Red Sister

Little lag in my posting. Got caught up with a few projects. Preparing for Summer Reading is really getting in the way of my reading. Anyway…

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is the first book in a new adult fantasy series that seriously kicks butt. At eight years old Nona Grey is saved from hanging by the Abbess of the Convent of Sweet Mercy. Now young Nona, sold as child labor and accused murderer, is to become a novice at a convent even as her past chases after her.

But this is no ordinary convent. The Sisters of Sweet Mercy are trained in blade and fist, in the way of the path and yes, even as holy sisters. Nona has her sights set on becoming a Red Sister, the fiercest of warriors for:

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.

But more than Nona’s training is at stake. An ancient prophecy has brought it’s own troubles down on the convent and war is brewing even as the sun dies and ice engulfs all but a slim corridor of land.

First, let me start off by saying that this book is so much more than just warrior nuns. I keep fumbling when explaining it to colleagues because hearing that a book is about a school for kick ass nuns… doesn’t necessarily say “read me.” But don’t let the sisters fool you, this is a fantasy world with a lot going on; it is character driven and a lot is happening behind the scenes.

The set up of the narration in this book, with a few peeks into the present, reminds me a little of Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. And just like Rothfuss, I wonder when the story-lines are going to meet and then what. Sometimes I really like knowing what is going to happen, the journey is the real sweet zone, but depending on how it is handled, it can be off-putting. We’ll have to wait for the next book to see how this one is going to go.

Holy cow did this book bring the tension. Talk about some intense action scenes! I mean, this book did have some flaws but the dramatic intensity of the writing in these scenes makes up for it. Lawrence really has a knack for filling his action scenes with suspense and drama. Really well done.

Finally, this book is all about the strong female character. It’s a book full of individual women/girls who are confident, strong both mentally and physically, and so much more. I also feel some LGBT relationships coming, on top of the few that are mentioned, which is great. By the end of the book Nona is finally getting a little more interesting… there is just something about a destructive, violent, yet ultimately good character that tugs at me.

On a gut reaction I gave this one four stars and I am going to stick with it. A good fantasy but if you don’t like serious cliffhangers, maybe wait until the next book is out.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Spindle Fire

Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer is a YA re-imagining of sleeping beauty and is the first book in a new series. Half sisters Aurora and Isabelle are best friends and total opposites. Aurora is beautiful, sweet, heir to the Deluce throne and unable to speak or feel; Isabelle is the kings illegitimate daughter, head strong and without sight. They are closer than anyone and would do anything for each other.

One day a terrible curse separates the sisters and leaves Deluce at the mercy of an evil fairy with unimaginable powers. Aurora falls into a deep sleep and awakens in a magical world with a terrible mystery and a boy she feels a deep connection to. Isabelle is in a race against time to save her sister by finding her true love and true loves kiss, but Isabelle is unexpectedly drawn to Aurora’s arranged husband and the path they travel is dangerous.

Now Isabelle and Aurora must find their way back to each other and save their kingdom. Can they battle a sleeping curse and solve a mystery decades in the making? Can the bonds of sisterhood survive this separation and the changes bound to occur?

OK, so this book had a really interesting premise. I was really into this idea of half-sisters paralleling twin fairy sisters and having to sort out their story in order to save their own. There was magic and mystery and it was totally up my ally. But I just wasn’t wowed by the tale. I didn’t have to read it. It was interesting and unique but it was missing something that I can’t quite put my finger on.

One thing I did really like about Spindle Fire was the fairy tithes. This isn’t anything new with fairy stories but the way the tithes worked was really intriguing. I like how each of the fairies had their own specialized tithes and how it played into their characters. I also think these fairy tithes are going to play into the series moving forward and if so, I like the way it’s heading.

Holy abrupt ending batman! Seriously, here I am listening along and all of a sudden I hear Fiona Hardingham say that this has been a audio production by… Wahhh! That’s one way to get someone to read the sequel, even if they weren’t really into it.

Overall, this one gets three stars from me. I think the sequel might have more potential but this was was just OK for me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

A Million Worlds With You

A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray is the final book in the Firebird trilogy. The fate of the multiverse rests in the hands of an eighteen-year-old artist, Marguerite Caine. Marguerite has been hunted by the Triad for her one-of-a-kind ability to be a perfect traveler and she has finally learned their endgame.

The Triad will stop at nothing to get back their version of Josie, even if it means destroying hundreds of universes to do so. Now Marguerite must hunt down Wicked, her evil Triad self, and stop her from killing every version of Marguerite and the worlds she inhabits.

With the help of her family and her broken soulmate, Paul, Marguerite must race across the multiverse to save her loved ones in every dimension. Can Marguerite keep her sanity when every jump puts her at deaths door? And throughout it all will Marguerite and Paul be able to keep each other safe and find their way back to each other when all is said and done?

This was a surprising end to a pretty good series. This book had twist after twist. I am not sure what I expected but I did not expect the intertwining threads that twisted together to form a book with so much more depth than I anticipated.  It’s nice when the final book in a series lives up to it’s story.

We also get some closer with the worlds that Marguerite visited and left… well a mess. We get to revisit some of our favorite universes and we get to see what happened after Marguerite left. This was a real treat because we really begin to feel for those universe’s characters and it was nice to see them again.

All of our characters develop more in this final book, not just Paul and Marguerite. We see Theo at his best and worst and the Kane’s even have their chance to shine. We also see good sides to some of our bad guys and this was an interesting parallel.

This book left me satisfied with the story as a whole. I listened to this whole series in audio and didn’t have a hard time following along at all. If you need a good long audiobook series, this would be a good one to go to. This book gets four stars from me and I think the series as a whole deserves four stars as well.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Ten Thousand Skies Above You

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray is the second book in the Firebird series. In this one we pick up a few months after Marguerite chased, who she thought was her father’s murder, through the multiverse and fell in love with her soul mate. Ever since first using the Firebird, Marguerite–a perfect traveler, has caught the eye of the Triad, an evil organisation who wants to use her and the Firebird technology for their own corrupt gains.

Now Marguerite is forced to play the Triad’s game in order to get back the love of her life, Paul, whose soul has been splintered into four pieces across multiple dimensions. Marguerite must complete several tasks before the Triad will reveal the locations of Paul’s soul.

With every world she visits, Marguerite is one step closer to saving her Paul and one step closer to losing him forever. Will Marguerite be able to put Paul back together again? And what will she do when she learns the Triad’s endgame?

This was a pretty good sequel for a three book series. We still get to see multiple dimensions and we get a lot more information on the Triad, which will be a big part of the final book. The series basically goes like this: Book 1 – set the stage, introduce us to the Firebird and the characters, and hint at conflict to come. Book 2 – our character relationships develop and we get that conflict that will lead up to a bigger event in the third book. Book 3 – I am hoping will be a final battle and a tie up of loose ends.

Once again, I enjoyed seeing the different possibilities; the different lives that the Kane family might have lived if they’d made different choices. From the drastic to the not so drastic, it makes you wonder how even the tiniest decisions could alter our lives completely.

Just like the first book this one does the science right. I have no idea if any of it is true but the book uses science to make the technology sound, sound and yet it is not overwhelming for the reader. It’s actually kind of interesting to hear some of the theories, which is a nice way to get non-science-y types into the science.

Marguerite seems a bit naive to me. She understands the the multiverse is an infinite number of worlds, alternate to their own, that might have little difference or might have big ones. And yet she is honestly shocked to find darker versions of Paul. She believes that the soul is the same in every world, regardless of the different upbringing and circumstances. But she seems distraught to learn that Paul’s goodness doesn’t shine through in every universe. This just seems a little silly to me because in infinite possibilities, of course there will be those you don’t like. She comes around at the end but after all her “we’re meant to be in any universe,” sudden doubts that lead her to run away doesn’t seem completely in character for her.

Overall this one gets 3 stars from me. It was middle of the road for me but still a series I am enjoying.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Fate of the Tearling

Sorry guys, took a few days off. Reading with a sinus infection pretty much makes me fall asleep about two pages in.

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is the final book in the Queen of the Tearling series. We pick up with Queen Kelsea a captive of the Red Queen in return for sparing her city from war for three years. Kelsea is now without her sapphires and at the mercy of a ruler who is slowly losing her grip on her country.

While the queen is gone, the Mace and the Tearling must overcome hunger, overcrowding, threats from the church and an evil beyond imagining. But can they do it without their queen?

The final chapter has begun and the fate of the Tearling is looking grimmer with each passing moment. Can Kelsea save her country and can she ever hope to find the better world William Tear imagined all those years ago?

Man guys, this one was long! It was long and a lot happens. So be prepared when you go into it. I don’t really have a lot of comments for this one. I do have one gripe that will probably not be popular, so get ready for a rant.

Unlike the first book, this one has a lot of different narrators. We see quite a few perspectives and we get several different storylines running at the same time. We get so much–so much story, so much action and so many loose ends and yet, the way the story ends… it is almost like all these stories you’ve got so invested in don’t even matter. I’ve never read anything like this before. The author was able to tie up the story with a fairly satisfying ending and yet not address a single one of the loose ends from any of the narrators other than Kelsea.

By the end of the book none of the other storylines matter because they basically don’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, I was surprised by the ending and I can see how it comes full circle… in fact, I am not sure it could have ended any other way. But I also felt like I invested a lot of time in the characters and not getting to finish their stories was somewhat of a disappointment.

One thing this book does well is address larger themes of society and makes you question what a society should look like. It makes you think about what could be done differently to make a better world and it makes me question whether or not such a society could ever be achieved. This book asks the question and that isn’t a bad thing.

Overall, this was a really interesting series. It was built layer upon layer and the fact that Johansen could keep this world straight without getting his readers caught in a convoluted web of detail and politics, was successfully done. This one gets 3.5 stars from me and the series as a whole would land somewhere between 3.5-4 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Rose & The Dagger

The Rose & The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh is the conclusion to The Wrath & The DawnWe pick up almost where we left off. Shahrzad is forced to leave the city and the man she loves just when she learns the truth and realizes what an extraordinary man her husband really is.

Tied up in a rebel force, whose aim is to kill her Caliph, Shahrzad is determined to uncover her own gifts and break Khalid’s curse. Trapped between those she loves and the unbreakable bond she shares with Khalid, Shahrzad must toe the line between right and wrong. But what will happen when she is forced to choose a side?

Shazi must find the strength to do what’s right. She must embrace her powers and learn to see truth in the shadows. Will this curse keep Shahrzad and Khalid apart forever? What will happen to their city, Khorasan, if they don’t succeed? And what costs will be paid to keep the peace?

As a conclusion to a duology, this one wasn’t bad. It was a different beast then the first book though, that’s for sure. The first book was primarily about Khalid and Shahrzad and was told mostly from her perspective. Whereas this second book has multiple narratives and is focused more on the bigger picture. That being said, the books still felt the same, if structured differently.

This book could have easily been three and I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. There were certain side stories I would have liked to seen fleshed out a bit more or at least addressed in more than just hints. For example, we get two confrontations between Khalid and Jamal about Despina but we only get maybe a few paragraphs to wrap up the whole Despina/Jamal thing. I know Ahdieh published a mini-prequel about them but that’s besides the point. There were a few story arches that we are introduced to, but they didn’t feel completely settled at the end.

I really liked the introduction of Artan. He was a really interesting character that I wouldn’t mind reading a novella about. We also get to see all these different sides of Khalid in this one and we begin to understand a little more of why Shahrzad falls for him.

Overall, I was satisfied with this book. The plot was dynamic with some real surprising moments. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Wrath & The Dawn

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is a fictional tale inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. Determined to get revenge for the death of her best friend, Shahrzad becomes the bride of Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan. Khalid is considered a monster by all, for none of his wives ever survive more than one night of marriage.

Shahrzad has vowed to survive her marriage bed, exact revenge for her dead friend and rid the world of the caliph once and for all. Night after night, Shahrzad bewitches Khalid with stories, lengthening her life even as she fears the coming of each dawn. After a time, Shahrzad finds herself no longer pretending to care for the tortured soul behind the violent, aggressive caliph. She begins to understand Khalid and with that understanding comes another emotion she is wholly unprepared for: love.

Will Shahrzad achieve the vengeance she seeks? Will she uncover the truth in a palace of shadow and lies? And what will she do when her heart and her head are of separate minds?

I was hesitant to pick up this one because I’ve loved almost every other retelling of A Thousand and One Nights I’ve read. I wasn’t sure it would live up to the hype, but The Wrath & The Dawn didn’t disappoint.

I almost never do this but this book really is A Thousand and One Nights meets Beauty and the Beast. Khalid and his city is cursed and only a strong willed girl, with no intentions of saving the day, can break the curse and… save the day. There’s a bit of magic weaved into the story and we all know I love a little magic in my books.

Keeping true to the original tale, Shahrzad is an expert storyteller and her stories are captivating and alluring. Even after she is under no threat of death, we still get a few tales here and there from the calipha of Khorasan. The tales are familiar and yet they still seem new to the reader, which is why I think they pull you in, rather than take away from the narrative.

I will say, the beginning started off a little… I’m not going to say slow but just not what I expected. I’m not sure if it was because of the audio or what but it did take me about two or three chapters to really get into the story.

The characters in this book were interesting and each had their own little unique flair. Shahrzad is exactly who she is and does not strive to be anything she is not. This is not the norm for a book of this setting. Khalid is closed off and untouchable and yet through Shahrzad we can see the–flawed–but good within. By the end we are routing for Khalid and getting a reader to route for the bad guys isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Overall, this was an audio book I greatly enjoyed and I will be immediately picking up the sequel. Gotta’ love when all the books in a series are out before you start. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-