Category Archives: Fantasy

Jane, Unlimited – Kristin Cashore

Jane, Unlimited – Kristin CashoreTitle: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
Publishing Info: September 19, 2017 by Penguin, Listening Library
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Alternate Reality, Parallel Universe
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 6, 2017
Related Posts: Graceling (Graceling Realm #1)

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family's island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: "If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you'll go." With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn't know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

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JANE, UNLIMITED is literally the most unique book I’ve ever read. It’s unlike anything else, with a unique concept, characters, plot, and structure, and this both enhanced my reading experience and left me utterly confused.

I need to go into books blindly so I don’t ruin the twists and the overall experience for myself so I did some reading up on the book immediately after finishing to help ground me a little bit, and I found (which I actually had heard before and completely forgot) that the concept originally started as a sort of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel and developed into what it is. It’s quite impossible to really discuss the book without mentioning specific spoilers so for spoiler-free thoughts, I’ll say that it was quite a wild ride and listening to an audiobook may have made it even more complicated, not able to SEE what was going on with the print on the pages, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the audio performance (one of Rebecca Soler’s best, in my opinion).

Without knowing the CYOA concept, the book seemed unmoored — flowing from story to story not really knowing where one ended and the next began. Once I understood that these were actually telling different parts and weren’t following a chronological timeline, it made a lot more sense to me and I was able to appreciate it more. I thought at first that things were just non-sequential and I kept trying to put each part back into the first to follow through with the same timeline and it was just so confusing, but again, that probably would have been more easily deduced if I was reading a print copy and not the audio version. It also made a LOT more sense once I figured out that these were being told in different parts because I was thinking as I was listening that this story feels like it’s wrapping up but holy cow, I have a LONG way to go to finish this book haha!

That being said, I enjoyed most of the adventures. The first few parts were more enjoyable than the last few because things really started to go off the deep end towards the end of the book. It sort of starts in the more probable and drifts towards the more fantastical with each story and it was hard to grasp so many different genres within the same book as possibilities all at once, but I will say that it was incredibly interesting and I found them all fascinating, even if I didn’t particularly love each one. I DID love that each part revealed a little something and tied back to a point that was made in the beginning of the book or a part of another story. There were so many things going on in this peculiar house and Jane ended up discovering them all… just not all in the same version. I’m really glad the readers get to see why the characters are doing peculiar things, why the house feels a little bit emotional, and why the art plays such a big part of everything. Though I still don’t know why umbrellas are such a big deal.

One of my disappointments with the book was just that I needed a little something more from the ending. I would have been really impressed if the book had wrapped up with a singular ending that sort of put all of the stories at peace because none of them really ended and I would have been SUPER impressed if Kristin Cashore somehow tied them all up, sort of how the beginning set them all up. Instead they all kind of just taper off and there’s not a solid conclusion for any of them. I don’t mind open endings but I think this was a little TOO open and I would have been super impressed with something closing all of those open doors.

Usually when I’m confused about a book, the more I write about it, the more I realize how disappointed I was but I’m actually finding the opposite with JANE. The more I talk about it, the more fascinated I am and I wouldn’t be opposed to another collection of JANE stories somewhere down the road with even more possibilities. It’s a story with infinite worlds to explore and I’m sure even more things could be touched upon that I haven’t even thought of. I don’t think it’snecessary to know the structure of the book before starting but it did help me understand it more after finishing and helped me appreciate it more. I still would love that one last thing to tie it all together though.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

Listening Library has basically been my reading savior this year. With so many candle things to do, I just don’t have time to sit and read anymore and they are so kind as to keep me on their reviewer list for audiobooks. I’ve been listening to one right after the other this year and I was so excited to see JANE, UNLIMITED as one of the options!

I knew I was in good hands with Rebecca Soler as the narrator. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because she narrated The Lunar Chronicles audiobooks but personally, I feel like this is her best audiobook performance yet. I think her voices were more distinct in this book than in previous books and her voice and tone just really fit the overall feel of JANE, UNLIMITED.

The audio was probably a little bit harder to follow than the print copy due to the nature of the book but it still totally works and probably isn’t confusing if you don’t go into reads blind like I do!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Extremely unique formatting. I love seeing new and unique things not only in YA but anywhere in the literary world. This book cobbled together the different decisions that Jane could have made and it was interesting to see each one of them play out!
Left Me Wanting More: Closure. I didn’t really feel like the ending of the book really closed it off. I guess the point is kind of that the choices really are unlimited… I’d totally be up for another book full of possible endings though!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This was so clever and so unique. The tone was also a LOT of fun with a neat cast of characters, including a house that was a character in itself.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE JANE, UNLIMITED

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight #1) – Melissa Grey

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight #1) – Melissa GreyTitle: The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight #1) by Melissa Grey
Publishing Info: April 28, 2015 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Gift
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 29, 2017

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants…and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

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I’ve heard so many good things about THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT and with having the second and third books on audio from the publisher, I figured it was finally time to buy the first from Audible to get the series binge going!

This book really reminded me a lot of Daughter of Smoke & Bone and The Conspiracy of Us with a little urban fantasy feel. The tone of the book was fun, with Echo’s sass and sarcasm (always something I enjoy as long as it’s done well) and some nice friendships…

… But the ragtag group of misfits don’t really jive. They all have different personalities and they sort of seem to be fighting each other, not outwardly as character arguments but the personalities just aren’t meshing for me. It really does feel garbled together and not like the misfit group of characters like The Dregs, who are all misfits but all have the same goal and same attitude towards life.

THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT was a fun story but it felt sort of… average in a lot of ways. I’ll admit, the hype really got to me after seeing a lot of fan-girling reviews so I had some very high expectations. The story was enjoyable BUT I’m not sure it was really worth the hype. One thing I was really missing was the world-building throughout the entire book. I was all for the worlds of the Avicen and the Drakharin but… why do they exist? What are they all about? Were they always in the shadows of the human world, in hidden places or did they have to move there? How did this whole war get started? Who pissed off who? Tell me more about the magic, the history, the reasoning… We got a little of Echo’s backstory and how she ended up being taken in by the Avicen but, did she never question who they were and why they existed and why people don’t know about t them?

I have some more spoilery thoughts about the romance and the actual hunt of the Firebird, but I do try to keep my blog reviews spoiler-free so if you want to peek at spoilery thoughts, you can go check out my Goodreads review where you can peek behind the spoiler tags!

The more I talk about the book, the more unhappy I am with it. It just didn’t seem to really do much. It wasn’t intolerable and I had planned on continuing the series binge but I picked up the second book and my heart just wasn’t into it. I stopped my journey with this series after book one and I don’t find myself missing anything.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique fantasy concepts. The Avicen were an interesting creation and I always like reading about new concepts where I can!
Left Me Wanting More: Base. This book just needed more world-building, a bit more character base, and needed to feel a bit more grounded. It just felt very… new.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I have some friends who loved this one but this was a very middle-of-the-road read for me that ended up teetering towards the side of indifference. I just didn’t really care to keep going.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Review in a Tweet | The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Re-read)

REVIEW IN A TWEET is a feature that I need from time to time when I don’t have a ton to say in a review. Sometimes even mini-reviews are too long to write when you finished a book months ago and didn’t write a single note down on Goodreads. But the good news is that I started tweeting and saving very, very mini book reviews thanks to a concept that Lindsey at Bring My Books introduced me to! I’ve saved all of my super duper quick reviews to my timeline and under a hashtag (my 2017 books are under #bookadd17) for my own person way to review all of my books read this year at a glance.

Today’s Review in a Tweet is THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern! I re-read this book for the first time in FIVE YEARS (oh my gosh, I read this five years ago!?) and to be honest, I had forgotten a LOT of the book, so the re-read was almost like reading it for the first time again. It was funny reading my original review because it was kind of the opposite of what I remember feeling so apparently my thoughts changed over the years!

I wanted to do this review as a tweet because I use to review my re-reads but it ended up being a lot of repetition, especially for books I’ve already loved so much or have re-read multiple times. This is a fun way to keep talking about a re-read fresh even if a tweet review isn’t much of a review at all. If you want to read more thoughts about THE NIGHT CIRCUS, you can check out my original review or see my re-read reactions on Goodreads!

Without further ado, here’s the tweet!

 

Wonder Woman: Warbringer – Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman: Warbringer – Leigh BardugoTitle: Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Publishing Info: August 29, 2017 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Superheroes, Fantasy, Mythology
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 10, 2017
Related Posts: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), Grisha Novellas: The Witch of Duva (The Grisha #0.5), The Taylor (The Grisha #1.5), The Too-Clever Fox (The Grisha #2.5), Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3), Grisha Novellas: The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha #0.1) & Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6), The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha # 0.1), Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6), Six of Crows (The Dregs #1), Six of Crows (The Dregs #1),

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

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As always, Leigh Bardugo’s writing is so incredibly enjoyable! It was kind of weird not reading a strictly fantasy book from her — or rather, something not set in the Grishaverse — and also weird reading a stand-alone from her. I enjoyed my read of WONDER WOMAN but being an adaptation, it didn’t quiiiite have that Leigh Bardugo magic that I love so much when reading her original concepts, plots, and characters.

Mostly the reason I didn’t love it was the mythology aspect. I used to love mythology when I was a kid and I’ve sort of fallen out of love with it over the years and haven’t really enjoyed too many mythology adaptations or retellings as much as I had hoped. As we know, Diana (aka Wonder Woman) is an Amazonian princess and of course has many ties to the gods and goddesses, and really the entire plot starts to delve a little deeper into some myths. It was really interesting how everything tied together BUT mythology just isn’t that much of a draw for me anymore. I also never got into Wonder Woman in the first place so I wasn’t as connected to the book as others who are already fans might be. I’m actually not a superhero/comic person much at all (aside from catching the occasional movie) so this is a little step outside of my comfort zone but in a great way!

I loved seeing Leigh Bardugo’s writing style still shine in a totally different book/genre/world! At first I was worried since Diana is a mostly serious person but there were some amazing supporting characters (and main characters) who livened things up, delivered that classic sass & snark, and got Diana to come out of her shell. Since Diana spent all of her time on the island with her mother and sisters, away from the mortal world, she was a little sheltered and the sheltered-person-gets-hit-with-modern-day-culture-shock concept is also super hit or miss with me. I loved it in things like Sleepy Hollow but sometimes it just makes a character seem more simple and I felt like it took something away from Diana. BUT I know that’s also my personal preference as I’ve noticed with several retellings. I much more enjoy adaptations that fit a classic already within a modern world (CinderGeekerella) rather than fitting an old myth into a new setting, or retelling that story in the original time period. (Did that even make sense?) So I guess TL;DR, I don’t like mixing worlds & vibes.

I loved all of the characters, but weirdly enough, I liked Diana the least and felt like she was the least developed character. She has a very straight-forward quest and very straight-forward values and I just looooove Leigh Bardugo’s complex and morally grey characters, so that’s what I’ve come to appreciate the most with her writing! The secondary characters (the supporting friends) were always there for some banter and sass and really had their own backstories that added to the base of main character Alia. I really liked Alia a lot and it was interesting to see her character growth throughout the book!

Naturally with any Leigh Bardugo book, there were some things that I just did not see coming… and I loved that I’m always surprised! The ending brought an interesting twist and a satisfying ending. I’m just a modern adaptation kind of person but I also liked that the book stayed true to Diana’s origins since that was the whole purpose of writing this book! My own personal preferences got in the way (who is surprised here) and I didn’t fall head over heels but WONDER WOMAN: WARBRINGER is a very solid novel and a quick and fun read! I loved the variation in tone from serious to sarcastic to romantic to intense and every other emotion in between.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Superheroes. I don’t usually read a lot of superhero books but I’m not opposed to them. It was great to see a Wonder Woman story and I loved reading Leigh Bardugo to sort of introduce me to that!
Left Me Wanting More: Maturity. Okay, that’s a silly thing to ask. These are teens and I know that. I just felt like things were a little dramatic at times and I could have enjoyed that more if it was less dramatic, but that’s life!

Addiction Rating
Read it

Elizabeth Eulberg is an absolute will-read author for me! I pick up pretty much anything she writes and this book was no exception. Very cute and a lot of fun!

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BOOKS LIKE WONDER WOMAN: WARBRINGER

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    READY PLAYER ONE

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan Turner

I had seen The Queen’s Thief series around Goodreads for a long time and even picked up the first book at a used book store, but it wasn’t really high up on my TBR being that my TBR contains over 1000 books, so I was really excited when I had seen that Harper had the audiobooks available to request for review when this series was introduced on audio for the first time a few months ago! I took a shot and requested them all and miraculously, they were all approved! So I went on a hard series binge and essentially read them all almost back-to-back (to back to back, etc)! Plus, Steve West narrates the audio so how can you go wrong?

Reviews for each book/the series are a whole are generally spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists but may contain info about plot points so I can properly discuss the plot. 

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan TurnerTitle: The Thief (The Queen's Thief #1) by Megan Whelan Turner
Publishing Info: December 27, 2005 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 7, 2017

The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

THE THIEF was not at all the book I expected it to be, though not in a bad way. I had many incorrect assumptions about it based on appearance and general reading experience (it is not, in fact, a book about a female thief and it is not a light and snarky read). These weren’t bad things but due to the fact that I like going into books blind, I didn’t re-read the synopsis before I started so I was surprised!

I really enjoyed THE THIEF and not in the way that I expected. It did get a little slow with a lot of uneventful traveling (we all know how much I get bored with travel stories) but I loved the little bits of mythology to break it up and those were actually my favorite parts. The creation stories were really interesting, vivid, and created a solid foundation for this world.

THE THIEF is also a fantasy world that is fantasy but without magic, similar to books like THE WINNER’S CURSE. There is a presence of religion/mythology and part of the plot does deal directly with the gods so there’s the concept of the involvement of gods but it’s more deities and less magic system. I know this book was written before the majority of the YA fiction out there but since I’m only reading this for the first time, I found the change in pace in fantasy refreshing. I liked the blend of mythology and politics and how they played their roles within the plot.

The characters became more and more interesting as the book went on. Gen got more personable, we see the true colors of Sophos and Ambiades, and the Magus gets really fleshed out and I actually thought his character development was the most interesting of all. At first he’s played out to be the villain (and even has a villain voice, as voiced by Steve West. For those of you who are avid Steve West audio fans, it’s along the lines of Benjamin Malvern in THE SCORPIO RACES so you just know he’s a snooty bad guy) but the more he gets to know Gen, the more you see of his true character and how he treats people. I actually loved it and thought it was wonderful to see something that was much less black and white, good vs evil.

The beginning and middle were a little slow because a lot of it was working up to the big finale, which was definitely big! Megan Whelan Turner did a fantastic job of sneaking in little details that the reader doesn’t know are important until you realize what all has been going on and I loved the surprises in the end.

I also really loved Gen’s voice and his narration throughout the book. I always love listening to Steve West narrate and it feels especially personal to hear his narration in first person, I think in part because of my love for THE SCORPIO RACES. Although it was a bit slow for a while, by the time the book ended, I was ready for more! I received the entire series for review on audio from HarperCollins so I immediately jumped into book two upon completion of THE THIEF!

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan TurnerTitle: The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief #2) by Megan Whelan Turner
Publishing Info: January 24, 2006 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 12, 2017

Revenge
When Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, stole Hamiathes's Gift, the Queen of Attolia lost more than a mythical relic. She lost face. Everyone knew that Eugenides had outwitted and escaped her. To restore her reputation and reassert her power, the Queen of Attolia will go to any length and accept any help that is offered...she will risk her country to execute the perfect revenge.

...but
Eugenides can steal anything. And he taunts the Queen of Attolia, moving through her strongholds seemingly at will. So Attolia waits, secure in the knowledge that the Thief will slip, that he will haunt her palace one too many times.

...at what price?
When Eugenides finds his small mountain country at war with Attolia, he must steal a man, he must steal a queen, he must steal peace. But his greatest triumph, and his greatest loss, comes in capturing something that the Queen of Attolia thought she had sacrificed long ago...

THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA was actually quite a different experience than THE THIEF! It started off in a very different but good way with a POV switch from first person to third person. I don’t normally like structure changes mid-series BUT I actually did appreciate that Megan Whelan Turner made that decision for this book, and I’m assuming, the rest of the series. THE THIEF was very much a Gen-centric story while THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA started getting more into the political side of this world, involving Attolia, Eddis, and Eugenides’ role between them.

Things were INTENSE right off the bat. I totally wasn’t expecting that given that the first book was… well, not light but it definitely had a lighter tone and nothing too crazy happened. THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA really stepped it up with a reality check for the characters and brought a whole lot of serious to this series.

I sort of started to drift towards the end. There was a… well, I guess it was a twist since it was only revealed in the end of the book but I wouldn’t really call it a twist — but anyway, it was something that didn’t really sit right with me. I had a hard time coming to terms with it, and since it was involving Eugenides, I couldn’t tell if it was a lie/con at first so I spent some time not believing it, but it seems to be the real deal. It’s hard to talk about since I don’t want to spoil anything but essentially it felt a little out of character for a few of the characters and it just didn’t really fit for me. I got a little used to it when the book ended, especially since it seems like it’s going to be a major part of the next book, but I may have a rough time adapting. I guess we’ll see what happens next!

I also found myself wanted more world-building in this book. I loved the mythology stories in THE THIEF and the gods were still involved here but the politics were the main focus of the world-building aspect here. I don’t have an issue with that because I actually loved the political motives in books like GRAVE MERCY, but for some reason I just didn’t feel like it was quite moving things forward and giving me that world-building satisfaction like I was wanting. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there was just something missing.

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan TurnerTitle: The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief #3) by Megan Whelan Turner
Publishing Info: January 24, 2006 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 20, 2017

By scheming and theft, the Thief of Eddis has become King of Attolia. Eugenides wanted the queen, not the crown, but he finds himself trapped in a web of his own making.

Then he drags a naive young guard into the center of the political maelstrom. Poor Costis knows he is the victim of the king's caprice, but his contempt for Eugenides slowly turns to grudging respect. Though struggling against his fate, the newly crowned king is much more than he appears. Soon the corrupt Attolian court will learn that its subtle and dangerous intrigue is no match for Eugenides.

These books have all been good and enjoyable but still nothing that’s totally wow-ing me. In each book, I hit a point where I get a little bored. It’s interesting to see where the book finally ends, but it’s such a round-about way (which is truthfully actually very cool) to get to the end point, and the end goal isn’t always something massive. It ends up feeling a little anticlimactic and I would have loved to see a few of these elements written in together with one final larger goal instead of each of these being a different book (if that makes any sense at all).

I’m really enjoying the characters but I just wish the story was pushing forward a little bit more. I feel like some things are thrown into action too quickly and others take a long time to happen.

I am enjoying the series, though. I do still think the hype built this up too much but they’re fun reads, I love the tone, and the characters really make the books. I’m just not quite finding myself as impressed as I had hoped.

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan TurnerTitle: A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen's Thief #4) by Megan Whelan Turner
Publishing Info: March 23, 2010 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 21, 2017

Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father's villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace.

In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again.

Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the Magus and Eddis, sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

I’m actually kind of enjoying that each book has a different POV! And Sophos! And the Magus! I love that the gang is back together… kind of. But I really enjoyed this one. I seem to reach a point every book where my interest wanes a little bit so still not quiiiiiite totally engrossed in this series but I’ve been enjoying every book and Sophos’ POV was very fun to follow! I do like him a lot and he has a lot of personality.

The story-telling is just a little different in every book which is actually kind of interesting. Usually a series sort of sticks to one style and this really changes with each character. Sophos was telling a lot of the story until it caught up to current events but I also really enjoyed his story and where it took the readers!

Series Review: The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whelan TurnerTitle: Thick as Thieves (The Queen's Thief #5) by Megan Whelan Turner
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 24, 2017

Deep within the palace of the Mede emperor, in an alcove off the main room of his master’s apartments,. Kamet minds his master’s business and his own. Carefully keeping the accounts, and his own counsel, Kamet has accumulated a few possessions, a little money stored in the household’s cashbox, and a significant amount of personal power. As a slave, his fate is tied to his master’s. If Nahuseresh’s fortunes improve, so will Kamet’s, and Nahuseresh has been working diligently to promote his fortunes since the debacle in Attolia.

A soldier in the shadows offers escape, but Kamet won’t sacrifice his ambition for a meager and unreliable freedom; not until a whispered warning of poison and murder destroys all of his carefully laid plans. When Kamet flees for his life, he leaves behind everything—his past, his identity, his meticulously crafted defenses—and finds himself woefully unprepared for the journey that lies ahead.

Pursued across rivers, wastelands, salt plains, snowcapped mountains, and storm-tossed seas, Kamet is dead set on regaining control of his future and protecting himself at any cost. Friendships—new and long-forgotten—beckon, lethal enemies circle, secrets accumulate, and the fragile hopes of the little kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis hang in the balance.

This has been by far my favorite of the series! I was wholly engrossed the whole story and the two main characters (The Attolian!) were amazing. Their relationship and tentative friendship was complicated and meaningful and I felt a little bit of a bromance there! It was fun to really see the two men kind of hate each other and then really develop a solid friendship. The characters were definitely my favorite part of this novel and that’s what really hooked me. I finally got super into it and I think the friendship was really what sold me and that bonding was something that I was missing in the previous books.

I love the little tricks that Megan Whalen Turner always has up her sleeve and there were a few emotional roller coasters here!! In previous books, there were some things that I didn’t see coming because they were revealed after everything happened, but these were exciting surprises that really threw me for a loop as I was reading! There was also a lot more action in this book than some of the others so all-in-all, this was definitely my favorite of the series.

 

SERIES THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed reading this series and getting to know this whole world! I didn’t quite connect AS much as I had hoped with the first few books but I really started to get into the swing of things towards book four and five. It’s really interesting getting so many angles of this world from so many characters and it’s actually fairly unique to other series that I’ve read. I actually enjoy seeing the “main characters” from a “secondary character’s” (which I put in quotes because the secondary characters become the main characters often times) and it’s quite different to see that from a totally different perspective! I really enjoyed this series overall!

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Addiction Rating
Read them!

These books were so interesting and the series structure was so different from what I normally read! I’m so glad I had the opportunity to review and listen to these audiobooks!!

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BOOKS LIKE THE QUEEN’S THIEF

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) – Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) – Renee AhdiehTitle: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 27, 2017
Related Posts: The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

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Welp. The hype got this one for me. I actually went in with an open mind because I had no idea what to expect and despite not totally loving THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, I wanted to go into a new series with no reservations. I still ended up hitting some of the same issues that I encountered with WRATH though without even realizing it until I was done with the book.

FLAME IN THE MIST turned out to be a much slower-paced fantasy than I thought. I don’t mind slower pace BUT I didn’t feel like there was enough character development to create that sense of a character-driven novel when plot isn’t action-packed. The story was moving forward and things were happening but it wasn’t a whole lot to actually continuously keep the plot engaging. I don’t need all action, all the time, to enjoy a book but when action slows down, that’s where characters shine and it didn’t feel like there was a lot of dialogue to really get to know the characters or interact with them.

Most of the book took place in the first chapter and the last 25%. I feel like I barely got to know the main characters at all and most of the things I knew about them, I was told instead of actually seeing. The relationships were confusing until the romance was clearly outlined because there was a little tension with a few people until the romance finally started developing into what it was. The plot could have used some cleaning up and there wasn’t a really clear focus for a while. Aside from Mariko surviving the attack in the first few chapters (not a spoiler – it’s literally in the synopsis and happens in the first chapter), I wasn’t sure what her motivation was or what the point of the book was. Revenge? That’s it? Which is fine, but the reader can tell that more political motivations will also be involved, being the daughter of an important family, and I just wanted to explore more of that right off the bat. Instead of something being introduced and working it into the story throughout the book, it seemed like a concept was introduced and had to be expanded upon right away instead of letting the story naturally unfold over time.

The whole book felt a little too… open. Like I always say, I don’t need things clearly spelled out for me but I would like a better feel of what the book is, where it’s going, and who these characters are. I just didn’t feel like enough was developed. I got bored waiting for something to catch me and this just didn’t do it for me. Who else is not surprised I’m a black sheep on this book? Sigh.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Non-European fantasy. So many high fantasy novels are based on European concepts or settings and I really enjoyed the Japanese influence in this book! I can’t really judge how well it was done since I don’t know much about the culture in specific there but it was refreshing to take a fantasy somewhere else.
Left Me Wanting More: Development. I love character-driven novels and I don’t always need jam-packed plots to keep me interested but I felt like neither the plot nor the characters were really developed enough to hook me into this world.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I know I personally won’t be continuing this series. Maybe I just don’t click with Renee Ahdieh’s writing? I had a hard time with THE WRATH AND THE DAWN taking a while to get somewhere and then BAM it finally did, a little similar to FLAME IN THE MIST, so maybe it’s just a me thing! I know many people who have loved both series so far but I just don’t appear to be one of them.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE FLAME IN THE MIST

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE STORY SPINNER

The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) – Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) – Evelyn SkyeTitle: The Crown's Fate (The Crown's Game #2) by Evelyn Skye
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 23, 2017
Related Posts: The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game #1)

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

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** Warning: This review DOES contain spoilers for the book! I will be talking about specifics! ** 

THE CROWN’S GAME was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and I absolutely loved how much it reminded me of THE NIGHT CIRCUS in so many ways (which I actually just finished re-reading and it cemented this feeling even more)! Naturally, I was very excited to read THE CROWN’S FATE and it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017! It’s always so hard when I have an most-anticipate read coming up because I tend to hype the book up for myself so it was an interesting experience reading THE CROWN’S FATE!

There’s no way I can talk about this book without specific spoilers, so first I’ll talk about some non-spoilery things! I loved that this world felt the same! There are some times with sequels that it feels like a totally different book but I was able to fall back into this world right where I left off.
The world where we left it after THE CROWN’S GAME was much more political and while I don’t mind that, I did miss some of that fun and a “challenge” aspect of THE CROWN’S GAME itself (the game, not the book) because it was a fun structure and involved some creativity on the characters’ parts to explore their abilities.
And I still love Pasha. He was very different in this book because of all the political ramifications and situations that he had to deal with so he just wasn’t as much fun but I still loved his spirit.

Okay, so here are the spoilers. While the world felt the same, why why whyyyyy did we have to have Nikolai turn bad?! Nikolai was too pure and sweet and precious and he was my favorite part of the whole darn book, so I was SO SAD to see that his character was essentially removed from the story line since his whole personality changed. I know it was because of REASONS, yes, but still. My favorite part of this story was changed and to boot, that affected the romance too which I wanted to see developed even MORE but that got put on hold because “bad” Nikolai, of course, wasn’t pursuing romance. SIGH. The book was still enjoyable but this changed so many things and took away those little nuances that really had me enjoying the series so much!

I also just wanted more magic…? The magic involved in this book was kind of dark, which is cool, I can appreciate dark magic… But I missed that sparring between Vika and Nikolai so much. I guess I’m just tired of everything ending in war or battles (which is silly considering that this series is also kiiiiind of historical fiction, with magic) so I didn’t really want to see things come to that. I just really loved the structure of the Game itself, which encouraged the enchanters to grow and explore their powers and THE CROWN’S FATE was more of a desperate battle for power or to stop that power, so it lost that magic and that spark that I loved so much. I didn’t feel as enchanted, no pun intended.

I DID appreciate that things didn’t turn out too sunshine-y though. I actually liked what happened to Vika in the end, actually. There has to be something in the events of war because no one comes out wholly unscathed and it’s a great shock to readers when something happens to a main character, even if it’s not a death. I applaud Evelyn Skye for taking it there like so many other authors have avoided. I know it’s hard to have something difficult happen to your characters without a way to “save” them but these things need to be done to keep things realistic or at least not a cheesy happy ending.

When it comes down to it, this was not the ending I was expecting or hoping for the series but I also appreciated how it wrapped up. I think I just wanted more romance and more Nikolai. Always more Nikolai.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical fiction meets magic. I never used to enjoy history or historical fiction so I’ve really been appreciating books that combine it with magical elements! It’s kind of a way for me to catch up on some historical events or at least feelings, even if they are fictionalized and combined with other things.
Left Me Wanting More: Romance. I don’t always need romance in a book but I was so delighted by the relationship between Vika and Nikolai in the first book and things were heading in a great direction… until the end. But then they didn’t really continue in this book!! I almost feel like THE CROWN’S GAME should have been a stand alone in many ways, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t totally love the finale here.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you loved THE CROWN’S GAME, it’s definitely still worth the read! It was different than what I was expecting and I would have loved just a bit more but I also did appreciate so many things still!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE CROWN’S GAME

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    GRAVE MERCY

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) – Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) – Laini TaylorTitle: Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor
Publishing Info: March 28, 2017 by Hachette
Source: Audible, Anderson's Bookshop
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 18, 2017
Related Posts: Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1), Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2), Night of Cake and Puppets (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2.5), Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3)

Strange the Dreamer is the story of:

the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

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When you write a series as epic as Daughter of Smoke and Bone and then your next release gets delayed even more (to make it that much more perfect, that is), it could be really, really hard to live up to the hype of the book… But Laini Taylor had no such problem with STRANGE THE DREAMER! To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect because I hadn’t know what to expect with Daughter and it constantly surprised me so I knew I was ready for some more magic of the same quality!

STRANGE THE DREAMER was actually quite similar to DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE in some ways. There was a distinct separation from the humans and the magical beings, some bad blood to draw up that tension, and a star-crossed romance, so in that respect, I did wish that STRANGE THE DREAMER did venture out on its own plot-wise and away from the world of Eretz. The books aren’t of the same world but Laini Taylor did say that they’re of the same multi-verse and may cross paths one day, but for now, two totally different things so I was hoping for a bit of a difference in big picture.

That really is the only “disappointment” I have about this book, which isn’t really a disappointment so much as something else I was looking for. STRANGE THE DREAMER really swept me off my feet with Laini Taylor’s ever-gorgeous writing. She’s one of the authors whose writing style I just love to read and I just get lost within the pages (along with Maggie Stiefvater and Neil Gaiman who also hold that magical ability to suck you into their books). The world is amazing and gorgeous and I love that the humans are even still in a different fantasy world, not Earth as we know it, to add that extra sense of magic and wonder.

All of Laini Taylor’s characters are poetic and deep. From Lazlo Strange, the dreamer whose nose was broken by a volume of fairy tales, to Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares with a gentle softness. They compliment each other and bring a wonderful balance to the book, and each character serves a real purpose to the story. Every character is so unique and Laini Taylor does an amazing job at bringing each one to life. I always feel like I’ve really gotten to know each one of them!

I won’t really get into the story itself because like all of her books, it’s one to experience, but I just loved being wrapped up in her stories again. I’ve missed that feeling of being so involved in a story and being in kind of a reading slump, it was wonderful to enjoy something so much again!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Pretty prose. Some authors just have a knack for story-telling and putting gorgeous words on the page and Laini Taylor is one of them. It doesn’t always work with such vivid descriptions but I could read Laini Taylor’s details forever.
Left Me Wanting More: Uniqueness. The only thing I would have asked for was to have more of a different big picture plot than DoSaB!

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

This is such a beautiful book and a wonderfully heart-breaking start to a new series (only two books! We think). It’s a must-read!

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BOOKS LIKE STRANGE THE DREAMER

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    shadow and bone

Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I had put off reading A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC for a while now, for a couple of different reasons. I had some personal reasons involved, some worries that it might be too much like NEVERWHERE, and I actually wanted to let some of the craze die down because hype really kills a book for me and I didn’t want to be caught up in it. I started A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC on audio because I really wanted to listen to Michael Kramer narrate the 2nd and 3rd books (along with Kate Reading) because he’s one of my all-time favorite narrators. It was funny though — I actually preferred the 1st books narrator on a lot of things so that was a surprise! I think he just got those voices all set up in my head and then I couldn’t shake them.

Anyway… I binge read all three books on audio and decided to review them all together instead of one-by-one!

Reviews for each book/the series are a whole are generally spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists but may contain info about plot points so I can properly discuss the plot. 

Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. SchwabTitle: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab
Publishing Info: February 24, 2015 by Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 24, 2017
Related Posts: Vicious (Vicious #1)

Kell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

This was really good! I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect because I had really enjoyed VICIOUS and didn’t like THE NEAR WITCH (I never finished it) and I also had some personal qualms about starting this book… but I’m really glad that I did because it was actually really enjoyable! I actually enjoyed that some things were set up in book one that weren’t resolved. They weren’t cliffhangers but things that will be important to the plot in future books (I’m pretty sure I know what’s up with Lila) and I like that it wasn’t all resolved in ADSOM so it keeps me pulled to keep reading (even though I would anyway).

That being said…

This was a fantasy world that just totally came together as my kind of book. I LOVE anything with parallel worlds and I really liked how it was incorporated into fantasy instead of just sci-fi. The magic system is really interesting too. It’s not just magic and non-magic… there really are shades of magic and each world has varying degrees of how magic is incorporated and affects its citizens. I am still suuuuper curious about Black London and I kind of hope we journey there in a future book. I just have to know!!

ADSOM wraps up nicely and closes out a story line which is nice not to be left on a cliffhanger! There’s a lot more to discover so I’m sure the next book will get into that and also dip into what spiraled into play here so I thought it was nice on world-building side. There was a solid foundation but there’s still so much more to discover, and everything was nicely built into the story and I didn’t feel any infodumps about this world-system.

I also liked that the romance was slow and steady. Obviously there’s something building between Lila and Kell but it wasn’t instalove and their relationship is built on a friendship — that almost isn’t even a friendship! They butt heads, Lila is stubborn, Kell is kind of a loner (minus his affection for his brother), and yet their sparring and jabs totally work. I do love banter in my book relationships and although this was less flirting and romantic banter, it was just perfect for these two.

I’m actually surprised how much I enjoyed this because I really hadn’t expected to. I listened to the book on audio, having purchased it in an Audible sale, and mostly wanted to listen to the audio because Michael Kramer narrates the second and third books and he is one of my all-time favorite narrators! (Okay, and Kate Reading but Michael is most important.) I actually did like the narrator of this book so I’m not sure how the switch will go, even though I love the narrators of the next books! Steven Crossley is British so it was perfect for a book about Londons and I really enjoyed his narration and will actually go seek out more books that he voices. I didn’t like how he voiced the spell casting (it was much too formal because it wasn’t described as “said”, not anything that had to be so formally announced and pompous) but really that was the only thing I didn’t like about it.

Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. SchwabTitle: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab
Publishing Info: February 23, 2015 by Macmillan
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 31, 2017
Related Posts: Vicious (Vicious #1)

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift--back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games--an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries--a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Wow, I am so sorry for anyone who read this book when it first came out and had to wait for the third book. That ending was EVIL.

A GATHERING OF SHADOWS was very enjoyable! The beginning was good but the first half sort of felt like a book one instead of a book two. SO much happened in ADSOM that when things slowed down to this pace again instead of continuing on and escalating, it felt a bit like a step back.

The games/competition was really fun, but also felt like a book one thing that could have set up the magic system, worlds, and characters so it didn’t really feel necessary at all for this book. Unless it plays a big part in the third book, I don’t really think it pushed the plot forward much at all. The characters from the neighboring lands don’t seem to directly play an important part in the book and actually, Kell even said it himself that there was a totally different way this could have all played out (that’s vague, I know, but if I say more, it’s definitely a spoiler).

I did LOVE Alucard, who is my new favorite. (I think I just love all privateers. They’re so sassy and are always involved in banter.) And I also loved where Lila and Kell’s relationship went in this book. We had a bit of book-two-forces-the-lovebirds-apart syndrome here but it actually resolved nicely which is better than a lot of books!

Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. SchwabTitle: A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab
Publishing Info: February 21, 2017 by Macmillan
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 6, 2017
Related Posts: Vicious (Vicious #1)

Witness the fate of beloved heroes - and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED...
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell - once assumed to be the last surviving Antari - begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace - but never common - thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

And so I say anoshe to this series.

The ending to this book was just beautiful and a wonderful way to wrap things up. I loved the finality of everything and yet the openness to allow the characters to go off and pursue other things. The series was complete and yet there could totally be more books or a spin-off series with more things to come.

I will say, though, that the thing that struck me the most about this book was HOW MUCH happened. It’s the last book in the series so of course things will escalate but there were so many things that could have been put in the second book — like backstories, more world-building, explanations, etc — that felt a little too crammed into the final book when this would have been more suited for the action and not building things up at the same time. I would have loved to have learned more about Holland in AGOS instead of ACOL, as a specific example, and some of the revelations could have been developed in AGOS with a final reveal in ACOL instead of it all happening at once. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the length of the book but it just did feel like a whole lot was flung at me at once, especially in the beginning. It’s not that it was hard to follow but it was a lot to constantly take in.

Definite (mild) spoilers for the series in the rest of the review below so skim to the bottom if you want to avoid them! 

I also still have some questions that weren’t really answered… I understand the unspoken concept of the one black eye for Antari but I also wish that was more directly addressed. I wish we had known who Kell’s parents were and what his name was before he came to the royal family but I understand leaving that one open because who he was is not who he is and he chooses to be present instead of dwelling in the past. I also wanted to know more about Lila’s past, how she lost her eye (it was said to be an accident but I always wondered if it was more to cover up her true nature), and what led her to where she was. There were so many hints that Lila was so much MORE than basically everything but it was never said that she was more than an Antari… so was she more or was she just Antari? Or an exceptional Antari? Or am I just looking for too many answers that I should attain for myself? I figured out that she was Antari pretty much immediately once it was revealed that she was missing an eye but then the actual reveal wasn’t even an event. It just kind of… happened. Like oh yeah, Lila is doing magic now and she’s doing crazy stuff so I guess she’s an Antari and everyone else was just like, okay, guess so. Maybe because Lila does whatever she wants so people weren’t surprised when she broke all the rules anyway, but still. Again, I understand not wanting to go fully into each character’s past and reveal every little thing but just a few words of wrap-up could have left things more final, I think.

Then there were the THINGS with the magic system. I’m a huuuuge magic-system geek and I love learning about all of the rules and what a magician/wizard/whoever can and cannot do. It felt a little inconsistent to me with new abilities popping up where they were convenient. I did like that average citizens of Red London were able to wield magic and how differently it was accessible to the “common” people and also how its accessibility was different from world to world. I did love that Antari were next-level magic users and the only ones who were able to use blood magic to perform extraordinary feats and that they could use every element and not just one or two or three. Does the black eye signify black magic? It seemed like it should due to the story line here but that really wasn’t addressed. Was it a piece of black magic within them or was it just magic and the essence of Black London had just turned bad? Was it a coincidence that the three Antari were from the three different Londons? Was there a Black London Antari and there is only allowed one from each London? Was it a coincidence that the three Antari had three different colored eyes (Lila: brown, Kell: blue, Holland: green)? Was this all planned and the rules of magic or was it all just randomly coincidental? Maybe I’m just naturally too curious but it seemed like these things were rules but never talked about. Maybe the characters don’t even know themselves. I’m just a total sucker for learning as much as I can about a magic system so that really felt incomplete to me. Maybe I’m just spoiled with Brandon Sanderson books that detail everything so much that I’ve eaten it all up and come to expect it in other books. (The Antari reminded me of Mistborn in a way, with their ability to use all types of magic so there was a minor association for me there.)

I also for some reason didn’t totally love the Osaron concept… maybe because I didn’t love the concept of magic taking a human form? I’m not sure. There was just something about it that I didn’t love and something just felt “off” there for some reason. Maybe because it seemed like some sort of a turn in the concepts and I was expecting a different direction regarding the escalation of the black magic. I was also hoping for more time in Black London because I’m just TOO DARN CURIOUS. So I guess most of my disappointments were just hopes and my curious brain demanding more answers!

Despite all of the thoughts I’ve just expressed, I did enjoy the series. I actually think the first book was the strongest in terms of plot and structure and it still remains my favorite. If things hadn’t gotten derailed with the games in AGOS and had continued with strong plot development, I think the series could have been even stronger and more cohesive. All of the books were entertaining and the characters were really just wonderful. I really loved the character dynamics, the personalities, and the wonderful relationships. As a series, I think AGOS just really killed the plot momentum and while it was still highly entertaining, it could have pushed things so much further and more time could have been dedicated in ACOL to tying things up along with the action instead of jamming everything into a final book. I loved every character and the ways that they all interacted with each other and I did think that was so well done. I really connected with each one and just loved the feelings that I got from their relationships. The ending of the series was bittersweet and just the perfect way to say goodbye, or rather, anoshe.

SERIES THOUGHTS

The first book in this series was definitely my favorite. I thought it was the most solid in terms of setting up the book’s overall plot and kicking off the series. I was disappointed with the lack of series development in A GATHERING OF SHADOWS (book two) because of the games involved and that really ended up taking the spotlight. It was still very entertaining but I’m such a world-building nerd that I can’t get enough of it and I don’t feel like things kept developing until the end of the book. A CONJURING OF LIGHT was also still very entertaining but things took a biiiiit of a weird turn for me and mostly, I just wanted more answers about this world. I feel like some were implied, some we could infer, and others were maybe coincidental? I thought things could have shaken out just a bit more to really settle all those burning questions, although the overall wrap up was very nice!

Now I just need to own the series in print so I can put them with my As Travars candle…

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Addiction Rating
Read them!

To my surprise, I really enjoyed this series. I had no idea what I was going to find within these pages (or I guess… audio files in my case) and I think it’s a solid series that could benefit from a little more plot and world-building.

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BOOKS LIKE SHADES OF MAGIC

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Closer to Home (The Herald Spy #1) – Mercedes Lackey

Closer to Home (The Herald Spy #1) – Mercedes LackeyTitle: Closer to Home (The Herald Spy #1) by Mercedes Lackey
Publishing Info: October 7, 2004 by Penguin
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 13, 2017

Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.
Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?

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This was my first Mercedes Lackey book and I had high expectations because of so many reviews! CLOSER TO HOME was actually nothing like I expected. It was lighter than I thought it would be and I actually was really surprised with the plot… And that there wasn’t one…?  I purchased this book in an Audible sale because I had heard so much about Mercedes Lackey and Nick Podehl narrates and he’s one of my favorites so this is how I ended up here!

I really didn’t know what the point of this book was, to be perfectly honest. It wasn’t until halfway through that the focus really started to shift to Brand and Violetta, but Mags and Amily are the main characters so it was confusing for a while what was really happening. I really did love Mags and Amily — Mags even more so — so it was kind of disappointing that they were more helpers of the plot and that the book wasn’t even really about them.

I have been told that this book starts a new series BUT it is also part of a kind of series of series about the world of Valdemar… But while a series of series is fine, it really did feel like it picked up in the middle of story instead starting its own series or a portion thereof. There was a mention of how Amily and Mags ended up coming back home but it was never elaborated on and so it felt really unfinished. There was so much more to discover as far as world-building, especially on the magical abilities, but I suppose that could be something I’m missing from a previous series of series.

I most just felt like I didn’t know what the plot of this book was. Even though things happened, it just didn’t seem like a large conflict and then at the end, all of a sudden it was this huge deal. It was a weirdly constructed book and I just didn’t quite connect with it, which was a shame because I really did like the characters and the world! As much as I’d like to spend more time with them, I don’t know what the rest of the series would be life and if it would be worth continuing.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mind speech. I enjoyed the concept of mind speech here and how it was a different ability and could be used differently too!
Left Me Wanting More: Plot. This just didn’t have a clear direction and I was left wondering what the point of this book even was.

Addiction Rating
Start at the beginning

Mayyyyybe you shouldn’t start with this book like I did. In my defense, I didn’t realize what exactly this series was all about but if you want to start with these books, check out the first Valdemar book.