Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart? 

The Review:

This is a book, I picked up on a whim, mainly because I have heard good things about this series and also with the release of Counting Darkness, which is said to be a spin off of that series.

What intrigued me about the premise is the fact that it deals with assassins, and a convent that deals with them. It starts with Ismae who escaped an arraigned marriage and seeks refuge. The convent gave me a lot of Red Sister vibes to it, I just wish I had seen more of the convent.

The main plot of the story is when Ismae goes to the high court of Brittany, and deals with the political intrigue that is going on, especially when dealing with Gavriel Duval, who is very mysterious.

I thought the book would have  a lot more assassinations, but the political intrigue was enough to keep me interested with a sinister plot. The main plot of the book also deals with the romance between Duval and Ismae, and yes it did start off as the enemies turned lovers, but their relationship was good enough to keep me interested.

A problem I had with the book, was the pacing. It did suffer from a kinda of boring middle part of the book, which nothing much was happening, but when the twist happened , is where the book started to pick up again.

I also liked the world building. It is a historical fiction dealing with a war between Britain and France, and it didn’t feel like info dump.

In the end, I enjoyed reading Grave Mercy. The political intrigue was enough to keep me interested, and also the romance between Ismea and Duval was interesting as well, even if the book had pacing issues. I do want to read the other books of the series.

Grade: 3.8/5

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Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

Summary:

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

Review:

I was very excited to find out that after the Illuminae files that Kay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman was going to write another series, because if you have read my blog, you know that I love the Illuminae files and its one of the few series that received 5 stars for each of the books.

Aurora Rising, isn’t however written in the multi media format that the Illuminae files was written in but in the standard format with POV chapters for the characters. I like that each of the characters has their own personalities and charter arcs within those chapters and what makes it really good, is the fact that you get to see the different perspectives of what is going on in the story. It really reminded me of Mass Effect in a sort of way.

What also made the story great, was that it was about a crew of misfits who no one would really want on their crew, especially the main character of Ty, who is in the top of his class at the academy and is now dealing with the rejects because he was late for the ceremony and now has to deal with the last picks of the cadets.

The main plot of the story is dealing with a young girl named Aurora who wakes up and is found by Ty. Aurora is a girl out of time who was suppose to be in a sort of hyper sleep and is now waken up to a time not her own. There is a lot of mystery to unpack in the novel, and the story takes a lot of twists and turns.

My only issue with the book, was sort of the pacing. While the beginning and the end was very well done, the middle section of the book It is not as action packed as the Illuminae files but it still kept up with my attention.

In the end, I enjoyed Aurora Rising, while it did have some issues with pacing, it was the characters that kept my attention. I am very excited to see another Jay and Amie Sci Fi series.

Grade: 4/5

Sky Without Stars by: Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

Summary:

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spying on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a traitor. Groomed to command by his legendary grandfather, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when he discovers a cryptic message that only one person, a girl named Alouette, can read.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have roles to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables.

The Review:

When I heard the terms “Les Mis in Space” I of course had to get this book, because I always love a good retelling especially one set in space. While it did have a Les Mis feel to it did tell its own story.

The book is told through three different POVs. First there is Chatine, a thief who hustles her way out of everything  especially when trying to survive as a young orphan girl. Her storyline involves disguising herself as a boy and is set to spy on Marcellus, for his grandfather.

Marcellus, has the reputation of being the son of a “traitor” and dealing with the aftermath of what his father did . As the book goes on he starts to learn more about what his father did. Throughout the book Marcellus is contently at odds with dealing with what his father did in the name of the revolution and also dealing with his grandfather.

Then there is Alouette, who spends most of her life as a refugee living in the underground being raised by sisters. A majority of her story line is discovering the world outside of her being a refugee because most of the what she knows is through books

The main story kicks off with the murder of the Premier Enfant, the the people trying to find out who murdered her. A major strength about the story is how it is full of political intrigue, and the while the beginning of the story is very slow, mainly because it focuses a lot on fleshing out the characters and the world it is set in.

Each of the POVs has their very own fleshed out stories to them. My favorite POVs is the relationship between Chatine and Marcellus. It does come across as a sort of enemies to lovers or more like undercover and then falling in love trope. But I did find myself rooting for them.

There is also Marcellus’s grandfather, who I always pictured as Tywinn Lannister from Game of Thrones mainly as a leader who finds himself engaged with power, but he always sort of have a gentlemen quality to him, trying to mold his grandson into something like him.

The book also has discussions about class issue, with the planet being divided into classes in which the rich lives extravagant lives, while the poor suffer. Like Les Mis it talks a lot about the theme of revolution and part of me was almost singing the soundtrack as I was reading the book.

In the end, Sky Without Stars, was a great read. It was a mostly character driven story. While it did have some pacing problems especially towards the beginning, I do find myself wanting to know what happens next.

Grade: 4.5/5

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.

An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.

The Review:

Last year at BookCon, there was a secret arc drop hosted by Penguin Teen, and it was there that the secret arc  was of course, Four Dead Queens. I unfortunately was a little late for the arc drop or the 2018 Hunger Games as it was called, but after finding out about the book, it became one of my most anticipated of 2019

This book is a sort of futuristic fantasy world, in which the world is divided by quadrants and each has their own ruling queen. There is Archia, which is agriculturally based, and values nature. Eonia, which is technology based. Toria which is coastal and values commerce, curiosity and expropriation and Ludia, which values music, art and entertainment.

I like that each of the quadrants has there own set of values and beliefs, which makes them very distinct from one another, and even learning how with different belief systems there could be clashes with one another. A major strength was the changing POV from the queens and learning more about the world from their perspective. Seeing their POV chapters helped flesh out the queens a lot more, and they didn’t feel like just a plot device.

Each of the Queen POV chapter was perfectly paced, and it kinda left me wanting more. I kinda want a series of books, from just the Queen’s perceptive and learning more about their courts . Also with the Queen’s POV chapters also gets glimpses of the Queens’ relationships with one another.

The main POV is Keralie, who is a thief and liar. She spent most of her life, thieving her way through the Quadrants. She has  a very clever narration, especially since her chapters are told through first person, so you get to see her wittiness and her snark, which made it a very clever read. There is also Varin, a citizen from Eonia, who she stole from.

I loved the relationship between them. Mainly a lot of there back and forth, while trying to survive. The murder mystery aspect of the book really kept me guessing. In each of the Queen POV chapters there was almost a time where I think I knew what was going, and there would be a twist that took me by surprise, and the author did a good job at setting it up.

Even though I know that it is a stand alone, I really wish to see more of this world. I though Four Dead Queens was a great debut novel, which mixed fantasy and mystery very well. It had great characters with a plot that never slowed down.

Grade: 5/5

The Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Summary:

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.

The Review:

This is a book that I heard so many good things about. Just to let you know that there is a really graphic rape scene in the book for trigger warning.

It is set in world in which some women are seen as concubines to the demon king, and eight girls are chosen to do so. Lei, a member of the paper caste is one of the eight chosen. She is also dealing with some trauma at the start of the book. For one being in a the paper caste which is one of the lowest caste also when she was young her mother was taken by royal guards.

Once the demon king takes the young girls they are sent to live in the palace for a year and having a “sort of” life of luxury, and their role is the serve the demon king and do anything he asks them. A lot of the young girls was very well developed. My favorites were Wren and Zelle.

A lot of the first half of the book is introducing Lei, to the world of the palace, and also meeting the other girls who serve the demon king as well as learning a lot of the rules of the courts.

What I loved about the story is that very rich world building. It is an own voices Asian inspired fantasy, which gave a good amount of back story without feeling like info dumping. The caste system I thought added a lot more weight into the world especially when seeing a lot of the higher castes mainly the Steele caste who are half human and half demon  and the Moon caste which is entirely of demons.

The romance was another highlight of the book. While it does deal with a forbidden f/f romance I like the fact that there are stakes involved with the romance and how Lei begins to bond with her and fall in love. Knowing that there are future books I want to see how the romance flourishes. It shows that a romance can be so well developed and you want to root for the happy couple.

One of the main themes of the book, is the theme of trauma and how it affects people. Especially with the issue of sexual assault and male “ownership” of a woman’s body. It also draws on themes of trauma and PTSD, and trying to survive in a dark and messed up world, and having someone you love helping you against the world.

In the end, Girls of Paper and Fire, was a fantastic debut fantasy novel. It introduces you to lust fantasy world, with great characters and a loving romance. It should be a start to a great series.

Grade: 5/5

 

 

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Summary:

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

The Review:

This is another book that I read outside of my usual genre reads, which is more of a YA Contemporary mystery novel centered around a young girl trying to find out what happened to her sister.

The main format of the book, follows both Sadie’s story with trying to figure out the murder of her sister. There is also a podcast that is following Sadie’s story as well as the murder of her sister Mattie which happened years ago.

The main strength of the book was the relationship between Sadie and her sister Mattie. Growing up Sadie was always very protective of her sister Mattie, especially when dealing with their alcoholic mother who never really cared about them, even after Mattie’s death their mother became very absent and would always abandon her.

I really did like Sadie the character. She was smart and reliant especially when she was on her own trying to track down her sister’s murderer by any means necessary  and she always used her street smarts to figure everything out.

The podcast format was also very well done. It the sort of boom of true crime podcasts it added a lot to the story especially with the character of West McCray the host of the podcast. While it may seem that he is doing the story about Sadie and her sister for sensationalism, there is times that he really does care about Sadie and is also invested in trying to find out what happened to her sister.

With Sadie, there was also a lot of themes of pedophilia and grooming. When Sadie finds out who the killer is, it also shows how a man can kinda put blinders on a town and that’s how he was able to get away with it for so long.

In the end, I truly enjoyed Sadie. The podcast format really felt as if I was in on the action, trying to figure out the mystery surrounding Sadie and her sister while also being really invested in Sadie’s story.

Grade: 5/5

The Wicked King by: Holly Black

Summary: 

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

The Review:

Oh, it is so good to be back in this world, created by Holly Black. The Wicked King is the second book in the Folks of the Air series, and it dives even more deeper in the tretrachious world of the Faeries.

The Wicked King picks up a little bit after The Cruel Prince with Jude dealing with the High King of Faerie, Carden, who I can say kinda hates and kinda loves. Oak, her younger brother sent away to be protected, and her sister Taryn, set to be married to Locke, and Balekin locked away.

From the first chapter, you get a great sense of Jude’s character. She sees the world of Faerie, as if it is a game to her, with her trying to take power from Carden, as he is the new High King. The political intrigue is what really makes the book stand out from other fantasy novels. It almost feels as it is a chess game that Jude is trying to win.

The chess game now comes with a new pieces of the chess board in the form of Orlagh, the Queen of the Undersea, and Nicasia, her daugher. I loved the introduction of the Undersea, it added so many layers to this already amazing story, with Nicasia, set to be engaged to Carden and Jude finding a somewhat challenger to her quest for power. It really shows how great of a world builder Holly Black is, and adding more layers to this already expansive world.

A big theme of the book is power and what many would go through to achieve power. With Jude she was taught from Madoc, her semi-adopted father, to learn about how to attain power and also how to keep power, which what she is trying to do throughout. Even though Madoc, isn’t really in Jude’s life,  based on the events of that took place during  The Cruel Prince, you could still sense his presence.

In regards to Jude and Carden. I think that is the textbook definition of enemies to lovers done extremely perfectly. Their dialogue throughout the book is amazing. Even though they hate each other, and I mean really hate each other, you could tell that in the back of their mind, they want each other so badly. Even some of Jude’s inner dialogue about that is funny.

With the cliffhanger. My god, why is wait for the next book so long? I need to know what happens next.

In the end, The Wicked King, was a fantastic read that added so much layers to this already great universe. With even more political intrigue, I could not put this book down. Also filled with rich and lustful characters that I cannot wait to see how the story continues.

Grade: 5/5