ARC Review: The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen #1) by Emily R. King

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As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

review

****Big thank you to Skyscape and Amazon Publishing for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review****

Wow, let me just say I am pleasantly surprised with how much I ended up enjoying this book! It has every element I love in a YA fantasy and I honestly cannot wait for the rest of the series now!

PLOT

Of course it’s easy to think with the description of this book that it would be something similar to “The Wrath & The Dawn” or even “The Star-Touched Queen” and while there are some similarities it’s still very unique. I would still say that if you were a fan of either you will probably enjoy “The Hundredth Queen” as well!

I really enjoyed the world building a lot, I liked how every aspect of the lore we were introduced to was incorporated into the plot. I also never felt overwhelmed or confused when information on the world was provided, no info-dumps here! The mythology was probably my favorite part about this story since it ended up playing a major part and was just so fascinating to learn about.

I found the magic system to be pretty unique and actually reminded me a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender since each element is represented, that’s probably why I loved it so much……

While the pacing wasn’t necessarily slow in the beginning it was a little bit harder for me to get into since there was a bit of insta-love that really put me off. However, once I got a little bit further in I was completely engrossed in this story! There were many twists and turns that I honestly did not see coming and I felt like there was definitely plenty of action and fast pacing to keep me turning pages.

The rank tournaments themselves were actually pretty brutal too, there definitely wasn’t any sugar-coating this aspect of the story which I liked since I feel YA authors always try to get out of or gloss over any sort of violence in their novels. Not that I’m some blood-thirsty, horrible person! It’s just I get tired of books promising fights to the death and then not delivering.

I also liked the way females were represented in the story as well as female relationships. There is a bit of girl-on-girl hate at the beginning of the story but I promise you it isn’t what it seems as it changes as the story progresses. I appreciated how the author would point out the wrongness of the way women were treated and how they sometimes treated each other in this world as well and how our heroine, Kalinda, also frowned upon any negative treatment of women and would intervene. The women in this story are honestly total badasses and I loved it! Although I will say I wish the few positive relationships between females would have been shown a lot more.

I was also really impressed with the writing and it was hard to believe this was a debut novel, everything flowed so well! Simple and easy to read overall, which sometimes is just perfect.

characters

The characters in this book were actually very enjoyable, all of them! Once again, I was pretty surprised by how well I thought a lot of them developed and the levels of complexity a few of them had. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with these characters but I love to be proved wrong in this case!

Kalinda was the perfect protagonist, in my opinion. She was brave and loyal but also had her moments where her courage would fail her, she wasn’t perfect. I also really liked how she wasn’t some “super skilled special snowflake” (that’s a bit of a tongue twister, huh?), she had skill but she definitely wasn’t as skilled as lot of the other characters. I think maybe the best word to describe how I felt about Kalinda’s character was “heart-warming” because everything she did, said, or felt just gave me tingles because she was just so realistic and down to earth!

The secondary characters were all well done too, I felt like I knew so many of them even though they were only around for a few sentences! I loved how many were also not just by-standers and we got to see so many of them grow and develop throughout the story.

As I mentioned earlier I really liked all of the female relationships in this book but especially the friendship between Kalinda and Jaya. Honestly, I wished there was more shown between those two because I feel YA could really use more positive female friendships like this one!

romance

The only real problem I had with the romance was that there was some heavy insta-love at the beginning but overall I did like it and felt that Kalinda and Deven made a great couple. Was it anything super special or impressive? No, not really but like I said I did enjoy it so that’s all that really matters.

Plus it doesn’t hurt that Deven is a pretty swoon-worthy love interest. He treated Kalinda right and I’m all for a good guy love interest!

in conclusion

What I Loved:

  • The world building and mythology
  • Kalinda was a great female protagonist
  • The writing flowed well and was easy to follow
  • The plot was fast-paced, action-packed, with plenty of twists
  • Kalinda and Jaya’s friendship

What I Didn’t Love:

  • There was some girl-on-girl hate (which is never okay although in this story it was overcome)
  • Insta-love relationship (even though I did come to like them together)
  • I wish Kalinda and Jaya’s friendship would have been shown a lot more and maybe some more of the female relationships as well

RECOMMEND

I definitely recommend checking this book out especially if you’re looking for something a little similar to “The Wrath & The Dawn”!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir

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description

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

review

“This life is not always what we think it will be,” Cain says. “You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”

I have to say I was a little worried about this one since it’s a pretty hyped up book but it was definitely worth the hype in my opinion! This book is very intense and just all around amazing!

PLOT

As I said this book is intense that’s honestly the best word to describe it! It’s very fast-paced and action-packed with a plot that grows more and more complex as the story progresses. I actually really enjoyed reading both perspectives, Elias and Laia, because it added a lot of depth to both “sides” of the story even though I preferred Elias’ a bit more since it was more eventful. There’s plot twists, betrayals, secrets and even a little politics as well which all adds to the excitement.

I also really like the world building, I like the Roman inspired bits and pieces as well as a bit of the mythical and magical being tossed in for good measure. It’s also a pretty dark, nasty world as well which I loved (I’m not weird, I promise). The punishments and trials the characters face are gruesome and the threat of torture, violence, and even rape are almost constantly hanging over there heads. This book was EVIL but it also kept me turning pages because I was honestly terrified for the characters and that’s exactly what all the brutality in this book wanted was to shock and infuriate us, it succeeded!

That ending killed me though, talk about a cliffhanger! I am really curious to see how the story will further develop though since we were left with many, many questions regarding a bit of the world building and just what will happen next in general!

characters

The characters were easily the best part of the book and they aren’t the usual, run of the mill YA Fantasy characters either. I loved how complex, well developed, and unique each character was even the secondary characters were interesting! I also really loved and appreciated how realistically badass all of the women in the story were, not always with weaponry or fighting either but with their wits and compassion as well.

Laia isn’t the secretly badass heroine we always seem to see, she’s “weak” and “cowardly” and constantly thinks these things of herself as well. I feel like Laia’s trials were a lot more challenging for her because nothing came surprisingly natural for her, she wasn’t a “special snowflake” in disguise at all which was very refreshing! Overall I loved how her character felt very real she wasn’t weak or cowardly she was normal, I think it’s safe to say most of us would act the same way if we were put into similar, horrifying positions!

Elias was also a very likable protagonist and really differed from the usual YA male characters we see. Like most YA characters we see he’s trying to get away from his “fate/destiny/what’s expected of him” but what makes Elias’s story a little different is that he actually has really good reasons to feel this way that also makes him feel very real and relatable.

Like I said earlier, the secondary characters were really great as well but two that are well worth mentioning are Helene and the Commandant. Helene is a badass and I adored her ferociousness and skills, she’s just an all around great female character! As for the Commandant she is the head of Blackcliff Academy and she is a vicious bitch that I loved to hate, honestly she’s one of the most cold-hearted characters I’ve ever read about. Just so many great characters!

romance

First off I’d like to say that the romance in this book is some sort of weird love square? It’s odd but honestly I didn’t mind it at all, which is really saying something! I actually like all of the potential couples in the story and thought they’d all be great together which really kills me because if certain characters are together they break the other’s hearts, awwwww feelings!!!!!

I also like the fact that there weren’t really any other tropes concerning the romance, there was a case of instant attraction but NOT insta-love. The romance didn’t ever really feel like it was over-taking the main plot line either, it felt like a bigger part of the story after a while but never actually overshadowed anything else which I LOVED!

in conclusion

I actually really enjoyed this book and am eagerly waiting to get my hands on the next book because I need more of this world! Overall I think this was a wonderful, unique YA fantasy book.

What I Loved:

  • The characters, all of them!
  • Female representation
  • All of the action, fast-pacing, and brutality of the plot
  • The world building
  • The romance didn’t really take precedence over the plot
  • I like all of the potential romantic couples!

What I Didn’t Love:

  • I don’t really have anything to complain about!

RECOMMEND

Yes! I highly recommend checking this book out, especially if you’re a YA fantasy lover! It’s a very actio-packed, fast, unique book!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

My Recipe For The Perfect YA Fantasy Book

Top Ten Tuesday (12)

So this is pretty self explanatory but this post is going to be about all of the elements I personally think would make up the perfect YA Fantasy book! These are things that will guarantee a 5 star rating from me! I’m thinking this may be a sort of series of posts I’ll do and just switch up the genres so we’ll see how this one goes first. I’m not really sure if this counts more as a discussion post, bookish list, or just a random post!

I will also provide examples of books I feel embody these “ingredients”  perfectly and will also link reviews if I have them! This post is also very similar to another I did that

Also I’ll be using quite a few gifs so if you don’t like gifs….well….don’t continue on then because there are more than a few and they’re lame but also perfect!

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World Building

Yes most fantasy books have world building but the key thing for me is that it’s well developed and complex world building. I want to know every detail about the world the story is set in from the land to the cultures, tell me everything! It just isn’t fantasy unless the author can thoroughly transport me into the world they’ve created.

I also want it to be unique and creative, I don’t like reading about the same ‘ol things that are overused in every YA fantasy book. I want different groups of people with unique features or ways of life, magic, creatures, kingdoms, everything! I could care less about a female heroine staying cooped up in a castle all day and fretting over boys and ball gowns.

Example: “Nevernight” by Jay Kristoff


Unique Mythology

This one goes hand in hand with the world building but I do find that while a book may have good world building it may not necessarily have any mythology of its world. I like when stories are provided about why certain events occurred or stories about the gods and deities that might inhabit the world or even tales of ancient heroes and battles. I feel original mythology (or mythology based off of “real” mythology) really adds a whole lot more to the world building.

Example: “Stormdancer” by Jay Kristoff


Strong, Badass Characters

I don’t know about you guys but I don’t like my YA fantasy books full of helpless damsels, I like strong and badass characters who prove their badassness! This could also go towards well-developed and three dimensional characters in general as well, because a good fantasy book needs fleshed out characters.

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Example: “And I Darken” by Kirsten White (I know technically this is historical fiction but let’s let it slide…)


Crazy Plot Twists!

Everyone loves a good plot twist, it keeps things interesting and sets the pacing of the book. I personally love when there’s revenge, betrayal, and even court intrigue (mind games!) in my YA fantasy because I feel it gives the characters a lot more drive. I can’t tell you how disappointed I get when there isn’t at least a LITTLE bit of a revenge or betrayal story in a fantasy book!

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Example: “The Winner’s Curse” by Marie Rutkoski


Mythological Creatures and/or Animal Companions

What can I say? I’m an animal lover and therefore it just makes sense that I love the inclusion of fantastic beasts and animal companions in my YA Fantasy! I feel it makes the world a lot more immersive when there are creatures from myth included because it just feeds the imagination more, fantasy IS all about escape from reality after all. Also talking animal companions, who doesn’t wish animals could talk?

Example: “Stormdancer” by Jay Kristoff


Magic

(Duh)

Now first of all I’m definitely not saying a YA fantasy book HAS to have magic to be incredible because it most certainly does not, I personally just love having it included. However, it has to be well done! I like when the magic system is really creative and unique and is NOT all powerful, because magic does have consequences after all. The example I’m using is “The Impostor Queen” because it embodies all of those perfectly, the magic system is unique and powerful but not all powerful it comes at great cost.

Example: “The Impostor Queen” by Sarah Fine


NO Romance!

(Or it at least has to be well done)

I get really sick and tired of YA fantasy books that get muddled down in tropes such as love triangles and insta-love or plots that centralize around the romance instead of vice versa. So for me, ideally, a YA Fantasy would have zero romance or at least one that isn’t riddled with tropes and doesn’t take over the entire plot.

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Examples: “The Forbidden Wish” by Jessica Khoury & “Half a King” by Joe Abercrombie


Even/Fast Pacing

Who hates slow pacing in books?

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Me! This is kind of just how I feel with every book in general but it definitely feels like a lot of YA fantasy books get really bogged down with world building and details sometimes that the pacing is super slow. So I like some fast paced YA fantasy!

Example: “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo


Attention Grabbing Beginning

This almost goes hand in hand with the pacing I mentioned above but how am I supposed to be interested in the world you’ve created if your story doesn’t grab my attention immediately? Let’s get thrown right into the nitty gritty (but also maybe have a little explanation too…no one likes being completely lost)!

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Example: “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” by Hannah West


Morally Gray Characters

You can’t really have wonderful plot twists unless you have some morally grey characters in the mix because they definitely spice things up! Who can you trust? No one! I love how thrilling it is being unable to guess a “gray character’s” intentions or actions it really adds the element of surprise and shock factor to your twists because they’re all the harder to see coming. I also like to be torn between characters like that because I’m weird and like pain apparently.

Example: “Half a King” by Joe Abercrombie

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Do you agree with any of my “ingredients”?

Are there any “ingredients” in making the perfect YA fantasy that you felt I missed?

What makes up the perfect YA fantasy book for you?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

ARC Review: The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

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When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

review

**** Big thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!****

I was super pumped when I found out Rin Chupeco was writing not only another book but a dark fantasy book! So of course I went into this book expecting to love it since I loved “The Girl From the Well” and luckily for me I was not disappointed.

PLOT

While I was very much invested in the plot of this story I will admit that the pacing was pretty uneven it was borderline slow. It felt like this book was more so setting up for the next book than having any real action on its own. This is a book you have to be a little patient with.

I also really liked how the story was told from two different POVs one being a Bard whom an older Tea tells her life story in the present and the other being told from the past by a younger Tea. I have to say the present day Tea is very dark and mysterious and I found her to be the most interesting I want to know what happened to her to make her this way! So this does jump back and forth throughout the story between the present and the past which I thought worked really well in this book, it made the story more suspenseful and interesting, it kept me reading!

The story may not be the most fast paced or action packed but it’s still super interesting with all of the world building. I absolutely loved reading about the asha and their magic as well as the horrible monsters the daeva which were actually pretty terrifying. Reading about how Tea is such a rare breed of “witch” and watching as she comes to terms with her Dark abilities and learning how to use them was just a ton of fun.

The world building was also spot on and very creative, it provided just enough to keep me happy and withheld enough that I am interested to learn more in the next books. I loved the concepts of the magical Asha, the demonic monsters Daeva, the mythology of the world, and the different aspects of all the Kingdoms. Also the magic system was interesting as well. There was definitely no lack of world building here and at the same time there was no info dumping either.

The writing was something I had a sort of love-hate relationship with, on one hand I liked it and thought it was very beautiful but on the other hand I found it to be almost TOO descriptive at times. It did help me visualize things a little better but the in depth details got a little tedious after while, I can only read about clothes in that much description before it gets old.

THAT ENDING THOUGH! It wasn’t necessarily a cliffhanger but at the same time it left me crying because I don’t want to wait a YEAR for the next book!

characters

Overall the characters were pretty great in this book, I did feel some lacked a little development though especially the secondary characters because I would have liked some more background on them. I still got very attached to a lot of them mostly the other asha characters such as Althy and Polaire!

The more central characters were a little better such as Tea, her brother Fox, and her mentor Lady Mykalea. We got a lot more background on these characters and I assume we are only going to get more as the series goes on.

romance

I’m happy to say that the romance did not play a HUGE factor in this story, it didn’t take center stage and didn’t take precedence over the plot. Apart from that it wasn’t really developed either, once again I’m assuming it will be explored more in the next book.

There is a bit of a love triangle although without spoilers I will say it isn’t what you think it is a first, they kind of throw a red herring our way and it WILL surprise you when you get to the end. I hate love triangles and this one didn’t bother me at all!

in conclusion

Overall I was very satisfied with this book even though it did bother me a little bit that so much is left to be determined in the next books. The world building is the strongest (and best) part! I am VERY excited to continue with this series and so far Rin Chupeco has yet to disappoint me!

What I Liked:

  • The overall story was intriguing
  • The world-building was great and creative
  • The POVs between past and present was interesting
  • The ending left me wanting MORE
  • The characters were pretty well written
  • The romance didn’t take over the plot

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The writing got a little TOO descriptive at times
  • I wanted just a bit more background on some of the characters

RECOMMEND

If you’re interested in reading a dark YA fantasy I highly recommend this one, it combines all the best parts of fantasy with a little bit of horror since the monsters and sometimes the magic get very creepy. Also if you liked Chupeco’s other duology I think you’ll love this one too!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

ARC Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

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description

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

review

**** Thank you to Thomas Dunne for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review****

Okay so I know not a lot of people have been loving this book and when I first started reading I wondered why because it was so good! Unfortunately that didn’t last and I’m left somewhere in the middle with mixed feelings on “Wintersong”, it had both good and bad.

PLOT

With the way this book started out I would have thought it was for sure a 4 or 5 star book but once I reached 50% it all went downhill fast. I loved that at the beginning of the story we are drawn in immediately when Kathe, Elisabeth’s sister is kidnapped by the Goblin King and she must play a game against him in order to win her sister back. Now I love when there are wagers of life or death in books and the main character has to be cunning in order to beat the mythical/powerful “bad guy” and this was interesting and even a little dark too, however, as I said once I reached 50% this was all over. The sister’s kidnapping conflict is resolved at the half way point of the book and that’s what kept me reading to start with so with that done there wasn’t much of a plot left and definitely no more action.

The last half of the book is hellishly slow and tedious and focuses more on the characters of Elisabeth and the Goblin King than any real action or plot. Now character driven stories are all well and good but it only works when I’m not confused out of my mind, there just seemed to be a lot of plot holes and things missing so I never really understood the characters are what was happening and why. Sooooo many plot holes, I was left with so many questions at the end of this book!

Then that ending…..what? Remember the plot holes I mentioned? Those really came into play for the ending of “Wintersong” because I was really confused about a lot of things including why the story ended the way it did. Also the question “how?” comes into mind a lot too. It didn’t end the way you’d expect and I liked that it was unpredictable but overall it was unsatisfactory.

Another thing that kind of took away from the experience were the constant in depth descriptions of playing and composing classical music, now I was in band and choir while I was in high school so it’s not like all of it was flying over my head but it got really old really fast. They were CONSTANT and there is such a thing as too much detail…..

I’d also like to mention that this book is marketed as a retelling of the movie “Labyrinth”, which I personally have not seen but know the overall gist of. Keeping that in mind I would like to say that this book doesn’t seem to have much in common with the movie other the character of the Goblin King really.

The writing was very pretty and poetic which I liked and is honestly probably one of the few reasons I even made it through the second half of the book. I’d still be very interested in reading future books by this author.

I did like that while this book is YA it never really feels like your typical YA book while reading, it feels just a little more like an adult book or maybe even new adult. However, it’s nice to see a “YA” book that isn’t full of the usual cliches.

characters

As I mentioned earlier “Wintersong” is more of a character driven story, especially in the second half, so the characters are very important. Unfortunately as good as they were there was still a lot that I felt was missing and in the end I felt they felt a little flat, distant, and confusing. I did still like them overall though!

I really did enjoy Elisabeth’s character because she is plain but very talented. Not something we usually see in YA, which I liked. However, I didn’t like being reminded just how “plain and ugly” she is all the time….got a little annoying.

The we have the Goblin King and while I loved him for the most part throughout the whole book his character changed quite drastically from the first half of the book to the second half. We started out with the mischievous, dark, sexy, and mysterious Goblin King and then we got the mushy, almost kind of spineless Goblin King who also had a lot of problems making up his mind about stuff. He does however still remain pretty mysterious at the end of the novel which kind of frustrated me but also I appreciated it because I didn’t want the image of the mythical, immortal Goblin King being ruined.

The other characters that really made any other appearances were Elisabeth’s family in which only the siblings and grandmother were important. Each family member had a different and important effect on Elisabeth’s self esteem, the grandmother believes in the old myths (the Goblin King) and raised her grand kids to as well, Kathe is pretty and vain but still very much wants her sister to love her, Josef is her musical muse and helps her grow her talent, her father and mother both kind of put her down though. I still loved that after all her family puts her through, Elisabeth still loves them fiercely.

romance

The romance is a major factor in this book and while I really supported it and wanted it in the first half of the book, I found myself really doubting it in the second half. Overall I just sort of found it to be…..okay. Which it could be worse.

While this is not necessarily insta-love since the Goblin King and Elisabeth used to play together in the Goblin Grove I still feel that it resembles insta love because of the fact that we don’t really receive any backstory on this relationship they had before the current timeline in the book. There also seems to be a lot of angst and tension between the two characters and it kind of got old after a while and again I will say because of the second half of the book.

in conclusion

I REALLY LOVED THE FIRST HALF OF THIS BOOK! Seriously if the second half would have been anywhere near that level of goodness I would have easily rated this book higher but alas that wasn’t the case. The second half only dragged on tediously, made me start to question if I really liked the characters or romance at all, and just overall really confuse me. Seriously the confusion was real. I was given information that was never again talked about or resolved.

So in the end I can only give this 3 stars and that extra star is only because of how much I loved the first 50%.

What I Liked:

  • All of the characters were pretty well done including Elisabeth and the Goblin King
  • Did I mention the first half of the book was amazing yet?
  • The dark atmosphere
  • The romance was alright and I shipped it
  • The writing
  • Not a typical, cliched YA book

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Slow pacing
  • The second half of the book was soooooo boring
  • Over detailed explanations of music
  • Lots of plot holes and things left unexplained
  • Also lots of confusion in general about certain plot points
  • No real backstory on the Goblin King
  • Kind of unsatisfactory ending

RECOMMEND

Overall I can’t say I have an opinion on recommending this book, if there was a way I could recommend only reading the first half I totally would in a heart beat. I thought this turned out to be a little disappointing but the writing was very nice and if you can look past some of these negative points then give “Wintersong” a try!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Book Review: The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) by Evelyn Skye

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Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

review

This book was one of my most anticipated releases of 2016 and I was very, very excited to read it but then the negative reviews started trickling out among the positive ones and I began to question whether I should read “The Crown’s Game” or not. I definitely should not have wasted  my time. This has got to be one of the most disappointing books this year because of how high my expectations were and how badly this book failed.

PLOT

Let me start out by saying this book wasn’t completely awful hence the two star rating instead of one star but it is incredibly unoriginal. If you’ve ever read even one YA fantasy book then don’t even bother with this because it’s nothing new.

I would say the biggest let down of this entire book was the fact that this is supposed to be a magical battle to the DEATH and all we got were parlor tricks that were so unbelievably underwhelming. You’re supposed to be trying to kill each other not painting buildings with your magic for crying out loud! So freaking boring! The magic might as well not have even been included because it was essentially pointless. These two enchanters are supposed to be the most powerful people in Russia and they can’t even summon something spectacular to kill their opponent? What wasted potential.

There was no world-building, no mythology for this version of Fantasy Russia, and no explanations for ANYTHING. We basically are just set adrift in this world and are supposed to be content with no background and no fantasy elements in a FANTASY BOOK! You want to know what supposedly made this book fantasy? The magic. That’s it and even that was disappointing.

There’s next to no action at all and what action there was were the displays of magical “power” which as I’ve said were incredibly dull. The entirety of this plot is romance, which I’ll get to in a bit and so there’s hardly any story to speak of. The pacing was slow and I was generally uninterested throughout my entire reading and it’s really a miracle I didn’t DNF this book.

What I did like was the setting, even though I would have liked a lot more depth to it, I did like this Fantasy version of Russia. I also liked a few (very few) points in the story that I found to be interesting such as a couple of the twists even if they were pretty predictable. I didn’t think the story was completely awful since I did manage to finish this book but it was not what I was lead to believe it was about.

Then there’s the ending…..which I found to be anti-climatic and left me completely disinterested in reading the sequel. I already know where the next book is headed and honestly there’s no point in torturing myself with this series anymore.

characters

Flat, uninteresting, and absolutely no depth to these characters. I could have cared less about any of them which is pretty bad considering I’m supposed to fear for their lives since they have to try and kill each other off. We didn’t really get any insight into Vika or Nikolai and they didn’t have any flaws, they were essentially perfect little special snowflakes. Which in my opinion made them very boring and unrelatable because let’s face it we all know perfect people don’t exist and I don’t want characters to be THAT unrealistic.

That’s really all the words I’ll waste on the characters.

romance

Where do I even start with this? First of all the romance is the sole focus of the story, it definitely takes center stage over the “magical death battle”.  Which annoys the living crap out of me when I was promised said magical death battle and all I got was a book littered with your typical YA romance tropes.

First of all we have gag-inducing insta-love and eye-roll worthy love triangles. Both of which are represented in the usual, annoying, run of the mill ways. Nothing original or unique about the romance at all! Overall I felt like it was way too over the top and used to provide more drama and suspense to the plot and it just did not work at all.

in conclusion

“The Crown’s Game” is one huge disappointment to me and while it had a few minor things to save it from a one star rating I still think it was a waste of my reading time.

What I Liked:

  • The Fantasy Russian setting
  • A few plot points that maintained my interest

What I Disliked:

  • Slow pacing
  • No action
  • Misleading premise
  • No world building
  • Flat, boring characters
  • An extremely trope-riddled romance

RECOMMEND

No I can’t say I would recommend this book to anyone and even if you’re a fan of YA fantasy (which I am as well) I would skip this one because it’s nothing new. For you YA romance fans I can’t honestly say for sure (I am not a romance fan) but I think this romance was far too dramatic and unoriginal.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

ARC Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

a-title-here24description

Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two – now three – after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince’s band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.

review

**** Huge thank you to Holiday House for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!****

Let me just say….wow I did not expect to love this book as much as I did! It’s magical, wonderful, amazing, and an all around fantastic debut novel! “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” is definitely one of my favorite reads in 2016 too because it is PERFECT for any fan of fantasy (which I am) and it blends four fairy tales together seamlessly and therefore is perfect for any fan of retellings as well. Seriously, there are so many wonderful things about this book I don’t even know where to start..well maybe at the beginning right?

PLOT

The story starts out fast paced and grabs your attention immediately with Bristal (the MC) being kidnapped and whisked away to the Water to see if she will become one of the ancient, magical elicromancers. Exciting stuff right? We also get some good insight into the world right away with explanations of the magic system and what elicromancers are but I won’t give any of that away because it’s just so great to read through! There’s just some great, classic world building in this book complete with the always fun royal politics too.

I also love the way Hannah West weaved the tales of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, and Emma together. In my eyes it was flawless. We see Bristal act as a fairy godmother to both the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty characters and watch as she disguises herself as a man to join one of the prince’s group of soldiers. It was so much fun reading and trying to guess how each retold fairy tale would play out and who was acting as which character, if you’re familiar with these tales it is almost guaranteed to be enjoyable for you!

(Also on a side note I never read “Emma” by Jane Austen so I have no idea how it fit into this story, if anyone would like to enlighten me PLEASE do so!)

Then the main threat in the story is the impending war between the villain and their gathered army of supernatural creatures and the continent of Nissera, so basically Bristal is running around shape-shifting like a mad woman to ensure each character is doing what they can to prepare for the incoming war. There are also many smaller stories (the fairy tales if you will) that all intersect throughout the main plot interlinking everything into one. There are so many things going on guys, it’s awesome and there are so many crazy plot twists too! I was freaking out to the point where I’m fanning my face and yelling “NO, NO, NO!”. You guys know how that goes…..

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My only complaint about this book is that at times during the story I felt like some stuff was a little too convenient. Certain things would happen to make sure everything worked out perfectly, it wasn’t annoying but at times it was kind of unbelievable.

Overall though the plot line is magnificent it combines every element of YA Fantasy that I love: magic, ball gowns, (good) romance, world-building, royalty, class good vs. evil, and a good old fashioned villain.

characters

There are actually quite a few characters in “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” and they were all amazing, I LOVE well developed secondary characters it’s a must have for me in a book.

Bristal is the perfect heroine she’s selfless, brave, and clever. Her sole purpose is to protect the kingdoms and guide them even if it means giving up her own happiness. It’s so….honorable. Gosh I just loved her so much and she’s definitely a heroine you can’t help but root for the entire time.

Then there are so many other characters: Anthony, Charles, Elinor, Rosamund, Brack, and Tamarice – all amazing characters that add so much to the story. (Also Brack is my favorite, just saying.)

I’d also like to share without spoilers that the villain is so realistic and well developed. I love villains with depth, ones that we can FEEL for and understand and know why they chose to act the way they did. It makes the story so much more interesting when we feel conflicted about the antagonist.

romance

Now I’m pretty sure I say this in every review and if you’ve been following me for a while you already know…I do not like romance especially in YA books because they are almost always riddles with tropes. So I’m glad to say that I adored the romances in this book.

While some of the lesser romances between our fairy tale retelling princes and princesses aren’t quite as developed and are borderline insta-love they’re still just so cute. I mean come on they’re fairy tales so the insta-love can actually be pulled off without nauseating anyone. But the real romance between Bristal and Anthony is so beautiful and swoon-worthy…awww my poor little heart! Everything about them being together worked, it really did.

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in conclusion

“Kingdom of Ash and Briars” is a wonderfully told tale full of action, romance, and magic. The only thing that upsets me is that it’s a standalone and I want more! I will absolutely be checking out anything else Hannah West writes because just going by this debut novel I can guarantee I’ll love it.

RECOMMEND

Yes, a million times yes! If you love YA fantasy and fairy tale retellings this book will be perfect for you since it combines all elements of each so well!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy