Book Review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Synopsis

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

My thoughts..

“Perfect for fans of Game of Thrones”

This book was in short easy, easy to read, easy to understand, easy to guess what would happen next. This book lacked all the depth, world-building and characterisation of Game of Thrones. Every plot twist could be easily anticipated pages before, the dialogue felt shallow, the secrets and intrigue easy to guess. It was in every way a cliche young adult fantasy. I’ve seen a debate before that young adult doesn’t mean the story is dumber or simplified but contrast this book to A song of Ice and Fire and that’s exactly what you get. There was no complexity, no tension, no depth to the characters.

I wanted to like this book but it wasn’t offering anything new. Three Kingdoms really basically described, two really hate each other and another one is impoverished because magic is disappearing. A really shoddily put together political situation of a princess and lord murdering a peasant over wine prices that acts as the catalyst for the ensuing warring. In terms of characters you have the princess who wants to marry for love and has no interest in ruling so of course what happens to her? The drunkenly lord who loves to “lord” it over and is quickly made into the creepy villain of the book. You have the cold, evil King who treats his son like dirt but the son still wants to impress him. That same son who has learnt to survive by pretending not to care etc etc.

The only reason that you would compare this series to Game of Thrones is the random deaths. The deaths in Game of Thrones add an element of realism with their brutality and swift nature. The deaths in this series are random and you don’t care because the characters where only introduced two seconds ago.

I thought long and hard about finishing this book but I’ve read it all before. I was told it gets better and the second book is way better than the first but I know me and this book will never see eye to eye.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X. R. Pan

Synopsis

Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: ‘I want you to remember’. Leigh doesn’t know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.

Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died – leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn’t home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life.

Overwhelmed by grief, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.

With lyrical prose and magical elements, Emily X.R. Pan’s stunning debut novel alternates between past and present, romance and despair, as one girl attempts to find herself through family history, art, friendship, and love.

Publication Date: 22nd March 2018

I liked the way this story was written, how the author used colour to describe feelings, I had an inkling that was going to happen going into the story and I wasn’t disappointed. This story is very artistic, there is a lot of emphasis placed on colour and music and how they make you feel and in turn represent feelings. If I was more arty I would have loved this book more, while I found the approach interesting I couldn’t entirely relate, and so the book wasn’t as magical or thought provoking as it should have been.

The logical part of me thinks colour is subjective. What I might consider purple, you may think is pink and this is further confused when applying colour to emotions. Colour has been used beautifully through this book to describe an emotion or feeling but at times I felt it was inaccurate as to what I would consider the colour of an emotion to be. What you are left with then is a character that is at times harder to understand and relate to, when the colour was right it was right but when it was wrong it was wrong. Colour is so differently interpreted even across cultures let alone individual people and while I loved the concept a lot I think it changed my reading experience slightly.

In the beginning we are presented with a mystery, Leigh is an average teenage girl who returns home one day to find her mother has killed herself. On the day of her mother’s funeral her mother seemingly returns as a bird who wants her to go to her grandparents in Taiwan. The story is told in both the present and flashbacks and memories as Leigh tries to workout the last thing that her mother wanted to know before she killed herself.

“I want you to remember” scribbed on a note that was dumped in the bin. But what does she want Leigh to remember?

It often felt like this story was on a loop – scenes were repeated so many times I started to get annoyed. There were moments that mattered, that were made important by Leigh’s feelings or thoughts, but when these moments were repeated they mattered less and less. I got bored of how many times I read about Leigh not being able to sleep, how many times she discussed or thought of the bird, how much she envied Feng and felt like a stranger with her grandparents, how much she clearly liked her best friend but thought she had ruined it. It went on and on. It felt like this story was a handful of very original thoughts that were recycled again and again.

Whilst I love magical realism I didn’t feel like it added much to this story in the end. The most poignant part of the book for me was in the last few chapters. All the magic of the smoke memories did nothing to convey the sense of loss and grief, that the realistic and heart-wrenching conversation between Leigh and her dad towards the end of the book managed to achieve.

DISCLAIMER: I was given this eARC by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book Review: The First Dance by Catherine Law

Synopsis

A spellbinding tale of mysteries and secrets and a love that will last forever

1924

The First World War is over and eleven-year-old Alexa is growing up on the idyllic Cornish coast with her best friend Harvey. But she soon discovers there are secrets at the heart of her family that have been hidden for years. 

1931

Alexa flees Cornwall for the intoxicating city of Venice. But her new glamorous life is not what she hoped for and, with dark shadows closing in on her, Alexa will question everything she thought she wanted . .

Publication Date: 22nd March 2016

This is a story about grief, how it changes you, how it can tear people apart and eventually bring them together. If you are looking for a mystery this isn’t one, there no hidden secret to be unravelled, no secret past to be explored. Any hint of mystery is explained away pretty early in the book, before you would even think to ask the question you know the answer. This book was as engrossing as it was depressing but I do think the synopsis is very misleading.

I immediately felt bad for and empathised with the main character Alexa, she’s told to be quiet and sit still and is never allowed to express herself, which leads her to shut herself off from the world. She feels like a stranger in her own life, and everyone around her doesn’t really take the time to understand her. When she finally flees Cornwall in my view its perfectly understandable as to why she makes this choice. Some of the choices she makes later are questionable but I guess this is a story about a girl coming of age and finding out what she wants in the world so she is allowed to make questionable decisions.

I loved the descriptions in this book, particularly of not just the majestic landscapes and enchanting cities but also the little things like the buttons in the box. The characters for me were a bit lacking particularly Sarah was very obviously the infatuated poor girl hopelessly in love with the local rich boy who has eyes for someone else. At one point I felt like I was reading Tess of the d’Urbervilles when Guy was introduced, he was very clearly the bad guy love interest who was going to teach Alexa a difficult life lesson.

I think the depressing nature of this book was what let it down for me in the end. I’m not against a heart wrenching story but I felt it was a bit much for me as far as this book was concerned. There was so much grief and sadness from beginning, middle and end and I think it definitely took away from my enjoyment. I would say this book is a slightly predictable story of a girl learning to deal with grief and the choices that she makes but it lacked the feel of a romance.

DISCLAIMER: I was given this eARC by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book Review: The Cruel Prince By Holly Black

Synopsis

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.

My thoughts..

This book was so hyped that I ended up buying the hardback just to find out why. I never buy hardbacks ESPECIALLY for a series but I was so eager to read this book I didn’t care. The Cruel Prince promised an enchanting dark fantasy with faeries and magic providing the mystical backdrop for a violent struggle for power. I had never read Holly Black’s books before The Cruel Prince but I now understand the term “Queen of the Faeries”. The world that Holly Black has created is as beautiful as it is brutal. She has built a world that is complex and diverse and has the depth of any good high fantasy.  The lore and the different rules and the class system were so well thought out and the main reason I enjoyed the book as much as I did.

In terms of plot this book waxed and waned for me, it wasn’t that I was bored, it was just that the events that occurred became more and more absurd. My main issue with this book was Jude, or rather what Jude gets up to. Jude begins the story as a mortal girl in Faerieland, a girl who lives on the fringes of faerie society, never fitting in, never respected, never treated like an equal. How faeries view mortals in this book is one of the reasons Jude’s character arc is unbelievable, mortals are supposed to be lesser, only worthy as servants but that didn’t stop Jude even when it should.

This girl is 17 and it’s only by the protection of her parent’s murderer/father figure that she isn’t treated any worse than she already is (which is saying something when you read what Jude has to go through). Yet she manages to outsmart pretty much everyone through sheer luck, circumstance or their unbelievable stupidity. Jude is just not believable as a vicious and clever tactician capable of outsmarting people who are stupid enough to underestimate her. She gets away with things not because of her own talents but because the people around her let her. Cardan barely put up a fight and don’t even get me started on her managing to out-manoeuvre a General – who you know taught her everything she knows about strategy and killing.

I could have also bought Jude as a brutal killer who isn’t taking crap anymore if she wasn’t so prone to juvenile behaviour. For instance the fighting with her sister Taryn – first of all it was obvious a mile off who Taryn’s lover was but that whole situation was weird. Taryn just watching on as Jude is waltzing around with her secret lover didn’t make sense. It was ridiculous that this weird arrangement caused such a rift between the twin sisters. Taryn did a lot of bad stuff in the book but secretly hooking up with someone who is kissing her sister wasn’t one of them, it was just odd and kind of desperate.

Jude somehow gets involved in something that she has absolutely NO BUSINESS being a part of. She finds herself in the ridiculous situation of being a major player in a game that has nothing to do with her. I understand she has always envied the faerie and always wanted to be equal and part of their society. She has always felt powerless and craves the power over herself and her own life that she never had. I can just about understand her reasoning but what she manages to achieve still felt ludicrous and ultimately pointless. What does Jude get from staying in a place no one wants her?

Despite all this ranting I am struggling to rate this book because my feelings were so mixed. Just by my strong reaction to it I know it was a good book, a bland and boring story isn’t worth talking about this much. Jude is an interesting and sometimes relatable character, I loved that she started to fight back, stand her ground and let the faerie world know she wasn’t just a mere mortal. Cardan has that whole dark and damaged thing going on and The Bomb and Co are shaping up to be decent sidekicks. I think with the same world but a different plot and this book would have definitely been a five star read for me.

Ultimately I think that plot twist ending saved it for me. The ending offered me hope and this book definitely has enough potential for me to continue reading.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

 

 

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