Being Picky About What You Read

Being Picky About What You Read

I think its reasonable for readers to be picky about what content they’re obtaining when they look for new books. To be honest, many of the novels that are currently occupying the breathing space in my bedroom (I have to walk around the stacks of books just to find my mattress) are ones that were either sent to me from publishers or authors, or ones that friends loaned to me with the secret intent of never seeing those books again. Luckily I found a donation bin near my old library where I can drop off the ones I know I’ll never get to, but recently I went to that bin and found that it was overflowing with books. There is even a clear sign on the crate that states “please do not leave books outside if bin is full.” But as it turns out, I’m leaving to go to college in less than a week and my cottage sized home is already bursting with luggage and cardboard boxes. So I did what I could— fit as many books as I could cram into the donation bin, called the number on the bin for a quick pick-up, and then drove off with half of the books still in my car.

This probably seems so strange and random of me to be mentioning, but it actually brought to mind something that has always been nagging me. I feel as though many of the readers I meet both online and offline always have a preferred genre that they stick to when trying to find new books. I’m not exception to this rule, because I adore fantasy novels over everything else. While half of the books I own aren’t ones that I’ve picked for myself, the half that I did buy on my own time are all ones with warrior heroines on the covers; dragons, knights, castles, magic. You name it, it’s on there. But for me, those are the best types of novels. A love story between two high school students or a science-fiction piece about the apocalypse just doesn’t draw me in as much as a story about a wandering mage or a medieval executioner would. So while I’ve tried to force myself to enjoy genres other than fantasy… it usually never works out. With the exception of one of my favorite novels, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, I often stray from contemporary (for example) because I feel as though I’ve already read those stories because I’m living in that world currently. Perhaps one of the reasons I do adore Tartt’s novel so much is because it was the only contemporary/ thriller to draw me in as much as a high fantasy would.

I find that readers, particularly bloggers, will force themselves to try genres that they know they won’t really enjoy because they want to broaden their scope of stories. And truly, I think that’s wonderful! It makes sense, right? But for me, and I’m sure this applies to others as well, each time I try a certain genre that’s not my preferred cup of coffee, I end up having a bad experience with it because in the back of my head I know there are a thousand more fantasy books I could be reading of which I would love plenty more than the off-chance I pick up a romance novel.

I also feel that it’s important to bring up the diversity issue in regards to book genres. While I’ve probably just exhausted your eyes with my blathering on about how I love fantasy… I also have to recognize that it doesn’t contain as much diversity as other genres, particularly Young Adult contemporary. In recent years, the YA contempt. sections have experienced a massive influx of diverse stories, and I couldn’t be more inspired to see it. It’s something that every book being published needs to include, no matter the content or “historical accuracy” (a weak argument I’ve seen far to many times to even want to delve into on this post). So that being said, I’ve tried my hardest to search for the fantasy novels that include a diverse cast of characters and portray them in correct/ positive ways. Needless to say, it wasn’t on easy feat. But that’s in part due to the fact that there aren’t too many diverse fantasies being published, and for the ones that are, occasionally the synopsis won’t draw me in. Remember what I said about being picky? On one hand it’s a blessing because you’re more likely to enjoy the book your reading, but on the other hand the book you’re reading may have many faults or might take you forever to find.

All that being said, below is a list of my favorite books. And yes, they’re mostly fantasy.


  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt— Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.

 

  • An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson— Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life. Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless. Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

 

  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi— Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

 

  • Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh—The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath. So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace. The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

 

  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones— All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns. But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts. Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

 

  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo—Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

 

  • Scourge by Gail Z. Martin—The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and advantageous trading terms. Lord Mayor Ellor Machison wields assassins, blood witches, and forbidden magic to assure that his powerful patrons get what they want, no matter the cost. Corran, Rigan, and Kell Valmonde are Guild Undertakers, left to run their family’s business when guards murdered their father and monsters killed their mother. Their grave magic enables them to help souls pass to the After and banish vengeful spirits. Rigan’s magic is unusually strong and enables him to hear the confessions of the dead, the secrets that would otherwise be taken to the grave. When the toll exacted by monsters and brutal guards hits close to home and ghosts expose the hidden sins of powerful men, Corran, Rigan and Kell become targets in a deadly game and face a choice: obey the Guild, or fight back and risk everything.

 

  • The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak— In her latest novel, Elif Shafak spins an epic tale spanning nearly a century in the life of the Ottoman Empire. In 1540, twelve-year-old Jahan arrives in Istanbul. As an animal tamer in the sultan’s menagerie, he looks after the exceptionally smart elephant Chota and befriends (and falls for) the sultan’s beautiful daughter, Princess Mihrimah. A palace education leads Jahan to Mimar Sinan, the empire’s chief architect, who takes Jahan under his wing as they construct (with Chota’s help) some of the most magnificent buildings in history. Yet even as they build Sinan’s triumphant masterpieces—the incredible Suleymaniye and Selimiye mosques—dangerous undercurrents begin to emerge, with jealousy erupting among Sinan’s four apprentices. A memorable story of artistic freedom, creativity, and the clash between science and fundamentalism, Shafak’s intricate novel brims with vibrant characters, intriguing adventure, and the lavish backdrop of the Ottoman court, where love and loyalty are no match for raw power.

 

  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente— Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century. Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.

 

  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab—Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

 

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater—“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.” It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive. Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

 

  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor—Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

 

  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley— Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement, THE MISTS OF AVALON will stay with you for a long time to come….

 

  • Vixen by Rosie Garland— Rosie Garland’s extraordinary tale is a story of superstition and devotion in the time of the Black Death and will bewitch both new readers and fans of her much-loved debut, The Palace of Curiosities. Devon, 1349. In Brauntone, where seagulls screech across the fields and the wind has a mind to change, Father Thomas arrives as the new priest. Determined to impress his congregation, he quells fears of the coming pestilence with promises of protection. For Anne, the priest’s arrival is an opportunity that at sixteen, she feels all too ready for. Convinced a grand fate awaits, she moves in as Thomas’s housekeeper, though hopeful of something more. But his home is a place without love or kindness. So when a strange, mute Maid is discovered, washed up in the marshes, and taken in, Anne is grateful for the company. Their friendship is to give Anne the chance of a happiness she thought she’d never know. But soon the plague strikes Brauntone, spreading panic. And as the villagers’ fear turns to anger, Thomas must sacrifice anything to restore their faith in him.

 

  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir— Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear. It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

 

  • Heartwood by Freya Robertson— A dying tree, a desperate quest, a love story, a last stand. Chonrad, Lord of Barle, comes to the fortified temple of Heartwood for the Congressus peace talks, which Heartwood’s holy knights have called in an attempt to stave off war in Anguis. But the Arbor, Heartwood’s holy tree, is failing, and because the land and its people are one, it is imperative the nations try to make peace. After the Veriditas, or annual Greening Ceremony, the Congressus takes place. The talks do not go well and tempers are rising when an army of warriors emerges from the river. After a fierce battle, the Heartwood knights discover that the water warriors have stolen the Arbor’s heart. For the first time in history, its leaves begin to fall… The knights divide into seven groups and begin an epic quest to retrieve the Arbor, and save the land.

 

  • The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera—The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests. Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

 

  • Elfland by Fred Warrington—Rosie Fox is a daughter of the Aetherials, an ancient race from the Spiral—the innermost realm of the Otherworld—who lives secretly among us. Yet she and her kind are bereft of their origins, because on Earth, in a beautiful village named Cloudcroft, the Great Gates between worlds stand sealed. Her parents, Auberon and Jessica, are the warm heart of Cloudcroft and of Rosie’s loving family. But on the hill lives the mysterious, aloof Lawrence Wilder, Gatekeeper to the inner realms of Elfland. Tortured by private demons, he is beset by trouble on all sides: his wife has vanished and his sons Jon and Sam are bitter and damaged. Lawrence is duty bound to throw open the Gates every seven years for the Night of the Summer Stars, a ritual granting young Aetherials their heritage, their elders vital reconnection to their source. Lawrence, however, is haunted by fears of an ever-growing menace within the Spiral. When he stubbornly bars the Gates, he defies tradition and enrages the Aetherial community. What will become of them, deprived of the realm from which flows their essential life force? Is Lawrence protecting them—or betraying them? Growing up amid this turmoil, Rosie and her brothers, along with Sam and Jon Wilder, are heedless of the peril lurking beyond the Gates. They know only that their elders have denied them their birthright, harboring dark secrets in a conspiracy of silence. When Sam is imprisoned for an all-too-human crime, age-old wounds sunder the two families…yet Rosie is drawn into his web, even as she fears the passions awoken in her by the dangerous Wilder clan. Torn between duty and desire, between worlds, Rosie unwittingly precipitates a tragedy that compels her to journey into the Otherworld, where unknown terrors await. Accompanied by the one man most perilous to her life, she must learn hard lessons about life and love in order to understand her Aetherial nature…and her role in the terrifying conflict to come.

 

  • The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco— “The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.” Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human. Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

 

  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller—Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

 

  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss—Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

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“I wish I was not who I am. I wish I had met you in different circumstances, in a place far away from here, where there was no magic, politics and deception. Somewhere where things could be different between us. I wish I was someone else. But I am what and who I am, and all the wishes in the world will not change that.”

The narrator, a young village girl named Cécile, was taught ever since her childhood to sing as beautifully as her mother once did. Her teachers were brutal but efficient, and eventually she sang with such strength that her talents would soon land her outside of her rural hometown and into great fame and fortune. But on the eve of her birthday, as she rides home without a chaperone, she is kidnapped by a neighbor and taken beneath the mountains as tribute for the trolls who had been seeking her. A witch’s curse imprisoned the trolls so that they could never be above ground again, but with the arranged proposal between our heroine and the Prince Tristan of Trollus, many believed the curse would break and set them free. However, when the curse remains in place, Cécile is left with one thing on her mind: escape Trollus or be killed alongside her betrothed.

I truly wanted to enjoy this story, especially because I know many who loved it, and the premise seemed wonderful, but sadly that is not what happened.

As I’ve mentioned, the heroine is kidnaped not too far into the story (first few chapters) and taken beneath the earth. This was my first uneasy sign of how the rest of the book would fall through, because while not every heroine comes written with blades and military training, this one didn’t have the strength of mind or willpower to at least try to flee from her captor. She must’ve fallen a dozen times in her attempted plight, and at one point she even concedes to just walk behind him because she knows she is screwed. About ten more chapters later she sees her captor bartering his wares in the goblin market, and instead of being outraged she is relieved and hopes to find comfort from him. I understand they’re the only humans in the realm, but really? He is the reason you’re there in the first place. Why try to ally with him? You can gather by now the pattern in which this character will continue.

Then we have the supposed love interest— Prince Tristan of Trollus. Coincidentally everyone else in the realm has some sort of deformity to show their troll status but Tristan looks human right down to the color of his eyes. He is arrogant and brooding, two traits I loath, and although the perspective shits with each chapter between him and Cécile, I still couldn’t understand where his sudden affection for her came from. One chapter they’re screaming at each other, and the next he is secretly in love with her. “But Alas! She cannot know for she will be endangered so I shall continue being a giant asshole to her.” Or something along those lines. And when she started to reciprocate the feelings I wanted to just stop reading then and there because the romance makes absolutely no sense and if anything felt a bit like a Stockholm Syndrome scenario. The only relationship throughout the entire novel that I did enjoy was between Cécile and Tristan’s cousin and closest friend, Marc. But that all changed when our heroine did something brash, got her love interest in vital danger, and was blamed for nearly killing the Prince in the only moment I was rooting for her— while she was trying to finally escape. Upon Tristan’s injured state, Marc is so enraged that he attempts to physically hit Cécile but cannot, not because he knows he damn well shouldn’t, but because of an oath he pledged never to harm her. So instead, he asks the nearest guard to do it for him. (What the literal fuck.) At least that guard has the sense not to, but don’t worry; she forgives Marc regardless.

And perhaps it was just me, but the way in which the trolls were described disturbed me a bit. For me, it was a little too many digs at deformities (yes, even for a fantasy series about trolls) and I was uncomfortable by how many times disfigured people were referenced as monsters and disgusting creatures. I know the author must not have wanted it to come off that way, but personally I felt that it did and I would rather their descriptors had been written differently.

Where the plot is concerned, I felt that too was another flop of a concept that had a wonderful premise and build up. It was very vague and a lot of the scenes I found were mundane, and every once in a while I had to force myself not to skim over a whole section because it either didn’t make sense or had no relevance to the immediate plot. That could also just be a reflection on the writing style as well. I wasn’t much of a fan of either.
I would not recommend this book although I understand that many people felt differently about it, so perhaps you will as well. I won’t be reading the rest of this series because I don’t have high hopes but I do have a million books on my TBR pile that I’d like to get to instead. Hopefully my next read will be better!

My Rating: 1/5 
Goodreads Link: X

Faerie Book Recommendations

Faerie Book Recommendations

Faeries, elves, dwarves, and druids are only a few of my favorite fictional creatures. I’m constantly searching for fantasy series that incorporate these characters, and although the fairy/faerie trope has recently skyrocketed thanks to authors like Cassandra Clare and Sarah J. Maas, I feel as though those are only certain types of Fae, being portrayed in drastically different manners with different parts of folkloric inspiration. And while I once enjoyed both the Seelie characters in Clare’s books, and all of the Fae in Mass’s stories, I’ve grown tired of the same few representations of these mythical beings. (This applies to almost every YA faerie book I’ve read— but needless to say there are many books that I find could replace the word “fairy” with “vampire” or “witch” and the readers wouldn’t notice the difference so long as said characters are still dark, sexy, and magical. I suppose the pointy ears are the only real giveaway.)

I’m not writing this post with the intent to bash popular authors. However, if you’re looking to move on or recover from a series and want books similar to it that are perhaps even better than the original… look no further. I’ve loved the Fae since I was a little girl, and the fact that there are so few known books about them makes me sad. That being said, here’s a list of all the faerie books I’ve read or will be reading this year! Beware the fair ones, friends.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

aeor coverIsobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

The Dreaming Tree by C.J. Cherryh

It was that transitional time of the world, when man first brought the clang of iron and the reek of smoke to the lands which before had echoed only with fairy voices. In that dawn of man and death of magic there yet remained one last untouched place—the small forest of Ealdwood—which kept the magic intact, and protected the old ways. And there was one who dwelt there, Arafel the Sidhe, who had more pride and love of the world as it used to be than any of her kind. But fear of the world of Faery ran deep in the hearts of men, and when Ciaran Cuilean, Lord of Caer Wiell, a man with Elvish blood in his veins, found himself the object of increasing distrust and suspicion from his men, his king, and even his own family, he knew he must once again put his humanity aside and return to Ealdwood. For shadows of a newly awakened evil swarmed across both lands, and unless Ciaran reclaimed his haunted weapons from the Tree of Swords and joined Arafel, he would see this evil overtake not only the warm hearthstones of the mortal keeps but the silvery heart of Ealdwood itself!

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

pendelum sun coverCatherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

Rhapsodic by Laura Thalassa

Callypso Lillis is a siren with a very big problem, one that stretches up her arm and far into her past. For the last seven years she’s been collecting a bracelet of black beads up her wrist, magical IOUs for favors she’s received. Only death or repayment will fulfill the obligations. Only then will the beads disappear.

Everyone knows that if you need a favor, you go to the Bargainer to make it happen. He’s a man who can get you anything you want… at a price. And everyone knows that sooner or later he always collects.

But for one of his clients, he’s never asked for repayment. Not until now. When Callie finds the fae king of the night in her room, a grin on his lips and a twinkle in his eye, she knows things are about to change. At first it’s just a chaste kiss—a single bead’s worth—and a promise for more.

For the Bargainer, it’s more than just a matter of rekindling an old romance. Something is happening in the Otherworld. Fae warriors are going missing one by one. Only the women are returned, each in a glass casket, a child clutched to their breast. And then there are the whispers among the slaves, whispers of an evil that’s been awoken.

If the Bargainer has any hope to save his people, he’ll need the help of the siren he spurned long ago. Only, his foe has a taste for exotic creatures, and Callie just happens to be one.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marlier

High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.

But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.

wildwood dancingWhen Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love.

Spindle Fire Lexa Hillyer

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous—in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

When the ancient evil of the Blackbringer rises to unmake the world, only one determined faerie stands in its way. However, Magpie Windwitch, granddaughter of the West Wind, is not like other faeries. While her kind live in seclusion deep in the forests of Dreamdark, she’s devoted her life to tracking down and recapturing devils escaped from their ancient bottles, just as her hero, the legendary Bellatrix, did 25,000 years ago. With her faithful gang of crows, she travels the world fighting where others would choose to flee. But when a devil escapes from a bottle sealed by the ancient Djinn King himself, the creator of the world, she may be in over her head. How can a single faerie, even with the help of her friends, hope to defeat the impenetrable darkness of the Blackbringer?

At a time when fantasy readers have an embarrassment of riches in choosing new worlds to fall in love with, this first novel by a fresh, original voice is sure to stand out.

Under the Green Hill by Laura L. Sullivan

Meg and her siblings have been sent to the English countryside for the summer to stay with elderly relatives. The children are looking forward to exploring the ancient mansion and perhaps discovering a musty old attic or two filled with treasure, but never in their wildest dreams did they expect to find themselves in the middle of a fairy war.

under the green hillWhen Rowan pledges to fight for the beautiful fairy queen, Meg is desperate to save her brother. But the Midsummer War is far more than a battle between mythic creatures: Everything that lives depends on it. How can Meg choose between family and the fate of the very land itself?

The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell

It began with the chiming of the tiny copper bell on the mantel, warning them someone was passing the ward stone her mother had placed on the path to their house …

One terrible day, Makenna, a young hedgewitch, witnesses her mother’s murder at the hands of their own neighbors. Striken with grief and rage, Makenna flees the village that has been her home. In the wilds of the forest, she forms an unexpected alliance. Leading an army of clever goblins, Makenna skillfully attacks the humans, now their shared enemy.

What she doesn’t realize is that the ruling Hierarchy is determined to rid the land of all magical creatures, and they believe Makenna is their ultimate threat – so they have sent a young knight named Tobin into the Goblin Wood to entrap her.

In this captivating fantasy adventure, the difference between Bright and Dark magic is as deceptive as our memories, hopes, and fears — and the light of loyalty and friendship has a magic all of its own.

A young Hedgewitch, an idealistic knight, and an army of clever goblins fight against the ruling hierarchy that is trying to rid the land of all magical creatures.

Elfland by Freda Warrington

Rosie Fox is a daughter of the Aetherials, an ancient race from the Spiral—the innermost realm of the Otherworld—who lives secretly among us. Yet she and her kind are bereft of their origins, because on Earth, in a beautiful village named Cloudcroft, the Great Gates between worlds stand sealed.

elfland coverHer parents, Auberon and Jessica, are the warm heart of Cloudcroft and of Rosie’s loving family. But on the hill lives the mysterious, aloof Lawrence Wilder, Gatekeeper to the inner realms of Elfland. Tortured by private demons, he is beset by trouble on all sides: his wife has vanished and his sons Jon and Sam are bitter and damaged. Lawrence is duty bound to throw open the Gates every seven years for the Night of the Summer Stars, a ritual granting young Aetherials their heritage, their elders vital reconnection to their source. Lawrence, however, is haunted by fears of an ever-growing menace within the Spiral. When he stubbornly bars the Gates, he defies tradition and enrages the Aetherial community. What will become of them, deprived of the realm from which flows their essential life force? Is Lawrence protecting them—or betraying them?

Growing up amid this turmoil, Rosie and her brothers, along with Sam and Jon Wilder, are heedless of the peril lurking beyond the Gates. They know only that their elders have denied them their birthright, harboring dark secrets in a conspiracy of silence.

When Sam is imprisoned for an all-too-human crime, age-old wounds sunder the two families…yet Rosie is drawn into his web, even as she fears the passions awoken in her by the dangerous Wilder clan. Torn between duty and desire, between worlds, Rosie unwittingly precipitates a tragedy that compels her to journey into the Otherworld, where unknown terrors await. Accompanied by the one man most perilous to her life, she must learn hard lessons about life and love in order to understand her Aetherial nature…and her role in the terrifying conflict to come.

Midwinter by Matthew Sturges

Winter comes to the land only once in a hundred years. But the snow covers ancient secrets: secrets that could topple a kingdom.

Mauritaine was a war hero, a captain in the Seelie Army. Then he was accused of treason and sentenced to life without parole at Crere Sulace, a dark and ancient prison in the mountains, far from the City Emerald. But now the Seelie Queen – Regina Titania herself – has offered him one last chance to redeem himself, an opportunity to regain his freedom and his honor.

Unfortunately, it’s a suicide mission, which is why only Mauritaine and the few prisoners he trusts enough to accompany him, would even dare attempt it: Raieve, beautiful and harsh, an emissary from a foreign land caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; Perrin Alt, Lord Silverdun, a nobleman imprisoned as a result of political intrigues so Byzantine that not even he understands them; and Brian Satterly, a human physicist, apprehended searching for the human victims of the faery changeling trade.

Meanwhile, dark forces are at work at home and abroad. In the Seelie kingdom, the reluctant soldier Purane-Es burns with hatred for Mauritaine, and plots to steal the one thing that remains to him: his wife. Across the border, the black artist Hy Pezho courts the whim of Mab, offering a deadly weapon that could allow the Unseelie in their flying cities to crush Titania and her army once and for all.

With time running out, Mauritaine and his companions must cross the deadly Contested Lands filled with dire magical fallout from wars past. They will confront mounted patrols, brigands, and a traitor in their midst. And before they reach their destination, as the Unseelie Armies led by Queen Mab approach the border, Mauritaine must decide between his own freedom and the fate of the very land that has forsaken him.

Feyre Archeron: Cosplay

Ever since the title for A Court of Wings and Ruin released I’ve been itching to cosplay at least one character from the ACOTAR series by Sarah J Maas. It only took two people to say that I looked like Feyre for me to fully accept that “challenge” (haha, but really, as a first time cosplay-er this was a lot more fun that I had expected it to be). Finding all of the gear and accessories was the fun part… walking through a public hiking trail and an arboretum wearing elf ears and a ball gown was a bit awkward to say the least.

So without any further delay, here are all of the photos we shot over the week! I definitely plan on cosplaying my favorite character this coming fall– LUCIEN. I’m already teaching myself how to properly use prosthetic makeup and apply colored eye contacts. And with a possible Lucien novella lurking just around the corner, I really can’t wait!

Ears: Geekling Creations on Etsy
Headpiece: NebulaXCrafts on Etsy
Dress: DHGate
Bow & Arrow: Bounty Bunker on Etsy
Book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookDepo
Arm Jewelry: Heartichoke (Huntington, NY)

 

A Court of Wings and Ruin | Review (SPOILERS.)

“You do not fear. You do not falter. You do not yield.
Remember that you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.”

Rating: 3.5 stars.

After swearing that I would drag this book out as long as I possibly could, I have finished it within the course of three days. So much for patience. But at the very least, in my defense I have to say, I couldn’t find it in me to put it down. As the last “official” book in the series (but not the final installment, for we will probably see novellas in the future) it was almost everything I had hoped for. I say almost because although it is also the lengthiest of the trilogy, there are cliffhangers and questions left unattended at the end. However, I have a feeling that will be where the novellas come into play. Without spoiling anything, I’d wager we definitely will be getting a Lucien novel! You can imagine how hard I cried over that revelation.

In A Court of Wings and Ruin, we follow as our heroine, Feyre, infiltrates her enemy court to gather information on the upcoming war. The High Lord of Spring doesn’t suspect anything amiss, blaming her absence on mind control and believing her to have been a prisoner, yet his emissary— (also, let’s be honest, the best character in the whole series…nope, I’m not biased at all)— Lucien begins to notice things not quite settling with her return. Those initial chapters of Feyre’s time in Spring were both painful and exhilarating to read because you are compelled to sympathize with her by also cheering her on through her devious work and spying. It isn’t until certain scenarios break apart the foundation of the court where Feyre, along with her wary friend Lucien, find themselves north of Prythian in the Night Court. From there, the story becomes full of battle strategies, ancient creatures, reunion scenes, and of course—confrontations and revelations. (No joke, the final war scene took about one-hundred pages. And it was intense throughout the whole ordeal.)

I finished reading A Court of Wings and Ruin a few days ago and at first I thought I loved it. But after the dreaded honeymoon phase… I’ve started to realize that I really didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had thought I would. As much as I had hoped I would.
For some reason it just didn’t feel like a Sarah J Maas book, especially not one from the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I know Throne of Glass has its ups and downs, but with ACOTAR I was expecting a phenomenal finale due to how incredible A Court of Mist and Fury was. I’m still sickened and shocked by how much this book failed me. I’ve invested my heart into theses characters—not a day went by for almost two years where I didn’t think of the series at least once— and to read the last book, thinking it was going to be the mother of all fantasy novels, and to realize that I didn’t connect with any of the characters I was in love with…. it hurt. A lot.

I have seen many people speculate that she might have not written to the best of her ability due to the pressure put on Maas to finish the series on time, but with the amount of books she has written and the length of them all, I would have at least expected a bit more than what we got. We all joked that we didn’t know how she could end a series, thinking it might result in the deaths of our favorite character, but I didn’t think their death would literally come at the hand of the author for not writing them the way they’ve always been portrayed, even by the fans.

For starters, there’s Mor. I’m not so much bothered by the way in which her sexuality came out than I am by her treatment for… well, for the entire book. Mor is supposed to be this strong and compassionate woman who doesn’t let shit bother her and uplifts others! In ACOWAR, Mor not only is repeatedly overshadowed by other events and characters, but she acts aggesvijy in a way that doesn’t line up right with her original aesthetic. She is terse with Amren, almost platonic with Feyre, and outright brazen towards Nesta. In fact, the only people she seems to care about in the book are Azriel and Cassian, even though she’s partially using them as a cover because she’s afraid to come out about being bisexual. I’m sure that wasn’t intended on the authors part, to make it seem like Mor suddenly didn’t have that compassionate side to her anymore, but tragically that’s what this story conveyed to me. And to be fair? She had all the right to not be kind to them, especially after Rhysand and Azriel put her in the position where she had to negotiate with her rapists and abusers in order to further their alliance in the war. I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I saw that. I know Rhys can screw up at times, as is known from his character in the prior two books, but this was just outright OOC and made me feel really uncomfortable for the rest of the novel. Not to mention that Keir doesn’t even face a bad end? In fact, I don’t think it’s even mentioned what happens to him other than the promise Rhysand made to allow all the vile people from the Hewn City into Velars (I cried so much reading that. I was actually praying Feyre would use her High Lady card to ensure that didn’t happen).

The only character who I thought to be perfectly in character was Cassian, but even his parts felt clipped or forced. I think that’s in part due to the book being seven-hundred pages long wherein all the loose ends had to get tied up before the final chapter, but also it was in part due to the writing. It just felt rushed, as though the focal point of the book shift from being about character development and relationships to being about plot and battle tactics. Even the setting felt like a grey area— definitely not like the atmosphere from the Spring Court or Velaris. I wasn’t even sure where we were in certain parts of the book because the usual lengthy descriptors that I adored weren’t written into the book at all save for all the battlefield scenes.

Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship felt (while not necessarily dull) incomplete? I was rooting for them since book one, and after book two I had really thought that this was going to be the finale to make all other YA finale books want to be like it. I had high expectations and they were practically all trampled on. Every Feysand scene was either a smutty sex scene or just the two of them being in the same room discussing politics. There wasn’t any cuteness or snark from the prior books, and it almost felt like Rhysand lost his sarcastic/ fun nature that made us all fall for him and Feyre lost her tactical nature that made her such a good huntress. Kind of backwards for what we had anticipated from these two, isn’t it? It felt like they were present, but not actually there. I cried during Rhysand’s death scene, but in the back of my mind I knew what was coming. Why? Because we already saw it happen in the first book. While I think it was intended to be some sort of homage to the original story, it fell flat for me and I truly believe it was only added for shock value. As were much of the scenarios in this story.

Lucien…. I wrote a 2k+ meta about his arc in ACOWAR on tumblr, and you can read all about what I felt regarding it right HERE. But to surmise: I love that he escaped Spring and is now going to pursue a life in Velaris, but I hate that it seems as though he still wants forgiveness from Tamlin when it should be the other way around. I know we’re most likely going to get a novella for him, which would explain why the Helion/ High Lady of Autumn drama went unanswered in this book, but I don’t think it’s smart to bank off of a novella to answer questions that should be laid at peace in the official series.

I was thrilled with the arc given to Lucien, however I don’t think he had the proper character development that I had been hoping for. For starters, he finally realizes that Tamlin is a toxic friend and that he needs to separate himself from Spring, so Lucien goes with Feyre to the Night Court where he is then treated as you might imagine— the Inner Circle is wary of him, but they give him the chance to prove he is not like the Court he had just escaped from. Feyre helps them understand him a bit more, and we even get a scene where Lucien is wearing Illyrian leathers and wielding blades gifted to him by Cassian and Azriel! I loved that he was so prominent in the first half of the book, but towards the end he nearly vanished. And then we only saw pieces of him in the aftermath of the war. Unsurprisingly, I was bitter about that. Way to dangle a treat in front of a dog, Maas. However, Lucien does say to Feyre in the end “I have quite the story to tell you.” about his time missing in the book, and we are also told that his father isn’t Beron, but Helion—High Lord of Day. It all makes sense to me now that we have this information, and I was put out that we never got to see the two of them talk. I don’t even know if either of them are aware of what they mean to one another! Hence: a Lucien novella. It’s bound to happen.

It didn’t feel like I was reading a finale, especially not one to my favorite series. This is definitely my least favorite of the trilogy, and I’m so hurt (betrayed?) by the concept of that. I wish this book hadn’t come out and that we were all still in the excited month-before-publication phase where we thought we were going to get a million times more of the content than we actually did.

There were parts I really loved, like Azriel teaching Feyre to fly, Feyre and the Suriel having a heart to heart, the Archeron sisters sleeping in the same bed together like they once did when they were mortal etc… but the parts I didn’t like weigh too heavily on my heart to be overlooked.

Maas really stepped up the diversity in this book, and I couldn’t be happier about that. She’s finally learning! We find out that most of the courts are created of people of color, even the Winter Court (which a lot of fans had casted to be all white). I’m not just talking about the cop-out “tanned skin” or “warm tone” semantics often used in prior books. On the matter of LGBTQ+ representation, we see plenty of non-hetero romances, even within the main character group. I know for a fact that these characters could have been handled better: Helion being bisexual and written as a person who loves to sleep around? That’s just a classic stereotype and I wish it had been left out. Mor…. while I might be in the smaller portion of the fandom who was happy with her coming out, and found her story to be understandable and even relatable, I just wish it didn’t have to happen in the last chapter of the last book. Obviously it was a second thought type of decision, but it I’m glad she is canon bisexual. I just wish it wasn’t kept a secret at the end of the book.

I’m such a fan of Maas. What happened to this book destroyed me. I just can’t wrap my head around how she and the publishers let this happen?

Overall I just can’t believe this series is “over.” I know there will be novellas to come, but it’s the feeling you get when you finish a book that leaves you stunned for weeks on end… that’s going to be tough to deal with. I already miss these characters. It actually makes me sick thinking about how much I miss them because I feel like the last I saw them was actually in A Court of Mist and Fury. But all I can say now is: can’t wait for the fanfiction. I already have a million and one ideas! Hopefully these novellas come out soon.

Review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

hak 3“And Yarvi realized that Death does not bow to each person who passes her, does not sweep out her arm respectfully to show the way, speaks no profound words, unlocks no bolts. The key upon her chest is never needed, for the Last Door stands always open. She herds the dead through impatiently, needles of rank or fame or quality. She has an ever-lengthening queue to get through. A blind procession, inexhaustible.”

Prince Yarvi of the Gettlands is thrust into the role of King upon his father’s sudden death, but even after a lifetime of preparations the young boy is still not ready to take on his throne. He doesn’t believe himself capable of such power, and neither do the other royals and soldiers around him. It is due to this distrust that Yarvi finds himself awash on a new shore in a strange new land that he’d only heard of through stories of his kingdom’s enemies. So who finds him first as he crawls from the cold waves? His enemy king, of course. Pretending to be a mere baker’s son, Yarvi is then brought into slavery to be sold in one of the high markets of Grom-gil-Gorm’s territory. As he ventures from a throne, to a cell, to a ship where he is charged with the job of an oarsmen, Yarvi begins to plot his vengeance for those who betrayed him and cast him out of his home, and he’ll have to rely upon his enemies if he wants to survive first in order to get back his crown.

Processed with VSCO with p5 presetOur hero of the story is roughly around the age of sixteen if I recall correctly, and he definitely acts like it. Although I’m infatuated with tales of warriors and knights and vikigns etcetera, I was always a bit skeptical about how quick to take on a challenge some of those figures were. In Yarvi’s case, he truly wants to be king but he knows he’s not ready yet— spiritually or physically. For starters, Yarvi was born with half a hand, hence the title. This setback is only a setback if he allows it, and unsurprisingly he does. He was always frowned upon for being a cripple, and he is self-conscious of the fact. Even when he was being displayed in a line up of slaves to be bought, he hid his hand so that his buyer wouldn’t think twice.

To make matters worse, he had to help row a ship with only seven fingers, and he was described as being scrawny and lanky in the prior chapters. There were times when I became frustrated with his inner monologue and the depressing thoughts that accompanied it, but then I remembered that unlike other stereotypical hero’s, Yarvi acts just how I imagine anyone else in his position in real life would. He is hesitant about everything, passionate about the things he desires, and switches moods constantly.

Along his journey as a slave, Yarvi befriends his fellow oarsmen and the other captives aboard the ship. I was pleased to read that there are many mentions of women captains and warrior queens, but I felt that all the secondary characters lacked any true depth. Taking into consideration that this is meant to be a story about one boys development into a man, I found it troubling how little was spent on the progression of characteristics and rather most of the plot centered around battle tactics and the main protagonists constantly on the run.

Processed with VSCO with p5 presetYet even the battles felt short, as did most of the book, which I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t take me so long to force myself to read. Abercrombie has a fluid style of writing, and I really enjoyed his prose and context of language, but it was still a challenge to finish this story if only for the lack of connection I felt towards any of the characters, including the main one.

Would I classify this as a story about vikings? I’m sure under certain dictions it would qualify as such because of the mention of Vasterland and the enemy kings, but personally I read this just as I would have read any other story set in medieval fantasy realms. It didn’t stand out at all, and it felt dull nearly every other chapter. Perhaps you’ll have a better time with this one than I did if you decide to read it, but I can’t say I loved this story without coming up with explanations as to why I also found issues with it. I’m told the second book in this series is even better, but I’m still uncertain whether or not I will be reading that one.

Overall, I found this book to be enjoyable. It was a fun read, but it dragged a bit at the end and I still don’t feel as connected to these characters as I would have preferred. There was so much potential, but the delivery was weak. Oh well. On to more books!

My Rating: 3/5 stars.

Read this review on GoodReads.

Garden Party: a spring playlist.

cozy readsThis beautiful cover design is from artist Júlia Sardà.
You can check out her other pieces here

Garden Party is a combination of songs that make me want to stroll through meadows, find the sunniest patch of grass, plant flowers, eat pretty pastries like lemon bread or French food I cannot pronounce. It also makes me want to read, but honestly what doesn’t? In other words, you might have heard these songs if you’ve ever shopped in Anthropologie. Enjoy!

 

tracklist.

i. what’s a girl to do / Bat for Lashes
ii. paper bag / Fiona Apple
iii. queen of peace / Florence & the Machine
iv. wild fire / Laura Marling
v. wild horses (acoustic) / Bishop Briggs
vi. pierre / Ryn Weaver
vii. all my tears / Ane Burn
viii. all I want / Sarah Blasko
ix. metal heart / Cat Power
x. wish you were here / Florence Welch
xi. aventine / Agnes Obel
xii. 1234 / Feist

Listen on 8tracks here.