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: A Conjuring of Light

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29939230Goodreads Synopsis:

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

I chose not to re-read the first two books in the series, and regretted it slightly as I didn’t remember them as well as I thought I did. I’m sure this is a series I will revisit though so my marathon reading of them the next time should be pretty good.

I love the relationship between Kell and Lila, it’s always been so fun to watch, but it’s finally solidified in this finale. They work so well together and even when they disagree they still care and support each other because they know their common goals are the same. Ultimately they just get each other and both want an escape on top of the need to protect those around them.

Rhy has grown up so much and I like seeing him act like the prince he is and stand up to Alucard, as well as those in his court. He takes on so much more responsibility in this finale and finally lets go of the angst and childness he used to cope with his responsibilities in the previous books. I loved this growth in him, and the continued devotion between he and Kell.

The Shadow king provides such a strong foe, and seeing how all the Antari have to work together brings alot of different pieces and personalities together. Kell is finally finding his place. He’s accepting his role as Rhys’s brother and starting to feel appreciated by the king and queen. And through Lila he’s gained a partner to help him deal with the questions he’s always had about his life. He’s also relaxed a lot and I like seeing him trust Lila and Rhy and other companions  instead of trying to control everything. Holland’s back story makes him even more of a conflicting character. He’s done so many terrible things, and continues to bait Lila and Kell, but he’s also had a really hard go of it and could have turned out so much worse. Lila is a fierce as ever, but she’s also finding a balance between her need to be strong and independent and realizing that having people she cares about might be worth the danger of losing them.

I liked how the character from Grey London is brought in, and how it shows the spread of the Shadow King’s power. The politics within the palace is also interesting, we get to see more of the king and queen and the larger power plays going on in the kingdoms outside of the magical threats. There were good endings for all the characters and for the world’s too, and I really enjoyed that even though some were bittersweet, we got happy endings all around.

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: Caraval

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

 This is definitely a case of purple prose. I understand that part of it is a physical representation of Scarlett seeing emotions, but I would have appreciated a cause to that, or more of an explanation about it at least. I also would have liked to have more more of a reason for their father’s cruelty, I feel like it would have made more sense if he was bad before his wife disappeared too.
I wasn’t as wowed by this magical game as I expected to be, especially with all the rave reviews I saw before this came out. Character development happened all at once, I didn’t really see much gradual self awareness with Scarlett, just all of a sudden she decides she’s going to be her own woman and stop letting other people scare her into obeying. And I also didn’t really like her all that much in general.
One complaint that I agree with has to do with the sibling bond, which was supposed to be the center of the story, but for most of the book it seemed like a very one sided relationship. And even then I was more annoyed with Scarlett’s “I have to find my sister” then reminded of her devotion, it didn’t seem all that sincere. Especially since Caraval was something she’d dreamed about, but she didn’t let herself enjoy it at all. And if she bought into Caraval, she shouldn’t have been worried about her sister once she found out she was part of the game.
As more sinister things are revealed I understood the worry Scarlett felt, however it didn’t unravel in a cohesive way for me. Furthermore, the relationship between Scarlett and Julian seemed a bit forced. They told each other why they were good for each other instead of letting the reader see it. And the similarities in their familial situations at the end seem like an easy way out.
The end in general was too tidy for me. Sisters reunited, girl gets the boy, evil Father and arranged marriage dealt with. Yes there were lots of trials to get to that but then all the emotional repercussions of those events are wiped away. It was entertaining and a bit twisty, keeping you on your toes, but it did not live up to all the hype for me.