BOOK REVIEW: Empire of Storms, by Sarah J. Maas

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BOOK REVIEW: Empire of Storms, by Sarah J. MaasTitle: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #5
Published by Bloomsbury USA
Published: September 6th 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 693
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.
As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

I won’t lie, I was so excited for this book. Queen of Shadows had enough of a cliffhanger that left me wanting more. But then I started reading Empire of Storms, and I was sitting there, thinking to myself, what happened? This isn’t going to be a very favorable review, and I’m a little sad about it, I think, because I realized I’ve grown out of this series, maybe? This review also contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so please be forewarned if you haven’t finished the book yet.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Graces, by Laure Eve

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BOOK REVIEW: The Graces, by Laure EveTitle: The Graces by Laure Eve
Series: The Graces #1
Published by Amulet Books
Published: September 6th 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

It was a stupid, pointless thing, anyway, to try and make people love you. Everyone was alone. We were bone alone and we died alone. Whatever we did in between was nothing but a series of attempts to stave off the darkness we knew was always waiting for us.

Laure Eve’s The Graces will appeal to a younger set of YA readers. I think I was a bit too old to find most of this novel entirely believable, but it’s supposed to be, in a way, a little out there and a little fantastic. River meets a family (the Graces) in her new town and, after hearing the rumors about them, decides (obsessively) that she wants to get to know them. After getting to know Summer, River becomes obsessed with trying to be one of the Graces.

I don’t often read much contemporary YA, mostly because I find myself unable to relate to many of the high school situations, hierarchies, and dramas because I was homeschooled, and this is probably one of the reasons why I failed to really connect with the novel. The characters often are too flat or too melodramatic. It tries to be “edgy” without much depth. But that might be because we’re seeing it through River, the “edgy,” melodramatic teen girl obsessed with the Graces, rumored to be witches, and Fenrin Grace, the boy everyone wants.

As the novel unfolds, we learn that River’s obsessions and behavior have severe consequences in her past and present, and she ultimately has to face what she does. Some of the ideas I liked in this novel were that there is something to be said for intention and that there needs to be truth in that intention and that bisexuality (while not named directly) is brought up and treated relatively well in a YA novel by the younger set of characters.

The Graces reads almost like a melodramatic eighties teen film but with more melodrama, if that is even plausible because let’s be real. Teen films from the eighties were sometimes over the top. It wants to be Heathers with witches but it fails to meet the Gothic complexities it wants to have. But The Graces is fast-paced and easy to read and will appeal to readers who enjoy a high school drama with a taste of the paranormal.

This book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken

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BOOK REVIEW: Passenger, by Alexandra BrackenTitle: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Published: January 5th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 486
Format: eBook, Hardcover
Source: Netgalley, Library
Goodreads

Passage, n.i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.ii. A journey by water; a voyage.iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever.

We protect ourselves by playing the roles fit for the year we’re in.

Let’s just get this out of the way: I love time travel novels. I’m a huge sucker for them, and I always have been. Had this been released when about ten or fifteen years ago when I was at the age to which this is marketed (god, I’M SO OLD), I would have been all over this and would have given it a thousand and one stars. It still gets a solid rating from me, which comes as a positive thing after reading so many disappointing novels lately.

Etta, on the night of her big violin performance, is transported back in time onto a ship captained by Nicholas, a black pirate of sorts. Obviously there’s a romance brewing between the two, and even though it felt a little forced sometimes, I’m hoping it develops more in the next novel. It wasn’t necessarily an instant romance sort of thing, but the relationship seemed to progress quickly over a span of pages (even if those pages spanned several days). The romance progression felt typical for a YA novel, and that’s completely all right by me!

What I enjoyed most was the commentary on society then and now. Sophia, the other female time traveler whose original time is in the 1920s, says this really amazing thing to Etta about a hundred pages in:

So cling to your rights, your beliefs, your future – but know that none of them will help you here. You haven’t been forced to survive in the same way as the centuries of women who came before you. You know nothing of the impossibly small weapons we must use to carve out knowledge and power.

If I had read that ages ago, I think I would have shifted my thinking much earlier than it did, so I’m really pleased that Bracken is bringing to light the difficulties women have been facing for centuries to a young, modern audience. Not that her audience isn’t aware of it, but I’ve noticed lately in the classes I teach that some of the young women believe that they’ve always had the rights and advantages they have now, and I have to explain to them that within the last thirty or forty years we’ve progressed so much and that we still have so much to work for.

This is a super enjoyable romance-y time travel (with some logic!) novel that’s sure to appeal to fans of Sarah J. Maas, Susan Dennard, and Marissa Meyer.

I received a copy from Netgalley for my honest review.

Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard

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Truthwitch, by Susan DennardTitle: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands #1
Published by Tor Teen
Published: January 5th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others.
In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.
Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

It wasn’t freedom she wanted. It was belief in something—a prize big enough to run for and to fight for and to keep on reaching toward no matter what.

I rarely seem to see fantasy geared toward younger female readers that focuses on the friendship between the female protagonists rather than focusing mostly or entirely on the relationships with boys that the girls have. Sure, there are elements of romance in this book, but I feel as if that romance is overshadowed by the importance of a strong bond of friendship.

Each of the girls, Safiya and Iseult, possess a supernatural skill set, a “witchery,” that allows them to do specific things at a heightened level. Safiya, a Truthwitch, can sense the truth in another’s words. Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see threads that bind and connect the lives around her. Iseult’s power doesn’t work as it should, though, so that adds a level of complexity in her self discovery. Safiya’s story seemed to be more conventional, following tropes of the genre, but I found Iseult’s story fascinating, fresh, and exciting. Both of the girls do rely on each other a lot as the book progresses, and in some ways they can’t live without each other. I think that’s where a lot of the real magic is for me.

In reading this, I was hoping for a spark of a lesbian relationship, because I think it certainly has the power to go there, but I am really thankful for the strength of their friendship. Their friendship never seems forced or contrived, and it never turns catty, jealous, or superficial (something I seem to see a lot with two female leads in books marketed toward young women). Safiya and Iseult are Threadsisters, which means they are bound together and closer than family. I was also hoping for more world building. I ran into this with Cinder, too. It’s as if we got a flavor of the world in which they live, but not enough to fully visualize it. We, as readers, are thrown into the beginning of the story with the barest glances at the history behind it. I was also hoping for a romance that didn’t seem to happen instantly like the one between Safiya and Merik because it didn’t seem to solidify itself and seemed less realistic to me. I’m hoping that with the next novel we get more world building and development all around!

Even so, I really enjoyed this one, and I can’t wait for the next one to come out. I try not to fall for the hype, but I found that this one certainly lives up to many of the accolades it has received.

The Keen Rapunzel, Marissa Meyer’s Cress

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The Keen Rapunzel, Marissa Meyer’s CressTitle: Cress by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published: February 4th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 550
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

 

I first read this book as an e-copy while studying in England, and I plowed through it in a day. I couldn’t bring myself to do much else. I love Rapunzel as a fairy tale. Cress embodies that role perfectly – innocent, yet intelligent and intuitive. She grows throughout the entire book in a way that I never found forced or false. Her budding relationship with Thorne is perfect too. They’re probably my favorite relationship in the series because Thorne (the charming scoundrel) learns to love Cress without being able to see her (and it’s a nice reference to the fairy tale itself with him being blinded after a fall).

One of the things I am really liking about this series is the way Marissa Meyer can add new characters to the plot and not have it feel like those additions are too much or too confusing. Each character adds their own flavor to the story and round it out nicely. On some occasions it does tend to drag out a little bit, which may be the only downside to multiple POVs, and that makes it for a weaker novel if you’re looking at it from a standalone perspective. I honestly cannot wait to see how everything is resolved in the last book!