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!

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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: Grave Mercy

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Goodreds Summary:

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

I’ve said before, this seems to be the year of the re-reads for me. Well, I picked this one up again because 1: I remember really enjoying it 2: because I decided to finally start reading the second one in the series and wanted a refresher on the world.

I really enjoyed this book. As opposed to a lot of my goodreads friends who were a little disappointed that there wasn’t as much ass kickery as they had been hoping for, I enjoyed the psychological warfare that the plot centered around. Not knowing who to trust, learning that those who end up untrustworthy don’t have wholly malicious motives, learning to trust yourself in the judging of those around you. I loved how much Ismae grew into her own in this book, and that won me over.

The relationship between she and Duval was fun to watch as well. They started as unwilling allies, but as they worked together more it was evident how great of a team they made and so cute watching them subtly falling in love. However, their romance never became overwhelming or detracted from the overall plots going on around them and they both were solely focused on protecting their duchess and their kingdom, which I really appreciated.

I also really enjoyed watching Ismae’s relationship with death evolve. Given the questions that Duval and her time at court raised, she learned to look at death through her own eyes and not depend completely on the convent and the sisters interpretation of Mortain. It was interesting watching as she learned more about Mortain and his motives, her own gifts, and how she then chose to serve both herself and Mortain.

 I will say though, the one issue I had with this book (and one I noticed again in the second) is that there is never a description of the main character. All I really had to go on was the picture on the cover of the book and vague references.

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)!

Coming This Week: Sep. 28

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Our Household Goods come today!!

That’s right, no more sleeping on a (full-sized) futon, sitting on the floor, and only having a Dutch oven to cook dinner with. Yay!!!

Though, as is standard with any military move, the active duty member seems to only be present for one stage of moving. So I’ll be alone Monday dealing with the movers, but fortunately life as an Army Brat has me prepared. Really the only thing it impacts is that I won’t be able to get as many boxes unpacked so the movers can take them off my hands. Luckily, as it’s only 2 of us, we don’t have all that much anyway.

So, since I will be spending the week (Father’s set time limit to have the house completely unpacked and settled, and I have upheld) I am only going to be posting my usual scheduled book reviews. Hopefully next week, since I will have my computer again, I will get some more exciting things up. Maybe something writing related?

Book reviews, look for:

And huzzah for metal utensils and wine glasses!

Review: The Assassin’s Blade

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Goodreads Summary:

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas – together in one edition for the first time – Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

I can’t believe it took me so long to read these, I loved them!

Honestly, I think part of it was because I love Chaol so much, I didn’t want to see Celaena loving some other guy. But we all need our first love so I get it, and she and Sam’s relationship is so different from she and Chaol’s.

Anyway!

It’s really cool to see Celaena’s background, and learn about the things she alludes to in the books. I also really love seeing her move from being Arobynn’s devoted assassin to the still arrogant but also compassionate and caring Celaena that we get in Throne of Glass. She goes through so many changes and grows so much in the ToG series that its really fun to see her at this stage, when she’s still pretty carefree and hasn’t dealt with Endovier yet.

It was also really interesting to see how much she hides from everyone. I didn’t realize that Dorian and Chaol were the first people she told about her heritage.

I think of the stories, the one about the Red Desert was my favorite. We get to see so much of Celaena’s internal turmoil about what it means to be Adarlan’s Assassin, how she simultaneously resents and craves the title and the presumptions that come with it. I am also really hoping that we see Ansel in the ToG books again, she was really interesting!

So, these were all great and I feel like I understand Celaena a little bit better now, and I also want to re-read the series now. . .

Review: End of Days

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Goodreads Summary:

After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?

I devoured this book! If I hadn’t had to get up for work the next day I’m pretty sure I would have stayed up late into the night to finish it.

I loved the building of the relationship between Raffe and Penryn, yet how they both are stilled stayed true to their main goals. My favorite thing about them though is how they are slowly starting to see the similarities between each others species, and allowing their caring for one another to force them to look at things from various angles. Especially once the Fallen Watchers got involved I could see how it was all going to play out. I loved the Fallen! Especially since they didn’t have the same prejudices against humans as Uri and kind of spread that sentiment a bit. It was also great seeing another side of Raffe when he was with them.

Penryn and her family have always been tenuous, it was so great to seem them pretty functional in this one, especially her mom, who is still crazy but at least with specific goals now. Also the fact that all three of them have their own niches within this apocalyptic society, and when they bring those three together that’s when they are able to tip the balance of power back towards the humans.

And the talent show! It was such a great statement on humanity and I loved it.

The Pit, it’s so interesting! The visual elements are great, and Ee definitely gets kudos for those. And the similarities Penryn pulls from the Pit and her own dissolving world are amazing and terrifying at the same time. I also really enjoyed seeing another side of Beliel in this one.

Basically this one was awesome. From what I understand it was supposed to be a 5 book series, but I thought the end of this was pretty well wrapped up and ended on a nice hopeful note. Though I wouldn’t be opposed to a short story/novella a bit farther down the road in their world.