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.

Review: The Song Rising

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The hotly anticipated third book in the bestselling Bone Season series – a ground-breaking, dystopian fantasy of extraordinary imagination

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…

I re-read the sequel to refresh my memory (and just because I love this series) before going into this third installment, especially after the delayed release. On top of the later release date the publishers ‘revamped’ the covers. I personally am not a fan of the new look, but fortunately all of the remaining books in the series will have a special collectors edition in the old style. I’m very pleased my bookshelf will remain in sync.

Shannon is improving with every novel. The slowness in the first two was obliterated in this installment. There is non stop action, movement, and progress. We are moving more into the meat of the rebellion and starting to see action against Scion. I liked how we also got to see more of the Scion capitals around Britain and the politics going on with their unnaturals.

Paige is under a lot of stress in this installment, and her anxiety with the Mine Order and Jaxon are exacerbating all the insecurities she has about everything else. It’s sad to see her question her trust in Warden, especially after all the progress they made in the second book. She also is struggling with her trust in herself, and in her determination to make progress for the fight against Scion she begins to make some questionable choices and fears she will turn into the people she hates and fears the most.
We get a handful of new characters who were introduced in the second book, but become major players in this chapter. Maria, Glym, Tom, and Eliza all play such a bigger role in this book and I really enjoyed getting to know them each better and watching Paige use them as allies and friends. We are also introduced to a new Rephaite, Lucida, who is perhaps the funniest of the group we have seen so far. I loved all of her cameos and hope to see more of her in the future.
Paige and Warden go through a lot in this installment. They are trying to maintain a tentative alliance while orchestrating a rebellion and struggling with their feelings for each other. It’s a lot, but even when they are struggling with growing their relationship and the needs of their revolution they always rely on each other for practical and emotional support. I look forward to the next book as they finally get some time together and are no longer the linchpins of the revolution in London. I am also very intrigued to see how the rest of Europe is faring.
This was such a solid installation in the series. We see so much more of the world, and it’s only going to grow. Our characters are growing  more as well, Paige is coming to terms with her role as a leader and becoming her own woman – finally out from under the two main structures that controlled her. Warden, while I can’t really say is growing, is continuing to reveal pieces of himself and we are getting to know him better. Nick is always such an anchor for Paige and he continues his role, on top of moving into more of a leadership role himself. I can’t wait to see how the next book moves all of them forwarded.

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.