The Cruel Prince, Holly Black

26032825
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.
Someone please tell me why I’ve never picked up a Holly Black book before, what have I been doing. (okay I read the Spiderwick Chronicles when I was younger but none of her YA stuff) I mean, this book has everything I love in it? Morally grey faeries doing morally grey things. You know, like, murder. But also raising a kid and loving that kid.
Plots against other characters and characters trying to prove themselves as better.
Twists and turns.
Murder.
God, I’m such a sucker for faerie books done right. See like, in most books (especially YA) the fae are there for eye candy… the romantic partner… and they are always described before you meet them as ‘evil’ or whatever, but when you see them, they aren’t.At all. They just seem to be long lived humans with pointy ears, where there are a few baddies but most are to be Protected At All Cost (we know what series I’m talking about and I love the books, but really). Like, the reason the fae are seen as evil is because they aren’t human, they are meant to have different morals to us. Trickery is their language. And Holly is so good at writing it.
I loved following Jude – she was quite a refreshing main to read about, with her whole ‘lets dive in and do this thing even though I’m terrified’ attitude that got her into trouble more than once. She was wide eyed in the world of the fae – living there ten years meant she knew the good, bad an ugly and how to navigate as a human. And though she… wasn’t cruel, but certainly had a heart of steel, she cared as well.Enough to get into even more trouble when she thought it was the right thing to do.
Even the books…charming….cruel prince – Prince Cardan. It’s no great shock that I always love the characters you would really hate in real life. Thankfully, this is a readers flaw most of us deal with. Cardan is a dick. And to start with, you do gently hate him. But his storyline is revealed along with his personality in tiny ways, and you can’t help but grow a soft spot for him.
And like, their relationship with each other (both ‘romantic’ – you can’t really call it that – and general)is great to read – I just cannot wait to see what happens in the next book.
The characters weren’t the only great thing about the book. Holly has this beautiful way with both words and actual storytelling, building up to something almost seamlessly and making you wonder how it actually got to that point. The whole world she had created in this book was dark and compelling but beautiful – it horrifies you yet draws you in at the same time.
Ughh. I am totally going to hunt down some more of Holly’s books to read now.
five stars
Advertisements

Nevermoor, Jessica Townsend

35902133

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor. It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organisation: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city and confront her deadly fate once and for all. Perfect for fans of the Harry Potter series and His Dark Materials, this series takes readers into an extraordinary world, setting hope and imagination alive.

I love kids books. I probably love middle grade books more than I love YA (and so much more than I like adult fic). There’s so much endless possibility with them. A boundless amount of imagination that makes everything acceptable and so much fun to read.
From the moment I saw Nevermoor as a ‘soon to be published’book I knew I wanted to read it. I totally begged the publisher for a copy, and thankfully, it seems they love me, since they sent one out to me (yay bookseller perks) and I read it all over the course of two days (back when it was published, this review is just months late!)
When I was reading it, I came across a few reviews that were marking it down as being ‘just like Harry Potter.’ Because it’s for the same age group? Or features magic? Or has a magic school in it? Like, how is that a bad thing? Kids like that kind of book, its shown to sell well, and Nevermoor is enough of its own stories that any similarities – they don’t make either bookless than what it is.
Nevermoor is a lovely, gently amusing fantasy about a girl trying to find her place in a world that doesn’t seem to want her. First, the family at home, who give her a funeral on the day she’s meant to die, then there’s theNevermoor Wondrous Society, who want to prove she shouldn’t be there (I mean, she totally shouldn’t but that’s not the point).
Morrigan is a lovely character to follow, and her supporting cast all bring something great to the story. From a giant cat who does hotel cleaning, to Jupiter – the Ultimate Ginger – who possesses far too much belief in his ability to, well, get things right… to the friends and enemies and children Morrigan must beat to be a part of the Society.
It’s a light, easy, but interesting story to read, both for children and adults alike. Plus, the hardback (UK edition at least) is to die for.
four stars

City of Brass, S.A. Chakraborty

36215220

Among the bustling markets of eighteenth century Cairo, the city’s outcasts eke out a living swindling rich Ottoman nobles and foreign invaders alike.
But alongside this new world the old stories linger. Tales of djinn and spirits. Of cities hidden among the swirling sands of the desert, full of enchantment, desire and riches. Where magic pours down every street, hanging in the air like dust.
Many wish their lives could be filled with such wonder, but not Nahri. She knows the trades she uses to get by are just tricks and sleights of hand: there’s nothing magical about them. She only wishes to one day leave Cairo, but as the saying goes…
Be careful what you wish for.

I had been eyeing this book up online for months before I finally managed to get my hands on an ARC of it (Thank you to YALC friendships!). From the moment I heard about it, I knew it was going to be something I would love, and when I started reading it, I knew it wouldn’t let me down.

It’s a fantasy read that dances on the lines of being awesome for both YA and adult alike – one of my favourite kinds of books, because it doesn’t read as simple, but also doesn’t leave you floundering as you try to work out the world you’ve stepped into.

The only thing I was wary about was the duo narration; I’ve read a few in the past and quite often, both voices sound too similar so you forget who you are following, or you just don’t care about one of them at all.

I loved Nahri from her first chapter – how could I not, when she came alive on the page, her refusal that magic existed even when she was a street healer and could sense the wrong in people… and because Dara was in many of her chapters and we should all know by now I have a weakness for grumpy, brooding male mains with a clear secret that will probably make everything go wrong (*whispers* do I have a type?!)

Ali, it took me longer to warm too; for his first few chapters I thought I was going to not care about him, but I soon realised that it was more that I wanted to get back to Nahri than anything else. Once his story took off a bit more and I knew his role in it, I did grow to like him.

I basically loved everything about this book. From the world, to the politics of the city, to the characters and all the twists. I want to talk about it for ages but I also don’t want to give anything away; I loved reading this because it was different; I didn’t know what to expect.

So while I could probably write an essay on this book, just… go and read it. Please. It is so beautifully written and amazing and I want it to do so well.

five stars

Tower of Dawn, Chaol, and a Mini Essay on What Characters are to Us

It’s that time of year again! No, I don’t mean the schools going back, (though, thank god, because I can go shopping without having children EVERYWHERE) I mean its september, which means  A NEW THRONE OF GLASS NOVEL.

I know, originally, by this point in time, we had all hoped to have the last book in the series and were all expecting to be lying down, quietly sobbing in denial because face it, Sarah isn’t going to let all our favourites survive, but I’m actually glad that Chaol got a full novel and a year to himself, rather than the novella and three months from June to now.

When it was announced he was getting a huge book for himself, I seemed to be one of the few that was overjoyed; many people hate hated Chaol since book two. Many more have hated him since book four. But Chaol… I just wanted to know that he would be alright, because out of every character in the series, he is the one I understand and love the most.

I first picked up Throne of Glass because of Celaena. She was the character I needed back then- at eighteen, I had only just ‘escaped’ from a place that had done me a lot of damage. I was, pretty much, the way they had hoped Celaena would be locked up in the camp; broken down and lost myself. I read her story and I vowed to myself that if she could make it, then I could (I mean, technically I failed, I unlike her, do not have a kingdom of my own and am not a missing loved princess, but hey, we can’t all have crowns, and a lot of beautiful guys and girls around us). But while Celaena was the one character that saved me, it was Chaol, that from the beginning, I understood and identified with most.

Chaol’s most important trait has always been his loyalty. From the very beginning, it was loyalty to the crown and his best friend, and that was always going to be his downfall. Because he was so blindly loyal that he didn’t want to see the bad in his kingdom – despite the fact that the king he worked for was evil, and he knew it. That loyalty was the thing that ripped him apart- the thing that many readers decided was ‘out of character’ for him in previous books (see: when he and Dorian fought. When he had Aelin fought). But loyalty isn’t this black and white concept that you can turn off when you realise someone was evil.

Chaol tried. He turned away from his king and threw his sword into the river and that was a massive turning point in his story arc. That was him realising that his entire time as a captain was wrong, but that didn’t stop him being loyal. That’s why he fought so much with Aelin. Some of it was because he did love Celaena and given her his loyalty – only to find out who she was. But the rest of it was because he had built his whole life on being captain to the king and thrown it away. That sword was symbolic – to Chaol, he was throwing his life away. Like no wonder he was so angry at everyone in QoS. He had lost all he knew and he assumed the girl he loved was his enemy (and to be fair, she did kinda act it).

(Sorry I have a lot of thoughts on Chaol)

Anyway, back onto the new book; I knew that I would love Tower of Dawn no matter the outcome. Of course, I wanted Chaol to be happy, but I knew he had a longggg way to go before that; because not only did he have the war raging inside himself for who he was, and an injury he hated, he had seen too much to even know he could be happy again.

I also knew it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster. Every Maas book is, but this one was meant to be Chaol’s own Heir of Fire, and that book destroyed me enough. And it proved to be just that. In HoF, Celaena went into it hurt and hating herself, refusing to accept who she was and what she had become. In ToD, it was an identical journey, minus the whole finding his own magic storyline. Chaol went into it unable to find who he was anymore, and came out with not only new friends, but new love and himself.

I may have cried like, at least five times. (If I could pluck Chaol from the book and protect him forever, I so would)

One of my favourite things about this book, though, has been the reactions from other people. Chaol has never been a favourite of the fandom, and when people heard about this book, many spent months saying they were not going to bother reading it as it would be a waste (which like, is totally wrong since MASSIVE PLOT POINT AND TWIST) or was planning to read it to take the piss out of it. However, many of the people who went into it hating Chaol have come out, maybe not loving him, but at least understanding him.

Many who went in shipping him with Aelin or Nesryn came out shipping him with someone else (I don’t really understand shipping, not in this fandom I honestly just want them all to be happy).

I think that shows how brilliant a writer Maas is; that she can make so many people care about a character they thought they would always hate, and make them fall in love with his journey.

Out of all of the books in the ToG series, ToD has been one of my favourites, because Chaol has always been nearest to who I am than anyone else, and to see him grow over the book was amazing.

And really, there are people out there that don’t understand how some people have coped through fiction or even survived through it – I think this is the book I would hand them to make them understand. Because fiction, and characters, are not just on the page. I’ve spent five years loving these characters, I’ve been on their journeys through pages, and they have seen me through many of mine.

… and I’m slightly terrified to see what will happen in the last book…

Caraval, Stephanie Garber

32930224-_uy200_

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

So I apparently really like books sent in circuses and carnivals and slightly weird placed like that? As my boss said, thats a pretty specific genre to read, but thankfully, there are plenty of books out there at the moment.

I count Caraval as one of those books, because despite it being set in an almost-town (I mean, it is pretty big) it travels around, has a head dude who makes all the rules and games, is full of magic and done for entertainment.

The thing about Caraval is that… the idea was brilliant, it was interesting but I wasn’t overly impressed with it. I can’t even put my finger on why- maybe because everything was good. But not amazing. It doesnt stand out from the crowd, to me.

The book design was beautiful. Not just the cover (though really, the covers- both US and UK- and just amazing) but the inside as well. In many books, if there are letters sent around to different characters, it’s just written in italics, but with this book, they were all styles to look like letters, complete with their own sets of handwriting, which made it slightly more personal and pretty.

The plot itself really interested me, along with the whole cast of characters. Main Character Scarlett, while annoying at times, is loyal and interesting, and completely different to her sister, Tella. It was nice to see a sibling friendship where they actually liked and protected each other.

The plot itself was what kept me going, despite the fact that many of the twists and turns were easy to guess early on. There was just enough hint of more that kept me interested in reading- like why Legend had dragged certain people into the game, and why he was doing it all anyway. And I’m interested enough in that to want to read the next book.

The problem was… everything else just let me down. The romance, I thought, was forced and predictable. I liked Julian, but I got annoyed that everything was about liking her- I thought they would have been better if they had stayed friends, especially when I didn’t get any feelings off the book itself. For a good love story, the reader has to feel it too, has to fall in love with the Love Interest as the Main does. And yeah, Julian was okay, but I didn’t care. Not about him, not about her, not about them together and I really really didn’t care when one particular twist happened. I actually had to read the page twice to make sure I hadn’t missed something because I just didn’t care.

And then when the next meant-to-be *gasp* moment happened, pages later, I cared even less. I had been reading this whole book waiting for Scarlett to find her sister and this big thing happens and I was left like… meh.

It was more the characters than the writing- because the writing was great. It was because the characters didn’t develop at all. There was no incentive to care about them, or if they all got out the story alive.

So I will be reading the next book- because I do want to see what happens and if the author improves, but I’ll be reading it for the world and the magic much more than I will be for any of the characters.

three stars

Stealing Snow, Danielle Paige

 

9781408872932

Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave …
She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate …

Oh my god, where do I begin.

This book takes the bad and makes it look medal worthy, takes the ridiculous and makes it look positively normal. It makes the character development in 50 Shades look (almost) brilliant.

Firstly, I feel I should mention that I actually DNFed this book on page 202, then went and looked up the spoilers from the rest of the book because I really really didn’t feel like wasting my life reading the rest of them (even with the entertainment of liveblogging my reading)

Okay, so we start off with Snow in an asylum. Which should really have alarm bells ringing at once because like… why? Apparently at the age of 6 she tried to walk through a mirror with her friend and both are covered in many many scars from it, and her friends family tried to sue hers for it?

Like… I’ve walked into plenty of glass doors in my life, and thanks to those weird fairground rides called maze of mirrors or whatever, have also walked into some of them. At speed. Yeah, it’s painful and annoying but walking into one doesn’t cause it to break, and even if it did shatter, theres no way the scars she’s talking about would happen (its right you know, turns out later on in the books the scars are actually a map of the world she comes from.) 

She’s also… not ill enough to be in an asylum? Her worst trait is biting people. That’s it. But apparently that means that you can be dumped in one for over 10 years, without any therapy or lessons by the looks of it, being dosed up on medication they don’t explain to you.

At first, I kinda assumed it was set sometime in the past- since way back when, girls could be sent to them for normal things like reading. Or studying. Or thinking. But nope, her mother has a phone, they drive. Its modern. which is even more stupid because we still may not be perfect, but mental illness and stuff and treating and learning about it has come on in leaps and bounds in even the last 20 years.

It’s just like… The author had a massive opportunity here, to give her Main Character a real mental illness (rather than the non-existent one that isnt even believable) and still have all the cliche YOU’RE A LOST PRINCESS YOU HAVE MAGIC moments, but made it different and better by having her struggle through her illness at the same time?

Plus if she’s been on meds for 10 years and suddenly stops taking them withdrawal would happen. she wouldn’t just wake up and be like YAY I’M FREE it would be hard.

(random sidenote, also, if you one day turn up in a land that doesnt exist being told magic is real and your dad is an evil king, would you really be like oh, cool let’s go?)

(I could go on about this bit – which is only like the first 80 pages – but I’ve already written nearly 500 words on it and I HAVE SO MUCH MORE TO SAY)

Next: We’ve all heard of Love Triangles. Now get ready  for The Love Square. (Or rather, if you want a handy diagram, get a piece of paper, write Female Main in the centre with a circle round it, then write Male 1 in one corner  with an arrow pointing to Female, then write Male 2 with an arrow towards her, then Male three with an arrow, then lots of side character males as well because basically, like every male character will probably end up loving her or her them in this book. As I said, I only made it half way.)

Why. Why. Why do authors do this. Espeically when Mainy spends the first 100 pages talking about how Male One is her One True Love and she even goes into this strange land to rescue him after he gets taken through a mirror (what). The first guy she meets is Mysterious and Handsome and the second one is Brooding and Grumpy and she ends up making out with both of them, wasting pages of her story (and minutes of my life) going over What If They Don’t Love Her Back or What Did That Kiss Mean.

Like I get it. Okay. I do- not everyone thinks that sex and making out and kissing is repulsive. I understand that. But she’s spent her whole entire memories worth of life in a corridor with only like 6 other teens, and only one other guy. Yet she falls in love with every guy she meets and cant chose between them, even though ALL OF THEM (and her) have the personality of a 2D drowned fish.

But… If you somehow ended up in a fantasy world, where your apparent best friend and Love Of Your Life had been kidnapped, would you really waste time flirting with other people rather than TRYING TO RESCUE HIM.

*breathes*

Added to that is the ‘friendships’ she gains? Like, the (very few) friends she makes (strangely she seems to hate almost very girl she comes across?) she just abandons without any other thought. She spends ten years in an asylum with a few other people and never gives them second thoughts, she gets to know a river witch who teaches her- and the two teenagers that stay with the witch. She seems to be friends with them then runs away and never cares again. I gave up reading just after she joins another ‘gang’ (all BEAUTIFUL FEMALES except Love Interest Number Three) but it really wouldn’t have surprised me if they abandoned them all without a care as well.

I mean, to be fair, none of the characters were memorable. I can’t even remember half their names and I put it down two days ago. So many Snow and her flatness just couldn’t help forgetting the flatness of everyone else? I’m not actually sure if all the characters were meant to be bad or if it was the authors lack of skill with 3D, realistic characters at this point. The more I think of it all, the more of a mess the book actually looks.

I could go on about the actual writing and the plot of the book forever as well, but it can all be summed up with just the word…disappointing. The writing in most places was stilted and almost painful, the descriptions non existent. Most speech was awkward and cringe-worthy to read and just… I expected far more from what I had heard about the authors other series.

Plotwise- I couldn’t actually tell if this was meant to be a retelling of Snow White or The Snow Queen. Major hint, guys, not the same story, despite both having the word Snow in the title. For the entire time Mainy was in the asylum, she refers to her meds asthe seven dwarfs which made me assume it was Snow White But then suddenly its a whole new tale? And then Alice in Wonderland type things kept appearing? It was just really confusing and annoying.

I like retellings. I like seeing what people can do to a story we all know, I like seeing which parts of the fairytale they think are the most important. But to do a retelling correctly, the fairytale has to be recognizable. You can’t just call a main character Snow and go of course its a Snow Queen retelling! Like, no. I didn’t get a single real hint at all. It was like she had muddled every fairytale up in her head and couldn’t decide which one to do.

So, all in all, a book that I question even giving one star to. If you want fairytale retellings with a twist and magic and lost princesses, please, please read The Lunar Chronicles instead of this. Hell, I don’t even know if I’m going to read Dorathy Must Die after reading this, and I own that already.

one star

PS- Snow’s magic power is to control snow. Right. But the River Witch, who controls water, can’t control snow. Maybe my whole life has been a lie, but isn’t snow just really cold water?

The Call, Peadar O’Guilin

 

31565971

Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.

Could you survive the Call?

This book is gruesome. And it is brilliant.

I didn’t know what to expect diving into this. The proof copy has been sat on my shelf for months, but when it arrived in the shop and I saw what it was about, I decided to finally pick it up. All I knew was that it was set in Ireland, there were evil fairies, and a death count almost as high as Game of Thrones.

Now, I am a sucker for anything fairy related. I have a weakness for fairytales, where happy endings are always there and magic is used for good, but I have an even bigger weakness- as in, I would kill for more books like it- for books where the fey want to lure you to your deaths and when hunting humans are their form of fun.

And in this book…. wow, the Sídhe take that that evil to another level, I swear.

So, many many years ago, Ireland managed to banish the Sídhe to the Grey Land, a place that sounds just as welcoming as its name. Then, 25 years before the book began, the Sídhe managed to curse all of Ireland in revenge, vowing to kill off Ireland’s humans. Any teenager between the age of 10 and 17 will get Called- they disappear from Ireland, leaving only their clothes, and appear in the Grey Land.

In the real world, they are gone for three minutes. But time is different, and in those three minutes, they are hunted for a whole day in the Grey Land. Only one in 10 teenagers last those three minutes and come back alive. And even then, most that come back are different.

Though this book has one main character- Nessa (Who I will talk about in a moment)- all the other characters have their own starring parts. None of them are pushed to the sidelines, even though you realise by about chapter three that 90% of these characters are probably not going to be around for the whole book. When each character is Called, you see them in the Grey Land. Each journey is different, each character seeing a different cruel side of the land they banished the Sídhe to.

It was cleverly done- you wanted each of them to survive. Each of them has had such a cruel time since they went to their survival schools, where they spend most of their time. Every day is terrifying, a wait to see who would end up dead- but life is harsh as well, trying to toughen them up. So when their time came, and you turned the page to see their names at the top, you are sat on the edge of your seat hoping they will survive the next few pages.

And then… Nessa. 

Put your hands up if you’ve ever gotten annoyed at the lack of diversity in YA books. Mainly, this kind of action fantasy. Mainly, diversity in seeing disabled characters. And having a main character that is disabled.

So Nessa had polio as a child and as a result, her legs are twisted and weak. No one expected her to survive, but she was determined. She wanted to prove them all wrong. So at school, when they ran, she crafted herself crutches out of tree branches. She learns to fight. She watches all these people she grew up with disappear then appear again, hideous and mangled and more often dead than alive. And those same people give her pity. They do not punish her because of that pity, and she hates it.

More than anything, I loved that. I have a disability, and at school, it forced me to be behind many of my classmates. I used to be a big football player- until my doctor decided that football, along with many other sports- was too dangerous. There were many other things I couldn’t do, and if there was one thing I hated more than anything else, it was pity. 

So to see a main character I could identify with, who I understood, who no one expected to get anywhere but then did, it made my day completely.

The only issue I had with this book is that you have to wait a long long time to see Nessa in the Grey Land, and the blurb of the book makes it sound like she is there a lot longer and a lot sooner than she is. However, the fact that you see all the others go into it makes up for it.

I just… This isn’t a book for the faint hearted. It is cruel and harsh and almost horrorish with some of the things that happen. But then, that is what they fey are meant to be, especially the ones in Ireland. But it is a fantastic read with some brilliant characters and imagination.

four stars