Our Dark Duet By Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 13th June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own. 

So now I’m sad that another V.E. Schwab series is over.

In the space of 3 months, two endings to two very popular series were released, and while I devoured them both in a matter of hours, I had forgotten that once I’d finished them, THAT WAS IT.

Our Dark Duet is the sequel to This Savage Song, about a monster boy who dreams of being human, and a human girl with the fate of becoming monstrous. While the feel of the setting and themes may seem familiar to very genre-specific stories, this series is dripping with that Schwab passion that makes it so much more special than just an apocalyptic monster-book.

I love Schwab’s female characters, and Kate Harker is no exception. I read somewhere that Schwab likes to make her female characters Slytherin’s and my gosh, as a Slytherin, does that make my heart sing. Kate is fearless but also afraid, 100% done but also 100% willing to fight for what is right (or at least her version of right), an icy character with soft gooey centre…somewhere in there.

I love August too. Schwab has a knack for writing what I like to call ‘Hufflepuff Boys’; they’re loving, will do anything for their family, and they ARE the soft gooey centre! While the warring parts of the cities have closed in however, August has changed; he’s closed off, with-holding, and jumps at the chance to fight. I liked his character development – war changes a person, but obviously I love him for who he is which is a soft monster with a knack for playing the violin.

A thrilling end to another V.E. Schwab starred series!

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 28th February 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise. Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive? Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible. And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

I always find it a lot harder to review books I adored as opposed to books I hated.

It’s harder because what do I say that doesn’t sound like I’m being a mushy, soppy loved up reader? With negative reviews I can be cold and professional, almost academic sounding with my shade, but when it comes to love, how can you turn it into a review?

Let’s talk about the series as a whole rather than this book itself, to avoid spoilers.

tumblr_omlwvhTmhw1u04fedo1_540I’ve fallen in love with the Shades of Magic series. I fall in love often but maybe not this hard, and especially not with a high fantasy series. High fantasy can often come across as samey and stereotypical, often missing great opportunities to do something different as this is a genre where the possibilities are endless. You are literally creating a world with the power of your brain and language, and yet so many books are filled with cliches and things you’ve seen before. Things that, though may seem relatable and familiar to our world, still aren’t what makes a story in high fantasy so imaginative and immersing.

But Shades of Magic has always been about spreading your imagination far and wide; different Londons, folded over one another like the pages of a book, in universes that are similar but also not, hiding secrets and magic and evil. Already, you’re handed that and you know already that this series is not like the others.

But then you get the characters who aren’t stock, aren’t just what would expect in a high fantasy novel. They’re all lovable, even the villains, even the side characters who still have enough agency and personality to be someone you can actually picture rather than just an extra. But obviously, the main characters; Kell and Lila Bard are funny, witty and you can feel comfortable going on this cut throat journey with them as they make it through multiple Londons, learning different languages, and becoming accustomed to different cultures.

And of course, A Conjuring of Light was the bittersweet ending that I wanted but also didn’t want, because it meant never waiting to see what happens next. This series has all my praise, and I guarantee you will love it too.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 21st January 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆
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Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful and cruel father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Continue reading “Caraval by Stephanie Garber”

The Rose Society by Marie Lu (The Young Elites #2)

Publisher: Speak
Release Date: October 2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Plot: Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she flees Kenettra with her sister to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her.

But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good when her very existence depends on darkness?

img_20170106_181937_268I DID IT.

After 2 months of struggling to finish a book due to my mental health, and thus meaning I lost 2016’s reading challenge by about 3 books, I finally finished a book in just a matter of days, and it was a great one too!

So, Adelina is a villain, there’s no question; she manipulates, taunts, consumes fear and enjoys hurting others. But I still root for her in every way. She is so believable when it comes to painting the good guys as bad, as wanting to hurt her; sometimes you have to remember that she is the villain and that, in the same way as she is manipulating the other characters around her, she is also manipulating you, in a sense.

I still found, like The Young Elites, the plot to not really stand out from many other fantasies. There were wars and duelling kingdoms and handsome, charming thieves. I still thoroughly enjoyed those aspects despite reading about them before (because if you don’t like those themes, you’re probably not going to enjoy high fantasy), but, after looking at other reviews, I guess I was expecting something a little more remarkable.

I’ll still be reading The Midnight Star, and I can’t wait to read about Adelina burning everything to the ground.

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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: September 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Plot: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world. 

I don’t know why I put off writing this review for a while.

Oh wait. YES I DO. BECAUSE THEN IT WOULD MEAN ADMITTING IT IS THE END.

Quite frankly, I could read many books that just narrated each member of The Dregs’ daily lives. I love each of them in a major but different way, and I would honestly not mind reading spin offs of each character. At first, when I read Six of Crows, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t get on bored with the multiple narratives. I’m a writer, and I’ve found I can only write two perspectives in a story because after two, I’m confusing myself.

But no, each narrative was woven together perfectly to create a full blown story sweater that just fit in all the right places.

Almost all the story takes place in Ketterdamn, which I loved considering we only got a glimpse of it in Six of Crows after the gang go on a voyage heist, leaving Ketterdamn to our imaginations. But in Crooked Kingdom, it feels like you are running along the canals and cobbled streets with your favourite street rats (and I mean street rats in the most affectionate way possible).

You get a shit ton of back story, and because this is the last book in the series, I can understand why. But honestly, each character is so lovable and deadly that I was ready for the pages upon pages of it. I felt that CK was much more character driven than SoC, which was more ‘heist fun adventure story’, and while it sounds like I’m comparing the two (because they are so very different), the story flows well from one to the next, despite the different ways in which each story is told.

Look, if you read SoC and you didn’t think it was the best, then fine. But honestly, you’re not giving up on a 7 book business. There’s one book left, you might as well read it and see how these babies are doing post-heist, and hopefully, whatever apprehension you feel about this series will change.

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The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: October 2014
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads 

Plot: Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

I’m glad I picked this book up.

Marie Lu is such a popular author, and it seems everyone has read at least one of her books. I hoped to follow in everyone’s footsteps, but instead of starting with Lu’s Legend series, The Young Elites seemed more up my street.

Italian-themed assassins with powers? Well, you know I like that sort of thing.

But, instead of falling head over heels with the story, it seemed I liked it just a sensible amount, which isn’t exactly what you want to hear.

What I loved about The Young Elites the most was the main character, Adelina, who’s powers grow stronger through hate and fear. Adelina is different from any protagonist I’ve read before, and while there are other characters from other stories who are nasty and fearful and deadly, they’re villains, who learn from mistakes and grow to being a good person. In The Young Elites, for Adelina to grow, she needs to take hold of that fear and hatred and let it fester. It was very interesting to see a magical system that thrived on Adelina’s ability to cause pain and suffering, and I liked that she was slowly becoming a worse and worse person.

Saying that is weird, but it’s my favourite thing about this book.

The rest of it seemed a little samey from other high fantasy books I’ve read; tournaments, bumbling guards, and ruthless royalty. But I’ll know I’ll carry on with the series, because I’m itching to watch Adelina hopefully become the villain of her own story.

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A Court Of Mist And Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: May 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Plot: Feyre is immortal.

After rescuing her lover Tamlin from a wicked Faerie Queen, she returns to the Spring Court possessing the powers of the High Fae. But Feyre cannot forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people – nor the bargain she made with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court.

As Feyre is drawn ever deeper into Rhysand’s dark web of politics and passion, war is looming and an evil far greater than any queen threatens to destroy everything Feyre has fought for. She must confront her past, embrace her gifts and decide her fate.

She must surrender her heart to heal a world torn in two.

I have a lot of things to talk about.

A lot of things that I didn’t think I would be talking about when it came to A Court Of Mist And Fury.

For starters, I really enjoyed this book, so much more so than the first, A Court Of Thorns And Roses. Apparently, this is a consensus; ACOMAF is the better of the two, with strong characters, stronger plot, and web-weaving and glorious world building. The setting is beautifully written, and you’re thrust into the Night Court with stars in your eyes.

But, as I weeped and agreed with everyone that yes, this story is great, I came across the dreaded final quarter of the book.

These four stars is not the same as other four stars I’ve given, that have slowly crept or shone to that spot page after page. No, these fucking four stars are a demotion. I had planned to give this book five stars. I had planned to click on that button before I’d even finished. The relationships (before the awfulness) and the characters were just so well rounded and good.

But now, I’ve got to have a little chat about the portrayal of love in ACOMAF.

 

As we saw in ACOTAR, the portrayal of love was weird, abusive, and skewed. I’d been consistently told it gets better, it gets sorted, as if Sarah J. Maas had read back her work and gone “Shit, that’s a bit dodgy, better fix that.” And here we are, a very consensual, loving, and slow burning relationship.

But then, THEN, it’s like she said “Ah no, this seems very un-YA fantasy like, let’s throw in SOULMATES.” And this is where your non-spoilery section ends, friends.

To read spoilers below, simply highlight:

While I had seen Rhysand as this horrible, abusive character, he was finally redeeming himself. He brought out the best in Feyre, and we saw just how broken and damaged he was as well. How this wasn’t treated as an excuse, how Maas had crafted this relationship to eventually turn into something stronger. I accepted that, I rooted for that. But then, for no reason, Feyre and Rhysand become…mates?

*Que Jacob/Renesmee imprinting flashbacks*

I’m sorry, but why was that necessary? Why did their relationship have to become this everlasting, eternal and binding thing? Why couldn’t it have just grown and developed naturally like a healthy, adult relationship? Why are soulmates important to a story? Why can’t love just be enough?

And then it got worse. Because then there was the dance of ‘Everybody pair together!’

WHY. Why does every male and female in a story have to be paired together? Why is it important that no single person gets to stay single? They are not miserable or alone. I’ve written blog posts on the importance of platonic relationships, on the importance of queer relationships, but I’ve got this itching feeling to write about this strange and boring trope of pairing heterosexual ‘soulmates’ together.

I genuinely enjoyed the majority of this book, and I’ll be delighted once the next book comes out. But it’s still riddled with many aspects of a Sarah J. Maas book that is slowly putting me off Throne of Glass, and any book that sounds similar.

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