Wait…is this Grisha fan-fiction? | King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of ScarsIt’s been a few years since the Darkling was defeated and Nikolai’s still trying to figure out how to keep Ravka afloat. This task is made much harder by the fact that Nikolai seems to turn into a monster most nights. A literal monster. He’s desperate for a solution and when a Darkling-loving monk turns up with a possible answer, Nikolai has no choice but to listen to what he has to say.

TL;DR – So much of this reads as Grisha fan-fiction. There were definitely parts that I liked, but a lot that I didn’t as well.

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback (preorder) | eBook

It took me so long to finally read this book. I think I was just a little scared maybe. I really loved Nikolai from the original trilogy and I didn’t know how this was going to go. Starting off, I felt like I needed some kind of recap for the Grisha trilogy. I literally could not remember a single thing about Zoya. This book leans heavily on the assumption that everyone who picks it up has read Bardugo’s previous series’ which isn’t necessarily going to be the case. So yeah, I think it would have been wise to include at least a recap for the trilogy for those who don’t remember what happened in the original series or for those who never read it in the first place.

The narration mostly rotates between Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina but Nina is over in Fjerda so she’s got a different storyline than the other two. Honestly, I didn’t love Nina in the Six of Crows duology and this book possibly makes me like her even less. Her storyline was not compelling to me at all and I don’t see how it ties in with Nikolai’s main storyline. Honestly, it kind of felt forced as a way for Bardugo to bring her two series’ together (and every time Nina made some name-drop-y reference to the Ketterdam crew, I cringed). And then there’s the whole Nina/Hanne relationship that’s obviously coming and that started approximately five seconds after Nina buried Matthias’ body. I’m sorry, is this fan-fiction? Did someone write some f/f Nina fan-fiction and it accidentally got published as part of this book? I’m not trying to knock fan-fiction at all, I’m just trying to convey that this aspect had an inauthentic feel to me.

My other issue with Nina is that she’s selfless in this really selfish way. She doesn’t trust that people will help her if she gives them all of the information or tells them her whole plan. Nina puts people in tough situations and sometimes even in danger because she has her own agenda regardless of the consequences. She’s just not a team player and was a really frustrating character for me to read.

Nikolai, on the other hand, continues to be his most charming and lovable self. I appreciated getting to see some of his and Zoya’s respective backgrounds. I thought his storyline was a lot more interesting. His quest to find a cure was really interesting but I would have also liked a little more of “the bachelor” stuff to be thrown in–we didn’t actually get much of that. I really liked Isaak as a character and wished he’d been a narrator from the beginning. He deserved more than what he got and that’s all I’ll say about that.

And the ending…I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who DOESN’T have a strong opinion on the ending. Without being too spoiler-y, I’ll just say that once again, this reads like fan-fiction. That was a fan-fiction ending and I hate it.

Overall, I liked most of this book. I didn’t like Nina’s storyline or the ending, but everything else was great! I like the way that Bardugo seems to be expanding on the powers of the Grisha and I like the interesting political climate. I just think she’s spending too much time on things that aren’t relevant or wholly original instead of developing these interesting facets of her story.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

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Not my fave, but Asian rep so… | Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the CranePrincess Hesina knows her father was murdered, now she just needs to convince everyone else of that fact. She embarks on a journey to not only prove that he was murdered, but to also find his murderer. As she does, she will learn things about her country, her family, her friends, and herself. Hesina’s world is turned completely upside down as she grapples with these revelations and she’ll need to decide what kind of ruler she wants to be.

TL;DR – There were things that I liked about this book, but I don’t feel super invested in the story or the characters. Asian rep was cool though.

Purchase: Hardcover | eBook

This book started off really slow for me and that proved to be just the beginning of my issues with the plot. Several “shocking” plot points ended up being pretty obvious to me and others came out of left field and made little to no sense. The Sooth premise was interesting, but again, was mildly confusing. I didn’t really understand how their powers worked. I thought I understood the thing with their blood, but then halfway through the book I got confused. The author does try to explain certain things but it still doesn’t really make sense? And then the ending is just so…convoluted. I’m sure more things will be explained in the next book, but I don’t know that I’ll get to it.

The characters were fine. I didn’t love Hesina, but I did appreciate some small things about her. I liked that the author addressed periods as a thing that happens to women. I also liked that Hesina was a competent ruler. Even though she acquired the throne unexpectedly, she’d been adequately prepared for the role and knew how to do things like administrative paperwork, taxes, etc. I didn’t love Hesina’s relationship with her brother, Sanjing. I thought it was pretty obvious that he was just looking out for her and she pushed back at him to the extreme. It also doesn’t totally make sense to me how a 16-year-old boy could be trusted to lead the entire military? But, okay. Akira was fine but I wish his character had been explored more. He kind of just popped in at convenient times. Caiyan was pretty bland for most of the book and then all of the sudden got really interesting at the end. With that being said, since he wasn’t interesting for 99% of the book, I don’t feel any motivation to continue with his character arc in the next book.

Overall, I appreciated the Asian rep–always a great thing–but I didn’t LOVE this book. I thought the story was just kind of confusing and the characters weren’t great. There were some subtle things that I did appreciate, but I’m not really invested and probably won’t continue the series.

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Morally grey characters dressed in black | Vicious by V.E. Schwab

ViciousVictor has been thinking about the moment he would confront his former best friend Eli for a long time. For 10 long years while in prison to be exact. He wants to punish Eli but unfortunately for Victor, Eli is a little…unkillable. With Victor’s former cellmate Mitch and a runaway named Sydney by his side, Victor will put his plan into motion and finally find the justice he’s been seeking.

TL;DR – Schwab’s storytelling devices keep the plot moving quickly and the suspense high. While there are no good guys in this book, there are plenty of likable characters.

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

I loved this book so much–possibly more than her Shades of Magic series (which I also LOVED). I first encountered this author’s YA books (under the name Victoria Schwab) and was immediately hooked on her world-building. I had no idea what was to come when I made the leap to her adult works. Her skill in creating likeable “bad guys” is out of this world. Victor is not a good guy. He’s done bad and questionable things, but I still REALLY LIKE him. It’s the darnedest thing. All the characters, in fact, are incredibly well fleshed-out. They all have depth and I felt like the reader gets to know them on a deeper level than we do most characters in books. And don’t even get me started on the antagonists… (so evil, but also evil isn’t quite the right word?).

The world that Schwab has created for this story isn’t that different from the one we’re currently in except for the existence of EOs (ExtraOrdinaries). The entire concept of EOs isn’t necessarily revolutionary (think X-Men) but the way that they get created in her world seems entirely too plausible. What Eli and Victor do with that information also seems extremely realistic (without being too spoilery).

This story could have been told in a really linear, straightforward way, but that’s not how Schwab has decided to tell it. Chapters all start with a reference to an event: “6 hours before”, “10 years ago”, “The day before”. That kind of thing. This lets the reader know that we’re building up to some big event, but we don’t know exactly what it’s going to be until it’s almost upon us. This creates an almost unbelievable amount of tension as we’re left trying to figure out what we’re building up to. The way the different timelines and the story is woven together is just plain genius.

You guys. This book is GOOD. Highly, highly recommend if you’re looking for something a little sci-fi-y but not like, too sci-fi-y. I would also recommend if you’re just plain looking for a good book to read.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

You get a gang, YOU get a gang, EVERYBODY GETS A GANG!!! | King of Fools by Amanda Foody [ARC]

King of FoolsEnne and Levi are in trouble after the Shadow Game has ended. Not only did they kill two of the most influential people in New Reynes, but they still have to deal with Vianca’s omertas. With an election coming up, Vianca has some things that she needs them to do. When Levi is approached by her estranged son, Harrison, and given a counter-offer, he will have some tough decisions to make including whether or not to let Enne know what’s going on. Meanwhile, Enne is out for revenge and she wants it in blood. As the election gets closer, the stakes keep getting higher.

TL;DR – While this book contains much intrigue and action, most of the “why” was unclear.

Hardcover | ebook

I had a really hard time getting into this book in the beginning. I just felt like the story took a while to get going and I couldn’t remember why I liked any of the characters from the first book. They all seemed annoying and there were plot points that were confusing to me. Vianca wants Levi and Enne to set up profitable gangs…why? I mean, I know she takes money from them, but was that the only reason? And then I’m not sure about Harrison’s deal either. Why does he need to know who the next don is? It’s all just kind of confusing.

As far as characters go, again, in the beginning I found everyone annoying. Over time, Enne grew on me–I think the same thing happened for me in the first book too. I really liked who she ended up being, but I don’t think her developmental arc made a ton of sense. I wasn’t super convinced. I don’t like Levi very much at all and I can’t quite put my finger on why. I don’t really buy him and Enne together, so that might be part of it. Neither character gives a convincing reason why they want to be together. Their relationship has no base, no foundation. What do they even like about each other aside from looks? I’m just not a fan of their relationship. There are a ton of secondary characters too who are all fine. I thought character diversity was done pretty well and authentically.

Overall, this book was just LONG and kind of confusing to me. Plot points and character reactions didn’t always seem logical. There were also all these excerpts from the legends of the North Side scattered throughout and I couldn’t see how they related to the story at all. The ending was intriguing and confusing and while it does make me want to read the third book, I’ll probably feel the same way about it as I do this one.

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Def thought this was the last book in the series (it’s not) | Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard [ARC]

Note: This is the third book in The Witchlands series and may contain spoilers for the first two books.

BloodwitchI’m not going to write a summary for this book. I tried and just couldn’t do it so I’ll just get into the review. To address the title, when I picked this book up, I was under the impression that the series was just a trilogy. It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that there are actually going to be two more books AFTER this one. My plan to binge the entire series was frustrated, but I’m not too mad at it. I’ve really loved this series much more than I thought I would, so I’m happy.

Something I really love about this series is that it’s diverse without trying too hard or feeling like it’s trying to check every box. It does a good job of not being overly obvious and I think that’s the ultimate goal when people are asking for diverse characters and books. Referring to a character’s skin color or sexuality every other chapter almost creates this otherness about them. Specific traits for them are being singled out and consciously brought to our attention. I don’t want an author to tell me about how a character’s diverse, I want them to show me.

The characters in this series are all pretty much equally enjoyable for me. I’ve been surprised at how sympathetic a character Vivia has become. I really liked the sections from her POV and the struggle she’s having to be the leader that her father wants her to be while also reconciling who she actually is and her family’s history of mental illness. I knew from the beginning of this series that I would really enjoy Prince Leopold as a character, so I was THRILLED when he made a reappearance. It was really great to get to know Aeduan a little more in this book and I love him and Iseult together. Safi and Iseult continue to be utterly delightful and I absolutely love that their relationship continues to feel so strong when they haven’t even been together for two books. They’re constantly thinking about each other and ultimately, I think their goal throughout these books is just to get back with each other.

This book really moves the overall plot of the series forward. We’ve kind of thought that the plot was one thing this whole time, but later in the book, we start to realize that there is much more going on. Some hints have been dropped along the way throughout the series, but now we’re seeing bit and pieces of the larger plot start to form. Now, maybe I would know some of this stuff if I’d read Sightwitch? But as I’ve stated in an earlier post, I don’t believe in these supplemental short stories and novellas and prequels. So I’m just going to continue on and see where that takes me. One last minor plot point that I thought was interesting is how Safi and Iseult always seem to be in danger at the same time. Why is that? Because they’re the Cahr Awen? I just really hope that gets explained in a later book.

While I absolutely loved this book, I do have some questions:

  • Iseult says that animals don’t have threads, but mountain bats and sea foxes do. Why is that?
  • I wish we had some kind of background or explanation as to why everyone hates Nomatsis. Maybe in a future book?
  • I feel like deceit is an emotion or something that Iseult should be able to see in someone’s threads.
  • Why do some people have Threadsiblings and others don’t?

I have a couple other questions too, but they’re kind of spoilery, so I won’t ask them here.

Overall, this was a great third installment. I hear fans of the series had to wait a REALLY long time for the third book, so I’ll just be over hear hoping the fourth book gets here a little quicker than the third. If you haven’t already started this series, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.

eBook | Hardcover

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: An ARC of this book was sent to the library where I work.

A book in which I anticipate a love triangle forming pretty much the whole time | Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Note: This is the second book in the Witchlands series and may contain spoilers for the first book. Click here for my Truthwitch review.

WindwitchSafi and Iseult are now separated. Safi has given herself up to the Empress of Marstok and Iseult is left waiting for word from Mathew and Habim. When word doesn’t come, she finds herself making a tentative truce with Aeduan, the Bloodwitch. If he can help her find Safi, she will tell him where his silver talers ended up. Can the bond between Safi and Iseult withstand the miles and trials between them?

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

TL;DR – A solid follow-up to the first book. Characters are diverse in a natural way and the author does a great job making all of our narrators sympathetic.

This book started off a little bit slow for my taste, but it picks up momentum rather quickly. I think it would have been fine for readers who are reading the series one book at a time, but not so much for those of us who are bingeing the first three books in the series. These books feel really thoughtfully written to me. I really liked how Dennard is able to use things like a storm or an earthquake to help the reader to know when things are happening. Since virtually all of our characters are separated, it helps to know that these two events are happening at the same time and so on. In addition, without giving any kind of spoilers, I knew that Chiseled Cheater was going to play a more prominent role. I waited for him to show up the entire first book and I was thrilled at his appearance.

The dynamic between Merik and Vivia is really interesting throughout. I really enjoyed getting Vivia’s perspective on things because, in the first book, Merik portrays her as this evil, power-hungry person. She’s actually extremely likable, in my opinion, and it’s crazy to me how neither of them can see how manipulative Serafin is. I think Merik said at one point that Serafin wouldn’t waste his time or energy pitting his children against each other, but he very clearly has wasted a LOT of time and energy doing just that. Speaking of Merik… I know this kind of gets explained later in the book, but he’s always talking about how weak his witchery is, but he’s never seemed particularly weak to me. I mean, he can still use his powers to fly so…just how weak can he be?

Another thing that I’ve enjoyed in this book and series is that Dennard has done a great job including diversity without hitting the reader over the head with it. I feel like when diversity is so “present”, it kind of defeats the purpose. I think what we diverse readers are looking for is for diversity to be included in an authentic and organic way. Undue attention does not need to be drawn to it. I feel like Vivia’s sexuality is handled really well, in that regard. She obviously thinks about her relationship with Stix from time to time, but it’s not something that gets brought up in every single paragraph. I also appreciated the vitiligo rep with Cam. I don’t think I’ve EVER read a book that included a character with vitiligo.

The plot got a little more confusing in this book. It clearly feels like this book is being used to set up events in future books. That’s not necessarily bad, but there are some things that just feel like they don’t quite make sense yet.

While I really enjoyed this book overall, there were a few things that I didn’t quite care for. Fairly early on in the book, Iseult calls the Puppeteer by name, Esme. I didn’t remember her learning Esme’s name in the first book, so I did a quick Kindle search. The name “Esme” doesn’t appear ANYWHERE in the first book. So…yeah. All of the sudden Iseult knows her name and just casually drops it in there? The second thing is that I feel like Aeduan’s bloodwitchery should work on blood stains. I mean, he can seize blood, right? Stop it circulating in someone’s body? So why can’t he seize dried blood and lift it out of clothes?

The last thing, to address the title of this post, is that pretty much the whole book I anticipate feelings developing between Safi and one of the characters that she’s with. It kind of seemed like things were heading that way. Nothing comes of it in this book (luckily) but we’ll see what happens in future books. All I’m saying is that if Safi is part of a love triangle, that will completely cheapen the ENTIRE series.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

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Windwitch review

Why is it so hard to just pick a genre? | Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand

Sawkill GirlsGirls have been disappearing from Sawkill for decades, but no one seems to find this suspicious. Except for Zoey. Her best friend Thora disappeared last year and everyone seems to have forgotten. Zoey is positive that Val’s family has something to do with it, but nobody believes her. Marion is new to the island after her father had a tragically fatal accident. She and her sister have no idea that girls have been going missing–and that they might be next.

TL;DR – Ultimately disappointing. I felt like the book was trying to fit into too many genres at once. Overall, it felt like it was trying too hard and lost what it was trying to be.

This book started off delightfully mysterious and creepy with a hint of magical realism and I was so into it. Magical realism is a genre that I tend to really enjoy. I like the subtlety and wonder of it. Several things happen that are completely unsettling and I was ready to figure out what the heck was going on. But then the plot took this turn and there were secret organizations and it turned into this weird amalgamation of sci fi and fantasy and horror. It lost all subtlety and I felt like it cheapened the whole plot.

The characters were fine. I didn’t feel particularly connected to any of them. We have three narrators in Marion, Zoey, and Val, but I honestly wouldn’t have been super heartbroken if any of them hadn’t made it. Secondary characters were okay. Nobody was super developed. I thought Grayson was an exceptionally poor character, though. He literally served no purpose except to conveniently move the plot forward. We need someone to decipher a dead language? Conveniently, Grayson can do it! We need a boat? Grayson’s family has one!

I think a lot of readers will appreciate that all three of our main characters are queer. I appreciate the diversity too, but I’m not sure how it really plays into who the characters are and how they act. It felt like it was just kind of thrown in there so the author could claim diversity? I don’t know, maybe other people feel differently about that.

Overall, I was extremely disappointed by this book. I wanted it to be subtly creepy, but instead I feel like it tried to go too far and do too much and it lost me. I think the author should have stuck to a more subtle magical realism (like Bone Gap).

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Heavy
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Heavy

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Sawkill Girls review