Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

mask of shadows

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT

Year Published: 2017

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

In a nutshell, and not to seem too spoiler-y since this doesn’t come out until the fall, this book follows our main character, Sal, a gender-fluid assassin/thief that has a tragic past and is looking for revenge in the future. To do this, they enter a tournament to become the next member of the Left Hand, the Queen of the kingdom’s league of assassin’s and spies, in order to get close to the court’s nobles. Along the way, Sal encounters allies, enemies, and a possible love-interest with the daughter of a court member. It’s not all fun and games and revenge though, as Sal learns there is more at stake than they originally thought.

This book was not as great as I expected it to be, but it was good nonetheless. It takes quite a while for the story to take off, as our main character is a bit of mystery until about 1/4 of the way through the book. Not only that but the fantastical world this book takes place in felt like it was kind of thrown at the reader; there was a lot of info-dumping and many times I felt confused as to what was going on because I didn’t know the workings of the world I was in. Eventually, however, the story began to pick up pace as Sal became more of a rounded character, along with their love interest and the rest of the members of the Left Hand.

The stakes were high, and I appreciated the suspense in that. In the end, I did enjoy this book for its characters and the potential for some serious action in the next book. Again, it wasn’t a very solid YA fantasy, but I do think there is room to grow. As such, I look forward to the next book in the series, and I will definitely be recommending it as a book with (from what I can tell, being a non-gender fluid, heterosexual person) good representation of gender fluidity.

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Book Review: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

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Genre: Adult, High Fantasy

Year Published: 2011

My Rating: ★★★★☆

(Possible spoilers ahead, nothing major)

Let me start off by saying that George R.R. Martin cannot be trusted.

But of course, I think all of us that are familiar with him and his work already know that. A Dance with Dragons, however, made me distrust him more than any other book in the series so far. I am grateful for it, as it has kept me on the edge of my seat, but at the same time, I do not know whether or not my favorite character is dead right now and I have to wait until Winds of Winter is released, and gods knows when that’s going to happen.

Anyway, I read this book much faster than I did the 4 previous books, and for good reason. A Feast for Crows left me wanting more action, and for a good while Dragons did too. All the action came at the end of the book…but in the end I think Martin timed everything correctly.

Unfortunately I do wish he gave something in the beginning and middle of the novel to keep the reader moving along. I often found myself stuck and slow to move forward through chapters like those of Davos and Asha. Also, I felt like some of Dany’s chapters were a bit redundant. She lusted after Darrio, was unsure about what to do about the Sons of Harpy/everything in general, didn’t listen to Selmy, and denied and denied Hizdar until she couldn’t anymore. Martin’s dramatic closing with the Dany and the fighting pit seemed to be a long time coming, and at times I wished it had all moved a bit quicker. Personally I’m beginning to lose faith in her as a leader, but I suppose we’ll see where her story is taken in the future. The book, after all, left her future very unpredictable to the reader.

Tyrion’s story arc, on the other hand, was fantastic. I devoured his chapters, as he was constantly on the move and I had no idea what would come next for him. Also, I personally find his wits amusing, and when it was revealed who Young Griff was, I got so excited. Tyrion was finally getting into the game, and across the Narrow Sea, who knew what would happen next? I certainly loved Martin putting him and his wits in a different place; somewhere besides Kings Landing. I was never really nervous for him, as I knew he would always get out of trouble somehow, someway.

Towards the end of the book, the reader gets to see a little bit of what Arya, Cersei, and Jaime are up to. Martin is very secretive with what he is planning with Arya especially, and I just want to know more. Her time in the Halls of Black and White are mysterious and make me wonder where she will be headed next, and to be honest, I’m looking forward to find out what’s going to happen with her next more than anyone else.

As a last mention, I wish Martin didn’t make Jon Snow so straight-faced and sullen in this book. I, as a reader, felt like there needed to be a little bit more energy in his ruling of the Wall. Not necessarily happy, but at least a little bit less…dreary. He had a few sassy-Jon moments, which I did root for, and his last chapter made me angry, frustrated, and quite nervous for what’s to come for him.

On the whole, A Dance with Dragons was better than its predecessor, and certainly left me wanting more. There were a few things here and there I wish I could fix up, but that’s not up to me. The future is only up to our dear author, George R.R. Martin. And I have to say, I am equally nervous and excited for what’s to come.

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Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Year Published: 2015

My Rating:★★★★★

Brief Summary: The kingdom of Khorasan is ruled by it murderous 18-year-old caliph, Khalid. Every night, Khalid marries a daughter of the kingdom and by dawn she is dead. No one knows why Khalid does this. All the kingdom can think is that he must be a soulless madman. 16-year-old Shahrzad’s best friend becomes one of the boy-king’s wives, and falls as his next victim. Shahrzad, devastated by her death, volunteers herself to be his next wife and secretly plots to take revenge on her best friend. She bests the caliph and keeps herself alive by telling him stories every night, but soon, Shazi realizes Khalid may not be the monster that the kingdom seems to think he is. There is much more than meets the eye, and knowing the truth may not only destroy Khalid and Shahrzad, but the kingdom of Khorasan as well.

Writing: Ahdieh’s writing in this story was absolutely captivating. At no point in the story did I find the writing awkward, the transitions misplaced, or the descriptions over-bearing and dense. Khorasan was a real place in my mind; I could see the palace’s gardens being pelted with rain, I could smell the cardamom and spices rising from Shazi’s tea, and I could feel the layers of silk enveloping me as Despina ran her hands over which garment she would choose for Shahrzad to wear next.

Plot: The plot fell easily into place with Ahdieh’s gorgeous writing accompanying it. I could feel Shahrzad’s uneasiness as she began to realize what feelings she may truly have for Khalid. I somewhat saw this coming, but even so, I was glad that it happened. As she learns more about Khalid, so does the reader, so we begin to develop the same emotions that Shazi does as she begins to feel them. I had a feeling that something was not right with Khalid; that he wasn’t just what others saw of him outside the palace walls. Also, although this was based on One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, it still had its own unique qualities; enough to set it apart from the old classic. The inclusion of magic (and the danger of it) definitely gave it its own type of intrigue; something that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the whole book, and keeps me on the edge as I wait for the sequel to be released.

Characters: I loved every single character in this book. And when I mean love, I mean I love how deeply each of them were developed. Shahrzad was as sassy and headstrong as her friends describe her. Khalid was dark and mysteriously attractive. Ahdieh did a wonderful job of showing that the murderous boy king is nothing more than a man that is trying to find the ability to love after all the tragedy he has gone through. I especially enjoyed Despina and Jalal. They are the perfect side characters to Shahrzad and Khalid. Tariq was overbearing and Jahandar was definitely sketchy, but I believe they were purposely written that way, so they were done quite well also.

Overall: This was definitely one of the best books I’ve read this summer. At first I was disappointed that this was going to be a series, as there are hardly any stand-alones coming out these days. However, once I finished the book, I knew I wanted more. I’m so glad there’s going to be a sequel. The Rose and The Dagger can’t come any sooner!

(UPDATE: I read this book and wrote this review in 2015…it is now 2017, and I have read the sequel. Sadly I did not write a review for that one but I will say this: I did not like it. At all. Oops.)

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Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Year Published: 2013

My Rating:★★★☆☆

Brief Summary: Jacob’s grandfather, Abe, always used to show him pictures and speak of the peculiar children that he spent his youth with in hiding from the “monsters” of the war. Jacob stopped believing in his grandfather’s “fairytales” as he got older, but one day tragedy strikes and Jacob is suddenly being pulled back into Abe’s old stories, and this time they’re not just stories. An old island, an old house, an old bird, and some peculiar children await Jacob in his adventure to find out who caused this tragedy, and why he may be the only one who can help stop it from happening again.

(Warning: some brief spoilers) Ransom Riggs’ writing is fluid and very picturesque. He really knows how to create an image without any excess description. So much so that I can see the island of Cairnholm in my mind right now. This writing style was perfect for this book, as atmosphere was what draws the reader into the novel alongside the action and adventure that ensues throughout. The plot was unique and unlike anything I have ever read. It was evident that Riggs was often writing the story around some of the pictures he included. That bothered me a bit and made me wonder what the story would have been like without a few of those pictures, but I suppose that was the point; to write a story that connects to these old and mysterious photographs.

I was somewhat annoyed with Jacob at times, as he seemed a bit airheaded and was often so lost in his thoughts that he was a bit oblivious to what was going on around him. For example, it took him quite a while to realize he was in the past when he unintentionally entered the loop. Also, it took him a while to be certain that the other ornithologist his father encountered was, in fact, a wight. I wanted to shake him and tell him he was missing so much. Miss Peregrine fell a little flat for me, as she was serious at times but then acted silly other times. Emma was a bit strange; I felt as though she should have felt strange for liking Jacob, as she was technically much older than him and she had loved his grandfather before him. I did, however, enjoy learning about each of the children and their powers, personalities, etc. Overall they really made the novel more entertaining than just Jacob, Emma, Miss Peregrine, and Jacob’s parents would have.

Although this did not live up to the hype I was led on to believe in, this was still a very good book. It’s unique and the writing is fantastic.

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Book Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

heir of fire

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Year Published: 2014

My Rating:★★★★★

This book got me out of a reading slump, and it takes a LOT to get me out of a reading slump.

It was slow at first, especially since this book has more world building in it. I know it takes time to create that, but once I was used to all of the new characters and the new settings, I was immersed.

The one character I had a hard time immersing myself in was Manon, but I expect that’s because she is completely new and has her own story running alongside Celaena/Rowan and Chaol/Dorian. I began to appreciate her chapters more as the book went on, especially as we began to see that perhaps she is not like the other witches in her clan,and the promise of seeing her future internal fight with that possibility. I can’t wait to see what happens when she meets the other characters.

I also loved the dynamic that Celaena and Rowan built over the course of the book. At first, I did not really like Rowan because he seemed to disregard who Celaena was and the possibility that she has gone through multiple tragedies. However, as time went on their friendship began to grow, and Rowan began to open up to her more, and at that point I began to like Rowan. I love that their relationship is not romantic and that it is just a really strong friendship that has the potential to build with every moment and every battle that they fight through together.

Chaol’s character didn’t seem to build as much in this novel, as I felt that every moment of importance that happened with him in Heir of Fire was just a means of getting to what Aedion was doing. This, of course, is very important to the plot arc, but I didn’t see Chaol grow too much. He misses Celaena, and is trying to figure out what to about about Dorian, and all the while chasing after and working with Aedion (who takes up a lot of the interest in Chaol’s chapters). I feel as though this book was just him meeting one problem after another, but not personally growing in any way. I still love him as a character, but I am a bit anxious to see what his specific story will pan out to be once he sees Celaena again.

It was really great to begin to see the power that Dorian holds begin to unfold in this book, not to mention the beautiful but tragic relationship he had with Sorcha. The cliffhanger for his character fills me with anxiety, and I cannot wait to see what happens to him in the following books. I do feel as though he took finding out that he has magic a bit more calmly then most sons of evil kings who hate magic would have, but I think those moments were still okay because he had other things to worry about besides confronting the fact that he has magic AKA dealing with the uncontrollable magic within him. I can definitely see his story and his character getting darker as time goes on, especially with what happened to Sorscha and everything that his father has/will put him through.

Overall, the writing of this book was fantastic, as were the characters and the continuing development of this story and the world it is built in. If you’re intimidated to start this book because of its size, don’t be, because the story itself will carry you through it easily.

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Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

crown of midnight

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Year Published: 2013

My Rating:★★★★1/2

I thoroughly enjoyed the second book in this series! It was very refreshing to see the characters interact with one another outside the limits that the competition in the previous novel had. At times, I admit, it was a bit slow, but the last chapters really sped up the book for me and helped it end on a fantastic note.

There are some things to mention, despite the high amount of stars being given. At first, I felt as though Celaena and Chaol’s relationship was being forced so as to oppose anything she and Dorian previously had, and it kind of annoyed me to have a love triangle. But I, the naive reader, fell for it and now think that Chaol and Celaena are probably better off than if she were to be with Dorian. Also, *spoiler alert* I felt as though the death of that character…(you know who)…was not as impactful to me as it should have been. I wish I had seen more of their relationship, beyond what was going on with all the magic and mystery they were trying to solve in the castle. Also, I feel like the book dragged on for a bit. Then again, it might have just been me in my reading slump.

The cliffhanger itself was perfect to lead into the next novel. It left so much for wanting; wanting to know who Celaena really is and what it means for her, and now others, to know an important piece of her past. I was going to take a break from the series and read something else before continuing on with Heir of Fire, but after the ending of this one, I just had to keep reading on.

Overall, a great sequel to Throne of Glass.

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Book Review: The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

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Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Year Published: 2014

My Rating:★★★★1/2

Although The Assassin’s Blade isn’t necessary to reading the Throne of Glass series, I feel as though one would not completely know the kind of person Celaena is without reading it. It is essential if you want a rounder idea of who she is as a character and how her past has influenced her growth over time.

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the three short stories. Although, I do think that they did not need to be separated. It could have easily just been a prequel novel because the stories followed one another and connected with the past events of each story. Having to remind the reader what happened in the previous story is somewhat redundant, so I do think that format-wise, it didn’t have to be separated into three stories.

Out of the three, however, I enjoyed The Assassin and the Desert the most. I loved seeing Celaena be put in a place where she was part of a community. It was very refreshing as opposed to her often being alone in her thoughts and endeavors. Also, Sarah J. Maas’ writing in this story was especially great, as I enjoyed her expanding the world of Erilea and exploring the different regions it includes.

Although the ending did leave me emotional because of what happened to Sam, I still felt as though Sam was a bit flat as a character. The biggest things about him that we know are: (1) His mother was a courtesan and died, so that’s how he ended up in the guild, (2) he has been second to Celaena since they both joined the guild, and (3) he’s always been in love with Celaena. I can’t think of much else. I want to know how his love for Celaena grew. I know that would take longer to go through, but I think it would be great to know so that when they finally form a relationship, it feels stronger. That being said, I did enjoy him as a character and, to be honest, I think Celaena would have been better off with him than with Chaol or Dorian. But, fatal events obviously keep that from happening, and with those fatal events, we see Celaena herself fall into a trap and face another horror: Endovier.

I think everything leading up to Celaena’s arrest and the arrest itself was well done and really sets up where the series begins. It was definitely emotional, and I commend Sarah J. Maas for writing this beautiful addition to the Throne of Glass series.

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