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: Fantasy
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 »

Review | Yesternight by Cat Winters

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Yesternight by Cat Winters
Published by HarperCollins on October o4, 2016
Genre : Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Adult, Fantasy
Pages : 374

THE BLURB

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From the author of The Uninvited comes a haunting historical novel with a compelling mystery at its core. A young child psychologist steps off a train, her destination a foggy seaside town. There, she begins a journey causing her to question everything she believes about life, death, memories, and reincarnation.

In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination. But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.

Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

MY THOUGHTS

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I’ve only read The Uninvited from Cat Winters and it was perfectly amazing—from the creepy plotlines to the carefully delineated characters. I instantly adored her and she became one of my favorite paranormal authors. Yesternight shares the same eerie concept as The Uninvited as well as Winters’ fluid writing style but it just wasn’t as captivating. The premise was good actually, but that ending left me unimpressed. For a story that started out solid and strong, this book had a rather sloppy and unsatisfying end to it. It was a good four star read until the final quarter of the book that felt like such a letdown. It gave me the feeling that the novel was ended in a rush. It’s as if the author built up all those nice things from an interesting foundation and just got lazy and want out.  Read More »

Review | This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

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This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
Published by HarperCollins on July 15, 2016
Genre : Paranormal, Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages : 427

THE BLURB

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Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

MY THOUGHTS

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For the past few weeks, I’ve buried my face in a series of books about princes and princesses, castle politics, and scheming villains. This Savage Song has none of that which makes it a perfect breather. What it bears are Monsters!

“Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.”

I’ve heard countless stories about monsters as a child, but it’s never a common one with Victoria Schwab. Her stories were always deliciously unique and just the right amount of creepy. An engrossing supernatural tale is what this is. The moment I started reading, I was completely absorbed and it was just impossible to set down.  Read More »

Review | The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

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The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
Published by Bloomsbury on February 01, 2017
Genre : Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages : 368

THE BLURB

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It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods—only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future.

MY THOUGHTS

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The Edge of Everything is a fun combination of contemporary and fantasy. For me, it was a mix of ingredients that tasted good and a few that tasted bland. It has some elements that I find typical in the YA world but at the same time it also contains some unique elements that made the story a little intriguing. Jeff Giles’ depiction of hell in this book is one of the unique ones, daring his readers to reimagine the image of hell that they have in their mind. He skillfully combined the real world with the dark netherworld feels of the Lowlands —his version of hell run by hundreds of powerful lords —where the souls of unrepentant criminals were held.

The supernatural aspect of the book came to me as a pleasant surprise and we have that beautiful cover to blame for looking so contemporary-like. Read More »