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.
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Review: The Fate of the Tearling

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…

The flashbacks in this last installment worked a lot better for me than in the second book. I was so interested in Kate an Jonathan, and discovering how we came to the state of the Tearling in Kelsea’s time. The Fetch and Row finally come full circle and we can see how they impacted the present, as well as how they are working for/against Kelsea in respect to their past actions. To be honest I was a little disappointed in the ending between Pen and Kelsea, but again, it made sense for the resolution of the story, and the paths for each character.

In a way the ending of this felt easy, but the way Johansen played out her resolution was done well enough that Kelsea still struggles and still has a lot she must deal with for her future and for the future of the Tearling. I also really enjoyed the way we see Kelsea interact with the Red Queen, and how I found myself almost sympathizing for her, even though she’s been a villain from the beginning. It was a great contrast between Kelsea and who she could have become through the Queen of Spades, and how they were both influenced by the Orphan.

Overall, this was a very satisfying ending to a good series, which I will probably revisit in the future.

Review: Into The Still Blue

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they’re using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn’t just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival–he’s also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.

In this final book in her earth-shattering Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi raises the stakes to their absolute limit and brings her epic love story to an unforgettable close.

Though this was a good installment, and a fulfilling finale, there was just something lacking in this for me to really love it. Honestly, it may have been the relationship between Aria and Perry. This was perhaps the least swoony of the three, and while I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I did expect more depth in this last book. Their relationship up to this point has been the heat of a new relationship, and the trials of trying to merge two people and their differences together, so I really wanted some strong moments between them in this one, and I felt like they always fell a bit flat and went more towards the physical.

Beyond the love aspect, I did enjoy watching our two ‘villains’ come together, see them compared, watch how they each dealt with things and who ultimately was the most villany. There was good conflict, good growth with Perry, the Tides and Dwellers, and a lot of our secondary characters in general. I also appreciated that the ‘happy’ ending wasn’t too neat, it took a lot for everyone to make it to that point in the story, and they still had a long way to go at the end.

Overall, this was a fun, original, and enjoyable series, and I look forward to more of Rossi’s work.

Review: Through the Ever Night

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Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don’t take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe’s precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, can their love survive through the ever night?

The synopsis makes this seem much more swoony than it is. That is definitely an element, and it’s done very well, but there is so much going on in this book. It really moved beyond the first book to make up for the lack of world building, and utilizes those amazing character relationships and identities forged in the first book to focus on the issues of survival.

Watching Perry take on the leadership role of his tribe is really interesting. He has so many insecurities as well as an innate need to take care of people; it makes for some very stressful times for him and all the people around him. Admittedly, Perry was a bit annoying at times during this book, but those moments of emotional venerability are what make him so likable when he isn’t in throws of self-pity and doubt.

I also really enjoyed watching Aria navigate the world of the Tides, the tough decisions she makes while she is there show how logical she is. That difference between Perry’s emotionally driven decisions is what makes those two as a couple so convincing, they balance each other out and find such interesting ways to reach common goals. Also, I love the relationship between Aria and Roar. It’s so uncommon to find a purely platonic relationship between male and female characters in books, and theirs is such a deep connection that it could easily have been strewn into love triangle territory, but it never crosses that line, and it’s so well done and refreshing.

On top of even more character growth and development, we finally start getting more answers about the Aether, the Dewllers and Tribes, and the Still Blue. I felt like in the beginning of the book, there was some rushed explanations of what happened to create the Aether, which I though should have been included in the first book, but better late than never I guess. There were also some inconsistencies with the first book, but I thought they were necessary and worked out well with the story. Rossi’s writing was also had a noticeable improvement in this second installment, I didn’t find it as choppy as in the first book.

Basically, a great sequel to a first book that took some convincing for me in the start.

Review: Under the Never Sky

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love – one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY

The first book in a captivating trilogy, Veronica Rossi’s enthralling debut sweeps you into an unforgettable adventure

Like the synopsis, the book holds this strange, choppy writing style. It’s a little hard to get through in the beginning, but about a third of the way through the action picks up, the characters start to develop, and the writing style starts to gel. There is a lack of world building in this first installment, but the bond that starts to form between Aria and Perry, as well as the mysteries of the Aether, the senses some inherit, and the strange lives led within the Pods keep this an entertaining and enjoyable read.

The character development is really the star of this book. It’s so well done and believable. There is no intsa-love, or 180 flips of characters beliefs, but a gradual shedding of ignorance and mutual shows of empathy and understanding. Our characters are faced with the one thing they are raised to mistrust – each other – and it’s really interesting watching them move past preconceived notions to see each other as people and learn to respect and care for one another.

Overall, this first book has poor world building, but the depth of the characters made up for it, or at least distracted from it. This is all about the characters growing, forging bonds, and setting us up for the real drama that will follow in the other two books. And while this sometimes doesn’t work, the characters are fantastic enough to pull it off in this kickoff to a fun and swoony series.

Review: The Last Star

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.

They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.

I have been a lover of this series from the beginning. The first book left me aching for more, the second left me in a tail spin of revelations and emotions. So it’s only suitable that the finale leaves me with a sense of broken victory.

Yancey has done so well with this series, keeping it focused on the issue at hand – the extinction of humanity and the efforts of those left to save it – while giving us a great cast of characters who illustrate all of the various shades of what humanity means. While faced with these challenges his characters also give us raw emotion, humor, and a maturity that is able to avoid the ‘special snowflake’ trope.

Honestly, I should have re-read The Infinite Sea, but I didn’t want to wait that long to get into TLS, and I thought it would all come back to me. Well, I remember Ringer’s experience the best from the sequel so I was good with her, but I have to admit I was a bit lacking in the events of Cassie/Evan/Ben. However, since the revelations of the second book were so huge, I was still on track with the goals of this last installment.

Once we get familiar to the new setting and how our characters have been handling their short recuperation time, this book launches into a fast paced and twisty-turny series of events that lead to the only resolution possible, but one that I didn’t see coming till too late. I think Yancey handled his ending perfectly. Unlike other authors this felt right, it felt like the only answer, and it felt real. I also loved the epilogue, it gives us our characters trying to continue to fight this deep seeded distrust the war has embedded into society, while attempting to create a new bubble of humanity within their group. Nothing is tied up in a neat little bow, the war is still going on and it will for generations, but everything is resolved.

Honestly, a perfect ending to a practically perfect series.

Elysia: Chapter 2, Part 1

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Six stitches across my palm, butterfly bandages along my left cheekbone, various scrapes along my upper arms from the rough sand, and a lovely purple bruise blossoming along my collarbone. Those are the visible wounds. Numerous bruises and scrapes litter my legs and the strip of lower stomach that became exposed during some tumble earlier in the trail.

The bandages and bruises will only make Milo look more rugged and soldierly. I’m still expected to pocket my knife, be delicate and alluring at these functions. One of the maids my mother staffs stands behind me, frowning at my appearance through the reflection of the large mirror sitting atop the cool stone vanity, which is littered with cosmetics and hair baubles.

Usually I don’t mind getting dressed up, but since tonight I’m not there to represent my father or my family, I wish I could skip this whole process. Why shouldn’t I take pride in these marks, they are a visible indication of my victory, my standing within The Academy’s graduates, of an independent, strong, and influential member of the MacCray family.

Even if this symbol is about to become one of the most feared people in the city. A person known for her ruthlessness and ingenuity when it comes to extracting information.

I feel the crack in my facade beginning to open again. I take all thoughts of who I am about to make myself into and I push it deep, cover it with ice and stone. Father told me I must achieve status. I have. Now I await further instruction. Because I am good soldier and I follow orders. I lock away any resistance or contrary thoughts behind that towering wall of ice and stone. And though I feel cracks webbing across the surface, I continue to burden it, because it is the only way I can make something of myself within this society.

The tapping of my nails against the polished vanity sends the stylist moving into action. “We can cover most the bruise on your face with makeup, and a dramatic sweep of your hair should cover your collarbone. I’ll pull the dress with sheer sleeves to help conceal your arms, there’s nothing to be done about your hand though I’m afraid,” she says, looking more pained than when I slammed my metal clad hand into Milo’s lower abdomen in the arena earlier.

“Good,” I retort, “and I want the sleeveless one we discussed yesterday.”

“But Peer MacCray, your father specifically requested that we present you as unharmed as possible.”
My jaw tightens, holding back an argument before processing the statement. I plaster a sweet smile across my face, give a nod of assent, and sit back as the maids fingers fly across my person. She transforms me from a battered warrior into a powerful young woman and I can’t help but be pleased at the result. She conceals my freckles and the bruise so only a faint tinge of yellow shows through, dotting the bandages with sparkling stones so they look intentional. My green eyes are lined and smudged with a dark purple pencil before a grey matte powder coats my lids. Lashes are curled and lacquered, brows filled and shaped, lips painted to exaggerate their pucker. The dress is zipped up my back, a deep blue that glows against my fair skin and sets off my auburn waves as they are smoothed and draped across my shoulder.

Mother and Father are waiting for me by the door. Mother looks regal in a pale pink column dress, the soft glow reflects off her warm skin and contrasts dramatically with her dark hair. The green eyes we share crinkle as she holds out her arms to me, “You look beautiful darling. A beautiful force to be reckoned with.” I turn to Father, wearing the same dress uniform from the area, it’s soft leather vest giving off a warm scent that has always reminded me of home. He hold out a hand, presenting me with a jewel hilted dagger, sheathed in richly dyed leather. “Though pleasing to the eye,” he draws the blade, “Still deadly.” With a wink he loops the dagger around my waist with a braided silk belt. The weight is reassuring against my hip and brings a true smile to my lips. “Perfect,” sighs Mother before leading us through the large wooden door and to the waiting car.

The Commander’s home is situated on the edge of the plateau that marks the Western edge of the Elysian state. He shares the high vantage point with the Polis – our central government, The Academy, and The Fortress. Atop the red cliff one can look out over the flat red landscape, littered with random red rock formations that contrast with gleaming steel buildings. If I strain my eye I can see the hint of another color, green, from the greenhouses mother manages at the edge of the eastern border of the city. Surrounding the city is a wall. Tall and red like the rest of the landscape, designed to keep us inside the controlled and civilized walls of the city, to combat the chaos that reigned for almost a century when the old nation fell.

A light finger brushes my elbow and I break my gaze from the landscape, turning to find Olivia watching me with a bemused smile. She’s wearing a billowing ivory pleated dress that sets her dark skin glowing, and subtly covers the cast encircling her ankle. She made it to the third round of trials before a misstep on the high beams of the obstacle course sent her plummeting to the ground.
I link my arm though hers, allowing her to distribute some of her weight to me since she has been denied the use of crutches. “When are they shipping you out to Sanctuary?”

“Tomorrow, just like everyone else. I’ll be on desk duty while I finish healing.”
“Well, even with a cast and a limp you look beautiful,” I say.

“So do you. I especially like how the neckline of your dress draws the attention away from that rather ugly bruise near your shoulder.”

I narrow my eyes at her for a moment before we both loose a laugh. “You know what Father always says, utilize every tool you have.”

“Well, you may want to guard that tool of yours, we’re about to be assaulted by the Kato brothers.” I follow Liv’s gaze over my shoulder to see Damien and Lou sauntering toward us, with Milo flanking them.

“Ladies,” croons Lou as they draw near, sweeping two flutes of champagne from a passing tray and presenting them to us with a little bow and a low whistle as his eyes scan us from toe to head as he straightens.

Lou and Damien share the soft angles around their eyes that crinkle when they smile and straight fine black hair. Lou, two class years above us, is stationed in the northern most colony of Commonwealth, but secured a pass to watch his brother compete in the trials. Damien made it to the fourth trial, only to loose against Milo in the first round of arena combat.

Milo grasps my shoulder, squeezing a bit harder than necessary on a shallow cut he knows exists, “Your beauty tonight outshines even your fierceness in battle Peer.”

“And I daresay all those scrapes and bruises make you even more handsome,” I grit out between my teeth.

We hold each other’s gazes, a challenge in each of our eyes, until a throat clearing breaks Milo’s grip. Damien’s lips thin at the interaction and I notice him edge a step closer to me as I turn my focus to Lou, asking, “How is it in the Commonwealth?”

Lou shrugs, “Pretty quiet. A few small groups from Calypso have come up through Frontier, but we always catch them. I’m pretty sure your ‘prize’ was actually one of those who we got in the last raid.”
An uneasy silence settles over the little group. The wind whips up behind us, flowing over the edge of the balcony and kicking my skirt around my ankles.

“So,” says Liv with a mischievous smile stretching her full lips, “when are we bailing?”

Three hours later, after endless toasts in honor of myself, Milo, every other graduate of The Academy, and The Commander. After continuous plates of delicacies and fragrant drinks, when the music is nothing but soft lullabies lulling the intoxicated guests into a stupor on their soft cushions, we make our sly exit out the kitchen store room, several bottles of fine wine tucked under the boys tunics.