Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

I had taken part in a survey about books and during this extensive survey I was asked if I would be interested in receiving a free download of Three Dark Crowns in exchange for a survey about it in a few weeks. (I have not received that survey yet.)

I downloaded the free app BookShout to read it. It’s a cool app. You set goals and it tracks your progress to reach your daily goal and counts your words per minute (mine is 168). You also earn .25 cents for each 25,000 words you read, or something like that. I am too lazy to look it up. I am still learning how to use the app though. Figuring out how to highlight sentences is tricky.

Anyway, so my review of the book.

It started out a bit slow and took me a while to keep track of who is who because there are a lot of characters. I wish I had made a list. As I kept reading though it got easier to remember and it also became more and more of a page turner. I would advise anyone who is interested but is struggling with it in the beginning to stick with it. Towards the end of part 1, and certainly by parts 2 and 3 it will be hard to put down.

I like the world building, but I want to know more. The traditions are explained well enough, and even a repeat itself, but I want to know why it is that way. There will be some random history about past Queens mentioned, and I see that there are prequel stories, so maybe those stories go more into how and why this realm operates this way. It certainly has me sucked in enough to add them to my BookShout wish list.

I like the sisters (and their supporting characters) Each Queen has her own personality, strengths and weaknesses. It is hard to pick one to root for. I was/am hoping they ban together to fight the traditions and people who control their fates like puppeteers.

The twist! Ok, in the beginning I did sort of suspect it, but then I forgot about it because I got caught up in the subplots and I was still learning to keep the characters straight. By the end I was caught off guard and my mind blown because the way it was revealed was so smart and shocking. It just raises so many more questions and I am left wanting to read the sequels.

4 out of 5 Crowns.

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Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

I bought this book at NYCC 2018 because I am a fan of Katherine Arden’s The Winternight Trilogy.

Although I am way older than the target audience of this story I found it suspenseful and creepy. A very good, and fast, Halloween read. I had to keep going to see how it would turn out.

I doesn’t go too in depth about the history, or the details about the curse, but it explained enough to set up the stakes if the main protagonists should fail.

I really liked the character development and relationships between the main characters: Olivia, Brian and Coco. I also liked that for a change instead of the trio being two boys and a girl, it was two girls and a boy. I never see that.

The end is left open for more adventures and I look forward to the next story.

4 out of 5 Scarecrows.

DNF: A Crucible of Souls and The Abyss Beyond Dreams

These are both books that I picked up at NYCC 2016 and the last two from that pile. I am sad to say I couldn’t get through either one.

A Crucible of Souls (Sorcery Ascendant Sequence) by Mitchell Hogan

When Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, he is raised by monks and taught the arcane mysteries of sorcery.

Vowing to discover for himself who his parents really were, and what led to their violent end, he is thrust into the unfamiliar chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to earn an apprenticeship with a guild of sorcerers.

But he soon learns the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths.

As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that brings the world to the edge of destruction.

I feel horrible saying this because I wanted to like this story. It is in a genre I love and the synopsis sounds really intriguing. But there was something about it that was not clicking with me and I can’t even identify what it is.

When I was nearly 100 pages in I had to give in and give up. I am not even sure if I will pick it up again one day and try again. There are just too many books on my TBR.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Commonwealth: Chronicle of the Fallers 1) by Peter F. Hamilton

The year is 3326. Nigel Sheldon, one of the founders of the Commonwealth, receives a visit from the Raiel—self-appointed guardians of the Void, the enigmatic construct at the core of the galaxy that threatens the existence of all that lives. The Raiel convince Nigel to participate in a desperate scheme to infiltrate the Void.

Once inside, Nigel discovers that humans are not the only life-forms to have been sucked into the Void, where the laws of physics are subtly different and mental powers indistinguishable from magic are commonplace. The humans trapped there are afflicted by an alien species of biological mimics—the Fallers—that are intelligent but merciless killers.

Yet these same aliens may hold the key to destroying the threat of the Void forever—if Nigel can uncover their secrets. As the Fallers’ relentless attacks continue, and the fragile human society splinters into civil war, Nigel must uncover the secrets of the Fallers—before he is killed by the very people he has come to save.

I could not even get through the first chapter. I thought it was just me so I went to read some of the 1 star and 2 star reviews on Goodreads. I found that a big reason I couldn’t get into it was that this is sort of a side story to another series. So the world building it already there and I was feeling a bit lost, no matter how much the author briefed the reader.

I kept reading reviews to see if maybe it got better and was worth going further, but many reviewers didn’t like how it switched stories and felt like a book within a book. Others said it started out exciting and then became boring. There was also a few complaints how it became too political in the middle. So I would have to be dealing with politics in a universe I am not familiar with.

Some fans of Hamilton’s even said that this was not the best of the series set in this universe.

Also, seeing a timeline of the history of the Commonwealth in the beginning was a bit intimidating.

In the end I decided have way too many other books to read. I can’t get involved in another series. Especially when they are long books. I saw one reviewer mention that at 640 pages this was one of his shorter books.

So I am moving on. Into the donation bag these go!

 

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy 2) by Katherine Arden

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

Finally got to read my ARC from NYCC 2017!!

At a Deleted Scenes panel I went to where Arden was one of the speakers she said that she ended up rewriting The Girl In the Tower twice! The version of The Bear and the Nightingale that was published was only half of her original story, but when she went back to the second half it just wasn’t working anymore. So she scrapped the whole thing and started over for the sequel.

I am still curious what the first draft was like.

I was a bit of a mess when reading this sequel. I started it, got nearly half way through when life got in the way and I was too exhausted to read. Then I went away on a vacation and I never read on a vacation because I am too busy touring. Then I picked up where I left off after I got settled into my regular routine. So I feel a bit disjointed as I try to write this review.

I liked it, though not as much as The Bear and the Nightingale. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I reread it. When the third book comes out I’ll listen to the first two on Audible. I already have TBatN in my library.

I really liked the early scenes with Vasya and Morozko I liked their dynamic and I was happy that my questions from the first book about Morozko and the necklace were answered.

I liked Vasya’s rebellion against a patriarchal society and her fight for freedom in medieval Russia. Though sometimes I shook my head at her when she was risking her disguise with silly wagers and races. Girl, you are playing with fire! Figuratively and literally!

Speaking of medieval Russia, Arden really makes the setting feel just right for this fairy tale. I don’t know much about historical accuracy, though she did as much research as she could for a “poorly documented era” (her words). It just really felt like you were there. I also enjoyed the political games and deceptions being played. That added a frustratingly suspenseful dynamic.

One downside of the story is that I did predict who the ghost really was, though I didn’t guess the twist. It does make me want a prequel novel though because what a tragic love story that is!

There isn’t much of a cliffhanger since the villain was disposed of but I do like Vasya’s niece and I want to see where her magic takes her. I also still just really like the way the relationships are written, especially between Vasya and  Sasha, and Vasya and her horse. And of course we can’t see the last of Morozko.

3.5 out of 5 Chyerti

Some of my favorite poetic quotes: I know they say to check the finished work but I am too lazy and I like the way it was written in the ARC:

Page 67: “The more one knows, the sooner one grows old.”
Page 87: “I carve things of wood because things made by effort are more real than things made by wishing.”
Page 189″ The first stars had kindled in a sky gone royally violet, and the moon heaved a faint silver curve over the ragged line of palaces.”
Page 235: “Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory the other: of a life left unchosen.”

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

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The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

I picked up an ARC from NYCC in October.

At First In Line I showed them the email I received in exchange for the Blood Rose Rebellion. I got very excited when I read the jacket because I have a friend from Hungary named Noémi (No-amy). I messaged her about the book and asked if her name is popular in Hungary. She said:
“It’s not a very common name, actually. It was a writer who came up with it in 1872. In that book the main guy is an aristocrat and he goes on his boat and discovers an island where only a mom and the daughter lives. He falls in love with the daughter, whose name is noèmi. It means beautiful. So then he starts going back and forth between his real life and the mysterious island with his beautiful lover. And writers like to use the name in their books ever since.”

I liked the character Noémi and wish there was more of a storyline for her. Perhaps in book 2. I really appreciated the glossary and the character guide in the back. It helped immensely. I still pronounced words and names wrong. I would ask my friend Noémi if I was saying it correctly and I was embarrassingly wrong.

As the world building goes, I liked that magic was not a secret society but out in the open and controlled by the aristocracy. I think the mix with some Hungarian historical events made it an interesting historical fantasy novel. I don’t know much about Hungarian history so I learned a little bit.

I was glad I read The Bear and the Nightingale first so that I was familiar with some of the mythical creatures that make an appearance.

There were many things I did like about the story, like Anna’s struggle with her decision and how breaking the binding was not done in a simple 1,2,3 rushed plot. It took a few tries. However, towards the end of the book I lost motivation to finish. I pushed to finish and even started to skim it. I can’t say why I lost steam because I liked the story and the characters, but it took me more than a month to finish.

I can’t say I’ll go out and buy the second book of the series, but if I see an ARC at Comic Con or Book Con I’ll pick it up.

3 out of 5 Broken Spells.

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

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Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

I picked up and ARC at NYCC in October.

I really liked the set up of this alternate reality where those with magical powers (Skill) are the rulers (Equals). Usually the magical beings are in hiding and have their own world separate from those without magic. This turn around makes for an interesting story with power struggles, political maneuvering, and a rebellion that’s going to be a bitch of a time. Some reviewers on Goodreads said it was too political and they couldn’t keep the characters straight. I don’t get what they mean. It’s YA and easy enough to follow.

I was happy that it was told from different POVs in the third person. That really gave the world building a fuller picture and we got to understand both the Equals and the slaves. Some characters got more chapters than others and so their story was better developed, but I hope to see more from Silyen in the next book. He’s so conniving and the most mysterious.

A great starting point for a new trilogy. I’ll be awaiting the next book.

4 out 5 Years of Servitude.

A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz

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Sixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies. But when Beckan’s clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn’t have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected. This stunning, lyrical fantasy is a powerful exploration of what makes a family, what justifies a war, and what it means to truly love.

I am back on the Book Con wagon. A friend gave me this book when I told her I only picked up one book that day after being in panels all morning. I should start off by saying that I read the ARC and the novel will be released on August 18, 2015.

This book started out confusing. The story is not linear, the world building was not described in great detail. At one point I wondered if the lore had contradicted itself. The history of the war between the different races (or is it species?) was not as well described as I was expecting.

Then you have this passage at the end of Chapter 1

Shit, what the fuck am I even doing? What kind of history book doesn’t even have a map? Once upon a time there was a writer who couldn’t write a fucking book. I don’t know what comes next. That whole chapter’s going to need to get thrown out anyway. You completely forgot halfway through that you’d said it was raining at the beginning.
Was it raining?
No one’s ever going to know, and it’s all your fault.
Put a fucking map in the next draft.

I had no idea who was speaking there. For a while I thought it was Hannah Moskowitz herself talking to us, the readers. My immediate thought was, “Oh, it’s supposed to sound like a first draft manuscript on purpose.”

Pages 68-84, it all starts to make more sense. I realized the reason why the story sounded like a journal with scrapbook clippings. Also, once I realized the different between the races I knew that an error had not been made with the mythology.

Basically, it starts out strange and disjointed, not everything is as well explained or developed as it should be, but stick with it because it’s an enjoyable story. It’s also written in such a unique way that it stands out from other fantasy novels.

The story is more about the effects the war has on these young fairies, gnomes and a tightroper. It’s about the twisted relationships and trying to survive their circumstances.
There are dark themes: what is murder and what is self-defense during war time, teenage prostitution, and mentions of rape.

I also got the sense that in this world, there are no hangups about sexual orientation. There are prejudices, discriminations and slurs thrown around for other reasons, but not for one’s sexual orientation. I wonder if that was intentional as part of the world building.

I found myself engaged in the characters and their story, and it was not all what I was expecting.

4 out 5 specs of glitter.