UPROOTED by Naomi Novik

Nine hours later… and my reading day is complete! UPROOTED certainly deserves the Nebula Award (that’s for the best sci fi or fantasy novel in America, mind you… high praise and illustrious company indeed). It’s a stand alone novel that feels like a saga cause there is a lot going on in this book! World-building, politics, history, magic, traditions… it all reads as if it’s common knowledge, easy to follow and mentally thick. Your head will simply go with the flow when you’re reading it.

The gist of the story is this. Every ten years, a powerful wizard called The Dragon takes a young girl to live with him, locked away in a magical tower. In ten years time, the girls come out… but they’re always changed. And they never, ever go home again. Enter our plucky and extremely likable main female character, the next girl chosen by the wizard. The wizard really stole the show in this book, as the grumpiest, funniest, snarkiest and most memorable male lead I have read in a while. Well done, Novik! This isn’t a romance novel, though. If you expect that, you will be disappointed…cause it kinda tries but just fails in that respect. I must admit, I was a little disappointed but c’est la vie.

Our antagonist is the WOOD… a mysterious dark forest filled with horrors… that is slowly encroaching on the kingdoms, swallowing villages as it goes. This is some deliciously eerie and scary stuff… people going instantly insane, cows wandering in and coming out all twisted and deformed, people being eaten by trees. Just freakin’ awesome. AWESOME.

On the outside of the wood, we have two kingdoms with a shaky truce. That gets demolished within a few chapters and war breaks out. There are crafty, devious wizards of the court. There are undying queens buried alive. There is a young woman reborn by magic curiously impervious to harm. There is so much going on! And all the while the narrative remains this consistent, evenly paced melody of words that just lulls you along through this crazy world. Like Willy Wonka when they’re on the ferry boat and everyone is freaking out but he’s just kind of maniacally calm.

I loved how magic was explained in this book. I won’t attempt to explain it… just read it. READ IT! It’s a truly beautiful story…

RATING: FIVE STARS

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Originally published: May 2015
Genres: Fairy tale, Fantasy Fiction, Romantic fantasy
Awards: Nebula Award for Best Novel

THE WINNER’S TRILOGY by Marie Rutkoski

Finished this trilogy last night… some random thoughts:

The Winner’s Curse – Book One: The best of the lot – angsty romance (I love a romance where there are very extreme situations keeping the lovers apart, think “Your dad killed my parents!” or “Our love is forbidden and we could both be killed for it!” In this series, her people have just conquered his, she buys him as a slave, he’s plotting the revolution (ie killing of her people) while they’re slowly falling for each other… that’s some quality angst) – pristine and lush writing – great world building, mystery, and strong unique characters. Overall / a good book. 4/5 stars.

The Winner’s Crime – Book Two: Hm… espionage. Politics. More angsty and less engaging. Introduces new (best) character, Roshar, a mutilated prince – and the emperor, a great baddie. Surprising plot twists. 3/5 stars.

The Winner’s Kiss – Book Three: Should have been combined with book 2, as the majority of this book is flashbacks and long stretches of sorting through feelings. Battle sequences. Plot twists. More of Roshar being Roshar. And happy endings. 2/5 stars.

Final Thoughts. The covers did nothing for this series, in my opinion. Neither the hardbacks nor the paperbacks capture the mood of this story.

TRILOGY RATING: THREE STARS

Title: The Winner’s Curse, The Winner’s Crime, & The Winner’s Kiss
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Originally published: 2014, 2015, 2016
Genre: Fantasy Fiction

HALF BAD by Sally Green

“Later I remember what I could do. It’s easy. I could kill them all.” 
― Sally Green, Half Lost

Just finished Half Bad, by Sally Green. Hm… well, it was pretty good for a YA novel with a male protagonist. Very gritty – lots of violence and push ups and such. I’m not entirely sold on the entire set up: White Witches and Black Witches are at war for various reasons? Why again? Whatever… most YA novels don’t worry too much about plotholes, they are largely character driven. And the characters are pretty good.

Our hero, Nathan, is a half breed (white and black witch). Raised by White Witches who hate and fear him, (cause of his baddie daddy) and, uh, keep him in a cage – he eventually comes into his own and is currently deciding which team to play for, if any. Ironically (or not), he is also caught in a love triangle between his childhood sweetheart Annalise and his new roommate, Gabriel. Huh. I’ll probably read the next book since I brought it home… kinda curious now. I’m a sucker for the queerbaiting.

UPDATE: I finished this series today – the first book was decent, the second book was tolerable and the third, officially, was garbage that basically destroys my mild enjoyment of the first two books. I literally threw it. The ending sucked! It was absurd! I hated it. And honestly, I usually don’t bother reviewing books at all if I don’t like them… but whatever. I’m sticking to my guns and taking this series out.

RATING (Books 1-3 average): TWO STARS

Title: Half Bad, Half Wild, Half Lost
Author: Sally Green
Originally published: March 3, 2014
Series: The Half Bad trilogy
Genre: Young adult fiction, Fantasy, Horror

 

 

 

CALL DOWN THE HAWK by Maggie Stiefvater

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater – the first book in the new trilogy about Ronan Lynch, the boy who could bring his dreams to life in The Raven Boys.

My thoughts: Ronan remains super cool though I did feel the author told us how cool he was more than was necessary (we know, Maggie). His relationship with Adam, now king of the gay nerds at Harvard, was realistically strained as their lives move in different directions. Declan Lynch, the uptight oldest brother who constantly cleans up after his younger siblings, finally got a story line and it was deeply satisfying. We meet a new dreamer who is half crazed from trying to keep herself awake, fighting off a repeating nightmare. And we meet some Visionaries – time travelers, of a sort, whose shifts through the time line are as destructive as the messages they carry. Throw in a secret black market, a global assassins guild hunting down paranormals, a shit ton of references to artists (art majors will be delighted by the name dropping in this), a painting that makes you dream of the sea, a forest filled with trees that speak in Latin, and one very very chatty ethereal voice who likes to give cryptic speeches while our hero dreams and you’ve got yourself a pretty cool book.

It wasn’t as good as The Raven Boys. Could anything ever be as good as that piece of perfection? I loved all four of those boys and Blue and her entire family by the end of the first book in that series. I felt deeply connected to their stories. This is not to say that Call Down the Hawk isn’t good – cause it’s good. But I am really only invested in one of the new characters and mildly curious about the rest. Thankfully it’s got the solid foundation of the Lynch boys to carry it’s narrative and it’s more than enough to provide readers with a fun, wonky, dangerous and romantic (I am so on board with Declan’s slowly melting icy heart) adventure.

Rating: Four Stars.

Now… if you want to get into spoiler territory… we can further discuss….

 

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SAWKILL GIRLS by Claire Legrand

“Why do the monsters eat girls?” she asked at last.

“Because,” Marion answered, looking beyond Zoey to the sea, “when a predator hunts, it seeks out the vulnerable. The desperate.”

Zoey’s laugh was bitter, “Oh, and we poor delicate girls are vulnerable and desperate, is that what you’re saying?”

“What I’m saying,” Marion said, now looking right at Zoey, her gray eyes bright, “is that girls hunger. And we’re taught, from the moment our brains can take it, that there isn’t enough food for us all.”

I finished Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand yesterday – and it’s a great spooky YA book. A monster lives on a small island populated by the wealthy elite – and it feeds on the innards of teenage girls. There’s a lot going on in this book – but at its heart its about girls and how disposable they are in society. It’s about female anger and how girls fight back.

I loved this book – but I confess I wanted more from it (which I’ll dive into below in the spoilers section). Overall, it was an enjoyable, spooky book and I definitely recommend it to those who seeking a good, bloody story featuring a diverse (in color and sexuality) cast.

I desperately want there to be more books in this series. All my fingers and toes are crossed for further exploration into the pocket dimensions, powers, cults, and monsters lurking in new books. Even if it’s different characters each time, she’s opened a window into a very unique world and I want to go there again and see more.

Rating: 4 Stars.

So… SPOILER DISCUSSION TIME…

 

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SERPENT & DOVE by Shelby Mahurin

“There are some things that can’t be changed with words. Some things have to be seen. They have to be felt.”

Decided to read a fun fantasy romance novel today – about a renegade witch who finds herself married to a witch hunter. The novel is told from alternating points of view – between our mismatched lovers – and overall it was a highly enjoyable tale of medieval lore, mystery, and (most of all) love.

I am a sucker for a wild girl paired with a prudish guy, what can I say? And I especially enjoy cohabitation stories where the couple is either married but not “together” or pretending to be married but not “together.” All that “oh my, wherever shall I sleep? On the floor? The couch? Should we share a bed and put pillows between us? Decisions, decisions…” it never gets old to me. There was a surprisingly detailed sex scene too (I believe the expression ‘to the hilt’ was used, as cringe worthy as ever).

Serpent & Dove has a nice dusting of French throughout, adding a little foreign flavor to our fantasy world.  There’s loads of fun characters coming in and out of the scenes, from apprentices to courtesans, witches to royals, and bakers to scorned aristocracy. And we’re also given a nice dose of feminism as well as plea for deeper understanding between all people we’ve labeled as “other” for various reasons. It was nicely done. For a debut novel, it was rich in detail and showed clear evidence of expert writing and editing, keeping the flow steady and enjoyable throughout.

I really liked it.

My only complaint was the tale was set in this historical world with corsets and daggers and metal bath tubs… but it kept throwing in modern language stylings, with our female witch in particular. I don’t mind cursing or vulgarity, those are not particular to any time period, but the turn of phrases, the expressions, the slang… it was 21st Century. And it always, always threw me out of the story setting. If she was going to write this way, the author should have just made our witch a time traveler. Everyone else is all proper and our witch is slinging punchy jokes and contemporary witticisms.

I don’t know if it will bother others as much as it bothered me… and honestly, that’s my only complaint for an otherwise enjoyable rompish fantasy-romance. Oh, and it’s set up for a sequel… with a nice twist or two at the end to leave us wanting more. There were several sets of magical creatures referred to that I would love to see explored in more detail in future books.

I’ll definitely be buying the next installment.

Rating: Four Stars

Originally published: September 3, 2019
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Title: Serpent & Dove
Genre: Fantasy Fiction

THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR by Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount Char – responsible for one of the worst sentences I have ever read in my life.

Carolyn felt a little squirt of horror at that but she squelched it.

What can I say? I liked this book… and I kinda hated this book. It’s a conundrum.

Image result for the library at mount char by scott hawkins

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is a truly original story. Not quite fantasy, not quite science fiction, not quite horror – but rather a sprinkling of all three. It’s the tale of an ancient being, god-like in power, who takes twelve children under his wing to raise in mysterious, ancient arts. Each child is assigned a certain category to study, a discipline, such as death – languages – war – animals – the future – and so on. In order to learn these arts, the god-like figure known only as “Father,” goes to cruel extremes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book’s wacky premise and characters. Unfortunately,  there were…. problems. It’s the author’s first book – and I almost feel it was the responsibility of his editor to point out the issues with the plot that tangled this story into such a mess towards the end. Hopefully Mr. Hawkin’s will continue to hone his craft and his next book will be an improvement.

SPOILERS FOLLOW…. if you’ve read it, or if you just like spoilers… please follow me into section two of of this review… . Continue reading

THE BLADE ITSELF by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie.

Image result for the blade itselfNever before have I enjoyed a book so much that failed to have even a semblance of a plot. Well developed characters, lush and rich world building, politics, history, even a little romance. But plot? Nope.

It’s baffling.

What does our main character Logan want? Our brute with a fine mind from the North, who turns into the Hulk when the bloodlust takes him? He… uh… well, he’s just following another guy around cause… uh… well.

Basically he’s just living life.

What does our main character Jezal want? That handsome devil, the spoiled nobility with natural athletic abilities? He wants… to be an important man in government one day. Vaguely. And maybe to win a tournament to be further admired. I guess.  He’s just avoiding difficulties, flirting a bit, fencing, looking down on people.

You know… living life.

What does our main character Glokta want? Our torturer, our cripple, our grumpy guss who lives in pain? Nothing. He doesn’t want shit. He’s just… passing the time.

Living life.

And there we have it. The three main characters. Just living life. Just existing.

Listen, living life is fine and dandy. We’re all just living life, aren’t we? But no one is gonna write a freaking book about me if that’s all I’m doing.

Image result for the blade itself incites to deeds of violenceThere are other characters – who actually have some more pressing ambitions and motivations. Politics. An ancient war or a new one. Vengeance. Things that could be a plot – if they were driving the story. I guess the Magi is driving and everyone else is just in the car at this point, no idea why they’re along for the ride, where they are going, or why it’s important. And that’s how the book ends!

So basically The Blade Itself is a very long character introduction. I know all the characters very well indeed. I just don’t know what they want. Or what the plot is. I kind of care a bit about all of them, so when a plot is introduced at some point… odds are I will care about it. But will our characters care about it? Or are they just going to be dragged around for the rest of the trilogy, only invested in the events because they’re being forced into the car? What does it mean to them?

If some big evil is brewing that might possibly wipe out their hometowns or life as they know it… I should feel that it would matter to these folks. I’m not sure it would. These three main characters are all the types who would probably have a long sit down and consider the merits of the Eye of Sauron.

It’s exasperating. Because it really is a fun book. The characters are fun, the dialogue is fun, the world is interesting. It just… doesn’t have a plot.

Whatever.

Image result for the blade itself incites to deeds of violence

Will I read the next book? Probably. But I’ll probably read something else first… and the more books I put between myself and this book, the more unlikely it is I will return to the story. So… who knows.

RATING: 4 out of 5. Even without a plot, I still liked it.

THE WOLF GIFT by Anne Rice

The Wolf Gift, Anne Rice’s foray into the mythology of werewolves, or Morphenkinder, is an amazing, agonizingly slow, frustratingly rambling book. It was full of details you wanted to know, didn’t know you wanted to know, and absolutely didn’t want to know. Much like… most Anne Rice books. But the poorly paced plot is so well written you don’t really mind… much like most Anne Rice books.

I loved to hate it. Let me tell you why….

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MAGONIA by Maria Dahvana Headley

art by Artem Rhads Chebka

Just finished Magonia by Headley – which had excellent characters, families, and a surreal and highly unusual fantasy world floating above our own. In this book, there is a  world above the clouds, filled with shapeshifting birds and other surreal creatures who have long roamed the secret spaces of the air. These creatures aren’t quite human, though many can transform themselves into humanoid forms. Unable to breath in the lower atmosphere, they have a strange relationship with the human world – basically “fishing” out food and supplies when needed. I must say – it was intriguing.

Unfortunately… it had two severe draw backs. The antagonist was shockingly undeveloped- which was unfortunate. And my biggest qualm, the two main characters were stupidly smart.

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