[The Bear and the Nightingale] Katherine Arden

25489134

I absolutely loved The Bear and the Nightingale. Katherine Arden has crafted a beautiful tale of wildness, beauty, and fantasy. It’s the story of Vasilisa–called Vasya by those who love her–and her family’s trials and triumphs in a world that doesn’t always believe in the mystical. In the wilds of Russia, far from the civilized world of Moscow, Vasilisa and her siblings grow up believing in Morozko–the not-always-nice Frost–and other household and wilderness beings such as the domovoi and the rusalka. It chronicles the life of Vasilisa as she grows and discovers how to reconcile her old beliefs with new ones that make their way to her household.

The Bear and the Nightingale opens with a Russian folktale, that of Morozko and the maiden. It sets up the story quite well, as there are parallels to this folktale throughout The Bear and the Nightingale. While I would say that is the main folktale that is threaded throughout the book, Arden has included more of the mythology and stories of the region to create a rich cultural setting in addition to a rich physical setting. And it wasn’t mentioned just to have “culture.” The beliefs of the North–which is, according to those who live in the cities, obsolete and incorrect–are consistently in the narrative. As Vasilisa grows, Arden introduces more of the mythology as she learns about it through exploring her world. It was a natural way of storytelling and of growing the world contained in the book.

1932-_%d0%b1%d0%b8%d0%bb%d0%b8%d0%b1%d0%b8%d0%bd-_%d0%bc%d0%be%d1%80%d0%be%d0%b7%d0%ba%d0%be

Morozko and the Maiden

Vasilisa is characterized as a wild child. As a daughter, it’s expected of her to marry. Those who love her expect that this wildling will eventually grow calmer. She never does. I was very happy that Vasya was the main protagonist in The Bear and the Nightingale. She sees the world differently than the others do, which is often why there’s a lot of conflict between Vasya and the people around her, especially when the new stepmother comes from Moscow.

With the introduction of the stepmother comes one of the main conflicts of the novel. While there are other, minor conflicts such as growing up and wanting to be your own person while also respecting the wishes of your parents, this one is the focus. And it was great. It allowed Arden to take a look at the conflict of the old versus the new, in particular the beliefs in the old Gods  and spirits against the new God. At first, it’s little things. Then as it escalates into a larger conflict, Vasya realizes that forgetting the old Gods and spirits may be more harmful than anyone realizes.

I think that there’s a lot of conflict between Vasya and her stepmother not only because of the contrasting beliefs, but also because they’re so similar to each other. They act as foils to each other, but they’re also similar in their stubbornness. It causes them to clash to the point where neither particularly cares about how it could potentially harm the other. Sometimes you dislike someone because you can see things that you don’t like about yourself in them. That was slightly the case with Vasya and her stepmother.

220px-iconostasis_in_moscow

An iconostasis likely similar to the one that Father Konstantin paints. An iconostasis is a wall of icons that separate the nave from the sanctuary in a church.

Eventually, the conflict between the two religions escalates to a point where Vasya is one of the only ones who believes in the importance of the old. Her efforts to save her household and that of the people under her father’s care makes her come into her own power, and that makes others feel threatened. She’s a powerful female in a world where men traditionally have the power. She’s also a part of the old world, as was her mother before her. With her mother gone, Vasya is the only one left to uphold this. While the majority of the book is in Vasya’s point of view, Arden also switches points of views to expand the story. Some of these points of view are of male ones. It really works well for this story. We’re not taken away from Vasya for too long, and the different points of view highlight other aspects of the world and informs readers more of the world and how it works, without giving unnecessary information.

I’ve only talked about two characters, but that doesn’t mean that the others aren’t equally as fascinating and developed. While some have smaller roles in the story, I felt that all characters were equally rounded. I didn’t feel that there were any that existed just to exist. I particularly loved Father Konstantin’s story arc and the temptation that he was going through. I also really liked her brothers–while the focus was on two of them, I could sense the love that the others had for Vasya and their family. I loved that they were included because they challenged Vasya. I would definitely read another story that focuses on these characters.

Kind of how I imagined Moscow.

Kind of how I imagined Moscow–people bustling about everywhere.

Ultimately, what won me over were the various well-written elements of The Bear and the Nightingale, namely the characters, the physical setting of the world, and the cultural setting of the world. Arden has such a talent at crafting something deep and immersive. Mere chapters in I realized just how much research had gone into creating this world and by the time I finished the novel I was deeply impressed with the care that she had taken. Not only is her writing beautiful and engaging, but it gave me a true sense of Russia in a time before–when being a member of the ruling class is precarious and some of the people are transitioning from the old Gods to the new God. The only knowledge I have is through self-learning and is limited, but this felt real. The information–such as how what I would characterize as pet-names–was released slowly and I learned by reading. I felt a little lost at the beginning but consistency helped me find my way.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a historical fantasy novel, and I loved it. I really think it’s going to do well. Not only does it have a heroine who does her own thing, but it has a fantastic story with a great setting. I think it’s clear how much I loved it because of the details on an unfamiliar culture and setting. It’s a great start to a new book year, even though I technically read it in 2016! The details make this story and I’m very thankful that I got to read it early and gush about it in a review. I’m looking forward to what Katherine Arden comes up with next. If it’s anything like The Bear and the Nightingale, I’m sure that I’ll love it.

5 very well-deserved stars.

The Bear and the Nightingale will be published on January 10th, 2017. I received a copy from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

[The Dream Protocol: Descent] Adara Quick

30268886

What would a world be like if dreams were controlled by the government and your place in life determined at age 15? What would a world be like if nightmares were weaponized and you could be punished for anything they determined were wrong? In The Dream Protocol, your life is lived in a grey world and your only escape is the dreams that you can afford. Then at age 35, you’re no longer wanted and you take your Descent. Deirdre is no longer content with living this way. As her mother’s Descent creeps steadily closer, she begins to rebel against the norm. When who she loves is threatened, she discovers that she will do anything to protect them–even if it means putting herself in danger.

So I will begin by saying that I’ve never had a novel length story published. But I have written and read a lot of stories, particularly young adult ones, in the last year and a half or so, so I know what I like to see in novels such as these. The Dream Protocol has everything that I like to see in a dystopian novel, but sadly, they all never go beyond the idea. I felt that this novel was built around the bare-bones of a plot, but was never fully fleshed out. As it’s the first novel in a series, perhaps this is explored in the next novels. However,  because it’s a first novel, the fact that it’s full of big ideas that aren’t fleshed out kind of damns it.

There are so many interesting things that are introduced in The Dream Protocol but never pan out into something more. There’s a prophecy, but we’re never shown how it’s connected to Deirdre and her family. We’re teased with hints of what the Dream Protocol truly is as we’re given accounts and reactions periodically throughout the novel, but this never expands into something more. One of my big disappointments was that I wish it had been described more. Instead, we’re given small details that don’t really flesh out the world. Everyone wore grey, the walls were grey, there was no sky…grey overwhelmingly describes the blandness of the book.

I also didn’t understand why the action was only in the last 25% of the book, especially when the bulk of the book didn’t do a good job at creating setting. It ended up making the book seem poorly plotted and unfinished, almost as if Quick only sent in half of her manuscript or someone made the decision to divide a longer manuscript into two in order to make a series. I would have been more interested in the book if the climax had happened in the middle and I then was able to see the consequences of that. The cliffhanger of the novel is roughly cut off in the middle and is really jarring.

Considering that the book is supposed to be about dreams I found it strangely lacking in details on them. A special dream is introduced in the text, but the elements of it are not further explored. They weren’t focused on them too much other than to show that dreams could easily be turned into nightmares for the dreaded ‘Mare weapon. I wanted to see more of people’s dependence on the dreams–after all, they can only dream what the government wants them to see and with a dependence on the government for dreams, they can easily control the populace. But it wasn’t explored. It was one of the loose threads that I was surprised about, considering the heavy focus on dreams in the summary.

Ultimately, this book gave me a really weird way to reflect on it. You know that feeling when you’re not really hungry, but you do the motions of eating because you rationally realize that you should eat, even if you don’t enjoy it at all and it’s purely for fuel, not pleasure? That’s exactly how I felt while reading this book. I read it just to read, just to pass a couple of hours to wile away the boring hours at my desk. There wasn’t really anything that got me really excited about it, which was a disappointment considering the idea behind the novel. I wanted to like it.

With the way the novel ends, it’s obvious that this is a projected series, although I’m unsure of the number of books planned. I did some research while writing this review, and while I’m given a short preview of The Dream Protocol: Selection at the end of my ebook, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of information online about this book (i.e., not on Amazon, goodreads, or other such sites), even though there’s a cover on Quick’s website and a “date” of projected publication set as Winter 2016 (according to my ARC). I was further confused when the news portion of her site said that a book three cover reveal will be coming soon (although this may be a typo, to be honest). I feel that there should be more information on the next book in the series, even just a basic page on them because when readers are interested in a series and there isn’t that information, they may turn away from your series out of frustration.

While The Dream Protocol: Descent was chock full of interesting ideas, the lack of expansion on them made me disappointed and affected my enjoyment of the novel. I will likely not continue the series because of that and the lack of information on the next novel. It makes me worried that I’ve invested time in a series that will not continue. Many others have enjoyed this book but it’s just not for me.

2 stars.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. The Dream Protocol: Descent was published on April 20th, 2016.

[Throne of Glass] Sarah J. Maas

 

16034235

Throne of Glass is the first novel in a series about Celaena Sardothien, an assassin who has been toiling in the slave mines of Endovier for a year when she is suddenly released under one condition: she must fight in a competition to be the King’s Champion. Only then will she win her freedom. As Adarlan’s Assassin, she strikes fear into the hearts of people who know her name; as Celaena, she’s only a girl to the men in the competition and easily brushed aside. As the competition continues, Celaena proves that she’s not easily ignored, but soon that’s the least of their worries. Something is killing the competitors–and it’s only a matter of time before it comes for her.

If you only read the synopsis of the novel, it sounds pretty good. It’s only when you open the pages and read the first few chapters that you realize it’s not that great. This novel came out a few years ago when I was still working at a bookstore, and I remember picking it up and dismissing it as something that I wouldn’t enjoy. That opinion held true to some extent. I still read through this book because I’d heard from several reviewers that I follow that this is one of their favorite series and that subsequent books are far better. This meant that as much as this book was overwhelmingly meh to me, I had to read it to see if the series is as good as everyone says.

That said, there were things that I did really like about this book. The idea of a female assassin was great, if poorly executed. I just didn’t believe that Celaena was that horrifying assassin. She focused entirely too much on sweets and outfits. There were more descriptions of the intricacies of Celaena’s outfits rather than her actions in this competition. That is what I was interested in. It made Celaena’s vanity–and frankly, stupidity–the focus of her character rather than her supposed talents of assassination. I do like that she is vain because it is a strange flaw for an assassin to have, but it became too much when I was looking for other aspects of her personality to shine through. I just didn’t buy that she was this feared assassin, even if she couldn’t come out and say it. However, I do think that it showed her age. She was vain and childish because she is a young character. It’s just too bad that I didn’t feel that I saw much of her mature side.

I loved that Nehemia existed as a friend that she could trust and that it wasn’t one of those fake, catty friendships that I really dislike. Nehemia was a character who was intelligent and interesting. She was trapped in the Glass Palace just as much as Celaena was, but in a different capacity. I loved reading how their relationship blossomed throughout the events of the story. It took the focus off of Celaena and opened the story up into something bigger than just this competition. Their friendship is something that I looked forward to reading.

Unfortunately, the big things that annoyed me were also the big things that make a book work–or not work. I felt that while the book was very readable and made for a quick read, the plot didn’t really stand out and was kind of standard. It felt rushed and very basic. I struggled to figure out what was going on in action scenes because they weren’t always written very clearly. Another thing that made it hard to figure out what was going on was the lack of action tags around dialogue. That works during an intense scene because it makes you read faster, but when I found myself reading huge walls of dialogue-text I was frustrated by the lack of feeling behind it. How were the characters standing? What did they look like when they delievered their lines? Were they acting a certain way in addition to their tense words? I wanted more.

I did make my way through the book very quickly because there were elements I was curious about and wanted to see through to the end, but I found it overwhelmingly mediocre, to be honest. There just wasn’t that oomph that really drags me into a story and the world presented within in Throne of Glass. So this book becomes an exception to my rule of not finishing series if the first book doesn’t keep me interested. Had I not known that many reviewers find this to be one of their favorite series and that it gets better after the first novel, I would never have continued this novel. There is a benefit to waiting years to start a series, and I’m glad that I’m starting at a point when there’s five books published. I’m able to see what this series is all about in a short amount of time.

2 stars.

I received this book from Tessa for a Book of the Month club.

[Urban Dragon] J.W. Troemner

Urban Dragon is J.W. Troemner’s first three novellas bound into one volume. It follows Rosa and Arkay, two women who are trying to survive the dangers of living on the street. Not freezing during the upcoming winter is heavy on Rosa’s mind, but when an attack on them turns into them robbing the would be attacker, Rosa and Arkay are drawn into something bigger and more dangerous than they realize. Struggling to maintain their innocence, jail is the least of their problems. Rosa and Arkay have to use their wits and their street smarts to stay one step ahead of those who would do them harm. And they thought humans were a problem.

The writing of Urban Dragon was entertaining and flowed really well. I thought that each individual story had a clear beginning, middle, and end, and there were moments in each novella that connected them to the others. It had a readability that allowed me to finish it in one sitting. I suspect that when the next series of novellas are published, it will be easy to do the same. I do think that J.W. Troemner has a talent at keeping the reader entertained and flipping through pages. The author cements this story in the contemporary age by having pop culture references sprinkled throughout; most of them were a little nerdy or book related, so I really loved that. I was genuinely amused by some of the interactions and quips that Rosa and Arkay threw around because they didn’t feel forced.

I really loved Rosa and Arkay’s relationship. It stemmed from being necessary to survive the streets and not get harmed, and blossomed into an actual friendship with shared experiences. I liked that it didn’t really delve into something romantic, even though it possibly had been romantic in the past. It was nice reading a series where the two main characters aren’t in love with each other. I liked that they both remained close and had their own outside relationships.

Something that Urban Dragon tried to do was diversity. The author tried to represent Rosa and Arkay as a race other than white, which was really refreshing, but I felt that it was very much “represented just to be represented.” It fell very flat and I didn’t believe that they were characters. They were representations. I can probably count on one hand how many times Rosa and Arkay were described in the same way (Amazonian Latina and petite Asian, respectively). I believe in diversity and I think that the young adult writing community is getting a bit better at recognizing that there needs to be diversity, but it needs to be done. You can’t just say that your protagonist is a Latina but leave it at that. You have to go in depth. Describe them as more than their race. Otherwise I see the characters as flat cardboard cutouts.

Unfortunately this was similar to what happened with the setting. I felt that it was slightly on the generic side and that there wasn’t anything particularly distinguishing about it. Readers know going into it that the series is an urban fantasy, and I felt that we were expected to fill in the blanks rather than the author filling them in for us. I was disappointed by the lack of world building when there could have been so much. Troemner succeeded at creating a mythology, but it was never explained. I loved that there were dragons, but there was never a cohesive reason as to why they all existed. I wanted to know more about it, and it was explained too slowly. I feel like I hardly know anything about the world despite having read three novellas set in it. I understand that there’s a projected nine novellas, but my interest needs to be piqued by the second and certainly by the third if I’m going to read another six.

Individually, the novellas in this volume were plotted in an okay way. I felt that it was a little basic because each of the novellas went through the same course of: minding their own business, something bad happens, bad people die, and Arkay and Rosa make it out relatively unscathed. However, that wasn’t horrible. They were quick reads and I was able to read them in a couple of hours. However, as a whole, there wasn’t enough happening. I’m fine with reading one to one and a half novellas with a plot like this. But when the series is plotted out to be at least nine novellas, I expect a little more to happen that will let me know what the grander plot of the series is. The larger plot was hinted at in the endings of the second and third novellas, but it wasn’t enough. I certainly expected more of the larger plot to happen in the third novella after it had been hinted at in the second, but I was let down.

Overall, I would say that I may check out the remaining novellas of this series once they are released. I do have a problem with the fact that the third novella left off on a horrible cliffhanger; I think that it would have better suited the book to further explore what had happened at the end of the second book instead of the direction that the third book took.

Not quite enough for 3 stars, but better than 2 stars. 2.5 stars.

I received a copy of Urban Dragon from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Urban Dragon will be available October 15th, 2016.

[Last Seen Leaving] Caleb Roehrig

 

Flynn’s girlfriend January has disappeared. Flynn has a secret. The cops think the two are connnected. Last Seen Leaving is a coming-of-age novel that is wrapped up in a mystery. Did January disappear or did someone take her? Feeling that the cops are looking in all the wrong places, Flynn embarks on an investigation of his own by talking to people that January was close to. Along the way he discovers that what she shared of herself with him was not what she shared with others. How can he know what she would do–this friend of years–when he’s discovering that he may not have even known her himself?

Last Seen Leaving was a quick, straightforward read. The mystery was a little light for me; I felt that it was rather obvious what was going to happen at several moments of the novel but it was still an enjoyable read. Honestly, even though this was a mystery, I felt like the bulk of the plot focused on Flynn growing up. Flynn had to deal with issues of identity while dealing with the larger problem of what happened to January. It made things really difficult for him and it was a nice way to have his character grow.

Although this book has many characters in it, it’s really only about Flynn and his various discoveries. Part of the problem and reason for this is that the book is written in first person. I didn’t feel that Flynn really looked beyond the surface at his friends, family, or the strangers that he interacted with. As a result, they were very flat and I didn’t much care for any of them. I wasn’t given a reason to. They existed for Flynn to have character growth or for him to uncover things about January, rather than for the characters to have their own growth.

The plot was primarily why I finished the book. Although I felt that parts were obvious, it wasn’t that much of a deterrent. I wanted to know if I was right about the secrets that weren’t immediately solved and I wanted to see what would happen to Flynn at the end. It had a readability that allowed me to read it quickly and enjoy it. It wasn’t slow at all. It was, however, very tidy. Everything was neatly tied up at the end, even though some of it was not entirely concluded. Another issue I have with the plot is the reactions of the characters. People are missing or possibly murdered, and I feel like no one really reacts loudly to that. They just seem to go about their normal days.

The thing I found strange about this novel is that it almost seemed to be for older teens, yet the protagonist was only 15. Flynn’s worries seemed a little more grown up than his 15 years. It could be that I ran with a different crowd than he did (mostly I kept to my books and hung out with my friends in their basements), but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around his age. It left me feeling disconnected from the story a bit because I couldn’t jump over that hurdle. I’m hoping that it’s because I’m older and therefore slightly out of touch with what it was like when I was 15, but I do suspect that readers around this age will enjoy this book. While this isn’t my favorite thing I’ve read this year, I do think that Caleb Roehrig’s technique was spot-on for what he wrote about in Last Seen Leaving.

3 stars.

I received a copy of Last Seen Leaving from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Last Seen Leaving will be available on October 4th, 2016.

[This Is Where It Ends] Marieke Nijkamp

I think this cover is really simplistically beautiful.

I think this cover is really simplistically beautiful.

This is the second book I’ve read with a school shooting at its center. They’re both out this year so it’s hard not to compare one against the other. This Is Where It Ends is told in the alternating perspectives of four characters on the day of a school shooting. They all know the shooter. None of them know why he’s there. Some are trapped inside. Some are trapped outside. Things can change in a minute when they’re out of your control. And sometimes you have no idea what kind of ripples your actions will make or the effect they’ll have on others.

Whenever I review books that have tense subjects I’m a little worried that I’m going to come off as a heartless reviewer. I’ve just found that when contemporary novels try to illustrate real world problems and events, I hold them more accountable than a mostly fictionalized contemporary novel or other genre. I expect them to be something more, especially when they’re trying to teach something. This Is Where It Ends is one of those novels. Its aim is to show us how people react in times of terror and become everyday heroes. It wants to show us how even when people have been harmed, they’re able to come to terms with what happened–and sometimes their own guilty feelings over surviving–in order to remember those who are lost. Because the novel is trying to show us that, I think that it becomes too much of a “this is how you’re meant to feel right now” sort of novel. It’s telling me what to feel instead of letting me figure it out from the writing alone. I only felt tense from the events when I couldn’t feel the author’s presence, which didn’t happen enough. What This Is Where It Ends does do well is to show how things can change in a matter of moments with no reason behind it that you can understand. There was never a moment where the shooter directly said “This is why,” which I feel was important. There were hints about the reasoning, but nothing concrete. I think that was an important distinction that the author made: We often don’t know why.

The main reason that the novel fell a little flat for me were the characters. It’s hard to have multiple characters in longer books and this novel is a short read. It didn’t have as much time for character building as other novels would have. Unfortunately, that meant that I didn’t feel that any of the characters were unique. Like The Light Fantastic, if the names weren’t at the head of each section, I’m not sure that I would have been able to tell the four apart. Something that would have worked had I cared about the characters was the fact that some where in the auditorium and others were out. I liked that they weren’t all inside. Having the four characters connected through bonds of family or relationships was also interesting, but again, I didn’t quite feel that emotional connection to them. For a book with such a heavy issue, it’s so important that the characters be done well.  I need to be connected to them. When I’m not, the novel begins to seem contrived.

A stylistic choice that didn’t completely work out was the blog posts and the twitter messages. The author either needed to do more or to cut them out completely. I think that it really could have illustrated how people hear about these tragedies as they happen but are helpless to do anything. It was clear that these messages were meant to show that but it didn’t work as well as it could have. I didn’t know enough about who these outside characters were trying to message, so I didn’t care. If I had known who these characters were, my stake in them would have been higher.

Ultimately, the tension was in the events rather than the characters. I felt that the author was relying too much on the school shooting as a way to keep the readers invested. I found that I was thinking more about school shootings in the real world rather than this fictionalized one. That was where my emotion came from. And I had a problem with that. I should be able to connect with the characters in a book about this subject. I felt that by not having well-drawn characters, this book with such a huge message was cheapened.

I do think other people will like this, and I found it better than The Light Fantastic. It managed to get past a few of my issues by having less protagonists, but I think that the book relies too much on the event rather than any character building or plot building. We all know the ways that school shootings go, so the author was able to ease up on the plot building. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t invested in the characters more. I expected a lot more from this one.

2.5 stars because it was better than “okay,” but I didn’t one hundred percent “like” it, either.

[Iron Cast] Destiny Soria

28818313

As one of my friends tells me that I “always write negative reviews,” (which is only sometimes, by the way) I’m very happy to inform him, and anyone looking for a review to read, that I loved this book. It’s not often that I want to replace an ebook copy with a physical one (because I don’t need two copies), but that is the case for this one.

Iron Cast is set in 1919, when the United States is just on the cusp of passing prohibition. As it is, hemopathy, the ability to create illusions through art, music, or words, is already banned. Hemopaths are being snatched from the streets and thrown in an institution for their “protection”–or worse. Naturally, underground clubs are thriving. Ada and Corinne are two such hemopaths, friends for so long that one struggles to exist without the other. They’ve trained their gifts for so long that they can react unconsciously to cues that the other gives. When their patron disappears, Ada and Corinne realize how precarious their situation in Boston is. They decide that the only thing they can do is to solve the mystery themselves in order to save the Cast Iron, the only place they’ve truly felt at home.

This is a great historical fiction novel. Every place that Destiny Soria takes the reader is vividly described, from the Cast Iron, to Corinne’s family home, to the institution. I have absolutely no complaints about it. The setting really sets the tone for the events of the novel. There are the glittering places where the rich go and the less-rich perform and they’re side-by-side with the grittier sides of the city. I was really able to visualize what was going on at all times in the novel. I liked when the characters had to go from the speakeasy-esque clubs and gangster inhabited world to that of high society for wedding preparations. I really appreciated the detail that Soria went into in order to really develop this world. Settings can sometimes make or break a book, and it one hundred percent made this novel for me. It made the tense moments of the novel even more so because I really felt like I was in Boston during this time. Iron Cast was also an alternative history novel, so it was cool to see the familiar things but also have a fantasy aspect to the world.

The setting was supplemented by amazing characters. Of course, Ada and Corinne, our two protagonists, are the most developed, but Soria didn’t let the supporting characters fall by the wayside. The character building was wonderful. Ada and Corinne come from completely different backgrounds. Ada grew up with a Portuguese father and a mother from Mozambique. She’s been treated badly by outsiders for most of her life because of her skin color, and initially she thought that Corinne–a girl from a wealthy family–was going to be the same. That changed when they both realized that they could be each other’s support in a a world that doesn’t accept their differences. Both are hemopaths, an affliction that isn’t understood but is feared by many. When they work together they can make people believe just about anything.

Ada and Corinne have probably the strongest friendship I have ever seen between two girls in young adult literature. Too often friendships between girls in young adult literature becomes catty and fractures over something stupid, or are presented as ways to slut-shame girls compared to the protagonist. Not so with Iron Cast. These girls loved each other. They were loyal to each other. They were sisters united against the hardships of their world, defending and protecting each other when the other couldn’t protect themselves. Their relationship was so believable that moments between them brought me to tears.

The other characters like Gabriel, Saint, Corinne’s brother, and the mob bosses of the clubs were very well-rounded. They didn’t exist solely to move the plot along and then to vanish when they were no longer useful. They had their own motives and desires that were expressed, and they didn’t always line up with our protagonists’. I particularly loved the portrayal of family in the novel. Both girls were concerned about how their actions affected their families and tried to keep them from harm. The misunderstandings between them were relateable; so too, was the acceptance of them when they made mistakes.

I couldn’t stop reading this book, either. The plot was engaging and was always building toward something, even during the quieter moments. Oftentimes things occurred that I wasn’t prepared for, which is a rare thing for me regarding young adult literature. Things are sometimes done so heavy-handedly that the surprise is completely gone when it comes down to the event. That was not the case with Iron Cast, and it was so nice. It allowed me to truly be immersed in the story.

Another thing that kept me in the story was the lack of a focus on the romance. There was romance, but the book didn’t suddenly become only about the romantic interests the way that some novels sometimes do. It was just a part of the overall novel and it was done beautifully. It allowed me to be invested even more in the characters and the plot when there was unrequited feelings coming into play. Because the romance was not the focus of the novel, the romantic moments were far more sweet and achingly lovely.

I absolutely loved Iron Cast and am going to recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction with a little bit of fantasy, romance, and intrigue. It has great characters and a detailed setting. I emotionally connected to the characters and had a hard time reading certain parts. It’s not often that books make me cry, but when they do I know that I really like them.  I’m really looking forward to what Destiny Soria comes up with next, because she’s now on my favorite authors list.

5 stars.

I received a copy of Iron Cast from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Iron Cast will be available on October 11th, 2016.