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Search tags: flights-of-fantasy-2017
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review 2017-05-08 18:31
Review: Flame in the Mist
Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

I wound up with two review copies of this one. I first put in a Netgalley request which I figured was a long shot, and when I didn’t hear anything back in months, I used some of my Penguin First to Read points to secure a copy when it popped up on their read to review site. And then when I’m half way through the book my Netgalley request was approved. Oh well.

 

I don’t really know what to make of the novel in the end. I gave it a generous 3 stars, but it’s more like two and a half. While I can appreciate the journey of inner strength from the main character, Mariko, I didn’t actually like her all that much. I found the first 100 pages or so incredibly boring. The novel is beautifully written, the scenery is fantastic and the descriptions are vivid and lyrical. The fantasy setting in a Japanese world is fascinating. All marks of a fantasy I should love.

 

But personally, I just could not get into the plot. I found Mariko almost aloof, I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from her at all. I couldn’t connect with her character in a way that would make me as a reader care about what happened to her.

 

That being said, as the novel progressed, the plot did get better and Mariko did show some pretty impressive growth and strength. She’s definitely intelligent and determined, you have to give her that. On the way to her politically arranged marriage her carriage party is attacked by a notorious mercenary group the Black Clan. Mariko survives the attack and doesn’t cower in fear. She’s furious and decides she wants to know the reasons behind. Disguising herself as a boy, she follows the Black Clan and worms her way in.

 

Back in her home province, Mariko’s twin brother Kenshin, is convinced she survived the assassination attempt. Other plots include devious goings on between the Emperor and his Mistress who seems to have some hint at dark dangerous magic and her own political agenda. The Empress who seems quite passive but there’s more to her than meets the eye. The Emperor’s legitimate son (Mariko’s intended) and the illegitimate son with their own squabbles. And while all this is going on Mariko in the guise of a boy is uncovering the inner secrets of the Black Clan.

 

Of course there are lots of plot twists and everyone has secrets of their own. Mariko uncovers some shocking truths about the lands she came from and how her lord father runs them, and must decide where her true loyalties lie. There’s a romance agenda as well for Mariko when the truth about her identity is revealed. There are secrets within the Black Clan itself.

 

The plot did improve as the novel goes on and starts getting more into the twisty secrets, there’s a barest hint of some sort of magic involved, but very little of it is explained. Though it’s enough to make the reader want to know more (or it certainly worked that way for me). While Mariko was a difficult character to warm to, her journey throughout the novel is impressive, even with a kind of predictable romance, I want to know what happens next.

 

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

 

Thank you to Penguin First to Read.

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review 2017-05-03 19:52
Review: Witchtown
Witchtown - Cory Putman Oakes

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

An enjoyable YA fantasy with a rather unique take on witches. In this novel witches have been living among humans forever, Natural witches, witches born with power, and Learned witches, those who become witches with training. The secret came out and there was wide spread panic, leading to the US government creating “havens” for witches. Towns just for witches where they can feel safe and be with their own kind.  There’s also a darker more mysterious kind of witch known as a Void witch. Little is known other than they’re bad news.

 

Most havens aren’t the best places in the world to live, someone came up with the idea of making a town better than all the other havens, a multi billionaire with big government influence created a spectacular, wealthy haven called Witchtown.

 

The novel starts with teen Macie and her mother Aubra arriving in Witchtown to start a new life. Only Aubra and Macie have a secret – they’re con artists and thieves there on a specific mission – to rob Witchtown.

 

Aubra is the latest addition to my Worst YA Parent list. She’s obnoxious right from the get go, Macie is clearly struggling with something that happened in the last Haven they conned, something to do with a boy she really liked, but right off there’s an impression it ended badly and the mother was to blame. She flat out ignores Macie’s obvious objections to being where they are now and heads off on her plan. Aubra is a very powerful Natural witch, Macie has a secret about her own power and Aubra often holds this against her to manipulate things to her advantage. She really is a horrible piece of work, but can be very charming when greasing the wheels.

 

Macie was much more likeable. I don’t usually con artist main characters and definitely not characters who are thieves. Though there is something quite sympathetic about Macie, that as a reader I found myself actually liking her as a character. She was a bit stubborn and sulky, under the circumstances this is quite understandable. She could be a bit of a bitch herself, but as the novel progresses, Macie shows some pretty impressive character growth over what she feels is right and wrong.

 

Aubra’s determined to go ahead with her plan to rob the town, and gets to know the right people. Macie finds herself fitting in more than she ever has anywhere and as she gets to know some of the other teens in town, she learns not everyone is what they first seem. There’s much more to people, and as she starts getting to know people and make friends she begins to think of a life without her mother’s overbearing presence.

 

Through flashbacks we learn a little bit of Macie’s history, what happened the last time she had a potential friend, and why she’s so reluctant when the kids she meets in Wichtown want to get to know her.

 

It goes to Macie’s character growth. Over the novel as Macie learns more about Witchtown and the people and discovers her own inner strengths, she also learns some pretty shocking secrets about herself and her own levels of power. And some pretty terrible deceptions on her mother’s part as well.

 

It’s a fun easy read with some great world building, and decent, well fleshed out characters, twisty secrets and some good friendships built, though not without a little drama thrown in. There’s also a little hint of romance but not the main focus of Macie’s attention. Macie shows a tremendous amount of strength and self-worth as her story is told. Also, a really interesting and different take on YA witches, something I’ve not seen before.

 

I would definitely read something by this author again.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for approving my request to view the title.

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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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