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 Court of Wings and Ruin

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas is the third book in the ACOTAR series. This one picks up a few weeks after the disaster in Hybern where the Court of Dreams was injured, Feyre’s sisters turned into high fae and the high lady of the night court left her mate to spy on their enemies.

Now Feyre is back in the Spring Court, painting flowers and pretending to be a perfect all-but damaged lady of spring. When really, she is playing a dangerous game, gathering information on Tamlin and the kings invasion of Prythian. Feyre must walk a fine line all while war inches closer and closer to the people she loves.

Will Feyre be able to sabotage Hybern and it’s allies? Will she get out of Spring alive? Will the Court of Dreams survive the coming onslaught?

Hmmm what to say about this one? I loved ACOMAF so much, I read it three times and listened to the audio book once. But I do not see myself re-reading ACOWAR. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t find myself as invested in it as I was the second book. In fact, I found myself feeling about ACOWAR the same way I felt about ACOTAR–not bad but not spectacular.

It’s funny, Maas has these fantastic gems within her series. Books that just cannot compare and I absolutely fall in love with her characters but I don’t always feel like the books are consistent. I’m still going to fangirl over ACOTAR regardless because I love the Court of Dreams so much!

If, in this series, we were only invested in Feyre and Rhys then this would have been a wonderful conclusion to their story. For those two, it was quite a satisfying end. But we aren’t just invested in Feyre and Rhys. We want to know what happens between Cassian and Nesta, Lucian and Elain, Mor, Azriel, Amren, even Tamlin and the other high lords. But we don’t and that’s what was really missing in this one. Even if we got a few chapters with a glimpse of whats to come for those characters, I would have been happy.

Normally, I don’t like when a series switches from one PoV to multi-PoV but in this case, I think it would have added a little something. I hope the future books do this because I really want to see some insight into other characters.

Overall, ACOWAR satisfied my thirst for more Feyre and Rhys but it will be hard to wait to get the missing pieces from the rest of our favorite characters tales. This one gets three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

A Crown of Wishes

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Ghokshi is the “sequel” to The Star-Touched Queen. Every hundred years the otherworld throws the Tournament of Wishes, an ancient tournament full of terror and wonder, where the risks are real and the prize is a wish of unlimited possibilities.

This year two contestants from different kingdoms must work together to stay alive and save their homes. Princess Gauri has been banned from her home by her brother, a twisted ruler whose thirst for power overshadows the good of his people. Prince Vikram is at the mercy of his council and will only ever be a puppet king while his legitimacy is in question.

Gauri and Vikram must come together despite their differences to beat the odds and survive a world of monsters and dreams. Can they solve these death defying riddles before time runs out? And what happens when reluctant allies become more?

Ghokshi does it again, all but a little differently. Where The Star-Touched Queen was a magical journey to find oneself and to rescue true love, A Crown of Wishes is a magical race against time and a journey toward self discovery and fate. These sound the same but the two books felt pretty different. There is an urgency to The Star-Touched Queen that we don’t really get in this one. This isn’t a bad thing but it does change the feel of the narrative just a bit.

A Crown of Wishes focuses more on the characters and the character development than the magic and mystery of it’s predecessor. Where The Star-Touched Queen only really develops Maya’s character, we get three fully developed narratives in this one. Gauri and Vikram play off each other really well. Gauri is serious and tactical with her warrior mind, whereas Vikram is sure of himself, intelligent and sly. It makes for an interesting dynamic and pairing.

I just love this world Ghokshi created; it’s magical and real and it feels unique. Ghokshi tells us in this one that the otherworld will soon be closed off from the real world and I wonder if there will be one more book about this. I hope so and I hope we see more of Maya her beau and Gauri and Vikram working in tandem. That’d be awesome!

Overall, this one gets 4 stars from me. It was a good read but I didn’t fall in love with the romantic relationship as much as I did with Maya’s. Still worth a shot.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Traitor to the Throne

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton is the second book in the Rebel of the Sands series. This book picks up a handful of months after the last book. Amani now wields her powers with ease and the rebellion seems to be gaining ground. She feels at home with the rebels and their bonds go deep. Even so, Amani is uncertain about her future with Jin, who disappeared after she was shot and almost died during the gap between books. Now Jin is back and Amani doesn’t know how to feel.

She doesn’t get long to think before the rebel camp is attacked and she is kidnapped. Now Amani is in a den of vipers, powerless and at the mercy of the very man she has been fighting to overthrow. Amani must walk a fine line between staying true to the rebellion and staying alive.

What secrets will Amani uncover in a palace of lies? With her powers gone, how will she ever escape? And what will happen to the rebellion without the blue-eyed bandit?

I was really looking forward to this one and it did not disappointed. At first I was hesitant with how quickly Amani was separated from the rebels and left to fight for herself. I wasn’t sure how the story would progress with her captive and enthralled to the whims of the sultan, but it worked. We were introduced to new characters and we learn more about the Djinni and their origins and place in the world.

There’s more intrigue in this one and the plot thickens. There is more going on then just a father and son fighting for power and the Djinni are at the center of it. We learn more about the sultan’s plans and the dynamic of the rebellion changes. Whereas the first book was action packed, this second one has action and depth–it sets the stage for more.

I also liked that this book addresses some of the loose ends left in Rebel of the Sands. We find out what happened to Tamid and Shira, we also find out more about Amani’s parents and foreshadowing of the future. I also loved that Hamilton kept Amani as the sole narrator. A lot of series these days have a single narrator in the first book and then add narratives in subsequent books. This has been driving me crazy lately, so it was refreshing to have one consistent narrator throughout.

Oh man guys, that ending! This book ended with a massive bang. The twist was both expected and totally out of left field. You knew something was up but Hamilton sets everything up really well. This book was worth reading just for the last 100 pages.

Overall, a great read. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Song Rising

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon is the third book in The Bone Season series. In this one we pick up right where we left off in The Mime Order. Following the bloody battle for dominion of the London Clairvoyant underground, Paige has risen to the position of Underqueen–high ruler of the most powerful criminals in Scion, London.

This is a position that comes with both power and extreme danger. Now Paige must unite her army of clairvoyants and overcome Scion and it’s supernatural backbone. But a terrible technology threatens them all. Senshield has become portable and with it Scion can hunt down almost all of the clairvoyants.

Now Paige and the Mime Order have literally been forced underground and the rebellion has all but been stopped in it’s tracks. The Mime Order is fractured and hostility within it’s ranks threatens to tear them apart.

Can Paige and her small group of devoted followers stop Senshield and get the rebellion back on track?

So far, this is probably my least favorite book of the series. It wasn’t a bad read but it felt like one of those middle of the series books that has to happen to build up the rest of the series. This is, I believe, going to be a 7 book series after all. The Bone Season and The Mime Order had these epic battle scenes and had really fast paced, gotta save the world moments. Whereas The Song Rising was a bit more political, dotted with mini battles that lead to this moment of separation at the end. Again, this all had to happen but I just wasn’t as captivated as I was with the first two books.

Ever since I’ve read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, I’ve been sort of captivated by the idea of what’s below London and Shannon sort of gives us another glimpse of this with the Beneath. But I sort of felt like this was a missed opportunity. We don’t really get a big enough peak into what’s there or what could be there. Still it was neat to see the Mime Order be forced underground.

There are things I missed in this book: Warden and Paige, Nick and Zeek (I can’t remember how his name is spelled), more of the Emite, and the development of Paige’s powers. Paige felt like she really took a step back in this one, I missed her training to become more badass.

Okay, so this review feels really negative. This was by no means a bad read but it did feel a little like a filler. It does prepare you for more to come, that’s for sure. I can see all the little forks this book affords us and it’ll be interesting to see when and how all these little plot twists meet up again.

On a gut instinct I gave this one 3.5 stars and I am going to stick with it.

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-