The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself. 

I’ve seen this book on more ‘Best Of 2018’ lists than I can count.  Holly Black is a talented and widely read author, but I’ve never gotten around to any of her books, despite having The Coldest Girl in Coldtown on my shelf for over a year.  With strong reviews, several friend recommendations, and a discounted Amazon day, how could I not read The Cruel Prince?

Admittedly, I haven’t read many books involving the Fae, so much of this world was new to me.  And the world-building is magnificent – dark, intriguing, and politically charged.  The political maneuvering, alliances, and manipulation really captured my attention – some of these characters would fit in well with House of Cards.

And that’s another thing I liked:  none of these characters are entirely ‘good’.  Many of them desire power and position, while others enjoy bullying, threats, and playing with the lives of others.  And I’m okay with that – I love to see shades of gray in characters.  In fact, it’s the primary reason I kept reading.  Twists are aplenty in this book – some of them I saw coming, others I didn’t until right before they happened.

People may throw rocks and garbage at me for saying this, but the first half of the book didn’t win me over.  Not a lot happens, but right around the 50% mark, the pace becomes turbo charged and never lets up.

Overall, I enjoyed The Cruel Prince, and I plan to continue the series with The Wicked King, but when that will be, I have no idea.  I need a month long vacation just to read!

Two Dark Reigns (Three Dark Crowns #3) by Kendare Blake #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Queen Katharine has waited her entire life to wear the crown. But now that she finally has it, the murmurs of dissent grow louder by the day. There’s also the alarming issue of whether or not her sisters are actually dead—or if they’re waiting in the wings to usurp the throne.

Mirabella and Arsinoe are alive, but in hiding on the mainland and dealing with a nightmare of their own: being visited repeatedly by a specter they think might be the fabled Blue Queen. Though she says nothing, her rotting, bony finger pointing out to sea is clear enough: return to Fennbirn. 

Jules, too, is in a strange place—in disguise. And her only confidants, a war-gifted girl named Emilia and her oracle friend Mathilde, are urging her to take on a role she can’t imagine filling: a legion-cursed queen who will lead a rebel army to Katharine’s doorstep.

This is an uprising that the mysterious Blue Queen may have more to do with than anyone could have guessed—or expected.

I’ve loved this dark fantasy series from book one.  And those covers – oof.  Stunning.

This author continues to throw in unexpected surprises, whether with plot twists or character traits.  I’d fully intended to dislike Katharine after the events that occurred in One Dark Throne, but she honestly seems to have some good intentions in this book.  Not all good.  But some.  And the ending?  Just one surprise after another.  I’m glad it took me a few months to get around to reading this one, because that means I have a shorter wait for the next book.

This was a longer read at over 450 pages, and although it may not have moved the story along quite as well as books 1 and 2, there are some major developments, and I got to spend a good amount of time with these characters.

If dark fantasy with exquisite world-building is your thing, this is your series.

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) by Roshani Chokshi #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #YA #fantasy

Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

My expectations for this book were high, and it more than surpassed them.  If I could rate it more than 5 stars, I gladly would.

With such unique, magical world-building, and a closely bonded clan of charming characters planning a dangerous heist, The Gilded Wolves has the feel of Six of Crows.  I’ve also seen this book compared to Indiana Jones and National Treasure, and with clues, puzzles, and historical elements, I can see why.

The incredibly well-developed characters made this novel for me.  They’re a family of their own choosing, and along with that comes humorous dynamics – I laughed with them, but also felt their pain.  Each of the six has their own talents and skill set and bring something to the table.  And such wonderful inclusion!  Bisexual, gay, autistic, with different cultures and backgrounds.

At over 400 pages, this is a chunk of a read, but I didn’t want it to end.  An intricate plot, beautiful writing with so many quotable lines, charismatic characters, and masterful world-building – I highly recommend The Gilded Wolves to fantasy, history, and adventure fans.  Easily one of my best reads of 2018, and the next book can’t come soon enough.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.

Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst #bookreview #YA #fantasy

In Sky Hawkins’s family, leading your first heist is a major milestone–even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It’s a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you’re a wyvern–a human capable of turning into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky discovers secrets about her mother, who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family’s wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist, and get her boyfriend and mother back in the process. But then she uncovers a dark truth about were-dragon society–a truth more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.

Humans that turn into dragons?  Heists?  Why wouldn’t you want to read this?  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Sky’s family and friends are the most important things in her life – along with kissing and ice cream.  Her priorities are straight, and her humorous voice makes this such a fun read.  The world-building is amusing – in the wyvern culture, leading your first heist is cause for celebration.  As dragons, stealing and hoarding gold is encouraged, so in Sky’s world, her situation is pretty much a coming-of-age story.

The family dynamics make up a good portion of this story – a family mourning their mother gone missing, an overprotective father, and brothers who clearly care about Sky, but show it in awkward, yet heartfelt ways.  Most of the supporting characters are well-drawn, and Sky’s human friend, Gabriela, is like an adorable puppy you want to hug.

Fire and Heist is more of a fluffy read, but with an Ocean’s Eleven-like heist, a lovable family, and a charming and determined MC, it’s light and enjoyable.  Also, dragons!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

 

Bright Ruin (Dark Gifts #3) by Vic James #bookreview #YA #dystopian

Magically gifted aristocrats rule–and commoners are doomed to serve. But a rebellion threatens the old order. The dystopian trilogy that began with Gilded Cage and Tarnished City concludes.

In a world where the lower classes must endure ten years of forced service to unfairly advantaged, magically powered rulers, a teenage boy dreams of rebellion, his older sister yearns for love and knowledge, and a dangerous young aristocrat seeks to remake the world with his dark gifts. In Bright Ruin, the final book in the trilogy set in modern-day England, our heroes will lead a revolution that will transform–or destroy–the world.

With phenomenal world-building, both loathsome and lovable characters, political intrigue, rebellion, and power struggles, Dark Gifts has been an exceptional and intelligent YA dystopian/fantasy series from beginning to end.

If you’re familiar with the term ‘book hangover’ – that’s an adequate description of how I felt upon completing this novel.  Two days later, I was still going back to re-reading parts and mull them over.  I’m sad to see the series end, but what a satisfying ending it is – no spoilers here.

If I’ve read other series with such incredible character arcs, they don’t immediately come to mind.  Several of these characters will surprise you, and aren’t what they initially seem or eventually become.  As with the previous books, the author certainly doesn’t balk at putting them through trials and tribulations, heartbreak and heartache, and occasionally even death.

I can’t recommend this series enough, and it’s easily a crossover for adults who are skeptical about reading YA.  If you’re a fan of complicated and intricate storylines with remarkable world-building and character development, this series is for you.

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

Give the Dark My Love (Give the Dark My Love #1) by Beth Revis #bookreview #YA #fantasy

When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island’s wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her. 

All, except for Greggori “Grey” Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that’s for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it’s making its way toward the cities. With her family’s life–and the lives of all of Lunar Island’s citizens–on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague. 

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy’s most dangerous corners–and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

Alchemy and necromancy – that’s what initially drew me to this book.  Also the beautiful cover.  A protagonist with all the best intentions finds herself walking the fine line separating light from darkness – it’s an intriguing hook.

Nedra’s transformation from a dedicated student determined to find a cure for the plague to a desperate alchemist who turns to necromancy is fascinating, and done to perfection.  So many times I wanted to yell at her to consider the consequences of her actions – but if she did, I guess there wouldn’t have been much of a story.  It’s difficult to like her character by the end of the book, but an excellent portrayal at what grief can do to a person.

Grey is a sweet love interest – and it’s a case of insta-love, but his character doesn’t add much to the story.  He attempts to be a moral compass for Nedra, but she’s an obstinate girl.

There are a couple of twists toward the end – one I’d figured out, and the other a bit of a surprise.  The beginning is more of a slow burn, explaining world-building and magic, but the pace picks up toward the middle.  I’ll be interested to see where this series goes in the second book.  This book is scheduled for publication September 25th, 2018.

Thanks to Penguin First to Read and the publisher for the ARC.

The Devil’s Thief (The Last Magician #2) by Lisa Maxwell #TuesdayBookBlog #YA #fantasy #historicalfiction

In this spellbinding sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Last Magician, Esta and Harte set off on a cross-country chase through time to steal back the elemental stones they need to save the future of magic.

Hunt the Stones.
Beware the Thief.
Avenge the Past.

Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.

Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.

To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.

In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.

As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief.

The first book in this series was easily a 5 star read for me.  At nearly 500 pages, I almost didn’t request it because of the length – but it didn’t feel that long when reading it.  At 700 pages, I didn’t hesitate to request The Devil’s Thief  because of how engrossing the first book was, but this novel felt like a chore at times, and the series still isn’t complete.  With the third book (I’m assuming it will be the last?), the series will be considerably even longer than Stephen King’s uncut version of The Stand.

The dual timeline is compelling, and not at all confusing.  I liked seeing how events in the past influence the present, and the changes in some of the characters over that time period.  I gasped at a couple of surprising twists, and the world-building remains top notch.  Characterization is also strong, and I enjoyed spending time with these characters again.

However – Esta and Harte are disappointing.  The majority of their story focuses on the romantic drama/tension between them, and does nothing to advance the plot.  Viola and Jianyu have the more interesting plot developments by far, and Julian is a nice addition to the lineup.  There’s also a good amount of repetition, but this was an ARC, and final editing may take care of that and lower the word count.

Although this book underwhelmed me and didn’t move as quickly as the first, I’m curious to see where the next book goes, and I want to know the fate of these characters.  The Devil’s Thief is scheduled for publication October 9th, 2018.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.