Revisiting: The Impostor Queen

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Goodreads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

This book took me a little while to get invested in, but by about chapter nine I was there. The slow start has a lot of necessary information, establishes an understanding of the life Elli was raised to believe in, and draws clear character traits in Elli. We can see from the beginning that she in inquisitive, fast to love others, and has a fierce belief in herself. It was really interesting watching those elements grow when she was in the outlands and to see how her faith in herself altered and matured.

I enjoyed the new take on ‘the chosen one.’ She is still unique, but she is not at all what she expected to be, and still has to grapple with that revelation to find out how she can still serve her country and her people, while also maintaining a semblance of the life she created for herself outside of the temple.

The romantic entanglements I think are also going to draw a lot of people to this story. When we enter the book Elli is in love with her handmaiden, bringing some diverse relationships into the mix. While it’s never really developed past infatuation, I think it is still a nice element and shows how the YA genre is continuing to try and become more diverse and inclusive. Enter Oskar, who is definitely swoon worthy.  I felt like their relationship was much more real than the one with her handmaiden, and I’m really interested to see what happens with them given the circumstances we left them dealing with.

Overall, I was impressed by the original take on ‘the chosen one,’ the intricacies of the magic in the world, the political backdrop, and the darkness that permeated the conflict of the story. Definitely a series I plan to continue.

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: The King Slayer

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Former witch hunter Elizabeth Grey is hiding within the magically protected village of Harrow, evading the price put on her head by Lord Blackwell, the usurper king of Anglia. Their last encounter left Blackwell ruined, but his thirst for power grows stronger every day. He’s readying for a war against those who would resist his rule—namely Elizabeth and the witches and wizards she now calls her allies.

Having lost her stigma, a magical source of protection and healing, Elizabeth’s strength is tested both physically and emotionally. War always means sacrifice, and as the lines between good and evil blur once more, Elizabeth must decide just how far she’ll go to save those she loves.

Well, I could have skipped this.

So many of the issues I had with the first book remain in this installment/finale. The best way I can describe my overall feelings about this series is: immature. The writing, the characters, the pacing. The growth I had hoped for shown through in small moments, but was lacking in a broader sense. It was also too long. I was getting  more impressed with it in the middle, but then we reverted again, and the drawn out battles and captures/rescues just felt repetitive.

The same character inconsistencies were there, and my favorite character from the first book missing basically the whole time. I did find the extra time spent on John interesting, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the major issues I had with this.

Honestly, I skimmed huge sections of this, and unless I see some amazing reviews for Boeckers stuff in the future, I can’t say I’ll be revisiting her works.

Revisiting: The Witch Hunter

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Goodreads Summary:

The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Your greatest enemy isn’t what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king’s best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she’s accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that’s been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth’s witch hunting past–if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she’s thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.  

First, I will agree with everyone else who I have seen reviewing this, the comparisons to Graceling and GoT is a major stretch, and it’s certainly fantasy lite.

That said, I still enjoyed this. There were general issues, the characters weren’t as complex as I would have liked, I thought the budding romance was a bit flat, and it was pretty predictable. However, there were some great characters and dialogue, especially from George – my favorite. I also think there is a ton of potential for this series. We all know I’m a fan of sequels though so I am definitely planning to give this series another shot with the 2nd book.

Even with my re-read having me knock my initial Goodreads rating from 3 to 2 stars, I was entertained enough to go for the second book in hopes of general author growth that we often see within series. I had high hopes for the below issues to be resolved.

Though it was generally predictable, there were still enough twists to make it interesting, I guessed the big picture things, but there were plenty of little details and repercussions that played into the plot in a larger way that I think can play out in a very interesting way.

I also liked how open minded Elizabeth was, a lot of the reviews I read had issues with her turn around from being a witch hunter to being in league with witches. Well, I never got the sense that she hated witches from the beginning, she was doing her job, and it becomes very clear throughout that she had been pulled into the profession and that she adopted the animosity of those around her to fit in more. And she constantly talks about how confused she is now that she’s seeing more than one side of the idea behind the hatred for magic. That said, I was annoyed by the inconsistencies with her character. She is supposed to be this amazing witch hunter, but I feel like she’s having to be saved every other chapter. She’s played up to be so strong and powerful, but I never got that sense from her.

Hopefully we see improvement in the next one!

Review: A Gathering of Shadows

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Goodreads Summary:

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

I have loved everything I’ve read from Schwab. I started with her Archived series, then devoured A Darker Shade of MagicI couldn’t wait to get into this second instillation of the series.

I really enjoyed the deeper look into Red London, and to an extent Gray London. Also, as is my favorite trend with second books, we saw so much more of the characters inner workings, and got to see them all change and grow and cope.

The characters are all still dealing with the consequences of the first book, all in different ways, and there is a clear change in all of them. Rhy is a bit more conservative, starting to take his future as king more seriously, and trying to live with the anger and guilt of what happened to he and Kell in the last book. He’s much more grown up. Kell is still broody and serious, but he has a definite edge to him now that wasn’t there before. He’s quickly growing tired of his role in the royal court and it’s interesting watching him deal with his loyalty to his country, his love for his brother, and his want a life of his own. Lila is still as reckless and badass as ever, but there is also an element of clam to her now. She seems to think things through a bit more – even if they are still crazy. Most of all, I loved when all of our characters were reunited and seeing the balance and honesty they provide one another. There were also several new characters that I really enjoyed and can’t wait to see more of.

I loved that while we got to see more of the Red London world, nothing really seemed bigger than London. A testament to Schwab’s writing is certainly her world building. It’s all vivid and clear, but you never feel bogged down by the descriptions or overwhelmed by all the places. I also really loved that our characters all got a break from the danger of the last book, while still facing challenges – both mental and physical – that pushed them to confront the demons of the last four months.

Schwab evoked a cliffhanger to finish this one – though the first in all her books – and I can’t wait to see what’s next. I have no idea how the group is going to handle the horror of what’s to come, which is going to make for one hell of a finale. I also can’t wait to see how the relationships change and develop between Kell and Lila, Rhy and the Captain, and ultimately Rhy and Kell.

Another amazing book from one of my go-to authors.

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

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Goodreads Summary:

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

I enjoyed this a lot. It wasn’t one of those suck you in instantly and demands not to be put down books, but a slow burn. It sticks with you, gets under your skin.

The idea as a whole I thought was so creative and well executed. Each London is so specific and easy to identify, but there are also consistancies that anchor you. I also loved the two main characters and their relationship.They become unwilling allies, but they bond through their shared experiences and mutual respect of one another. I can’t wait to see what’s in the future for these two. They make a fierce pair and I love the budding romantic feelings they are showing.

However, I loved that their relationship didn’t become romantic. It’s such a fast paced story, largely happening over one day, that it would have felt rushed and forced. They still don’t really know each other. And the fact that Rhy, Kells ‘brother’ is the one driving the emotional plot of the story I thought was fantastic. Romantic love is not the only kind of love there is, or the only reason for big actions, and I really appreciated how this story took that idea on.

I can’t wait for the next book. I feel like there isn’t much that can be continued from this particular story, but I’m sure Black and Grey London still have sparks of conflict waiting to ignite. And I really want to see how Lila develops, and how she and Kell’s relationship moves forward.

Another great series from a great author.