Sky Breaker (Night Spinner, #2)

Sky Breaker (Night Spinner, #2)

First Lines: Darkness rises around me like a shield–girding me with armor, enfolding me in steel, deflecting the whispers that climb the cavern walls like goblin spiders.

The first book in his duology caught my attention because it was a sort of gender-bend fantasy retelling of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and if that isn’t quite the description, I don’t know what is. And after really enjoying the first book’s innovation and creativity, I was very excited to read the second book.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Enebish has been betrayed over and over again. On the run across the tundra, her only allies are her best friend Serik and a group of ill-tempered shepherds who threaten to leave her at every turn. Her only hope of bringing peace to Ashkar is to bring together the Protected Territories against the might of the Zemyans and the tyrannical Askarian Sky King. But as supplies dwindle for their little group, she might start losing allies faster than she gains them. Meanwhile, Zemyan forces have stormed the Ashkarian capital and Imperial Army Commander Ghoa throws all of her power into stopping them, only to be abandoned by the warriors she leads. Held captive in a magic prison and tortured by the sorcerer Kartok, Ghoa learns his true ambitions don’t rest on just ruling the surrounding countries–he wants to take on the gods themselves. The war between Ashkar and Zemya has been raging for centuries, but it might take the two most hated people on the continent–Enebish and Ghoa–to bring it to an end before Kartok sends the sky falling down around them.

This was just as good as the first book in a lot of ways, but also a little bit…lacking in others.

The world building is still really good. I liked seeing the different cultures and groups of people introduced. I liked understanding the difference between the Ashkarians and the Zemyans, the way their philosophies and powers differ.

The characters are equally fascinating because they’re all incredibly flawed. And I don’t just mean in the “oh, I’m so clumsy” way. Enebish’s inability to trust is a legitimate fault that gets her into life-threatening trouble so many times. Ghoa’s pride is her downfall in so many ways. These are horribly flawed people who sometimes are good people and sometimes are terrible. But we still end up rooting for them. It’s actually quite fun because I don’t think I’ve ever read characters quite like these before.

I did think the plot dragged a bit, though. It meant well, but when you spend most of the story (the part told from Enebish’s POV anyway) traveling across a large country/continent, well, there’s just a lot of monotony. Even when you dress it up with occasional fights or stops in new places. It’s still a road trip. (I know I made this reference like 3-4 books ago, but Deathly Hallows again, anyone?)

I really didn’t remember much of Ghoa’s personality when I started this book, so I had a hard time slipping into her perspective. But actually, in the midst of all the traveling Enebish was doing, Ghoa’s story line helped quite a lot. She was actually in danger, trying to figure out the best way to survive and get her revenge. While I did start off the story thinking she was a truly terrible person (I did remember what she did to Enebish in the previous book), she grew on me a lot. And that’s a sign of good writing right there, when you don’t even realize the change is happening.

This is well-written, different, and just interesting. Even for a fantasy, it manages to do things I’ve never seen before and stand out in its own ways.

Send Me Their Souls (Bring Me Their Hearts, #3)

Send Me Their Souls (Bring Me Their Hearts, #3)

First Lines: Prince Lucien d’Malvane looks at me with the steady gaze of a wolf across a meadow. Waiting.

As I mentioned in the previous review, I just had to know how this series continued. I was very charmed by Zera and her group of friends and I just had to see how this trilogy ended. So it was a no-brainer that I was going to pick up the final book pretty much right after I finished the 2nd. (It’s rare that I actually read a series this quickly, but it’s fun when I can.)

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Reunited with her friends, Zera finds she needs them now more than ever. War rages all around them, and the army of valkerax partaking in the destruction means the death toll is astronomical. It also means Zera needs the immortality of Heartlessness now more than ever, even if now she actually truly can regain her humanity. But saving the world has to come before personal desires, right? The bigger question for Zera and her friends, though, is…is there even a world left to save anymore?

This book, the last in the trilogy, was obviously the darkest of them all. But I love that it still managed to hold onto its heart (hehe) and its sense of humor. Zera is just so irreverent, even after all the destruction they’re witnessing and all the death. I love that nothing is sacred with them, except the love and friendship this group has for each other. It really managed to lighten the story while still showing just how awful everything was around them.

It was fun to see so many different parts of the Mist Continent in this book, cities that we’d heard of but hadn’t seen. At times, it did kind of remind me of Deathly Hallows, in that the characters were on a constant march and danger followed them at every turn. So that sometimes got a little slow, but the character development usually helped because if one character isn’t growing and changing, someone else probably is and that kept things somewhat fresh.

There is still a ton of action in this book, which was fun. It was nice to be kept on my toes as I read, always wanting to find out what happened next. And with battles happening all around them, it was pretty much guaranteed that something special to them was going to get destroyed or someone was going to get hurt. It was just a matter of seeing what it happened to be this time.

I feel like this was a good conclusion to this series. I’m very impressed by this series, how tight everything is and how much fun it was to read. I haven’t read a fantasy series that has pulled me in in this way in quite some time. I’m thrilled.

Find Me Their Bones (Bring Me Their Hearts, #2)

Find Me Their Bones (Bring Me Their Hearts, #2)

First Lines: (I actually can’t share the first lines from this book because it’s a major spoiler to the previous book. Sorry. I really wish I could.)

I was really taken with the first book in this series. I thought it was magnificent. So amazing, in fact, that I had to go out and get the next two books in the series so I could find out what happened next while everything was fresh in my head.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

In order to save Prince Lucien d’Malvane’s heart, Zera had to betray him. Now Lucien can’t even look at her and Zera’s at the mercy of the king, awaiting the moment the magical bond keeping her alive breaks and her life finally ends. But fate has other plans for Zera. With freedom coming from an unlikely source, Zera is given a second chance at life–with a terrible cost. As the king strengthens his arm to march against the witches, Zera is assigned the task of training the deadly valkerax trapped in the tunnels beneath the city if she ever wants her humanity back. It’s hard enough training the valkerax and getting it to trust her, but regaining the trust of her friends? That’s just shy of impossible. And winning back Lucien’s heart? Forget about it…even if it’s the only thing Zera truly wants.

It was…pretty good. I don’t think I loved it as much as I did the first book, but it was still really good and really fun.

Zera is back with her brand of irreverent humor and martyr complex. It’s an interesting blend, really, because she always pretends she’s as heartless as she’s supposed to be, but she can’t help but try to protect those around her. And I really love it. It’s kind of the same with Lucien. He’s definitely got a mask on to cover his emotions and thoughts, but whenever you do crack that veneer a bit, it’s so cool to see.

The action in this one is a little less what I enjoy about fantasy. I don’t care about the creatures as much or some of the backstabbing, but there was enough still about Lucien and Zera and the core group of friends that I like so much that I was willing to overlook some of that. The action does move, and there’s always something interesting happening, it’s just that it wasn’t always what I enjoyed.

I will say there are some interesting character arcs in this book. I certainly love seeing characters develop and there was one character I wasn’t expecting it from that we got to see go through a pretty big change by the end and I liked that. But it’s also really cool just to see Zera constantly evolve.

I won’t say this is the best fantasy series I’ve ever read, but it’s really compelling.

Bring Me Their Hearts (Bring Me Their Hearts, #1)

Bring Me Their Hearts (Bring Me Their Hearts, #1)

First Lines: King Sref of Cavanos watches me with the deadened eyes of a raven circling a corpse–patient, waiting to devour me the second I let my guard down. I briefly debate telling him humans don’t taste all that good, until I remember normal girls don’t eat people. Or fake their way into royal courts.

This book has been on my to-read list for a while. I don’t remember how I first heart about it, but I know the title got my attention. And while trying to clear out some books on my to-read list, I thought this would be worth reading considering it has consistently high ratings on Goodreads.

Zera is a Heartless, an ageless, immortal soldier belonging to a witch. She bound to the witch Nightsinger, who saved Zera after a traveling band of bandits murdered her family. But Zera longs for her freedom–and her heart–back. Because as long as Nightsinger keeps Zera’s heart in a jar and out of Zera’s chest, she cannot go far from Nightsinger, nor can she have her own free will. Nightsinger will always be in control. But then Nighsinger offers her a deal: retrieve the heart of a Prince and Zera can have her heart back–with one condition. If Zera’s cover is blown, Nightsinger will destroy her heart, effectively killing Zera for real. Crown Prince Lucien d’Malvane hates the way the royal court fawns over him, everyone too aware of his status to actually stand up to him or correct him. No one challenges him until Lady Zera. She’s sarcastic, smart-mouthed, inelegant, and almost careless. And she manages to get until Lucien’s skin with alarming speed. So begins the kill-or-be-killed stance between Zera and Lucien. Literally.

I’d never really heard much chatter about this book, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

But this…this was fun.

This is a solid fantasy novel. The world building is well done, as there not only is the world itself but also all of the lore about witches and Heartless and Beneathers and celeons and all these other creatures that mingle with the people. It’s full of interesting characters, from Zera and Lucien to even the villain(s) who are just captivating. The fact that Zera views herself as a monster the whole story is an added angle that brought so much depth to the story.

Zera is definitely the scene stealer in this story, which is awesome considering she’s the main character. She’s so funny and witty and always ready with a sarcastic comment. I haven’t read about anyone this sarcastic and irreverent since Rose Hathaway in the Vampire Academy series. And yes, I’m including Sarah J. Maas’s characters in that assessment. Zera is just so complex and fascinating that it was always a treat to see what happened next.

I don’t think this story should be perceived as incredibly original and novel. It does have some originality for sure, I’m certainly not discounting that because that’s a bit part of why I liked it, but it also follows a lot of YA and fantasy clichés. But I happen to enjoy them. I liked knowing before I started that there was going to be court intrigue and stuff with princes and kings and contests to capture a prince’s heart. It’s what I enjoy, but it’s not exactly original. Even if this was incredibly well done.

I really enjoyed this. This was so much fun to read and I’m very much looking forward to where the series goes from here because it could do just about anything.

Storybound

Storybound

First Lines: (sorry I don’t have them for this one…I guess there isn’t a digital copy and I’ve already returned the book to the library.)

If there’s one trope that I will always gravitate toward, it’s books where real people and fictional characters can meet. I think, as a reader, that’s something a lot of us dream of. What would happen if we could actually meet our favorite characters? So when I stumbled upon this at the library, I really wanted to check it out and see what happened.

Edie and her mom move a lot. In the last six years, she’s lived in nine towns and started over at nine different schools. The only constant she’s had is the Kingdom of Mithres series she’s read and loved for years. So when she walks into a bookstore in her newest town, the last thing she thought she’d find was herself transported into Mithres and face to face with her book boyfriend, Kane the Traveler. Except…Mithres isn’t quite what she expected. And neither is Kane. But Edie is determined to help Kane because he doesn’t know what’s coming in his future–and she does. She has the chance to save Kane and change the story forever, but will she be able to go home after?

I felt like a lot of this was really relatable and interesting, which is always fun from a book I’ve never heard of and only has 201 ratings on Goodreads.

This story is all about Edie and her love of the Kingdoms of Mithres series. She’s been in love with the main character, Kane, since she was 11 and started reading the books. So when Edie accidentally finds herself in the world of the story after crossing a threshold in a bookstore she didn’t know was there, well, she practically falls right into Kane’s apartment. With her knowledge of the last book in the series, Edie is able to help Kane and his friends try to take down his enemy, Smythe, before Smythe ruins everything and hurts too many people.

I did like Edie in this story. She’s feisty and stubborn and clever, the way you want a heroine in a fantasy story to be. She’s also caring and she has a dark backstory that colors the way she acts sometimes, but it’s well integrated into the story. I even really liked Kane, who is different from his book persona in some subtle and some large ways. It was cool to see his perspective through the “excerpts” from his book. It just gave him more personality.

But I had some trouble with this book despite the fact that it was always easy to pick up and read. My problems partly stem from Mithres itself. We’re thrown into a fantasy world we know nothing about and frequently, the writing felt a bit lazy in the way it introduced things to us. Like, “Oh, look at that! A creature you’ve never heard of before but has shown up in all the books is now here to attack us!” There isn’t much here in the way of foreshadowing things because it always just crops up out of nowhere. Even when the characters did allude to foreshadowing after the fact (“His actions made more sense now”), I still didn’t see it. Either it was super subtle foreshadowing or it wasn’t there.

I also have an issue with how this book ends. It 100% sets up a sequel. There are more loose ends than there are tied ones. There’s no closure. I did see something about how this is planned to be a trilogy, but I’ve seen no word on when a second book may come out or anything. But still, couldn’t we have tied up a few more things before ending this book? It’s so frustrating and unsatisfying.

It’s actually a pretty easy book to get into and I did enjoy reading it, but I just had some issues with the writing style and world building.

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)

First Lines: There was a wolf at the gallery door. Which meant it must be Thursday, which meant Bryce had to be really gods-damned tired if she relied on Danika’s comings and goings to figure out what day it was.

It was unintentional, but I kept putting off reading this Sarah J. Maas read because…well, copies at the library were always taken. And I wasn’t super excited about it. It wasn’t ACOTAR. So when I finally saw it on the shelves at the library, I decided it was time.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life–work during the day, party all night–until a demon murdered her best friend. Lost, wounded, and guilt-ridden, Bryce now has to pick up the pieces of what’s left of her life. When the accused murderer is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself as part of the investigation into what’s actually happening. And she’s determined to get justice. Hunt Athalar is a Fallen angel, now enslaved to the archangels he tried to overthrow in favor of a more democratic world. His skills and strength have now been given one purpose: assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with murders now happening throughout the city, Hunt has been given a deal he can’t turn down: help Bryce solve the murders and earn his freedom. As Bryce and Hunt go into the city’s underbelly and discover power and secrets that could ruin everything they hold dear, they also find a blazing passion between them. It could set them both free if only they let it…

OK, HEAR ME OUT. I have gone back and forth with my rating (between 4 and 5 stars) so many times now. So let me just call it 4.5 and be done.

Maas is Queen, fair and square. I am not denying that. This book was stunning at times in the best way. I think I spent 4 hours just trying to finish it because it was all so intense for so long and I had to know what happened.

Bryce is a wonderful lead female. As half-human, half-fae, Bryce is considered “weak” at best and “worthless” at worst by the other supernatural beings that live in Crescent City and belongs to a very rigid caste system. But Bryce doesn’t let that stop her from being the sassiest thing on two legs. When you’re at the bottom, what do you have to lose if you run your mouth to the most powerful people in the city? It’s brash, it’s stupid at times, but it is so entertaining. I love her.

And Hunt. I truly thought at first he was going to be a more “adult” version of Rhys from ACOTAR, but I was pleasantly surprised that, while there are certainly similarities, they are also two very different characters. Hunt is technically a slave, owned by the Governor of Valbara to do his dirty work. He’s been beaten and tortured for a couple centuries now, but he’s never truly been broken. Still, these things make him a bit more reserved a lot of the time, especially compared to Bryce’s impulsiveness and quick mouth. It was interesting to see how they balanced each other out.

I already alluded to it already, but the last…400? 500? pages of the book was really interesting. The story gripped me pretty well at that point and over a couple of days, I was grabbing for it whenever I had time to see what happened next.

BUT.

I know this is the first book in a series, but man, the first 100 pages or so were really slow. I legitimately didn’t know where the story was heading because nothing happened. Like, even the book jacket wasn’t helping me out at that point. And I kept getting lost in the terms. The multiple districts of Crescent City that are often referred to by nicknames (FiRo instead of Five Roses, if I remember right), the various creatures and demons, the hierarchy, etc. It was a lot to take in and there was just nothing driving the plot yet to really motivate me to figure it out. Honestly, I needed a glossary.

And I know I already made a fleeting comparison to ACOTAR, but I realized as I was reading this that it has a LOT in common with Throne of Glass. Like, they’re not the same story by any means, but there are multiple elements in common. I know Maas’s writing style at this point. I knew Bryce was going to be mouthy before I even picked up the book. I have a feeling there’s going to be a relationship curveball coming in the following books with someone. We’re building a Team of multiple friends and relatives to eventually (I’m assuming) overthrow the caste system. Like, this is all Maas’s writing to a T. I see the patterns now in what she does. So, for as much as I do absolutely love her writing, it’s not surprising anymore.

Still, I think this is absolutely a fabulous read and should at least get looked at by anyone with an interest in fantasy.