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

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My Favorite Banned Books

For those who don’t know this year banned books week was from September 27 to October 3. I thought it would be the perfect way to end banned books week by making a list of my favorite banned/challenged books.

To read more about banned books week please visit the American Library Association’s website. All of the books I have chosen appear on either the list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009 or Frequently Challenged or Banned Young Adult Fiction 2014-2015.

Note: I have not read all or even most of the books on these lists.

In no particular order I’ve chosen the five books off these lists I enjoyed reading the most:

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Title: A Wrinkle in Time

Commentary: It’s been a while since I read this, so I don’t remember much in the way of specifics, but banning this book seems rather ridiculous to me. The only thing I can think might upset people is maybe the dystopian like society run by “IT” or the use of fortunetelling.

3

Title: The Harry Potter Series

Commentary: I have met people who are convinced that mentions of witchcraft, vampires, werewolves, etc. are against their religion and would not allow their children to view material related to these topics. That said, I think trying to ban the entire fantasy genre would not only be next to impossible, but also cause much heartbreak.

Fantasy is one of my favorite genres and the one that made me fall in love with books in the first place. If I had not been allowed to read fantasy growing up I don’t think that I would love reading nearly as much as I do today. I don’t love Harry Potter nearly as much as most people seem to, but I did really like it and see how it has had a huge positive impact on many people’s lives.

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Title: Persepolis

Commentary: Overall I really enjoyed this biography told in graphic novel form. I don’t often finish biographies when I start them, but I read this one over the span of two days. That said, my least favorite part was when main character went to Europe and (highlight the rest of the line to reveal spoilers) starts using drugs. That made me lose some of my respect of her for a while, but later when she started putting her life back together I regained it.

The reason the book is banned/challenged probably has a lot to do with the usage of what I mentioned in the spoiler section. The other reason probably has a lot to do with the fact that it is set primarily in Iran, and a lot of people probably just hear “Iran” and become paranoid about it “indoctrinating their children with Muslim ideals” or something like that.

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Title: The Giver

Commentary: This was the book that essentially introduced me to the dystopian genre. It helped begin a trend in my reading that became so excessive that I ended up needing to stop reading dystopian completely for years because I was so tired of it after reading so many. I’ve only very recently started to lift my self-imposed ban on the genre from my reading choices. Although I did “ban” myself from reading dystopian novels for a time, I think a self-conscious choice not to read books about a certain topic is very different from from someone/something other than myself determining I should not read a book.

I suppose this novel does have a subtle religious and political agenda, but I don’t fully understand why people want to ban it. I view it as more of a conversation starter than a book that actually directly manipulates people.

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Title: To Kill a Mockingbird

Commentary: The only reason I can think of anyone would want to ban this book is to avoid discussions of race, and I don’t think that is a good reason at all considering this book’s message is pro-equal rights.

Monthly Wrap-Up: July 2015

At the end of June I told myself that I would only read two to three books in July and spend the time I would normally spend reading writing . . . Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Writing 

What I wrote last month: I still spent a significant amount of time writing and accomplished my goal for July of finishing the third draft of my young adult sci-fi work in progress, but the third draft turned out shorter than I wanted. I was hoping for the draft to end up at 70,000 words which is between around 200-350 pages depending on formatting for those people who don’t understand word count. It ended up being around 63,000 words long (only around 33,000 words of that was written this month) which is still an increase from my 54,000 word long second draft and 35,000 word first draft.

I’d like to thank my Camp NaNoWriMo cabin mates for keeping me motivated!

What I plan to write next month: My writing goal for the next couple months will be extensive revisions on my high fantasy work in progress. The first draft was only 40,000 words long. My current revisions have actually made it shorter than that at the moment, but the first draft was so fast paced that I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who would be able to understand it. Believe me when I say there is plenty of room for expansion.

Reading

In July I read five books. One was a graphic novel memoir, one was adult fantasy/steam-punk, two were science fiction novels that my library classifies as adult but I feel are better suited for mature YA/New Adult readers, and one was a YA sci-fi romance novel (yes, these exist).

The Alloy of Law by Brandon SandersonShort Synopsis: Spin-off/book four of the Mistborn series. Picks up a few hundred years after Hero of Ages left off. It blends elements of the original Mistborn Trilogy with those of steam-punk, western, and mystery novels.

Thoughts: My Brandon Sanderson marathon continues. This book is much shorter than the previous ones in the series and Brandon’s other adult books. I enjoyed the original trilogy more, but this was still worth reading. Excited to see where the next few Mistborn novels lead.

Rating:

4.5 blue jays

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Short Synopsis: The true story of a girl growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution.

Graphic novels and memoirs are not something I normally read so I started this expecting it to not hold my attention meaning I have more time to write, but ended up being unable to put it down for long periods of time. I liked the first half more than the second. If it were only the first half this would get five stars.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

Red Rising by Pierce BrownShort Synopsis: 16-year-old Darrow has spent his life on Mars mining for the minerals needed to terraform the planet. One day Darrow’s wife dies fighting the repressive “Gold” upper class. He vows to  do whatever he can to keep this situation from repeating.

Thoughts: I was determined not to read any more dystopian novels, but then I found out this book was set on Mars and saw it had generally good reviews. Mars is my favorite setting so I was thrilled to read this. Would have liked to see the fact that this was Mars incorporated a little more into the wold building (but I think that’s just me), and there were some overused dystopian tropes, but still really enjoyed this. For my full thoughts see my review.

Rating:

4 blue jays

Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Short Synopsis: Sequel to Red Rising. Darrow, now 20, continues to infiltrate upper class society in the hopes of freeing his people.

Thoughts: Liked this even more than it’s predecessor. This book felt more space opera than dystopian and I loved this shift as there aren’t nearly enough well written space opera novels. My only regret is not waiting until book three is released to start this trilogy.

Rating:

five blue jays

Broken Skies by Theresa Kay

Short Synopsis: 17-year-old Jax’s brother is abducted by aliens. With the help of Lir, a young alien the group who kidnapped her brother left behind, Jax must find a way to infiltrate their civilization and free her brother.

Thoughts: As always with multi-species romance stories I had to suspend my disbelief. A human and a jellyfish are more similar than a human and any life-form we’re likely to find that originates on another planet, okay? Humans and aliens are never going to date.

That said, this was a well paced, quick read. It satisfied my desire to read about aliens, and I do plan to read the sequel when it is released.

Rating:

4 blue jays

Reading Wrap-up: March 2015

In March I read five books. One was nonfiction, and three were young adult fantasy, and one was New Adult Fantasy that was arguably also YA Fantasy.

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Short synopsis: Assassin nuns must defend the Duchess of Brittany from her enemies. Sequel to Grave Mercy. 

Thoughts: I highly enjoyed this look into Sybella’s mind. Her back story and family complications were clearly well thought out. She is a great character with so much complexity and background. The integrate world building with its historical inspiration sealed the deal. My favorite book in the trilogy so far.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

 

 

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootShort Synopsis: Women’s cells are cultured without her permission, but save millions of lives. The backstory of HeLa  cells.

Thoughts: The moral and ethical issues discussed in this book were extremely enlightening. I had no idea any of this was going on. It also shows the person behind an important medical achievement, something not usually shown in nonfiction.

Rating: 

five blue jays

 

 

 

 

Ensnared by A.G. HowardShort Synopsis: Third book in the Splintered Trilogy. A series of Alice and Wonderland retellings.

Thoughts: I enjoyed it, but not as much as the previous books in this series. For my full thoughts see my series review.

Rating: 

3.5 blue jays

 

 

 

 

The Ruby Circle by Richelle MeadShort Synopsis: The final book in the Bloodlines Series, the spin-off of Vampire Academy.

Thoughts: This is the book I’m considering New Adult fantasy. The main character is now 19, and let’s just say her commitment to her relationship goes beyond what is normally seen in YA. What I love about Rachelle Mead’s novels is that they’re so gripping and well paced. I did not find that to be the case with this book as much as I had with the others in the series. Something felt off, and the plot felt a little forced, but it was overall still a fun read.

Rating:
4 blue jays

 

 

 

Shadow Scale by Rachel HartmanShort Synopsis: The second book in a series about dragons in a fantasy kingdom.

Thoughts: Still a fun read, but I had some trouble getting into it. Something about the pacing in the beginning felt off, but I liked the second half more than the first and am pleased with where the story ended up.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

 

 

 

 Currently Reading: 

The Picture of Dorian Gray

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