Review: A Conjuring of Light

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29939230Goodreads Synopsis:

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

I chose not to re-read the first two books in the series, and regretted it slightly as I didn’t remember them as well as I thought I did. I’m sure this is a series I will revisit though so my marathon reading of them the next time should be pretty good.

I love the relationship between Kell and Lila, it’s always been so fun to watch, but it’s finally solidified in this finale. They work so well together and even when they disagree they still care and support each other because they know their common goals are the same. Ultimately they just get each other and both want an escape on top of the need to protect those around them.

Rhy has grown up so much and I like seeing him act like the prince he is and stand up to Alucard, as well as those in his court. He takes on so much more responsibility in this finale and finally lets go of the angst and childness he used to cope with his responsibilities in the previous books. I loved this growth in him, and the continued devotion between he and Kell.

The Shadow king provides such a strong foe, and seeing how all the Antari have to work together brings alot of different pieces and personalities together. Kell is finally finding his place. He’s accepting his role as Rhys’s brother and starting to feel appreciated by the king and queen. And through Lila he’s gained a partner to help him deal with the questions he’s always had about his life. He’s also relaxed a lot and I like seeing him trust Lila and Rhy and other companions  instead of trying to control everything. Holland’s back story makes him even more of a conflicting character. He’s done so many terrible things, and continues to bait Lila and Kell, but he’s also had a really hard go of it and could have turned out so much worse. Lila is a fierce as ever, but she’s also finding a balance between her need to be strong and independent and realizing that having people she cares about might be worth the danger of losing them.

I liked how the character from Grey London is brought in, and how it shows the spread of the Shadow King’s power. The politics within the palace is also interesting, we get to see more of the king and queen and the larger power plays going on in the kingdoms outside of the magical threats. There were good endings for all the characters and for the world’s too, and I really enjoyed that even though some were bittersweet, we got happy endings all around.

Review: Windwitch

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

 I knew there was no reunions from previous reviewers, but it was still upsetting.  Especially since Merik and Safi they think the other is dead. While we don’t get a reunion between Safi or Iseult either, I like that the connection through the threadstones gives them a solid link to the other. And while Iseult and Aeduan are working together we get to see a lot more development between those two that was only hinted at in Truthwitch.
We get a new POV with Vivia, Merik’s sister who we come into this story having a very set reaction to. Seeing her inner workings and watching how she grows throughout the book make it clear that she and Merik have very similar goals and both care deeply for their country and their people. Merik is forced into a lot of self discovery, and confronted by the truthbombs his new companion Cam drops and he’s forced to look beyond himself in the saving of Nubrevna. It was very interesting to watch Merik spiral into a vigilante like figure and realize that though all of his intentions were good ones, he had not necessarily made things better for others, or himself, in his actions. As Merik became a quick favorite of mine in the first book, it was hard seeing the darker side of him. Dennard did such a fantastic job though in keeping him true to his character traits while exploring this dark and hopeless side of him.
On top of Cam we get a slew of new characters with the entrance of the Chiseled Cheater as a Hell-Bard commander and his two soldiers. And I look forward to seeing how all these new characters play into the overall tapestry of events as the political climate gets more complicated. The hell-bards bring up a lot of interesting questions when it comes to magic, and I enjoyed watching the tentative trust build between them and an alliance builds. I really hope we don’t see a love triangle with Safi, Caden, and Merik though. Or a turn like in the 4th Throne of Glass book. . .
My favorite part of this book quickly became watching Aeduan and Iseult interact. The two are really similar so seeing how little traits show their emotions to each other made them so much more human. They both have a dark power too, so as they come to terms with that, and the growing sense of responsibility for each other, they form a deep companionship that I don’t think either knows how to handle. On top of their alliance, they unearth more secrets about the Raider King and how far his reach spans. I really hope the two continue to work together and they confide in each other to reveal answers to common questions they unknowingly share.
The shadow man brings up a lot of questions about cleaving, he’s super creepy too.  I was hoping more would be revealed about Aeduan’s father and his ultimate goal, as well as Aeduan’s back story. The sudden reappearance of Ryber was strange to me, but I’m hoping we find out what she was doing in the next installment. Overall there was tons of character growth for all parties, and with them all being in a similar geographic region in this next book I’m looking forward to some reunions, especially between a certain dead prince and rouge domna.

 

Review: Wanted

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Goodeads Synopsis:

In the sequel to Spelled, can Robin Hood’s daughter, Rexi, stop the Wicked Witch from finding Excalibur?

Fairy-Tale Survival Rule No. 52:
No matter how difficult the obstacles or all-powerful the evil villain, one can rest assured that the hero of the story never dies. The sidekicks though…they should be worried.

Rexi Hood is proud to be an outlaw. After all, she’s the daughter of the infamous Robin Hood. But sidekick? Accomplice? Sorry, that wasn’t in her story description. Yeah, she and Princess Dorthea of Emerald have been inseparable since they teamed up to fight the wickedest witch. But if Rexi doesn’t figure out how to break the curse that binds them, forget being overshadowed by the spirited princess, Rexi’s going to become a Forgotten, wiped from the pages of Story and reduced to a puddle of ink.

Not happening. No way in Spell.

Rexi’s plan? Steal the sword Excalibur and use its magic to write her own tale. But Gwenevere has opened a new Academy of Villains in Camelot and danger lurks behind every plot twist. And you know how it goes in Story: keep your friends close and your enemies closer…

I wasn’t a huge fan of Rex in the first book, but hoped this installment would shine some redeeming qualities on her that we couldn’t see on the surface in  Spelled, alas it was not so. And the non stop snark was a bit much. She’s so cynical and still judges Dorthea, and to an extent Kato, off their traditional fairy tale roles, as opposed to the merits and actions of their time together.
I did like the addition of King Arthur and his story to the ongoing fairy tales, however I didn’t think the two stories were merged well. And while Rexi worked between these two worlds she constantly talks about Dorthea, who brought her back from the dead over and over again – usually from stupid situations she got herself into – like she’s still some selfish brat. Rexi is the selfish brat in these circumstances, the one who yelled at Dorthea for not taking responsibility for her own actions in the first book, but is doing exactly the same thing now. Obviously I could not stand her for the majority of this novel.
After Dorthea makes Rexi the magic shoes she gets a bit better. Rex seems to understand that no one was after her, and has a “grass is greener” moment when she’s finally on her own. I got very hopeful with this revelation of hers and thought it was a sign of character growth, but it didn’t last long. Whatever small amount of growth she does achieve is not until the very end, when she sees just how much damage her choices made.
I hated that Rexi is/thinks she’s having feelings for Kato. Why can’t there just be platonic love between them, like Kato amd Dorthea feel for her? I thought the addition of the love triangle idea was completely unnecessary and one more tally against this book. I did really like the addition of Mordred, and how he doesn’t worry about good or evil, and is a little of both, but still honorable. And I think he and Rexi have much more compatibility then she would ever have with Kato.
This was a lackluster sequel to the first book, which I was surprised by and loved for it’s original take on the classic fairy tales and the growth of Dorthea. Hopefully the third book will redeem this series, especially since I think we are going back to Dorthea’s perspective.

Review: Caraval

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

 This is definitely a case of purple prose. I understand that part of it is a physical representation of Scarlett seeing emotions, but I would have appreciated a cause to that, or more of an explanation about it at least. I also would have liked to have more more of a reason for their father’s cruelty, I feel like it would have made more sense if he was bad before his wife disappeared too.
I wasn’t as wowed by this magical game as I expected to be, especially with all the rave reviews I saw before this came out. Character development happened all at once, I didn’t really see much gradual self awareness with Scarlett, just all of a sudden she decides she’s going to be her own woman and stop letting other people scare her into obeying. And I also didn’t really like her all that much in general.
One complaint that I agree with has to do with the sibling bond, which was supposed to be the center of the story, but for most of the book it seemed like a very one sided relationship. And even then I was more annoyed with Scarlett’s “I have to find my sister” then reminded of her devotion, it didn’t seem all that sincere. Especially since Caraval was something she’d dreamed about, but she didn’t let herself enjoy it at all. And if she bought into Caraval, she shouldn’t have been worried about her sister once she found out she was part of the game.
As more sinister things are revealed I understood the worry Scarlett felt, however it didn’t unravel in a cohesive way for me. Furthermore, the relationship between Scarlett and Julian seemed a bit forced. They told each other why they were good for each other instead of letting the reader see it. And the similarities in their familial situations at the end seem like an easy way out.
The end in general was too tidy for me. Sisters reunited, girl gets the boy, evil Father and arranged marriage dealt with. Yes there were lots of trials to get to that but then all the emotional repercussions of those events are wiped away. It was entertaining and a bit twisty, keeping you on your toes, but it did not live up to all the hype for me.

 

     

Review: The Dark Days Pact

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Summer, 1812.
After the scandalous events at her presentation ball in London, Lady Helen has taken refuge at the fashionable seaside resort of Brighton, banished from her family and training as a Reclaimer with the covert Dark Days Club. She must learn to fight the dangerous energy-wielding Deceivers and prepare to face their master, the elusive Grand Deceiver.

As she struggles to put aside her genteel upbringing, Helen realizes that her mentor, Lord Carlston, is fighting his own inner battle. Has the foul Deceiver energy poisoned his soul, or is something else driving him towards violent bouts of madness? Either way, Helen is desperate to help the man with whom she shares a deep but forbidden connection.

When Mr. Pike, the hard bureaucratic heart of the Dark Days Club, arrives in Brighton, he has a secret mission for Helen: find the journal left by a mad rogue Reclaimer, before it falls into the hands of the Deceivers. Coerced by Pike, Helen has no choice but to do as ordered, knowing that the search for the journal may bring about Lord Carlston’s annihilation.

This second installment delves so much deeper into the Club, and for a society bent on saving humanity, it is just as corrupt as any other organization where people are the drivers. It makes the internal conflicts of the club difficult to watch as it pulls Helen in different directions, on top of her fighting a losing battle against so many who doubt and belittle her. Seeing how she works herself into a corner as she desperately tries to protect those she cares for becomes the bulk of the novel, and gives Helen a lot of choices in who she wants to be in her life.
Carlston’s affliction is stressful to watch, especially all the subterfuge it causes and the difficult positions it puts Helen and Michael in as they deal with personal loyalties and the organization they are bound to. I did enjoy watching Carlston open up to Helen and a deeper bond form between the two. We are finally getting to know both of them and their companionship and compatibility is undeniable.
The love triangle is irritating, not in indecision, but in the unavoidable stipulations of Carlston being legally married though with a missing wife of several years. And Selburn isn’t a bad guy, though he gets very irritating in his refusal to accept Helen’s decisions and basically stalks her. I can only see the more compatible relationship working out with death and a nice guy being hurt. . . I fear we won’t have a happy ending with this series . . .