners are being targeted and its only when the betrothed of the king’s niece is killed that the king finally decides to act. The king’s army can’t kill the beast, and the king is losing the support of his subjects. To gain the manpower to track and kill the beast, the king offers his eldest daughter, and heir to the throne as the prize. The hunter that successfully kills the beast wins Princess Aerity’s hand in marriage.
Entering the contest is Paxton Seabolt, a young man of nineteen that wants to kill the beast that is ravaging his people and avoid marriage to the presumably pampered princess. Alongside his brother and the other contestants, Paxton hunts for the beast only to discover that this is no natural beast; there is something otherworldly about it, something that will have huge repercussions for Lochlanach.
For me, The Great Hunt is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, as a romance, I thought it was pretty good. The tension between Aerity and Paxton was great and their chemistry was spot on. The obstacles in their path created a nice element of tension in their romance. The romance reader in me loved this. Unfortunately, there were several other elements that didn’t quite work for me.
First of all there’s the whole concept of offering Aerity as the prize to the hunter that kills the beast. From what readers are told, Aerity has a pretty decent family; they don’t want her to be forced into marriage and would prefer her to marry someone of her own choice. Okay, I get that. But, Aerity is also going to be the queen of a country some day, and you’re telling me that everyone is just cool with taking a chance that Aerity could marry any guy who then gets to be king. I just don’t buy this and it’s seems simplistic. There is a token effort to explore what the chosen winner will mean for Aerity but it doesn’t really do justice to the severity of the circumstances. What happens if the guy that wins is a tyrant and runs the kingdom into the ground? What happens if the winner is abusive to the kingdom’s future queen? If the king and his advisors don’t like the winner, do they really have to go through with it? They are the rulers after all, can't they think of some other enticing price than handing over the keys to the kingdom? I’m over thinking it, aren’t I? The whole premise of the contest really requires the reader not to think about the consequences of the contest or really examine the motivations of the characters that orchestrate the contest in the first place. I could not shut off my brain.
My other difficulty with The Great Hunt was the Lashed. The Lashed are people that have magical gifts. Because of an uprising a hundred years ago anyone that is Lashed (and you can identify them because their fingernails change colour after using magic) is treated with suspicion and fear. Only a select few Lashed are treated as gifted and that’s only so others can take advantage of their powers. So there’s this whole concept of discrimination and I think that’s great. My problem is that I didn’t feel that the exploration of the Lashed and why they were persecuted was fully explored. Discrimination is a complex issue and it was rendered less so in The Great Hunt. I get that people were fearful of those that had magic; people fear what they don’t understand. But it seems that Aerity can magically turn this around because she’s not hampered by this prejudice herself. Why not? Was Aerity not raised in that same discriminating environment as everyone else? What makes Aerity this paragon of goodness? I would have liked a little bit more exploration of why Aerity decides to champion the Lashed other than the obvious.
If you can get past the fact that some rather complicated issues are simplified there is a lot of other stuff to like in The Great Hunt. I love author’s use of multiple perspectives in the narrative and Higgins does this really well including characters other than Aerity and Paxton. Yes, these two are the main characters, but by including others, the author has really given the relationship between these Paxton and Aerity as well as their relationships with others a surprising depth. The character driven drama was done really, really well and I think the author’s style of narration contributed a lot to this.
Ultimately, The Great Hunt is a romance. Yes, there’s a hunt for a mysterious beast and a fight against senseless prejudice. But to my mind, these “issues” were window dressing to the romance happening between Paxton and Aerity. The romance was sweet and swooney and I think that The Great Hunt will appeal to fans of romantic fantasy more than anything else. For the more complicated issues in The Great Hunt, prepare to suspend belief and enjoy the novel for what it is: a fairy tale retelling with a bit of The Bachelor vibe....more
Before the Thorskards came to Trondheim, we didn't have a permanent dragon slayer. When a dragon attacked, you had to petition town hall (assuming itBefore the Thorskards came to Trondheim, we didn't have a permanent dragon slayer. When a dragon attacked, you had to petition town hall (assuming it wasn't on fire), and they would send to Toronto (assuming the phone lines weren't on fire), and Queen's Park would send out one of the government dragon slayers (assuming nothing in Toronto was on fire). By the time the dragon slayer arrived, anything not already lit on fire in the original attack would be, and whether the dragon was eventually slayed or not, we'd be struck with reconstruction. Again.
Needless to say, when it was announced that Lottie Thorskard was moving to town permanently, it was like freaking Mardi Gras (p. 1).
The Story of Owen is an absolutely brilliant YA fantasy. It was smart, original, and entertaining and leaves you looking for more from bard-in-training,
, and her dragon slayer, Owen Thorskard.
Siobhan is your average high school student. She gets good grades and is intent in her focus on music composition, determined to get into a good musical school. However, all of Siobhan's career aspirations change when her rural town of Trondheim gets it's very own dragon slayer.
Owen Thorskard's very famous family has moved to Trondhiem following his aunt's retirement. Officially, it's Owen's father that is the town's dragon slayer, but really it's a family affair. Of course, the arrival of the Thorskards in Trondheim has the small rural community in an uproar. Siobhan doesn't expect to be involved in any of it, but all that changes when she happens to meet Owen on his first day at her high school. Suddenly Siobhan finds herself right in the middle of dragon slaying with her very own job to do. Siobhan is called to be Owen's bard, the teller of his heroic feats. But there's much more to it that simply telling a good yarn, Siobhan has also been recruited because of Owen's aunt's determination to change the world of dragon slaying. They want to return to the ways of old, move away from the commercialized and privatized career that dragon slaying has become.
Of course Siobhan's role in changing the face of dragon slaying arrives sooner than expected when Trondhiem is plagued by an increased number of dragon attacks. Owen has to step up to the plate as a dragon slayer much sooner than expected, bringing Siobhan along on this adventure.
I was completely blown away by The Story of Owen. This was an amazing story. It was fun, unique and downright smart. The first thing that caught my attention was the world that Johnston has created. In this version of Canada dragons just are. Dragons are a part of daily life and have been forever. This has impacted industry, historical events, everything down the daily lives of those that co-exist alongside these dragons. This is why dragon slayers are needed. They protect those that cannot fight off the dragons. However, over the years the position of dragon slayer has become privatized. Dragon slayers no longer simply protect their hometown, they are required to enlist with the Oil Watch and are paid big bucks to protect what they're told to. This means many small towns, like Trondhiem, are left unprotected by dragon attacks because they cannot afford to provide the same financial incentives as larger cities and corporations. Me thinks it's quite significant that dragon slayers are employed by the Oil Watch. Could this perhaps be a comment on current events? Yes, I think so.
I loved how Johnston created a rich fantasy world. Current and historical events were blended together so well with the addition of dragons, it was impossible not to see the larger social commentary that was being made (i.e. privatization, commercialization). What makes this a particularly strong book is that something is being said about the world, but the book still remains a fun and fast-paced read.
In addition to the fact that The Story of Owen is more than a simple story, the style of the story and the characters that exist in it are also well crafted. The entire book is narrated by Siobhan in her role as Owen's bard. She is recounting events after the fact but this doesn't lessen the action that is happening. This style of narration also allows for Siobhan to unravel for the readers the world in which dragons exist. It was a different style of narration, Siobhan is "speaking" directly with readers, but it was engaging and refreshing.
The characters of Siobhan and Owen are also what makes the story. Given the title and the subject you'd assume that Owen is the hero, and to an extent he is. He's not the expected hero. Siobhan originally describes him as a bit scrawny and he's not particularly good at school. But I loved the fact that Owen wasn't the expected hero, it once again highlighted the fact that The Story of Owen was something a little different. While Owen is the dragon slayer, I think you can also argue that it is Siobhan who is the real hero of The Story of Owen. It's her story after all, she's the storyteller, without her there would be no story. And while Siobhan is no dragon slayer, she is a dedicated friend to Owen and makes some hard choices because of that. I love that being a bard becomes Siobhan's vocation. It's more than a lark to her, it becomes a career choice and that dedication means Siobhan is forced to make sacrifices for it.
The Story of Owen was such a unique reading experience. It was different from all the romance-infused YA that's out right now (not that I have a problem with those kinds of books) and I think that it will appeal to a wide audience. The fact that this is a thought-provoking read and it's Canadian connection wins a lot of points with me. I'm left wanting more and I can't wait to read it's sequel, Prairie Fire.
“Follow my lead, Miss Rook,” Jackaby said, rapping on the ornately trimmed door to 1206 Campbell Street. Were my employer a standard private investiga“Follow my lead, Miss Rook,” Jackaby said, rapping on the ornately trimmed door to 1206 Campbell Street. Were my employer a standard private investigator, those might have been simple instructions, but in the time I’ve been his assistant, I’ve found very little about Jackaby to be standard. Following his lead tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality. (p. 10)
After successfully solving the case in the previous book, Jackaby and Miss Rook are called upon to investigate the theft of a dinosaur head at a nearby dig in Gad’s Valley. Abigail, who once dreamed of being a paleontologist, is thrilled to be near an exciting new discovery. However, it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary dinosaur. Something supernatural is disturbing the site and once again Jackaby and Abigail are on the case, aided by shape shifting police officer, Charlie Barker.
What I like about this series is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously; at least when it comes to the paranormal stuff. Shape shifting fish just are. As are dragons and Charles Darwin’s “real” discoveries. Throw in two great characters in Jackaby and Abigail and you have a recipe for success. Jackaby’s complete obtuseness when it comes to perceiving the thoughts/feelings of other people is funny and endearing. But what really shines in Beastly Bones is the character of Abigail Rook.
Abigail is a kind of Watson character, narrating the adventures of Jackaby such as the way that Watson records Sherlock’s adventures. In Beastly Bones she’s mostly settled into her new life as Jackaby’s assistant, and although she has had some missteps, she wants to prove herself as a valuable member of Jackaby’s team.
Interestingly, Abigail feels a bit conflicted when it comes to her budding relationship with the young police officer, Charlie. On the one hand, she has won her hard-earned independence and has no inclination to give that up. On the other hand, well, Charlie makes her heart race. Can she have both a career and romance? Considering the historical setting of Beastly Bones, the answer for Abigail would generally be thought to be “no”, and that’s the answer that Abigail herself believes. However, Abigail receives some advice from an unlikely source: Jackaby. For a character that remains somewhat aloof he certainly provides some support to Abigail when needed.
The dynamic between Jackaby and Abigail is another fantastic part of this series. Here we have a true partnership. Jackaby is the eccentric one and Abigail the grounded one. Together, they make a formidable investigative duo. It’s always nice (and refreshing) to see a duo that is not romantically motivated and that is the case here with Abigail and Jackaby. Let's keep this up!
The snappy dialogue and outlandish plot make Beastly Bones an absolute pleasure to read. By the end readers are left wanting more and the premise for Jackaby and Abigail’s next adventure is set. I, for one cannot wait to read more, especially now that Abigail has come into her own as a real investigator.
Some girls work in shops or sell flowers. Some girls find husbands and play house. I assist a mad detective in investigating unexplained phenomena – like fish that ought to be cats but seem to have forgotten how. My name is Abigail Rook, and this is what I do. (p. 17)
Lady Sophia Kendall is days away from coming into her power. As a noble born woman, and thirty-second in line for the throne, Sophia is a powerful comLady Sophia Kendall is days away from coming into her power. As a noble born woman, and thirty-second in line for the throne, Sophia is a powerful commodity and will become even more of one if her magical abilities are strong. Before Sophia can be carefully initiated as a royal witch, Sophia is forced to flee the city with Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, who happens to be accompanying her in the city when the capital is attacked. Suddenly Sophia finds herself an unbound witch, more powerful than she ever imagined herself to be, and also more dangerous. One hasty wedding later, Sophia learns a lot about why witches are bound so quickly, but this knowledge might come at a price.
The Shattered Court was a really interesting fantasy romance. When I picked it up I was expected a contained romance with light fantasy elements; instead I was introduced to a fascinating political landscape and a hasty romance with the potential for more, and I very much want more.
The world of The Shattered Court involves magic. However, magical abilities rest in the hands of few and the woman that possess true power are guarded and controlled. Sophia is one of those young women. As a distant relation to the royal family, Sophia’s bloodlines are prized, and if her magical abilities are strong she will be considered a great prize on the marriage market. Sophia, of course, will have no choice in her marriage, as it will be determined based on its usefulness to the monarch. Sophia is not pleased and does feel the restriction of her position, yet she is well aware that there are no other options for her. Fate changes what’s in store for Sophia when she manifests her powers away from the careful control of the crown. As a result, Sophia is much stronger than anticipated and her power cannot be controlled and bound to the service of the crown or her husband, an unprecedented event that does not please the new queen or the head of the religious order.
To be dealt with, Sophia is quickly married off to her protector Cameron, who also played a significant part in why Sophia’s powers cannot be bound (apparently this is why sex before marriage is frowned upon for royal witches). Cameron isn’t exactly thrilled about the fact that he and Sophia must be married, but he’s well aware that he is also responsible for Sophia’s lack of binding. However, the pair soon discover that their unusual circumstances are much more dangerous than they had anticipated, and Sophia's life just might be in danger.
The romance set up felt very much like a historical romance, which is likely why I liked the romance element so much. You can't go wrong with the traditional compromised trope. What I was surprised about the romance was that it didn’t feel resolved by the end. Initially I thought that The Shattered Court marked the start of a series that would focus on different characters in each book; it’s a common concept in the romance genre. However, with the way The Shattered Court ended I’m left feeling that the author is going to take this in a different direction. There is definitely room for more in Sophia and Cameron’s relationship and I, for one, can’t wait to read more. At this point, Sophia and Cameron have an attraction for one another, but I think there’s room for more growth and more angst - a very good thing.
Aside from the great, hasty, arranged romance, the world that was introduced in The Shattered Court was fascinating. The idea that women are forced to cede their abilities to both the Goddess, their husband and the crown without really knowing what they are giving up is not exactly a pretty picture, but it is compelling. The fact that Sophia is a departure from the status quo ramps up the tension in The Shattered Court. Considering the ending of The Shattered Court, I can only assume that Sophia is going to learn a lot more about what she can do as an unbound witch as well as why witches have been weakening in power over the decades. Methinks someone has been hiding some valuable information from the masses.
The Shattered Court was a compelling read because of both its romance as well as its fantasy elements. While I was hesitant about the idea of marriage and magic being intertwined, I really enjoyed how the author brought these institutions together and created something thought provoking. There is no doubt that I will be back for book two.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
The Undying Legion is the second in Clay and Susan Griffith’s steampunk trilogy. I enjoyed the first book, and I went into the second book wanting morThe Undying Legion is the second in Clay and Susan Griffith’s steampunk trilogy. I enjoyed the first book, and I went into the second book wanting more from the main characters. In the first book, for me at least, there was such a focus on action that it was at the expense of truly interesting characters and it was that element that I was hoping would develop more fully in this second installment. Unfortunately, The Undying Legion did not give me the characters that I was looking for and once again the plot was almost exclusively focused on the central mystery and detailed renditions of what the characters were doing rather than what they were experiencing.
In this second installment Simon, Kate and Malcolm are back in the game when they investigate the gruesome murders at several churches in the city. Complicating this investigation is the fact that the dead just don’t seem to want to stay dead. Simon and Kate immediately start researching, but Malcolm splits off from the group due to his discomfort in their treatment of Charlotte, a teenage werewolf. It’s not easy putting aside those werewolf hunting impulses even when confronted with a young girl that’s more interested in fashion and tea parties than, you know, eating people.While Simon and Kate don’t totally understand Malcolm’s hunter tendencies, they let him go, they do have a mystery to solve after all!
The Undying Legion continues the breakneck pace of the first book, yet I didn’t feel that it compensated for the weaknesses of the previous book. With the second book it seems that a lot of character development happened “off scene”. Kate and Simon are apparently “in love” – but I gotta be honest, there was zero chemistry between these two, and I think the romance would have been better to have been left out rather than addressed in such a half hearted fashion. In The Undying Legion readers are told rather than shown what the main characters are feeling and experiencing, leaving me feeling that there’s a whole heck of a lot missing from the narrative.
What saved The Undying Legion for me were the rare moments of humour. The inclusion of Charlotte and her interactions with Malcolm gave this book some much-needed dimension.
So will I be back for the final book? I do want to find out how the major plot points that weave this trilogy together get resolved, but I also think I wont be going into it with any expectations of change. Not a bad trilogy, just one that may not appeal to readers of character-driven plots.
Veil of Secrets is the latest installment in Edwards’ Araneae Nation series. While each book focuses on different characters, I think this is a seriesVeil of Secrets is the latest installment in Edwards’ Araneae Nation series. While each book focuses on different characters, I think this is a series that is best read in order. The overarching plot with the plague and its cause is something that is developed in each subsequent book. In Veil of Secrets readers focus on a character that has been directly affected by the plague, she’s been infected and turned into a harbinger, but still surviving.
It was true that I could sense harbingers. After all, I was one. A fledging, not fully transformed, but I was a harbinger all the same. I was not a mindless, bloodthirsty monster like others of my find (p. 8).
Marne was attacked and infected by the plague, which transformed her. She now craves flesh and has grown wings. But what’s different about Marne is that she has kept her independence; she has never succumbed to the hive mind the way she should have thanks to her brother. Marne’s brother, Edan, has always protected her, but it seems it will be Marne that will have to do the protecting when her brother is attacked and taken by her creator.
Assisting Marne in her quest is Asher, a man who was once manipulated by one of the creators’ children. As a result Asher is somewhat hesitant in his mission to protect Marne; after all, couldn’t she control him just like her “sisters”. This hesitation soon fades into attraction, only to be stalled by Marne’s untruths (like she’s not really a widow…).
I’ve enjoyed the previous books in the series, but in each one, including A Veil of Secrets, I have had the same problem. The narrative point of view always excludes the “hero”. Only in the romance genre do I find this singular point of view a problem. Personally, I think that a romance is always stronger when it includes both the hero and heroine's perspective as it’s essential in demonstrating how their relationship develops into a romantic one. With a singular point of view readers only understand half the story. Considering Asher’s past with creatures of Marne’s like, I would have really liked to have seen how he came to terms with falling in love with someone he should revile.
My issues with the romance aside, I do like the world that has been created with this series. The concept of how this plague was created and continues to spread is really interesting. I also find how this world is created and the veil that still exists as an in-between place to be equally compelling:
The veil separated the frigid northlands from the humid southlands. It was a mythical barrier that ran the length of the entire world. Thomisidae elders had told the story of how two gods, Kokyangwuti and her husband, Tawa, had forged this world from clay and bone. They had created a world before this one, First World, and it had been consumed by fire and greed. This world was their second, and to balance the elements, they capped the world with a sheet of ice. In this way, when the sun rose in the east and followed the length of the veil to set in the western skies, its flames might leap onto the southland’s grasses and set fire to their harvests. But even if the southlands were consumed, even if the blaze crossed the veil, the heat would only melt the northland until its cooling waters extinguished the flame. Thus the Second World would be spared a grisly death from sun fire (p. 18).
I love that the author has created a mythology for why her world is the way it is; why the seasons govern different territories. And it's the world that keeps me coming back to the series rather than the romance perspective. The world is richer than I would have expected in the romance genre, but it simply makes this a stronger tale. That said, I do like the romance genre, and I don't feel that this series stands out in that genre. The romance is okay, but I found it underwhelming for the reasons that I've outlined above. Ultimately, this is a decent romance series, but it's strongest element lies in it's creative world building.
Tomorrow's Kingdom concludes Fergus' Gypsy King trilogy, and it once again picks up from where book two left off, so fair warning, there are spoilersTomorrow's Kingdom concludes Fergus' Gypsy King trilogy, and it once again picks up from where book two left off, so fair warning, there are spoilers for the previous books ahead. If you want to avoid them, see my reviews for book one and book two.
In Tomorrow's Kingdom Persephone has been separated from her husband, Azriel, after she goes to confront Mordecai on her own. Persephone now has to escape the evil and lecherous Mordecai's clutches, and it's going to take some daring and ingenuity. And when she finally does gain her freedom, Persephone has an even more difficult task ahead of her: taking back her thrown. There's no simple married life ahead for Persephone and Azriel, they've got an army to raise and kingdom to save, not to mention wading through the political machinations of the old council. An added complication for this young queen is the fact that she's pregnant. Now, I don't think I've ever encountered a YA novel where the heroine is pregnant and the novel's not an "issue book". Personally, I'm not sure how I feel about it, and I have to admit that I found it surprising. What I do appreciate is Persephone's reaction to having a child, she's not exactly comfortable about it:
The night Cairn had first shown Persephone the sketch of the girl who was supposedly going to help set the prophesied Gypsy King upon his throne - the girl who so resembled her and Rachel - Persephone has seen her dream of freedom without entanglements put at considerable risk. But that risk was nothing compared to the risk posed by a baby. For what was a baby but a lifelong entanglement - a crying, hungry set of fetters? (p. 21)
I really like the fact that Persephone is conflicted, it added a much-needed element of realism. Persephone is a teenager, one that's had to grow up fast, to be sure, but a teenager none-the-less. And a teenager is likely to be less excited about the prospect of motherhood, especially when their in the circumstances that Persephone is in. I also liked that Persephone's anxiety of motherhood is also related to her experiences as a slave. She's always aspired to freedom, and having a child is not going to allow for that. But, Persephone has changed a lot since book one and she learns to put others before herself, after all, becoming queen is not going to provide her with the type of freedom that she's always craved. Persephone has to make some sacrifices in order to fulfill the prophecy of bringing forth the gypsy queen. While I can't help but wish Persephone got the true freedom she's always wanted, I loved this type of character development.
So why haven't a rated this one higher? Alas, I really struggled to get through Tomorrow's Kingdom. I was really disappointed with the continued use of the villain's point of view. Readers are treated to Mordecai and the devious Lord Bartok's thought process and I really felt that they slowed the plot considerably. It was really easy for me to set my book down when I got to these chapters, and unfortunately, it wasn't as easy to pick the book back up.
Further, I also felt that the villains were caricatures rather than fully fleshed out villains. They're plans were diabolical and over the top and I thought they stretched the imagination too far. For example, Mordecai gets it into his head that he's going to lead the army, but I'm not sure I buy the fact that he wields so much power. The council is always lamenting the fact that he's low born, I'm just not sure that I believe he would ever gain the type of power he has, at least without it be unchecked. Why would the council allow for this? Why didn't they remove him from power? Why do the New Men follow him? For me, the lack of explanation for Mordecai's rise to power was a plot hole and one that became more obvious in book three.
I was also off-put by the continued mentioning of women being abused. The villains continually mentioned how they wanted to use Persephone for their own bids to the throne, and would use force as necessary. I thought this discussion of women being sexually assaulted was heavy handed. While I don't doubt that this could happen, it was over emphasized and troubling. There was something a little disturbing about these themes being juxtaposed with Persephone's relationship with her husband.
When the villains weren't talking about how they would use Persephone, Persephone and Azriel were constantly jumping into bed. Now, I've been a fan of the romance in this series from the start, but it did not live up to expectations in book three. Azriel seemed like window dressing in Tomorrow's Kingdom. He was around and Persephone was enjoying her time with him, but that's it. Azriel did heroic stuff, but where were the great conversation between these two that made book one so awesome? There was no real development in their relationship, and it was so disappointing from a romance perspective.
Ultimately, I felt a little disappointed with Tomorrow's Kingdom. The first book in this series started off so strong. It was funny and action packed; I couldn't put it down. I really wanted to do same for the last book in the trilogy, but I felt that this book lost it's steam. While I recognize the fact that the third book can't be the same as the first, there has to be momentum, I really would have liked to have seen more of what I loved about book one. Namely, the humour that contrasted so sharply with the despair and harsh realities of this world. I'm happy to have finished the trilogy and know that the conflict has been resolved, I just wasn't as excited with the book as I expected to be.