Review: The Cruel Prince

December 7, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, 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 Cruel PrinceThe Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Series: The Folk Of The Air #1
Published by Hot Key Books on 2nd January 2018
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him—and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Jude is a child living with her parents, her twin Taryn and her older sister Viv when a stranger appears at their door and kills her parents before her eyes. The murderer? Her Mother’s faerie ex-husband Madoc who has come to retrieve his daughter (Viv) whom he previously thought dead. He takes the two human twins with him, returning to Faerie and raising them all as his own. That’s the background.

Madoc is the High King’s General; because of this he has the power to demand that the human twins be treated as his own. So Jude and Taryn are educated with the Faerie gentry, schooled in swordsmanship by Madoc and attend functions at Court. Madoc has remarried, his new wife Oriana is not Jude’s favourite person, but she very much loves her younger brother from this union, Oak.

But not all of the faeries are happy to have humans in their midst, least of all humans with privilege and protection of the General.

Jude dreams of becoming a Knight – a fanciful ambition for a mortal in Faerie but one that she is determined to fulfil. She knows she can’t live under Madoc’s protection forever and if she wants to stay in Faerie rather than return to the mortal lands she is going to need to find some power of her own. Her twin is content with finding a marriage to keep her in Faerie but Jude wants to follow her own dreams.

Jude is educated with the High King’s son Prince Cardan, and his group of gentry faerie friends. They are not fond of humans and even less so of the twins, making life difficult for the twins. This animosity between Jude and Cardan is a theme that runs throughout the novel.

When the High King decides to leave his throne, a succession must follow. Any one of the King’s offspring could wear the Blood Crown, but it’s Prince Dain that the High King has chosen.

So when Dain makes a proposition to Jude, she realises that this could be her chance to find power and forge her own destiny.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the progression of Jude’s character and the quick escalation of the issues she had in front of her.

Through Jude, Black explores what it’s like to be different in society, to stand out from the crowd and to suffer the consequences of such differences.

Black’s land of Faerie had me thoroughly enthralled and I loved the contrast of the normalcy of going to Target in the mortal lands and the magic, and darkness, of Faerie.

While this book begins somewhat sedately (well, aside from the brutal murder of Jude’s parents) everything soon escalates to the point that you just want to keep reading. It’s a book full of betrayal, loyalty, families, scheming, ambition and secrets.

It is packed with fantastic characters. I’ll admit to being somewhat confused by the different court and placing some of the characters to begin with – I was a bit overwhelmed by names at the start. One of these thoroughly interesting characters is Prince Cardan who is at the heart of the cruelty, taunting and abuse that Jude encounters in Faerie.

I think of the things I liked most about Black’s characters is that they are flawed. No-one is perfect, each has their own stories and desires. Couple that with Black’s descriptive writing, fantastic world building and captivating plot, it’s hard not to love this book.

five-stars

Review: Darien

November 4, 2017 in Book Reviews, 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: DarienDarien by C.F. Iggulden
Series: Empire of Salt #1
Published by Michael Joseph on 13th July 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

TWELVE FAMILIES. ONE THRONE. WELCOME TO THE EMPIRE OF SALT.

The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. Twelve families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. The people of the city endure what they cannot change.

Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king. It will summon strangers to the city - Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt - and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all.

Their arrival inside the walls as the sun sets will set off a series of explosive events. Before the sun returns, five destinies will have been made - and lost - in Darien.

In the past I’ve very much enjoyed Conn Iggulden’s works of historical fiction – his Emperor series being one that really captivated me. So upon hearing that Iggulden would be releasing his first work of fantasy, Darien, (under the name C.F. Iggulden) I knew I had to read it!

Darien is the city around which most of this novel revolves. Headed by a King and twelve families, Darien is a city of power, where those that crave it use whatever means to attain or retain it.

I’m not going to go into the detail of this novel; the synopsis above tells you all I think you need to know. What I will say is that we are introduced to some very interesting characters in this book, each of whom have their own stories, skills and motivations. Although there are many characters in this novel, Iggulden (in my opinion) does them all justice. I always admire this skill in a writer – the ability to introduce depth of character in many characters without overwhelming the reader.

I really enjoyed how the author has drawn upon his great historical knowledge to help to build this world, add the details and merge fact with fantasy.

I became thoroughly swept up in the story, remembering just how much I’ve always enjoyed Iggulden’s writing. As for the fantasy aspect? Well, I love it! It’s hard to describe fantasy as realistic but the building of the world and the characters, if not the magic element itself, make it so.

In short – I’m eager for book two!

four-stars

Review: Good Me Bad Me

October 31, 2017 in Book Reviews, Crime, Psychological Thriller

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: Good Me Bad MeGood Me Bad Me by Ali Land
Published by Michael Joseph on 12th January 2017
Genres: Psychological, Crime
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

How far does the apple really fall from the tree?

Milly's mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother's trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother's daughter.

Good Me Bad Me is one of those books that I’ve been seeing all over social media with the general consensus being that readers found it hard to put it down – they were so right!

15-year-old Milly’s mother is a serial killer, and the only person who knows is Milly. It’s Milly who finally tells the police, Milly who is the sole witness and the only person who can see her mother brought to justice.

Milly isn’t her real name though. She’s been given a new identity to help to protect her from the huge media attention and contempt of the public. Only a handful of people know her history – his foster parents and her new headteacher.

She has been put in the care of Mike, a psychologist, and his family as she prepares for the upcoming trial. But Mike’s own teenage daughter, Phoebe, is less than pleased by Milly’s presence, even without knowing her history. Phoebe makes life even harder for Milly as she tries to forge a new life in a new city, a new school, a new family away from her mother’s abusive control.

This book is so hard to put down Told from Milly’s perspective we see a teenage girl trying to fit into a new life, a new school and make new friends. That in itself is a journey, a challenge for any teenager. But then we have the impact of Milly’s history, her battles not to miss the woman who has controlled her life, the woman who has murdered innocent children. We see Milly’s internal battle as she fears she is just like her mother and her preparation for trial, facing that woman again and doing all she can for her mother’s victims.

The writing style in this novel is very interesting and clever, Land adopts a style which seems to reflect the nature of Milly’s mind and further the reader’s experience.

There are so many issues packed into this book, I can in no way do them justice here – strained parental relationships, jealousy, self-harm, drug use, sexual abuse, bullying, all entwined within the story of one 15-year-old.

This is a truly gripping psychological thriller which, though it can be hard to read at times, and is maybe therefore not for everyone, is one that I can’t stop thinking about.

four-stars

Review: Flame In The Mist

October 26, 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: Flame In The MistFlame In The Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame In The Mist #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 16th May 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

Flame In The Mist is a book I’ve been looking forward to reading for so long but inexplicably hadn’t picked up until now. So I was kind of nervous that I might have built it up too much in my head, but actually I really enjoyed this novel.

Mariko is of the Hattori family, the only daughter of a prominent Samurai. Her twin brother Kenshin is a renowned warrior known as the Dragon of Kai. Unlike her brother, Mariko has no control over her life. A girl in her position must do as her father wishes and her father has lofty ideas for her, securing a betrothal to the Emperor’s son, Raiden.

While travelling from her home to meet Raiden in the imperial city, her party is attacked within the Junkai forest – she is the intended target. Escaping with her life as the sole survivor, Mariko suspects the outlaw Black Clan at being behind her attack. Wandering alone through the dangerous Jukai forest Mariko hatches a plan to take control of her own life and dress as a peasant boy in order to infiltrate the Clan to try and uncover who exactly wants her dead and why. Meanwhile, her twin is convinced that Mariko has survived the attack and is doing all he can to find and rescue his sister.

I really did enjoy this book. Ahdieh’s descriptions make for great scene-setting, helping to sweep the reader up in the story.

Mariko is smart and strong-willed. She’s the type of female protagonist I tend to like, one who taps into her previously unknown depth of strength. Her interactions with the Black Clan, a group of men, thieves, who live together in the woods, are interesting. Led by Ranmanu, supported by his best friend Okami, I quickly came to like this group that Mariko suspects of her attempted murder. I really like the relationship between Ranmanu and Okami, but it was the ongoing war of words between Okami and Mariko that I really enjoyed. Somewhat predictably, the mysterious character of Okami was my favourite person in this tale.

As an aside – I received a candle from In The Wick of Time that was based upon this book (in the Fairyloot box that also contained this book). Even before reading the book the “wood smoke and warm stone” scented candle became an absolute favourite of mine. Now, knowing that it is based on my favourite character Okami, I think I’m going to need to buy a new one – mine’s all burnt out! (find it here)

I’ve seen people talk about how “predictable” this book is and I guess in a way they are right, but that didn’t impact on my enjoyment of this book at all.

Two things did bother me though. They are spoilery though so I’ll hide them below.

View Spoiler »

All in all though, I really enjoyed this book. I did however find the end was a bit rushed. I felt that it didn’t have the same flow as the rest of the book. That said, maybe I just didn’t want it to end? Bring on book two!

four-stars

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