1 star · Fantasy · young adult

A Court of Mist and Fury: where did the plot go?

 

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A Court of Mist and Fury

Author: sarah j. maas

favorite quote :

To the people who look at the stars and wish, Rhys.

favorite character : rhys

summary :

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

review :

I know that many people love this series, which is why I’m very okay with stating that I did not like this book. It doesn’t need me to vouch for it; this isn’t my kind of thing.

A Court of Mist and Fury begins where the last book ends. One thing I did appreciate about this book is that it genuinely shows the consequences of book one on these characters who had to live through it. They’re scarred, physically and psychologically, they’re depressed or angry. They’re imperfect, and the ways in which they fit together before the events of A Court of Thorns and Roses don’t really exist anymore. They need to find a new way to live.

What follows is just . . . not very good writing. Without giving anything away (for the people like me who are very late to reading this series) the plot seems to sort of disappear, when convenient. There is a big push to find and accomplish certain things because a new threat is rising, and yet it somehow simultaneously leaves Feyre with months to do things that don’t affect the ‘plot’ very much at all.

When certain things do appear, there is no real correlation relating them to the bulk of the book, much less to the first one. The world-building here is a mess, as things aren’t mentioned until the moment they’re served up to the reader. Then, we’re either given a two page info dump to catch readers up on information the characters supposedly knew all along, or no real explanation is given which leaves the prose filled with confusing holes.

Part of my problem here is that because we aren’t given the full scope of the world and the stakes, it’s very difficult to care. You can’t care about something that might be destroyed or lost if it only appeared pages beforehand. You can’t be worried about any situation because Feyre is now as overpowered as someone like Superman. I understand that not even she know what she’s capable of, but her training is described so vaguely and off-handedly that it’s impossible not to think that there’s no limits to her abilities. We never see her struggle with the depths of her power or strain under physical exhaustion. Because we aren’t told the extent of the abilities she’s been given, with each new situation that is presented, she can come up with some miraculous solution that literally pops up out of nowhere with no precedence. Forgivable, maybe once or twice, but it happens over and over and over again. She isn’t even the only deux ex machina to appear in this book!

Some miscellaneous things that weren’t very enjoyable:

–Feyre thinking of herself as beautiful and then consequently appearing shocked when anyone else says that she’s beautiful

–this book could have been 100 pages long because apart from the beginning and end there were only a few plotty chapters in the middle

–villains spieling too much about their motivations while simultaneously not making much sense at all

I understand that most people read these books for the romance and the . . . raunchy bits. As someone who would read for the fantasy and story over that, I think perhaps this series is aimed toward a different kind of audience. But to give readers two characters to ship together, these important story elements shouldn’t be sacrificed.

1/5 stars

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Fantasy · series · young adult

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard: immediately a favorite

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Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

author : susan dennard

pages : [hardcover] 416

memorable quote :

Sometimes justice was all about the small victories.

favorite character : safi

summary :

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

review :

Why did it take me so long to finally read this book?? It’s been on my TBR since 2016. I could have been in love with this series and Susan Dennard’s writing two years ago. Because Truthwitch is now–immediately, wholeheartedly–one of my favorite books.

My best recommendation is for you to pick up this book without reading any more on it. Let yourself be immersed in the story itself. Dennard creates such a detailed, fantastical–terrifying–world that’s impossible not to get drawn into. This is one of those fantasy novels where you can easily picture yourself in the setting. You wonder what sort of witch you’d most like to be, in their world. You wonder who your allies would be. And your enemies.

I always say that plot comes second to me, just behind the characters, but this one really holds out against an amazing cast. Really, with the nuanced, flawed; and hilarious main characters, everything else is just extra. Every unpredictable plot twist or witty quip or bit of romance. Yes, there are some very intriguing relationships developing here that I’m already obsessed with.

And then that ending, that really takes what’s left of your heart and shoves it through a shredder.

But, like, in a good way. It’s fine. Read it anyway.

I honestly can’t recommend this book enough. Don’t delay as much as I did–read it now!

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · Fantasy · young adult

Sightwitch by Susan Dennard: SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD

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Sightwitch (The Witchlands #0.5)

author : susan dennard

pages : [hardcover] 208

memorable quote :

What is life except perception?

favorite character : ryber

summary :

From New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard, Sightwitch is an illustrated novella set in the Witchlands and told through Ryber’s journal entries and sketches.

Before Safi and Iseult battled a Bloodwitch…

Before Merik returned from the dead…

Ryber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight.

Years pass and Ryber’s misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight—and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain.

On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.

Set a year before TruthwitchSightwitch is a companion novella that also serves as a set up to Bloodwitch, as well as an expansion of the Witchlands world.

review :

I can’t say it enough: I’m so glad that I finally read these books. The Witchlands series is something special. It’s creative, immersive, and nuanced. The characters are lovely, flawed, and relatable. The diversity is done well. The plot is . . . well, I don’t think my heart can take much more. If you haven’t read these books yet, start with Truthwitch, then read your way here.

Sightwitch is a collection of maps, drawings, and journal entries that not only tell more of Ryber’s story. They give a better perspective to this world as a whole. More of the fun (well, sometimes terrifying) world building that couldn’t be lingered over in the first two books. It’s a look into the past–sometimes the very far past, as in thousands of years, and sometimes just the earlier days of characters we’ve learned to love. It all blends together in this beautiful, much too short book that will keep you reading late into the night.

I just didn’t want to put it down.

There’s adventure and romance, yes. But also bravery–characters coming into their own. Loss. Reunions. Hope, and plans for the future. Worry, and the chance that literally everything will crumble to ruin.

Sightwitch is quieter than the previous two books, possibly because it is a prequel. It doesn’t have as many characters or locations as the others, and I love it. I love being drawn so personally into the lives of these characters we really needed to learn more about. Basically what this book taught me above all else is that I will read anything Susan Dennard writes and won’t be pleased until there are, like, fifty books in this series.

So if you haven’t started to read it yet . . . you should probably pick it up today.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

2 stars · Fantasy · young adult

Monstrous Beauty: a gruesome but disappointing mermaid tale

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Monstrous Beauty

author : elizabeth fama

pages : [hardcover] 295

favorite character : ezra

summary :

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

review :

I love mermaids, and I’m forever searching for my perfect mermaid book. I’m still searching, because Monstrous Beauty turned into a monstrous disappointment.

I went into the book only knowing it would involve mermaids in some way–my favorite way to dive into a book involves knowing as little as possible in advance. In the first fifty of so pages, I was in love. The story alternated between two points of view, Syrenka (a mermaid in the 19th century) and Hester (the typical ‘normal’ girl in a contemporary setting). I liked the disparity between the two POVs, though was more invested in the past (because MERMAID). The prose was good, though tight and plain as sometimes happens with contemporary, even contemporary fantasy.

And then.

Things began to go downhill with the dialogue, when I soon came to realize that no one was saying anything that a normal person would ever say. In the chapters from the past, the language choices could be more forgiving, but Hester and her friends in the present didn’t talk at all like teenagers or . . . Actually, anyone that I can think of. For example, she continuously refers to her love interest as her “lover”, and I can’t think of any teenager who’d do so and wouldn’t immediately burst into laughter afterward.

Then the insta-love. Why must mermaid novels ALWAYS include insta-love? It painfully exists here and even then, it can’t seem to remain consistent. On one page Hester claims she’ll never love anyone else again if she loses her beloved. On the next she muses about whether she’ll live to see her grandchildren. Then again, if she falls in love so quickly, perhaps she falls out of love just as fast.

Then the ghosts. Why were there ghosts? Somehow they fit into this version of mermaid lore that we’re never really given clear parameters on. I love ghost stories (and, contrary to my love of mermaids, have indeed found ghost stories I love). But the mermaid mythology here was complicated enough without introducing the spirits, most of whom seemed completely irrelevant apart from adding a few extra pages of attention and making Hester seem like a bit of an idiot. I mean, she wonders why no one else seems able to see or hear these things, and knows about people who died in those exact spots, AND knows mermaids exist . . So can’t put two and two together to decide ghosts are real as well.

I did like how dark this story went with the mermaid myth and the tone it took in the chapters from the past. But that initial attraction wasn’t enough to save it from all of the problems thrown in there.

I can’t recommend this book.

2/5 stars

 

discussion · Fantasy · fiction

Feminism and Pirates: How Dead Men Tell No Tales leaves no room for women

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(image source)

Let me start by stating that I am not a casual Pirates of the Caribbean fan. I’ve loved the movies from the start and, yes, I even loved the fourth movie no one else ever seems to like.

Please don’t read that and immediately question my taste.

I’ve been waiting years for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Not this film, specifically, but any pirates film in which all three of the main cast members would return and fulfill all of my expectations–

Well. At least one expectation was fulfilled, and–can anything be considered a spoiler so many months after the film’s release?–that scene at the end with those two characters reuniting sort of made me feel like it made my spent money worthwhile, when I saw this in theaters.

As it was recently added to Netflix, I decided it was about time for round two.

So. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is what happens in the film industry when people know they could cobble together literally anything and other people will flood the theaters with their dollar bills. (Like Star Wars, and that last horrible Indiana Jones movie, but . . . those are beside the point.) Who needs a script that makes sense in the greater context of the film arc and general setting of the story, when you can settle for cheap laughs, Johnny Depp’s antics, and the general bad-assery of a pirate story?

DMTNT (this title is too long) follows Henry Turner (the new Will Tuner), Carina Smyth (the new Elizabeth Swann), and Jack Sparrow (the less quirky, more drunk and sad version) on a quest for the Trident of Poseidon. Basically, it’s meant to break every curse of the sea. There’s a ship of ghosts sailing after Jack Sparrow and it’s never really clear how they became cursed ghosts. There’s some witch involved for all of two scenes and they can’t even give her the benefit of fleshing her into an actual character rather than a plot device. Barbossa shows up and somehow they managed to even mess up his character.

DMTNT doesn’t really add to the mythology of the greater world of Pirates, because it’s only attempting to break down those barriers–one can only assume, so they can be rebuilt in some future planned film.

It really doesn’t do anything for the women, either.

Carina Smyth is arguably the only woman in the film. (I refuse to count the deus ex machina witch and the cameo by you know who). This kind of places a lot of pressure on her, as somehow seemingly the Pirates world can fathom ghosts, curses, krackens, tridents, and Davy Jones, but not the introduction of more women to the film. Because that would be historically inaccurate, I’m assuming they’d defend themselves by saying.

So, as a lady who really likes the Pirates franchise, it was very exciting to see the singular woman . . . pretty much play out the same role Elizabeth Swann did four films ago. Every joke and plotline seems to revolve around sexism. About how they might see her ankles beneath the dresses she needs to wear because of sexism. About how everyone believes she’s a witch because of sexism. How she’s bad luck on a ship. How she’s questioned about everything because she’s a woman, but isn’t it so great that she’s right, and smarter than all of these other men? And that makes up for her being the only woman, surely, because it isn’t so terrible if she’s the one who comes up with the plan. Which can only be executed by–you guessed it!–men.

I mean, Elizabeth ended up as pirate lord and pirate king two films previous. You’d think some of that would have rubbed off and we wouldn’t be headed backward.

Ah, but I’ve remembered two entire other women in the film! One who had no lines at all, who was presumed to have been sleeping with Jack Sparrow, and another who seemed to have been made revolting in every way possible to make it hilarious that she might be marrying Jack Sparrow . . .

Hang on a minute. And Carina Smyth . . . so much of her character arc not only focused on the sexism, but the search for her father/the final revelation of her father’s identity. So it’s almost like . . .

Almost like these women only existed to further the stories of the men surrounding them, allow for more cheap laughs, and solidify the heterosexual love interest that throws in the necessary undertones of romance.

Seems like the makings for a great, epic adventure, doesn’t it?

I’m disappointed in Pirates. I’m angry, because I had so many expectations.

Well, maybe now that I have none, I might enjoy the next movie that will inevitably be released.

5 stars · Fantasy · series

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is all I want in fantasy

A Darker Shade final for Irene

a darker shade of magic

shades of magic #1

author : v.e. schwab

pages : [hardcover] 400

memorable quote :

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”
Her smile widened. “Everything.”

favorite character : holland

summary :

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

review :

This book is truly a rollercoaster and, wow, I can’t believe I waited so long to read it.

There are some books I know I’ve been hyped too much about and can’t enjoy. Then there are some that live up to the hype, exceed it–maybe deserve more of it. A Darker Shade of Magic is certainly the latter.

And, yes, I’d heard a lot of good things about this book. But I dove into it without even reading the summary–without knowing much about the plot really. Apart from assuming it had something to do with magic. (Yes. There is plenty of magic in this book. What. A. Shock.) I loved not knowing what I was getting myself into. What the world was, what the plot was going to be, what the characters goals and motivations were. I wanted to find out within the story and it truly delivered.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I already know I need more to devour. The writing is just captivating. I love the way that the world was built. And there was absolutely no info-dumping! I hate that more than almost anything else in fantasy novels. The characters were so nicely fleshed out that you came to feel for even the most minor of them. I wanted more of some who only appeared on a few pages!

That said, some of the main characters were a little predictable in their little heroic roles. I’m excited because the way this book left off leaves more room for interesting and unexpected things to happen. For these characters to really branch out and flex their wills and abilities in this world.

Basically I need book two like yesterday.

This is a book I’ll recommend and reread. It’s a book with characters I love and a world I can immerse myself in and a story that hooks me in. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · Fantasy · fiction

Teen Titans Volume 1: an interesting reboot series

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Teen Titans: Volume 1

Damian Knows Best

author : benjamin percy

illustrator : jonboy meyers

pages : [paperback] 144

summary :

As a part of DC Universe: Rebirth, the son of Batman, Damian Wayne, joins the Teen Titans!

The Teen Titans are further apart than ever before…until Damian Wayne recruits Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and the new Kid Flash to join him in a fight against his own grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul! But true leadership is more than just calling the shots–is Robin really up to the task? Or will the Teen Titans dismiss this diminutive dictator?

The team will have to figure this out fast, as a great evil from Damian’s past is lurking around the corner, ready to strike at the team’s newest leader and destroy the new Teen Titans before they even begin!

The newest era of one of DC’s greatest super-teams begins here in Teen Titans, Volume 1: Damian Knows Best! Written by Benjamin Percy (Green Arrow) with spectacular art by newcomer Jonboy Meyers.

CollectingTeen Titans 1-5, Rebirth

review :

I love Teen Titans. I love the DC Rebirth event. I love this volume.

Damian Knows Best kicks off with a nice kidnapping of all of the team members and only gets better and more complex from there. Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Kid Flash are all older (though not necessarily more mature) than thirteen year old Damian. He knows what he wants, and maybe not necessarily what he needs. With a team put together, he’s determined to keep all of them alive–knowing that big enemies are coming toward them, both because of and in spite of them.

I loved the character arc throughout this volume for Damian, aka Robin, aka the son of Batman. He really grew on me, from this obnoxious, egotistical little kid to a strong, brave (still really short) kid. He’s put up with so much in life. I love how glimpses into his upbringing are given without the typical info-dumping that typically happens in comics. Instead, it’s introduced gradually and seamlessly into the plot.

Apart from that, I love how every version of Teen Titans I read involves its own take of the team members. Not only stylistically with the character sketches but little tweaks with how they hold themselves, present themselves, though the core of their personalities and who they are always remains the same.

This volume also has amazing, complex, and a little bit terrifying villains. I love how nothing was simple. I loved the big battles. I love that the Titans aren’t all-powerful and still have a few things to work out between themselves to become an even greater team.

I’d definitely recommend this volume, both to fans of the Titans and those who’d never been introduced to them at all. This is one you can read with no background info and absolutely fall into. The universe and plot set themselves up so nicely, the art is amazing, and the characters are addictive. I need more!

5/5 stars