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review 2016-11-07 13:00
Bullet-Listed Thoughts: Grave Mercy
Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy

by Robin LaFevers
Book 1 of His Fair Assassin
Audio book narrated by Erin Moon



**See Also:  Collective Updates for Grave Mercy

I liked this book more than I expected to like it, and while there is a lot of monotony to be had between certain events, I surprisingly found those quite intriguing and nice anyway.  Being that this book focuses a lot on history and politics of Brittany during the pre-Renaissance era, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it if only because I’m usually bored by books that are heavy with politics.

So, kudos to Ms. Robin LaFevers.  I really loved this book in spite of the political conspiracies and the drawn out history lessons--in fact, these were the things, aside from the characters, that I found most fascinating.

But anyway, as I had let this book sit on my mind for a long time (a very long time), and then subsequently went back and "skim-read" it (via audio book) to refresh my memory before diving into reading what I thought were the last two books in this series (there have since been two more books added to the series), I really don’t have much in the form of a review.  So I decided to just bullet-list my thoughts and then call it a day.

Actually, a lot of these notes and thoughts had been written back in 2014 when I first finished reading this book.  Following, I decided to wait until the last book of the then-trilogy was published before reading the rest.  Time ended up eluding me and I never got around to finishing the last two books until this time in 2016.

Anyway, moving along now...

The Story:
Escaping the brutality of a forced marriage, Ismae finds sanctuary with the convent of St. Mortain who serves the God of Death.  She learns that she is blessed by the God of Death and that all the sisters of this convent serve Mortain as his handmaidens, meant to mete out his wishes as trained agents in the art of Death.


Ismae receives her most important assignment in the high court of Brittany where she comes across deeper intrigues of conspiracies and deadly games of treason.  Her initial assignment is to uncover a possible treasonous plot taking place at court.   Her overall mission is to serve and protect the Duchess.

Oh yea, and she meets a man named Gavriel Duval who, knowing what she has been trained for, is Ismae’s means of remaining at the court to complete her assigned mission.  There’s also romance, but it’s quite subtle and not at all in the way of the actual conflict taking place in the story.

Meanwhile, Ismae slowly learns that maybe there is more to being a handmaiden of St. Mortain than simply killing in his name, and that her teachers at the convent may not always know what the God of Death truly has plans for.

What I liked:

  • Once again, I give kudos to the fact that the book’s political-historical intrigues managed to hook me rather than put me to sleep.   It’s not the fault of fictional politics, it’s really just me.  While I like a bit of history here and there, I’ve never fully been able to care for politics, so books with court conspiracies and political intrigue tend to become boring to me. (I’ve spent my childhood watching old Chinese historical television series that involve court politics; after a while, every treasonous plot just starts to sound the same.)


  • This book was a page turner--I hardly noticed this book was 500+ pages and actually yearned for more when it came to an end.  The "re-read" of the audio book had me hooked as well--I found myself unwilling to stop the player long enough to read other books, or even to go to sleep.


  • The subtle romance between Ismae and Duval was sweet and nicely developed.  I like that they started off as friendly rivals in the game of their court-related missions, and I like that they were a witty set of Bickering Romance love birds slowly building their chemistry from friendship to lovers as they continuously got on each other’s nerves.  And I like that once they got over their own stubborn prides and agreed to work together, they made a pretty powerful team.


  • Ismae is strong, intelligent, and knows her priorities.  When she realizes that she is in way over her head, she takes her self-proclaimed impatient ass back a step so that she can listen and learn and figure out what she needs to understand before she acts.  To be honest, even though it is described that Ismae is often too eager to mete out death and punishment and too impatient to wait for something to happen, I actually found her to be quite sensible in her actions.  And on top of that, romance does not tie her down and she knows what needs to be done first and foremost to best serve the Duchess and her God of Death.


  • The writing is beautiful.  Descriptions are vivid.  The historical atmosphere is palpable.


What I didn’t like:

  • There isn’t as much action as I would have liked.  Because the book deals more in politics and history and world-building, the amount of fighting and action and even the number of people Ismae has killed in this book seem quite sparse for a book about NUN ASSASSINS.


  • This wasn’t the gritty, gory, badass NUN ASSASSIN book I had been expecting.  It’s much better than the other nun assassin book I had read previously, but it’s a lot calmer than I had expected.  In fact, if the whole NUN ASSASSIN thing hadn’t been my first “OMG!  I want this book so badly!” tagline, I might have just read it as a historical with political intrigue and there'd be no capitalization of NUN ASSASSINS to be had.


  • As much as I liked the sweet and quiet, friendly bickering chemistry between Ismae and Duval, in an overall romance rating, the love story was actually kind of lukewarm.  In fact, the two seem to mesh well better as friendly partners in crime with a sizzling undertone of attraction and unacknowledged chemistry.

Final Thoughts:
I had decided that was probably time for me to fit in Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart somewhere (this will happen soon)--it has been a very long time since I finished Grave Mercy (see above introductory confession).  I need to be able to, like, read twenty books simultaneously and take about two months worth of vacation to finish my reading list.  Because while I found Grave Mercy to be immensely enjoyable, despite being a genre I don’t normally touch at all, I’ve noted that many reviewers have stated that the next two books are supposedly even more awesome.  And so I really should have made time to finish reading the next two books to join and bask in the glory of having read the His Fair Assassin series.


This is a book I would definitely reread over again, to be totally honest.  And it got me curious enough about the history of Brittany as well as the Duchess Anne to want to do some genuine research.  Of course, so far, I’ve only done a Wiki search...



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/bullet-listed-thoughts-grave-mercy.html
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review 2016-09-11 01:51
Thoughts: A Curious Beginning
A Curious Beginning - Deanna Raybourn

A Curious Beginning

by Deanna Raybourn
Book 1 of Veronica Speedwell

London, 1887.  As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own.  After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance.  As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past.  Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered.  But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered.  Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

This book was fantastic!

I went into A Curious Beginning with a bit of wariness if only because the Julia Grey series had been a little less than what I'd been expecting.  While the writing was beautiful, the atmosphere excellent, and Julia a wonderfully witty and fun heroine, I found each of the books a little draggy, and the romance less than desirable.

Deanna Raybourn has the tendency to overdo the set-up a little bit, and it showed in the Julia Grey series.  While she set the atmosphere of each book wonderfully, a lot of times you don't even get to the main conflict until about halfway into the book.

In A Curious Beginning, there was also some drag at the beginning when our main characters find themselves running away to go into hiding with a group of traveling performers.  And to be honest, I didn't really even notice that not much was really happening until a few chapters later when their main conflict, the baron's death and Stoker's being accused of as the murderer, was mentioned very briefly.  Then we resume life in hiding with the traveling circus for some time more until that niggling feeling in the back of my head prompted me to wonder aloud, "Wait.  Is this it?  Just hiding?  What about investigating or something?"

Fortunately, it seems like I spoke too soon, because almost immediately after I asked myself those questions, the story progresses forward and we get into the real heart of the story, with  our amateur non-detectives investigating the baron's death, if only to help prove that Stoker had nothing to do with the murder.  On the aside, there is also mention of Veronica's mother being known by the deceased baron, which kind of guides her own curiosity in finding out why the older man was killed.

Granted, when the truth finally comes out, I had feelings of deja vu, because I feel like we've done this particular secret reveal before, somewhere... in like, twenty other books.  It was handled well; however, and I found myself more interested in seeing how Veronica and Stoker would get themselves out of THAT mess rather than the actual backstory of said mess, because that stuff kind of bored me a little.

I'm going to be totally honest though:  I really just loved Veronica and Stoker so much that I found myself unable to justify letting any of the little flaws deter me from loving the entire book.  Yes, there were things that didn't work well for me at some point.  Yes, there were parts of the book I kind of glossed over.  And yes, I understand that Veronica's behavior and personality were probably way too modern for the time period she lives in.

But, so help me, I couldn't help but be delighted by her very presence in this book because she just exudes all form of strong, independent, level-headed, and wittily sarcastic woman that I love following in any and all entertainment media.  Beats having a meek little girl who let's a little thing like society or historical facts get in the way of adventure and the occasional romantic dalliance.

And yes, I love that she's so open about her sex life and past romantic relationships.  I love that she's got a quick, sharp tongue about her and isn't concerned about being blunt and to-the-point.  I love that her reputation is the last thing on her mind, and so she just throws propriety out the window.  And I love that she doesn't let a little thing like a good-looking man distract her from the priorities.

Which is one of the reasons why I really loved the partnership between Veronica and Stoker.  There is no romance in this first book, though there were certainly some special moments between the two.  But in the end, they seem to have settled on being just friends, albeit very close friends, for the time being.  I have a feeling once their love starts blossoming, it will be well worth the wait.

And speaking of Stoker... I really didn't know what to think about him at first.  He seemed no different than every other broody, moody, easily tempered alpha hero in any other romance.  But as the story progressed, I started seeing little details here and there of Stoker's that just really endeared him to me.  He was flustered by Veronica's unconcerned state of undress in one scene, he was quite obvious about his ogling of her breasts in another, and he exhibits these little boyish tendencies that I found to be kind of sweet.  In one scene he's sulking about his lost sweet candies in the Thames river, but then happily amuses himself by taking apart some honeycomb candies that Veronica digs out of some random tins for him.  In another scene, while Veronica helps him treat a small wound caused by sewing pins, he amuses himself by going through her little bag of bottled medicinal supplies.

These little things just make him feel more human, as opposed to those other alpha males who are always so uptight and put together, with carefully controlled actions and dialogue.  I really liked these brief, random moments, because they counterbalance his other, more broody moments quite well.

And I especially love that he doesn't waste any time on trying to control Veronica, or even pretending that he has a say in any of her decisions whenever others are requesting that he keep her contained.  He's all like, "Yeah, right.  Why don't you try?"

The rest of the book was equally as fabulous, once the action and the conflict starts moving the story forward.  The mystery felt a little lame, but in light of how much I loved just following Veronica on her journey, I'm not really complaining all that much.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/09/thoughts-curious-beginning.html
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review 2015-06-02 15:55
Not a Review... More like Fangirl Squee: Neil Patrick Harris - Choose Your Own Autobiography
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris,Neil Patrick Harris

Let's just start off with this:


NPH did this thing!  NPH did lots of things!  NPH gave us a life story!  And it is so damn AWESOME!  Because then he went and narrated it and made it even more AWESOME!


Ahem...  Moving along now.


I don't often read (or rather in this case, listen to) autobiographies. In fact, I'm sure I haven't touched a non-fiction book since I graduated from college years ago. Fiction is just so much easier to just melt yourself into. Which is probably why I chose to listen to NPH's autobiography rather than sit and read it, even IF I had a good inkling I would enjoy it whether I read the written book or listened to the audio book.

Because, let's face it, Neil Patrick Harris is all sorts of charming and funny and fun and entertaining and charismatic and so, so AMAZEBALLS! (I don't think I've ever actually used the word "amazeballs" in a review before... not that this is really a review, because I had so much fun listening to NPH narrate his book that I really don't know if I have all the right words to describe how much I loved this autobiography.)

And honestly, despite some moments that I thought kind of dragged a bit, I still thoroughly enjoyed NPH's life story--how much of it is true and how much of it is exaggerated and how much of it was simply a part of his humorous "Choose Your Own Adventure" formatting to elicit loud guffaws from me doesn't even matter. The entire telling of his life story was entertaining at all the right points, hilarious at all the right points, and even managed to make you seriously think about his life and your own life and lots of other people's lives around you because a lot of the things he presents are very insightful.

And to be honest, I have never really followed pop culture and the only thing I truly know about Neil Patrick Harris is whatever I've known about his fictional characters from Doogie Howser to Barney Stinson. I knew that he hosted award shows, but because I don't really follow many actors or actresses or their careers, I didn't know that he'd been a big hit in on-stage theater or Broadway. But it's extremely impressive and made me very glad I picked up his autobiography. I knew the name of the man he'd married, but I hadn't know that he had a set of twins (one boy and one girl) and that he's so sweet around them.

I love his natural comedic timing and wit, I love his random, sometimes bemusing side quips, and I loved that even Neil Patrick Harris isn't immune to tacky dialogue or lame jokes. It all shows in his book. All of which just further made me love NPH and love his autobiography so much more.

I haven't laughed so hard at a book in a long time.

And my only conflict about this book right now is whether or not I should just go ahead and get the actual hard copy format and read NPH's "Choose Your Own Autobiography/Adventure" the way it had been intended to be read. Except that I don't regret listening to the book in audio form because between the anecdotes told and NPH's narration, the entire thing was just a delight.

This is definitely not a critical review; this is just me squee-ing about how much I loved and enjoyed this book and how much I think it is the most awesome of awesome!



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review 2015-05-27 02:37
Another Random Bullet List of Thoughts... and Stuff: Cress
Cress - Marissa Meyer

Cress -- Marissa Meyer

Book 3 of Lunar Chronicles series

2014 Release -- Feiwel & Friends

Young Adult, Science Fiction, Futuristic, Fantasy, Romance

Based on Rapunzel



I always have a hard time putting my thoughts together for these Lunar Chronicles books. I barely even put together a review for Cinder; and I took some time before deciding to just slap together a bullet list of thoughts for Scarlet. I guess I’ll probably end up doing the same thing for Cress as well as Winter.

While I love reading them, love the characters, and love the world, I can’t help but feel like there is just something missing that keeps from generating the feels like I keep expecting to have generated. Don’t get me wrong. I love these books.

I feel for the characters (they certainly are going through a lot to merit feels), but I don’t have those FEELS (with all the capitalization, bolded and italicized font, and exclamation points). I wish I knew what was missing, or maybe what I’m holding out for.

One thing is for certain though--there is no lack of love for Cinder (the character) and her continued plight and development throughout the series. If I had FEELS for anything in this entire series, it would be for her even though we have an enormous abundance of characters to choose from.

There is no denying that the world of the Lunar Chronicles series is fascinating, the storyline intriguing, the tone both dark and whimsical at the same time, and the characters all unique and so excellently created that you can’t help loving them.

The only big complaint I have about Cress, really, is that, because of the abundance of characters, the narration comes off extremely scattered and haphazard. But it’s not like it was really a bad thing that there are so many characters and each of their parts in the book were written very well; so well, in fact that I really wanted to know each and every one of their stories, but got cut off just as soon as we were “getting to the good part”, and then switched to another beloved character. It felt like I came across a cliffhanger for each and every chapter, which DID start to get a bit frustrating after a while.

The Story:
Cress is a shell with a gift for programming tech and hacking networks. She has been imprisoned in a satellite orbiting the earth almost her entire life so that she can spy on the Earthens for her queen and her Mistress Sybil as well as keep all Lunar spacecrafts invisible while they float right outside of Earth’s galactic territory without being known.

But over the years of observing the humans of Earth, Cress imagines forming a bond with them, even to the point that someday, some hero from Earth will come rescue her from her satellite prison. She has dreams of going to Earth and living a free live, away from the Lunar Queen Levana’s tyranny and her Mistress Sybil’s evilness.

And so when Cinder and crew contact her in hopes that she will be able to help them on their quest to reclaim the Lunar throne for Princess Selene and bring down Queen Levana and save the world (yada, yada, yada…), Cress jumps at the opportunity and even pleads with them to help her escape. Because, though she wants to help, she also knows that her Mistress Sybil will probably never let her live to see another day if the lunar thaumaturge finds out about her betrayal.

And so another adventure begins when the rescue mission goes awry and Cinder’s entire crew is separated with Wolf injured, Scarlet taken hostage, and Thorne and Cress crash landing in the middle of a desert in Africa.

The Random Bullet List of Thoughts:
There is a lot more that happens in this book that could be worth mentioning. But that would mean that I paraphrase the entire book. And that’s probably something even harder to do without giving away too many details.

Simply, this was an enjoyable read for so many reasons, but this was also a less than satisfactory read, if only because I feel like the book could have been a bit longer and a little bit better handled concerning each of our different parties of characters.



On Carswell Thorne:

  • He’s adorably arrogant and flirtatious and so, so FLAWED. But I can’t help but to be charmed by him in spite of all his many, many flaws. It makes him very REAL and very human, and at the same time, very likable and relatable.


  • I don’t mind that he’s not really a hero, but that his actions can be heroic when he so chooses. His priorities might be a little off-base at the strangest times, but at the same time, he takes charge and gets moving when the occasion calls for it.


Because not everyone needs to be a self-sacrificing, noble martyr to be the hero of a story. And I like that he’s not a typical hero.


  • And I like his calm, flippant attitude in the face of danger. He so easily just accepts what’s happening even while it distresses him, and then moves on to the next subject, because things need to be done, decisions need to be made, and lives need to be saved.


  • And his slowly built, reluctant friendship with Cinder… lovely.


  • He is definitely a fun charmer and provides what little humor and comedic flair that might be missing from the Lunar Chronicles. Him and Iko, that is.



On Cress:

  • I don’t really know what to say about her.


  • I like that she’s a genius computer tech who can hack into systems, disable security networks, and redirect satellite and radio signals to hide fleets of ships. That’s kind of cool.


  • And I guess her naivette is kind of endearingly DIFFERENT from our other two heroines.


  • But her priorities sometimes seem a little skewed.


  • And her naivette really also doesn’t help win her any favors and seems a bit extreme and seems to get her into a lot of trouble.


  • And her insta-love for Thorne gives me pause considering the few instances she views from Thorne’s childhood to be “saintly heroic deeds” are what she thinks she’s fallen in love with.


Because whether or not Thorne had good intentions for his illegal AND socially and morally NOT okay actions, he still did a lot of terrible things. Sometimes good intentions can’t be used to discount bad actions.


  • However, I DO appreciate that Cress and Thorne get a chance to get to know each other before Cress finally determines that, “Yes, she is in love with him.” And I do appreciate that their romance is quite subtle.


  • But the character of Cress still gives me pause because I haven’t yet figured out what to think of her.


  • She’s different. I’ll give her that. But at the same time, she’s not so different from a lot of the YA female characters I love to hate.



On Cinder:

  • There is no denying it. This girl becomes more and more kickass as the story progresses.


  • Her development is so stellar that I have no words.


I really don’t have words.

On the rest of the Lunar Chronicles cast of characters:

  • Kai... Kai is still the standard, boring male hero with a big plot point conflict, but the personality of a stick. He’s got a lot of scenes; scenes that I just didn’t really care for all that much, but that I knew were crucial to the story’s progression...


  • Wolf... had started off as lovely and adorably boyish as I remember him from Scarlet (the book). And then he withdraws and becomes a comatose shell of the Wolf that I had come to love when Scarlet is taken. And that was kind of disappointing. Though I DO appreciate that when he’s got his wits about him, he’s still protective of his misfit posse and Cinder, and he’s back to the strong fighting machine I had sort of liked.


  • Scarlet... got cheated of any story in this book. She gets cut off from the rest of the crew early on, which doesn’t help her character to stand out much from the rest because she had been the least developed character since the beginning because she’d been the least in need of development since her introduction. She’s already a strong, kickass, no nonsense type who is easily likable; and she continues to be the strong, kickass, non nonsense, likable Scarlet.


Which actually causes her to be kind of flat and one-dimensional in comparison to the rest of the Lunar Chronicles characters.


Not that I don’t love her all the same, but I wish she’d get more significant happenings on this journey. Maybe in the next book…?


  • Levana... is still as scary and insanely evil as ever.


  • Iko... is the BEST thing about the entire series! I loved her as a squat, pear-shaped android from the first book, I loved her as the voice of the Rampion air/space ship in the second book, and I love her, still, as an almost human-like escort-droid in this latest book!


She’s like R2-D2 with a voice, words, and attitude.



On the Story:

  • There was a LOT going on in Cress (the book).


  • There were a lot of interchanging POVs. I can’t help but feel like the haphazard narration could have been smoother. Maybe the book needed to be longer so that each chapter for each character (or set of characters) side of the story could have been longer.


  • The series progression is moving along nicely. I have no complaints about the story or the progression itself. I was very much hooked into the book’s storyline without wanting to stop. There was that definite physical need to keep reading.


In a good way.


  • And the book rounds out in a good place to conclude the third book of Lunar Chronicles with war looming on the horizon and some not so surprising secrets revealed.


  • And then Winter and Jacin are introduced...


While Winter’s character is fascinating already, I found Jacin to be a bit stock, standard YA male hero… like Kai, but more flippant. But I will keep my thoughts on hold until the last book where we will probably get to see more of Jacin and Winter.

Final Thoughts:
Well... I don’t really have any except to say that I am desperately looking forward to the last book of this series. I will also go ahead and read Fairest, Queen Levana’s story, though I have my reserves about reading it since I’m less a fan of Levana than others seem to be. She’s evil, she’s cruel, and she scares the crap out of me.

Otherwise, the series has been smoothly progressing thus far and excellently written and created.





This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):


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review 2015-02-28 02:01
Thoughts: The Caller
The Caller - Juliet Marillier

The Caller -- Juliet Marillier

Book 3 (Final) in Shadowfell trilogy

2014 Release -- Knopf Books

Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Romance



I'm caught between calling it 'Awesome!' and saying that there was still something left to be desired about The Caller. But ultimately, I enjoyed the heck out of this last book in the Shadowfell trilogy and loved the hell out of both Neryn and Flint and even the minor and not-so-minor supporting characters.

There were only a few things in the broken world of Shadowfell's kingdom that had me questioning logic... but then I would turn around and find a way to justify what I had thought didn't make any sense. Just as well, since there were also a few things about the story's progression that felt predictable as well, but that I said "whatevs" to and continued to read and enjoy the book without analyzing it.

And so in the long run, I just ended up deciding to throw my objectivity out the window and just give the book a completely biased rating based solely on how much I loved the book, the conclusion, and the series in general, the world, the culture, the back-history... pretty much everything about this book was pretty damn awesome!

On a side note, I noticed that my rating kept climbing higher and higher with each book. Keep in mind that this has more to do with my influenced enjoyability as I got to know the characters, the setting, the world, the Good Folk and their ways, and Neryn and Flint and Tali et al, as the story progressed. Sometimes when you become invested in a world and its characters, it's hard NOT to finally fall completely in love with them.

Because the endless traveling and long-drawn out days of Neryn waiting and waiting and waiting were an ongoing theme in all three books; however, while they felt uneventful and monotonous and long-winded in Shadowfell, they started giving me a sense of excitement as the last two books progressed.

It's strange how much leeway you're willing to give certain similar writing styles and repetitive themes and predictable story progression if you just so happen to be steadfastly in love with a book. Yea. It's a thing.

The conclusive war against the oppressive King Keldec and his psychotic queen and manipulative councilors is finally drawing near as the seasons change. The Midsummer Gathering is right around the corner and Neryn must continue on with her training in spite of the tragedies and concerns flowing over from where we last left off in Raven Flight. Because Tali has been seen in public at the Midwinter Gathering, she can no longer accompany Neryn to seek out the last two Guardians--just as well, Tali is needed at Shadowfell to finalize the rebellion's last plans in the place of Regan who has lost his life on a technicality mission gone wrong.

Now traveling with Neryn is Whisper, an owl-like Good Folk who is able to transport her from one place to another, saving precious travel time in order to finish her training before the Midsummer Gathering. Along the way she meets new allies and friends who prove just as significant in the ending outcome of the rebellion. But more obstacles surface as Neryn learns of the frail state the Good Folk of the East are in, then following is shown a gruesome parade of Good Folk by the King's Enforcers, that can only mean that Keldec has found Caller for his own twisted greed and use.

The tides of the rebellion may have changed now unless Neryn can find a way to turn everything back around.

I like that each book of Shadowfell has ongoing twists and turns and secret surprises as the story progresses. And I like that with each new obstacle, Neryn only becomes stronger, more determined, as well as much more steadfast in her belief of the rebels' cause. Despite not being the warrior woman that Tali is, whom I missed in this book, by the way, Neryn has her own brand of strength and resourcefulness and tact.

It's slightly inconceivable that one young girl was able to do all that she did in The Caller and make such a big influencing change among the human folk and the uncanny Good Folk just by being present, but I'll live with it. It gave rise to some interesting story progression, that's for sure; and it took the story in the direction it needed to go.

The endgame was a little too neatly packaged, to be honest, but as a big fan of Happily Ever Afters and satisfying endings, I'm not complaining.

The Caller also became very 'Flint'-significant, more so than the first two books had been. I've always been very 'meh' about books written in 1st person POV, but I accept them as they are anyway. When a book starts taking on multiple POVs, alternating between 1st and 3rd, though, I get a little wary. Fortunately, the transitions were smooth enough that it didn't bother me, and at the same time we get an insight into Flint's mind and his actions, which was not bad at all.

Did I mention that Flint still comes off as kind of swoon-worthy despite his continued plunge into misery? Well, he kind of is. And even though the romance in the Shadowfell series is fairly backseat, there's still enough mention of it here and there to continue solidifying just how strong the bond between Neryn and Flint has become after all this time. It's nice to see a developing romance that didn't start from instalove, that doesn't become a handicap for our characters, that doesn't end up the main priority of the couple's lives, but still managed to feel significant, strong, and exude warm and fuzzy feelings whenever the two of them were allowed their rare moments alone together.

Final Thoughts: The Caller was definitely full of significant progression, with a new turn of events each time we think a chapter in Neryn's adventure has come to pass. There is little time to dwell on past events as a new one unfolds almost immediately with our characters constantly moving forward until the final stages of the rebellion come to light.

The conclusion to this book as well as the series is well-rounded and satisfying, but purposefully leaves an open-ended "there are still many things to do for the future of Alban" out there. However, in the end, it IS a final ending and I doubt much more will be said about Neryn or Flint or Alban. The world of Alban and it's histories are rich and extensive, but not overwhelming. The characters were created and developed excellently, each with their own personal stories, each with their own purpose even if it's not evident in the present setting.

Juliet Marillier definitely created a wonderful world in Shadowfell, the type that I wouldn't mind revisiting again and again, as even the minor characters seem to have untold stories that could become an adventure of their own. Her writing is smooth, beautiful, descriptive, almost magical... what more is there to ask for?

There are... parallels that stood out for me. And maybe I'm just looking too hard or seeing things where they really aren't.

But the beginning of the series--the constant traveling with not much really happening--was reminiscent of The Hobbit, wherein I recall telling people that the first 50% of the book is traveling and walking and world and story build-up. That's fine. That's how most high fantasy adventures are anyway. But then there was the ending which also reminded me, once again, of Tolkien and it made me... well, I didn't how what to think about it. How Neryn and Flint are boarding a boat and everyone of their friends are standing around, bidding them farewell. I mean, it's not like it's an exact replica of the ending from Lord of the Rings movie where Frodo leaves on a boat... but it's there.

(spoiler show)

Maybe it's just me. Not that it influenced how much I enjoyed the series though, so it's a moot point. 

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