Review: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce13836

Series: Immortals #1

Published: December 1, 1992

Rating★★★★ (5 Stars)

Goodreads

Young Daine’s knack with horses gets her a job helping the royal horsemistress drive a herd of ponies to Tortall. Soon it becomes clear that Daine’s talent, as much as she struggles to hide it, is downright magical. Horses and other animals not only obey, but listen to her words. Daine, though, will have to learn to trust humans before she can come to terms with her powers, her past, and herself.

I was so excited to return to the magical world of Tortall that Pierce has built. I’m reading all of the series out of order, but I felt it was finally time to learn Daine’s whole story because I wanted to learn more about Numair before starting his new series.

Daine was such a wonderful, strong, and independent female character, especially for her age young of 13! I love how much Daine developed and grew throughout the story. Being able to observe her learning to trust others as well as grow into her own power  was an amazing experience. Numair was a witty mentor to Daine, and I felt his influence helped her on her journey.

I’ve already read the Trickster’s series so I know a bit more about the pair then I should at this point, but that makes me even more excited to see how they both develop. The enthralling storyline and strong characters reminded me exactly why I was drawn to Pierce’s writing as a young adult, and I’m so happy to be able to enjoy these still in my 20’s!

Review: The Glass Spare

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano29622131

Published: October 24, 2016 by Balzer + Bray

Series: The Glass Spare #1

Rating★★1/2  (3.5 stars)

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A banished princess.
A deadly curse.
A kingdom at war.

Wil Heidle, the only daughter of the king of the world’s wealthiest nation, has grown up in the shadows. Kept hidden from the world in order to serve as a spy for her father—whose obsession with building his empire is causing a war—Wil wants nothing more than to explore the world beyond her kingdom, if only her father would give her the chance.

Until one night Wil is attacked, and she discovers a dangerous secret. Her touch turns people into gemstone. At first Wil is horrified—but as she tests its limits, she’s drawn more and more to the strange and volatile ability. When it leads to tragedy, Wil is forced to face the destructive power within her and finally leave her home to seek the truth and a cure.

But finding the key to her redemption puts her in the path of a cursed prince who has his own ideas for what to do with her power.

With a world on the brink of war and a power of ultimate destruction, can Wil find a way to help the kingdom that’s turned its back on her, or will she betray her past and her family forever?

The Glass Spare was an enchanting story that I found absolutely addicting. I received this book in an OwlCrate last year, and it is probably one of the favorite books I have received from the box over the years.

I loved the world-building, although some of the different countries that were traveled to weren’t fleshed out very much, I always had an idea of the what the scenery was like. The blend of fantasy with technology and alchemy with science made for an interesting dichotomy.

I thought Wil was a strong female character who made decisions befitting her age and seemed to learn from her mistakes. Loom (the male lead) was an interesting side character, although I hope to learn more about his backstory and personality which seemed a little shallow. This may also be because he didn’t show up until a third of the way through the book. One of the issues I had with this story was Wil’s age. I kind of wish she was older because it was a little disorienting that this 15 year old girl was lusting after a married man whose wife had a child. This being said, 15 year old me probably would have found this kind of love story super romantic.

Overall, I thought this book was very strong until the last 100 pages, which is when so many overly-convenient things start to happen to further the plot. The reasons behind a few of the character’s positions and  were very hazy and didn’t make sense if you thought about them even a little bit. This really detracted from the book for me (if you’ve read my last few YA reviews, you know overly-convenient plot points have been getting on my nerves), which I was ready to rate higher up to this point.

I will definitely be reading the conclusion to this duology when it comes out later this year to see where Wil and Loom end up!

Have you read this book? What did you think about it?

Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi34728667

Published: March 6, 2018

Series: Legacy of Orïsha #1

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy. 

An absolutely marvelous debut from Tomi Adeyemi. The world of magic  is so cinematic, it was easy to see why the book was optioned for film before it was even published.

However, this book was a major let down for me with the plethora of tropes and a writing style that wasn’t really my jam. This review was so hard to write, because to be honest, I probably would have rated it a solid 4 stars if not for the romance. Because I’m in the unpopular opinion crowd and so many people love this book, I thought it was necessary to focus more on explaining the things I didn’t enjoy and why. There may be some spoilers throughout, but I have tried to mark them.

The Writing

There are a lot of “older” YA themes in the beginning of this book (trigger warning: attempted rape happens in the first chapter). Because of this and the general bloodiness of the entire thing, I was expecting a more mature writing style; however, I kept thinking “this reminds me of a middle grade” throughout with the dialogue and character expression mirroring things I would expect in Percy Jackson. There were times where I was getting into the story and felt physically jolted out when this “younger” writing style switched to a bloody scene.

Some minor plot issues I had (a little SPOILERY): stopping to play in a river when you know that an entire army is coming after you. Screaming at someone (it’s even suggested others probably heard) when there is a super defended fortress you’re trying to breach down the hill from you. Stopping for a party when you’re on the deadline to “save the world.”  The consequences of some of these actions had me rolling my eyes because they were just SO obvious, and you’d think the characters would learn from their mistakes the first one or two times.

The World Building

Many themes in this book are based off of mythology and other aspects of Nigeria, which makes it unique in its own right. However, because the author drew so much from a real world place, the fantasy world suffered for it. While the magic system was explained, I never felt truly immersed in the scenery which I think is necessary to be truly engrossed in a fantasy novel. I did love the magic system, and really hope it gets explored more in future installments! It’s so interesting and complex and I feel like only the surface has been scratched.

A large part of the book is attributed to the god’s favors and meddling, but there were a few instances where I found myself raising my eyebrows at how easy/convenient something turned out for the characters. A lot of these were things I believe will be a lot more forgiving in a movie format than in a book, so I can’t wait to see how it’s interpreted on the big screen.

The Characters

The book often switches points of view, and I enjoyed Amari’s the best. Amari and Tzain were my two favorite characters, and seemed to be the only two that exercised common sense.

I loved the fearlessness and toughness of Zélie, but so much of her narrative was fueled by hatred and vengeance I had a hard time connecting with her while she was constantly projecting it onto others. If you’re going to learn a particular weapon so you don’t have to kill people, and preach about peace, you should practice it. (view spoiler) She doesn’t seem to learn or evolve this view throughout the book despite my hopes.

And Inan. He is one of the most indecisive MC’s I’ve ever encountered. It was very frustrating how his opinons changed drastically throughout the book, sometimes over the course of a single night.

The Romance

My least favorite part of this book by far, and spoilers can not be avoided, although I will try to keep it vague. (view spoiler) The entire thing skeeved me out because of the abruptness of the switch from violence to love.

Conclusions

Even though this book wasn’t for me, a lot of people will enjoy it. I feel like I may have focused so much on the negatives in this book because I went into it with such high hopes of a fresh and unique YA fantasy. So many tropes are regurgitated here that I found myself guessing what would happen in advance 99% of the time. If anything, this book has convinced me I may be outgrowing YA fantasy because so many things the main character does got on my nerves.

While I didn’t enjoy the book, it’s important to recognize the importance of a strong woman of color lead – a demographic that is severely lacking in fantasy books for all ages. I’m waiting for the day where I can recommend other books with similar themes as examples of novels I did enjoy. For the time being, this book is truly in a league of its own with the messages and representation it sets out to convey in a fantasy format.

I’ll definitely be watching the movie adaptation, and may check out future books in the series to see how the conflict is resolved.

 

Review: Three Dark Crowns

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake23207027

Published: September 20, 2016 by HarperTeen

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose … it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest … but she may be the darkest.

It’s been over a year since I first picked up this book, and after a LONG sitting half read on my shelf, I finally finished it as a part of the OwlCrate-a-thon challenge (you can read more about that in my post HERE)!

The dialogue throughout felt clunky because of the stiff way everyone talks. By this I mean the characters rarely ever abbreviate (It is good vs. it’s good) making the heavy dialogue scenes feel kind of robotic. It took me a bit to get into the book because of this, and I found it nearly impossible to be reading this book and others at the same time.

Overall I found the characters pretty likeable, and I’m still struggling to decide which queen to back! I personally like Katherine, the poisoner queen, but everyone else to seems to support either Mirabella or Arsinoe. My personal preference always seems to be for the “misunderstood” characters which may account for this decision.

The romance in this book left something to be desired. Yes, it’s nice to have less romance-heavy YA fantasy, but when it is included I like the men not to be pigs (illegal dark magic aside). Hopefully the next book expands upon the love interests already in place, I’d really like to know the motivations behind one of the scenes located almost at the end of the book (no spoilers!).

I’ll likely pick up the rest of the series because not knowing what happens to the queens would kill me. While the story was ultimately good and captured my interest, I just found the dialogue and some plot points a little too detracting for a four star rating.

Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton24934065

Published: March 8, 2016

Rating: 4/5                                                       Goodreads

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic.  For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.

Amani Al’Hiza is all three.  She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

I honestly enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I picked it up from the library because I saw the third book in the series is being released in March and figured, “why not read about an awesome desert-gunslinging girl?” The writing was entrancing, and I was genuinely surprised by a major plot twist, which hasn’t really been happening to me lately.

The world building was nearly seamless, with a rich history that I would love to explore more, and and is hopefully expanded upon in the next book. The magic system was intricate enough to keep my interest, and the monsters of the desert were awesome. I just wish that they had played a larger roll. A few days after reading this, and I still find myself sometimes thinking about the amazing creatures in this desert!

I absolutely adored the characters Jin and Amani, and can’t wait to see them develop (and hopefully become more romantically involved ;)) throughout the series. All of the characters were awesome, but I just felt like there wasn’t enough development with some of the minor players, which is the main reason why I rounded down in my rating – I know, I’m picky. This book wasn’t very long though, and I’m sure many details will be fleshed out further in the following installments.

Overall, I liked this book a lot and will definitely be picking up the others in the series.

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli32667458

Series: Iskari #1

Published: October 3, 2017

Rating: 3.5/5

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

I really enjoyed this book, and think that this is a promising debut from Ciccarelli. I mean, DRAGONS!!! It’s been a while since I’ve read a solid book featuring some of my favorite creatures. The world-building was wonderful and unique, with the stories and lore intertwined into the text. I agree with some other reviews I’ve seen that the backstory located within chapters, especially towards the beginning, seemed a bit clunky. There are only so many times a girl can “get distracted while staring into space and thinking about things that happened in the past” before it’s too much.

The love interest in the book was refreshing, even if it took Asha a long time to realize it was romance when it’s pretty obvious from the beginning. Torwin was a strong character by himself, without detracting from the strength and fearlessness of Asha herself. I love the high lady falling in love with a slave/guard trope. There is a lot of room for their relationship to develop in the future as the “big reveal” at the end can change a lot of their dynamic.

I definitely will be picking up the other books in this series when they come out. I’m excited to see where Asha’s journey takes her as she works to bring the stories back to Firgaard.

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 12.23.15 PM

 

An Enchantment of Ravens

30969741An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Published September 26, 2017

Rating: 2.5/5

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

First of all, look at that beautiful cover from Charlie Bowater, one of my favorite artists. (In person, it is also a bit shimmery and gorgeous.)

I feel as though I’m in the minority of people who was not utterly enchanted by this book. While I believe An Enchantment of Ravens is a wonderful debut, there were a few problems that I had with the lack of development of both the world and some of the characters that are repeatedly mentioned. While only so much can be covered in 300 pages, parts of it felt really unfinished.

My main complaint is the shallowness in the relationships between the main character Isobel and her family members. Her “little sisters” seem thrown into the story almost purely for the whimsical and magical aspect rather than anything to further the story. The scenery, while described in the beginning, seems to drop off as the book continues and the character travels.

The main love interest, Rook, while full of funny quips and questions, in many cases seems a bit naive for a Fae who is supposedly thousands of years old. While he may not be used to human culture, his childishness was a little too overplayed for my taste. GIVE ME POSSESSIVE FAE MALES. *ahem*

Perhaps part of my negativity comes from just having reread the entire A Court of Thorns and Roses series, which has (in my opinion) such deep characters and vivid world. An Enchantment of Ravens is marketed to more of a middle-grade audience, so there is considerably less physical romance occurring and it is all around more innocent. Does this mean I’m officially outgrowing middle-grade fantasy ??? D: D: D:

Don’t be dissuaded if this was initially something you thought you might like. As stated previously, a lot of people absolutely ADORED this book (including people whose tastes I hold in high regard). Maybe this was just a kind of “right read, wrong time” book for me. Perhaps I’ll pick it up again in the future. There is a bit of an open ending which implies that there may be more books if the publisher is so inclined to sign more.