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Review – Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

 

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1)

By Kendare Blake

SummaryEvery generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate box.

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Review:

I loved getting this book when I opened up one of my previous Owlcrate boxes. I loved Anna Dressed in Blood by the same author and I knew that she would weave and dark and unforgettable tale of three would-be queens. I did not read the synopsis before jumping in, so I only knew what I could discern from the title and cover, which is how I prefer to read if I’m in the mood to not necessarily know what I’m getting.

Essentially, the island has a queen. The queen has triplets. Only one of them can be crowned queen. To take the throne, she must kill her sisters and take the throne. Every generation. Each potential queen has an ability and possesses a certain strain of magic. In Three Dark Crowns, Katharine was a poisoner queen. She could ingest poisons with no real ill effect, but her power was weak and virtually nonexistent. She was, however, adept at poisoning and poison mixing. Having been subjected to rigorous training, she was shy and had no real confidence. Arsinoe was said to be a naturalist, which meant she should be able to control plants and animals. Instead, her power was also weak and close to nonexistent, though her best friend Jules was a very powerful naturalist and controlled a wild cat. Mirabella was the only real talented would-be queen. She was an elemental and could control the elements, generating storms and controlling fire. The other two were much weaker, but as long as they could put on a show, they’d get the opportunity to be courted and could kill their other sisters and win the crown. 

The sisters were separated early in life and did not know each other aside from intelligence gathered by their supporters. Each sister was essentially trained and raised by those adept in their skills and guided each one. However, there was also a game of politics being played. No one wanted their queen to lose, even if their powers weren’t really strong.

I loved the premise of the book, especially as I got to meet the characters. None of them really wanted to be vicious and kill their siblings, it was simply what was always done and what was expected of them. Generations of poisoner queens had been in the lead, so naturally, the poisoner family of the Arron’s wanted Katharine to take the throne as the next poisoner queen to keep everyone in the lead and in the same position. Between politics and temples backing certain queens and not others, who knew what could happen to any of the queens.

As the story went on, I felt like i got to know and like all the sisters, so even I wasn’t sure who should win. Mirabella certainly had the most power, but she also had dreams, memories even, of her sisters and was less inclined to murder them. The temple attempted to take matters into their own hands. There was drama, mystery, romance, and violence in the book and I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen to each of the three possible queens.

I definitely recommend the book and I can’t wait for the sequel. It was a good choice for Owlcrate and I don’t know that I would have necessarily picked it up otherwise!

Star 4

Review – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere

By Neil Gaiman

SummaryUnder the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: neverwhere.

Source: I purchased a paperback ages ago and finally picked it up.

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Review:

Neverwhere was Gaiman’s first solo novel, an urban fantasy taking place in an alternate London, underground, called London Below. Richard was ordinary, average, and kind of doormat. Until, for some reason, he decided he had to take action and help a wounded girl on the street while being berated by his controlling fiancé. His decision led him on a wild adventure underground once his life above was stripped from him, rendering the already slightly invisible Richard, totally invisible. 

I really enjoyed Neverwhere. It was such a fun adventure, dark in all the right places, full of darkness, puzzles, and intrigue. The villains were oh-so-perfectly villainous and it was an overall awesome fantasy adventure. There were twists and turns in the plot, betrayals and deaths, and Richard discovered he was a heck of a lot braver and more capable than he’d every imagined. 

In a lot of ways, Neverwhere read like a middle grade or young adult novel, because it deals with coming into yourself and discovering who you can truly be, but it’s even better because it’s a tad dark and Richard is older and I think adults sometimes need a good kick in a butt to realize we are just living in a routine. It was simple to read, but it was complex in just the right ways. I think it’s perfect for adults who love urban fantasy and somewhat dark, Tim Burton-like stuff. There is a ton of coming of age fantasy for kids and young adults and I love that this one features an older, but just as out of place protagonist finding his own Narnia wardrobe of sorts. 

It’s safe to say I am definitely a Gaiman fan. I can’t wait to dive into more of his books. I still think American Gods is the best, but this is a great book and one that helps bridge the gap from Coraline or The Graveyard Book, which involve child protagonists, and American Gods, which is wholly adult. 

Star 4

Review – Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton

 

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)

By Alwyn Hamilton

SummaryShe’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. 
Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Source: I purchased a hardcover. And a kindle copy on accident because I forgot I owned it already.

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Review:

I purchased Rebel of the Sands after seeing it win the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 category for the Best Books of 2016 on Goodreads. I’d seen the book around beforehand, but never picked it up. I read a lot of books each year and 99% of them I buy myself. I’ve been burned by new releases so many times, so I’ve been relying on reviews, overall star ratings, and things like “Best Book of the Year” awards to help me decide what to pick up instead of buying random books at the bookstore. 

Rebel of the Sands was a blend of cultures. I expected Arabian/Eastern type of desert mythology, but I got a bit of American West at the same time. Amani’s life resembled that of the American West, a desert town full of guns and liquor and people who didn’t trust one another. At the same time, the creatures in the desert and the political setup resembled the East, a bit of Arabian Nights, with Sultans and harems. I don’t know that I’ve read a book that took place in the desert and combined Eastern and Western settings. I feel a little conflicted because I thought the combination was unique, but I wish there was an explanation for it. The author isn’t American, otherwise my first thought would be that she wanted to stick with her own comfort zone and she did that by including the American West, but that’s not the case. It’s just a little weird as I’m not sure those two things really go together. 

Regardless, the book was compelling and I read it quickly. I liked Amani. I felt like she was a tough heroine who wasn’t afraid to try dangerous things. She wanted out of her life in a town where her gender determined whether she was listened to. Her uncle was going to force her to be one of his wives, but she needed to leave with money if she was ever going to get out of her town. There was a war going on and a ton of conflict, but Amani didn’t need to get involved until it showed up on her doorstep. Her path crossed with a mysterious foreigner and she was off on an adventure she wasn’t quite sure about.

A lot of reviewers have mentioned Amani’s lack of direction throughout the book and how she had no real purpose once she fled Dustwalk. What was she doing out there? Why was she so content to follow Jin? I understand the frustration when we are so used to heroines having something to focus on, even if it’s just revenge, but I liked that Amani didn’t really know what she was doing because I think sometimes that’s how life is. I get frustrated when heroines discover their strengths and somehow know exactly what to do to tear down some awful regime. I like that Amani knew what she was good at and every step she took lead her to discover the world she dreamed of wasn’t anything like she expected. Maybe she could escape to that city her mother came from, but then what? Why not just follow Jin and see what tricks are up his sleeve? At least by his side she could use her guns. She wasn’t trying to rage against the government or anything crazy. She just wanted out of her life and had no real other plan.

I do love that eventually Amani figured out what Jin’s whole deal was and found a bigger purpose. I liked that she didn’t just immediately jump on that bandwagon and that she stayed conflicted at first because it fit with her whole lack of direction. I don’t want to give too much away, but I liked how it all ended and how she ended up finding her place in everything. 

I can see why Rebel of the Sands won the category for Debut in 2016 on Goodreads. It was an interesting book and it was certainly unique. I also like that, while it is part of a series, it didn’t end with some crazy cliffhanger that makes me regret reading it so soon before the sequel’s release. It was satisfying, but there’s still so much more that can and probably will happen. I definitely recommend the book.

Star 4

 

Review – A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

 

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness

SummaryThe monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

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Source: I purchased a paperback

Review:

A Monster Calls has been on my radar for quite some time, but I never picked it up for some reason. I suppose the illustrations made me think it would be too juvenile or something. With the movie out, I’ve been seeing it around more, seeing other reviews, and the previews for the movie, so I felt it was time to finally pick it up. I had been warned multiple times that the book would be sad and it would make me cry, but I didn’t quite believe that I would be so moved by such a short novel.

A Monster Calls is the kind of story that will stay with me forever. It was so incredible. It was powerful and moving. 

I did cry. I ugly cried and sobbed and gasped and loved it so much. 

It’s hard to really go into detail because I didn’t know what to expect and I think it’s best that way. A boy encountered a monster who would tell him three stories. And the boy would tell him a fourth. The boy was sad, angry, and tormented by nightmares. 

I cannot gush about the book enough. I never expected to like to so much. I see why it has won so many awards and received such high praises. It is a story we need and one I recommend. Not only is it enjoyable to read, but it perfectly describes the way guilt eats at us. 

A Monster Calls is a must read. It’s short, so there’s no reason not to pick it up and add it to your to-read list. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did. Just.. bring some tissues. You WILL cry. 

Star 5

Review – Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence

 

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1)

By Mark Lawrence

SummaryWhen he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king. 

It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. 

Life and death are no more than a game to him and he has nothing left to lose. But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

Prince of Thorns was an awesome fantasy novel. Prince Jorg was a ruthless and cunning kid who travelled with his band of thieves with the goal to enact revenge on his enemies, the same enemies who murdered his brother and mom and left him for dead. His goal was to rule the empire.

Most fantasy novels are centered around the hero. You want to root for the hero and you never question his character and the things that motivate him. Prince of Thorns was not the same story at all. Prince Jorg was awful. Whatever had been done to him, he did worse things. He was not the villain of the tale, but he wasn’t any better. Jorg’s character is what separates this book from other fantasy novels and those who love them. Prince of Thorns has very mixed reviews, some of them quite low, because of Jorg.

Can you read a book and hate the main character? Can you enjoy a book when the main character, the one you’re rooting for, is perhaps a bloodthirsty sociopath? If your answer is a resounding no, then don’t pick this book up because you will NOT enjoy it. But if you’re intrigued by the hero being just as bad, if not worse, than the enemies he’s enacting revenge upon, then this is quite the adventure for you. Prince of Thorns was narrated by Jorg. I found him to be fairly intelligent and cunning, even a bit humorous. I appreciated his quest and even agreed to some extent about the way that connections with people can be a weakness. 

I think a lot of people who enjoy fantasy can admit that sometimes they admire the characters who aren’t always good. George R.R. Martin certainly made people care about Tyrion and Jamie Lannister, and even Cersei. But the Starks have an overwhelming number of fans and it’s many of them who perhaps won’t care for Prince of Thorns. I enjoy stories that turn things around and give me something unique and I felt that the author did a wonderful job executing such an unfavorable POV. I am invested in Jorg’s adventure and it feels kind of odd rooting for someone who is so horrible, but I just can’t help but like him a little bit.

I highly recommend Prince of Thorns if you’re the type of person who can handle having a main character be a sociopath without the point of the book being a cautionary tale. Jorg owns his bloodthirstiness and he’s not likely to change. Word of warning: Jorg commits atrocities. The book is violent and awful and not for anyone who can’t handle torture, rape, or the brutal murder of people. It’s a dark fantasy, so beware. All of those warnings just made me want to read the book even more, so if that’s you, you’ll definitely enjoy it.

Star 4

 

Review – The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

 

The Replacement

By Brenna Yovanoff

SummaryMackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I purchased The Replacement because the cover was super creepy. I knew from reading reviews that the book wasn’t a horror, but I still wanted to read it because I was so drawn to it.

The book was about changelings. Mackie was not a normal boy. He was a replacement, a changeling, switched in place of a human baby. He was a rare castoff who survived. It was said that most of them don’t because mothers cannot love the changeling, but somehow, he survived. I loved the point of view, as most stories that involve changelings are never from the point of view of the actual being switched out. It was interesting because Mackie knew he was different, but didn’t grow up in the underground, so he lived his life an human and tried to avoid iron.

I love fae lore and how diverse it is. I loved that there wasn’t much emphasis on the glittering courts and queens and instead, it was a darker story. The town of Gentry was benefitting from the exchange of their babies, the sacrifice to avoid many of the problems small towns faced, but Mackie had to question whether it was worth it and if it was worth the fight.

The Replacement was a unique and somewhat dark YA novel with an interesting POV that I enjoyed. I recommend it, especially to fans of the darker side of fairies. It was certainly entertaining and I loved getting a YA POV that was not only a guy, but the changeling himself. It’s not a POV I’m used to seeing and male POVs are rare enough in YA fantasy, so it was refreshing. 

Star 3

Review – Hammered (Iron Druid Chronicles #3) by Kevin Hearne

 

Hammered (Iron Druid Chronicles #3)

By Kevin Hearne

SummaryThor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully—he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.

One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. But things are heating up in Atticus’s home base of Tempe, Arizona. There’s a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plain of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry gods, and the hammer-wielding Thunder Thug himself. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Hammered was the third book in the incredibly entertaining Iron Druid Chronicles. This time, Atticus had to fulfill his promises to other people, beginning with stealing the apple in Asgard and then aligning with Leif to finally take down Thor. 

I love this series because it’s fun and Atticus is such a charismatic, sarcastic, and generally smug character, despite getting into life and death situations and barely coming out of them alive. There’s something so hilarious about the fact that he’s still so smug and sure that he will succeed. It’s been a couple of years since I read the first two books, but honestly, I think that’s for the best. The series is fun, but I imagine it can be too much to read all in one go. There’s not a whole lot that needs to be remembered, so jumping back into the series wasn’t an issue at all for me and it made me appreciate Atticus all the more instead of wanting to roll my eyes (because he kind of makes you want to do that sometimes).

Hammered dealt mostly with the plot to take down Thor. It didn’t feature Oberon or the widow or even his apprentice very much, so it was a bit different, but I felt like I got to know Gunnar and Leif more and get their back stories. I flew through the pages, but I have to admit that I missed Oberon. However, the end of the book drew me back in with the introduction of some strange presence in  Arizona that I’m sure Atticus will have to address before moving elsewhere. I loved the back stories of the alchemist and the wizard and their personal issues with Thor, along with the various interactions with squirrels and frost giants. Atticus has a way with words and he makes any potentially dangerous situation a little safer with his comedic timing.

I recommend the Iron Druid Chronicles if you’re looking for a fun urban fantasy that is full of geek pop culture references (Jesus literally quotes Monty Python’s Holy Grail and I laughed out loud) and a charming and quite over the top hero who gets into all sorts of crazy shenanigans. I love the references to all sorts of mythology and religions and the way the author weaves them together and creates a variety of characters with their own motivations and goals. It’s great fun, but it can be too much to binge read the series. I don’t know that I could really handle it, so I have them on my shelves for when the mood strikes. I was in kind of a book rut and this series made me laugh so much and genuinely enjoy myself, revitalizing my reading life. The series is like a hilarious version of American Gods and Atticus even praises author Neil Gaiman at one point!

 

Star 4