Review: Lord of Shadows

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Published: May 23, 2017

Series: The Dark Artifices #2

Rating: ★★★★★

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WARNING: SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1 – LADY MIDNIGHT REVIEW

Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.


The relationship between Emma and Julian was as angsty as ever – and most of the angst probably could’ve been eliminated with a candid conversation between the two. This kind of tension is one of my favorites when done well, and I do believe that Clare pulls it off in this series. 

Seeing Cristina’s relationships with both Kieran and Mark develop was intriguing and has me questioning what will happen to the three of them over time. Likewise, I’m really looking forward to seeing some more Ty and Kit interactions. It’s safe to say that Ty and Kit are my favorite “non-main” characters. I was constantly hoping to catch glimpses of them throughout. 

I enjoyed getting to explore faerie a bit more than in the previous installment, although again I wish there was more time spent Under the Hill. My obvious personal preference is for anything faerie and I’m sooo curious about how Clare’s measures up to other popular interpretations. 

The end of this book was devastating and I would have been sobbing if it hadn’t been spoiled for me, and that’s all that will be said on that. (I somehow managed to avoid all spoilers until a week before I finished it so I’m just a little bitter.)

This book includes more hints at the end game of the series, and I’m so excited to see how all the different threads wrap up in Queen of Air and Darkness.

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).

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)

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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: 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 Wrath and the Dawn by Reneé Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn by Reneé Ahdieh18798983

Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1

Published: May 12, 2015

Rating: 4.5/5

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One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

I was sooo close to rating this book five stars because it was absolutely enchanting, but there were a few things that held me back from giving it the penultimate rating.

Ahdieh’s writing is absolutely transporting – I felt as though I were truly a part of the story and the tension kept me on the edge of my seat. However, in a few places, I felt that the situation or scenery was being explained to me rather than shown to me which seemed disjointed when compared to the prose surrounding these sections. There was also a lot of terminology that had me flipping to the glossary in the back during the middle of the story because the word wasn’t explained other than a vague reference to it “an endearment” or “a title.” This part helped to build the world of the story once the meanings were understood but was a little annoying at the beginning.

Hate-to-love romance is one of my favorite tropes of all time, which is my way of saying I loved the romance. Shazi and Khalid provide perfect foils for each other, pointing out each other’s weaknesses and strengths and helping each other flourish. There is a side romance between two characters that I also love and is further explored in a companion novella which I will be reading and reviewing later.

The one other issue I had with with this book was a plot point that seemed odd to me. It is mentioned repeatedly that Shazi is close with a very important and powerful family in this book who is one of Khalid’s bannermen. It was very strange to me that Shazi was not familiar with any of Khalid’s past, given that he was the King of Kings and would likely be talked about in the powerful circles. That being said, I don’t know enough about the court life and communication of the time period to know whether the personal life of the Caliph would be known among the nobility.

I absolutely cannot wait to read the sequel because this installment was absolutely amazing! I don’t want this story to end!

Review: The Realm of the Gods

13834The Realm of the Gods by Tamora Pierce

Series: The Immortals #4

Published: January 1, 1996

Rating: 4/5

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During a dire battle against the fearsome Skinners, Daine and her mage teacher Numair are swept into the Divine Realms. Though happy to be alive, they are not where they want to be. They are desperately needed back home, where their old enemy, Ozorne, and his army of strange creatures are waging war against Tortall.

Trapped in the mystical realms Daine discovers her mysterious parentage. And as these secrets of her past are revealed so is the treacherous way back to Tortall. So they embark on an extraordinary journey home, where the fate of all Tortall rests with Daine and her wild magic.

Overall a great conclusion to the series! There was a lot more adventuring and action in this one than in its predecessors. Even though the last half was action-packed, I did find the first half a bit slow which is the main reason for docking half a star.

One of my favorite mythical creatures are dragons, so seeing them interact with the world of Tortall was amazing. Along with more dragons, the origin story of Darkings which were characters I found out about in the Daughter of the Lioness series, was amazing. They are some of the cutest creatures ever (even if how they were made is a little disgusting).

Although I enjoyed all of the many mythical creatures, the Trickster’s (Daughter of the Lioness) series is still by far my favorite by Tamora Pierce. In fact, one of my favorite things in The Immortals series was learning more about the backstory for characters in the aforementioned series,.

Review: Emperor Mage

Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce2573118

Series: The Immortals Quartet #3

Published: November 17, 1994

Rating: 4/5

Sent to Carthak as part of the Tortallan peace delegation, Daine finds herself in the middle of a sticky political situation. She doesn’t like the Carthaki practice of keeping slaves, but it’s not her place to say anything — she’s just there to heal the emperor’s birds. It’s extremely frustrating! What’s more, her power has grown in a mysterious way.
As the peace talks stall, Daine puzzles over Carthak’s two-faced Emperor Ozorne. How can he be so caring with his birds and so cruel to his people? Daine is sure he’s planning something. Daine must fight the powerful Emperor Mage, knowing that the safety and peace of the realm depend on stopping Ozorne’s power-hungry schemes.

I love continuing the story of Daine, but this one didn’t seem as enchanting to me as the last two installments in The Immortals series. Daine continues to grow as a young woman, and I love the lessons that the author attempts to put out there in this book (and which are wonderful to teach younger young adults).

The world of Carthage felt a little underdeveloped to me, maybe because there was so much world building for the Copper Isles in the Trickster’s series that I knew Pierce was capable of more. I’m looking forward to reading Numair’s series to see more development on the country and some of the background characters in this book. The main reason that I docked a whole star was because there was a whole dinosaur debacle seemed a little out there, even for a fantasy series. That being said, I totally would have loved those scenes as a young girl.

I’m still hopeful that the last book in the series will pick up, even though I feel like the first one is still the strongest right now. Although I love Daine as a character, I currently feel that The Immortals is my least favorite out of three Pierce series I’ve read. We’ll see if the fourth book can raise it up!

P. S. The fact that this book was published two years before I was born makes me feel old.