[Now I Rise: The Conqueror’s Saga II] Kiersten White

This review contains some minor spoilers for the first novel in The Conqueror’s Saga. This review is also long because I loved this book so much.

One of my minor complaints about And I Darken (the first in the series) was that it got a little long purely because there’s a lot of unfamiliar names, places, and events that I had to first get through in order to get to the story. That was not the case with the second novel. Now I Rise benefits from the world building that was done in the first novel and further expands on locations that had smaller parts in the first novel. It balances character growth with action, creating a thrilling story that had me questioning characters’ motives. It is a a great continuation of a series that is set in a historical context that is real, yet also genderbends a historical figure. It made me more excited about a series that I already loved.

Lada and Radu burst back onto the scene shortly after where And I Darken left them. Radu remains in the Ottoman Empire, and Lada is trying to regain what she believes is rightfully hers: Wallachia. They’ve taken different paths that are still connected to each other, but Radu uses gilded words and Lada uses cold steel. Mehmed remains, but Now I Rise quickly becomes about Lada and Radu. Mehmed takes on a role in the background but occasionally comes back to interact with our main characters. And even when he’s not physically there, both Radu and Lada often think about him. Sometimes he still affects how they act, but gradually that changes.

Shortly into the novel Radu is sent to Constantinople to act as a spy for Mehmed. Although he has quite a bit of worries about going there, he follows Mehmed’s orders because he loves him. In the first novel, Radu learns how to use his skills to further Mehmed and through close proximity, himself. He is very charismatic, and it was interesting to read how he grew into it in And I Darken. This novel finds Radu questioning much of what he believes and who he believes in. Radu is semi-stranded in Constantinople for months. At first, he eagerly awaits a war that he knows is coming, playing his role as defector to the Christians as he secretly plots to bring Constantinople down. The longer he stays in Constantinople, however,  the more he questions the motives of Mehmed and what he’s doing.

He had imagined Constantinople, had wanted it for Mehmed. It had been simple and straightforward. But now he knew the true cost of things, the murky horrors of the distance between wanting something and getting it.*

Radu is becoming a part of Constantinople and being accepted by people there, but he knows that he ultimately will betray them. It begins to wear on him. Reading this expanded his character in a new direction that was so raw I was heartbroken for him. While this series does tend to focus more on Lada as the female Vlad, I feel that Radu has the greater emotional response in Now I Rise.

Radu had seen what it took to be great, and he never again wanted to be part of something bigger than himself.*

Continue reading

Advertisements

[Crown of Midnight: Throne of Glass II] Sarah J. Maas

Just in case there are people who haven’t read Throne of Glass reading this review (I was one of you not long ago), this review has potential spoilers for Throne of Glass. There’s also a very, very light (and not specific) spoiler for Crown of Midnight, but since it’s already been mentioned in the official summary of the book, I think it’s okay to mention it in my review. Just a warning!

17167166

I really hate when the summary of the book gives away too much the way it does for Crown of Midnight. There are some things I wish had been kept from the reader because I wouldn’t have been aware of it coming up and the impact would have been greater. Anyway. Review time.

Crown of Midnight is the second novel in the Throne of Glass series. Now the King’s Champion and assassin, Celaena is counting down the days to her true freedom–when she can leave Adarlan and disappear into the forests and mountains far away. So for now she bides her time, killing at the King’s whim and trying not to lose herself in the process. Celaena, however, has a secret–one that she hides from the King and hides from her friends. And when there are secrets, it’s only a matter of time before they come out. And she’s not the only one keeping them.

I was actually really impressed with how there was a sharp increase in talent in the writing of this one compared to Throne of Glass. Had that not happened, I would not have continued the series. So really good job, Sarah J. Maas, at getting someone who didn’t like your first book into liking and wanting to continue the rest of your series due to the second. The style became less telling and I was more invested in the characters as things were revealed about them slowly. It helped too, that the focus wasn’t on a competition (but the true focus was actually on the shoddy love triangle and obsessive vanity of Celaena) the way it was in Throne of Glass. The writing style was so much better, which translated to the plot, pacing, characterization, and setting being well-thought out and engaging. I almost couldn’t believe that this was the same series, it was such a change. A good change.

Continue reading

[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.

Continue reading

[The Dream Thieves: The Raven Cycle II] Maggie Stiefvater

So I’ll be honest. I read the rest of the series after The Raven Boys in about a week. It’s that good and addictive.

17347389

The Dream Thieves picks up where The Raven Boys left off, with a focus on Ronan. After revealing that he can take things out of his dreams in the last book, the others are a little in awe of Ronan’s abilities. Ronan begins to take more fantastic things out of his dreams, things that don’t exist in the real world until he wills it. When things from his nightmares start showing up, he realizes that he needs to gain control over his abilities before something worse moves from his nightmares to reality. As Gansey and the others continue to use the ley lines to search for Glendower, others are searching for dream things, leading them to Henrietta and the boys. The search for Glendower has never been more dangerous.

Like the first book, the narration is divided between the raven boys, Blue, and a few others. Even so, this book is very much about Ronan. I really enjoyed that there was a focus on his secrets and how he came to terms with them by the end of The Dream Thieves. Ronan was my least favorite of the characters after reading the first book, but by the end of this one I found that I really liked him. He’s possibly even my favorite character now. Like all of Stiefvater’s characters, he was slowly and realistically developed. She has an incredible talent at showing who her characters are, including their motivations and desires–even the ones they hide from themselves. And the ones they hide from themselves are the more interesting ones. They’ll make for some good interactions when they finally come out.

What’s interesting about the first two books of The Raven Cycle is that there’s romance, but it is absolutely not the focus. I thought there’d be more in this one since it’s a second book, but not so. It is an ultimate slow-burn romance. Stiefvater gives her characters and readers a little taste, but not enough to distract from the quest. Again, there’s more of a focus on friendship and family relationships. I really enjoy this part of Stiefvater’s character writing. These are the relationships that are around you before romance comes into the picture. I love that we can really see how the friendship between Blue and the raven boys is developing in an in-depth way.

Continue reading

[Paperglass and Monarch: War of Princes II and III // A double review]] A.R. Ivanovich

 

28227498

At the close of Haven, Katelyn has resigned herself to her secret. Although she shared it with her closest friends,  if it gets out that she visited the outside world, repercussions will not only affect her. Life, however, seems a little dull since she’s been back, and Katelyn is trying to decide what to do with her future when the Pull is pulling her toward the outside world and the boy she left behind. Things change when a half crazed member of their community destroys the radio tower, and everything that Katelyn thought she had escaped from may be coming right to the doorstep of Haven and her loved ones. Her mission takes her back to the outside world, and only she knows how bad it would be if she doesn’t find the lost explorers before they tell the Prince how to get to Haven.

Paperglass thrusts us deeper into the outside world. I was very happy to read more about how their military and ability system worked. We got to see a little more depth to why the Margraves and Dragoons are so dreadful, instead of being told. The world started to get fleshed out the further they traveled from the wall, so I was able to see how Katelyn reacted to life among the outsiders, which was something I had wished happened in Haven.  Again, the pacing in Paperglass is a bit faster than I wanted it to be. It worked a little better this time around because there were multiple conflicts in the novel, rather than only being a novel about returning to Haven and to safety.

A complaint I do have is that there aren’t many named side characters. Paperglass, like Haven, is driven by the core main characters, with side characters making a brief appearance to say something and then sit on the sidelines until they were necessary again or dying on the page. As a consequence, they felt very much like tools to drive the plot forward, rather than actual characters. They could have been a little more vibrant. Another consequence of that is that Paperglass becomes a romance novel with fantasy thrown in. The focus seemed a bit heavier on Rune and Katelyn’s relationship this time around, and less on the conflict and mission that the characters are on.

Continue reading

[The Clouded Sky: Earth & Sky II] Megan Crewe

There will be slight spoilers for Earth & Sky, the first novel in this trilogy. That review can be found here.

The Clouded Sky (Earth & Sky, #2)

At the conclusion of Earth & Sky, Skylar had been given the opportunity to continue on her journey with Win and his fellow Kemyates on their mission to stop the manipulation of Earth. The Clouded Sky starts immediately after the first, leaving no gaps between the two books. Now on the Kemyate space station just outside of the orbit of the ruined Kemya, Skylar has to cope with being confined to a smaller area than she is used to. She went from being an active player in stopping the time manipulation on Earth to posing as a “pet,” essentially an Earthling slave. Although treated well, knowing that there are Earthlings on the station through no choice of their own leaves Skylar with a bad taste in her mouth. She tells herself it is just one of the many things that will change if they manage to stop the manipulation of Earth, so she does what she can while pretending to be unaware of what is happening around her.  As the rebels slowly come to trust her more, they start realizing that there may be a traitor in their midst. There are too many close calls for comfort, and Skylar is given the unique job of trying to find to find out who it is and if they can stop them before the traitor destroys everything they’ve been working for.

In The Clouded Sky, Skylar’s position on the station is perilous. At all times she must pretend to be drugged, standard protocol for Earthling pets in order to keep them calm. This time, instead of the rebels being the ones who have to operate secretly, the roles are switched. As the only Earthling on the station who is aware of what is going on, she is in a position to change things–if it wouldn’t make her stand out. After a time she gets tired of doing nothing, so she begins to help with the rebels plans and takes greater risks as they start running out of time.

Continue reading

[Noir: Illumination Paradox II] Jacqueline Garlick

This is a review for the second book in the Illumination Paradox, and as such has potential spoilers for the first. The review for  Lumière is here.

I just love these covers.

I just love these covers.

For the most part, Noir is a lovely continuation of everything I really enjoyed in  Lumière. The steampunk world comes back in full force, with more danger and problems than ever. At the conclusion of  Lumière, both Eyelet and Urlick are left in dire situations that left me wondering how they would ever get out of them. You expect the main characters of novels to always be “safe” from true harm, but there’s always that lingering worry that like George R.R. Martin, your author may decide that the death of a character propels the story forward. I went into Noir a little worried, but expecting to enjoy it just as much as enjoyed the first of the series. Ultimately, it ended up being slightly less enjoyable than the first, but is still a decent second novel of the series.

Ultimately, something that irked me every time it reared its head was the sexual violence that is contained in Noir. It was my biggest issue with the novel, because there were far too many times that rape was semi-explicitly implied or threatened. And I’ll be honest, there should have been zero times this happened. It’s not something I like seeing in the novels I read. It is a legitimate threat in the real world and the written one because it imitates life, but I feel that fantasy books sometimes use it too much as a plot device. Rape and sexual violence should not be used as a plot device. If it is something that is included–and I still don’t know if it’s ever necessary, truly–it needs to be handled extremely well. Other readers may have been fine with how it was handled in Noir, but I was left with an uncomfortable feeling whenever these events occurred. The first time it occurred, I was not happy, but to have it occur enough times that it drove down the rating of an otherwise well-written second novel in the Illumination Paradox frustrated me. A woman can be strong without having threat or events of sexual violence happen to her. I already know that Eyelet is strong. I didn’t need this to be included.

Noir introduces several new characters, a couple of whom have chapters that they lead us through. Jacqueline Garlick does have a skill in clearly indicating the differences in their voices, so it wasn’t difficult to understand their thoughts and motivations. However, I have the same problem that I had with  Lumière; Noir could have benefited from a third person narration. I think the reason that there are two new characters’ voices leading us through the chapters is because the author needed to show events that were happening away from the spheres of Eyelet and Urlick. Yes, they are two very fascinating and vivid characters, but it would be boring to read chapters upon chapters of one being locked away in a jail and the other preparing to spring him. Although I did appreciate the new characters, they were not as well-developed as Eyelet and Urlick. I wanted to know more about them, but their characterization didn’t go in depth enough for me. As a result, I didn’t care as much for them emotionally and couldn’t connect as things were going wrong or right for them.

Again, romance was the weaker part of the novel, but it was more of the main focus for Noir. In Lumière, the characters were driven to find the machine that was supposedly the cure, discover things about the machine and the real cure, uncover the mystery of what happened the day that the flash lit up the sky. Noir was more about saving the one you loved.  Of course, there’s still adventure and discovery, but it wasn’t as heavy as it was in the first. I knew this going into Noir. I signed up for it and it’s the blurb on the cover of the novel. The Eyelet/Urlick arc was what I wanted to read. It’s the sort of  rescuing the damsel / rescuing the dude in distress steampunk adventure story that I was excited to read. Including new romances for the characters I couldn’t connect with emotionally was too much. If I didn’t care about them as a character, I really didn’t care about their relationships. Apparently steampunk equals adventure in my mind, not romance. I wasn’t too open to the idea of more than one relationship in the novel.

The pacing of the novel does keep you interested, but a few times I wished that it wasn’t so slow. The gradual buildup is nice, because I don’t like reading books where absolutely nothing happens in the middle. I do wish that a bit more had happened, however. I understand that Jacqueline Garlick wants to end her novels with a huge cliffhanger to drive her readers insane (and therefore they’ll rush to get the next book–a pretty good strategy, to be honest) but too much happened at the end of the novel. There were several reveals and happenings that happened so quickly that I didn’t quite have a chance to process them. It lends a rushed quality to the ending of the book. Although the first novel of the series also had this quality, there was less significant things happening and so I didn’t notice it as much. Some of the events should have been drawn out more toward the end of the middle section and then I would have had a chance to come to terms with them before the novel ended. By clustering so much at the end, some of the threads of the novel ended rather abruptly. The cliff hanger does prepare the third novel well, so I will check that out when it’s finished.

3 stars.

I received a copy from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The ebook version was only recently published on August 18th and the paperback and audio versions are coming out September 22nd of this year.