Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you’ve all enjoyed the first week of the new year! If you stay tuned to the end of this post, you’ll get the chance to make Week 2 even better by winning a free book!
When the fate of the world is at stake Loyalties will be tested Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking. As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.
Title: The Girl in the Tower Author: Katherine Arden Type: YA Fantasy Length: 363 pages Published by: Del Ray Pub date: Dec 5, 2017 Format: e-arc Source: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Title: The Bear and the Nightingale Author: Katherine Arden Type: YA Fantasy Length: 368 pages Published by: Del Ray Pub date: Jan 10, 2017 Format: Paperback Source: Fun story: I thought I had this one on my Kindle, so I requested it’s sequel from Netgalley. When my request was accepted, I thought, “Great, better start reading, then.” ONLY I DIDN’T ACTUALLY HAVE IT ON MY KINDLE! So, I kind of panic-bought a copy from Barnes and Noble, even thought the sequel doesn’t come out till December.
Let me just take a moment to finish squealing over how beautiful that cover is!!!
Title: Wicked Like a Wildfire Author: Lana Popovic Type: YA Fantasy; Magical Realism-ish Length: 400 pages Published by: Katherine Tegen Books Pub date: Aug 15th, 2017 Format: Hardcover Source: I received this book (along with an amazing matching candle) from my August Fairyloot box!
Title: Mask of Shadows Author: Linsey Miller Type: Fiction Genre: Fantasy Length: 352 Published By: Sourcebooks Pub Date: August 29, 2017 Format: e-book Source: A digital copy of this book was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: ★★⭑☆☆ (I was torn between 2 and 3 stars…)
Title: Quests of the Kings Author: Robert Evert Type: Fiction Genre: YA; Fantasy Length: 280 pages Published by: Diversion Publishing Pub Date: March 14, 2017 Format: Digital Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The short version: This book wasn’t as good as I was hoping. For me, when the main character is a flop, so is the book.
The long version: My Summary: The kings of the realms in this world, instead of gaining influence through war, have decided to send knights and adventurers on a “King’s Quest,” a quest all the kings agree on, but only one can win.
These quests never seemed to have anything to do with sixteen-year-old peasant, Natalie, whose primary focus in life is working as many jobs as she can as often as she can so she can provide for her mother and siblings. All that changes, however, when she has a run-in with a vicious adventurer and tries to deal him the justice she knows he will never see. Soon, she’s on the run, seeking help from friends and strangers alike to protect her from one of the most well-known, and blood-thirsty, adventurers.
After reading the synopsis, I requested Quests of the Kings from NetGalley, hoping that it would be a fun read. But I ended up having to force myself to focus to finish the book.
My biggest issue was the main character, Natalie. If I don’t like a main character, I have a hard time enjoying the book, and she was awful! To me, her only redeeming qualities are that she is independent and devoted to her family, and even these traits get pushed to the side later for the sake of the plot. Other than that, she comes off as incredibly selfish and whiny; through the whole story her friends are trying to take care of her and help her, and instead of being grateful, she snaps at them. For some reason, even complete strangers agree to help her when all she has done is yell and complain at them. (I honestly didn’t understand why her friends were all so loyal and forgiving?) By the end, several of the other characters were saying things like, “Wow Nat, you’re so amazing, we’d love to have you on our team!!” And all I could think was “Why would you ever want that?”
And she doesn’t just complain to other characters, she complains to the reader as well. I had to read all these little thoughts and tirades about how unfair it is being a peasant and how hard it is being a woman. The first couple of times weren’t a big deal; since the story is set in a Middle Ages-type setting, class and gender discrimination are both to be expected. But it happened at least once a chapter in just about every single chapter. At that point, whenever she brought it up, I would actually get a little angry; I get it! Move on already! Even after all her needs had been taken care of, she was still cursing and complaining about the nobility, which starts to get unbelievable, especially since the reader had only seen one adventurer (are they even nobility?) actually harm her in any way, and a knight just gave her enough money to live comfortably for the rest of her life. (I understand class structure and such, but it seemed like most of her financial problems stemmed from the fact that her father died, not just because she was a peasant, and the reader doesn’t actually see much gender discrimination, we just have to take Nat’s word for it.)
There were also a few times where she would think/say/do something, and my brain would just stop short going, “That’s not how girls think!” For example, after yelling at everyone because she doesn’t believe they’ve been helping her enough, she turns to the guy she’s been rejecting for years and basically yells “I’m afraid for my life! Doesn’t anyone care that my life is in danger?!?” And then the very next sentence, she’s telling the reader that maybe she does have feelings for him, maybe she’s been wrong this whole time. It was like emotional whiplash that kind of made it seem like the author was trying too hard to make her sound feminine.
She did seem to get better during the last few chapters of the book. (Even though a lot had to happen for her to get there.) I’m not sure if I’ll read the next book, but if I do, I’ll be interested to see if she keeps her new found sense of independence.
Despite how much I dislike Natalie, I actually did enjoy most of the other characters. Reg would definitely be my favorite! I wish we had gotten to see more of the those characters instead of focusing so much on Natalie. There was a lot of potential for some great female friendships, but once the actual adventure started, Nat was the only girl we heard about, and she was always so careless with the people around her.
(This is a very non-specific spoiler, but better safe than sorry)It really bothers me that so many of these people she cared about died and we never really see her mourn them. There’s a sentence at the very end that was like, “Oh yeah, she cried a lot.” But other than that, she doesn’t really seem affected by the deaths at all. Unfortunately, neither was I. We never actually see anyone die, so there’s very little emotion behind it. A random character will tell Natalie, and vicariously the reader, about the death(s) and then the story just plows ahead. The deaths didn’t leave a big enough impact, either as an event or as a catalyst for Nat, to really make me feel anything about them. (end spoiler)
Long story short, I thought the story had a lot of potential, and some of the characters were great, but because I disliked the main character so much, I had a hard time enjoying this story. Even though I think the story could go in some interesting directions, I’m still undecided about whether I’ll actually read books later in the series.
Overall, I gave this book 2 stars:
Thanks for reading! If you plan on reading or have already read this book, let me know why and what you think in the comments below!
Title: Three Dark Crowns Author: Kendare Blake Type: Fiction Genre: YA; Fantasy Length: 398 pages Published by: Harper Teen Pub Date: Sept 20, 2016 Format: Hardcover Source: I bought this book for my own library from Barnes and Noble
As this awesome tagline suggests, Three Dark Crowns deals with some darker ideas and themes, which is why I knew I just had to read it. The basic rundown: Every queen gives birth to three daughters, each with a specific gift. Mirabella is an elemental, the most powerful of this set of triplets, able to summon fire, storms, earthquake, etc. at will. Katharine is a poisoner; she can consume poisons and be unharmed, and she’s also been trained to concoct some crazy painful (or merciful) deaths for others. Arsinoe is a naturalist, a person who can control animals and convince plants to bloom. EpicReads has created this great chart for each of the sisters.
As born queens, these three are destined for the crown… once they kill the other two sisters. When I first cracked open the cover, I was expecting a book full of dark secrets, political intrigue, and some good old fashioned battles to the death. And that’s what I got… sort of.
Let me start by saying this book is well-written; Kendare Blake is a master at structuring her novel. Despite the fact that each chapter tells the story of a different sister, they all flow together pretty seamlessly. At the end of each one, something would happen that made me feel like I had to keep reading.
I enjoyed reading Katharine’s sections; she’s all-around interesting, and I am dying to know in which direction her character will go in future books, and how her relationship with Pietyr will develop. The romance between Pietyr and Katharine seemed a little forced; I like the two as individual characters, but they fall in love after two or three chapters. I think Blake just needed to take some time developing the relationship. Because of some events that happen later in the novel, I think she had a major character shift at the end, and while I’ll still be super interested in her character in the next book, I’ll also be a little afraid of her, too.
Arsinoe’s sections were probably my favorite. I might be a little biased because I’m a bit of an outdoorsy girl myself, but her storyline seemed the most believable to me (and the naturalist powers are probably the ones I would choose for myself if I could). The actions she took because of her frustrations with her gift lined up with her character and the setting, and her friendship with Jules was the most natural, believable, and well-developed friendship in the story.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where my appreciation of the characters ends. To me, Mirabella just seemed a little flat. The only thing that interest me about her was that she still had memories about her early life an her sisters. Because she’s the most powerful sister, there weren’t really a lot of conflicts for her to overcome, and instead just caused a lot of unnecessary problems. Although I did enjoy her friendship with Elizabeth, it seemed like all of her friendships needed to be more fleshed out.
To be honest, all the relationships, with maybe the exception of Arsinoe and Jules, need some work. (**SPOILERS ARE ABOUT TO HAPPEN! SEVERAL SPOILERS**) For example, the whole thing with Joseph and Mirabella. It just turned me off to both of their characters, and just didn’t fit in with the story. I get that you can try to blame it on Arsinoe’s magic use, but it still just seemed really forced to me. And the friendship between Mirabella and Elizabeth also didn’t make a whole lot of sense. During their first or second meeting, the priestess reveals some information that could get her kicked out of the temple, then offers to help Mirabella escape, loses her hand for it, and then still puts herself at risk for the queen. A friendship like that needed WAY more development than it was given, and just puled me out of the story a bit.
*These are kind of spoilers, but they’re super non-specific* Overall, I think my biggest issue with the book stems from the fact that there isn’t really a villain. Kendare Blake talks about her decisions about villains and characters a little in this interview, but honestly, I don’t think it paid off. I was expecting this big showdown between the queens, but they don’t even meet in any meaningful way until about the last third of the book.Because of this, a lot of the Game of Thrones-like espionage I was hoping for was mostly turned into boy drama for the sake of creating movement in the story. For me, this made the story move so slowly until group finally meets up for the festival that prepares the queens for their fight to the death.
Despite the fact that the story moves pretty slowly up until the end, the last third of the book was AMAZING! I’m pretty sure I flew through it in about an hour because I couldn’t put it down. (***SPOILERS, QUESTIONS, AND SPECULATION AHEAD***) I can’t wait to see how the queens and the Council deal with Arsinoe and Katharine being placed with the wrong families; there’s some great espionage opportunities there. And what Katharine is going to do to Pietyr; I’m ready for that girl to show her bad-assery. Maybe Pietyr knew Arsinoe was the poisoner and tried to help her by pushing Katharine off the cliff? But two of my biggest questions are 1) What is this religion; what do they believe? Because there was a lot of killing/sacrificing/maiming going on for your typical priestesses. What is it that they believe that justifies all this? 2) It’s mentioned several times that the mainland is forgetting about the island. Is the island self-sufficient enough to handle this? How do people forget about an entire island? What are they going to do when they don’t have king-consorts because the mainland has completely forgotten?
Three Dark Crowns kind of read like a prequel, and while a lot of it was uninteresting at first, I am SOOO ready to see where the story goes now that the queens are going all out; I will definitely be preordering the next book. There’s a small part of me that hope Mira will somehow use her memories to convince the other two not to hurt each other, because I’ve grown rather attached to them and don’t know who to root for, but at the same time, I am ready to see each of the gifts used to their fullest potential. Let me know who you are rooting for in the comments!