Shades of Magic Series Review

The first two books captivated me and the third was enjoyable. Book one and two are some of the only books of their length I’ve read in a single day. Book three took a few days more, but the fact that it is the longest of the series might have something to do with this. Continue reading

December 2016 Wrap-up

I read four books in December. Three were fiction and one was non-fiction. One was fantasy and two were sci-fi. Two were young adult. Short Synopsis: Two teenagers must compete for a position neither of them wants: to become a professional killer. … Continue reading

Series Review: Seven Realms

6342491780122994094698069828Titles: The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, The Gray Wolf Throne, The Crimson Crown

Author: Cinda Williams Chima

Published: 2009-2012

Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: A thousand years ago seven realms were one and wizards ruled like tyrants, but no longer. Now the queendom of the Fells is ruled not by magic users, but by the queens of the gray wolf line. Raisa ana’Marianna, the princess heir, is frustrated by the fact that she is trapped in the palace unable to make changes to improve the lives of her citizens. Meanwhile, ex-thief Han Alister, knows how bad life can get in the Fells. He only wants to keep his family fed and alive, but manages to get himself tangled in wizard politics anyway.

Review: This series took a little while for me to get into the first book, but after I finished The Demon King I was hooked and marathoned the rest of the books.

My favorite aspect of this series was probably the world building. Often in YA fantasy novels the world seems very underdeveloped, but that was not the case here. I enjoyed reading about all of the seven realms various cultures and the tensions between them though the name of this series is somewhat deceptive as it manly focuses on one of the seven kingdoms in this world known as the Fells.

This series often references historical events in the seven realms. I really like when fictional historical events help shape the present in fictional universes because it makes them feel more realistic. Though, as most of the events referenced happened a thousand years ago, it was somewhat unrealistic that so little had changed since then, but this is a common occurrence in fantasy novels so I’m willing to ignore this fact. The ways that the historical facts had been distorted with time made me think a lot about how our own history has been manipulated.

I liked that the romance in this series never overshadowed the fantasy elements. The romance gradual in development which is something I really appreciated, though I do somewhat wish Hans and Raisa had spent more time together in the early books.

Many of the characters were very well developed. Our male main character, Hans, was probably my favorite. I found his backstory as a reformed thief fascinating.

These books just seemed to get better and better as the series went on. Each book seemed to expand upon the scope of the world a little more, and the plot progressed nicely with several twists. It’s not often that I feel the urge to read all the books in a four book long series in a row, but this series continued to feel fresh and engaging throughout.

What readers should know: This series contains vague references to an instance in which a major character’s mother was raped long before the first book began resulting in the birth of aforementioned major character. Besides that there is a fair amount of violence including the torture of a major character. Readers should also know that although the first book is called “The Demon King” and the word “demon” is used on several occasions I don’t remember any demonic intervention/demons getting page time.

Rating: This was an engaging YA high fantasy series. I recommend it for fans of the genre or trying to get into high/epic fantasy as I think this would be a good series to start with. I can’t wait for the spin-off series to be released.

4.5 blue jays

Golden Son by Pierce Brown Five Stars

18966819Title: Golden Son (Red Rising #2)

*Note: This is a review of the second book in a series. If you have not read the first book I suggest reading my review of Red Rising instead to avoid spoilers.

This review contains major spoilers for Red Rising, but not for Golden Son. 

Author: Pierce Brown

Publication date: January 6, 2015

Genre: Science Fiction

Synopsis: The mines of Mars are an unforgiving place. There the “Reds” labor believing their work is critical to both humanity’s survival and the process of making Mars habitable. Never realizing the Martian surface was settled centuries ago and humanity’s population has never been higher. This was Darrow’s childhood.

After successfully infiltrating the “Gold” upper class Darrow might just have the chance to spark the revolution to help free his people. Darrow’s plan to destroy the upper class from within is challenged more and more each day. Not just by Darrow’s enemies who long for his death, but by Gold friends who make him question his hatred of the upper class as well. It’s up to Darrow to decide whether he is after retribution or freedom from oppression.

Review: Resuming four years after Red Rising started, Golden takes the conflict and world building in this series to a new level. The first book took place entirely on Mars, but most of this one takes place primarily in outer space. The change in setting gave me an idea of the true scope of this society that I lacked in Red Rising.  It also made the book feel less like a dystopian and more like a space opera even as the story-line focused more on the rebellion. I’m not the biggest fan of dystopian novels at the moment so I appreciated the new direction.

Darrow’s character development takes an interesting turn in this book. In Red Rising Darrow consistently did some pretty remarkable things and the only time he really failed at anything was his dual with Cassius. Golden Son begins with Darrow failing epically. The way Darrow dealt with and eventually learns from his defeat adds interesting depth to his character arc.

Time jumps aren’t something I usually enjoy in fiction, but I understand why this one was necessary. Darrow’s life training with a razor and learning to command space ships wasn’t really relevant to the rebellion and everything Darrow is trying to accomplish. In an interview Pierce Brown stated that the reason for the time jump had to do with the fact that the story was written in first person and the time jump was to get to the next time period in which Darrow could narrate. While many books have the narrators learn skills in ridiculously short periods of time in order to avoid these time jumps I’m inclined to agree with the author here and say this one was for the best.

I really appreciate how well developed side characters in this series are. It’s very clear most, if not all of them each has his or her own motivations, goals, and schemes. I especially liked how the characters who learned Darrow’s true identity in this book each reacted very differently. So many books brush over reveal scenes, and have characters accept one another’s huge secrets without  much skepticism or negative consequences. There isn’t much to say on this topic without getting into major spoilers, but let’s just say Golden Son had some realistic character reactions in this regard.

Golden Son is well paced. I started this one directly after finishing Red Rising and had a lot of trouble putting it down to do things between sittings. This is especially true of the last hundred pages or so which were particularly difficult to put down.

What readers should know: The first book was somewhere on the hazy edge of young adult, adult, and new adult where I just couldn’t decide on an intended audience. In Golden Son Darrow is 20 and though this book probably has less potentially inappropriate content than the first book it is most definitely not young adult anymore. That said, if a person was able to handle the content in the first book they should be able to handle this one.

Rating: This book resolved the minor problems I had with Red Rising and earned a five out of five rating for its excellent side characters, good pacing, and great world building. If you’ve read Red Rising I highly recommend continuing with the series.

five blue jays

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh 4 Stars

18798983Title: The Wrath and the Dawn

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Publication date: May 12, 2015

Genres: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Retelling, Romance

Synopsis:.Everyday a brings new bride and every dawn brings their death. For unknown reasons, Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan, marries a new woman each day before having her executed at dawn and repeating the cycle a new. Among the victims was Shahrahzad’s best friend and she is determined to avenge her death.

Shahrahzad has volunteered to marry the Caliph for the opportunity to get close to the Caliph. It was Shahrahzad’s plan to kill the Caliph, but as she speaks with him Shahrazad realizes the Caliph is not who she thought he was. All the same, Shahrahzad is determined to put an end to the murders. She will survive the dawn.

Review: I read this book directly after finishing The Hero of Ages (The conclusion to Brandon Sanderson’s original Mistborn Trilogy). After enjoying that book so thoroughly and knowing this one was high fantasy, I went into this expecting to be disappointed. Fortunately,  I instead found this to be an engaging, interesting read.

This book is a retelling of 1001 Nights. I was not very familiar with the story line of 1001 Nights, so I can’t judge the quality of the adaptation, but this story made me interested in reading the original work. This retelling focuses on the ongoing plot linking the many stories within 1001 Nights together.

Our main character, Shahrzad, is a very determined young woman and remained so throughout. I liked that she never let Khalid, the Caliph, scare her into submission although she was scared at times for good reason. She also never forgot what Khalid had done or entirely forgave him even as she started spending more time with him. This is something I can’t say about a lot of YA characters and it makes me appreciate Shahrzad even more for it. The retelling didn’t put much emphasis on the stories Shahrazad told during the night, and I’ll admit I found myself skimming through them when they were incorporated as the contents of the stories told didn’t hold much influence in this particular retelling as a whole besides distracting Khalid and making him think.

Although I really enjoyed this, there were some elements that kept me from rating it higher. Every character in this book seems to have their own unique eye color. While the author may have intended to use this as a way for the reader to better differentiate between characters, and this fixation on eye colors is fairly common in novels, I found it extremely annoying. Overall, however, the writing was very good: just the right balance of poetic but not too poetic.

Shahrzad gave the impression that she had planned and expected to distract the Caliph. Much of what she did seemed improvised and I’m surprised she didn’t know more about the Caliph before going in. This made the story a little unbelievable for me, but I guess the author was trying to use the fact that desperation can make people act irrationally as justification.

The love triangle is something else I could have done without. It’s clear who Shahrzed is going to end up with, and so I view it as rather pointless. However, I can see that the author added it to create tension, and it doesn’t bother me as much as it does in many other books. The magic system was also barely touched on. I would have liked to see more of it.

While I was reading this I was trying to place it in history due to references of a few real world countries/cultural elements. The religious references in particular left me confused as the characters would appear to worship the Greek gods but the story seems to take place in the Middle East. Though I think the author might have simply had Shahrzad pick up on terms that implied she worshiped the Greek gods as she grew into a friendship with a Greek serving girl.

What Readers Should Know: Sex is mentioned and there scenes where sex was implied, but this wasn’t explicit or frequent. The characters involved were married. There was the use of the occasional curse word, but it was not frequent. There was no gory violence, but there were mentions of the Caliphs past murders, attempts at murders, and practice with weapons.

Rating: The pacing and overall writing of this book was well done, and I liked that it was set in a fantasy world that did not resemble Medieval Europe as I haven’t read nearly enough fantasy novels where the setting didn’t, but there were too many minor issues I had with it for me to give it higher than a four.

4 blue jays

The Maze Runner by James Dashner: Three Stars

6186357Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Synopsis: Once a month without fail a new boy arrives in the maze. They remember nothing of their previous lives.

These boys have been trying to solve the maze for two years. No one has succeeded. Boys who don’t return to the glade before dark never survive. Strange monsters are prepared to attack at any moment, but life goes on. The boys have settled into their lives in the maze not realizing that everything is about to change.

When Thomas arrived in the maze nothing seems out of the ordinary. Thomas’s arrival was normal, expected, but the arrival the next morning is not. She’s a girl, and she’s triggered The Ending– whatever that means. In the coming days one thing becomes clear, if the boys of the maze don’t find a way out of the maze all of them will die.

Review: I am conflicted. I like the premise for this book, but I struggled to finish it.

The main world-building problem I had with getting into this book was connecting with Thomas as a character. It is written in third person, which is not a bad thing, there are plenty of books written in third person I love, but sometimes it makes it more difficult to connect to the characters.

I have also been reading way too many dystopian novels lately. It is incredibly hard to impress me with them. Had I read this a few years ago I would have loved this book, but I didn’t read it a few years ago. I read it in 2014, and because of that I can’t give this higher than a three.

The  in this book could have been expanded upon. We got to see the maze, and the slang was a nice touch though overdone at times, but I never got a real sense of the maze. To me it was always just a maze with monsters in it. It wasn’t until I saw the movie that I stated to know what everything looked like, and that expanded upon the description in the book.

I understand that this book is supposed to have elements of mystery, but I wish the reader had learned a little more at the end. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I will say that the reader gets some answers, but it’s clear something else is really going on.

What readers should know: This book is fairly clean. There are some character deaths, mild violence, and fictional curse words, but other than that there aren’t many disclaimers.

Conclusion: Not a bad book, but it’s not for me. Others who aren’t tired with the market’s over-saturation of dystopian novels might like it more. Three out of five.

3 blue jays

earthBound By Aprilynne Pike Book Review

Title: earthBound

Author: Aprilyeen Pike

Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Release Date: July 30, 2013

Synopsis: Travia’s former life was ripped away from her in an instant. She’d gotten on that plane expecting a bright future at a prestigious art school, but she’d gotten off alone and lucky to be alive.

Travia is the sole survivor of a devastating plane crash who just want’s to start a new and move on, but the world won’t let her. Travia begins to wonder if the crash might not have been an accident.

 

Review: Reading a book about a pane crash on a plane is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I picked this book up because of the cover and bought it because I’d heard of Miss Pike’s Wings Trilogy. Unfortunately for me I failed to read the description and only realized I had done the unthinkable as I read the first page.

My heart pounding, I glanced wearily at my seat number. I was not in seat E12, the seat of the main character. I sighed in relief and went back to reading, glancing out the window at the slightest sign of turbulence.

Sadly,  book wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the story I’ve just told. For one thing the love triangle was a set up in a way that is used far to often and the main character got on my nerves. I didn’t find her decisions entirely believable.

The other aspect that put me off was the world building. I read this not long after finishing Unremembered by Jessica Broody. The whole “plane crash” scenario is almost eerily similar. The “Earthbound” concept wasn’t all that intriguing once it was explained. It was just too predictable for my taste.

Don’t get the wrong impression, this book was not terrible, but it didn’t meet my expectations. The book is very gripping after the first few chapters and is fairly fast paced.

The moral: Don’t bring books on a plane without reading the description first, or you may just be in for a panic attack.

Disclaimers: Some swearing, mild violence, kissing

Rating/Recommendations: I give this book 3/5 for giving me a good laugh and keeping me hooked but not holding up to my expectations. This book is good for people looking for something cute and doesn’t care if cliches of the YA Paranormal Romance genre are present.

3 blue jays

Sabriel By Garth Nix Book Review

Title: Sabriel (Abhorsen book 1 AKA The Old Kingdom book 1) Author: Garth Nix Genre(s): High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction Summary: Sabriel once dreamed of the magic and adventure of the Old Kingdom. Now she would give almost anything to return to her … Continue reading