Hunted by: Megan Spooner

Summary:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

The Review:

This was another book I had on my TBR for quite a long time, mainly ever since I saw the cover at a bookstore and also the fact that it is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, which if it is a fairy tale retelling it will be on my TBR.

As a retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast, it did follow a few of the same beats of the original story. Yeva, is the Belle stand in, and instead of being a bookworm, she likes to hunt. She also like Belle, always rejects the social norms such as marrying a wealthy gentleman. She also has sisters who I felt were a bit thinly developed and weren’t as fleshed out like I wanted them to be.

The story begins to pick up once her father goes missing, and Yeva, is going to try to find him in the forest, and that is where she meets the Beast. I like how in the book, at the beginning of each chapter, features a lot of the Beasts inner thoughts, and it made him more of a character in the book.

The relationship between Beast and Yeva was a bit different from the original. This time he is training to hunt , and as the story goes on, you find out the Beast is cursed, but the curse is very different and with the added twist to the curse adds a lot to the story.

One of my main problems is how this story, really feels like Stockholm Syndrome. While yes, the original did have aspects of Stockholm syndrome, Hunted had a lot of elements of that. and I really didn’t care about their relationship, and it reminded me of the worst parts of Tamlim, from ACOTAR, and I would have preferred if Yeva, was just alone at the end of the book.

In the end, Hunted was a good read. I didn’t love as much as I thought it was. While it does follow a lot of aspects of the original, but the added twists makes the story stronger. Making Yeva a hunter made her a better character, but I did feel like the aspects of Yeva and the Beasts relationship was on of the weaker aspects.

Grade: 3.6/5

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Children of Blood and Bone by: Tomi Adeyemi

Summary:

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy. 

The Review:

This was another of one of my anticipated reads for 2018, ever since this book was announced. You don”t really see a lot of fantasy novels set in Africa, unless you read N.K. Jemison and Nnedi Okorafor. I also believe that the hype is definitely well deserved for this book.

The books setting is mainly in West Africa in a Orisha. A place in which magic was been suppressed and the maji, has been killed by a ruthless king. Zeile, is a young maji, whose mother was killed in the raids of the king, and her death was to serve as a reminder for the maji.

The world building was extremely well done. You get a sense of the world it is set, and the history within that world. Different clans has their own maji title and deity, for example the Iku clan are reapers who deal with souls and worship the Oya. Also tied within the world building is a sense of history, learning that long ago the maji were seen as corrupt so there was a reason why the king decided to eliminate the maji. With its world building it didn’t feel like info dumping like most books does and it brought up a lot through conversations that the characters had with one another.

The book also has 3 POVs, Zeile, who is the main character, whose mother was a powerful maji. Amari, the daughter of the king who flees from her ruthless father after he does something that traumatizes her. Inan who is the prince and next in line to become king who is tasked to bring back Amari.

Inan is one my favorite of the POVs. His POV chapters deals a lot with his inner struggle of basically if he should do what he is tasked to do, especially when dealing with his father.

The story mainly deals with Zeile and Amari trying to bring back magic to Orishi by bringing an ancient scroll to the temple, and would deal with teh world around them. While it does seem like a cliche, the world is so magnificent and throughout their journey you get a good scope of the world and its magic system, along with its politics. A lot of the book could serve as a racial allegory dealing with oppression, especially dealing with a light skinned vs. dark skinned context.

There is also a romance in the book. Mainly between Zeile and Inan, and Amari and Tzain. I did like that it wasn’t the forefront of the book, and both romances I felt was actually developed. With Zeile and Inan, you constantly see Inan dealing with his inner turmoil. It did lead to a few funny moments with both of them wondering if they should actually kiss each other. It was a nice twist on the enemy to lovers trope.

In the end, this book definitely lives up to the hype. It was a great book that had an amazing story especially with a YA fantasy set in West Africa. It features a good magic system and excellent world building. The characters are extremely well developed and I cannot wait to see how this series continues, because it was that good.

Grade: 5/5

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by: Julie C. Dao

Summary:

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

The Review:

This was a book I sorta picked up on a whim mainly because I found out that the author was in the Boston area last week, and I had to work late so I missed it. It was also the premise that caught my interest mainly because I like fairy tale retelling, especially those from the villain perspective.

This is an East Asian retelling of the story of Snow White from the view of the future evil queen. This book also took full advantage of its setting and does a good job incorporating the East Asian setting and also a lot of its cultures and mythologies.  I also like how magic is used in this setting. Julie Dao put a lot of emphasis on Eastern magic and it really provided a lot of layers which made this fantasy world unique. While it was a retelling of the Evil Queen story from Snow White it did take a few liberties with the story. It also set up a lot of lore and myths throughout the book which I hope would be more fleshed out in future books, especially the one about the thousand lanterns.

The main character is Xifeng, and she was destined by a prediction by her aunt, Guma to be Empress of Feng Lu. She spends her life as a peasant and takes in her destiny into becoming Empress. Throughout the book you begin to see Xifeng’s progression into villainy and that is what I love about this book.  It was a slow and gradual progression and at times you really do feel for her and what she is going through. Xifeng is a character that had a lot of layers to her, and she reminded me a lot of Adelina, from the Young Elites.

There is also a small romance between Xifeng and Wei. While she does love Wei she keeps having to turn him away mainly because she has to focus on her mission into becoming Empress and feels that Wei would only get in the way in doing so. Even though I keep knowing how their relationship would end up, I still kept shipping them throughout the book.

With the world building, the book does a good job at also setting up the royals. It touches upon how the Emperor has a wife, the Empress but he also has concubines and the head concubine, Lady Sun, is a very wicked one. She is basically a scarier version of aunt Lydia from Handmaid’s Tale who is very obsessed with keeping her status as head concubine.

There is a lot of great secondary characters such as; Shrio who is a dwarf, who reminded me a lot of Tyrion Lannister, as he always gives wisdom to Xifeng and was little snarky while doing so. There is also the Crowned Prince who is said to be next in line for Emperor, who is also the commander of the King’s army. I almost did think that he would become a suitor for Xifeng, and it would turn into another love triangle but it didn’t. He was also a nice well rounded character.

In the end, I loved Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. It was great to read a fantasy book set in East Asia and Julie C. Dao really did a good job at impressing myself into this fantasy world. Xifeng, is a great character that I could really see go through a dark path in future books. It was also a great, enriching world to be in and would also see more of. I am excited to see where this story goes.

Grade: 5/5

Windwitch by: Susan Dennard

Summary:

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

The Review:

Eariler this year I read Truthwitch and I really liked that book. While I am a huge fan of fantasy Truthwitch was a very different fantasy series which Incorporated a lot of magic in their world.

Windwitch, picks up almost right where Truthwitch left off, an explosion comes on Merik’s ship and Safi is shipwrecked. It mostly involves those characters trying to get back and having an adventure along the way. Iseult is trying to find Safi, and with a bounty on her head she works with Aeduan, a Bloodwitch who is tasked with bringing Iseult in.

While a minor problem I had with the book is that the leading characters are separated throughout the book, and I loved seeing Iseult and Safi’s relationship in Truthwitch but it was lacking in Windwitch. But I actually liked seeing their story arcs separate from each other. Safi spends most of the book with Vanass, and it was nice to for her to have a new ally. Meri is trying to get back home, with everyone thinking that he is dead he works with Cam. The relationship between Merik and Cam was really good, and I am glad that it wasn’t a romantic relationship.

What made Windwitch a good sequel was that it did a good job at expanding the Witchland world, including a sort of underbelly city called Shiitetown, which is filled with refugees. It was further developed some characters like Vivia, Merik’s sister. A lot of Vivia’s POV chapters dealt with her dealing with the politics of Nubrevna, and most of iot was her trying to be a new leader, with some people in her royal circle attempting to betray her. Vivia had a lot of development in the book and it they really expanded her character.

Camden is another character that was further introduced in this book with her relationship with Merik. She can still hold her own and spends most of the time defending Merik. Aeduan was one of the new characters that I felt had the best arc. While it may seem like a cliche trope in which someone who is tasked to kill her, ends up falling for her. While Aeduan doesn’t exactly fall of Iseult, he does grow to respect her.

I would also day that this book kinda suffers from second book syndrome. It has a lot of plot lines built up throughout that will hopefully be payed off in future books. It felt as if it was a set up book. But what it lacked in plot development it made up for in character development, all of the leading characters has significant development throughout the book, and it makes me excited about where they are going next.

The character I felt that had the strongest development was Merik. While in Truthwitch Merik was the sort of lovable rouge type, you really see that he cares about people and the world around. There was a point where he felt that he had to make a hard choice and either way it would have wrecked him. He also has to try to figure his place within the kingdom.

Iseult and Safi are still some of my favorite characters, and even though they spent the entire book apart from one another they still care about one another. A major strength about Truthwitch and Windwitch, is their strong bond and I really hope they have a great reunion in the next book.

In the end, Windwitch was a sequel that delivered in terms of character development. While it was lacking in plot development, it was made up for with fleshed out character arcs, both new and returning characters. I am very excited to see where this story goes.

Grade: 4.3/5

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

 

Dividing Eden by: Joelle Charbonneau

Summary:

Twins Carys and Andreus were never destined to rule Eden. With their older brother next in line to inherit the throne, the future of the kingdom was secure.

But appearances—and rivals—can be deceiving. When Eden’s king and crown prince are killed by assassins, Eden desperately needs a monarch, but the line of succession is no longer clear. With a ruling council scheming to gain power, Carys and Andreus are faced with only one option—to take part in a Trial of Succession that will determine which one of them is worthy of ruling the kingdom.

As sister and brother, Carys and Andreus have always kept each other safe—from their secrets, from the court, and from the monsters lurking in the mountains beyond the kingdom’s wall. But the Trial of Succession will test the bonds of trust and family.

With their country and their hearts divided, Carys and Andreus will discover exactly what each will do to win the crown. How long before suspicion takes hold and the thirst for power leads to the ultimate betrayal?

The Review:

This is a book I wanted to pick up, mainly because of the premise. I liked the Hunger Games mixed in within the fantasy genre and how both Carys and Andreus had to battle for a throne they didn’t know they would have to.

While the book does sort of start off a little slow, once the conflict starts, in which the king and crowned prince were assassinated, that is where the story picks up. In the beginning you the relationship that both Carys and Andreus has as twins. Also with the fact that they weren’t groomed for the crown.

You really see the relationship between Carys and Andreues. Carys always feels protective of her brother, and when hey are given the trials to determine who gets the crown, she immediately is against it and is trying to come up with deceitful ways in order to protect each other and put one over on the Elders.

Throughout the book they are put on trials to see which one will take the crown, but as the story goes on both of the twins are pushed to their limits. The Trials of Succession felt almost like a messed up Triwizard Tournament, and it tested how Carys and Andreus would be as leaders.

In terms of the Twins, I liked Carys a lot more. I feel like a lot of the development went to her character as she was the more critical thinker. While I did also like Andreus, I felt that his character lacked a lot of development. Maybe the next book will further devleop his character.

I also liked a lot of the side characters, in particularly Imogen and Erick. Imogen was betrothed of Andreus’s brother Micah, but was also having an affair with Andreus. She is a seer and could tell the future of the Kingdom. Erick is a sort of love interests for Carys, while yes there was a love element, it was developed well and didn’t distract from the story.

The book also had some really good twists that I really don’t want to spoil, while some you could see coming, others would take you by surprise. It also has some good magical elements which sort of surprised me but I enjoyed anyway.

In the end, Dividing Eden was a very good book. While it was a little light on the plot, the characters were very engaging and it had a great cliff hanger ending that makes me excited for the next book.

Grade: 4/5

Ruined by: Amy Tintera

Summary:

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

The Review:

This is another book I decided to pick up on a whim and I have also seen reviews for Avenged, the sequel to the book.

One thing that surprised me about the book was how it started off. It puts you right in the middle of the action, with Em and her friends trying to infiltrate the enemy kingdom of Lera, by posing as the prince’s bride to be. Right of the bat you see Em kill someone in order to do so. and it surprised me how quickly she was able to do so. It establishes her as a character who has a lot of moral grayness to her.

The beginning of the book also establishes her motivation. After seeing her mother and father killed, with her sister kidnapped, she feels that she needs to do what she she needs to do in order to have revenge on those who wronged her and killed her family. It reminded me a lot of Arya from Game of Thrones.

The main plot surrounds Em pretending to be a bride-to-be of Prince Casimir or Cas, and trying to get information on the whereabouts of her sister, Olivia, and also act as a spy for Ruina. She, or course begins to fall for Cas. While it may be a bit cliched, and of course most have seen this story before. But the difference is how the story and characters are framed. The main strength is how you see Cas’ perspective, mostly due to his POV chapters, which establishes his relationship with his mother and father and how the kingdom is handled. It made Cas a more fleshed out character, rather than a plot device.

I also liked the world building and the lore. The people of Ruina have special abilities, which is why they are hated. It reminded me a lot of The Young Elites in that regards. While Em does lack the abilities that her people has, you were able to see the special abilities from the other characters. The book also puts you right in the middle of the conflict, and you learn about the world through conversations, so it didn’t feel like info dump.

I also felt while the ending was a bit rushed, I did like the ending, it was a really good page turner with a lot of great character moments for both Em and Cas. You also see how their relationship becomes more fleshed out. It wasn’t all insta-love, Em began to fall for Cas mainly because he wasn’t like his father.

In the end, I enjoyed Ruined. While yes, on the surface it does come across like YA bingo. The characters and plot make up for it. I thought it was really good and I hope to read the sequel.

Grade: 4/5