Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Ruthless Gods by Emily Duncan

I have been sitting on this review for weeks and with the release now imminent, I should probably post it.  I believe the review is spoiler free for both books.

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

I read Wicked Saints as an ARC last year and enjoyed the basis of the story, but if you all remember I just absolutely hate her writing style. I found Duncan’s writing repetitive to the nauseatingly “I need to skim” point of being terrible.  A good author would take that significant round of criticism from Wicked Saints and build a better novel in Ruthless Gods….but OH god was I wrong in thinking it would happen.  (My review of Wicked Saints

Here is the description for Ruthless Gods:

Darkness never works alone…

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

The first thing to note is that book one was supposed to be Nadya’s (HAHAH), this is  Serefin’s (got it, he was no hero though) and book three is to be Malachiasz’s.  I don’t think Duncan is doing a great job of clarifying this but Serefin did have a very large, if not incidentally passive at times role in this book.  I will come back to him later on but do appreciate the title character having a firmer role.

So. Duncan’s writing. If I had to read “*one of 5 adjectives* + boy” one more time I would have DNF’d, and almost did. Again.  Duncan has the continent’s ENTIRE future political leadership trekking across the country together in this book and all they do is continue to pine and chase each other’s tails. Maybe the hunter couldn’t have done much politically but can we treat Serefin like the actual king of Tranavia? The entire trek could have been EPIC and brilliant and all we got was more of “blah blah I was betrayed blah and now I’m afraid but let’s kiss again…” and Nadya’s broken record just played, and played, and played.  The plot and mechanisms did advance but it took a lot of weeding through nonsense to get there.

Oh yeah, Nadya thinks that she learned but she really learned nothing from book 1 and she’s still terrible. She is changing but doesn’t seem to be internalizing any of her lessons, although Kostya comes back long enough to force some true self-reflection. That particular dynamic was surprising and one of the more interesting ones.  Nadya is basically a punching bag and while she knows it, she doesn’t seem to care.

Duncan did do a better job showing monstrosity versus just talking about it, but again it was so repetitive. I liked the shifting faces and did like her take on the gods and monsters and older beings, but she could have used Nadya’s broken record headspace to talk more about some of the Slavic lore she was throwing out in names and titles only. That is something I’d like to have read about.  Think Winternight Trilogy – if you’re going to mention the Chyerti why not talk about them?

Serefin was my favorite character again because he is amazing, even though Duncan turned him into the token “other” character. I really think Ostyia would have been enough in that department but she got sidelined plot wise. Serefin and his moths and his bad vision and his nonexistent brutality (talk talk talk, never shown) just make me happy, and I think he had the most interesting arc in this book. If nothing else Duncan did use his and Malachiasz’s time together to explain all of the Tranavian political hierarchy that was missing from Wicked Saints.  I fully enjoyed the parts in Serefin’s head where he was grappling with the God-Monster-Deity-Chyerti-Other.

The ending sounded cool but that last sentence…was a terrible word choice.  It sounded cool but ENTROPY doesn’t even fit, just say his name already.  It was almost enough of a cliffhanger to make me think about book 3, but the plot is not enough to cancel out Duncan’s writing. I will be waiting for the cliffnotes version.

Last but not least: the @OneReadingNurse infamous medical rant. Have you ever actually seen a pupil blow? I have. Someone having a stroke? A blown pupil is TERRIFYING, and having someone’s pupils “blow open” is A TERRIBLE choice of phrase for someone surprised or experiencing adrenaline. Not only that but I think it was used at least 3 times throughout the book and I just don’t understand why an editor didn’t clam this up

This is the second book this year that shut me down in the middle of a trilogy, *cough* Heart of Flames * cough*.  These are the authors that must not read their critical reviews and editorial advice at all.  I haven’t posted it yet but when I feature The Silvered Serpents, I will highlight and throw praises down on Roshani Chokshi for elevating her second book above and beyond the first in every conceivable way.  Duncan and Pau Preto need to learn from her!

In summary: if you liked Wicked Saints, read Ruthless Gods, if not or if you were on the fence, stay away. Ruthless Gods IS marginally better but I personally can’t do it for a third novel.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke

Thank you so much to North Star Editions: Flux for the ward via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Ren Kolins is a silver wielder—a dangerous thing to be in the kingdom of Erdis, where magic has been outlawed for a century. Ren is just trying to survive, sticking to a life of petty thievery, card games, and pit fighting to get by. But when a wealthy rebel leader discovers her secret, he offers her a fortune to join his revolution. The caveat: she won’t see a single coin until they overthrow the King.

Behind the castle walls, a brutal group of warriors known as the King’s Children is engaged in a competition: the first to find the rebel leader will be made King’s Fang, the right hand of the King of Erdis. And Adley Farre is hunting down the rebels one by one, torturing her way to Ren and the rebel leader, and the coveted King’s Fang title.

But time is running out for all of them, including the youngest Prince of Erdis, who finds himself pulled into the rebellion. Political tensions have reached a boiling point, and Ren and the rebels must take the throne before war breaks out.

If you know me, you already know that all the And’s and But’s in the summary are driving me crazy; I do hope that this won’t be the books final description. It is a common error to start sentences like that (cough Caraval books) but we were always taught that it was not proper English.

Anyway!  Magic in the form of Silver has been outlawed in the country of Erdis for years.  The Kingdom’s bloody history includes a huge genocide of magic wielders and a systematic eradication of trade routes and immigration from areas where refugees fled.  The King is a murderous bastard, the crown prince is even worse, and the youngest prince is the snarky one that wants nothing to do with royalty.  He reminded me of Nikolai except he’s a pit lord, not a privateer.

The rebellion is seeking to overthrow the crown and has been planting seeds to do so since before Darek (this generation’s rebel  leader) and Ren were born.  The characters are pretty well described in the summary.  There is a lot of squabbling (or sexual tension) between a few of them, but the book has a lot of quite well done banter.  I just kept being reminded of Nikolai with the whole second prince syndrome.

Silver is just an innate ability like fire wielding or any other mage ability.  It seems to be the only magical ability in the kingdom.  Silver can be used for anything from lockpicking to torture to making a giant silver lion appear – like an illusion with substance.  The king uses it to torture people while Ren picks locks and destroys ships… I felt like we were deprived of a good mage fight.  I wanted to see silver vs silver in combat.  While it is a simple enough magic system, and a cool ability, it’s a bit underdeveloped.  Hopefully there will be more explanation in book two.

The world building is really excellent in some places.  The descriptions of the city, buildings, river, mood, political structure, and tension in the city were real.  We even got to see the festival, some food, and see some music and entertainment.   The characters used English slang though, in high quantity.  It isn’t a bad thing but I forgot this was a YA book while reading. There actually isn’t a lot of magic since only the Royalty and Ren wield it now, and seeing as there wasn’t other magic described in the world…. This isn’t quite low fantasy but the fantastical aspect is limited to silver wielding.

Speaking of age appropriateness: the tortures used in the book aren’t for the fainthearted!  I enjoyed reading a book with some teeth, but kind of had it in my head that I was reading an adult fantasy.  I enjoyed it though. Flaying skin and muscle, blood and arrows stabbed and sliced in unconventional ways, courtesy of Adley and Lesa.  I cringed a few times during torture scenes😳 As long as I’m talking about those two, they are a pair of women but the worst that they do is pine and kiss and pine some more.  Otherwise for romance, two characters hook up off page.  I kind of feel like if we get to read about Adley flaying off a guy’s skin, we could have read about Darek in bed, but to each their own.

The pacing of the entire book was good, fast, and then the last maybe 100 pages were BREAKNECK!! I could not put it down!

All in all I think older teens and young adults are a good audience for the book.  I actually enjoyed it as an adult. The most eye-rolling thing that happened was how often the two coupled pairs eyed each other before getting it over with, but some scenes definitely require a slightly more mature audience.

My original instinct was 5stars for the last part of the book – but overall I will go with a strong, strong four.  Thank you again to the publisher for the advanced read!

Categories
Paranormal Young Adult

ARC Review: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Margaret K. McElderry Books for the ARC of Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare! The book was won in a bookish raffle and given for free in exchange for an honest review.

Guys I apologize because this is one of my rare “more-rambly-and-less-literary” reviews. It is good to be back in the Shadowhunter world, especially Will & Tessa’s time.  The Infernal Devices is by far my favorite of Clare’s trilogies, so I was thrilled when I heard the next generation of Herondales and Lightwoods (and Carstairs and Blackthorns) were getting a series.

The Description from Goodreads:

“Welcome to Edwardian London, a time of electric lights and long shadows, the celebration of artistic beauty and the wild pursuit of pleasure, with demons waiting in the dark. For years there has been peace in the Shadowhunter world. James and Lucie Herondale, children of the famous Will and Tessa, have grown up in an idyll with their loving friends and family, listening to stories of good defeating evil and love conquering all. But everything changes when the Blackthorn and Carstairs families come to London…and so does a remorseless and inescapable plague.

James Herondale longs for a great love, and thinks he has found it in the beautiful, mysterious Grace Blackthorn. Cordelia Carstairs is desperate to become a hero, save her family from ruin, and keep her secret love for James hidden. When disaster strikes the Shadowhunters, James, Cordelia and their friends are plunged into a wild adventure which will reveal dark and incredible powers, and the true cruel price of being a hero…and falling in love”

Let me come up front with my biggest gripe about the book:  The first 150 pages held very little action at all.  Clare used the space to introduce the entire next generation – a TON of characters – their friendships, lives, and surface connections to each other.  We got to see what Will and Tessa and Charlotte and Sophie and Gideon and Cecily and Gabriel and their entire HOST of offspring have built in the peace following the clockwork war.  I was also happy to hear that Henry’s injuries didn’t affect his babymaking abilities. It took me most of the book to have the characters straight. I drew one but it would have been cool if she had included a family tree up front.

Anyway, once the action got going I really enjoyed the book.  The typical  Clare themes of strong young women, magical weapons, self discovery, friends with secrets, and a tangled web of romances present themselves per usual. It was different to have everyone on the same  page as a shadowhunter already, as in prior books someone is always having to discover their true identity and abilities.  There is a healthy amount of this in the Herondale children though, I mean, What kind of abilities would TESSA GRAY’s children have? My favorite part was finding out. James and his shadow travels and Lucie with her affinity for ghosts were both awesome story lines.   Cordelia with her Cortana are obviously going to be great heroes and I love her as well.  There is a full cast of other characters including Sophie and Cecily’s kids, Charlotte and Henry had a few too, and crazy old Tatiana Lightwood is even a main character with her stuffed bird hats and general lunacy. I won’t share ARC quotes but believe me, the banter continues to be most excellent.

As for the bad guy – the villain – First we had Valentine, then The Magister, and now… wow.  I can’t really go too much into the villains here without spoilers but there is a manticore demon and plenty of adversarial magic for the young friends to ward off.  Learning more about warlock magic and demons was cool, it was explored more in this book than in prior series.  I really enjoyed the build up to the reveal of the villain (and the world building) in this novel, Clare took her time but it worked.  The villain is definitely worthy of the series, and that’s all I’ll say on the matter.

Speaking of the ghosts, how about Jesse and Jessamine!  How about the warlocks? I was so excited to have Magnus Bane gone before he showed up. I am ready for a new warlock.  If nothing else, Clare does like to recycle her characters a bit.  I think she honestly needs to quit this universe after this trilogy, there are just so many repeating themes and fan fiction with those short stories now!

Yes yes yes, I am talking about Chain of Gold, not Clare’s formula.  I want to divert one more time and say that YES, these books are paranormal…romance.  Girls like boys, boys like girls, boys like boys, boys like both, and someone is a crossdresser.  None of these things are too heavy but be aware that it’s there in greater quantities than in previous books if those things bother you, although if you’re still around after Malec I’m assuming they don’t. The worst than anyone does is kiss anyway, with mentioned themes of seduction and spending the night.

I guess the most important question a lot of you will ask is: Can I read this book first?  If you have never read a shadowhunters novel, (I personally HATE The Mortal Instruments) and would start with The Infernal Devices, then back track to TMI, then you’re home free with either this series or the one with the LA shadowhunters.   You literally can’t read Chain of Gold first without a shit TON of spoilers that will ruin your reading of The Infernal Devices.  Clare’s writing is getting better as she goes though, I’ll give her that.

Thank you again to Bookish first and the publisher, All opinions are my own!

Categories
Science Fiction Thrillers Young Adult

The God Game by Danny Tobey

Thank you so much to St Martin’s Press for the ARC of The God Game by Danny Tobey! This is a technological thriller with mythological and sci fi elements, read on to find out why I’m recommending this book!

Synopsis from GoodReads:

You are invited! Come inside and play with G.O.D. Bring your friends! It’s fun! But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!

With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.

But then th threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?

If cool rainbow-reflective lettering on the cover wasn’t enough, this book was completely addictive as well. The premise is that a group of five high school friends (but is this really a YA book? I think all ages will enjoy this with no problem) stumble upon a chatbot that claims to be G.O.D. This moral experiment has tons of players all over the world and attempts to crowd surf morality.

All five students have their own secrets and family issues. At this point they are trying to get into college, or just survive. The game puts each teenager against them self, each other, and the community, causing them to make choices and understand that each action has a consequence.

I think these are important topics for teens to read about. Themes about lying, bullying, suicide, child abuse, religion, and taking responsibility for your actions are all included in the book. Some are discussed thoughtfully and others less so. My favorite part was seeing how each teen reacted once they learned that their choices, actions, and decisions all had very potentially harmful flip sides for someone else.

“Donald Trump is a shape shifting lizard”

The other part I enjoyed was the humor! Isn’t it great that we live in a country where we can publish “Donald Trump is a shape-shifting lizard?” I did something similar to that to George Bush and it was made clear to me by the teacher that I should be thankful I didn’t live in a country where I could be imprisoned or worse for writing bad presidential poetry. Just saying. That part had me absolutely rolling though, but then The God Game got more intense and progressively darker to the point where I wasn’t laughing anymore.

I also enjoyed that progressive descent into ruin. It made the book so hard to put down. The end got a little bit convoluted and murky which is why I dropped the rating to four stars. The other part that threw me was some of the talk about code, I don’t know anything about coding and although it didn’t throw me off too hard – I just had no idea what they were talking about during those passages. The hacking parts were still interesting.

I thought after they had been though that the characters deserved a nice wrapped up ending after the game answered it’s biggest question of morality…. but that’s not how G.O.D. works.

The book releases on January 7th, 2020, mark your calendar if The God Game sounds up your alley!

Categories
Contemporary Paranormal Young Adult

Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Thank you so much to BookishFirst and Tor/Forge Books for my advanced copy of Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry! Synopsis from GoodReads:

Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more… Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica. A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

I do not read a lot of young adult contemporary because as a 30 something year old, I can never identify with the characters or stories, and I am SO HAPPY to say that this is not the case with this amazing book.

First I just want to comment on the location: I originally thought that the book took place in Saranac Lake because of the TB hospital and note up front, but there is a portion of a real diary included in the novel from a patient at the hospital. The book actually takes place somewhere in Kentucky, but I still was jumping at home being mentioned in a book at all.

I loved the characters and the lessons they learned. Veronica is dealing with a brain tumor and believes that she is living life to the fullest… or is she just waiting to die? Sawyer is a popular kid who has a whole houseful of his own issues, and the unlikely couple end up empowering each other to confront their fears.

The book revolves around a school project that Veronica and Sawyer are doing together, to prove or disprove that ghosts exist. The themes about residual hauntings are absolutely beautiful, concluding that these are caused by emotions and events too powerful to leave the mortal world, and they can haunt a person in their day to day decisions. There may or may not be evidence of other ghosts in the story, but those are part of the fun of reading.

It is not a ghost story though, I thought it was shaping up to turn into one but it really isn’t, it is SO much more. The book deals with delicate and important themes like depression, alcoholism, enablers, addiction in general, and mortal illness. Poor little Lucy, Sawyer’s younger sister, seems to be the wildcard in the story and I just felt so bad for that little girl.

The one part that I wasn’t quite thrilled with was Sawyer’s voice when we first met him, I don’t really like cryptic language that usually means a poor attempt at foreshadowing. Stick with him though because it ends up making sense, and he ended up being my favorite of the dual points of view.

I think Veronica and Sawyer have a great relationship though and their groups of friends are really, truly good friends, which is shown towards the end of the book. Their dad’s are also great characters, V’s dad is a big amazing papa bear and I loved him, then Sawyer’s dad at the end stepping up and taking care of his kids was a good message as well. I think this is a great book for young adults and teens (and even adults) to read. It made me really think about some of the aforementioned themes … I can’t get this residual haunting concept out of my head.

I would totally recommend this book to ANYONE, which is rare for me. It publishes January 14th so check it out if it sounds up your alley!

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction Young Adult

Refraction by Naomi Hughes

Hi all! Today is my instagram stop on the Fantastic Flying Book Club tour for Refraction, by Naomi Hughes! Thank you for including me!!

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Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest. With fast pacing and riveting characters, this is a book that you’ll finish in one sitting.

I actually read it in two sittings, the synopsis is not exaggerating at all when it says faat pacing! I was hooked from the start to the end, for a few different reasons.

First off I liked the characters. After an alien invasion where now any reflective surface can spawn vicious shadow creatures, mirrors become illegal. Marty deals in illegal mirrors, which are still prized for their potential to create electricity in the dystopian society that has developed on the island. Elliot is a great character too, I enjoyed watching them begrudgingly work together and then become friends.

The plot was absolutely breakneck, and after the boys are exiled and start learning what is happening to Earth, it became awful hard to put the book down. It is hard to not give spoilers but the main character has OCD, which ties into the rather large psychological aspect of the story.

The way that the action is framed can be done either very well or very poorly, and I was nervous at first but the author did it VERY well I thought, because it made sense. You’ll see what I mean when you read it!

I would fully recommend the book for any fans of sci fi, psychological aspects, and there is a touch of horror and supernatural as well. There is something for everyone here including found families and a lot of personal growth.

Thank you again for including me in the tour!!

BOOK LINKS:

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43263585

refraction
Amazon:
https://amzn.to/2IBDomN
B&N:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/refraction

naomi

hughes/1130016054#/
iTunes:
https://books.apple.com/br/book/refraction/id1458360171
Kobo:
https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/refraction

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Google Books:
https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Refraction.html?id=7E_DvgEACAAJ&redir_esc=y

Categories
Paranormal Suspense Thrillers Young Adult

The Furies by Katie Lowe

Thank you SO much to St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own! Here is the first part of the Goodreads summary:

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. The novel opens with this image, as related to us by the narrator, Violet, looking back on the night it happened from the present day, before returning to relate the series of events leading up to the girl’s murder.

The Furies by Katie Lowe is an atmospheric read set in a small coastal town at the end of the line. All the lines. Literally. It seems like a very depressed area that has a history of witch hunts and unexplained deaths/murders. At the heart is a school for girls, where Violet is a new student and she ends up falling in with an odd group of girls that are part of a secret society. The past is mixed with the present as Violet recalls the events of her first year at the school.

So the good things first: I really did enjoy Lowe’s writing style. Violet had a detached voice that kind of mirrored the….. ….hell, I’ll say it, she’s a bit of a sociopath. The whole book had a creepy, depressed, airy tone that her voice did a good job imparting.

The other voice that we hear a lot of is the secret society/art teacher, Annabel. She gives us some interesting discourse on the history of the town and school, as well as a critical view of some mythological and literary classics through a feminist lens. The only parts that really lost me were these discourses – yes it is cool to have mini lessons on Chaucer, Dante’s Inferno, and others, but it was a bit of a sidetrack. And extensive. Very occasionally it was hard in other places to understand what was happening, but the storyline would pick back up quickly enough.

The girls might have been abused by the men in their lives, and then had good reason fo seek revenge, but they took women’s empowerment to a scary level! They attempted – attempted? to summon the mythical furies as had their study group’s members in earlier years, evoking their powers. Violet was an at risk teen to start but she seemed way too eager to start smoking, drinking, doing drugs, losing weight, and contemplating murder…just to fit into this group. None of those girls were healthy.

Otherwise I really loved how the witchcraft, history, and mythology all tied together in the book. I don’t think anyone could have possibly seen that end coming. I would definitely recommend the book if atmospheric, spellcrafty, spooky and slightly psychopathic reads are up your alley!

The title releases on 10/8 and is available for preorder!

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Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

The Exalted by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

Thank you so much to Inkyard press and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Here is the summary from Goodreads;

Alskad has been ruled by the singleborn…but the new heir to the throne carries a secret that will change everything

When an assassin’s bullet takes the life of Queen Runa and allows an impostor to steal the throne, Bo Trousillion is forced to flee the empire that is his birthright. With few choices left and burdened with a secret that could disinherit him, Bo pursues an alliance with Noriava, the Queen of Denor, but the devious royal ensnares him in a trap and demands a huge price for her aid.

To the south, Vi Abernathy—Bo’s secret twin—joins a ragtag army of resistance fighters, determined to free Alskad and the colony of Ilor from the control of the corrupt temple and its leaders. But as Vi discovers a strength she never knew she had and prepares to rejoin her brother in Alskad, news of the coup and Bo’s narrow escape arrive in Ilor.

Determined to rescue Bo, Vi sails to Denor with the rebels at her side and a plan to outwit Queen Noriava, knowing there’s only one way she and Bo will be able to save the Alskad Empire—together

When I first requested The Exalted I didn’t realize that it was a sequel, so I had the pleasure of binge reading the duology. One thing I really appreciate is how The Diminished ended in a very. satisfying and non cliffhanger ish way, so I was more than ready to read this but did feel pressured to. I was glad to have it lined up!

This book put me through the entire spectrum of emotions, I was laughing, clapped a few times, spilled a few tears for various fallen warriors, and ended with a book hangover that resulted in a grossly delayed review (I’m sorry, my bad). There was a LOT going on in this book though -the Suzerain (religious sect/temple) took down the queen and plotted a coup, Bo had to go deal with Noriava, all the rebel fighting, then the maneuvering to take back the throne… Very busy but very well fleshed out and surprisingly linear novel – I had to force myself to put it down.

The Exalted moved a lot faster than the previous book and every part of it mattered. I was reading as much as I could each day! I loved Bo and Vi’s family and the little girls were hilarious. All of the new characters were great, Noriava as cunning as anyone, the general, and the camp warriors who we met. There were some surprising characters too but I will leave it at “holy cow, the Shriven”! (They are the Suzerain’s warriors.)

I do believe that some books read better with a rough ending, and I appreciate that in a war important people are going to die…but really? I wasn’t sure if I should be impressed at how many main characters died or if it was overdone. One particular hero I do feel like should have gotten some last words, or something, he was so important and if you were reading quickly you would have missed where he died. Bye bye new and shortlived book boyfriend 😦 😦 😦

Why did H die and not M? the twin thing didn’t seem entirely consistent but I am so glad there were also some platonic relationships in this book. I also think Vi’s depressive bout was real and important, this whole book just felt very,,,real…at times.

Anyway – Found families, gay characters, I don’t understand nonbinary but that was mentioned, strong female leaders, and nail biting nonstop action with a twist of court intrigue and betrayal out the wazoo…if these are your tropes and you’re not afraid to cry, go grab this duology and get to it! An easy 5 stars for this book!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

The Diminished by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

I requested The Exalted on NetGalley without realizing it was a sequel, and then had the pleasure of binge reading this duology by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson.

It is hard to go into a lot of summary without spoilers, so here is the GoodReads summary:

In the Alskad Empire, nearly all are born with a twin, two halves to form one whole…yet some face the world alone

The Singleborn
A rare few are singleborn in each generation, and therefore given the right to rule by the gods and goddesses. Bo Trousillion is one of these few, born into the royal line and destined to rule. Though he has been chosen to succeed his great-aunt, Queen Runa, as the leader of the Alskad Empire, Bo has never felt equal to the grand future before him.

The diminished
When one twin dies, the other usually follows, unable to face the world without their other half. Those who survive are considered diminished, doomed to succumb to the violent grief that inevitably destroys everyone whose twin has died. Such is the fate of Vi Abernathy, whose twin sister died in infancy. Raised by the anchorites of the temple after her family cast her off, Vi has spent her whole life scheming for a way to escape and live out what’s left of her life in peace.

As their sixteenth birthdays approach, Bo and Vi face very different futures—one a life of luxury as the heir to the throne, the other years of backbreaking work as a temple servant. But a long-held secret and the fate of the empire are destined to bring them together in a way they never could have imagined.

The Singleborn are few and born to rule and be leaders, while most of the population is born as twins to keep their other half in check. This ties in with the pretty cool lore and world building, depicted by the halved moon on the gorgeous cover. See this below! The lore and premise really had me interested in this series and I found a lot of unique elements. I also freaking loved Queen Runa by the way.

What I really liked was the world building, political structures, and how quickly the action progressed. I liked the journey but some parts felt too easy, like Mal and Quill coming out of no where and being Vi’s new bffs. I was also cringeing at the insta love between like…everybody, but at least they kind of recognized it as lust and didn’t get all emotional at first. Bo is also extremely gay which seems to be a big draw these days.

Really though between the world, the friendships built, the unlikely families and friends, the betrayals coming from unlikely places, and how terrible certain things end up being for Vi’s old friends…This story really twined together quite nicely and progressed quickly enough to keep me fairly rapt. I think the author took riding lessons or has horses as well, because Vi’s riding lessons had me laughing at the 😂

This might be book two but the atrocities that the Suzerain and the temple are committing are like 😳, fear ruling bastards. I honestly forget where in the major plot line book one ended, but it was not a cliffhanger. The book didn’t need one, I already knew I would be reading the sequel and appreciated the solid ending of this first installment.

Highly recommend to any fans of fantasy, found families, political betrayals, and thick plot building!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Title: The Gilded Wolves

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release date: Jan 15th 2019

Rating: 4/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Would I let my kid read this? 100%

I was lucky enough to receive a digital ARC from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review, thank you!!!

The summary from Goodreads

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

The Plot

In short – this is a heist story. It is also a story of magic, friendship, puzzles, and history. There are a lot of themes packed into this book and it moved along at a steady pace. By the end I wished that it was the second book about to be released, not the first! I was so wrapped up when it ended that I just wanted the book to keep going, probably in part due to the baby cliff hanger. where no one was dying or in imminent danger, nothing crazy happening, but a firm hook is set and you know you are going to be eagerly awaiting the next installment!

The Characters

The Gilded Wolves had me wanting to crush on half of the characters before I realized they were all teenagers. I am not going to go into individual characters here but they are a band of misfits. They are a pretty typical group on the surface – awkward girl, fake girl, braniac, the immature one, the moody leader…but under the surface and throughout the book their secrets are told and they become dear to the reader, or at least to me they did. The point of view switches between four of them – I think – throughout the book, with one exception that made sense at the end. I had noticed his missing voice before the end and was going to bring it up, but now….well, what would it say?

The Writing

Chokshi has an unbelievably poetic writing style. My favorite passage was this:

Kisses were to be witnessed by stars, not held in the presence of stale death. But as the bones rose up around them, Laila saw fractals of white. Pale constellations of bone. And she thought that, perhaps, for a kiss like this , even hell would put forth its stars

The descriptions throughout the book were flowery almost to the point of excess, but not quite. Her world is full of magic and she did an amazing job bringing it to life. This book is meant to be savored, not skimmed. I only skimmed when the one character started rambling about math and puzzles, those descriptions were not my brain’s favorite. I also didn’t mind the multiple points of views as it was not repetitive and kept the story moving.

Overall Impression:

As I write this I feel like I should have given it five stars, but it was a little drawn out at times and I was jarred by the last few chapters. You all know how I LOVE endings that just wreck your life…you might have to read the last few chapters a couple times and contain your meltdown, but that’s OK❤ The book mainly has positive relationships, clean language, and is lgbq+, but it doesn’t really read like a young adult book and I know adults can get into it too. In that spirit I would say yes, let your young adults read this (then read it after). Anyway, I give it a solid 4/5 stars and would recommend to anyone who likes heists, fantasy, magic, young adult, fiction, or a good book in general!