A Torch Against the Night 4 Stars

25558608Title: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes book 2)

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Publication Date: August 30, 2016

Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher, but opinions are my own.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: *This is the second book in a series. This review will be spoiler free, but the synopsis isn’t. Those who haven’t read the first book might be interested in my review of An Ember in the Ashes.*

Lila and Elias must work together in order to free Lila’s brother from the most secure prison in the emperor. Along the way their own freedom will be threatened. They must free Lila’s brother while trying to avoid being captured or put to death themselves.

Thoughts: The second installment in the An Ember in the Ashes series proved a fast paced, engaging read.

My favorite part about this book was the author’s use of tension. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next particularly since it seems Tahir has no problem with killing characters off.

One think I would have liked to know going into this book is that this is not a finale. I heard somewhere that this series was meant to be a duology, but it is most certainly not. I ended the book very confused as to why everything felt so open ended, but learning this book is the second in a series made a lot more sense.

I still felt the magic system wasn’t fleshed out all the way, but there was more of it mentioned in this book than the first one. It was nice to see more magic in this book, and I hope there will be more of it in the books to come. The magic system doesn’t strike me as particularly original, but it’s still a change from the element based magic systems that seem to dominate recent fantasy releases.

My main gripe with this book is similar to the one I had for the first book in the series. That is to say I didn’t find the story sticking with me long after I read it. 

Rating: This is a great book for people looking for a fast-paced read or need something to get out of a reading slump, but I didn’t find it particularly memorable, so it gets 4/5.

4 blue jays

Splintered Series Review

125582851744919722447220Titles: Splintered, Unhinged, Ensnared

Author: A. G. Howard

Publication dates: 2013-2015

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Retelling

Synopsis: Alyssa Gardener has always been afraid of ending up in an asylum like her mother who spends her days having tea parties, talking to the bugs, and dressed like Alice from Lewis Carroll’s book. This “curse” has afflicted Alyssa’s family ever since her ancestor, Alice Liddell herself, inspired Carroll’s novel.

When Alyssa’s mother’s mental health becomes so bad the only option is electroconvolsive therapy Alyssa learns Wonderland is a real place. Desperate for another solution to her mother’s mental health and to prevent herself from ending up there herself she must travel into Wonderland and complete a series of tests to break the curse Alice brought upon her decedents.

Review: I had a hard time getting into the first book, but ultimately really enjoyed it. The story begins by talking about our protagonist’s use of bugs in artwork. Being not too fond of bugs myself, I found this habit creepy rather than endearing.

The world-building in this series is a lot of fun. A. G. Howard’s vision of Wonderland was rich and well imagined. I liked how it was essentially a blend of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland with fairies, but not Disney fairies, the tricky, untrustworthy type.

Due to this fairy element this series reminds me of The Iron Fey. I read the first book of The Iron Fey, The Iron King, after having read the first two books in this series and was immediately struck by the simulates. This is not to say the two books are copies of one anther, both series draw on much of the same mythology and it is likely their similarities occurred merely by chance.

My biggest pet peeve in this series was the love triangle. It was practically a constant competition between the main character’s two love interests to the point that it often overshadowed the plot, particularly in the third book.

The family dynamic in this book was great. In too much YA the main characters family and the rest of his/her life before are entirely neglected by the author as though they never occurred at all. In this book, however, the main character’s family life and personal history were what set the plot in motion.

In the second book I wanted to see more of Wonderland. Much of the book took place on Earth which I didn’t care about too much. Unhinged, unlike the first book, drew me in almost at once, and kept my attention.

The final book in this series was too focused on the love triangle for my liking, though I enjoyed the world-building and getting to see new places like I’d wanted more of in book two. I still enjoyed Ensnared, just not as much as the first two.

Favorite Quote: “Tearing down the rest of the world won’t make you happy. Look inside yourself. Because finding who you were meant to be? What you were put into this world to do? That’s what fills the emptiness. It’s the only things that can.”
― A.G. Howard, Splintered

What Readers Should Know: There are some references to sex, and some of the characters sleep beside one another in bed together but no sex actually occurs. There is some cursing but it is infrequent and PG-13. There are references to violence and blood, but none are gory.

Rating: Splintered on it’s own would get a 4 for it’s ultimately captivating storyline but slow beginning. Unhinged would get a 4.5 for being captivating throughout but not enough forward motion in the plot, and Ensnared would get a 3.5 because although I enjoyed the story and world-building the love triangle felt too overpowering without serving any real purpose in the plot.

I recommend this series to people looking for something similar to The Iron Fey and fans of retellings of classic tails.

4 blue jays