Review: Warrior Witch

Standard

21851572.jpg

Goodreads Synopsis:

The thrilling conclusion to the breakout Malediction Trilogy by Goodreads Choice finalist Danielle L. Jensen.

Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.

As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.

But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

My enthusiasm for this series has steadily declined with each installment. It started out so strong but has steadily lost its depth in both plot and character development. It feels like all the growth we achieved from the first one, and arguably the beginning of the second, doesn’t continue

Now that Cecile has garnered Tristan’s trust, broken free of the kings compulsion, and ended the curse we see her still trying to figure out who she is and where she fits. As a result she’s insecure in her relationship with Tristan, and not knowing how to help in the overall battle to secure peace before war. And I feel like her impulsive decisions are only going to get her into even more trouble in this finale as she takes on things too big for her and too much responsibility in having gotten to where the world is now. I also wanted to see less convincing from Cecile when she decides she needs to do dangerous things. I would have been much more supportive of her if she had asserted herself if it’s the only way she can see things being done. Her back and forth of feeling useless and thinking she is the only one capable of getting something done was very frustrating.

Tristan is again the strongest character in this novel, and I liked watching him navigate the logic and emotions of what needed to be done. I also enjoyed that all of the characters were reunited and got to see more of the teamwork they displayed in the first book. The Summer King and Winter Queen did add some nice layers of conflict in this, but I felt like the solutions to the problems they presented were almost too easy. Something I think should have started in the second book, I would have enjoyed more complexities with those two.

There was a good ending to this book, and the series overall. I appreciated that it wasn’t nice and neat, and that the “epilogue” was from Tristan’s POV. Overall though, the series was lacking.

Review: Hidden Huntress

Standard

21851568.jpg

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sometimes, one must accomplish the impossible.

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

This started a bit rough. I had guessed in the first book what the trolls really are, but the liberal use of the term is a bit anticlimactic after all the secrecy in the first book. And the relationship between Cecile and Tristan is obviously going to be a rough ride in this second installment.  The intrigue behind the troll king and his motives is still a solid plot point though, and one of the aspects I enjoyed so much about the first book.

The main plot point of this book though is the mystery of who Anushka is, and that’s something I had guessed at in the first book. So the fact that the majority of this novel is spent trying to uncover this mystery, while I have known the answer even before this book started – a little bit due to the inevitability of it based on every other fantasy book – left me annoyed with the characters for the most part in their utter stupidity to not see what I thought was so obvious.

A lot of what I enjoy about second books is the expanded character development. While both Cecile and Tristan are gong though identity crises and dealing with the repercussions of their actions, I didn’t feel like there was much expansion with Cecile. Tristan however did show some improvement with his determination to trust beyond himself, and I appreciated that.

I felt like this second book ultimately wasn’t too necessary. Beyond the first third when the two are separated we get into a mystery that is glaringly obvious to everyone but our protagonists. And Cecile’s impulsiveness is moving beyond her ignorance of the first book into something more along the lines of idiocy. I really hope to see a better balance of her need for instant action with Tristan’s logic in the final book.

Review: Stolen Songbird

Standard

17926775.jpg

Goodreads Synopsis:

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the mountain. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she realises that the trolls are relying on her to break the curse.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind: escape. But the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time…

But the more time she spends with the trolls, the more she understands their plight. There is a rebellion brewing. And she just might be the one the trolls were looking for…

I don’t think this is categorized as a fairy tale retelling or anything but it has a strong Beauty and the Beast vibe, and I immensely enjoyed that aspect of this.

I liked the characters. The situation for Cecile’s arrival is traumatic, but I appreciate how she accepts that her best bet for survival is to wait for an opportunity, and to learn about her captors. Tristan is much more emotional and complex then his facade would leave one to believe, and I enjoyed seeing the layers revealed. The twins were a great spot of light in a very dark and twisted political and social setting. And as we discover the depths of the curse, and the additional factors of rebellion and harsh social classes this book becomes much more then a star-crossed lovers story.
When it comes to Tristan and Cecile though it’s hard for me to really note when they begin to forge a romantic relationship. They spend very little time together, though you do see a slow build of trust. I also enjoyed how they challenge each other, and the vulnerability they have in front of each other, it’s realistic. It’s also interesting how through their bond and understanding of the other they begin to take on some of each other’s traits. Tristan becomes more impulsive and in a way, selfish, wanting something that makes him personally happy. And Cecile starts to become selfless, wanting to help people she has no responsibility to help, and trying to be more strategic in her actions. However, I still didn’t see when their relationship became love.

I look forward to seeing how this series continues, and how solutions are found for the increased troubles we’ve developed in this first installment.

Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning

Standard

23203252.jpg

Goodreads Synopsis:

I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?

There was an extreme pattern of reviews for this. It was loved or it was hated, therefore I went into it with very low expectations. That was a good approach because it took me forever to read this because I just wasn’t into it. I forced myself not to let it fall into the DNF pile though because there wasn’t really anything that wrong with it.

I found it tropey, the writing choppy, and it did very little to draw me in. I didn’t feel a connection with the MC at all. There was great potential for a platonic relationship, but it become clear quite quickly that romantic feelings are in play, and then a slew of other boys enter the scene. Adding more romantic possibilities and a very obvious love triangle, or even square. . . Furthermore, none of these possible relationships are done well, leaving me irritated for the main fact that there are so many players and less effected by my personal ship goals – which were nonexistent. I will say though that there is very little time spent mooning over anyone.

The Victorianesque setting did not work for me in this. It’s not historical fiction, it’s not steampunk, it’s a fantasy with a very loose historic backdrop for aesthetic. I’m sure you can imagine how much that annoyed me. I also didn’t feel like Henrietta was sincere. Her desperate need to never be separated from Rook leads to never thinking about him unless someone else brings him up once she gets into her sorcery training.  And as we move into this core aspect of the story I had a lot of difficulties visualizing this world, these monsters, the techniques of their sorcery.

Obviously I had a lot of issues with this book. And I had plenty more listed in my notes but they are all a bit spoilery. I just couldn’t get into this, it felt rote and poorly executed and did very little to interest me in continuing the series. The only character I thought had any depth was Blackwood and I really hope he continues in his strength and doesn’t get boiled down to another love sick boy in the future installments. Though I have no intention of reading those so I suppose I don’t really need to worry.

Review: The Female of the Species

Standard

25812109

Goodreads Synopsis:

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

I think to start there needs to be a sort of notice. While this is technically labeled as a YA, it certainly isn’t. There is murder, metal illness, rape, and molestation. As well as terrible language, drug use, and a lot of questionable behavior by minors.

I really don’t understand how the age of the character is what determines the genre for YA and NA books.

All that being said. This book was so compelling and well written and I couldn’t put it down.

McGinnis has written about some really dark things, but always focuses on survival. And while I wasn’t too big of a fan of her historic novel, she jumps her game up exponentially with this book. She uses some of the darkest aspects of human nature as a setting, but somehow brings humor and life to it.
I really enjoyed the variety of characters, their personal struggles with their own identities and how they are expected to be perceived by society. Beyond the more troubling aspects that I mentioned in the disclaimer, this novel takes on daily struggles like social status, slut shaming, and the social reactions to behavior by males and females.
As I said before, I could not put this down. These three messed up, genuine, and various degrees of truly good people are so captivating and well developed. It’s about a girl whose irreparably damaged by the murder of her sister; a boy having trouble separating who he is based on what society expects and what he expects of himself; and a girl who’s let people walk over her most of her life and is now finding her voice.
McGinnis does so well at pointing out social inequalities in the way behavior is perceived between boys and girls in such a real and unarguable way. It would be so easy for people to write this off as a feminist rant, but it is so much more and is done is such a relateable way that I don’t see how people can’t see the truth in her examples.
All of the characters go through so much growth. Finding ways to be the people they want to be, while understanding that certain aspects can never truly change. The fact that Alex feels guilt and regret shows so much of how she’s changed. And how Jack and Peekay react to her actions show so much of how they have grown outside of their small town bubbles. They seek change in personal growth, becoming better versions of themselves with the help of their friends, who see the best in them. I loved this book, I loved it’s truth, and I loved the dark humor that made it all a little bit easier to swallow.

Review: Hunted

Standard

24485589

Goodreads Synopsis:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

The dedication and acknowledgements in this book were so amazing, usually I always notice them, but hardly to they actually make an impact on me.
This is a bit slow to start, but I really love Yeva and her quest to fit in with her family, even though she knows she’s different. And they know, but they all love each other all the more for their differences. It’s so nice to see such a healthy and supportive family depicted, usually we get the jealous sisters, indifferent brothers, uninterested/absent/abusive parents.
The retelling is so original, but still stays true to the core of the traditional story. I really enjoyed how the dynamic between the beast and Yeva develops. And the snippets from Beasts POV. We can see his humanity slowly breaking through the surface as Yeva challenges him and spends time with him. Similarly, she is burdened with the pressure to assimilate to common culture but in her time with him becomes free to discover herself. Once the two separate is when it becomes clear how much of a relationship they’ve actually developed.
I can’t say enough how well don’t the familial relationships are executed. There is a lot of potential for drama on Yeva’s return, but the sisters love for each other overcomes any of that. And the sense of self Yeva developed with the Beast translates into a confidence around her sisters to speak her mind and find a harmony with them and all their new situations. Similarly the Gaston character is nothing like the arrogant bully of the Disney renditions, he’s kind and truly cares for Yeva, and the two are able to establish a solid friendship that both take comfort in.
The ending did fell a little rushed in the development/silidification of the romantic relationship between Beast and Yeva, but one of the things I liked so much about this story was that it wasn’t all about love. I think it made sense the epiphany of Yeva’s feelings, though I did feel I missed out on seeing the two interact more as a couple.
Overall, this was fantastic.

 

Review: Daughter of the Pirate King

Standard

33643994.jpgGoodreads Synopsis:

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.

I went into this book expecting a lot of fun and adventure. It didn’t necessarily lack either of those, but for the majority of this book I felt that there was something lacking. I think that something was the main character . . . but there is potential still for her and the author as they work towards the companion novel.
You can tell this is a debut. It’s comes off as if it’s trying a little too hard from the start and does a lot more telling as opposed to showing. The telling is what irked me for the majority of this novel. Our main character tells us everything – I mean everything. There is nothing left for us to deduce on our own through actions, mannerisms, or expressions. And while we are getting an ongoing narration of the events by Alosa, we are also getting her very arrogant opinions. While I understand that with a first person narration we are going to have bias from the narrator, I felt it was too much at times and had to set the book down because of how irritated I was getting. Furthermore, the action felt very slapstick, with such a ‘badass’ I hoped for more than literal bashing of heads together to get out of every scenario.
This all does begin to improve after the charading dies down and we get more information about the reason why Alosa is on the ship and more about her relationship with her father. The dynamic of Alosa and Riden also gets more entertaining as they play off each other’s more intimate traits. And I’m glad that whiles there’s on ongoing flirtation, we don’t fall into instalove. There really isn’t any romance at all, which I appreciated. We have the flirtation, the attraction between the two that they use to get what they want from the other, but there is no indication of deeper feeling until the end, and even then neither one is really sure enough about those feelings or their trust in the other person to admit them. While I had a lot of issues with the book in general, this was one of the redeeming qualities for me.
As we got into the bigger secret reveals and deeper into the characters minds we also start to loose some of the immaturity of the beginning of the book. The revelation of Alosa’s “secret” didn’t surprise me at all, but I can see how it adds complexity to the story. And now that we know, hopefully as we move forward she will be less cryptic. I did enjoy the few moments we had with Alosa without her tricks and masks to hide behind. If the next novel deals with that girl I would be very interested, but I will have to see what the reviews are before I commit to signing back on with Alosa.