Uprooted

Hi Guys,

Uprooted by Naomi Novik is one of my newer favorite fantasy standalone novels. I’ve read it once and listened to it on audio. This week, I was between audiobooks and didn’t want to start another when I have several on hold at the library, so of course I went back to a favorite.

Uprooted is a fantasy novel with witches, wizards, courts and villages, spells and magic and evil corruption. Agnieszka knows she will never be taken because everyone knows the Dragon only takes the most special girls and Angieszka is a smudged, wild, plain girl while Kasia is talented in every way.

Once every ten years the Dragon, a powerful sorcerer and lord of the Valley, leaves his high tower to choose a seventeen year old village girl to serve in his castle. In return, the Dragon protects his people from the Woods. The Woods surrounding the valley are corrupt and all sorts of terrible and strange creatures live within. Every year the Wood takes more and more of the valley and all anyone can do is hold back the storm–the Wood cannot be beaten.

Angieszka fears for her friend Kasia as the choosing approaches, but she should fear for herself. For something powerful lies within Angieszka, which might just make her the most special of them all.

What will Angieszka do when she is chosen? Will she allow fear to manage her or will she find the strength within to fight the coming storm?

The narration of Uprooted is so interesting. The narrator has a Russian accent, but you get the feeling that the book is written out of time and place. The first time I listened to this book, I started out being a little skeptical of the accent but now I can’t imagine the audiobook without it.

There is just so much depth to this book and things are tied together so well, that you don’t even notice until the end or on a second read through. So much happens in this 430+ page book and yet it doesn’t feel too long and there really weren’t any parts that bored me.

The magic in this book is unique; the spells, the way it is used, is done in a way I haven’t seen before. I also love how Angieszka’s powers go against what is known and believed. Her powers seem to stem from the Wood and she doesn’t go against her nature even to meet with the approval of her teacher and the King’s court. I also love how she embraces the dishevelment and no one can make her be anything other than herself.

This book is just special. It is unique. A story that I’ve never heard of before and one that was very hard for me to put down, even when it was over. On a third read, this one still gets 5 stars from me!

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 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-

Spindle

Spindle by E.K. Johnston is the sequel to A Thousand Nights. Generations after the the Storyteller Queen drove the demon from her husband and saved the land by imbuing it with good magic, evil has once again reared it’s head and prepares to strike. The mountain prison holding the demons at bay is weakening and the kingdoms on either side are at risk.

When a princess, Little Rose, is born a powerful she-demon places a curse upon her and her people. For more than a decade the demon bides her time, waiting for Little Rose to mature and her body ripen for the taking. No one dares try to break the curse until a boy, one of the spinners exiled because of the curse, and his companions steal the princess away from the castle.

Now the curse is coming to a head and all may be lost if the curse is not broken and the demons sent back to their iron prison. Without the storyteller queen, will her heirs be able to follow in her footsteps and set their people free?

Spindle is ultimately a retelling of sleeping beauty–spindle, curse, thorns, kiss and all. This retelling is told from the perspective of the “prince” a poor boy, torn from his home by the deadly affects the curse has on anyone who risks spinning. Yashaa is his mother’s son and he was meant to be a royal spinner in his lords household. But the curse took that away from him and anger drives him to return to his lost kingdom no matter the price. But the princess isn’t what he expects and his path changes forever.

This was no A Thousand NightsA Thousand Nights was magical and intriguing, it held an air of mystery and the language was flowy and beautiful. Spindle wasn’t quite that. It was a fine tale but doesn’t live up to the writing and story of it’s predecessor. I think if this was a book on it’s own, not connected at all to A Thousand Nights, I would have expected less and liked it more.

The ending came close the the feel of A Thousand Nights but it was also sort of a let down because it didn’t really feel like it belonged with the narrative we’d spent 300+ pages reading. I also thought there were a lot of loose ends with the ending being what it was.

This wasn’t a bad read but I expected more. This one gets a lean three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Motion of Puppets

The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue is an adult fiction novel with just a little bit of magic coloring it’s pages. Newlyweds Kay and Theo are spending their summer in Québec; Theo working on his translations and Kay working as a background acrobat in the circus.

While walking the streets of Québec, Kay falls in love with an old puppet in an abandoned toy store. Almost every day she would stop and admire the puppet, wishing he was hers. While walking home from work one night Kay fears she is being followed and surprisingly, the lights are on in the toy store. Kay ducks in and her life is changed forever.

When Kay doesn’t come home, Theo looks for her everywhere and finally calls the police. With no clues and no suspects, Kay is truly missing without a trace. Theo begins to question their relationship and wonders if he ever truly knew his young wife. Regardless of his misgivings, Theo is unable to give Kay up and his search almost becomes obsession.

What happened to Kay? Will Theo be able to look past the ordinary and search for clues in unlikely places? Will there be an happily ever after for this separated couple?

I originally picked this one up because I’d read Donohue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters and although it wasn’t one of my favorite reads, it was one that stayed with me for a long time.

The Motion of Puppets hit me in the same way as Donohue’s other novels. This book had a pretty slow start… and a pretty slow middle if I am being honest. This 250+ page book took me almost two weeks to read, which should tell you something. I was really intrigued by this world of puppets and was really looking forward to getting a peak behind the curtain. But until the end, I was sort of disappointed.

I felt the same way about Theo’s side of the story. His search for Kay, while heartfelt, was colored by his obsession with Muybridge. Yes, this probably has some deeper meaning/parallel to the life of a puppet, what with the focus on motion, but it just didn’t do much for me.

That being said the last 75 pages of this book was fantastic. Just like The Boy Who Drew Monsters the ending was a shock and extremely well done. The world of the puppets at the end was exactly what I wanted to see throughout the book. This dark, chaotic secret world was a feast for the mind.

Overall, this was a boring read with an interesting ending. This one gets a grudging three stars from me.

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 Star-Touched Queen

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is a fairy-folk tale come to life. Maya is cursed, her horoscope promises her a marriage of death and destruction and so she is considered the pariah of he father’s harem. Knowing no one would want her, Maya is content with a life of study and solitude until one day her father, the Raja, announces that Maya will be forced into an arranged marriage.

But no matter what the Raja says, his intention is for Maya to kill herself and help him win a war. Fate intervenes and Maya is rescued by Amar, the King of Akaran and her new husband. Amar takes Maya to his kingdom, a mystical, magical and mysterious place where wonders are many and secrets lurk in shadows.

Maya feels safe in Amar’s presence and despite his secrets she finds herself longing for him, on the verge of love. But Maya senses deception and doesn’t know who to trust. Fearing for her life, Maya makes a choice that could alter the very fabric of life as we know it.

Will Maya be able to right the wrongs she has inadvertently committed? Will she remember herself and her past? And will she find the power within herself to become who she was always meant to be?

This book was magical in all the right ways. It was as if it delved into your very dreams and nightmares and brought them to life on the page. This whole book was like sensing a secret and longing for answers. It was like walking through a dark room and feeling your way through, unsure of what you may find. This may be disconcerting for some but I loved it.

Chokshi has a knack for wordplay and her use of language is beautiful in all it’s abstractness. This book often uses language in place of description, which isn’t for everyone. You really need to use your imagination to fill in the world Chokshi creates. And this might be why there is such a disconnect in it’s ranking.

I really liked this focus on the soul and reincarnation. How Amar searched for Maya’s soul and how the two were drawn together even without memory of one another. Makes for an interesting love story. The play on fate vs choice and the power one holds within gives the romance depth and mystery. The Star-Touched Queen was really like nothing I have ever read before.

This book is surreal and a little misogynistic but I couldn’t put it down. I was captivated by Maya’s journey and Akaran is a world I want to explore in my dreams. Overall, this one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!!

-M-