Chachic's Book Nook


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Retro Friday: Medair by Andrea K. Höst

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

MedairHaving previously loved Andrea K. Höst’s sci-fi novels And All the Stars and the Touchstone trilogy, I picked up her Medair duology when I needed to be fully absorbed by a good novel. It’s funny because out of all of her books, I wanted to read this epic fantasy duology first but I didn’t get the chance to read them until recently. Once again, I would like to thank the author for providing a review copy of the omnibus edition which contains both The Silence of Medair and Voice of the Lost. I feel that both books have to be read together so I’m glad I got them in one edition.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Medair an Rynstar returned too late to drive back the Ibisian invasion. Centuries too late.

When friend and enemy have become the same thing, what use are the weapons Medair planned to use to protect her Empire? There is no magic, no artefact, no enchanted trinket which can undo the past.

But no matter how Medair wishes to hide from the consequences of her failure, there are those who will not allow her the luxury of denying the present. Her war is already lost, but she carries weapons which could change the course of new battles.

With the skirmishes of war beginning, and hunters in near pursuit, it is her conscience Medair cannot escape. Whose side should she be on? What is she really running from?

Silence of MedairI was completely immersed in Medair’s world right from the start. I read the whole thing in just one weekend because I couldn’t get enough of the story and just had to reach the end as soon as I could. I wanted to be swept away into a wonderful world filled with magic and adventure and I’m happy to report that Medair lived up to my expectations. Having had prior experience reading Andrea K. Höst’s other novels, I knew there would be surprising twists and turns in both The Silence of Medair and Voice of the Lost and I was right. I was immediately intrigued by the premise – Medair is a Herald of her kingdom, tasked with finding a powerful magical object that will help her people win the war. She succeeded in finding what she was looking for, but she stopped to rest in a place outside of time and when she woke up, she discovered that 500 years have passed. Not surprisingly, Medair feels lost, with no idea how to move forward. A large part of the reader’s enjoyment of Medair would depend on whether one will be able to sympathize with her and the issues that she faces. Her narration is very introspective, going back and forth from the past to the present, and trying to reconcile the differences between them. There’s a lot of reflection on her part as she reluctantly becomes involved in making decisions that would irrevocably change the world she found herself in. I loved Medair’s character, I understood her hesitations, her feelings and her worries. She’s an intelligent and resourceful woman, loyal to her liege and her country, and inherently a good person. But completely at a loss with how much has been altered in her world. I do admit that there could have been less of her thoughts going around in circles, even Medair was self-aware enough to realize that she keeps doing that, but I wasn’t really bothered by it. I can see why the narration wouldn’t work for everyone but I’m delighted that I was completely engrossed by it. Aside from Medair, I was also invested in several other characters in the story and I loved seeing her interact with them even as she tries to keep a distance.

Voice of the LostThere’s a whole lot of history and political intrigue intertwined with the story, partly because of the invasion centuries ago, and also because of the alliances of the various governing bodies around the region. I enjoyed these aspects and how magic was also involved in all of it. I like that there weren’t any lengthy explanations on how the magic works but it never got confusing for me. I felt that it was seamlessly woven into the story. I believe that this review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t talk about the romance in these two books. While I could see it coming, it was how the characters got there that mattered. In keeping with her personality and the situation she’s in, Medair doesn’t take her attraction to a certain someone lightly. As a result, there’s tension and ambiguity. I really had no idea how things would unfold between them. Andrea K. Höst has consistently surprised me with how she builds and develops relationships in her books. While I wasn’t exactly able to predict how things would end, I can say that there was a nice build up and I couldn’t see Medair’s story ending any other way. Similar to the Touchstone trilogy, I can see the Medair duology will be a very good reread. I look forward to finding the time for it. In the meantime, I need to work on convincing more readers to pick up her books because I seriously find it surprising that they’re not as well-known as they should be. I had a book hangover after reading these two books and the only solution I could think of was to start on another Andrea K. Höst title.

Other reviews:
Me and My Books


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House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

I’ve heard so many good things about House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier from other bloggers. I borrowed it from the Singapore public library last year but didn’t get a chance to read it before the due date. Which is why I decided that it would be better to just get my own copy – that way, I could read it when I felt like picking it up. A few weeks (months?) ago, I noticed that I haven’t read fantasy in a while so I thought it would be good try this one. Can I just say that I think it’s great that House of Shadows is a standalone? Most fantasy novels are part of a series so it’s always refreshing to come across a fantasy book that stands well on its own.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

House of ShadowsOrphaned, two sisters are left to find their own fortunes.

Sweet and proper, Karah’s future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House. She could be pampered for the rest of her life… if she agrees to play their game.

Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage’s offer of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can Nemienne trust the mage?

With the arrival of a foreign bard into the quiet city, dangerous secrets are unearthed, and both sisters find themselves at the center of a plot that threatens not only to upset their newly found lives, but also to destroy their kingdom.

You know when you feel like you read a book just when you were in the right mood for it? House of Shadows was exactly what I needed, it’s the kind of epic fantasy that I enjoy reading. Magic, intrigue, a world I can get lost in and characters I had fun getting to know. The premise suggests that the main characters are sisters Nemienne and Karah, but we also get the points of view of Leilis and Taudde. It was easy enough to like all four of them, plus the secondary ones within the story, but I feel like it was Leilis and Taudde who stood out from everyone else. It may sound a bit confusing to read about so many individuals but I didn’t have a problem with it, probably because I usually focus more on characters than anything else in the books that I read. The switching points of view gave me a better understanding of the different types of people who inhabit this world. I also really liked the idea of the keiso, modeled after the Japanese geisha. The keiso choose to devote their lives to their art (e.g. dancing, singing) and they are well-respected for that. Living as a keiso is considered an honorable way of life, which I think gives them a higher status than geisha. Instead of becoming mistresses, the keiso can choose to marry men (who are usually powerful or wealthy) and become flower brides if they wanted to. Children of flower brides are recognized by their affluent fathers.

Aside from the characters, I enjoyed reading about the world in The House of Shadows – where there are different kinds of magic and there’s a brewing war between two nations. I liked how the political intrigue added to the character development, how the different layers and motivations behind everything that they do were shown. To be honest, I’m having a hard time pinpointing what worked for me in The House of Shadows. I just feel like all the details came together to produce an enjoyable fantasy read. I was absorbed by the story and I read the whole thing fairly quickly. There are times when I really like a novel but I find it difficult to explain why – I kind of just want to say that I enjoyed this, maybe you should give it a try as well. It’s been months since I finished reading it and I still I haven’t found the right words to articulate my appreciation of this book. And yet I want to post a review so I can recommend it to other readers. If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, then you will probably enjoy reading this just as much as I did. Although I probably wouldn’t recommend this to non-epic fantasy readers, I don’t think this will be a good introduction to the genre if you’re not familiar with it. I really like how pretty and eye-catching the cover is, I think it suits the story even if the dress the girl is wearing wasn’t described in the book. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked The House of Shadows and I’m delighted that I have a copy of The Floating Islands waiting on my TBR shelf. I hope it’s just as good as this one.

Other reviews:
Bunbury in the Stacks
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Charlotte’s Library
The Book Smugglers
By Singing Light
Specfic Romantic


22 Comments

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass

I first noticed Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass when several Goodreads friends began reading review copies of the book. It’s been getting a lot of attention lately and I heard positive things about it so I became curious. My friend Janice generously sent a copy and since I wasn’t in the middle of anything when it arrived, I started on it right away.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Throne of Glass coverAfter serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men — thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Well, that didn’t turn out as well as I expected. I’m a huge fan of YA epic fantasy when it’s done well. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like that was the case with Throne of Glass. The premise had so much promise – I wanted to read about an assassin trying to balance court intrigue with the fierce competition to become the King’s Champion. After just a few chapters, I knew I wasn’t going to get what I expected. I found it odd that an assassin as notorious as Celaena is more concerned about her looks and her dresses rather than honing her fighting skills. I was surprised by how often the characters focused on physical appearances rather than personalities – even the prince kept noticing how pretty Celaena is when he should be noting how well she fights as his candidate in the competition. Aside from not being fully invested in the characters, I wasn’t impressed by the world-building, either. I was initially intrigued by the mystery in the novel – what the country’s history was like, why magic has been banned, who was behind the murders – but that eventually fell flat for me. I don’t know, it just wasn’t as tightly woven (if that makes sense) as I’d like.

I also wasn’t a fan of the love triangle in Throne of Glass because I felt like it wasn’t necessary and the romance felt under-developed because of it. Sigh, I hate to be so negative in a review but I just wanted to list the reasons why I felt like Throne of Glass didn’t work for me. I was even tempted to DNF the book because I found the last hundred pages or so dragging, I just wanted to get it over with. It felt like I was reading paranormal YA (which I try to stay away from as much as possible) instead of epic fantasy. As always, feel free to pick up the book if this looks like the kind of thing you’ll enjoy reading, I’ve seen mixed reviews for it so I guess it really depends on how well you’ll be able to connect with the story. I feel like Throne of Glass would work for readers who haven’t read the likes of Robin McKinley, Megan Whalen Turner or Kristin Cashore. But if you’re like me and you’re aware of the awesomeness of other novels, I have a feeling you’ll just be disappointed. Throne of Glass will be released August 7, 2012.

Other reviews:
A Jane of All Reads
Emily’s Reading Room
Books Without Any Pictures


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Retro Friday: The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

I’ve been meaning to read the rest of Juliet Marillier’s novels ever since I fell in love with her Sevenwaters series. It’s taken me a while to pick up another Marillier book because the huge TBR pile keeps distracting me with other choices. Nowadays, I’m behind on reviews so I thought it would be a good idea to sink my teeth into a doorstopper so I can catch up on blog posts. The Dark Mirror, the first in the Bridei Chronicles, is certainly one of those with its 670 pages.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Dark Mirror by Juliet MarillierBridei is a young nobleman fostered at the home of Broichan, one of the most powerful druids in the land. His earliest memories are not of hearth and kin but of this dark stranger who while not unkind is mysterious in his ways. The tasks that he sets Bridei appear to have one goal-to make him a vessel for some distant purpose. What that purpose is Bridei cannot fathom but he trusts the man and is content to learn all he can about the ways of the world.

But something happens that will change Bridei’s world forever… and possibly wreck all of Broichan’s plans. For Bridei finds a child on their doorstep on a bitter MidWinter Eve, a child seemingly abandoned by the fairie folk. It is uncommonly bad luck to have truck with the Fair Folk and all counsel the babe’s death. But Bridei sees an old and precious magic at work here and heedless of the danger fights to save the child. Broichan relents but is wary.

The two grow up together and as Bridei comes to manhood he sees the shy girl Tuala blossom into a beautiful woman. Broichan sees the same process and feels only danger… for Tuala could be a key part in Bridei’s future…or could spell his doom.

The Dark Mirror spans several years – it starts from Bridei’s childhood when he was first brought to Broichan’s household to endure long years of training. While not cruel, Broichan is very strict and Bridei’s childhood seemed a little bleak without the company of fellow children. Which is why he was ecstatic when he discovers a child left on the doorstep – Bridei names her Tuala and he firmly believes that she is a gift from the gods and he is meant to protect her. As always, I found Juliet Marillier’s writing lyrical and atmospheric. However, I couldn’t help but feel that the pacing of the book was slow. The first half of the book was devoted to Bridei’s learning and how he relates to Tuala as a child. While I liked Bridei, Tuala and several of the secondary characters, I didn’t feel as connected to them as I did with the Sevenwaters characters. I was curious enough about the story to keep on going – I wanted to see how Bridei would develop into a young man and how he’ll face the plans that have been laid out for him. I also wanted to know what Tuala’s role is in Bridei’s life, why she was entrusted in his keeping. But I wasn’t as invested in the story as much as I’d like. I felt a little detached and I guess that prevented me from falling in love with this.

I still believe Juliet Marillier writes excellent historical fiction – I enjoyed reading The Dark Mirror because it reads like a well-researched historical novel with just the right amount of magic to make things interesting. She’s still an auto-buy, auto-read author for me and I’m planning to read the other books in the series because I already have copies. I’m just hoping I’d like them more than I liked this one. The Dark Mirror is a quiet kind of story so I feel like it’s not something that every reader will enjoy. I feel bad that I didn’t find this as amazing as I expected because Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors and I can’t even explain why the book didn’t work for me. This experience reminds me of the first Marillier that I read: Wildwood Dancing and the fact that I didn’t love that either. The Dark Mirror really is a well-written novel but I think it just wasn’t for me or I wasn’t in the right mood to read this. If this sounds like your kind of thing then go ahead and pick it up but if you’re reading Juliet Marillier for the first time, I recommend that you start with Daughter of the Forest instead of this one.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Calico Reaction


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Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore is one of my most anticipated titles in 2012. I’ve been waiting for YEARS for Bitterblue to be published, ever since I found out that Graceling will have a sequel. I loved both Graceling and Fire so I had high hopes that I’d feel the same way about their companion novel. On the week that it was released, I kept dropping by local bookstores to ask if they already have a copy of Bitterblue. Luckily, I found a copy soon enough and got even more excited when I discovered that there are beautiful illustrations inside the book. Spoiler warning for those who haven’t read Graceling! Read Kristin Cashore’s first novel before picking up this one.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle — disguised and alone — to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Going in, I knew that Bitterblue would be different from Kristin Cashore’s other heroines, Katsa and Fire. She’s not Graced with fighting and she doesn’t have mind reading abilities. What Bitterblue has is a horrific past care of her psychotic father, truly a creepy villain. There’s a lot of confusion in the kingdom of Monsea because of the mind-altering ways of its previous monarch. I found the first few chapters (maybe even the first half) of the book a bit slow, which I guess is a given because Bitterblue is still trying to work through the mess left by her father. I understood that and I really felt that the writing in this book is even better than the author’s previous work, which is why it pains me to say that I didn’t love Bitterblue as much as I expected. It’s hard to explain, really, because I admired Bitterblue’s character. I think she’s developed well throughout the course of the novel – she learns how to stand up to her advisors and her friends. She eventually comes out of her shell (or should I say her palace) and learns so many truths that have been kept from her for her protection. I guess the pacing was a factor but I think it was mostly because I wasn’t able to connect with Bitterblue and that prevented me from wholeheartedly enjoying her story.

I think I have to mention the romance and my problems with it. I was disappointed because I LOVED the romance in both Graceling and Fire. However, I didn’t feel the same way about the romance in this book. I felt like it would have been better if there had been no love interest for Bitterblue. It’s still a slow burn romance, with a lot of tension between the two characters, but I felt like it was half-baked. Does that make sense? The relationship didn’t have the depth that I was looking for and to be honest, I kind of felt like Bitterblue would have been better off with a different leading man (am I the only one who noticed that there was something between her and a certain someone she can’t lie to?) Kristin Cashore is still an auto-buy author for me – I really liked seeing how characters from her other novels are doing and I think she did a great job of tying everything together in this installment. As always, it’s just a matter of personal taste and I can never predict how I’ll feel about a novel until I read it – which is why I’m still recommending Bitterblue to fans of YA epic fantasy and those who like their novels with a healthy dose of political intrigue. It’s a well-written novel, it just wasn’t as brilliantly amazing as I wanted it to be.

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Good Books and Good Wine
The Readventurer


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Read-along Review: The King Commands by Meg Burden

My good friend Michelle (See Michelle Read) and I decided to do a readalong of Meg Burden’s The Tales of the Borderlands duology. We kept exchanging messages back and forth, updating each other on our progress and our thoughts. We thought it would be a good idea to post conversation-type of reviews for both books. Drop by her blog to see what we have to say about Northlander. While this is a spoiler-free discussion of The King Commands, we discuss specific details about the books so if you’d rather not know anything about the story before reading it, you might skip this and just read the last paragraph.

Ellin never wanted to go to the Northlands but she didn’t have a choice when the Northlander king’s physicians requested for her father’s help. So much has happened in her life and surprisingly, she’s learned to like living in the Northlands just as much as the Southlands. Sure, people are still wary of her red hair and her healing abilities but she thinks that’s a small price to pay for being with her friends – the Northlander princes. Just when she thinks peace has settled in the kingdom, a series of unexpected events force Ellin to travel back to her homeland to find answers.

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Chachic: Yes, let’s go on and read book two! I read the first few pages last night but I didn’t want to continue because I wanted to wait for you so we can discuss the first book. Have you read the synopsis for book two? The love interest is mentioned right away. I wish they hadn’t done that.

Michelle: So I’m so very glad that you mentioned that the synopsis gives away Ellin’s love interest! I usually don’t read the back cover anyways once I decide to start a book but I appreciate the warning. Still, the temptation is GREAT to peek! And the hubby keeps taunting me cause he read the back when I told him what you said :) I started it tonight, but I’m only a few pages in so I’m looking forward to see where it goes.

Chachic: So I’m a couple of chapters in and I’m still confused regarding Ellin’s love interest! Haha I’m not even sure if the guy mentioned in the synopsis is really the romantic lead because I can see the story going in other directions. So funny that your husband keeps taunting you though. Don’t worry, you’ll probably go through the chapters quickly and you’ll reach the place where I currently am (end of chapter 12) in no time.

Michelle: So I’m up to page 100 or so now and once again Meg Burden is astounding! So much happens and it always catches me completely off guard!

Also, how fun that we are getting a greater insight into Finn’s character! If possible I am loving him more than ever now due to those chapters from his perspective. Seriously! I just want gather that boy up and hug him tight.

Chachic: We’re at about the same page so that’s good. :) Yes, I was so surprised at how quickly things unfolded in the first few chapters of the The King Commands! I haven’t been able to predict any of the events that have happened so far – and that’s a good thing, right?

I love the chapters from Finn’s POV! I did a bit of searching and found this interview that Meg Burden did on bookshelves of doom and she talks about how she wanted to write from a different POV in the second book but didn’t want it to feel disconnected with the first one.

Sorry, I just had to share this – Meg Burden replied to a conversation that Angie and I had on Twitter.

Michelle: How crazy is it that Meg Burden chatted with you on Twitter! Maybe she gets alert emails (like me) when someone happens to mention me there. Pretty cool tho. It is sad that she didn’t get to write a 3rd book for the series, but I am secretly thrilled that it does all get wrapped up in TKC since there isn’t another one for us to read. Nothing worse than being left hanging during the middle of a truly awesome series.

Chachic: I know, I was amazed when Meg Burden replied on Twitter! It is sad that there wouldn’t be a third book in this series but at least things are nicely wrapped up in TKC and we don’t have to wait for the next installment. So glad I decided to buy a copy of TKC when I ordered Northlander. I wouldn’t have minded waiting a bit to read the sequel because Northlander stands well enough on its own. It’s just that I enjoyed it so much so I wanted to start on TKC right away.

Michelle: I should start this out with an apology! I got reading tonight and couldn’t help but finish! I think you will too once you get going :) And wow, what a ride it takes you on! Back and forth from the Northland to the Southland and everywhere in between. I do feel like this one was a bit more grown-up if you will. Ellin had seen and been through so much that I really feel like she changed buckets. Really all the characters, but I think that’s to be expected.

Chachic: No need to apologize! I understand that you wanted to keep on going until you finished the whole thing, I felt the same way. So much action was packed in TKC, I wanted to reach the end just to find out how everything will unfold. I agree that this book feels a bit older than Northlander, which is a good thing because it’s like the story grows with Ellin. That also means there’s excellent character development in the novel.

Michelle: Also, how lovely to see a YA book where there are true friendships developed between men and women without it ever getting weird. Ellin and Coll’s interactions throughout the book had to be some of my favorite moments. And seeing the teasing that went on with the other brothers never failed to bring a smile to my face either.

Chachic: I agree, it’s always nice when books focus on friendships or healthy relationships between family members (like the brothers in this duology – you can really feel how fond they are of each other). I also love how Ellin and Coll act like their siblings even though they haven’t known each other that long.

Michelle: Can I just say how much I adore Coll? His character has evolved so very much and he has become this amazingly strong and stalwart person that I never would have foreseen. I love his ability to speak from the heart and find comfort in his horses.

Chachic: I love Coll as well, he’s such a great character! Steadfast and strong in his own quiet way. Coll Horse Master is the perfect title for him and I love that he bonded with Ellin over his favorite mare.

Michelle: But really?!? That’s how Meg Burden ended the book? She just drops this little tidbit onto us in the last 10 pages? I guess it’s mostly due to the fact that originally it was planned out for 3 books so the story had to be condensed, but still! So many details were thrown out there at the last that I was so not expecting!

Chachic: I KNOW! So I know that Meg Burden said on Twitter that there wouldn’t be a third book so she wrapped things up in TKC. But even if I liked where it ended, I still felt like it was incomplete. I get the feeling that the story could have continued. I agree that the last few pages nicely sets up the rest of the story and it makes me sad that there wouldn’t be more set in this world.

But I really enjoyed reading these books! Yay us for picking winners for our readalong. I like how most characters from the first book changed (for the better) in the second book. It seemed like all of the characters did their fair share of growing up – enemies became friends and vice versa. So many changes in how things were!

Michelle: Yes! Everyone was able to put aside differences and see that working together was for the benefit of the group at large.

Chachic: Can we talk about the cover for a bit? I think the cover for Northlander looks okay but I feel like TKC could have a much better cover design. Is it just me or it looks like a picture straight out of an online game? And I can’t even figure out who is supposed to be on the cover. The blond guy is probably Alaric but who’s the red-headed one? I wish they just used a picture of Ellin (or maybe the brothers).

Michelle: Oh my, yes! We never did discuss that tragedy did we? And you’re right, Northlander is pretty good — sorta brooding, forbidding castle but TKC? Horrible. Every time I picked it up I just would cringe in disbelief that someone would actually choose to PRINT that. And I have no idea who those two are supposed to be either. Finn? Alaric? I wish they had just gone with another generic castle or something — anything would have been better than that photoshopping disaster.

Chachic: Maybe they used a stock photo instead of having someone specifically design a cover for the book? I agree, it would have been better if they had gone with a generic cover design – maybe a landscape of the Southlands or the Northlands? LOL but I’m glad we agree about the cover.

So excited to post our reviews of these two. I’m hoping we get to encourage more readers to pick up the books.

Michelle: And yep! I can’t wait to post these either. I really hope it spurs someone else to pick them up cause they were a lot of fun. I actually originally looked at getting my copies from the Book Depository but saw that they were $8 or 9 apiece so I actually got mine used off Amazon for around $8 for both. Super cheap. I know that wasn’t an option for you (very sad) but we could let people know that you CAN find them cheaply if not at libraries or something.
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There you have it, folks. I think we pretty much covered everything that we wanted to say about the sequel. I was telling Michelle that our thread for The King Commands is a bit longer than the one that we had for Northlander. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both of these books. I was reminded of how much I enjoy reading epic fantasy novels while I was going through Meg Burden’s books. There are so many things to like in this series – a strong female character (inner strength instead of physical strength), political intrigue stemming from the uneasy situation between the Northlands and the Southlands, friendships that you can root for and even a bit of romance. It’s sad that there aren’t a lot of readers who have picked up these books because they’re really good reads and both Michelle and I are hoping to encourage more people to pay attention to them with our reviews. Recommended for fans of Robin McKinley, Shannon Hale and Sherwood Smith.

Other reviews:
Charlotte’s Library
wands and worlds
A Jane of all Reads


8 Comments

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

I’m a Melina Marchetta fan girl. I love love love both Jellicoe Road and The Piper’s Son and I’ve read the rest of her contemporary novels. I recently got a copy of her first epic fantasy novel, Finnikin of the Rock, and thought that it would be a good idea to read it along with two blogging buddies – Holly and Janice. I had a lot of fun going through the novel with these two. We would comment on each other’s Goodreads update status and discuss how we felt about the novel as we moved along. I wasn’t surprised that I kept agreeing with everything that they said. Click here to see Janice’s review.

Here’s the summary from Melina Marchetta’s website for those who are curious:

At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the royal house of his homeland, Lumatere. And so he stands on the rock of three wonders with his childhood friend Prince Balthazar and the prince’s cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood. And Lumatere is safe.

Until the ‘five days of the unspeakable’, when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered in the palace. And an imposter king takes the throne. And a curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps.

But ten years later Finnikin is led to another rock to meet the young novice, Evanjalin. A girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light…

I knew going in that this wouldn’t be an easy read. Melina Marchetta is one of those authors who can perfectly balance pain and suffering with hope and redemption in their novels. The characters go through so much in the course of the book that readers can’t help but feel for them. Finnikin of the Rock is a classic Marchetta in that sense. Sadly, I didn’t feel like there was a perfect balance of light and dark in this novel. Early in the novel, it was said that Lumatere’s salvation is paved in blood and IT REALLY IS. Sigh, it felt like every character in the novel went through his or her own personal version of hell. It was a wonder that hoped still burned within their hearts. I just wish there was a little bit more love and laughter to lighten things up – an unexpected kindness here and there or a happy situation for some of the characters. As a reader, I felt bogged down by the heaviness of the book’s theme.

The first few chapters were a bit confusing because I felt that I just got thrown into the world and I kept checking the maps to pinpoint the places mentioned. The worldbuilding and the writing weren’t as smooth as I was expecting, it felt uneven in some parts and there were bits that pulled me out of the story. It was a little frustrating that I felt this way because I wanted to love Finnikin of the Rock just as much as Melina Marchetta’s contemporary novels. Having said that, I still cared enough for the characters to want all of them to have a happy ending so I didn’t have a hard time reading until the end. I even read ahead of the assigned chapters for our read along because I was curious where the story would lead. So I think the strength of this fantasy novel lies in the characters and how readers will sympathize with them. Both Finnikin and Evanjalin are strong characters – they had to be to endure everything that they had to go through. There were some parts where I got frustrated by their relationship because both are really stubborn but I guess that’s just part of who they are. I liked that the secondary characters were fully fleshed out and the focus wasn’t just on Finnikin and Evanjalin. My favorite relationship in this book is probably the one between Finnikin and his father.

Finnikin of the Rock is not an easy read. I’m not even sure if it’s classified under young adult because for me, it reads like an adult epic fantasy novel. It’s definitely a worthwhile read if you’re an epic fantasy reader or a Melina Marchetta fan but it’s the kind of book that would make you pick up something light and fun afterwards (well, that’s what happened with me). I think it’s great the author decided to write a novel in a different genre. I have nothing but respect for authors who move away from what they’re known for to see what they’re capable of. I may not have loved this one as much as her other novels but she’s still an auto-read author for me and I actually just started on Froi of the Exiles because I got the galley from NetGalley. Melina Marchetta is still the queen of Aussie YA for me.

Other reviews:
Angieville
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Persnickety Snark


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Silksinger by Laini Taylor

Silksinger is the second book in the Dreamdark series by Laini Taylor and is the sequel to Blackbringer. Laini Taylor has become an auto-buy author for me because I fell in love with her YA books: Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Lips Touch. I found Blackbringer a little harder to get into that her other books but ended up enjoying it quite a bit once I got used to the writing and the worldbuilding. I picked up Silksinger right after reading the first book because I wanted to see how the story would progress. Okay, I just realized that I posted my Blackbringer review a month ago – I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about the sequel. Sorry about that!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Whisper Silksinger is the last of the secret guardians of the Azazel, one of the powerful Djinn who dreamed the world into being. Relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty devils, she flees to the city of Nazneen to restore the Azazel to his temple. At the same time, Hirik Mothmage is also on a secret quest, to find the Azazel and restore his disgraced clan’s ancient honor.

And behind them all flies Magpie Windwitch, desperate to rescue Whisper and the Azazel alike before they fall in the clutches of a sinister hidden enemy.

I’ve heard from other bloggers that Silksinger is a lot better than its predecessor, Blackbringer, and I have to agree. The second installment in Laini Taylor’s series about faeries is a lot easier to get into that the first book. Or maybe it’s also because I’m more familiar with the details so it wasn’t as difficult as experiencing Dreamdark for the first time. I found the action-packed adventure story engaging right from the start. Here’s a glimpse of how the first chapter begins:

“Whisper Silksinger knew two kinds of death. There was the peaceful kind, quiet as eyelids fluttering shut, and there was the kind with teeth, sudden as a spurt of blood, a devil pounce, a scream. She had seen both. Of her whole clan only three faeries remained, and now death had come for them too.

And it had come with teeth.”

Doesn’t that make you want to know what happens next? The characters in the first book – Magpie, her crow companions and Talon – are back in this novel but new characters are also present. What I liked about Silksinger is that Laini Taylor continued to breathe life to the world that she created in Blackbringer by introducing new characters like Whisper and Hirik, moving the setting to different locations in the same world and adding new kinds of magic. I feel like there are more layers to the story as it moves forward, giving it more depth. I like that each Dreamdark novel focuses on one of the djinn and the fairies that have special connections to them. So even if Magpie, Talon and crows are in this novel, it really is more of Whisper and Hirik’s story. At the start, Whisper might seem like such a timid person but she has a backbone of steel when it comes to doing her duty as a guardian of Azazel. She’s not as feisty as Magpie but she has her own strengths. And Hirik is the same – he’s determined to bring back honor to his clan by serving the Azazel in spite of all the dangers involved.

I’ve only read a handful of middle grade novels this year but I’ve really liked all of them, which shouldn’t be surprising because I base my reading choices on recommendations from blogging buddies or Goodreads friends. After reading Silksinger, I really felt bad that the publisher has decided not to continue the series. I don’t understand why because it’s well-written and I would really like to read more of Laini Taylor’s writing. Her Dreamdark books are different from her YA novels, which I think is a good thing because it shows her capabilities as a writer. She switches from middle grade epic fantasy to YA urban fantasy and does it successfully. Isn’t that amazing? I believe she’s working on Daughter of Smoke and Bone’s sequel and then she’ll probably work on the third novel in the trilogy after that. Which means she won’t be able to come back to Dreamdark until after a few years have passed. SAD. There’s closure in both Dreamdark books and they don’t end in cliffhangers so they can be read on their own but come on, I want to know what happens to the other djinn! I really hope the series finds a new publisher and that we’ll eventually see the rest of the books. So if you’re a Laini Taylor fan and you love epic fantasy, support her Dreamdark books by reading (and if you can, reviewing) them.

Here’s another reason to read the books, they include beautiful illustrations by Jim di Bartolo:

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Charlotte’s Library
By Singing Light


7 Comments

Finnikin of the Rock Read-Along

Just wanted to make a quick post saying that I’m reading Finnikin of the Rock by the queen of Aussie YA, Melina Marchetta, along with two of my favorite bloggers: Janice of Janicu’s Book Blog and Holly of Book Harbinger. I have the Aussie edition of the book and I opened up my copy to discover that the inside is just as pretty as the cover. So I decided to take some pictures.

Colored illustration in the inside cover:

Maps:

Section headings:

Chapter headings:

Here’s the summary from Melina Marchetta’s website for those who are curious:

At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the royal house of his homeland, Lumatere. And so he stands on the rock of three wonders with his childhood friend Prince Balthazar and the prince’s cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood. And Lumatere is safe.

Until the ‘five days of the unspeakable’, when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered in the palace. And an imposter king takes the throne. And a curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps.

But ten years later Finnikin is led to another rock to meet the young novice, Evanjalin. A girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light…

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll love this just as much as I loved the author’s contemporary novels. Watch out for our reviews in the coming weeks!


13 Comments

Retro Friday: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Laini Taylor is one of my favorite discoveries this year. I fell in love with both Lips Touch and Daughter of Smoke and Bone when I got to read them. Since the latter is getting a lot of attention from bloggers and readers alike, I thought it would be a good idea to feature her lesser-known Dreamdark novel during Retro Friday.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Magpie Windwitch is not like other faeries, most of whom live in tranquil seclusion. When she learns that escaped devils are creeping back into the world, she travels all over with her faithful clan of crows, hunting them down. The hunt will take her to the great forest of Dreamdark, where she must unravel the mystery of the worst enemy her folk have ever known. Can one small, determined faerie defeat the forces that threaten to unmake the world?

Blackbringer is the first book in the Dreamdark series. Laini Taylor mentions in her website that she initially wanted to write five Dreamdark books but the publisher has decided not to continue with the series. When I found out about that, I rushed to the bookstore to get my own copies of both Blackbringer and Silksinger because I was afraid I would have a hard time looking for copies later on. I had a difficult time getting into Blackbringer at first because it’s different from the other Laini Taylor books that I’ve read but after a couple of chapters, I was hooked and enjoyed reading the whole thing until the end. It’s written for younger audiences, middle grade instead of young adult, and is epic fantasy rather than urban fantasy.

Other faeries are content to live in their own world, enclosed by protective spells that keep away both humans and devils. But Magpie is different, she gets her restless energy from her parents and her grandfather, the West Wind. She travels with her band of crows to fight against devils, just like the champions in the golden days of Dreamdark. Devils are evil creatures who devour and destroy everything they can get their hands on. Magpie is one feisty character and I didn’t have trouble liking her. She’s young for her race, about a hundred years old, but she’s determined to do something for their dying world. Even though I didn’t think the writing in Blackbringer is as beautiful and lyrical as her YA novels, I still think she created an enchanting world in her first Dreamdark novel and I look forward to seeing how she builds upon that. Some things that I liked about her faeries: they belong in different clans and have their own special skills (e.g. one clan tends to plants and trees while another warrior clan is in charge of protecting Dreamdark) and their wings vary too. Some faeries have butterfly or moth wings while Magpie has dragonfly wings. Another thing that I liked is how significant dreams are in this story – dreams play important roles in the events that unfold in this novel. Illustrations by the author’s husband, Jim di Bartolo, also appear in various sections of the book. Here are samples:

I love books with illustrations in them and I think these are beautiful. While the book didn’t end on a cliffhanger, it’s set up in such a way that the reader knows that there’s more to this world. I’m excited for the sequel, Silksinger, especially since I’ve heard that it’s even better than this one. Recommended for those who enjoyed reading R.J. Anderson’s Knife or for fans of faerie books. I’m hoping that because Daughter of Smoke and Bone is getting a lot of attention, more readers will pick up Laini Taylor’s backlist.

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Charlotte’s Library
The Book Smugglers
Squeaky Books

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