Review | The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites
Title: The Young Elites
Series: The Young Elites #1
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 07, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 355

Blurb from Goodreads:

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

My Thoughts-01

Here’s a confession. I don’t have a big shelf. So when a book doesn’t live up to my expectations I get rid of them by selling them off at half their original price. Why keep a book that I don’t intend to reread when I could pass it to others who might actually love it? But this book? This book has earned it’s place in my shelf and it’s definitely not leaving any time soon.

Everyone has darkness inside them, however hidden.

The Young Elites is one of the darkest book I’ve ever come across. There is a sense of honesty in the pain, the struggles, and the hate that emanates from the characters. It felt real and palpable. The plot held my attention all the way through. It’s very original and it rolled out in such a striking way—from the blood fever that killed thousands, to the idea of malfettos who are disowned by their families and hated by society because of the strange, inexplicable, powers they acquired after coming out of the blood-fever alive. Malfettos are seen as abomination and are unjustly executed because of it. But a few of them choose to fight back and they call themselves the Young Elites. Read More »

Review | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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Title: The Fate of the Tearling
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #3
Author: Erika Jokansen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Harper
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 478

Blurb from Goodreads:

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

My Thoughts-01

Tell me there’s going to be a book four! No? Well, drats! I’ll just go and drown myself in tears then. Considering how much I disliked the first book of this series, I never thought I’d get so invested in its world and its characters. This book in one word? Irresistible! How can I put it down when it’s spilling all the answers I’ve been dying to know? Spilling it in a riveting way, if I may add. Because there were lots of unexpected cards played in this stunning conclusion to this trilogy. And then everything just interlaced beautifully with each other and connects with a perfect fit.

The Fate of the Tearling definitely outshined the first two books. It was just… more. More growth, more intense action, more problems to deal with. What I enjoyed the most about the whole thing is getting more answers about Tearling’s early history and seeing how it gradually started to move away from William Tear’s ideal of peace. And of course there’s the revelations about the characters I’m most curious about—Row and the Fetch. I’ve had my eyes on the Fetch since the first book so imagine my excitement when this one opened up with his POV. Even if I wasn’t so curious about the Fetch, I think, his would still be the perfect POV to start this story with. That’s because the mystery that surrounds him has a way of reeling readers in.Read More »

Review | The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Invasion of the Tearling

Title: The Invasion of the Tearling
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #2
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Harper
Release Date: June 09,2015
Genre: AdultFantasy
Pages: 374

Blurb from Goodreads:

Kelsea Glynn is the Queen of the Tearling. Despite her youth, she has quickly asserted herself as a fair, just and powerful ruler.

However, power is a double-edged sword, and small actions can have grave consequences. In trying to do what is right – stopping a vile trade in humankind – Kelsea has crossed the Red Queen, a ruthless monarch whose rule is bound with dark magic and the spilling of blood. The Red Queen’s armies are poised to invade the Tearling, and it seems nothing can stop them.

Yet there was a time before the Crossing, and there Kelsea finds a strange and possibly dangerous ally, someone who might hold the key to the fate of the Tearling, and indeed to Kelsea’s own soul. But time is running out…

Erika Johansen’s fierce and unforgettable young heroine returns in this dazzling new novel of magic and adventure, set in the beguiling world of the Tearling.

My Thoughts-01

This is why I’m thankful for not giving up on a series so easily. The Queen of the Tearling was a bit disappointing but this book is a huge improvement. The first book might be annoying for it’s lack of much needed explanations, but it actually served as a good foundation for this installment. There were still some subtle issues that I found along the way but I think this series has gone into a surprisingly unique and interesting direction. One that had me engrossed and left me wanting to know more about the world, the magic, the mysteries, and the characters’ fate.

Invasion of the Tearling feels like reading two different books about two different worlds—Kelsea’s and Lily’s. It’s like two treats in one. On one side we have a medieval-like world that faces war and is bound to lose everything. On the other we have a world rich in technology but is losing humanity. It’s good that the world-building has finally started to make a solid shape in this book and light has been shed on the whys and the hows that I had in book one. Not just intriguing, these worlds are also quite surprising. In fact, this is the first time I see the modern world of technology collide with the world of fantasy and magic. And it actually worked! It was confusing as hell at first, and I even thought the first book was ridiculous, but now it all made sense. I didn’t thought I was going to say this, but man, this is actually a great idea!Read More »

Review | The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Harper
Release Date: July 08, 2014
Genre: AdultFantasy
Pages: 448

Blurb from Goodreads:

An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

My Thoughts-01

This book was a mixture of likes and dislikes for me. There were certain aspects of the story that were quite gripping but there were also a lot of plot holes and missing explanations and character issues that I just couldn’t ignore. So I’m kind of sitting in the middle with my rating.

I don’t want to end this review ranting so the bad stuff goes first. I’ll try not to spoil this book but know that sometimes I get a little carried away when I’m laying my issues on the table so a bit of spoilers might slip through.

What’s Disappointing

Kelsea. There are two different angles in which a reader could see Kelsea’s character. You could choose to see her as this young queen who acted on impulse and doomed her Kingdom with a single act the minute she was in power. Or you could choose to see her as this queen with a fierce determination to right the wrong. Either way, she’s the Queen. And now it falls on her to lead the Tearling, protect its people, and free the kingdom from Mortmesne’s clutch. Read More »

Review | Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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Title: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Type: Standalone
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 374

Blurb from Goodreads:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

My Thoughts-01

And here’s yet another of my highly anticipated retelling that just turned out to be such a disappointment. Hunted has the finest ingredients for a retelling—Beauty and the Beast mixed with a number of interesting Russian tales—but still it lacked flavor. The whole thing was quite dull. Its characters were flat. The world was even flatter. The plot sticks very closely to the Beauty and the Beast story. And because I prefer my retellings to venture a bit further from the original tale, I didn’t find this very interesting. It simply lacked the twists and the pull to make it different from the original. And it was so slow, I was bored to tears.

I usually don’t have problems with slow-paced books as long as their reason for being slow is:

A.) It is trying to build a solid world for me to enjoy.
B.) It is focused on giving depth to the characters to make me want to care for them.

This book did none of those. The world-building was so vague but I don’t think it’s with the writing because I quite liked Spooner’s writing style. I think it wouldn’t be hard to picture a world with her writing if only there were enough details given for me to visualize. There isn’t much detail with regards to the world in this book except that it snowed a lot and that our main protagonist, Yeva, used to live in luxury with her family and later moved to a cabin in the woods after her father’s downfall. Then there’s the Beast who lives in a crumbling castle in the middle of the woods. I’m assuming that this castle is somehow warded by magic because it’s so hard to find but… so easy to find? Okay, hell, that was confusing. But that’s it for world-building. Read More »

Review | A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V. E. Schwab

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Title: A Conjuring of Light
Series: Shades of Magic #3
Author:  V. E. Schwab
Publisher:  Macmillan
Imprint: Tor Books
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Genre:  Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 624

Blurb from Goodreads:

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

My Thoughts-01

ANOSHE! (Wipes Tears)

What can I say, book? Where do I start? I just… I bow down to your greatness! Because here’s a book that left me in a puddle of emotions, that built me a world that’s highly worth losing myself into, and gave me characters that are so complex and completely relatable they felt real. This series was never short of epic. So if you haven’t started reading this—go, start now! This is a series done right and is definitely worth binge reading!

A Conjuring of Light is the third and final installment in the Shades of Magic trilogy. I usually don’t find second and third books as riveting as the first, but this one made my heart sing! Once again V.E. Schwab graced us with her exquisite writing style. Schwab is known for her seamless world-building, balanced characterization, sinister themes, and I must say that in this book her talent is in full display. I mean, she always delivers in her books but this one just shines in a way that was unforgettable. I think this author can do no wrong when it comes to writing and telling a story. She entertains, she surprises, keeps me on edge, and at the end all of her characters claimed a spot in my memory and they stay there for a long time. Please teach me your ways, Schwab.Read More »

Review | Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

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Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
Published by HarperCollins on September 27, 2016
Genre : Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages : 437

The Blurb-01

Sabriel meets Romeo and Juliet in this stunning and atmospheric novel—the first in a duology—from the author of Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound.

When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . . .

My Thoughts-01

Once upon a time, she believed she was only a sword. Now she fears she is only a girl.

When you say retelling, Rosamund Hodge is the first author that comes to my mind. Being a huge fan of Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound, I’d read anything with her name on the cover. Hodge’s worlds were always very complex and intricate that it has the tendency to become a bit confusing at a point. That’s how it goes with her first two books and I ended up loving them anyway. But such was not the case with Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. Reading this felt like being in a maze and I found myself lost a lot of times.

Yes, this is a retelling! Of Romeo and Juliet! And it comes with necromancers! And zombies! And magic! I thought I was hitting a lot of birds with one stone. With Romeo’s and Juliet’s name on the blurb this book screams romance, which is what I’m so into lately. Also I was just really curious as to what this classic couple’s chemistry would be like under Hodge’s imagination. And seeing how Hodge can expertly weave an addicting romantic fantasy and develop extremely unforgettable characters in her previous works (Hello, Ignifex!), I thought now is the time to start reading this book. Read More »

Review | A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V. E. Schwab

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A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V. E. Schwab
Published by Macmillan on February 23, 2016
Genre : Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages : 512

THE BLURB

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It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

MY THOUGHTS

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I loved A Darker Shade of Magic so much that I didn’t even bother reading the synopsis of this book before diving back into Kell’s world of multiple Londons. I was just so sure I’d love this too. Plus, I want to go into this completely blind and just relish everything as the story unfolds. But I’ll be completely honest—the first half of this book felt like a filler and I found myself struggling with that part. It was so slow in the beginning and the plot doesn’t seem to have a clear direction so I was kind of just wondering where the story was heading. But Sanct! The second half of this book? It. Was. Glorious! Everything that I loved in A Darker Shade of Magic immerged and the book started to demand my full attention. I didn’t have enough will power to put it down after that.

Perhaps power had to be tended, like Tieren said, but not all things grew in gardens.
Plenty of plants grew wild.

A Gathering of Shadows picks off four months after Kell and Lila parted ways in the first book. Lila was aboard a ship, living her dreams of having adventures and being a pirate. We’re immediately introduced to a whole bunch of new characters as Lila made “friends” with the ship’s crew including its Captain, Alucard Emery, who later became Lila’s teacher. Kell and Rhy were both having a hard time adjusting to their situation. Kell, who is now sharing his life with Rhy, has become someone who walks on eggshells for fear of hurting his brother. He had long stopped smuggling things from other Londons but he’s still plagued with guilt about the lives lost during the Black Night. And then there’s the sting of the crown’s distrust. All of that weight in his shoulders made him long to escape, go somewhere else, and just live a life of his own. Rhy on the other hand busied himself with the preparation of the annual Essen Tasch—an Elements Game meant to strengthen the peaceful relationship between Red London’s neighboring kingdoms—to keep his nightmares at bay. There were huge changes to his character in this book as he became more than just the cheerful crowned prince we used to know. Meanwhile, color is coming back in White London. It’s magic begun to flourish but with a dangerous cost. Read More »

Review | A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V. E. Schwab

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A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V. E. Schwab
Published by Macmillan on February 24, 2015
Genre : Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages : 400

THE BLURB

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Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

MY THOUGHTS

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Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of awesome reviews about the Shades of Magic’s third installment and I thought, damn I’ve ignored this series for too long. It’s time to pick it up. Well, now I can definitely see what all the hype is about and where it’s coming from. Everything about this book is marvelous—the plot, the intrigue, the characters, the world-building, the magic system—you name it. It’s all perfect and will no doubt leave you thoroughly impressed by its spectacularity. This book really lived up to its hype!

This is my third Schwab book and I must say, she’s a crackerjack weaver of dark, intricate, magical, and exhilarating stories. Combining magic and darkness, I think, are Schwab’s trademark. You can’t have one without the other. Her ability to build a bitter and brutal world balanced by tough characters is impressively beautiful. Another thing is that her books are free of eye-roll worthy insta-love clichés and I absolutely love that! Instead, Schwab focuses on giving depth to her characters. If you want an amazing fantasy story without the usual love triangles and love at first sights that comes with it, then check out V. E. SchwabRead More »