The Heart of Betrayal 4 Stars

21569527Title: The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2)

Author: Mary E. Pearson

Publication date: July 7, 2015

Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: When Princess Lia flees the palace on her wedding day she thinks she is done with royal life. She should have known it wouldn’t be that simple. She is pursued by the prince she was supposed to marry and an assassin sent to kill her. Lia must keep her wits about her if she wants to survive.

Review: This book was a pleasant surprise after the first one. I had a huge problem in book one with both the pacing and Princess Lia herself who annoyed me because she didn’t once even stop to consider that by running away from a marriage that was a political alliance she is risking starting a war between her people and Dalbreck.

The twist everyone talks about in this book was something I figured out fairly early on, and it wasn’t until the last twenty-five pages or so that I actually started to get interested in the story-line. It’s because of the way book one ended that I decided to pick up this book, and in the end I’m glad I did.

The writing in this book is very good. It’s almost poetic, but does not feel at all like purple prose.

Pearson’s portrayal of Vendan culture in this book is excellent. In book one we’re shown how the people of Morrighan view the people of Venda as “savages” because their cultures are so different from one another. In this book we learn how many of these “savage” cultural aspects actually made sense when taking into account the circumstances the people lived under. So many authors write about fictional cultures the main character’s culture views in a negative way and make some of the characters’ from said other culture not evil, but never explain the logic behind the other cultures seemingly “savage” rituals. I loved that Pearson didn’t fall into this trap.

The pacing in this book was much better than that of The Kiss of Deception, but it still lagged towards the middle. I ended up skimming through several sections around that point. Most epic fantasy books have the characters moving frequently from place to place even if the story happens entirely in a single city. I think the fact that the setting was the Sanctum for almost the entire book may have contributed to this fact. Pauline’s perspective also felt a bit unnecessary to me and I skimmed though most of her sections.

The Komizar was a complex and well developed antagonist. From the Komizar’s point of view he is doing what is best for his country and his actions are not evil. Despite this I did have a slight issue with some of the side characters’ believabiliy and this is the same issue I had with the first book. I had particular trouble with the Assassin. He just showed too much sympathy to those he was tasked to kill for me to believe he was the most accomplished assassin in Venda who had been training for this since childhood.

I was really hoping the magic system would be expanded upon in this book, but although we got to see a little more of it the magic remained in the background. I’ve noticed a lot of young adult high fantasy novels hardly mention the magic system at all. I love innovative magic systems so this is not a trend I like, but I think it might have something to do with the fact that young adult books are expected to be shorter so there is less time to expand upon one.

What readers should know: This book does contain some language and some character deaths occur. If this were a movie I think it would be rated PG.

Rating: I enjoyed this book, but I had several issues as listed in this review that kept me from absolutely loving it so this book is getting a four out of five.

4 blue jays

Seraphina by Rachel Heartman 4 and a half Stars

19549841Title: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman 

Publication date:  July 10, 2012

Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: Dragons and humans are at peace, but it may not last much longer. The long war between dragons and the humans of Goredd  has not been forgotten by either species. As the forty year anniversary of the peace accord draws near tensions are high after a member of the royal family is murdered in a suspiciously dragon-like manor.

Seraphina, who has just arrived at court and recently become assistant to the court composer, is about to become involved. The last thing Seraphina wants to do is to gain attention from others, especially not Prince Lucian Kiggs who is determined to solve every mystery that presents itself. Seraphina has a secret of her own, one that she could be killed for if discovered.

Review: Several people I know who’ve mentioned this book thought it was a sequel to Eragon. I assure everyone it isn’t. Yes, it’s about dragons and the main character’s name sounds quite a bit like “Saphira,” but that’s where the simulates end. That said, I’ve always been attracted to the topic of dragons which is what drew me to this book.

I was expecting to be bothered by the fact that their were characters shifting between human and dragon “forms.” This is fairly common in dragon stories (for example Firelight by Sophie Jordan or Eustace from C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader), but was pleased that the main character did not have this ability which made the story more unusual.

The portrayal of dragons was made further unique in that despite the dragon characters in the book occasionally appearing human their thought process is made to seem very different. This is something I have found lacking in other dragon books: dragons aren’t humans so they shouldn’t think like humans no matter what they look like.

The relationship between Kiggs and Seraphina was refreshing. The relationship developed slowly, and I enjoyed that the two struggled to trust one another as I would expect from people of their particular backgrounds. They’re also unusual in YA in that they don’t stop in the middle of a disaster to kiss. In fact, at one point Seraphina states, “‘Crisis first, love later.'” The romance remains very much a subplot without overpowering the story as a whole.

My main complaint with this story is the number of flashbacks. I normally do not like flashbacks and prefer the story I read be told primarily in the present as telling the story out of chronological order can make it difficult to follow. Despite this, all of the details included makes this a good book to reread. I’ve read this book two and a half times now and am surprised how many details I notice after multiple readings I missed the first time.

What readers should know: This book contains frequent use of the word meaning illegitimate child that starts with a “b.” Other than that it’s pretty clean language-wise. The romance doesn’t go beyond kissing when involving the main character, but there are some scenes involving other characters that suggested more was going on romantically between those side characters, but the novel doesn’t go into much detail. There was some violence, but it wasn’t described in depth. This novel deals with discrimination between humans and dragons with some organizations and reactions that loosely resemble historical manifestations of discrimination.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 for good world-building and well thought out plot.

4.5 blue jays

Series Review: The Abhorsen/Old Kingdom Trilogy –Lirael and Abhorsen

Lirael (Abhorsen, #2)Title: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen
*Note: This is a review of the original trilogy not including the recently released prequel Clariel. It focuses on books two and three since they are two parts of a longer story-line. My review of book one is found here, but this review does not contain major spoilers.*

Author: Garth Nix

Genre: High Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis: All Lirael has ever wanted was to have the Sight so that she could be a full member of the Clayr. So long as she lives with the Clayr, a group of individuals tasked with seeing into the future, Lirael will be viewed forever as a child no matter how old she gets.

Picking up fourteen to twenty years after Sabriel left off this novel follows the separate journeys of Lirael and Sam, Sabriel’s son until their lives converge on their quest to protect the Old Kingdom from the Greater Dead.

Review: I liked Sabrel, but had a difficult time getting through it. When I decided to read the sequel I expected to have the same problem, but was  47666pleasantly surprised when I finished book two in only a day and book three in the two days after that.

My favorite aspect of this series is the world building. There are so many details in the way the necromancer’s bells work, to the magic system, and the way the fictional society is structured that make it feel more believable and realistic.

I found our new characters more compelling than the ones in the first book. I had a hard time connecting with Sabriel and Touchstone, but connected with Lirael almost immediately. I feel her sense of being estranged from everyone around her is something to which most people can relate. Sam can be annoying sometimes, but his passages were enjoyable as well, and I didn’t feel tempted to skip them during the time periods when Lirael and Sam are apart. I liked that it was Sam who needed to be rescued all the time instead of Lireal who would stereotypically be the damsel in distress in a fantasy novel where the lead male character holds aristocratic status.

This is the first book I’ve read in a while where there was both a lead male and female character and the two never fall in love. I know several people who have been trying to find a book where this happens, or rather doesn’t happen, and will need to tell them about it.

The linear progression of book two was unusual. Part one of the novel is told entirely from Lireal’s point of view on her fourteenth birthday and shortly thereafter. The rest of the novel is told after her nineteenth birthday. A time gap this large in the middle of a novel is unusual for young adult fiction, and it makes me wonder why it is classified as young adult. The only time I ever come across main characters in young adult books older than eighteen seems to be high fantasy. I’m wondering if the only reason this book is classified as it is has to do with the first book being YA and Sam being between the ages of  sixteen and seventeen throughout the entire portion of the novel he narrates.

Rating: I really enjoyed the second and third books of the Abhorsen series, and recommend them to anyone who read the first one and liked it even a little. For amazing world building and for being so engaging I give both books five stars.  As much as I enjoyed this continuation of the series, I’m not sure if I will continue with the recently released prequel as I have seen mixed reviews. If anyone has read the prequel I would appreciate them leaving their perspective on it in the comments.

five blue jays