Book Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Synopsis

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most – a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever. 
The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavoury hobby – it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good.

But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Publication Date: 6th March 2018

My thoughts…

This book is a darker re-telling of the Little Mermaid and it had lots to offer. To Kill a Kingdom has all the elements of a really good dark fantasy, there’s mermaids and pirates, siren’s ripping out hearts, a Sea Queen reminiscent of Ursula and a hate to love romance. The story was nicely paced and I think it does an excellent job of taking The Little Mermaid and making it darker and grittier than the film we all know and love.

This book held such promise for me but in the end it didn’t quite deliver. For me this book was a little too perfect, every twist and turn wasn’t a surprise, I felt like I was on a road I had travelled before. I didn’t really have any doubt in my mind at where this book was going or how it would end. Everything ended up being a bit too convenient, I could see what the author wanted to achieve, so all the character growth needed to get there felt a bit forced.

In the end Lira and Elian didn’t learn to look past their differences, they were moulded into being the same. I say this particularly for Lira who starts out as this blood-thirsty Siren, but this initial characterisation is proclaimed as false as you get further into the book and it ends up that Lira didn’t want to be that way she felt forced by her mother. For me good characterisation would be if they had both learnt to change, not the reader learning that they aren’t the way initially presented. It was all just a little too neat but this might be because it was a standalone.  

There was a few plot issues, namely Lira’s familiarity with all things human despite being from the sea, she recognised things like the smell of peppermint and honey. Are these common in the ocean? I also had issues with the ending, who goes through the trouble of hiding something as far away from the ocean as you can but then decides to built a moat around/through it? Wasn’t the whole point to be that it was away from water?

This book is by no means boring and for a ya dark fantasy it’s pretty decent. There were just several issues for me that stopped me completely enjoying the book, I didn’t find the banter that witty and there was a lot of it and I felt like the plot was often advanced by people overlooking the glaringly obvious. I know lots of people are going to love this book but I ended up being one of those who only liked it.

*I received a digital review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own*

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Book Review: The Queen of the Night By Alexander Chee

Synopsis

From a writer praised by Junot Díaz as ‘the fire, in my opinion, and the light’, a mesmerizing novel that follows one woman’s rise from circus rider to courtesan to world-renowned star Paris, 1882. Lilliet Berne is a sensation, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her still, one wants only to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. As Lilliet mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from circus rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to stage ingénue,all the while weaving a web of passion and intrigue. Will the truth secure Lillet’s fate – or destroy her with the secrets it reveals? Fifteen years in the writing, The Queen of the Night is a literary tour de force that is also ferociously readable. A blazing tale of lust, ambition, betrayal and revenge, it will captivate readers right up to its final electrifying denouement. 

Publication Date: 22nd February 2018

My thoughts..

The Queen of the Night is an epic tale of death, betrayal, fortune and lust that was as engrossing as it was overwhelming. The mysterious life and rise of Lilliet Berne is intriguing, dangerous and at times tragic but most of all fascinating.

Lilliet’s life is made up of a series of fortunate and unfortunate events that makes it seem like she is not in control of her own destiny. I found this approach not only refreshing but also realistic for the time period. She deals with what life throws her way the best she can and while she is often manipulated by more powerful individuals I don’t think it detracted from her character. Lilliet has a more quiet strength and resilience about her which I found made her very likeable.

The level of detail in this book meant that I was a given a thoroughly in-depth insight into a world I knew nothing about, but it also made this book a lot denser than I found strictly necessary. For example the page long list of furs the Empress owned I just skipped right over and I got lost in the sometimes too detailed explanations of opera performances. I can however appreciate what the author was trying to do and some of the aspects of the book I struggled with I know a classical music lover would love.

I did find that I was at all times reading with a kind of remote detachment. I think this is because partly Lilliet Berne as a narrator is seemingly fairly emotionally detached from events herself. I think this was partly in a way to protect herself from the tragic events from her past but as the story is told through her eyes I found myself adopting the same stance. This book had high drama and tragedy and intrigue and betrayal but it felt like someone had turned the volume down. The story felt muffled, it was as if I was wearing a blanket and didn’t know how cold it was outside.

*I received a digital review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own*

4/5 stars

Book Review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I want to start off by saying this series as a whole has been a dream, Maggie Stiefvater is a fabulous author, I love the way she chooses to word things, I love how she described people and places and simple objects like a journal. There is a lyrical dream-like quality about her writing which I fell instantly in love with. I was very satisfied and at the same time left wanting after finishing The Raven King. It’s always difficult to end a series and there will inevitably be those who don’t like how the story ends and today I just happen to be one of them.

I will start by saying the most satisfying thing about this book for me was seeing my Ronan and Adam ship set sail. Their relationship development was such a joy to read and they were definitely my favourite part of the whole book. For me they outshined the main romance of the book Blue and Gansey, whose relationship I think ultimately ended up being much less developed and less interesting. The reason for this I believe is that Adam and Ronan are such strong characters and they develop more as characters than Blue and Gansey. I wouldn’t like to accuse an author of favouritism with her characters but it definitely felt like the focus shifted. There is significant changes to Ronan and Adam’s characters from the beginning to the end of the series, Blue and Gansey and Noah I don’t think changed that much in the end.

The most disappointing aspect of this book for me (apart from the end itself) was the loose ends that were left. In a previous review I explained why I liked the lack of explanation but for me when explanations were given they just seemed odd and there was too many questions that I felt needed answers.

First of all was this book started with Blue’s curse – if she kisses her true love he will die. I felt like this was the whole premise of the book but at the end it was just left. Is she gonna kill Gansey if she kisses him everytime? The book said Gansey would die because she was a mirror and something about Gansey being saved by Cabeswater, but this happened again? So by the logic of the first curse she will still kill Gansey but I wouldn’t know as this wasn’t explained.

Then we had the three sleepers who were mentioned a lot in book three but as we turned out this simply wasn’t true. Why was this even a thing when there clearly wasn’t three sleepers? We were told over and over again Gansey was meant to wake one of them. He never “woke” anyone who had been asleep. Furthermore Gansey’s weird ability to say what he wants to happen wasn’t explained. Unless you consider that everything he was able to command was a product of Ronan’s dreams so it would make sense that Gansey had the same power in Ronan’s dream that he had over Ronan. Again I don’t know for sure.

Finally we have Ronan himself, most of the magical realism in this book was based on psychic abilities, fortune telling and tarot card reading. How is it that Ronan can take things from dreams? A power so different to what has been described within the realms of normal within the book. This question is absolutely VITAL when you consider that Ronan is directly responsible for about 80% of the plot. It was never explained why Niall could do it and Ronan can do it but not Declan. For me this was the most important thing as without this explanation the books become a random series of events accidentally orchestrated by Ronan. These are just a few of the many questions and loose ends I was left with when finishing this book.

I also felt there was a lot of extra side characters and plot that was introduced only to be ignored and amounted to nothing by the end. For example Henry Cheng, I have no idea why I was reading about him, his mother, his dumb bee or his kidnapping. It was like he was replacement Noah and the replacing had to be done quickly. I liked Henry, I liked him a lot,  but I wish he had been more carefully woven into the story, and I would have liked him more if Noah hadn’t disappeared for Henry to appear. Henry’s friendship with Gansey was so forced I was convinced he was doing his mother’s bidding and was gonna turn on them all any second.

I have mixed feelings about the ending on the one hand I kind of loved what happened when they discovered Glendower and what that meant in the end. This element of realism was a really nice touch and showed that it was all about the journey and not the destination. The rushed series of events on the side of a road however, wasn’t what I thought this story was building to. I guess it just fell a bit flat for me, I didn’t get that feeling you get when you are reading a really intense part of the book. I felt like I had stumbled upon the ending without realising I was there.

I didn’t feel like anyone’s story was concluded properly it just kind of ended or maybe the right word was paused. I have no idea what happened to Maura, Calla, The Gray Man, Noah, Artemius etc. This may have been deliberate by the author to allow for more books, but I feel like the story of the Raven King should have ended, even if there are more adventures and stories to be told in this world.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. 

The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

My thoughts..

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers for Blue Lily, Lily Blue below.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue put the Raven Cycle series back up to a four star read for me.  I think I loved this book more than The Dream Thieves as it focused less on the magic and the mystery and more on the development of relationships. Character relationships have always been the main draw of reading for me, I just usually prefer a fantasy setting and some sort of mystery to keep me intrigued.

This leads me to reason why I had to put a spoiler warning on this review and why I loved this book so much which was of course Ronan and Adam. This was hinted at in the second book, but it finally started to develop in this book and I am loving it. I have to admit when reading about Ronan’s feelings in The Dream Thieves it seemed like an impossible dream of his, but Blue Lily, Lily Blue has started to make it a reality. I love everything about these two together, I loved the looks and the unspoken quality of what was maybe developing. I have no idea of Adam’s sexuality but him calling Blue the female Ronan gives me hope for these two in the future.

Now I do love how Maggie doesn’t feel the need to explain every little plot point and detail, it gives her books a dream like quality and as a reader you have to just accept that things are the way they are because that’s how it is. I love this about these books, I love how they are written. However I still struggled with certain parts of the story when they didn’t feel part of the story but more plot twists for plot twists sake. Maura randomly disappearing with no explanation how she knew where she was going, why she decided to go or how she was suddenly able to do what she did was one of these parts. I love Maura as a mother and a character but when she does things I don’t understand like dating violent killers and disappearing off to find Artemis I can’t help but roll my eyes a bit.

I have no idea how this series is going to end, and whilst I am curious I am not overly concerned. That is not to say that the plot isn’t interesting, I love the elements of magics so perfectly immersed in a realistic setting. I am immensely curious about how the Raven boys journey will end, but I think the main draw for me (apart from Maggie Stiefvater’s dreamy writing) has always been the developing relationships within these books.

“Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn’t all-encompassing, that wasn’t blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just that now that she’d had this kind, she didn’t want the other.”

This quote I believe perfectly encompasses why people love this series and these characters so much. The messy and realistic dynamics of the group, despite one of them being dead, is what sets this series apart from your typical ya fantasy and I think why people love these books so much.

Rating: 4/5 stars

My thoughts on the Shadow and Bone Trilogy ending..

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers for the Shadow and Bone Trilogy are below. Do not read if you have not read these books.

I should start by saying that I was intending to write full book reviews for Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising. What happened was I binged read both books in one night and I felt I couldn’t do a review justice as I didn’t really give myself time to reflect on the second book before I launched into the third.

One of the first things I wondered about when starting the series was why the romance hadn’t been spoilt for me yet. Bookstagram being Bookstagram all the major romantic relationships usually get spoilt by one way or another, but this didn’t happen with this trilogy and I was suspicious as to why. Obviously this could have just meant that there was no main ship or that it ended badly for the couple, but I didn’t think so. For whatever reason I got the impression people weren’t that invested in the relationship in this book and now I know why.

Malina.

This trilogy set up three possible and completely different endings for Alina.

  1. Alina could have ended up co-ruling with the Darkling, trying to bring the Grisha back into Ravka society whilst working together to not be consumed by the power they wielded.
  2. Alina could have ended up Queen of Ravka, married to Nikolai in an effective political alliance that may or may not turned to actual love later.
  3. Alina goes with what she thought her heart always wanted and ends up with her childhood bestfriend Mal.

For me the most interesting direction was for Alina to end up with the Darkling. They had more chemistry, and I felt more in common. Just to be clear I don’t want Alina and The Darkling together so Alina could fix him and redeem him, I just felt like they two sides of the same coin. Alina would have balanced The Darkling and reading this story line for me would have been far more interesting.

The main problem I have with Malina is that Alina had to become less of herself in order for it to succeed. I think ending up with Mal the book tried to send the message that Alina was always a strong individual and she didn’t need her power to make her strong or to define her. This would be great except for the writer often described how sickly, weak and basically ugly Alina was when she wasn’t using her power and being true to herself.

That power is part of Alina and removing it at the end I think was a disservice. Particularly when you consider that Mal couldn’t stand Alina being more powerful and useful than him, several times he said he wanted the old Alina back. Which was infuriating given that before her power Mal didn’t appear to look twice at Alina and was quite happy being the popular soldier and ladies man.

The book ending with Mal and Alina reverting right back to who they where before, all the development and characterisation was lost. As a reader it was definitely frustrating to see more interesting avenues go unexplored and completely abandoned in favour of a more simple yet sweet ending.

 

 

Book Review: Shadow and Bone By Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite – the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

My thoughts..

This book for me was an exceptionally easy to read – I ploughed through the entire thing in about 4 hours. I did not want to put it down. It has all the typical elements of a ya fantasy but there’s enough depth and world building to make this book a little something more. However I felt like the book was TOO stereotypical in some aspects and the plot didn’t really surprise me, particularly the ending which I felt was a bit obvious. I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t love it either.

The main character is Alina who grew up an orphan and at the start of this book has joined the Army with her best friend from the orphanage Mal. Alina is described as being spotty, too skinny with mousy brown hair. She does not think of herself as pretty. Apart from her slight obsession with her looks and other people’s, and that she has feelings for Mal but is attracted to the Darkling there’s not much else you get to know. Mal was also an orphan who grew up to be really handsome and kind of a ladies man. Mal is popular while Alina was not and in the Army he is a tracker, one of the best if not THE best and again that’s all I really know. See a pattern? Mal and Alina’s main personality traits seem to be their feelings for one another.

The Darkling on the other hand was by FAR the most interesting character. It’s such a cliche to be into the whole dark and deadly thing but I don’t care. The Darkling has his own plans and motivations but I think the most interesting thing for me was he falls into a morally grey area. He’s bad but with good intentions. He was the only character for me with any real complexity and his characterisation makes the book more than just another ya fantasy.

One of the main things I didn’t understand was why this book bothered to take inspiration from Russian culture at all? Apart from the occasional word I couldn’t pronounce I felt like this book had very little to do with Russia. I think this book should have committed properly to the influences of Russian Culture or abandoned the theme entirely. Sprinkling the book with occasional Russian words felt like a bit of a lame attempt to make the book stand out.

That said Leigh Bardugo’s writing style was engaging and I think for a ya fantasy it’s not bad. Hopefully in the next books Alina and Mal grow more as characters and I get to see a whole lot more of the Darkling.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic By V.E Schwab

Synopsis

Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There is Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There is Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London..

My thoughts..

I DNF this book at 50%

Normally I wouldn’t review a book I hadn’t finished but then normally I don’t abandon a book halfway through. This book had SO MUCH promise, there was magic and alternate universes with different Londons and a whole lot of mystery. I wanted to know what Kell was forced to forget, I wanted to know what became of Black London, I wanted to know where the hell this story was going.

So why then was I unable to finish this book? Honestly it LITERALLY bored me to sleep. I fell asleep reading this book about three times. That is not usual for me. Every book I have ever read I attempt to read in one sitting, I’ve finished books at 2am knowing I needed to get up at 7am, I’ve read books for ten hours straight and never been bored. I’ve never in my entire life been put to sleep by a book.

Somehow this book took all the elements of a great fantasy and made them duller and blander. The way the story was written for me wasn’t entertaining and riveting. I didn’t care about the main characters let alone the side pieces. It just fell flat, I was curious but not interested enough to find out more.

I know I am mostly alone in this opinion. This book seems to be very popular so you may well enjoy this book immensely. I felt like this book does not live up to the hype at all and my TBR is far too long to force myself into finish reading this book.

Rating: 2/5 stars