Revisiting: A Court of Mist and Fury

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

After my reassessment of the first book in this series, and my utter disappointment at the last book in the TOG series, I didn’t know how this book was going to go.

Well, right of the bat, I was so much more enthralled by the story. I didn’t get bored or sidetracked, I was hooked basically immediately. Both Tamlin and Feyre are so broken from all that happened, and it was really interesting watching them try to navigate their feelings about themselves, each other, and the future. Unlike the horrendous character transformations that occurred in Queen of Shadows – that have me questioning if I will even finish that series, I have not by the way – I was so happy that the reactions from all these characters still felt true to their nature.

Tamlin is doing everything he can to keep the ones he loves safe, and making sure he is seen as the strength and leader he thinks he needs to be as a High Lord. Feyre is trying to figure out who she is after the traumatic events that happened to her, and that she exacted on others. She’s having to decide if the strength she found in herself Under the Mountain is who she wants to become. While these two navigate their issues, they don’t necessarily do it well together, but I never felt like one of them was purposefully trying to hurt the other; they just didn’t quite know how to be together without reliving all the horrors they had been through for each other. Rhysand was a very interesting character from the beginning, and he’s also going through a lot of post-traumatic issues from his time with Amarantha. Watching these three deal with their issues in very different ways was so interesting and well done.

Beyond the tumultuous relationships, we get a slew of new characters. Let me just say, I hated Ianthe from the very beginning,but I really hope to see more of her in the next book. The inner circle of the night court – Azriel, Cassian, Mor, and Amren – is so well done. Each character has very specific traits and character aspects, but together they create such a strong and supportive family.

The political aspect of this book is so much deeper than in the first and I really liked seeing the different players. Tamlin and his court are still the most unknown to me, but we get a look at the Summer court, the human queens, and even the King of Hybern. All of these players have very different priorities, and it’s so intriguing to watch as their personal wants influence the greater aspect of the coming war.

The book ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out in the next book! Maas has redeemed herself to me a bit, hopefully she can keep it up!

Revisiting: A Court of Thorns and Roses

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Goodreads Summary:

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Timesbestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

I was so excited about this book, I fell in love with Maas’ writing with the Throne of Glass series and so I could not wait for this. And then I started seeing reviews of my goodreads friends, who seemed to either hate it or love it, and I was terrified. Well, I loved it . . . the first time around.

I still liked it in my re-read, but it was so much slower than I remembered. I wasn’t really invested until about the 200 page mark, and nothing really intense starts to happen until about the 300 page mark. Also, the romance didn’t reel me in like it did the first time around, I just don’t really buy it’s depth, it was almost a case of insta-love with its shallowness. I mean Feyre doesn’t really know Tamlin at all, and besides the fact that he does nice things for her and is hot, I don’t know why she ‘loves,’ him. And his lack of reaction when she’s facing her trials really annoys me. I feel like Maas doesn’t want us to like Tamlin already, which is really annoying given our past experiences with romance in Mass books, and that the majority of this book is centered around a relationship.

I loved how Maas’ carried over a lot of the things we learned about Fae in ToG, consistency is a favorite trait of mine! I also really liked this loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast. That’s what seemed to be what a lot of people had issues with. Not long after finishing this the first time I learned that it’s actually based on the myth of Eros and Psyche, which is what the Grimm story is based on. I don’t understand why they didn’t market it as the Eros/Psyche story since they did the Hades/Persephone for the sequel, but whatever. Anyway, if you know the myth of Eros/Psyche I think it makes the story so much better, because so many of the nuances that irritated people who were expecting Beauty and the Beast are present in the original myth and make more sense.

Other’s had issues with the basic format of Maas books, which I can understand, but I think if you’ve read ToG you will be prepared for it. The first book of her series seems to be the – get to know everyone, introduction to the conflict, scraping the top of the iceberg on what’s really going on,  and the following books are when everything gets crazy.

I really enjoyed getting to know Feyre and watching her steady character growth. She goes from someone simply surviving, a cold, hard, bitter, and pessimistic person to someone who is able to find a silver lining in everything, who opens up and pushes herself to move past her preconceived notions,  and who embraces her strengths and weaknesses to fight for the things she loves.

I also loved all the other characters, because Maas does a great job with supporting roles and weaving them into the story later. Lucien is great with his snark and tragic backstory. Tamlin suffers from a lot of the same issues Feyre is dealing with, feeling alone/trapped in their responsibilities to their families/people, but ultimately wanting to do the right thing, but we get moments where we can see that’s he fun and caring. Rhys is so intriguing! I feel like he and Feyre are going to be the Celeana/Rowan of ACoTaR, the besties who prove guys and girls can be friends w/o and ulterior motive, and he is clearly a much nicer guy than he likes to admit.

With the last ToG book, I think we all know platonic relationships are not always what they seem with Maas. And while I was so upset (and still am) with how things turned out in the last ToG book. From what I have seen about ACOMAF, she does a much better job with the romance. Though I have to say, I am getting really tired of her female characters not being able to stay true to a relationship. I understand things happen, but seriously Celeana – or whatever your name is now – get it together. I really hope Feyre doesn’t become as fickle as our ToG protagonist.

The ending’s twist was the other thing that I kind of expected, and wanted to happen, but was still slightly displeased about, I guess it just felt too convenient. We’ll see what’s to come in this second one though, it seems like things really get taken up a few notches, which I am excited about!

Review: Warrior Witch

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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

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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

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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

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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.