Book Review – Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

As is often the case—especially with fantasy—it was the premise that caught my attention and made me want to read Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns (okay, the cover too; young adult fiction really has some of the most alluring cover design). Actually reading the novel was an unexpected rollercoaster that definitely requires additional explanation, but I ultimately enjoyed the story and characters enough to be looking forward to the novel’s upcoming sequel… however nervous I am about the way that narrative will be presented.

It is the will of the Goddess that Fennbirn’s queen always gives birth to triplets and that those three girls are then raised by prominent families of the separate magical factions on the island, each according to the talent gifted her by the Goddess at birth. When the young queens reach the age of sixteen they begin a fight to the death with the last one alive claiming Fennbirn’s throne with her queen consort from the mainland at her side until the next trio of queens is born. The beginning of the Ascension year is approaching and the three queens—Katharine, a poisoner, Mirabella, an elemental, and Arsinoe, a naturalist—are preparing to fight for the throne and their lives. Despite the dominance of the poisoner queens over the last century, Katharine’s gift hasn’t strengthened as much as the Arrons would like. Rumor has it Mirabella is more powerful than any queen in recent decades and the Temple’s priestesses are already backing her. Only Arsinoe’s friends hold out any hope that her gift will show itself in time for her to put up any kind of fight against her sisters. Continue reading

Book Review – A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

I moved immediately into A Court of Wings and Ruin on the heels of finishing A Court of Mist and Fury; the ending of the second book in Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series demanded it. And while the characters, their relationships, the themes, and the content are all as compelling as the first two novels in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin suffers tremendously in pacing and organization, leaving this initial trilogy arc with a satisfying if roughly executed conclusion.

Feyre begins the novel back at Tamlin’s Spring Court pretending that her relationship with Rhys was all a delusion he’d forced on her and that she had really been in love with Tamlin all along. Not everyone buys Feyre’s cover though. When Feyre’s sisters were forced into the Cauldron and turned fae, Lucien felt the deep pull of a mating bond with Elain. Unable to escape his concern and curiosity for her, he keeps a close eye of Feyre, which feeds into her own plans for undermining Tamlin’s hold over his Court and accumulating knowledge about the Hybern forces. From the crumbling Spring Court, Feyre eventually rejoins her mate and family at the Night Court where their preparations for the coming war with Hybern are well under way. Her sisters are adjusting to fae life with varying degrees of success; allies are few and far between; and any possible alliance between the Courts of Prythian will be fragile and tenuous at best. But war is coming and they must do what they can in the face of annihilation. Continue reading

Book Review – A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

After finishing A Court of Thorns and Roses, I immediately put myself on the waitlist for the second novel in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury. But waiting for a copy through the library became too tedious so I caved and bought a copy instead and have rarely been happier with the decision (I went ahead and bought the third novel, A Court of Wings and Ruin before finishing the second so the review for that book won’t be too far behind this one). Though A Court of Thorns and Roses is a wonderful well-contained novel in its own right, A Court of Mist and Fury expands on Sarah J. Maas’ universe beautifully, taking the foundational elements of the first novel and building the characters, their back stories, and their relationships with incredible skill and detail. The trauma of the first novel’s final act is central to where the characters find themselves at the start of this second book and its harsh realities force a new perspective onto everything and everyone.

Though months have passed since Feyre’s trials Under the Mountain and having been remade as High Fae, Feyre still has stomach churning nightmares and her life at the Spring Court hasn’t been as restorative as she might have hoped. So far the High Lord of the Night Court, Rhysand, hasn’t bothered her or Tamlin regarding the bargain she made with him during her trials, but with her wedding to Tamlin approaching and Tamlin clearly worried with diplomatic matters he’s not telling her about, Feyre continues to stall in moving past her trauma. When Rhysand finally calls in his half of the bargain she struck, Feyre’s time away from Tamlin and the Spring Court help to open her eyes to how much she has changed since her human days Under the Mountain. Perhaps the love she gave her human life for isn’t enough for her fae life. Continue reading

Book Review – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Usually when I find new books to read it’s through recommendations or hearing something about them first. In this case, I moved by complete and total impulse. I saw the cover while I was shopping and it reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Night Circus, so I copied down the title and looked it up when I got home. The premise sounded intriguing enough and I’ve been on a streak of young adult aimed novels that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed so I went ahead and read it. While it has its moments, Caraval doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of its premise and leans too heavily into melodrama for my personal tastes.

For years, Scarlett had hoped that she and her sister might be invited to the magical Caraval game her grandmother had told them stories about that is held every year. But as she got older, Scarlett realized it was far more important to get married so she could leave her abusive father behind and take her sister, Donatella, to safety with her. Shortly before her nuptials (to a man of her father’s choosing and whom she has never met) she receives the long desired invitation to Caraval. It’s dangerous to go but Donatella won’t let Scarlett say ‘no’ and once they arrive on the island where Caraval takes place (with a little help) it turns out that the game the Caraval Master, Legend, has in mind is a more personal one for Scarlett. Donatella is kidnapped before they’ve even been there a full day and clues have been left behind for Scarlett and the other Caraval players to puzzle out in order to find Donatella and win Legend’s prize of a wish. But not everyone involved in Caraval is who they seem; magic and lies bend expectations and mislead and it’s up to the players not to get carried away by the game they’re playing. Continue reading

Book Review – Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series is one I’ve had recommended to me several times but having read some young adult targeted series that were only okay or completely disappointing, I had put it off. Having crawled out of that disappointing streak, I finally put the first book on my library request list and then had to wait forever for it to become available but I’m happy to find that my search for compelling young adult fantasy-ish series is over for a while as I have a few books to catch up on in this series (and from everything I’ve heard, the second and third novels are just as engaging as the first but I’m looking forward to finding out first hand). Aveyard’s fantasy world wherein social and political strata have long been established and maintained based on blood and ability as well as the best means for bringing about change to such a system all speak to the political and social turmoil in the world today—in some chilling ways.

Mare Barrow is a Red pickpocket doing everything she can to help her family get by while her conscripted brothers are away fighting their Silver king’s war but her days are numbered as she reaches the age of conscription herself and her prospects for exemption remain nonexistent. When an unusual encounter lands Mare with a job at the palace and exemption from conscription, she thinks she might finally have found a way to protect at least some of her family. But an accident on her first day reveals Mare to be something neither Reds nor Silvers knew existed—a Red with the abilities of a Silver. Eager to protect the established hierarchy and perhaps appease disgruntled Reds and the growing threat posed by the radical Scarlet Guard, the royal family covers up the truth and presents Mare as a lost Silver restored to her kind and keeps her close. But Mare still bleeds Red and she doesn’t plan to let the royal family rewrite her truth so easily. Continue reading

Book Review – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

For me, the best way to find new books and series that I love is through recommendations from friends; they know enough of what I like, and I know enough of what they like, plus there’s the added fun of having someone already there to talk about it. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas was a friend recommendation and I can’t wait to dive into the next book of the series in anticipation of the third novel’s release in early May. Incredible fantasy world building with plot elements that echo (and occasionally invert) classic fairy tales, myths, and legends and engaging characters and pacing are some of the fastest ways to capture my attention.

Feyre may be the youngest of three sisters but when it comes to providing for her family in their relatively recently acquired destitute state, she is the one who can be counted on to keep them all alive. Having taught herself hunting, she has a deer in her sights when a monstrously large wolf enters the scene—a wolf so large, Feyre believes it might be fairy in nature. Given everything that the fairies have done and continue to do to humans, even with the treaty in place, she decides to use her precious ash arrow to be sure she kills it dead. But a few days later an even larger beast appears at her family’s door demanding repayment for the slain fairy—a life for a life—and Feyre must either go to live in the fairy realm of Prythian for the rest of her days or die before her family’s eyes.

Continue reading

Book Review – The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

9780425272459_p0_v4_s260x420I was originally aiming for this to be a preview, as Sylvia Izzo Hunter’s The Midnight Queen was first released last Tuesday, Sept. 2, but it took me longer to get through my last book than I’d planned. Another novel with magic as a central feature, I wish I’d skipped ahead to The Midnight Queen earlier. Aimed at a young adult audience, The Midnight Queen doesn’t take itself too seriously. It addresses issues related to sexism and women’s rights, but without being too heavy handed or preachy. This particular approach to magick weaves in many different (though largely European) cultures, languages, and legends. The Midnight Queen was a very welcome change of pace. It’s not the next Harry Potter, but it will appeal to those of us who will never be quite ready to let go of that kind of world.

Graham “Gray” Marshall is a Fellow at Merlin College until something goes horribly wrong one night when he’s on a mysterious errand with some classmates. His tutor, Professor Callendar, brings him home with him for the summer holidays in what seems like a punishment. But while staying with the professor’s family, Gray meets and befriends the Professor’s inquisitive and studious middle daughter, Sophie. Though the Professor doesn’t like the idea of his daughters learning magick, there’s something about it that draws Sophie in, leading her to urge Gray to tutor her in the subject. As his stay progresses, suspicious visitors and surprising happenings begin to uncover a larger plot against the head of the college and beyond, with Gray and Sophie leading the charge to unravel the scheme and prevent it from being realized. Continue reading