Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Series: All Souls Trilogy #2

Rating: 3/5

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***Spoilers ahead for Book 1, A Discovery of Witches ***

Diana and Matthew time-travel to Elizabethan London and are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana searches for a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

This book, above all other things, reads as the author’s love letter to Elizabethean Europe.

While it was truly interesting learning about a lot of these places in this time period, I’m the type of person that has to stop and google any names that seem significant to find out why they’re important. I will say this contributed to my learning a lot more about Elizabethean figures and politics than I knew before, but it also probably tripled the amount of time it took to read the book. For this reason, I often found my attention drifting when sitting down to read and I had to take a break after getting about 1/3 of the way in because I just had no desire to continue. Ultimately, I am glad that I picked it back up.

This book is more…steamy than book 1, but a lot of the sex scenes have some hella awkward dialogue in them that had my snapchatting my buddy-reader to share secondhand embarrassment. There were some touching moments as well which gave a glimpse of what the future holds for Diana and Matthew. Matthew’s controlling tendencies are in full blast during the events of this novel. I’m more inclined to go along with the fantasy setting and fantasy man (cause Lord knows I would never put up with this type of behavior in real life), but it does get on some peoples nerves i.e. my aforementioned buddy reader.

Despite the length of this book (nearly 600 pages) I feel like nothing SIGNIFICANT really happened. Yes, there were some big lifestyle changes for the main characters, but no major revelations with Ashmole 782 or the origin of supernatural species occurred that justified the length to me.

I’m still holding out hope that the conclusion of the series will draw me in like A Discovery of Witches, but some of the review I’ve read are making me a little hesitant to start it.

Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Series: The Dark Artifices #1

Published: March 8, 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

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In a kingdom by the sea…

In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

The darkly magical world of Shadowhunters has captured the imaginations of millions of readers across the globe. Join the adventure in Lady Midnight, the long-awaited first volume of a new trilogy from Cassandra Clare.

Shadowhunters have been with me since middle school, and while a lot of people say it’s time for the series to end, I’m glad new spin-offs keep coming. I waited so long to read The Dark Artifices series because I know how heavy Clare’s cliffhangers can be. I may have waited a bit too long because now that the final book – A Queen of Air and Darkness – is out, I’m still reading Lord of Shadows

I absolutely love any world with faeries in it, which is part of the reason I was so excited to start Lady Midnight. While faeries did feature in it, we didn’t actually get to go into faerie which I was a little sad about (but I have it on good authority characters make the journey in the second installment). 

I loved seeing the Blackthorn children all grown up after seeing them briefly in City of Heavenly Angels and Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. Ty is undoubtedly one of my favorite characters from the Shadowhunterverse. The new characters of Kit Herondale and Cristina Rosales are also quite loveable and I’m intrigued to see how their storylines play out in the series. 

Teenage love angst is one of my favorite types of angst. The romance in this book is torturous and I shamelessly love it. Emma is the strong warrior, with Julian as the artistic family man. Their trials and tribulations – some of which would undoubtedly be resolved with communication – provided the real driving force behind the book to me. 

While the true “mystery”-based plot was intriguing the story did seem a bit like one that I’ve read before in the series – ultimately while I docked half a star. There were also a few instances that had me questioning the situations validity (SPOILER: i.e. a faerie horse-turned-motorcycle that can’t/doesn’t defend itself when other faerie steeds seem to be able to).

I’m very excited to dive into Lord of Shadows and I believe this book set up what may become my favorite Shadowhunter series! Have you read any of the Shadowhunter books? What did you think?

Review: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley29520965

Series: Damar #1

Published: 1982

Rating:★★★★ (4 Stars)

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Harry Crewe grew up a tomboy in forests, until her brother joined the Homelanders guarding the far desert reaches. Now an orphan, she joins him. Only a few months later, asking for military aid against advancing Northeners, comes Corlath, the Hillfolk King. After exchanging a single glance, his inner magic compels him to kidnap her, without knowing why. She does not know the Hillfolk language or why she has been chosen.

Renamed Hari, she sees visions, and brings one to all, of the Golden Age legendary Dragon-Killer Queen Aerin, who smiles upon her. Hari is trained in the arts of war until she is a match for any of the elite royal guard, and carries Aerin’s famed Blue Sword. Does she have the courage to accept her true fate?

Robin McKinley is one of the writers that I consistently am somewhat confused on the first read through, and during the second or third I can’t stop thinking how absolutely brilliant the story is. Admittedly, the only books by her I’ve read are Beauty, Rose Daughter, and Sunshine (all of which are Beauty and the Beast retellings of some kind – yes I include Sunshine in this). Doubtless, I will be drawn back to this story in the near future because McKinley’s prose does that to me. However, I do acknowledge that her style of writing is not for everyone.

Harry’s story would probably seem a little dull and over-used if published today. However, considering the book was published in 1982 I can see how this may have been new and fresh at the time.

The magic system was interesting even if it did need a little fleshing out – in fact a lot of the world could have used some further explanation.

Overall an enjoyable story that I probably would have enjoyed even more if I was a tad younger. If you enjoyed this book I would recommend Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series (although I do believe Pierce’s series is better – especially in the world-building aspects).

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, Danusia Stok (translator)40603587

Series: The Witcher #.5

Published: December 14, 2008 (originally 1993)

Rating★★★★ 1/2 (4.5 Stars)

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer. His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world. But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

A collection of short stories introducing Geralt of Rivia, to be followed by the first novel in the actual series, The Blood of Elves. Note that, while The Last Wish was published after The Sword of Destiny, the stories contained in The Last Wish take place first chronologically, and many of the individual stories were published before The Sword of Destiny.

I started this short story collection at the same time as I started the game Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and I felt that it really added to my video game experience. I’m so glad that I decided to pick up this book series because it adds so many layers over the world. A lot of these short stories are twisted and dark takes on classic fairytales which made them even more enjoyable for me because I LOVE a dark retelling.

The backstory of Geralt was something that was so unique and unlike most if not all fantasy stories I’ve read. Geralt is a dark and gritty assassin who has a grey moral compass that makes him all the more likable. There are so many decisions that he has to make in this first collection that have no all-together good or positive outcomes which is rare in a world where the good guy normally wins.

My one complaint is at some points the writing seemed a bit clunky – I believe this is likely because the book was translated from Polish to English and can’t really bring myself to dock a star because of it. I know that the rest of the series has a different translator, so I’m interested to see if the prose flows a bit better.

Now I just need to buckle down and finish the rest of the series before the Netflix adaptation of the books! I definitely recommend this series to any fantasy fans, whether or not you enjoy video games as well.

Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Millercirce

Published: April 10, 2018

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

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In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

I’m wavering on this rating right now because I feel like a lot of my feelings were influenced by the fact that I wanted to love it as much as The Song of Achilles, which is one of my favorite books of all time.

Miller’s way of retelling myths is so engrossing the reader feels as if they are witnessing them first had. I loved Circe’s voice throughout, and her acknowledgment and depiction of her faults. The characterization of the main players in this book were so vivid that I felt they could be real people – or gods as it may be.

I feel a lot more of this book was a retelling than TSOA (there I go with the comparisons again). While a lot of filling in the gaps occurs with explanations for Circe’s actions and the years of lost childhood, these myths were all well-known to me. It was amazing to see them brought to life in a new way, but I found myself putting the book down not yearning to read on.

Overall, a very enjoyable read that I will definitely revisit in the future when I’m in the mood for a retelling.

Review: The Star-Touched Queen

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi25203675

Series: The Star-Touched Queen #1

Published: April 26, 2016

Rating:★★★★ (4 Stars)

Goodreads

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

So much of this book felt like reading about a dream. The writing was absolutely fantastic and felt sparkly and syrupy, elevating this book from okay to enchanting. The storyline was almost like fable, many different lessons to be learned from the adventures Maya.

I put this book down after my first attempt at reading two years ago, and am glad that I came back to it. The first half of the book felt a lot like a huge set-up with not a lot happening. Some of Maya’s decisions are super frustrating; however, the lesson she learns from her decisions are believable and didn’t take away from the story.

I really enjoyed Amar and am sad that we didn’t get to learn more about him as a character. I know there is a short story featuring Maya and Amar, so I will definitely be looking for that to learn more about him!

I’m really looking forward to the sequel stand-alone, Crown of Wishes, which focuses on some of the secondary characters. I don’t want to go in with super high expectations, but I’ve heard the plot is a lot more developed and I’m excited to see this writing style used for full potential.

Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince by Holly Blackcruel prince.jpg

Series: The Cruel Prince #1

Published: January 2, 2018

Rating:★★★★★ (5 Stars)

Goodreads

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

I originally received a copy of this book in the January OwlCrate and am glad I waited this long to read it because the wait for The Wicked King is going to be EXCRUCIATING. While the beginning of this book was just a hair slow for me, from about 50 pages in I was enraptured by this amazing story.

Jude was the kind of ruthless heroine that I adore, and I loved her devious mind. My dear misunderstood faery Prince Cardan was just the kind of evil-but-slightly-misunderstood bad boy that makes my heart tick. I cannot wait to see what these wonderful characters get up to. Jude’s twin and Locke have a really interesting storyline as well that I’m super interested in seeing play out.

The twists and turns were so fun, with kernels planted throughout the story that had me thinking and trying to unravel the secrets even when I had to put the book down. I’ve tried Holly Black books before, but this is the first one that I have actually finished. Needless to say, I’ll be picking up more in the future.