Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie LuThe Young Elites by Marie Lu
Series: The Young Elites #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on October 7, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read
Goodreads
2 Stars
I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

Book Review:

Villains are usually my favorite characters in books. Call me twisted, but I love bad women/guys, characters who do anything to get their way, characters who have questionable morals and/or goals. So I should have loved THE YOUNG ELITES, because it’s supposed to be a villain’s story.

Adelina is tired of being hurt, of being used. A survivor of the mysterious blood fever, she lost an eye. One would think that would be enough, but her father has hurt and hated her for years, trying to find some value in having a malfetto for a daughter. When Adelina finds out her father is going to sell her, she escapes … and murders him in the process.

On the day of her execution, a fire already set at her feet, Adelina is rescued by the Young Elites. They are a group of malfettos with magic powers, and they want Adelina because she’s one of them. But the rescue isn’t quite what it seems, because the Young Elites want to use Adelina, as does Teren, leader of the Inquisition that nearly killed her.

All of that? Pretty promising, I’d say. But there was just something missing in THE YOUNG ELITES, something that’s very difficult for me to put my finger on. I should have flown through this book, but it took me days to finish. That’s abnormal for me, because I usually read a book a day. THE YOUNG ELITES just didn’t hold my interest. I feel like I trudged through it, and there were several points where I just wanted to put it aside. I didn’t, but only because I’d heard the ending was worth it. The ending was okay, the best part of the book for me, other than the epilogue.

Why didn’t THE YOUNG ELITES hold my interest? To start, there’s a real lack of worldbuilding for a fantasy book. The world feels a lot like Renaissance Italy, and there are lots of descriptions of buildings and pretty masks and clothing, but not of the important stuff. Where did the blood fever come from? How does magic work for the Young Elites? Adelina describes using her powers, but I didn’t quite get the idea behind the threads, or many of the powers of the other Elites. Etc.

I also never connected to Adelina. I don’t necessarily have to like a main character to like a book, but there has to be something about a character to grab me if the story doesn’t. I should have loved that Adelina is making steps towards being the bad guy, but she didn’t feel very developed to me. I read in the Acknowledgments that she was originally a side character, and then the author rewrote the book around her.

There’s more bad I could go on about, but I’ll stop there and just say I was underwhelmed and disappointed by this book. I expected more — I really liked Marie Lu’s first book, LEGEND, which read almost like playing a video game. If I made the same comparison, THE YOUNG ELITES read like being stuck on the loading screen.

So why 2 stars instead of 1? Because there is some cool stuff in THE YOUNG ELITES. Parts of the book are quite dark, which I usually like, and I liked that the author tried to go there. I could see promise, but there was a lack of execution/focus. I probably would pick up the next Young Elites book, but I’m crossing my fingers that it’s better.

Socialize with the author:

Marie Lu:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Rise of the King (Companions Codex #2) by R.A. Salvatore

Book Review: Rise of the King (Companions Codex #2) by R.A. SalvatoreRise of the King by R.A. Salvatore
Series: Companions Codex, Forgotten Realms
Published by Wizards of the Coast on September 30, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
In the second book of the Companions Codex, the latest series in the New York Times best-selling saga of dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden, R.A. Salvatore picks up with the fan-favorite storyline of dwarf king Bruenor Battlehammer and his bloody feud with the orc kingdom of Many Arrows.

Book Review:

RISE OF THE KING is the second book in the Companions Codex, which features the reincarnated Bruenor, Regis, Catti-brie, and Wulfgar rejoining Drizzt Do’Urden. It is also the 26th book in the Legend of Drizzt saga.

RISE OF THE KING picks up right after NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. There’s not a lot of recap from the first book, so I was a bit lost at first since I couldn’t remember a lot of what happened. Essentially, the drow are bringing about war in the Silver Marches, using the orcs of Many Arrows to do their dirty work.

THE GOOD:

–R.A. Salvatore writes some great action scenes, and there are lots of them in this book, both small and large scale. The gang fights groups of orcs and goblins, and they also help the besieged town of Nesmé.

–The book doesn’t just follow the Companions, which helps show the impact of war on the entire area. There are scenes from others, including Afafrenfere, Jarlaxle, Kimmuriel, and “common” people. I was personally hoping for more from the drow, especially Quenthel Baenre, but she wasn’t very present in this book.

THE BAD:

–The first third or so of RISE OF THE KING is a real slog to get through. I typically read about 400-450 words per minute, and I was down to 200 for the beginning of this book. What I’m trying to point out here is the writing is so … obfuscated. I can’t remember how many times I had to reread sentences and paragraphs to figure out what the author was trying to say. Sometimes it felt like I was reading fanfic. After battles started, the writing became clearer, as if Salvatore found his stride (or maybe I just got used to it).

–Yes, there are a lot of battles in RISE OF THE KING, but overall, the book mostly moves characters around, putting them into place for a showdown in the final book. When I finally finished reading, I wasn’t left with the impression that a whole lot had happened.

Overall, RISE OF THE KING is very much a middle book, functioning as more evidence for “all orcs are evil” and furthering the war in Luruar. I’ve skipped a lot of the middle books in the Legend of Drizzt saga, but I get the feeling this book is going back on a lot of what happened. Oh well. Even though I wasn’t blown away by RISE OF THE KING, I’m still looking forward to seeing how everything ends.

Socialize with the author:

R.A. Salvatore:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White

Book Review: The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. WhiteThe Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White
Series: The Thickety #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on May 6, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Hand in hand, the witch's children walked down the empty road.

When Kara Westfall was six years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. Years later, Kara and her little brother, Taff, are still shunned by the people of their village, who believe that nothing is more evil than magic . . . except, perhaps, the mysterious forest that covers nearly the entire island. It has many names, this place. Sometimes it is called the Dark Wood, or Sordyr's Realm. But mostly it's called the Thickety.

The black-leaved trees swayed toward Kara and then away, as though beckoning her.

The villagers live in fear of the Thickety and the terrible creatures that live there. But when an unusual bird lures Kara into the forbidden forest, she discovers a strange book with unspeakable powers. A book that might have belonged to her mother.

And that is just the beginning of the story.

The Thickety: A Path Begins is the start of a thrilling and spellbinding tale about a girl, the Thickety, and the power of magic.

Book Review:

THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS is intended as a middle grade book: ages 10 and up, grades 5 and up. I know my younger self could have handled this book — there’s a lot of horror and some graphic imagery — but it might not be suitable for all younger readers. If in doubt, read the Prologue as that should give a hint as to some of the content of the book.

After her mother is killed on suspicions of witchcraft, Kara, her brother, and her father are the village’s outcasts. Everyone talks about Kara behind her back. The ruler’s daughter, Grace, makes it her special mission to torment Kara while making it look like Kara is the one bullying her. Kara’s father lives in a depressed stupor, unable to take care of his children the way a father should. Kara’s brother, Taff, is sickly. It’s up to Kara to support the family, and that’s a lot for a twelve-year-old to deal with.

That’s where I had trouble with THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS. I can suspend disbelief about all sorts of things, but I had a really hard time believing Kara was only twelve. Yes, everything she went through made her old for her years, but still. She read like sixteen or seventeen to me, not twelve. In fact, I forgot how old she was until the author reminded me, and I sat there for a moment, kinda stunned.

The things I liked most about THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS are the magic system and the author’s writing style. I thought using grimoires to power a witch’s magic was neat, and it fit into the world. The author’s writing style sucked me into the story, keeping me reading until I finished the book. At almost 500 pages, I do think THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS is a bit too long, but it does read quickly. I also liked the chapter heading illustrations; I normally don’t notice artwork, but I did here. They helped me get into Kara’s world.

The ending of THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS, oh that ending! It’s one that will make you want the sequel now. There’s a twist didn’t see it coming, which I always like. However, I do wish that Kara had actually spent more time in the Thickety. Based on the title of the book, and the way the villagers avoid the Thickety, I assumed that it would play a bigger role. The glimpses of the Thickety made me want more. Kara’s village is interesting too, a sort of utopia that’s determined to prove witchcraft is wrong. Again, something I wished there had been more of.

Overall, THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS was okay for me. I think it might be a bit dark for the intended age group, but I’m not the best person to judge that. It’s a good start to a series, enough to make me want more, but it just wasn’t an amazing book for me.

Socialize with the author:

J.A. White:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell

Book Review: Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de CastellTraitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell
Series: Greatcoats #1
Published by Jo Fletcher Books, Quercus Books on July 15, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
With swashbuckling action that recall Dumas' Three Musketeers Sebastien de Castell has created a dynamic new fantasy series. In Traitor's Blade a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.

The King is dead, the Greatcoats have been disbanded, and Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti have been reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that's exactly what's happening.

Now a royal conspiracy is about to unfold in the most corrupt city in the world. A carefully orchestrated series of murders that began with the overthrow of an idealistic young king will end with the death of an orphaned girl and the ruin of everything that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have fought for. But if the trio want to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats, they'll have to do it with nothing but the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands, because these days every noble is a tyrant, every knight is a thug, and the only thing you can really trust is a traitor's blade.

Book Review:

Before starting TRAITOR’S BLADE, I had just finished a nine book epic fantasy series. I was still in the mood for fantasy, but something lighter and not so lengthy. This book fit the bill so perfectly I felt almost as if it had been written just for me. Now, TRAITOR’S BLADE does have plenty of dark stuff in it, from tyrannical dukes to abused peasants to a murdered king, but it’s written with such dark humor that you’re laughing even as you’re watching the main character go into a fight he’s almost certain to lose.

Essentially, TRAITOR’S BLADE is a fantasy book that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I loved that.

I was hooked from the very first page, and didn’t stop until I finished TRAITOR’S BLADE in one sitting. I actually read this book twice in two months, because the first time I tried to review it, all I could write was, “READ THIS NOW.” I’m still saying that, because I liked this book even more the second time.

I mean, how can you not love a book that starts off with this?

“You know what I find odd?” Brasti went on.
“Are you going to stop talking at any point in the near future?” I asked.
Brasti ignored me. “I find it odd that the sound of a nobleman rutting is hardly distinguishable from one being tortured.”
“Spent a lot of time torturing noblemen, have you?”
“You know what I mean. It’s all moans and grunts and little squeals, isn’t it? It’s indecent.”
Kest raised an eyebrow. “And what does decent rutting sound like?” (p. 3)

Sebastien de Castell has a great sense of humor, lots of creativity, and skill at telling a story. I got sucked into the plight of Falcio and his fellow Greatcoats. I felt sorry for them and their situation — basically outlaws after the death of their King — but I also couldn’t wait to see how Falcio would get out of each mess he got into. And Falcio is very, very good at getting into messes, so there’s lots of entertainment even while you’re hoping he makes it out alive.

I realize this isn’t a very good review, but you know how sometimes there are books that make you fangirl (or fanboy) endlessly and just make you happy to read them? Books that you want to push on everyone, but are too incoherent to scream anything but “READ THIS” and shove it into their hands? Yeah. TRAITOR’S BLADE is one of those books.

Socialize with the author:

Sebastien de Castell:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Thorn Jack (Night and Nothing #1) by Katherine Harbour

Book Review: Thorn Jack (Night and Nothing #1) by Katherine HarbourThorn Jack by Katherine Harbour
Series: Night and Nothing #1
Published by Harper Voyager on June 24, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
They call us things with teeth.

These words from Lily Rose Sullivan the night of her death haunts her seventeen-year-old sister, Finn, who has moved with her widowed father to his hometown of Fair Hollow, New York. After befriending a boy named Christie Hart and his best friend, Sylvie Whitethorn, Finn is invited to a lakeside party where she encounters the alluring Jack Fata, a member of the town's mysterious Fata family. Despite Jack's air of danger and his clever words, Finn learns they have things in common.

One day, while unpacking, Finn finds her sister's journal, scrawled with descriptions of creatures that bear a sinister resemblance to Jack's family. Finn dismisses these stories as fiction, but Jack's family has a secret—the Fatas are the children of nothing and night, nomadic beings who have been preying on humanity for centuries—and Jack fears that his friendship with Finn has drawn the attention of the most dangerous members of his family—Reiko Fata and vicious Caliban, otherwise known as the white snake and the crooked dog.

Plagued with nightmares about her sister, Finn attempts to discover what happened to Lily Rose and begins to suspect that the Fatas are somehow tied to Lily Rose's untimely death. Drawn to Jack, determined to solve the mystery of her sister's suicide, Finn must navigate a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems.

Book Review:

Before I start my review of THORN JACK, I should say I wasn’t super familiar with the tale it’s based on, Tam Lin. THORN JACK is a modern retelling, but I don’t think you need to know Tam Lin in order to enjoy this book.

THORN JACK is a lush, detailed, atmospheric dive into the supernatural. It’s a book I want to reread so I can enjoy all the little details and descriptions the author wove into the story. I was sad when I finished THORN JACK, because I knew I’d miss the creepy, dark atmosphere and the dangerous faeries. I am really looking forward to the next two Night and Nothing books so I can spend more time in this world.

When the book starts, Finn is almost … bland. It’s like she’s sleepwalking through life until she meets the mysterious Jack. I admit, I did think of TWILIGHT, but I didn’t get that vibe for long. Finn’s detachedness makes sense, because she’s mourning her older sister. Lily Rose killed herself, but Finn doesn’t know why. Only as she settles into her new town, finds new friends, and learns more about Jack, does Finn start to “wake up.” She also starts to wonder about Lily Rose, and what really happened.

But she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not, and neither is the reader. There are concerts in the woods and parties in abandoned hotels attended by boys with antlers, ghosts, and mythical creatures. There are a lot of characters in THORN JACK, maybe too many, but I thought they added to the lush feeling of the book. Reiko Fata was one of my favorite characters, but then, I tend to like evil, dark women, and she’s that and more. I enjoyed all the bits of Reiko’s backstory, and honestly, I could have read a book just about her. I also liked Finn’s friends, Christie and Sylvie. They bond very quickly, which I found a bit unrealistic, but I liked how they were there for each other, willing to help Finn even when she was doing something dangerous or stupid.

Reading THORN JACK was mostly an experience for me. Looking back, there are some things I question and criticize, but overall, I really enjoyed the book while I was reading it. I kept wanting to skip ahead to see what would happen next, and I found myself turning the pages way too quickly. This would be a great book to read around Hallowe’en, both because Hallowe’en plays an important role in the story and because of the general feeling of the season.

Formatting wise, I wish the glossary of “Fata Terms” had been at the beginning of the book, because I didn’t even know there was a glossary. The words (look like Gaelic?) aren’t used that often, but it would have been helpful to know what they meant.

Socialize with the author:

Katherine Harbour:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Frostborn (Thrones & Bones #1) by Lou Anders

Book Review: Frostborn (Thrones & Bones #1) by Lou AndersFrostborn by Lou Anders
Series: Thrones & Bones #1
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on August 5, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mythology
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Meet Karn. He is destined to take over the family farm in Norrøngard. His only problem? He’d rather be playing the board game Thrones and Bones.

Enter Thianna. Half human, half frost giantess. She’s too tall to blend in with other humans but too short to be taken seriously as a giant.

When family intrigues force Karn and Thianna to flee into the wilderness, they have to keep their sense of humor and their wits about them. But survival can be challenging when you’re being chased by a 1,500-year-old dragon, Helltoppr the undead warrior and his undead minions, an evil uncle, wyverns, and an assortment of trolls and giants.

Book Review:

The summary for FROSTBORN sounded super intriguing. Norse-inspired middle grade fantasy? A main character that loves board games? Another main character that’s stuck in-between the human and giant worlds?

But FROSTBORN failed to grab my interest, and I had to keep making myself pick it up. There was a lack of action for the first third or so of the book, and something about the dialogue just didn’t work for me. There were a lot of jokes and attempts at humor, but they felt almost … too modern? I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but it seemed like the author wrote how he thought kids interact instead of how they actually do.

FROSTBORN has very nice chapter heading illustrations, which added to the text. Usually I don’t pay much attention to illustrations, but I liked these. I also liked that Thianna and Karn aren’t pigeon-holed into stereotypical gender expectations. Thianna’s half frost giant, half human, but prefers her frost giant side. She tends towards action first and thinks later. Karn loves the Thrones and Bones board game, and uses strategy learned from the game in as many situations as he can. There’s a joke in the book about Karn opening a tavern to cook rabbit on a stick, while Thianna will be the door giant. So this isn’t a “girl book” or a “boy book,” which is always nice to see.

There are some pluses to FROSTBORN, which even includes the rules for Thrones and Bones so readers can try to play the game. But the book just didn’t keep my interest — I wasn’t eager to keep reading. Younger readers might get into it more, and I can see it being a good introduction to fantasy, but … I think I just expected more from Lou Anders.

Socialize with the author:

Lou Anders:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: I, Morgana by Felicity Pulman

Book Review: I, Morgana by Felicity PulmanI, Morgana by Felicity Pulman
Published by Momentum Books on June 26, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology
Pages: 174
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
You know my name, but you don’t know my story …

After being schooled in magic by Merlin and promised a kingdom, Morgana is robbed of her birthright and betrayed by everyone she has ever trusted. Risking everything for revenge, Morgana uses her magical arts to trap Merlin, threaten her half-brother King Arthur, and turn away the only man she will ever love. In destroying King Arthur and Camelot, Morgana sets into motion a catastrophe that can only be reversed if she can learn from the past in time to protect our future … and so fulfill an ancient prophecy.

In the tradition of The Mists of Avalon comes a new story of Morgan le Fay, one of the most enigmatic and reviled characters in Arthurian legend.

Book Review:

When I read the summary for I, MORGANA, I swooned. Just a little bit. I’m always on the lookout for books about or featuring Morgana, as I tend to like a nicely evil sorceress. Morgana tends to get a bad rap, so reading her story, in her words? I couldn’t wait to start the book.

Unfortunately, Felicity Pulman’s attempt at reinventing Morgana didn’t work for me. I almost put it down several times, and I wish I had given up on reading it, because I honestly can’t remember much of it. The book just didn’t make an impression and didn’t add anything to Morgana’s story for me.

To start off with, it’s very difficult to keep track of time in this book. I didn’t know whether a day, a month, or a year had gone by between some passages, and that’s something that always throws me off when reading. That goes along with the extreme amount of telling. Morgana tells so freaking much of her story rather than showing us pivotal events as they take place. This book is less than 200 pages, but I felt like I plodded through a 400 page book.

So much of what happens in I, MORGANA is repetition. Here’s the pattern:

1. Morgana gets mad.
2. Morgana plans revenge.
3. Morgana feels bad about what happens, but it’s too late to change her plan.

This probably happened ten times, if not more. Morgana barely grows as a character, and never learns from her mistakes. I really disliked her because of this, and because she would feel sooooo bad every time one of her poorly thought out plans created more problems.

Now, even if I dislike the main character, that doesn’t keep me from liking the book … if there’s something for me to like. But I, MORGANA just confused me in every way possible. The author had some “Otherworld” concept, but never actually explained it. The Otherworld was pretty important at the end, so I didn’t get the ending.

I really wanted to like I, MORGANA, but the execution of the story and Morgana’s character just didn’t work for me.

Socialize with the author:

Felicity Pulman:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers Torday

Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers TordayThe Last Wild by Piers Torday
Series: The Last Wild #1
Published by Viking Juvenile on March 18, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
In a world where animals no longer exist, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes sometimes feels like he hardly exists either. Locked away in a home for troubled children, he's told there's something wrong with him. So when he meets a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach, Kester thinks he's finally gone crazy. But the animals have something to say. And they need him. The pigeons fly Kester to a wild place where the last creatures in the land have survived. A wise stag needs Kester's help, and together they must embark on a great journey, joined along the way by an overenthusiastic wolf cub, a military-trained cockroach, a mouse with a ritual for everything, and a stubborn girl named Polly. The animals saved Kester Jaynes. But can Kester save the animals?

Book Review:

THE LAST WILD is a whimsical tale, the story of a boy discovering his voice. It reminded me a little of THE LITTLE PRINCE,, maybe because of the cover and chapter heading illustrations, and because like that book, THE LAST WILD can be read on different levels. It’s one for both kids and adults.

Twelve-year-old Kester lives in a world where there are no animals. They were killed by the mysterious red-eye virus, all except cockroaches and the like. Kester hasn’t talked for six years, and he’s surprised as anyone when he hears a voice in his room one night. Only … the voice is in his head, and it’s coming from a cockroach.

Thus starts Kester’s journey to rescue the last animals left alive. Kester has a gift: the ability to talk and listen to animals. Carried by pigeons to The Last Wild, he reluctantly agrees to help the last remaining animals find a cure for red-eye. Along the way, he learns a lot about himself, friendship, humans, and animals.

THE LAST WILD is a magical book. The different animals accompanying Kester, from the stag to the wolf-cub to the pigeons to the cockroach all had their own personalities and stories. There’s lots of humor, but also lots of sadness. The author brought all of them to life for me. When I turned the last page of the book, I wished I could get my hands on the next one, because I have got to find out what happens next to Kester and everyone. The ending isn’t quite a cliffhanger, because much of the story is wrapped up, but there’s still some problems to face.

Socialize with the author:

Piers Torday:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee

Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. LeeGates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee
Series: Gates of Thread and Stone #1
Published by Skyscape on August 5, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 335
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

Book Review:

There are two things I really liked about GATES OF THREAD AND STONE: the city of Ninurta and the strong relationship between Kai and Reev.

Ninurta has a dark, gritty, post-apocalyptic feel. It’s populated by humans who have survived a devastating war between magic users and the military. Most people struggle to survive, including Kai and Reev, who live in a freight container stacked in a labyrinth-like maze. They barely make enough credits to buy food, whereas wealthy people, who live in the walled off White Court, have money to blow on fancy clothing, fresh food, and even magically-powered transportation devices. Somewhat standard stuff, but I got a really good sense of the city, and the hardiness one needed to survive in the Labyrinth.

Kai and Reev are siblings by choice. He took her in when she was a child; Kai has no memories of her life before Reev found her. They support each other, and are working their way out of the Labyrinth and into a better area. When Reev goes missing — just another missing person in a string of unsolved disappearances — Kai will stop at nothing to save her big brother. If necessary, she’ll even use the ability Reev has told her never to use: her ability to manipulate the threads of time. I really liked Kai and Reev, because it’s not often you see such a sibling relationship, and one where they aren’t blood relatives. I like the theme of chosen family versus biological family in books, and that comes out to play in GATES OF THREAD AND STONE.

So, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE has a few things going for it. The beginning is a bit slow but good, since it develops the city of Ninurta, and Kai and Reev. But after Reev disappears, the book goes from “oh, this is pretty cool” to just “hmm” for me.

Kai teams up with Avan, her only real friend other than Reev, and they set off into the devastation outside Ninurta to rescue Reev. They have somewhat of a romance, and I did appreciate that Kai would keep reminding herself she should focus on saving her brother rather than flirting with Avan. I could see why Kai liked Avan, but I’m not entirely sure why Avan liked Kai. The romance — I could have taken or left it, especially with the ending.

Oh, the middle and ending. That’s where my ambivalence for GATES OF THREAD AND STONE comes in. The middle is somewhat a waste of time. Rather than learn how to better use her time manipulation ability, Kai’s told not to use it. Instead … she learns to kick and punch. Bah. The ending of the book felt like a rush, with the author dropping revelation after revelation. There were a lot of them in the last few chapters, and I needed to reread the rush of information so I could piece everything together.

Overall, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE was a mixed book for me. I liked some parts and didn’t like others, but I’m pretty sure I would continue this series. I don’t want to spoil everything, but I did like the mythology of the Immortals (read and find out!), and I’m curious to see what will happen next.

Socialize with the author:

Lori M. Lee:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

Book Review: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James MalloryThe House of the Four Winds by James Mallory, Mercedes Lackey
Series: One Dozen Daughters #1
Published by Tor on August 5, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers.

Book Review:

I was so excited to start THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS. THE FIRE ROSE by Mercedes Lackey is one of my “comfort books,” a book I can read over and over, one that I love. So I was hoping to find another favorite in THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS. Unfortunately, this book won’t be joining my favorites list.

The book got off to a rocky start. I was almost ready to put it down after the first couple of chapters because I got tired of trying to remember all the oddly named countries. There’s Waulosiene, Lochrin, Albion, Cisleithanian, Ifrane, etc. None of them are actually important, but I didn’t know that at first, and I was trying to figure out what real countries the fictional ones were modeled on. There’s a real lack of worldbuilding in THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS, which is a pity.

Moving on … after Clarice finds transport to the New World, the book slows down. I had no idea where the book was heading, and I again wanted to put it down. The one good thing about this part is that the authors build a strong friendship between Clarice and Dominick, although Dominick doesn’t know that Clarice is actually a female. He thinks she’s Clarence Swann.

The main villain, Shamal, shows up way too late in THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS. The conflict/problems she creates are resolved way too easily. I was rather disappointed in how that whole thread wrapped up. “Disappointed” describes my feelings as a whole for the book. It wasn’t the fun, swashbuckling adventure the summary promised me.

The writing was almost bad fanfic quality. There was an abundance of adverbs. Clarice and Dominick were always saying something “carefully” or “lightly” or “charmingly.” And so on. When there’s a lot of that, I can’t help but notice and it pulls me out of the story. I also can tell you what every single character wore, down to the type of buttons on his or her coat. A lot of the action happened off the page, as well. Clarice would say she was going to do something, such as explain a situation to the ship’s doctor, but we’d pick up the narrative after she had already explained it. I got tired of that the fourth or fifth time it happened — I want to see a character’s reaction to bad news, not be told about it after.

As for the romance … well, the best I can say is that Clarice and Dominick developed a good friendship. I don’t really know where the true love came from, and I don’t know about you, but if I found out someone lied to me about their gender? I’d have some issues with that.

Socialize with the author:

Mercedes Lackey:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

James Mallory:
Website

– leeanna