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).

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)

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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.

Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller33643994

Series: Daughter of the Pirate King #1

Published: February 28, 2017

Rating: 3.5/5

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There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

This book was so hard for me to attempt to review because I found it so addicting but there were so many little things that took away some of the enjoyment for me.

I loved Alosa, she reminded me a lot of Celaena from Throne of Glass and sassy heroines are my favorite. Similarly, I enjoyed the love interest Riden. He was sensitive and clever even though surrounded by horrible people, he didn’t seem to let them bother him.

After such a strong first half, the second half of the book really let me down. The amount of times Alosa “escaped” confinement started to feel a little ridiculous. Everything started to feel a little too convenient with the plot. The last few chapters helped to redeem the ending, with a few twists that had me anxious for the sequel. However, one of the supposed “big surprises” of the book was completely spoiled by the title of the sequel! That proved a little disappointing for me.

Overall, it was such a quick and fun read – perfect for a day at the beach which is where i read almost the entire book. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel soon!

Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Reneé Ahdieh

The Rose and the Dagger by Reneé Ahdieh23308084

Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #2

Published: April 26, 2016

Rating: 5/5

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*Spoilers for Book 1 – you can see that review HERE*

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

The conclusion to The Wrath and the Dawn duology was even more enchanting and epic than the first. Some of the issues that I found with the first book were still present (you can read my review for that HERE), but I found that I could not fault the sequel for the problems made in the first installment.

The sacrifices made in this book had me crying – and okay yes, I know that I am an easy crier but I seriously had ALL THE FEELS.

There are plot twists that I didn’t see coming that had me setting down the book in surprise. The introduction of some brand new characters has me thirsting for new stories for everyone in the book because so many remain unexplored! I really hope Ahdieh releases at least some novellas about them in the near future.

The relationship between Shazi and Khalid develops even further, along with their characters. More information about Khalid is given, and it makes me love him even more. The unfailing support that Shazi offers him made my heart swell!

Overall an amazing duology that I have no doubt I’ll be rereading again in the future.

Review: The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander24780

Series: The Chronicles of Prydain #1

Published: May 12, 1964

Rating: 4/5

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Taran wanted to be a hero, and looking after a pig wasn’t exactly heroic, even though Hen Wen was an oracular pig. But the day that Hen Wen vanished, Taran was led into an enchanting and perilous world. With his band of followers, he confronted the Horned King and his terrible Cauldron-Born. These were the forces of evil, and only Hen Wen knew the secret of keeping the kingdom of Prydain safe from them. But who would find her first?

Did I finally pick this series up because my favorite author named her son after one of the characters? Why yes, yes I did. (Sarah J. Maas named her son Taran for those who were curious.) I really greatly did enjoy The Book of Three, in large part due to the fantastic narrator of the audiobook version.

There are a lot of similarities to Lord of the Rings–in some ways it almost felt like a child’s retelling of the classic. A lot of the names and character types were the same. A small group goes on a quest to warn others of the danger of an evil “horned” king that reminds me quite a bit of the Witch-King of Angmar.

Taran was a likable character – what I would consider a “typical” early teenage boy. He was stubborn and tried to say he was better than those around him. The true hero of this book in my opinion was Princess Eilonwy, who was smart, funny and powerful. She had no issue putting Taran in his place and pointing out when he was wrong.

Overall, there wasn’t really anything that I didn’t enjoy about this book, other than the LOTR similarities but I feel like those were more consequential. The storyline just didn’t really wow me, although I’ve been told this series gets better with each installment. I will be continuing on, hopefully with the same audiobook narrator! enchanting kids story

Review: The Queen’s Rising

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross35098412

Series: The Queen’s Rising #1

Published: February 6, 2018

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

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When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

Brienna was a lover of books and knowledge that I was able to relate to. Even though she wasn’t “naturally” gifted at any of the passions, she worked hard to learn everything she could in the time she was given. Her hard work and perseverance remained even when faced with insurmountable odds.

I love some slowburn romance, and this book delivers on that with the relationship between Brienna and her Master, Cartier. And when I say slowburn, I mean SLOW. In fact, there could have been just a little more romance because after that ending I’m left in AGONY.

This book reads a lot like a standalone. I even checked to see if it was a series halfway through because of the way everything was wrapping up! There really wasn’t anything that wasn’t tied up neatly at the end of The Queen’s Rising, which makes me wonder where the story will go in future installments. There were a few points where I found myself rolling my eyes at plot points (after reading Northanger Abbey, secret passageways will forever make me chuckle), but these parts didn’t really take away from my enjoyment.

This book would have been a lot more enjoyable for me if the major plot twists hadn’t been spoiled by the lineage charts in the beginning. The entire book, the main character wonders about who her father is (the “secret” is revealed like the BIG shock of the book) but the answer is available right in the front for anyone who looks! There are other reveals that can be easily figured out by looking at these charts as well, so I was kind of sad there weren’t any twists I didn’t know. That being said, I will definitely be checking out the next book in the series to see how Brienna is doing!

Review: Wolf-Speaker

Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce7123950

Series: Immortals #2

Published: January 1, 1993

Rating:★★★★ (4 Stars)

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When Daine is summoned by the wolf pack that saved her life a year earlier, she knows she has to go. She and Numair travel to Dunlath Valley to answer the call. But when they arrive, Daine realizes with a shock that it’s not just the animals whose lives are threatened; people are in danger too. Dunlath’s rulers have discovered black opals in their valley and are dead set on mining the magic these stones embody. Daine learns that Dunlath’s lord and lady plan to use this power to overthrow King Jonathan — even if it means irreversibly damaging the land and killing their workers.

On a mission to save both her animal friends and her human ones, Daine has to master her wild magic in order to fight for the kingdom and triumph over the would-be usurpers.

I didn’t enjoy Book 2 in the Immortals series as much as I enjoyed Book 1, although in general Pierce’s writing is un-put-downable. There was a lot less action in Wolf-Speaker than in Wild Magic (review HERE), with more of the focus being on family structure and Daine discovering more about her powers.

I missed having Numair around interacting with Daine; however, his absence meant there was more focus on Daine’s personal growth. She was able to learn more about her animal control powers as well as shape shifting, which are things her mentor likely couldn’t have taught her much about anyway. These powers open up so much opportunity for what she can do in the future!

Wolves are some of my favorite animals, so exploring the pack structure from a “wolf’s” point of view was intriguing. With the level of detail, it was obvious that Pierce did her research on the topic. Even though Daine entering the minds of different animals was interesting, I’m excited for her to return to human civilization and use her powers to influence Tortallan history! I’ll definitely be picking up Book 3, The Emperor Mage, very soon.