Review: The Last Namsara

October 11, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Last NamsaraThe Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
Series: Iskari #1
Published by Gollancz on 12th October 2017 (UK)
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Asha is the daughter of the dragon king. The people are afraid of her because she brought dragonflame upon the city as a child, telling Old Stories which attract the dragons. She herself was badly burned, but was rescued by the commandant’s son, Jarek. Now she is a hunter of dragons, a dragon slayer for her father the King who has also named her Iskari, from the Old Stories.

Asha is betrothed to the very boy who saved her. He’s commandant now, leader of her father’s armies and one of the few people who isn’t scared of her. In fact, if anything, she is scared of him.

When her father offers her the chance to call off their impending marriage, Asha leaps at the chance. Should she finally capture the First Dragon, Kozu, the very one that burned her skin and torched her city, her father would be willing to cancel the ceremony but Asha doesn’t have much time. Her quest leads her to cross paths with her betrothed’s slave, a boy called Torwin who doesn’t seem to fear her. In fact he breaks laws to look directly at her face.

There is much to love in this book – not least the dragons! Our story is told around Asha but also shares the Old Stories that she holds dear, those that remind her of her late mother. However, not only do the stories make people ill and are therefore banned, but they also draw dragons. The telling of the Old Stories attracts the dragons, which is a tempting proposition when you are hunting them, tasked with returning with their heads.

I enjoyed the storytelling style of this novel – the way the old and new cultures and beliefs were conveyed, so integral to the story yet also told as part of the tale.

I was unsure of Asha at first but I grew to like her. Honestly, and probably unsurprisingly, Torwin was my favourite character in this novel. As for other characters, I’d have liked to have seen more of Safira (Asha’s cousin) and Dax (Asha’s brother). I felt that they were kind of peripheral although they played a role in the story.

I will admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed by the world at times. It took me a while to get things straight in my mind, the different peoples, regions, names etc, but that’s probably down to my foggy brain!

I really enjoyed the writing in the novel and found it so easy to get swept up in this tale. This is the first book in a trilogy and I will most definitely be picking up book two.

four-stars

Review: Tower of Dawn

September 27, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

Review: Tower of DawnTower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #6
Published by Bloomsbury on 5th September 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

In case you aren’t aware, Tower of Dawn is the Chaol novella that Maas was working out that turned into a full-length novel – 660 pages! The timing of this book coincides with the happenings of Empire of Storms, so although they are separate books they are really following the one timeline. Make sense?

I was pretty excited to hear that Chaol would get his own novella, so I was delighted when I heard it had developed into an entire novel! I completely loved Chaol in the first two books of this series but felt he got a raw deal in the latter books. I really hoped that without Aelin as the focus we’d get Chaol back, and I think we did!

Aside from the prospect of a whole book about Chaol, I was very interested as to how Maas would handle his injury and wheelchair use. Many of you know that I have mobility issues and frequently require the use of my wheelchair as a result of illness. So I was equally intrigued (and rather nervous) as to how it and Chaol’s adjustment to his new life would be handled.

On the whole, I was very happy with the way Maas dealt with Chaol’s injury. She really captured many of the issues that  I myself have struggled with since needing help and the use of my chair to get about. In fact, there were passages where I cried, such was the impact, relevance, and portrayal of Chaol’s battles. At times I felt like Sarah was writing about me, particularly in that first half of the book. I’m very grateful to Maas for bringing these issues into her hugely popular books. While Chaol’s struggles won’t reflect everyone, they certainly reflect mine and I’m grateful that, through Chaol, some awareness may be raised.

I appreciated that while Chaol was being treated with magic, he still had to fight. It was a process, a battle. View Spoiler »

As for the story itself, I’ve seen people say that it didn’t need to be as long as it was. Perhaps that’s the case, but I would’ve read it at twice the length.

Yes, it was kind of predictable in places but I really didn’t care, as there was much that wasn’t predictable. In fact there were a couple of bombshells! We find out a lot more about Antica, Erilea and the Valg. If you think this is a secondary novel and you aren’t sure about reading then let me say that you must; there is important information in this book!

I also really loved how Maas continues to reintroduce her novella characters in this series. If you haven’t read The Assassin’s Blade collection of prequel novellas then I urge you to do so to get the most from this novel and the series as a whole.

All in all, I really enjoyed this novel and getting to spend more time with Chaol. I loved meeting the new characters, learning more about the world and I just can’t wait for book seven!

four-half-stars

Review: Royal Bastards

July 29, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Royal BastardsRoyal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Published by Disney-Hyperion on 30th May 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

Royal Bastards is an easy-to-read, action packed read, that although fantasy is not super-intense fantasy. Narrated by our main character Tilla, the story is told in a modern style. It’s banterous, playful and witty while simultaneously dangerous, bloody and violent.

We follow a bunch of five teens, 4 ‘outsiders’ and a Princess who are thrust together when they see something they shouldn’t have and find a bounty set on their heads.

Tilla is the daughter of Lord Kent of the Western Province and a low born woman. All she has ever wanted is to be legitimised, allowed to sit at her father’s side rather than at the bastard table at the back of the hall. But her father now has trueborn heirs and so Tilla spends the majority of her time with her half brother (same low born mother) Jax. I really liked Jax and the playful nature of their sibling relationship.

Then we have Miles, the bastard and only son of a Lady, Lord Kent’s best friend. We have a Princess who seeks to defy convention and a Zitochi warrior, Zell, who is sullen, serious and strong.

I very much liked the fact that although narrated through Tilla, we got to know the other characters and their back stories. I felt we saw the progression of each of the characters, with Tilla obviously being the predonimant one.

As fantasies go this isn’t too heavy. If you feel intimidated by fantasy then perhaps this YA fantasy would be a good place to start?

I did find the light narrative style to be somewhat at odds with the violence and implied violence. I guess it showed Tilla’s naivety as this disparity definitely seemed to lessen as the story progressed.

All in all, a good read with some interesting characters. I believe this is the first book in a trilogy so I look forward to book two.

three-half-stars

Mini Review: Avenged

June 7, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Mini Review: AvengedAvenged by Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined #2
Published by HarperTeen on 2nd May 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy, Fantasy
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A war that will fuel her. A bond that will destroy her.

Emelina Flores has come home to Ruina. After rescuing her sister, Olivia, from imprisonment in rival kingdom Lera, Em and Olivia together vow to rebuild Ruina to its former glory.

But just because Em and Olivia are out of Lera doesn’t mean they are safe. Their actions over the past year have had consequences, and they are now targets of retaliation. Olivia will destroy everyone who acts against Ruina. Em isn’t as sure.

Ever since Em posed as Prince Casimir’s betrothed in Lera, she’s started to see another side to this war. Lera may have destroyed the Ruined for decades, but Em knows that Cas is different. And now that he’s taken the throne, Em believes a truce is within reach. But Olivia suspects that Em’s romantic feelings for Cas are just coloring her judgement.

Em is determined to bring peace to her home. But when winning the war could mean betraying her family, she faces an impossible choice between loyalty and love. Em must stay one step ahead of her enemies—and her blood—before she’s the next victim in this battle for sovereignty.

It was great to be able to pick up Avenged so soon after reading the first book in this series, Ruined. I wasn’t ready to leave Em, Cas and co. behind just yet! Now though, I face a yearlong wait until I can rejoin them and experience the conclusion of this trilogy.

What can I say about Avenged? There’s war, hatred, betrayal, friendship, loyalty and trust. I love that we see more of Aren in this book; he’s a character I wanted more of in Ruined.

Avenged is full of action as Tintera once more immerses us in her world. Yes, it might be a little predictable in places, but I didn’t care. It’s an easy-to-read YA fantasy with some fantastic characters and engrossing writing.

four-half-stars

Review: Defy The Stars

June 2, 2017 in Book Reviews, Sci-Fi, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Defy The StarsDefy The Stars by Claudia Gray
Series: Constellation #1
Published by Hot Key Books on 6th April 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Noemi is a young and fearless soldier of Genesis, a colony planet of a dying Earth. But the citizens of Genesis are rising up - they know that Earth's settlers will only destroy this planet the way they destroyed their own. And so a terrible war has begun.

When Noemi meets Abel, one of Earth's robotic mech warriors, she realizes that Abel himself may provide the key to Genesis' salvation. Abel is bound by his programming to obey her - even though her plan could result in his destruction. But Abel is no ordinary mech. He's a unique prototype, one with greater intelligence, skill and strength than any other. More than that, he has begun to develop emotions, a personality and even dreams. Noemi begins to realise that if Abel is less than human, he is more than a machine. If she destroys him, is it murder? And can a cold-blooded murder be redeemed by the protection of a world?

Stranded together in space, they go on a whirlwind adventure through Earth's various colony worlds, alongside the countless Vagabonds who have given up planetary life altogether and sail forever between the stars. Each step brings them closer - both to each other and to the terrible decision Noemi will have to make about her world's fate, and Abel's.

Noemi is risking her life to save her planet, Genesis, from their ancestors-turned-enemies, Earth. In three weeks she’ll participate in a suicide mission to damage the Gate that links the worlds and find Genesis some much-needed time. At least that’s the plan until she discovers another way to potentially save her planet, a theory that will result in a race across the galaxies adventure.

Abel is the most advanced mech ever created. Mansfield has created mechs for Earth for every scenario – healthcare, labour, war, but Abel is Mansfield’s one-of-a-kind creation.

When Abel and Noemi’s paths cross they are of course enemies, Earth vs Genesis. However, Abel’s unique programming offers Noemi the chance to utilise him – that is until she realises that he is no mere robot.

There is much to like in this novel. At times I can struggle with world-building set in space, but actually I got on pretty well with Defy The Stars.  Admittedly there’s stuff I didn’t completely follow; the politics and the exact reason for the war still eludes me but that’s probably just my foggy brain. However, as a result, I didn’t feel like I cared as much as I should have.

My favourite element of the story was Abel which to be honest took me by surprise. I loved the concept of him, his interactions and the way his character developed. I enjoyed the storytelling style too – the mix of perspectives of both Noemie and Abel. I thought it worked well.

Yet, while I enjoyed this book I didn’t LOVE it. A cursory glance on Goodreads tells me I appear to be in the minority with this one though.

Will I read on in the series? Probably, depending upon the focus of book two.

 

three-half-stars