children's books · Fantasy · middle grade · Uncategorized

The Silver Arrow: an unremarkable middle-grade

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The Silver Arrow

author : lev grossman

pages : [paperback] 164

summary :

Kate and her younger brother Tom lead desperately uninteresting lives. And judging by their desperately uninteresting parents, the future isn’t much more promising. If only life was like it is in books, where you have adventures, and save the world! Even Kate’s 11th birthday is shaping up to be mundane — that is, until her mysterious and highly irresponsible Uncle Herbert surprises her with the most unexpected, exhilarating birthday present of all time: a real-life steam locomotive called The Silver Arrow.

Kate and Tom’s parents quite sensibly tell him to take it back, but Kate and Tom have other ideas — and so does The Silver Arrow — and very soon they’re off on a mysterious journey along magical rails. On their way, they pick up a pack of talking animals: a fishing cat, a porcupine, a green mamba, a polar bear, and the sweetest baby pangolin in the world. With only curiosity, fear, adrenaline, and the thrill of the unknown to guide them, Kate and Tom are on the adventure of a lifetime — and they just might save the world after all.

review :

I received a copy of this book as an arc and was eager to dive into this story, which is sort of like The Polar Express if the message there was about conservation.

It’s Kate’s birthday and everything in her life is utterly boring, which is why she writes a letter to her rich, estranged uncle asking him to send her a gift. What she receives isn’t what she expects: a train engine appears in her backyard! Her parents are furious; Kate and her brother Tom are delighted. At least until the train starts moving and they find themselves swept up in a fantastical journey where they are the conductors on a train helping animals travel to different stations around the world.

The concept of this book was cute. It’s not a bad idea. But the book is promoted for ages 8-12 and thinking back on my own reading experience, coupled with what I know of current middle-grade readers, the book skews too young. The writing and plot feel suitable maybe for the eight year-old end of that scale; The Silver Arrow might have done much better as a picture book. The message here is so blatantly obvious (and I think children are perhaps the ones who least need to be lectured about conservation these days) that I don’t think 8-12 year-olds would get much from this book. It feels like it talks down to children.

The characters are fairly basic and . . . boring. Kate, the main character, often goes chapters at a time without mentioning her younger brother, Tom, so sometimes it’s easy to forget he’s on the train at all. Kate might feel so simplistic because it would be easier for young readers to imagine themselves as her–putting themselves in her shoes, saving the animals. But she doesn’t feel like a realistic person, much less child. Somewhere alone the line (route? train tracks?) the story loses its emotion and becomes more of a step-by-step explanation of Kate’s day. First she did this, and then she did this, and then . . .

Honestly, the message delivered in The Silver Arrow is nothing that hasn’t been done before, and better, by other books. It’s a quick read, and the lesson behind it is very important, but this isn’t the book to use to demonstrate such things to the intended age group. I think they’ll lose interest quickly and won’t find the book fascinating at all.

2/5 stars

 

5 stars · Fantasy · young adult

Crier’s War: an amazing LGBTQ fantasy

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Crier’s War

Crier’s War #1

author : nina varela

pages : [hardcover] 435

memorable quote :

favorite character : crier

summary :

Impossible love between two girls —one human, one Made.
A love that could birth a revolution.

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, Designed to be the playthings of royals, took over the estates of their owners and bent the human race to their will.

Now, Ayla, a human servant rising the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging the death of her family… by killing the Sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier, who was Made to be beautiful, to be flawless. And to take over the work of her father.

Crier had been preparing to do just that—to inherit her father’s rule over the land. But that was before she was betrothed to Scyre Kinok, who seems to have a thousand secrets. That was before she discovered her father isn’t as benevolent as she thought. That was before she met Ayla.

Set in a richly-imagined fantasy world, Nina Varela’s debut novel is a sweepingly romantic tale of love, loss and revenge, that challenges what it really means to be human.

review :

Crier’s War is a book unlike any other.

My friend was nice enough to give this book to me for my birthday, and had already read and loved it, so I was eager to dive in. Without knowing much about the book, I was immediately immersed in the story and both POV.

Ayla is a human servant, whose family was destroyed by the Automae (basically, near-human robots who’ve taken over society). One day, she’ll have her revenge.

Crier is the daughter of the Automae leader, and one day hopes to lead them on her own.

The two are pulled together in unusual ways that reveal important aspects of their divided society neither knew beforehand.

I loved the dynamic in this book. Because we get perspectives from either side of the conflict–human and Automae–we get an interesting look at the whole world the author has created. Each POV has its own biases and judgements, so I liked being able to compare how Ayla and Crier saw the world, the people around them, each other–and then forming my own opinions of what those things might really be like, and how I would react to them myself.

For me, the book did seem to lean more heavily toward romance than toward the plot, but I didn’t mind that. I love that diverse books are getting the chance to have stories like this told. It did make some of the decisions made by the main characters seem a little off, like maybe things were moving a little too fast for some of the decisions they were making, but I also think the timeline during this book was a lot longer than it’d initially seemed. This actually gives the characters a chance to grow together . . . or maybe apart.

I love how Crier’s War managed to have some unpredictable moments that kept me on the edge of my seat, including the ending that has me eager for the sequel. I’m not sure what will happen, but I really can’t wait! Go read Crier’s War and then come discuss the book with me!

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · adult · Fantasy

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin is terrifyingly amazing

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The Fifth Season

The Broken Earth #1

author : n.k. jemisin

pages : [paperback] 468

memorable quote :

Home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind.

favorite character : essun

summary :

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

review :

My friend gifted me this book and I trust her judgement, so I began reading it without even glancing at the back cover. So I had no idea what I was getting into, and I think it was only a chapter or two before my jaw dropped and remained open throughout the rest of this wild story.

The Fifth Season is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Terrifying. Powerful. Beautiful. There were parts that were difficult to read through, parts where I absolutely couldn’t put the book down because I needed to know what would happen next. Parts where I was frustrated with the characters and parts where I loved them (and was very, very worried for them).

When a book like The Fifth Season is this good, it becomes difficult to explain why everyone needs to read it. You don’t want to spoil anything, and it’s impossible to capture that feeling the book gives you while reading without actually being in the midst of that reading experience. This is the kind of book that might be best experienced by diving in headfirst without looking up anything about it beforehand.

Because you will love it. Even if there are those parts I said are hard to read through; the writing is beautiful, but I felt a little squeamish. There are a lot of terrible things that happen throughout The Fifth Season, but that’s the sort of thing you come to expect in dystopian novels. This book is unlike all the rest, wholly unique in the way gives you nightmares.

I need to get the sequel.

5/5 stars

 

4 stars · Fantasy · young adult

ACE OF SHADES: give me the sequel now

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Ace of Shades

The Shadow Game #1

author : amanda foody

pages : [hardcover] 411

memorable quote :

She was a pistol wrapped up in silk. She was a blade disguised as a girl.

favorite character : levi

summary :

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…and secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, Enne has only one lead: the name Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

review :

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO boy I wish I’d read this book ages ago when it first came on my radar (and especially when my gorgeous beautiful wonderful friend gifted it to me). ACE OF SHADES is so completely unique, and fun, and also terrifying, so basically you’ll love it.

The book is told in dual POV between Enne and Levi, who are both absolute messes and stress me out a lot even though I love them. Enne is new to the city, trying to find her mother and manage not to die in a place that tends to chew up any outsiders who wander in. Levi is a street lord struggling to support his gang and also trying not to die. They team up: Levi will help Enne find her mother, and Enne will pay him for the trouble. They just don’t expect the search to take so long, or for things between them to get so complicated.

I think what I loved most about ACE OF SHADES is that the characters feel so real. They’re imperfect, constantly making mistakes, pissing each other off, and doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. I never had any doubt about their motivations, and for me, I’m weak for character-driven novels. I like being able to get inside their heads and see their world from their perspective. ACE OF SHADES is interesting because at times when Enne and Levi have the same goal, they’ve grown up with such differing experiences that getting to see each POV was interesting. I liked comparing their thoughts, to their actions, to the dangerous consequences.

I also love a good setting. New Reynes is a city I kept picturing as Las Vegas except, I guess, a little dirtier and magical (?). Everyone in ACE OF SHADES has abilities/affinities that they’re very good at because of their bloodline, which I guess isn’t really magic but if you’re THAT good at something . . . It’s magic. And it just added another interesting layer to the puzzle that makes up this book.

It wasn’t complicated to follow the rules of this world, because the worldbuilding was done *chef’s kiss* beautifully. There was no info-dumping!!! I hate it so much when authors pause the action to overexplain every little piece about the world; I loved how we get to explore the intricacies of the city and their society through Enne and Levi. We see things as they show them to us. It’s perfect.

Honestly, if you’re looking for a unique book filled with interesting characters and an ending that will make you immediately want the sequel . . . here it is. Don’t make the same mistake I did and take so long to pick up ACE OF SHADES. No need to gamble with your own happiness . . . hehe. 🙂

4/5 stars

 

4 stars · fairy tale · Fantasy

The Bear and the Nightingale

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The Bear and the Nightingale

Winternight Trilogy #1

author : katherine arden

pages : [hardcover] 323

memorable quote :

Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.

favorite character : vasilisa

summary :

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

review :

This is one of those books where I constantly wonder why it took me so dang long to read it. The Bear and the Nightingale is beautifully written. It starts off a little slowly, but I absolutely love the old-style fairy tale tone that dominates this book. It’s the kind of long book that you just sink into without wanting it to end–which is why I was excited to see that it was a series after I finished this one!

This is one of those stories I absolutely recommend to the fairy tale retelling fan who feels like they’re read everything out there (aka someone like me, hello let’s be best friends). This is new, exciting, and gives you that delightful retelling feeling without absolutely knowing where the plot is going or what will happen with all of the characters. There’s no room for the mundane, only magic.

I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to reread it (and get my hands on the next one)!

4/5 stars

 

 

4 stars · Fantasy · series · young adult

We Hunt the Flame = hot hot hot

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We Hunt the Flame

Sands of Arawiya #1

author : hafsah faizal

pages : [hardcover] 472

memorable quote :

We hunt the flame, the light in the darkness, the good this world deserves.

favorite character : altair

summary :

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

review :

We Hunt the Flame is one of those books where I’m torn between why didn’t I read this sooner and why did I read this now when I need to wait so long for a sequel. The world-building is spectacular. The characters are wonderful, flawed, and cunning. I love a good plot that revolves around a deadly quest. All of these elements come together to form a book that’s exceptionally unique.

Or maybe it just tricked me into falling in love with two of the main characters so I just had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next.

We Hunt the Flame is told in dual POV. Zafira lives in a place where people are dying because there’s no magic, except for the magical winter spread by the impassable forest encroaching on her village. Nasir lives in wealth, but suffers because of his line of work: assassination. The two have very different goals when they meet on their quests: Zafira wants to return magic and save everyone. Nasir knows he needs to kill her.

I’m not sure there’s any book out there featuring enemies to lovers that I’m not destined to fall for.

The supporting cast is great too (including my husband, Altair) although it seems like almost every character speaks fluent sarcasm. I enjoyed this for the most part, but sometimes it becomes hard to determine who’s talking when all of their dialogue ends up being very similar. I liked that everyone had very different (sometimes hidden and mysterious) motivations, making the plot even more complicated. I love it when YA has layers, intrigue inserted over all of the action and romance.

The one negative I have to say about this book is that sometimes the transitions in the plot are a little too jarring. If anything, I think We Hunt the Flame could have benefited from being slightly longer. There were some scene transitions (and even some points within the same scene) where something would happen and I would be left wondering how the heck we as the reader had gotten there. It’s fine to provide less information during chaotic/action-filled scenes, but there was never any backtracking that explained what we’d missed, when everything had a chance to calm down. I know I always talk about how I detest info-dumping but at some points it felt like this book did the opposite and withheld some information. Unfortunately I can’t give any specific examples without spoilers, and I did enjoy this book so . . . you’ll just need to read it for yourself and then we can discuss.

I liked where this book ended and how the setup is coming together for book two. I think it’ll be interesting–I think especially with all of the groundwork this book has done, there won’t really be as many moments of confusion for me as this story continues. It seems like we might get other points of view in the rest of the series too, which I wholeheartedly welcome. Let me into their heads! Give me all of their secrets! Well, not all of them. We’ve come so far and yet there’s still so much mystery wrapped around some of these characters.

If you’re a YA fantasy fan, definitely check out We Hunt the Flame. It’s exactly the right combo of familiar, beloved YA tropes with a unique storyline. It sort of subverts the whole chosen one narrative by having more reluctant (and angry, stabby) main characters. And truthfully, it’s a lot of fun!

4/5 stars

 

 

4 stars · Fantasy · young adult

Salt by Hannah Moskowitz: unique and seaworthy

 

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Salt

author : hannah moskowitz

pages : [hardcover] 258

favorite character : indi

summary :

Even though their parents disappeared during a hunt three months ago, seventeen-year-old Indi and his siblings, Beleza, Oscar, and Zulu, continue to roam the Mediterranean on their sailboat and hunt down monsters–but Indi yearns for a more settled life for his family, and he hopes that his parents’ journal with its tantalizing hints of a treasure, will provide them all with the means of escape from their nomadic and dangerous life before it is too late.

review :

What would you do, if your family was a group of seafaring monster hunters, and one day your parents leave and never end up coming back?

Indi and his siblings (Beleza, who likes to think that she’s in charge; Oscar, who wants to be a doctor; Zulu, who’s the youngest and should probably really be in school) grew up on the ocean. They belong to no place, only to each other. When the worst happens and their parents don’t return from a hunt, Indi and Beleza need to keep track of the kids. They need to keep themselves alive. And, maybe, they need to get some revenge.

Salt is a story about family. An unconventional one, because they have an unconventional life, but siblings are mostly the same toward each other whether they grow up thousands of miles from the sea, or right on top of it. Indi and his brother and sisters are part of that rare group of people who know that monsters exist. Because of this, their parents dedicated their lives—and their children’s lives—to keeping all of those ignorant people on their safe. It’s their job to learn about where a monster is, and then destroy it before it figures out how to eat them.

I really liked this book because it was so different. Indi’s voice is a unique one, trying to be tough in the face of his parents’ disappearance, all too young when he realizes how much has been left on his shoulders. He doesn’t even want to hunt monsters; what he wants more than anything is a normal life, and you can feel the anger seeping into his thoughts and actions as he’s forced to follow in his parents’ footsteps. It’s incredible relatable, even in this incredibly unique situation.

One thing that completely pulled me out of the story, though, was how jarringly the plot would move ahead. In one moment, we would linger over a quiet scene that’s great for characterization but does nothing overall for the plot of the book. Then something big, that the words have been building up to for a long time, will be breezed over in a few sentences, or referred to off-handedly because we don’t get to see that scene at all. I think it’s possible not to make the monster-hunting the center of the story without completely discounting it. The story’s content shouldn’t have been an afterthought to characterization. Even then, characters would sometimes make absurd choices that seemed only tailored to move the plot forward . . . the plot which the book had already deemed unimportant.

Overall, though, I really did like this book. I liked reading about Indi and his family; I liked never knowing what was going to happen next in their rough-and-tumble lifestyle. Salt is something new, something refreshing (even when there’s no freshwater to be found, cue the laughter). Hannah Moskowitz’s books are always unique and fun to read.

4/5 stars

 

Fantasy · fiction · young adult

Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly: yeah I couldn’t fly away from this one

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Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly

authors : stephen graham jones & paul tremblay

pages : [paperback] 280

summary :

This is the story of a girl who sees a boy float away one fine day. This is the story of the girl who reaches up for that boy with her hand and with her heart. This is the story of a girl who takes on the army to save a town, who goes toe-to-toe with a mad scientist.

review :

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while now because I downloaded it on Netgalley and never fit in the time to read it. Instead I found it on Hoopla recently (my love for that app never ends) and dove it.

This was a quick read. Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly is a simplistic contemporary fantasy. It opens on Mary (our narrator, and I just had to look up her name because it’s used so rarely in the book) who is at a family reunion when she spots someone she’s never seen before. A boy, who climbs a tree and starts floating up into the sky.

It’s a hoax.

Or . . . is that only what they want her to think? Strange things start happening, spreading through and taking over her town, and Mary starts investigating it because . . . I don’t know, because Floating Boy is hot?

I had a lot of problems with this book, mostly the content because it was pretty well-written. Sometimes Mary’s POV was a little confusing, because her actions don’t really match the tone and content of her thoughts. She’s fourteen, and she’s running all around independent and making mature, rational decisions while her thought process is like that of someone half her age.

Part of the subplot is that Mary has had problems with anxiety and depression, probably stemming from pressure at school, and she’s still struggling with that. I love books where mental illness is not the only plot, just part of who a character is. However, Mary vehemently resists medical help with her anxiety/depression (which are apparently so bad that she mentions several times that her friends and family are on “suicide watch” and seems to look down on them for being worried about her?). She refers to all medication as “zombie pills” and there’s never any point where she realizes that medication actually is the answer for a lot of people and that it can be a good option. I can’t stand YA books that look down on medication like that, when someone young and needing help could read it and assume they shouldn’t consider that option, or think that everyone will judge them for it.

Mary loves to judge people. She looks down on her family. She looks down on her friends. Mary is one of those girls who isn’t like other girls. She needs to explain to other people who Godzilla is, because she’s the only one she knows who has ever seen or heard of Godzilla.

Excuse me what.

I wish we’d gotten to know more about Floating Boy and his past and all, because obviously he was the most interesting part of the book. Unfortunately the explanation for everything was so convoluted that I’m still not quite sure what the answer to all of the mysteries was? It didn’t make very much sense to me, and I didn’t care to try to go back and understand.

I can’t say that I recommend this book. There are so many better options out there to read, that are full of amazing characters, and are more satisfying. This one just really missed the mark.

2/5 stars

 

 

3 stars · Fantasy · young adult

King of Scars: so this is a story all about how . . . I was disappointed

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King of Scars

Nikolai Duology #1

other books in this universe:

Shadow and Bone | Six of Crows

pages : [hardcover] 528

memorable quote :

The monster is me and I am the monster.

summary :

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

review :

Ohhhhhhhhhh boy.

King of Scars is possibly the most highly anticipated book in the YA fantasy realm in . . known memory? The Grishaverse is truly a force of its own and fans, including me, were very eager for this spinoff duology about Nikolai Lantsov. That charming, handsome king.

Right. Well.

This book read like a sequel, even though it’s book one. It felt like it suffered from second-book syndrome, without at least giving us the lovely, beautiful, content of the first book that we wanted. Here are a few non-spoilery points I’d like to make:

1. Why wasn’t there more Nikolai in a . . book pitched as his story?

2. Nina’s POV could have been a completely different book, BUT I’m not sure that it could have stood on its own. (And I love Nina. I LOVE HER. I would do anything for her. But what is happening. Okay.)

3. You can’t set a book in an already established universe and break all of the rules of that universe for . . . No discernible purpose as yet to be seen.

4. Oh no there are so many things to rant about but I have voWED TO REVIEW WITH NO SPOILERS.

There were also great points in this book. It was so fun to see characters again from the original series that I absolutely loved. It was great to have a lot of the action be entrenched in strategy and political intrigue–when we’re talking kings and kingdoms, it’s interesting to see how the characters interact, one-up, and try to trick each other. There were great pieces of backstory that made me happy.

There was just . . . So much potential. I can see in this book what I wanted out of it, and what I didn’t get. But I think what upsets me most is that I’m not excited for the next book. This one, King of Scars, has amazing, emotional scenes that I’ll definitely want to read over and over again. But the setup for book two?

Oh nooooooooooooo.

Maybe I should petition for a Nina spinoff series instead.

3/5 stars

 

5 stars · fairy tale · young adult

A Curse So Dark and Lonely, more like A CURSE SO DANG LOVELY

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A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1

author : brigid kemmerer

pages : [hardcover] 496

memorable quote :

I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.

favorite character : harper

summary :

An instant New York Times Best Seller! In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.

Fall in love, break the curse. 

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. 

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

review :

I love fairy tale retellings, to the point that I honestly can’t say how many Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve read. A Curse So Dark and Lonely is now not only one of my favorite retellings, it’s one of my favorite books.

The story is typical Beauty and the Beast for about . . . ten pages. There’s a curse. There’s the beast. And Harper is taken away to fall in love with him and break the curse. Except . . . she was never the one who was supposed to be brought to the Beast’s castle–she only ends up there because she tries to stop someone else, a stranger, from being taken.

Harper is from our world and one of my favorite contemporary characters I’ve ever read about. She’s thrust into another world filled with magic and royalty (and thankfully, refreshingly, HARDLY ANY SEXISM. three cheers for a magical world that doesn’t make a big stink about a girl wearing pants). Harper Stays Sexy and Doesn’t Get Murdered, though, because she’s determined to get home to her family and rightfully wants nothing to do with these emotionally stunted nerds who’ve kidnapped her. Finally, a Beauty who acts the right way to being stolen away from everything she’s ever known. Her reactions were so realistic? And I was immediately on her side.

I also loved how this book was dual POV, so we get to see from the Beast’s point of view as well. Rhen is verrrrry quickly made out to be a lesser villain in this book. He’s arrogant and sort of has no idea of how to be an actual person instead of a prince, but he was never TOO terrible. The story surrounding his curse, however, quickly gets very intense. Surprising (and amazing) for a retelling. Also surprising, we get beautiful worldbuilding. There are plots in this book outside of the curse. The stakes are higher–more characters are involved. I’m so glad that this is going to be a series because it feels like it needs at least one more book to explore all of the plot lines introduced here. Plus . . . I just want more of these characters okay.

There is a love triangle which I’m not the hugest fan of usually, but I love all of these characters so I didn’t even mind. More importantly there’s fantastic cerebral palsy rep with Harper (I love that it’s just a part of who she is, not her entire storyline) and some LGBTQ rep through minor characters. I want more. I need more. AH.

I can’t recommend this book enough and I’m so glad that I read it! I’ll eagerly be waiting for the sequel.

5/5 stars