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review 2016-06-24 00:38
I was just kinda meh...
Serpentine - Cindy Pon

I got through about 67% of this book and just kinda of lost interest. After dragging my feet finishing it, I decided to DNF. I loved the world created and it had a lot of potential, but I felt like it was not fully realized and that at points, things were just being thrown at us...demons, ghosts, zombies....whatever else could be thrown in. I also like the characters..in concept...but I felt like while I am told about them and they are explained to me...I did not really FEEL them. Like I just felt a bit disconnected from the characters. It started of fine...but as it slowly went along....it just felt like I was apart from them. And with stories, you want to feel like you are there with that character. You want to feel something...whether it is love, hate, anger, annoyance at them...you want to feel it. I did not. At least not how I normally do. The writing of each character had a type of "sameness" They were spots of brightness and individuality, but not enough to make me feel kinda meh about all of the action. Don't know if I make sense...but bottom line...the story and characters did not pull me in enough for me to care one way or the other. I didn't hate it, I didn't love it. It was ok. Nothing really stood out to me. So it lead to a blah reading experience for me. I know plenty of people who loved this book, and highly rec it..so it might be just me. Bad timing. Wrong time to read it. Who knows. Just didn't work for me. But if someone wants more strong female characters, LGBTQ stories, and stories about POC set in someplace other than some European backdrop, then this might be for them.

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url 2016-04-28 02:46
Spring Book Haul 2016

Even though I'm moving in a couple of months, I seem to have a penchant for buying books. I mean, my bookshelf is teeming with books that I still haven't read and WHAT DO I DO? I BUY EVEN MORE BOOKS. Ugh, I dread when I'll have to lug these sluggers with me to the Post Office for shipping. BUT ANYWAY LET'S BE CHEERFUL. LET'S LOOK AT THE AWESOMENESS I BOUGHT AND HAVE READ!



The Books That I've Read:

1. The Winner's Kiss - Marie Rutkoski

I LOVE the Winner's trilogy. The Winner's Crime was on my Best Books of 2015 list, The Winner's Curse was onmy Best Books of 2014 list. I nominated The Winner's Crime in the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards and probably have mentioned these books at multiple points, in multiple posts in this blog (5 Fantasy Authors I Fangirl Over,Preview of 2015 Books, Review: The Winner's Curse, TBR: Releases to Watch Out For, Review: The Winner's Crime, My Reading Profile, & more). It should thus come as no surprise to you that I pre-ordered The Winner's Kiss and spent the 29th reading that book. Also spent the weekend and week before trying to sneak peeks at the book through Amazon excerpt, which is an obsessive habit I have when I reaaaaaally want to read a book (until I shake and distract myself by doing something else).

 

Ahem, anyways. This book surprised me in a lot of ways, all of them good. I also understand why they changed the covers -- the girl in the ball gown no longer fits the horrific scenes of war. If the first book set the grounds for the differences between the two countries and the romance, establishing our link with Arin and Kestrel; and if the second book delved deeper into strategy, games, political intrigue, alliances and quiet rebellion amid heartbreaking loss; then the third book was about all of that coming to head. War. Violence. The consequences of the politics between these three major countries. The differences in beliefs and how they've shaped our characters' attitudes and hopes but how there's still common ground to be had. The power of love and stories, forgiveness and new life amid an onslaught of death. As always, lots of character development, beautiful writing, romance, political intrigue, strategy, intriguing world-building, and more. Yes to these books.


The second book reminded me a little of Bitterblue (by Kristin Cashore). This book reminded me a little of the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner and the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers. Right now, I can't think of a good comp title for the first book, but I think that if you like any of the aforementioned books, you should definitely try The Winner's trilogy.

2. Summers at Castle Auburn - Sharon Shinn

Sharon Shinn is mentioned by a lot of fantasy authors, it seems. So I wanted to try one of her books, and Summers at Castle Auburn is the one that was recommended. If you read my Learning from Books as a Reader (Changing Reader Tastes) post, you know that I'm not a huge fan of books that begin with the main character as a child. Summers at Castle Auburn does that. But it also does something which I am a HUGE fan of -- twining the romance in with the main plot very heavily, and also making the main character's coming-of-age twined in with her realization that her initial crush sucks and that the real romantic interest is the one she loves. If you watched my booktube video, you saw how many dogeared pages there was. That's because when the romance is that way, I bookmark basically every page there's even the slightest encounter between the main character and the romantic interest. It makes no sense, but I love it, and I read Summers at Castle Auburn the day before I was presenting a poster at a research conference, and clearly I should've gotten sleep. Instead I read. And had a book hangover. *Sigh*

3. Serpentine - Cindy Pon

I read Serpentine a while ago. I reviewed Serpentine, nominated Serpentine in the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards, and included Serpentine in my Best Books of 2015 list as well as my Cinderella Book tag. I ordered Serpentine when I pre-ordered The Winner's Kiss, so the book didn't arrive until just now, but I'm happy to finally have my own shiny copy... and y'all should read the book too! Highly recommended from me (just check out any of those links!).

4. The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh

Like with Serpentine, The Wrath and the Dawn I had already read. I just wanted to own a copy. Persian culture is slightly different from Middle Eastern culture, I think, but as someone with Middle Eastern heritage, I can say that Renee Ahdieh capture the essence of Arab culture pretty well.

The Books That I Have Yet to Read:

5. A Fierce and Subtle Poison - Samantha Mabry

A Fierce and Subtle Poison was on my 2016 YA Debuts I Want to Read list. As I mentioned in my Best Books of 2015 list, I want to read more Young Adult Magical Realism novels-- so much so that I made a list of my current YA Magical Realism recommendations. When I was in the Strand, I read the first couple of chapters of A Fierce and Subtle Poison and really loved both the writing and the setting of Puerto Rico (though I think that I still needed to attach the main character). The book has been blurbed by both Nova Ren Suma and Laura Ruby, and I love their books too, so I'm looking forward to finishing this one later!

6. Feed - M.T. Anderson

Ameriie at Books Beauty Ameriie recommended Feed to me a while ago, particularly the audiobook. But my library doesn't have the audiobook, and when I saw that Feed was at the Strand for only a few dollars and that Feed was "out of print," I bought it anyways. When I'm in a more science fiction mood, I'll read this one. I'm pretty sure it's considered a classic of YA literature too.

7. The Riddle-Master trilogy - Patricia A. McKillip

The Riddle-Master trilogy has one of my favorite opening chapters ever. If you read my Learning from Books as a Reader (Changing Reader Tastes) post, you know that I was pretty entranced with this book. The first chapter introduces us to the main character, who is a land-owner. Traders are coming, so he tells his brother and sister to go about their duties. There are also childhood friends and others who are in the crowd when they find out about the traders. So, you get a clear sense of the immediate duties and setting for the MC's family and life (as well as a sense of the personalities of each of these side characters as they interact with each other). Then, you learn that the MC's parents disappeared a while ago, and that the siblings have all grieved in their own way, and his way was to go off on an adventure, solve a riddle, and a win a crown from a ghost. This backstory is revealed in a convincing way -- whereby we see his family recognizing that he's acting weird, and they confront him, and so we see what normal family dynamics are like, as well as when one of them is acting strangely. We get a sense of the main character's personality through his interactions with his family, his daily duties, and his backstory, and we get a sense of what the central conflict will be, since winning this crown clearly has consequences and implications that the main characters doesn't know yet. It's awesome. I felt like my brain got bigger reading that beginning, and so I immediately bought the entire trilogy. Can't wait to read the books!

SO, those were the books I bought this past spring. What are you planning on reading soon? What have you bought recently? Have you read any of these books? Let's discuss!
 
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url 2016-01-05 02:35
Best Books I Read in 2015

Today I thought that I'd share my favorite reads from 2015. I've been posting these on a Goodreads shelf all year long, but some of them are books I'd also marked as favorites in 2014: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski, and The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon. Those I read in 2014, though they were officially published in 2015 -- would still recommend reading those! Last year I only made a video as a means of recommending books to people who didn't like YA much, but this year I wanted to make a full list!

 

*note: not all were published in 2015!

Great contemporary reads --

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn, and Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Written in the Stars is a heartfelt exploration of an arranged marriage in Pakistan, written simply to maximize its impact and our identification with the main character on her horrific journey. Dumplin' is a romantic coming-of-age about a fat girl who competes in a beauty pageant to regain her confidence and self-love. About a girl trying to break into a men-only secret society, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is another great read from E. Lockhart. And what happens when you take three self-destructive, morally grey people and force them to interact with each other? A high stakes psychological thriller from Stephanie Kuehn, potentially her best work yet in Delicate Monsters. Black Iris is Leah Raeder's heart book, sexy, romantic suspense layered with questions about gender identity and sexuality. All are wonderful explorations of growing up in a patriarchal world.

You can read my reviews of: Black Iris, Delicate Monsters, and Dumplin'. I nominated Dumplin' and Delicate Monsters in theEpic Reads Book Shimmy Awards, and encouraged others to be excited for the release of Dumplin'.

Magical realism that takes risks in its narrative --

Chime by Franny Billingsley, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, and The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

YA magical realism is a wonderful expanding genre that's pushing the boundaries of the typical YA narrative. All three of these stories are told in their own cyclical, winding ways, and all three have absolutely gorgeous writing. Chime tells the story of a girl regaining her confidence as she discovers the truth; Bone Gap tells a story about perception and beauty; and The Accident Season tells the story of a family broken by a tragic past. Highly recommended, and can't wait for more magical realism to crop up.

I discussed Bone Gap and The Accident Season here. I nominated Bone Gap in the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards.

Female-led historical journeys --

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, and Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Elizabeth Wein is a reigning queen of YA historical fiction, and Rose Under Fire was a gorgeous tale of female friendship tested under terrible circumstances. Walk on Earth a Stranger is about a girl with a fantastical ability to discover gold on an Oregon Trail-like, self-discovery journey to California, and it's as fantastic as that sounds.Daughter of the Forest is loosely based on the legend of the Children of Lir and "The Six Swans," a fairy tale told by the Grimms and many more. It's gorgeous and I absolutely adore the commingling of tender romance, Celtic atmosphere, and fantastical curses.

You can read my review of Walk on Earth a Stranger. Because of my love for Daughter of the Forest, I wrote a recommendation list of adult fiction for YA readers. I nominated Walk on Earth a Stranger in theEpic Reads Book Shimmy Awards, and encouraged others to be excited for its release.

Er, the only Urban Fantasy recommendation I have is Burned by Karen Marie Moning. A few years ago, I got caught up in adult urban fantasy, which is often sexy and led by kickass heroines. At this point, I'm not reading much adult UF (though feel free to recommend me some books!); only the Fever series remains on my tbr list.

Fantasy! Fantasy! Fantasy!

The Golden Specific by S.E. Grove, Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge, Serpentine by Cindy Pon, Eon by Alison Goodman, Poison Study by Maria Snyder, and A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

Goodness, where to start? The Golden Specific is a part of the MG trilogy I said was most inventive MG fantasy I've read since Harry Potter. Shadow Scale is the much anticipated sequel to Seraphina, and is, like its predecessor, a wonderfully written masterpiece. Crown Duel is the most fun I've had with fantasy in a while. As Small Review said: "It's like a fantasy Pride and Prejudice with an imperfect main character who grows throughout the book, a swoony slow burn hate-turned-love romance, and lots and lots of political intrigue." Uprooted has a side plot of slow burning hate-to-love romance, a determined, spirited heroine who learns to wield magic with skill, plenty of plot twists and an absolutely wonderful main female friendship. Plus, of course, a creative fairy tale world, with a cinematically creepy evil Wood. Crimson Bound is very much of the same ilk as Uprooted; enjoyed one, and well, you should read the other. At its core, Serpentine features a wonderful main female friendship which runs well alongside a sweet romance, lush setting inspired by Chinese folklore, and an innately discussable premise about a girl with a power that makes her feel Other. Eon is an epic fantasy inspired by Japanese and Chinese mythology, full of daring adventure and heartbreaking action and romance, and layered with questions on gender identity. I'd definitely recommend Poison Study to fans of Throne of Glass; Poison Study is about the food taster to the Commander of a military regime, and the political intrigue, magic, and romance she unexpectedly finds. A Thousand Nights is a loose epic fantasy retelling of 1001 Nights, and features a heroine who defies the odds in not only surviving the threat of murder from her husband but also in becoming a stronger leader and a goddess in her own right. ALL FANTASTIC FANTASY READS!

You can read my reviews of: A Thousand Nights, Eon, Serpentine, Crimson Bound, Uprooted, Shadow Scale, and the Mapmakers trilogy. I discussed Crown Duel and Poison Study here. I nominated Serpentine and A Thousand Nights in theEpic Reads Book Shimmy Awards.

Science Fiction for your Star Wars craving --

Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci

I'm thinking that the success of Star Wars is going to led to an upswing in YA science fiction. In the meantime, however, perhaps you'd like to satiate a craving for YA sci fi with Cecil Castellucci's space epic. In the Tin Star duology, our scavenger-esque, survivor oriented heroine must fend for herself while navigating intergalatic politics and a sweet, cross-species romance, and answer for crimes she did not commit.

You can read my review of Stone in the Sky here.

Nonfiction for the rainy days --

Six Myths of Our Time by Marina Warner, The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction by James A. Millward, and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming is an absolutely amazing memoir. I usually say that I don't read things written in verse, but man am I glad that I broke that "rule" for BGD! HIGHLY recommended for everyone. Jacqueline Woodson can evoke beautiful imagery in such few words. I related to her experiences despite having a very different identity. Can't wait to read more from her. As for the other two books, if you're interested in cultural myths or the Silk Road, you'll be as pleased as I was in reading them.

Writing out this list made me realize what sort of books I'm looking to read for 2016 and beyond, and the kind of books that I specifically enjoy. Almost all my favorite contemporaries are diverse books; I no longer am interested in reading books from the perspective of a white, cisgendered, heterosexual, able-bodied, neurotypical, rich teenager unless, like Frankie Landau-Banks, they have something very different to offer. I also don't read a lot of science fiction or historical fiction, it seems, but I'm looking to change that, particularly since historical fiction seems really focused on its leading ladies and the friendships that change their lives. YA Magical realism is my go-to for stories that break the mold, and I'd love to see more books published in that genre. Fantasy? Man, there's a reason fantasy is my favorite genre. Fantasy books that give me romance ship feelings (Crown Duel, Poison Study), or are fairy tale retellings with atmosphere (Uprooted, Crimson Bound), or are layered, literary stories I can slowly unpeel (A Thousand Nights, The Golden Specific, Shadow Scale), or are coming-of-age stories with complex and diverse world-building (Eon, Serpentine) -- yes. These are my kind of books. If any of that fits your reading tastes, you may be interested in reading some of the recommendations above.

What were the favorite books that you read in 2015? Do we share any? Have you read any of the books I listed? Let's discuss!
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review 2015-12-21 02:47
Serpentine by Cindy Pon
Serpentine - Cindy Pon

Oh my gosh, where do I start with this review? Serpentine by Cindy Pon was a book that reminded me of reasons why I fell in love with reading to begin with!

Author Cindy Pon’s writing completely and utterly drew me into a world filled with magic and Chinese mythology. Honestly, there wasn’t anything that I didn’t love about it. The characters all had personalities of their own that readers will love and hate, and the storyline is one that I just could not get enough of! And the action! Battles between monks and demons? Say whaaaaat? The slice of a sword, the swipe of claws, the screams of pain and the sounds of death…ugh! This book was just…perfection!

Imagine being a girl who, on her sixteenth year, learns that she is not exactly who (or what) she thought she was! That the life that she came to accept was nothing compared to the destiny that she was born to become.

All her life, Skybright has always been the handmaid to Zhen Liu, the daughter of a very wealthy and prominent family. Where, through the years, the two become as close as sisters. But when the time comes when Zhen Liu must take a husband, secrets unfold, not only for Zhen Liu, but for Skybright herself.

Unaware of who her parents were, Skybright has only known the life of being a handmaiden. But suddenly her world is turned upside down when she awakens to find herself with a tale of a serpent with her own upper body. Where rather than walking around, she is slithering along the ground and is able to smell and feel her surroundings in a completely different way.

The way in which the author describes her transformations was done on point. I could totally picture Skybright transforming from human to serpentine right before my eyes. I could imagine the pain and fear that goes through Skybright’s head. Her fear of being found out turned into my fear as well! Not only the fear of being found out by her household, but also by being found out by the man that she has feelings for.

The question of who to trust is constantly thrown in the picture which had me reading faster and faster to see which way the story would go. With Skybright finding out her lineage, to witnessing such a beautiful friendship, and watching Skybright’s acceptance of her destiny, Serpentine by Cindy Pon is a book that should be on everyone’s list of must reads. For some, the beginning may have been a slow start as the heart of the matter starts to unfold, but for me it was perfection! I was able to absorb myself slowly and more in-depth with the turn of each page.

This book is at the top of my MUST READ list. It’s amazing! You definitely need to check it out because OMG! If this book could be turned into a movie as exactly how it played out in my mind, that would be topping on the cake. Fans of fantasy and mythology will devour Serpentine by Cindy Pon. Read this book. Now. Run. Slither away and get a copy ASAP!

Source: www.chapter-by-chapter.com/blog-tour-serpentine-by-cindy-pon-interview-review-and-giveaway
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-12-19 16:24
Serpentine - Cindy Pon

Spoiler Rating: Low-ish

Best Lizzy,

I've been in a state of anticipatory fidgets since I heard about Serpentine several months ago.  Cindy Pon's previous books didn't impress me, but Serpentine promised four of my favorite things:

  1. A non-Western setting,
  2. A focus on friendship over romance,
  3. A serpent shapeshifter (!!!),
  4. Lesbians falling in love.


Fidgets were obviously called for.

 

Unfortunately, the novel wasn't as well executed as I'd hoped—I'd give it about two stars for style and several aggravating bits—but I'll be honest: those four wonderful things were wonderful, and worth at least four stars on their own. Averaging that out to three stars seems fair.

But I'm obsessed with mythical snake-ish figures of all types; I probably would've docked half a star if Skybright had turned out to be yet another wolf- or feline-shifter. I'm definitely biased, and Serpentine played right into those biases.

 

I think this is the first time I've felt so much affection (and so little annoyance) for a book that ultimately disappointed me. Weird.

 

A lush portrayal of life in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology, this sweeping fantasy tells the coming of age of a girl who worries about the startling changes in her body. Sixteen-year-old Skybright, a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a wealthy family, experiences a growing otherness so troubling, she will risk everything to conceal her dark secret from everyone, including the boy she's falling in love with.

 

  

 Friendship

 

The relationship between Skybright and her mistress/best friend Zhen Ni is complicated: they were raised together, and Skybright is bound to Zhen Ni for life (unless Zhen Ni inexplicably decides to free her of her lowly handmaid status). Skybright's secure in the knowledge that even when Zhen Ni marries, she'll still hold that Best Friend slot in Zhen Ni's heart because a husband is just some dude your parents decide you'll marry.

 

But Skybright wasn't counting on Zhen Ni falling in love with a girl. When family guest Lan arrives (with her pretty face and marvelous laugh), Skybright realizes that maybe Zhen Ni can have a companion who's both best friend and lover. The result: Skybright feels totally betrayed.

 

Skybright's doing some betraying of her own, keeping her newfound serpent-shifting abilities secret from Zhen Ni.

 

What follows are delicious friendship complications, with all three girls struggling within their complex and seemingly doomed relationships:

 

 

Even greater: it's Skybright's friendship with Zhen Ni that pushes a lot of the plot forward, not Skybright's romance with boy-who-lives-in-the-nearby-monastery-but-isn't-actually-a-monk Kai Sen. In this way the story's reminiscent of Sanctum; but unlike Sanctum, we can relish in the friendship because the girls spend much of the book together.

 

Lesbian Romance

 

So I kind of lied: romance pushes the plot forward as much as friendship does—but it's the secondary characters' lesbian romance that does the pushing, and only because it affects Zhen Ni and Skybright's friendship. This would've been a very different book if it had been missing either the friendship element or the lesbian-secondary-romance element.

 

Because it's a secondary romance, it's not portrayed in detail. We watch it develop through Skybright's (jealous, confused, betrayed) viewpoint, and she doesn't exactly idle her time away taking notes on lesbian courtship rituals. She has other problems to deal with. Demon problems. (Demon problems that aren't referenced in the book's synopsis, for some reason.)

 

The book struck a pretty good balance between friendship/lesbian-romance problems and demon problems. Two thumbs up.

 

Skybright and Zhen Ni

 

I'm kind of in love with how flawed by Skybright and Zhen Ni are. Zhen Ni loves deeply, but she's also a selfish brat:

 

 

Skybright has good intentions, but also shows cowardice and jealousy:

 

 

They both make dumb decisions over the course of the story, but their decisions are the natural and understandable products of their character flaws.

 

It is so damn refreshing not to complain about characters doing uncharacteristically dumb things for the sake of plot.

 

Guys, It Has a Theme

 

There's a fantastic theme that's reflected in multiple characters throughout the book, and that theme is responsibility. More specifically, that undesirable responsibility you'd do anything to avoid, but can't; you have to accept it for the greater good of the people around you. Or, as Zhen Ni's mother so eloquently puts it (after whipping Skybright and Zhen Ni):

 

 

We see several characters struggle beneath the weight of responsibilities that require them to act against their own desires. Seeing a theme at work in multiple characters like this makes for pretty satisfying reading. (Hey, authors. Do this more often.)

 

That said, Skybright herself doesn't reflect this theme very well; the sacrifices she makes aren't out of responsibility to the greater good. Mark this down as something that should be in my list of disappointments. Can't win them all, I guess.

 

 

The Writing Style

 

Serpentine generally tries to craft a vivid scene for the reader, providing details of architecture, clothing, plants, and food:

 

 

But the writing style is very simple, relying on regular ol' standard phrases to describe things. The day was hot, the fish darted, the wooden railing was carved. This made the descriptions more bland than evocative.

 

Interesting descriptions use the element of surprise and newness, presenting the reader with a word or phrase that they've never seen in connection to the thing being described. (For example: I was delighted to read the noise of a turning toilet paper roll described as "its staccato" in Lolita. That was such a perfect, unexpected description.)

 

Serpentine sometimes attempts interesting descriptions, but not often:

 

 

Scars that resemble an animal's stripes are neat, but that neat image is preceded by a slew of dull ones: a growling stomach, ginger steps, opening a window, time described as a few hours past dawn instead of whatever she sees out the window, slowly dressing, brushing her hair, winding her hair into braids, scabs that reveal (pale) new skin.

 

The writing style also relies heavily on telling instead of showing the reader what's going on inside Skybright's head. Here's an example from very early on, when Skybright's about to have her fortune read by a Madame Lo:

 

 

I like "the damp of her palms," but the rest of that paragraph is kind of a slog. Just so much explanation. The result is a flat, blah writing style that was difficult to get into.

 

It also prevented me from bonding with the characters. Yeah, I liked Skybright and Zhen Ni's personal flaws, but they were ultimately pretty bland. A more vivid or interesting writing style (along with more character development) could've perked them right up.

 

Weirdly, the writing style took an abrupt downward turn as the antagonist appears in the climax. I won't describe the scene for you because spoilers, but let's just say that I read the page three times and still don't have a good mental image of what happened. Also, the antagonist arrived with the dumbest Villainous Monologue two-liner ever. It is so bad.

 

The Romance

 

Kai Sen is Skybright's love interest, and she first lays eyes on him when peeking over the monastery's high walls to see what monks do all day:

 

 

She later learns he was raised by the monastery's abbot after his parents abandoned him:

 

 

Kai Sen's your standard romance guy, with a good laugh and a nice body and not much personality. I shouldn't have been surprised when they wound up falling in love after spending a grand total of, oh, maybe five hours in each other's company.

 

I could buy them experiencing physical attraction, giddy fantasies of what their relationship could become, and the first eager steps toward love—but not True Love itself.

 

For a book that otherwise took such a pragmatic and honest approach to love as experienced in its fictional society (you don't marry for love; affection might develop after a decade or so with your spouse, if you're fortunate), Skybright and Kai Sen's romance felt fake and melodramatic.

 

Kai Sen as the Abbot's Heir

 

I'm assuming the author chose not to make Kai Sen a monk so he and Skybright can (a) have sex, and (b) enjoy the glimmering potential of a committed relationship down the road. As a monk, Kai Sen would've been bound to his monastery and vow of celibacy.

 

That's fine, except we later learn that the abbot intended Kai Sen to become his heir. Heir to the monastery. As in, the next abbot.

 

To remind you: the abbot explicitly refused to raise Kai Sen to be a monk. The monks Kai Sen grew up with know he's incapable of becoming one of them because the abbot won't accept him as one.

 

So how on earth could not-a-monk Kai Sen become the next abbot? I have no idea.

 

And there's no real (read: plot-related) reason for Kai Sen to be the abbot's heir in the first place. Okay, yes, it plays a teeny-tiny role in the climax, but the same result could've been achieved through other, more logical means.

 

It's just so confusing and unnecessary and illogical and aaaaugh.

 

The Misleading Synopsis

 

Finally, a minor complaint about the synopsis. I can't help but wonder if the person who wrote it even bothered to read the book, because (1) Serpentine is not a "sweeping fantasy," (2) it does not offer "[a] lush portrayal of life in the ancient Kingdom of Xia," and (3) the synopsis doesn't even reference the major exciting conflict of the story (which, as I mentioned earlier, involves demon problems).

 

I don't mind its failure to reference the demon problems so much, but my reading experience did suffer from my belief that Serpentine was going to be a "sweeping fantasy" providing a "lush portrayal of life" in this kingdom. Those phrases had me expecting a much richer display of worldbuilding than actually awaited me. Serpentine focuses very tightly on Skybright and her relationships with Zhen Ni and Kai Sen, and we don't see much of the kingdom/society outside of Zhen Ni's quiet manor and the forest around Kai Sen's monastery.

 

I frown on synopses that get my hopes up for something the book doesn't provide, and this synopsis earns a full-on glower.

 

 

Something else that should've gone into the Reasons For My Affection section is the tone of the book's ending. It's not a cliffhanger, but neither is it a happily-ever-after. Skybright's left with a clear goal (and a strong motivation to pursue that goal) for the sequel, and we're left with the feeling that her story's just begun.

 

And yes, I will snatch up book two the moment it's released. I need more of what Serpentine offered, asap.

 

Missing you,

 

Liam

Source: heyashers.com/2015/12/19/serpentine
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