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: 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

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