Slayer by: Kiersten White

Summary:

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

The Review:

I am a Buffy fan. I love the show, I have watched the entire series so many times now that I cannot even count the number of times. I still almost cry during Becoming and The Body. So, of course I was excited that a book set in the Buffyverse was coming out and also written by one of my favorite authors, Kiersten White who wrote the And I Darken series.

It starts with Nina or Athena as her full name, whose twin sister Artemis is training to become a member of the Watcher’s council who are tasked to guide the slayers as they hunt the demons and the vampires. The story is set at least 3 years after the Buffy series finale, in which she saved the world, but it had a price and with what happened at the end of the series, which had every young girl become “chosen” to be a slayer which resulted in too many slayers and not enough watchers. What surprised me, was how much the characters really hate Buffy, it was almost too funny to believe, but it added a lot to the story and created kind of deconstruction of Buffy as a character through the eyes of others.

With Nina, while her sister is training at the Watcher Academy, she is being trained as a healer, but in a course of events has her become chosen to be the slayer, a job she definitely has not trained for. Nina is a very different character from the Buffyverse, in which she is not prepared to take on this responsibility. While Buffy in the TV show has done the same, it took Nina a long time for it to get through to her. Throughout the book, she is trying to figure out her place in the slayer world, mainly because she spends most of her time blaming Buffy for the death of her father, who was her first watcher before Giles.

This book also had a few Easter eggs to the Buffy verse, my favorite was the Wyndham Prices, who are related to Wesley, who was mentioned as a watcher in training who moved to LA to work with a vampire. Also a dark haired girl, who is basically Faith.

The supporting characters were also good, There is Leo who is a watcher in training who is helping to train Nina, and there are also Rhys and Cillian. They reminded me a little bit of the Scoobies from Buffy and with the setting of the Watcher Academy, we got to see the research in what goes on with the world of the demons, from Buffy.

My main criticism, with the book was the pacing. The beginning of the book, was very info dump heavy, and I think it was made for people who aren’t familiar with the Buffyverse, and the book was not as plot heavy and it was mostly character focused, hopefully with next book we could also see more vampires which was lacking in this book.

In the end, I really enjoyed Slayer, I think it is a great series for those who are fans of the Buffyverse. It did a good job at introducing the new status quo in the world, and I kinda want to see more of what the world has to offer.

Grade: 4/5

Now I Rise by: Kiersten White

Summary:

After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.

The Review:

Last year, I read the first book And I Darken, and it was one of my favorite books that I read last year, so of course I was excited to read its sequel, and it really didn’t disappoint and was a really great sequel.

The book picks up some time after the ending of And I Darken with Lada trying to reclaim Wallachia. I like Lada in this book, she is starting to become a lot more darker in this book. I like that she has a bigger leadership role, she reminded me a lot of Adelina from The Young Elites. She is very blood thirsty, but what made it good was the fact that she was still sympathetic. She does a lot of awful things throughout the book, but in a way you see that there is a reason for her doing those awful things.

Radu, a character who I felt was very whiny in the previous book was a lot better developed in this book. He spends most of book basically torn between his allegiance to Mehmed and his sister, Lada. When asked to be a double agent for Mehmed he starts to learn about Mehmed’s dealings and wondering if there is more than meets the eye. I liked his relationship with Cyprian was really well developed and I liked his character. Radu was a lot more fleshed out in this book and is starting to become one of my favorite characters.

While the book wan’t was action heavy as other fantasy books it relied primarily on military strategy and forming alliances with kingdoms mainly with the Italians. I loved seeing the Italians, it was great that we were able to see other kingdoms within the series and it was nice to see it expanded upon. It also dives heavily into the political aspect of the world, which I always found was very lacking in other YA novels.

I would also describe this book as sort of a “bridge book”. While it isn’t as plot driven, it was very character driven. It also had a lot of build up that will hopefully pay off in the next book. I don’t know if this will be a trilogy or will there be more books, but if any of the first two books if anything I think the series should only get better.

In the end, Now I Rise was a fantastic sequel that expanded on both its universe and its characters. The two leads had a lot more development and had a lot more character progression. I really have high hopes for this series and I hope it gets better.

Grade: 4.5/5

 

And I Darken by: Kiersten White

Summary:

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

The Review:

This was a book that was on my TBR list during the summer and I managed to finally read it. Let me start by saying that the premise already intrigued me mainly because I do like historical fiction or alternative history, and deals with the Ottoman empire which of course I have had a very vast interest in.

The setting is already good, Kiersten White does a good job at taking us back in the 15th century and the world building was sort of short and to the point. It sorta reminded me of the show Reign, which many calls the CWs answer to Game of Thrones.

Lada is one of my favorites. She is very snarky, independent and can hold her own in a fight. She remained me a lot of Arya Stark and how she is willing to dismiss her gender roles and wants to help in the fight.

Radu, in the beginning of the book, I felt he was way to whiny and complainy. It kinda turned me off with the character a bit. Towards the middle he began to mellow out a bit, mainly due to his relationship with Mehmed. I like that he was a a character who was struggling with his sexuality, especially given the time period, it made his character a bit more interesting and not the whiner that I say in the beginning of the book. Hopefully we see more of that in future books.

Mehmed, at first felt more like a plot device or an object of a love triangle between Lada and Radu, but he did grow on me as the book went on. You can tell that he wants to be sultan, but has to deal with outside forces trying to take that away from him. His mother, I felt was almost Cersei-lite. But there was times in the book that she practically went full Cersei, in trying to teach him how to play the game.

The plot was also very interesting, while you don’t get to see a lot of the war aspect of the book(it is mostly mentioned, but never really seen) I did however like the political intrigue the book had. You see a lot of back handed deals, marriages for political gain and even some betrayals. I sort of proved that you don’t need a lot of action in order to keep the story interesting.

Some of the problems I had with the book, is how the book would jump around, instead of moving in a more cohesive pace. You would see months go by, without much of warning and us readers would have to play catch up with what’s going on.

In the end, As I Darken is a very solid first book, of what could be an amazing series. It has enough political intrigue to keep you interested, and I want to see what happens to the characters.

Grade: 4/5