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!

Revisiting: Six of Crows

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Goodreads Summary:

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

This was probably my favorite read last year, and the re-read was just as enjoyable. I loved all the little tells that became evident this round since I knew all of their backstories this time.

All the hype about this book is absolutely true! I’d be hard pressed to find something that I didn’t like or that didn’t work in this book. I’m also going to go ahead and say I liked it even more than the Grisha Series, though I really enjoyed those books, and I think I will be rereading them soon (I’ve still yet to do that . . .).

I loved every character in Kaz’s crew. They were all so different, skilled in different things, and yet united through the common goal of a huge cash haul and the potential freedoms the money would buy them. However, via the amazingly rich and detailed back-stories that Bardugo weaves into the story, we also see that they all have ulterior motives and that they are all more than thugs and criminals.

I have to say though, Kaz’s back story was my favorite. It explained so much about him and the person who he is in the Barrel. I can’t wait to see how he continues his growth. And that’s another thing that was done so well, the character growth! Each character changed a little throughout the story, but it was in little moments, it was gradual, and it was so believable. None of their core values ever changed, they found ways to accept others views, to open themselves to vulnerability, and to explore their own persons.

The fact that this was told from five main POVs (I keep seeing people saying there were 6, one from each crew member, but Wylan didn’t have his own, unless they all got different books than I did. . .), with a unique one for the first and last chapter, gave this the potential to be overwhelming. Each voice was so distinct though that I was never confused who I was reading. Furthermore, with so many moving parts, having different characters in different places to explain things was really helpful. I think it also made it a lot more fun with the twists and reveals because while we are with this character, those over there are doing their own scheming and whatnot.

Overall, I loved this story. It’s pace, it’s main goal, it’s use of characters who would normally not be seen as heroes, and it’s three budding ships. The story-telling was top-notch, the writing was distinctive and easy to follow while still being witty and smart. I cannot wait to continue this series.

Revisiting: An Ember in the Ashes

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Goodreads Summary:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

I had to revisit this before Torch Against the Night comes out. And did you all hear, Tahir was signed for two more in the series, TWO!

These characters are top notch, Laia and Elias are great, but all the secondary characters are too. Helene is so interesting and she and Elias make a great team in the school. Izzi, Cook, and Keenan push Laia in different ways for her to realize her potential. And Teluman, I didn’t realize in my first read just how influential he is with all his sage advice.

Both Elias and Laia show so much growth throughout the story, but it’s never a reach for them, it’s a natural development and they push each other to become the individuals they yearn to be. I have seen a ton of love for Helene in reviews, and while I think she’s a great character, I’m not as enamored of her. She is definitely a bad ass, and she is loyal to her friends and her country, but she’s not what Elias needs to achieve his goals. She does what she can to help Elias without breaking her word to the Empire, but I wasn’t sad to see the two of them part ways in the end, and it will be really interesting to see how they meet again since Elias and Helene are now “enemies.”

The trials and the spy network make this book so much fun, there is always something going on. With each trial we learn a bit more about Elias, and each time Laia takes another risk to rescue her brother she unveils a different part of herself that she wasn’t sure existed. Both sets of challenges also expose the brutality of the Empire, the Commandant, and even Elias and his peers. I really enjoyed that even though both characters are going through all these horrible experiences, they both react in ways that make them more caring, compassionate, and moral.

Most of the complaints about this that I saw dealt with the romantic interests. First, I thought it was really well balanced, never overtaking the main story line or distracting the characters too much from their goals (though certainly Elias is driven to certain actions because of Laia). Without trying to be too spoilery I will say that the two main characters have an attraction, and then both main characters have someone from their own world they are attracted too. Personally, I like the two main characters together, I think they push each other just the right amount, and though they are different on many levels, they have the same core values. Also, some people said they were disappointed that there was no clear choice of who the MC’s pick, that I think is completely wrong, I think it was clear about half way through the book who they were going to choose and blatantly obvious by the end of it all.

I’m so glad we are getting another installment, and hope this series continues. I can’t wait to see how Laia and Elias deal with the challenge of rescuing her brother. I also hope we see more of how the two will play into the larger issue of a rebellion, and obviously if their romance developes.

Revisiting: The Cage

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Re-reading this, and my previous review, I don’t really have much to add. I was still just as enamored of the world as I was the first time I read this through.

I guess the only thing that I really felt myself questioning was that, knowing the twist in the end, I didn’t really see any links that made it make sense. If that sentence even made sense. I guess for the general purpose of the experiment I can understand, but I also feel like it was kind of a split personality for the character it centered on – he was the one he wanted to be when presented to us, and the one he was required to be when hidden from us?  

Anyway, still really enjoyed this re-read. 

Goodreads Summary:

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?

There are a lot of mixed reviews on Goodreads about this book, but personally, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

This is such a different alien story than other that I have read. There is the usual attraction between the alien and human, but it is so different, neither of them turn against their own people or abandon their core beliefs of what humanity is. And the way it ends! Oh my goodness there was a twist I didn’t see coming!

The other characters were all really interesting in their own ways as well. I started out liking Lucky and Rolf and disliked them to certain degrees as we got deeper into the book, then they both redeemed themselves a bit. Then there was Nok, who I didn’t like or trust from the beginning and was proven right about. And then there was Leon, who seemed like he’d be the stereotypical bully but ended up extremely complex and I enjoyed every time we got to hear from him. Mali, I don’t even know how I feel about her but she’s definitely an important one.

I loved how Shepherd mapped out how twisted all the characters were becoming. I didn’t know who was crazy and who was sane at moments. And while Cora was pretty rash sometimes, I sympathized with her the entire time and loved how determined she was to not be a victim. She had let so many things slide in her life and had grown accustomed to doing what others said that I really appreciated that when she decided to be strong she didn’t let it go. And as we learned more about her past it became clear that she had always had that strength and it wasn’t a stretch for her at all.

Cassian is so interesting. His interest in humans and their humanity is really intriguing considering what his people value in society. And when we bring in the evolution of the people in the cages it just gets more complex. I can’t wait to see what happens between he and Cora in the next books, I think it’s going to be a hard road for them, but I have faith because I really like them together.

The “love triangle” in this was also really well done. As well as the general originality of it all, the world building was fantastic and the character development so interesting. Overall, another great book from Shepherd.

Revisiting: The Wrath and the Dawn

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Goodreads Summary:

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

I loved this book, it was simply beautiful.

I haven’t read a book in 3rd person in a while, and it was done so well. The different POVs were easy to decipher and I think it did a fantastic job at getting us inside the heads of the various characters, as well as letting us see them under different lights. All of the characters see themselves in such different ways than they are portrayed and I thought the various lenses really helped us see the different sides of each of them and only made the relationships between the characters more believable and deeper.

I absolutely loved the relationship between Shazi and Khalid. Both of the characters are interesting to begin with, but the two of them together are a force. I actually wasn’t a huge fan of Shazi in the beginning, I thought she was arrogant (a term Despina – her handmaiden – is not scared to point out) and a bit full of herself, if not determined and curious. Khalid had me intrigued from that first night they spent together, he’s mysterious, conflicted, and bearing the weight of a terrible punishment.

Shazi is brutally honest with Khalid from the beginning and I knew she was going to force him to confront his own feelings. Watching her try to figure him out, while battling her own curiosity and growing affection toward him, was so interesting. She never changed as a person, but she was able to see past her first impressions and allowed herself to admit she was wrong. I think it showed a lot of personal growth on her side. She becomes softer when she’s with him, while never handing over any of her strength. Similarly, Khalid is able to find a partner in Shazi, she doesn’t forgive him for his past, but she proves to him in other ways that he is not a monster and he begins to live up to the man he has wanted to be. The Khalid we see in the end is finally able to confront his fears and become a true leader. I also loved that their love for each other never seemed selfish in the scheme of the curse, especially with the role Shazi’s father and first love played in everything.

All of the secondary characters are interesting and well developed, though I really hope we see a bit more of Despina and Jalal’s relationship in the next installment (their short story really helped me get inside their heads a bit better). They each have different motives for ultimately the same problem – Shazi being the new Calipha. And watching each of them deal with that problem, and seeing which emotions they resort to, and what actions that leads them to is very interesting.

Overall, this book was so amazingly written. I have so many highlighted passages. The writing was lyrical yet easy, it was touching and conveyed so much emotion in so few words. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Shazi and Khalid, for Rey and the kingdom, and to learn more about the magic that Shazi’s father has been meddling with. And finally, isn’t this book great in it’s diversity, it’s set in the Greek/Persian empire, in the twist of a tale that isn’t Grimm based (though you know I love those)!

Revisiting: Red Queen

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I re-read this in preparation for Glass Sword. I usually like to re-read series when I get another installment, but with this one I thought it would be even more important as I really only remembered the major plot twist. Well I was refreshed on many small events and individuals, but like I mentioned in my Novella reviews, I was not as enamored by Aveyard’s writing as I was the first time through. 

Goodreads Summary:

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

I was worried this was going to be a lot like Red Rising, and so I was really glad when it became clear that wasn’t the case! The idea of abilities being the determiners for the separation of the groups, as well as the physical color of blood was intriguing. There is also really good world building that makes it clear it is nothing like Pierce Brown’s series, which this was compared to a lot in it’s early release days. 

I also liked how hard the road the characters had to go down was. We see things working out a lot in YA books, and this didn’t stick to that mold. The relationships are littered with obstacles that I’m not sure will ever be overcome (though my fingers are crossed) and everything comes with a price. While I still think this is the case in general, I do have to make a new note: It drives me crazy that all three of our main male characters are enamored of Mare. We can’t have any platonic elements? Also, I felt that Mare was way too distracted by her feeling for the brothers a lot of the time.

Mare, is supremely flawed; she is stubborn and self-righteous and naive. I will say though, no matter how infuriating Mare is, she is still somehow likable. She’s so obviously in over her head, yet she thinks she has all the answers, but I think what redeems her is that she’s quick to live up to her mistakes. Cal has been groomed to uphold his fathers legacy and can’t see any other alternative to follow, fighting against his inherent good nature. Maven is complex and slippery and you never know who’s side he’s really on. And you never truly know who the “bad guy” is. There are tiers of baddies, and its really interesting watching all the characters choose who to stand behind and how they justify the actions of their chosen leaders.

Everything is thrown upside down in about the last 50 pages and I loved it! Aveyard definitely has a talent with the plot twists and cliff-hangers, but I would like to see her move past that in the books to come. There is also one major issue I had with the writing in this re-read, All the italicized internal dialogue. It was not necessary! She would do a wonderful job showing us the emotions and the climate around Mare, then throw in an italicized sentence that tells us exactly what she just showed us. It became very distracting and I ended up skipping over those passages. I also didn’t see the point of internal dialogue when the story is told from Mare’s POV, in the present tense, it’s all her thoughts anyway!  Anyway, I am still looking forward to see how the story moves forward. I hope to see a much smarter and grown up Mare in the next one, she’s had to learn a lot the hard way in this book and I want to see her grow from it all. I think it will be interesting to see how Cal works to accept his new role and I hope he and Mare can work together. I have no idea what to expect from Maven, and can’t wait to get to know some of the other characters better.

Revisiting: Red Rising

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You guys have probably noticed that I have been in a re-reading spell lately. Well, getting ready for the last of the series I decided to re-read the first two. It was a good move, I had forgotten so many aspects of this story. Also, I’m going to try something a little new with this post. Below is the original post back from March of 2015, my new impressions will be bolded.

Goodreads Summary:

The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

I didn’t really get into this till the second part of the story. And I didn’t like Eo at all, honestly I didn’t really like Darrow either until we see him entering the world of the Golds. I didn’t hate Eo as much as I did in the first read, Brown lays out all the reasons we need her in the beginning and she remains a driving force for Darrow throughout. I understood that more this round and wasn’t as angsty about when he references her later down the line. A lot of time passes in the story (about 1.5/2 years) and that really works to show Darrow’s growth and progression, and it’s really interesting! I also loved the juxtaposition between he and Titus. Darrow bases people on merit, not on general consensus, and that’s what makes him such a strong leader. There is also a great cast of supporting characters, all who encourage or push Darrow in different ways, and ultimately play major roles in developing the man he grows into. 

I also really like the relationship between Mustang and Darrow. She has similarities to Eo, is complex given her Gold status, and she balances the fire of Darrow. I also like the slow evolution of their relationship, though I didn’t love Eo, I appreciate that Darrow doesn’t just forget her. It’s been a long time since she left, and he’s fighting his growing feelings for Mustang with guilt over Eo, but it’s realistic and I think when they do happen they’ll be fantastic, they already make great battle buddies.

The book surprised me, and its one of those YA books that I don’t see as YA, beyond the age of the protagonist (like The Bone Season, or even The Book Theif) it’s attacking some really big social questions, its graphic and candid, and doesn’t shy away from the darkness/corruption of people and society.

A lot of the negative reviews I read had a problem with Darrow. I admit it took me a bit to get attached to him, but he’s fantastic! He’s flawed, but many don’t seem to see that, and look at him like a self-righteous golden boy (pun kind of intended), but he’s not! He’s constantly in conflict with himself over his personal want for vengeance and what’s for the greater good, and he’s a decent enough guy, that most of the time he sides on what’s best for the masses. He goes through a learning curve, we see that, and he’s constantly trying to make amends and prove to himself that he’s capable of leading.

Basically, this book blew me away, the praise for Brown is definitely merited; his prose is unique – though with my second read through I was less imprerssed with the writing. There are large segments of info dumps and times when I’m bogged down with physical descriptions. However, his dialogue is very well done and there is clear sense of Darrow’s voice in his word choice and sentence lengths and placement. – his characters rich and complex, his world amazing in its vastness, and his protagonist is so great. I love how Darrow is strong and sensitive at the same time, and he’s always learning from his friends to become a better version of himself. It’s just great!

Bring on Golden Son!!