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review 2017-12-20 19:32
Classic fantasy for fans of Medieval-ish settings, royalty romances
Ever the Brave - Erin Summerill

Disclaimer: reviewing an uncorrected proof via NetGalley, so there may be differences from the final version.

 

Those of you who follow my reviews may remember I was disappointed in Ever the Hunted, the first book in this duology. While I was in love with the cover art, I felt like the story was underwhelming and the language use was odd. But I also like to give debut authors another shot to see how they grow, and since I'd already asked for Ever the Brave on NetGalley, I went ahead and zipped through this draft as well.

 

I'm happy to say that Ever the Brave does show growth and improvements over Ever the Hunted. In a way, Ever the Brave suffers from being a lot of set up for the series, and Ever the Hunted delivers on more magic and more interesting handling of characters. Maybe I'm acclimating to the unusual language choices or something, but I also felt it read more smoothly. Some nuanced, insightful handlings of the MC, love interest and, in particular, the young king, with regards to relationships with power, politics, belonging and identity. As before, the romance subplot overshadows the greater story to the extent that there's just not the sense of tension I'd like to see. But the romance also felt better developed and more natural than in book 1. Also, the action/fight scenes are some of the book's best writing, with both clarity and tension.

 

I'd recommend this duology for fans of classic fantasy (Medievalish kingdom setting, elements-based powers, politics/coups and royalty romances) who want to have that itch scratched. The books don't do much that's new, but for a certain audience, they don't need to. It wasn't a right-fit for me, but I'm reading on the upper end of YA, and I think this would do better with younger/newer readers in the genre, maybe teens just graduating from MG fantasy. Only about a 2.5 personally, but I'm bumping the score because it's a pretty well-produced product that may suit other readers much more.

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review 2017-02-13 11:41
Review: Frostblood
Frostblood (The Frostblood Saga) - Elly Blake

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Initially I went into this one not knowing much about it. It was a bit of coverlust, really. Though rereading the blurb when my Netgalley request was approved it sounded like a generic YA fantasy, also sounding a bit too much like Red Queen (which I really didn’t like) though Frostblood wound up really surprising me. I didn’t quite finish it before it came out, but before I was half way through I purchased a finished copy.

 

The main character Ruby lives in a world of ice ruled by Frostbloods who are cruel and vicious. Ruby has a special power of her own, she can create and manipulate fire – she’s a Fireblood. Firebloods are hunted down by Frostbloods and either killed or imprisoned. There’s a big dramatic history between the two factions of why things are the way they are which is revealed as the novel progresses.

 

Sounds a bit generic, but the world building is surprisingly in depth with well thought out mythology and history and works well with the plot. Ruby is captured by Frostblood soldiers after an attack on the village near her home which results in a personal tragedy for her, driving her need for revenge. Rescued by local monks Ruby is given an opportunity to help them bring down the Frostblood king.

 

Not all the monks are happy to have Ruby with them – she is unpredictable, can’t control her powers and a dangerous liability. Ruby has to train to master her ability. With the help of Arcus, who comes across as one of the monks less than pleased to have her there. He’s mysterious, and quite rude and obnoxious. He and Ruby rub each other the wrong way. It’s kind of obvious immediately where it’s going but it’s delightfully shippy, and quite fun to get into their training and snide back and forths with snarking at each other. (I did find myself wanting to shove them together and yell JUST KISS ALREADY! As they sort out their true feelings for each other).

 

Ruby has her doubts about what she’s got to do, and learns a few things that she’s unsure about. There’s of course a prophecy involved, a few twisty setbacks, and one big ass plot twist towards the end that was really good and completely unexpected when the truth of Arcus’s real identity and his intentions are revealed.

 

Despite the fact that the plot is nothing that hasn’t been done before, the novel is exceptionally well written, the characters are all interesting and well fleshed out, a mix of good guys, bad guys and one or two you’re not quite sure about. Good solid world building with an interesting history and its own belief system of gods and goddesses which work well within the plot and ties up nicely.

 

A lot of fun. I have already pre ordered the sequel, and am really looking forward to more from this series.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2016-01-26 11:32
Review: Truthwitch
Truthwitch - Susan Dennard

There comes a point when I have to just accept that a popular author is just not for me. Truthwitch has been one of the most hyped up books on my book feeds, particularly my twitter feeds since BEA last year. I love the author, I think she's a wonderful person, and I really do admire her social media presence and the time and dedication she has to her fans. She seems like a really lovely person. However, it would appear I just don't get on with her books. This is the second book by the same author that I have found only okay and mediocre at best. Which really sucks when I really want to support the author.

 

I entered every give away I saw for this title, I've had it on pre order since May 2015. I even considered applying to join the street team on this one. The enthusiasm and hype surrounding Truthwitch has been amazing. Now at the point where I have muted everything Truthwitch related from my twitter feed.

 

On finally getting to read it, it would appear I am a black sheep. I did not love this book. I didn't like it much at all really. I will certainly say it's very creative in its characters and world-building. However, the world building I found to be lacking in description and confusing as hell. I didn't get much of a sense of place or any sort of background or history. You're pretty much thrown into the setting and away we go. It's certainly vivid and colourful and definitely original. But, I just didn't connect to any of it.

 

Partly I think because I just could not stand the main character. For most of the novel Safiya drove me up the wall. Didn't like her much. I didn't get invested in the barely there romance much at all. Stepped up quite a bit at the end, but still didn't really work for me much at all. Starting this novel I was under the impression that Safiya's power - she can tell a truth from a lie in anyone - was pretty much the most sort out and desired type of witchery in the novel.

 

However, her power isn't as awesome as it seems. Very early on she looses all her and her friend's money in a card game. Which had eyebrows arching immediately - if your power is to discern who's telling the truth and not surely you should be able to know who's cheating in a card game? Apparently there are ways Safiya's powers can be fooled. (This point does actually come up at some point towards the end of the novel).

 

Certainly fast paced and full of action. I liked most of the supporting cast. Particularly the best friend Iseult. Who was pretty awesome. One thing I really did like was the two female protagonists, Iseult was not just regulated to a BFF side character. She had a huge roll to play in the story and the friendship between her and Safiya is one of the best things about the book. The rest of it... still just okay. 

 

The second half of the novel was a lot easier to follow once they were out of the city and onto a ship. The plot picked up quite a bit and started to make a lot more sense. Some fairly interesting character interaction. But once you get past the ship and onto the next destination, there's another plot twist thrown in involving some sort ancient prophecy and the role Safiya and Iseult are supposed to play. But again - there's no background or anything to explain this! It's tell and nothing to even give much history on this prophecy or anything. It's pretty much from those who know about it we've known about this forever and this is it, it's happening now. Very confusing. I'm assuming this is something to be explored in further books. 

 

 

Not entirely convinced it's a series I want to continue, really. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-12-07 11:28
Review: Riot of Storm and Smoke
Riot of Storm and Smoke - Jennifer Ellis... Riot of Storm and Smoke - Jennifer Ellision

I received a copy from Netgalley.

Will contain some mild spoilers for the first book. Spoilers will be hidden.

I remember very little about the plot of the first book, other than something to do with Elementals and a very similar plot to the Throne of Glass series but it held its own enough to keep my interest to want to continue this series and read the sequel.

Thankfully there's enough information worked into the narrative that it's fairly easy to pick up on what happened in the first to continue with the second book. I have a vague memory of two big death scenes in the first that pushed MC Bree into finally using her powers and something to do with a reveal of a lost princess plot.

(spoiler show)

The second novel picks up immediately where the first one left off. Bree and her friends are escaping from the mad Egrian king and discover an Underground group of rebels who help them flee the city and start preparing for a war againt the evil Egrin king.

The beginning of this book was a struggle to get through for me. All I could think of again - how similar the plot was to Throne of Glass (mad king, lost princess with a special power) Even Bree's attitude is not dissimilar to that of the brassiness and arrogance of Celaena Sardothian.

Though once past the 30% mark, I pretty much finished it in a few hours yesterday. The second half of the book was much better. While the plot is not the most original, the story telling is enough to make it its own, and the characters did become much more engaging as the plot advanced through Bree's struggles of maintaining her powers, her big secret identity and dealing with bandits and being hunted by the king. The king is in possession of a dangerous magical weapon with potentially devastating consequences as Bree and co race to escape and find passage to the Nereid kingdom across the sea.

Cadan, the prince has fallen foul of his father's wrath and has his own storyline beside the romance with Bree. There was actually very little romance involved until almost right at the end of the novel but by then there was so much other important stuff going on it wasn't the most important thing.

One thing this book definitely has going for it is the extremely unique use of Elementals and how their magic works. Its a huge part of the plot and quite engaging. There's some good character development, and some good world building. A lot of plot advancement.

While I didn't find much of an emotional attachment to any of these characters really, and in spite of the TOG similarities, it is a well written and enjoyable fantasy in its own way. I am looking forward to the final instalment to see how it all wraps up.

Thank you to Netgalley and Patchwork Press for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2015-11-16 11:45
Review: The White Rose
The White Rose - Amy Ewing

When I read The Jewel, it was one of the first long ranty reviews I wrote (see it here) I swore I had no interest in the sequel. But then morbid curiosity got me and I pre ordered it. As it turns out, I absolutely LOVED The White Rose. I was completely blown away. I read the first 31% or so in one sitting, then started the rest at the weekend and couldn't put it down until I finished. 

 

While it had a few silly moments, particularly the opening which made me roll my eyes as soon as

 

We learn that our heroine Violent has been given a special serum to make it look like she's dead so she can escape the palace and get out of the Jewel. Immediately I groan (did we learn nothing from Romeo and Juliet about forbidden love and serums that make you appear dead? did you not think about the numerous things that can go very very wrong with this plan?)

(spoiler show)

 

 

However, it turns out most of the book is about Violet and her posse escaping from the Jewel. This book had character development! Even Violet herself, who is still has special snowflake syndrome, was actually likeable in this book. She's willing to give up her chance at escape to help out her friend Raven. Raven has been treated terribly and her mind is not all there as a result, but Violet's love for her friend is really quite moving as they struggle to escape. With the help of love interest Ash who is now a wanted criminal, (a huge lie is spun by the Duchess of the Lake) Garnet and Lucien. 

 

We also learn backstories! Ash goes from being a one dimensional pretty boy with a terrible case of insta-love to someone who is actually likeable. It's impossible not to feel for him once you learn the truth about what the Royal companion boys really have to go through, its cringe worthy and very disturbing. But it gives him a whole new dimension to see how he's come through it. Even though I still don't buy the Ash/Violet romance, its kind of sweet to see him willing to do pretty much anything to help.

 

Lucien (who to me was a big Cinna from the Hunger Games rip off in the first book) really stands out and becomes his own character in this one, all similarities to Cinna seem to disappear and we learn some pretty surprising things about him as he leads Violent and her friends to a safety zone. He's got his own tragic back story, but once out of the Jewel, he's a much stronger character and has a twist of his own to add depth to the story. 

 

There's an underground revelation going on to overthrow the Royals. Mysterious people with silly code names pop up and aid the escape. Then when they get to the safe house, we get world building! Logical world building as Violet learns the truth about her Auguries powers and a hole host of new powers possessed by the surrogate girls. History as well! 

 

Violet still has special snowflake tenancies as she learns more about the magic in the powers she possess. But at least she's strong enough now not to take things lying down when people say mean things. She doesn't whine or cry about it. She is determined to fight back and help do something about the terrible injustice inflicted by the Royals. There's an incredibly moving scene towards the end of the novel where Raven's life is in grave danger and the sheer strength and love Violet shows is just as powerful as her new magic. 

 

The twist at the end was utterly predictable from about half way through. Even though it did have a few silly moments, this book was bloody brilliant compared to the first one! I never ever thought I would say this but - I NEED THE NEXT ONE NOW!!!!

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