Unlove and Marriage… || Cruel Beauty Review

Initial Thoughts:

Honestly, this book was okay at best. There was so much talk about the Hermetic arts but it showed almost NOTHING useful about it. There was a lot of wishy washy magic which I had put aside and tolerated up until the solution at the end was to BLATANTLY REVERSE TIME to when EVERYTHING wasn’t effed up. That’s when I lost my shit.


CRUEL BEAUTY

by Rosamund Hodge
Balzer + Bray, January 2014
YA fantasy, fairy tale retelling
Rated: 2.5 / 5 cookies

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

The Good Bits

For podcasting reasons, I’ve been in a Beauty and the Beast retelling splurge. After I read A Court of Thorns and Roses, I’d scoured reviews just to see what people were writing about regarding that particular fairy tale retelling compared to some others. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge was a common comparison and mention in many of the reviews, so yes, I was very intrigued by the book itself.

Note, I did initially think that Cruel Beauty was also new adult, so my expectation on the romance was a bit…more.

Cruel Beauty started off well enough. You have a dystopian Greek-inspired world, where a Gentle Lord rules a separated and isolated nation of Arcadia. You have an angry girl who is destined to marry said despicable Gentle Lord. Who, by the way, she has been trained to kill from birth.

Pretty damned compelling stuff, if I do say so myself.

And for the most part? It was pretty cool, the premise. I expected things to go wrong the minute Nyx would be married to Ignifex, and it being a rather close retelling to its original source (and the fact that the book jacket summaries SPECIFICALLY FOCUS ON THIS), I knew general YA love hijinks was going to happen. What I overestimated was the amount of chemistry that these two lovebirds were going to have.

As a BatB retelling, though, it was pretty spot on, including the lovely library, a magical ring with a rose emblem on it, and a foreshadowing of the dream-prince/Beast who shows up as a shadow servant of the mysterious Ignifex.

Alright, so Ignifex isn’t a Beast in a purely physical sense (which seems to happen in a friggin’ YA novel)–since he’s supposed to be Rhysand-level kinds of sexy, with black feathery angel wings in the package–but he is a monster in the emotional sense. He keeps Arcadia trapped and rules through his shadow demons. He also is the Gentle Lord, a dealer of wishes and seemingly unfair bargains. That being said, obviously there’s a chink in his armor, and there is something that explains why he’s the Gentle Lord in the first place.

I will admit that’s the best bits of the story. Well, along with the fact that Ignifex is a pretty amusing villain, especially when he knows exactly why Nyx is there and lets her roam the castle anyway.

The Triggery Bits

Unfortunately, cat-and-dog conversation and dystopian fantasy backdrop were pretty much the only things I liked about the story. I wanted to like the rest, but there were several things that drove me nuts. Her family being one of them.

There was no redeeming quality in any of her family members, and I was deeply disappointed in Nyx’s twin sister, Astraea. What could have been a deeply interesting character turned out to be a bland, tropey, vengeance-filled sister with added naivety, which was quite possibly the worst combination of traits in a character EVER. I couldn’t even pick a limelight lady from the bunch of females in the group, because honestly, Nyx was the most interesting female, and she’s already got enough limelight.

On top of that, the magic in the book was frustrating. In the attempt to keep with the timeline and mythological background, the magic used for Nyx and the Resurgandi lies in the Hermetic arts. My problem with this is that there was a lot of talk about Hermetic arts, along with symbols and rules, but nothing ever came out of this type of magic. At the end of the day, the other magic that showed up in Cruel Beauty was something that didn’t have any rules and wasn’t explained all that much. By the end of it, it was all a Deus Ex kind of thing.

AND WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT TIME-FUCKERY AT THE END?

Let’s all just retcon the entire story because the characters are making more mistakes than the plot can handle, and soooo we’ll give them all a clean slate. This was quite possibly the worst copout ever. What was wrong with having characters live through the mistakes they made and try to make up for them? What was wrong with trying to break out of their dark, worldly prison as opposed to having all their experiences rewritten to a happier one? Ugh, this was the most upsetting bit.

But I won’t rant anymore. Otherwise I could go on and on.

2.5 out of 5 cookies! I wish I could have loved this book more…sigh.

Beauty, Beast, and Sexy Times || A Court of Thorns and Roses Review

Initial Thoughts:

I feel conflicted about this book. I so very wished that it was just a damn standalone because AS A STAND-ALONE I CONDONE THE SHENANIGANS A LITTLE BIT. What drove me nuts was the hint of a love triangle. OF COURSE that’s what would drive me nuts.


A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES

by Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsburry, May 2015
New adult fantasy, fairy tale
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Note: This review has spoilers. This review is also a mess. This review won’t discuss everything I made notes on because future podcast reasons.

So I have a love-hate relationship with Maas right now. Well, maybe. Okay, not so much her as a person but the direction she takes stories sometimes. Alright, all the time, judging from what I’ve been seeing on the Maas fandom.

I’m going to back track because honestly, I loved Throne of Glass and likely I’m going to love Crown of Midnight, but I haven’t read anything past ToG in ages. And then I ended up picking ACoTaR for “research” reasons. And judging from the pattern that’s said to have happened in the ToG series (where eventually the intended ship sinks and the story goes in an entirely different direction), I’m betting it’s going to be the same in the ACoTaR series. Correct me if I’m wrong, but considering I’m hearing more about how awesome Rhysand is and not enough about Tamlin, I’m willing to bet the story gets away in the later books and shifts into something horribly wrong.

(Like Rhysand the jerkwad being part of the romantic arc. Oh god, he so is.)

So…anyway, this book.

I was a little underwhelmed by it, and for the longest time I ping-ponged between liking the story and groaning because once again, the main character was doing something stupid. Feyre is very different from the massively confident and deadly Celaena (or whatever her name is nowadays), and she constantly reminds me of how different the two characters are by putting herself down several times within the same chapter. I get it, Feyre, you’re human, you’re not something super-powerful or assassin-like deadly, you’re not even a special snowflake (up until the end of the book where we discover OH LOOK. She’s quite phenomenally a snowflake now!). But for eff’s sake, you killed a damn snow-fairy-wolf-thing right in Chapter 1, so clearly you aren’t as useless as you make yourself out to be.

Oh STFU Feyre.

Rant over, I liked where the story was actually headed at a certain point. Things picked up once Feyre actually stopped trying to run away and started trying to live her life within Tamlin’s castle. I mean, it’s an effing easy life, Feyre, stop making excuses about family vows when clearly EVERYTHING IS BEING TAKEN CARED OF. What the hell, Feyre. Does nothing please you?!

Alright, sorry, I get heated when I think of the main character.

There is a rich history revolving the creation of the wall between humans and fae. There is a great war that happens which killed off many people on both sides of the war, and somewhere along the way, a Treaty is enacted in order to keep the peace between the fairy realm and the mortal realm. Now the problem with Treaties is that for one side to stick to it, the other side has to stick to it, too. But clearly in this story, there’s some rule-breaking ahead, and that’s what lands Feyre in the mess she’s in.

I wish there’d been more of a prologue to work with. It took two-thirds of the book to finally introduce the big baddy, who turns out to be someone whose past revolved around love and betrayal–typically something you’d expect humans to feel, not so much the fairies. The whole affair in the fairy court humanizes creatures like Tamlin and Rhysand and Amarantha, and also displays the kind of shit they get into when they’re super-powered creatures with very human problems. I liked that. I liked that a lot.

(There could have been a bit more work on the worldbuilding, which is a whole other discussion that would get really lengthy, so I won’t even try to talk about that right now.)

I was pretty tickled with the romance. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, and I don’t really know if I’d ship them, but I will admit that the sexy times were the right kind of steamy. Except for that one bit where Tamlin pretty much bites Feyre and then talks about the dirty things he’d do to her if he’d caught her during one of the fairy festival-rituals. Yes, I know, she didn’t seem so bothered by his advances, but um, dude, no means no. Totally creepy. Thankfully, Tamlin isn’t super-psychotic, and it turns out he’s kind of a nice guy, except when he’s being all fae-y. A nice, muscled, strong guy with a mask perpetually glued to his face, but Feyre totally knows he’s hot underneath that, just by how his strong jaw looks and everything. He doesn’t even keep slaves or anything! (This is me trying my best not to snort…seriously trying here!)

As for Rhysand…I still think he’s a jerk. The Darkling from Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone comes to mind for comparison, and honestly, I thought the Darkling was a more compelling and seductive force than Rhysand was. It’s clear both characters are assholes, but honestly, the Darkling was a special kind of lovable asshole (or…maybe it’s just me…).

Um. Lucien was awesome. So was Nesta, actually. I want more of these two characters. Yep.

3.5 out of 5 cookies! Again, there was a lot more I wanted to say, but I’ll save it for podcasting purposes.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Russian Folklore Galore || The Bear and the Nightingale Review

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Initial Thoughts:

This was the type of book you needed to read in a slow pace beside the crackling of a fireplace. No, seriously, it’s very reminiscent of old-world storytelling, and it was just so damn lovely. And lyrical. And filled with Russian fae-folk. And a badass girl who is not afraid to stare Death in the face. Literally.


THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE

by Katherine Arden
Del Rey, January 2017
Fairy tale fantasy, historical
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies
e-ARC provided by NetGalley (thank you!)

bearnightingaleAt the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Okay, I’m a little late in reviewing this ARC, but I found myself wanting to savor the story, so I took a bit longer in the reading.

A Case of Russian Fairy Tales

I was recommended this book by NetGalley upon the insistence that if I had liked Uprooted by Naomi Novik, I would easily love this book, too. Well, I loved Uprooted, and The Bear and the Nightingale has a similar feel. Both books are drenched in Slavic fairy tales, they are both set in villages too close to a dangerous forest, and in some sense, they feature females who come into their power through sheer necessity. While Novik takes Uprooted to a fantasy world sandbox, Arden brings hers straight to Old World Russia, where villagers still give their thanks to household spirits.

“Let’s go to Sarai, Sashka!” She turned to look at him. “Or Tsargrad, or Buyan, where the sea-king lives with his daughter the swan-maiden. It is not too far. East of the sun, west of the moon.”

I loved that this book was filled with Russian folklore. And it was filled to the brim, I must say. Right from the beginning, Dunya launches into the story of Morozko, the Frost-Demon, and the maiden he was supposed to marry. Then, as though that wasn’t enough, a few other mini-stories litter the pages, producing a fabulously rendered backdrop of old Russia.

Pyotr’s house was alive with devils. A creature with eyes like coals hid in the oven. A little man in the bathhouse winked at her through the steam. A demon like a heap of sticks slouched around the dooryard.

Okay, I do have an obsession with fae folk. This stems from years of reading and writing about them. And it so happens that some of my favorite fae are Russian fae. The rusalka, the domovoi, the bannik…all of them feature in TBatN, and it made my giddy little heart squee with delight when these creatures were brought forth to become important figures within the story.

“Then she must have a husband,” said Dunya simply. “The sooner the better. Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, the bird-prince and the wicked sorcerer–they only come for the wild maiden.”

Not to mention the fact that the book reads very much like a fairy tale. It’s what you would expect from someone telling you a story by the fireside. It just has that kind of feel and poetry. Even the words and descriptions lend well to the type of narration Arden uses (limited, multiple POV), which, if found in a different type of story, might not work as beautifully as it did in this particular case.

Dread settled over the village: a clinging, muttering dread, tenacious as cobwebs.

Seriously, I can so imagine the dread, you guys.

“I’m not sure you’d like to live in the woods,” said Olga. “Baba Yaga might eat us.”

“No,” said Vasya, with perfect assurance. “There is only the one-eyed man. If we stay away from the oak-tree he will never find us.”

I love Vasya. She’s that type of female character who breaks societal norms, especially during the general time period (considering Russia is largely controlled by the Golden Horde, I’d say late 13th century at the earliest) where females are really only faced with two things: matrimony or the convent. Vasya is neither the marrying kind nor a convent girl, and she defies even her father for the type of freedom she wants. Also, she’s nice to horses. That’s always a plus. And while she’s not the type of girl to get tied down by any means, I wouldn’t object to her falling in love with a certain demon…um. Just saying.

“Because I am not Kaschei the Deathless,” said Olga with some asperity. “And I have no horse to outrun the wind.”

I will admit that The Bear and the Nightingale was a little slow to start, and most of it was really just an introduction to characters who disappeared a third into the book. I felt like there wasn’t much discussed regarding Olga at all after her marriage, which was a shame, because there could have been a lot done in Moscow in her perspective. Same with Sasha, who gets talked up so much that I was a little disappointed that we don’t get to see more of him after the halfway point.

You could even say that much of the introductory plot points are just a lead-up to later sequels (which is pretty much happening according to the author, who said that book #2 is already in the editing stages). This is great, because there are a ton of unanswered questions. Well, not so much questions as me going: “THAT CAN’T BE IT. I WANT MOOOORE.”

“Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.”

“I still do not understand.”

“That does not mean you cannot learn.”

Seriously, though, if this isn’t a build-up to the sequel kind of quote, I don’t know what is.

But yes, other than that slow start, and perhaps the lack of action until the third part of the book, I thought the book captured old-school fairy telling perfectly. Arden had the mood and setting just right, and even the dark and scary bits were sufficiently dark and scary.

“The Bear is awake.”

“What bear?”

“The shadow on the wall,” said the rusalka, breathing quickly. “The voice in the dark.”

For an evil spirit that inspires fear in the hearts of many, this description of him is spot on.

One by one, her family fell silent. Someone outside was crying. It was little more than a choked whimper, barely audible. But at length there could be no doubt–they heard the muffled sound of a woman weeping.

And NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE. I would be noping out of there so fast if I heard a woman crying outside my house in the dead of night.

4.5 out of 5 cookies! I kind of wished this was a standalone, but at the same time I really want to next book, if only to continue my ride along with Vasya.

This book counts as #3 of the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge.


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Have you read this book? What did you think?

 

The Curse of the Fairy Gift || Spindle’s End Review

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Initial Thoughts:

Katriona for MVP! Though the entire book is a reminder that it takes a whole village to raise a princess. No joke. Great on the characters, I’m still a little iffy about the magic.

SPINDLE’S END

by Robin McKinley
Putnam Publishing, May 2000
Fairy tale retelling
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies

spindlesendAll the creatures of the forest and field and riverbank knew the infant was special. She was the princess, spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia on her name-day. But the curse was cast: Rosie was fated to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a poisoned sleep-a slumber from which no one would be able to rouse her.

What I Loved

Bad fairies are a bitch to deal with. But clearly there’s a reason not to invite them, especially when they’re plotting hundred-year vengeance. Particularly when this centuries-old curse is powerful and targeted to the newly-born non-magical being, and not even twenty-something fairies can do anything about it. Such is Pernicia, Evil Fairy Extraordinaire. As villainous as she is in the story, I have to respect her patience and planning. If only for a little bit.

Katriona nearly fell over. Golden hair! Golden hair? What an utterly idiotic gift! Aunt had always taught her that you were respectful of your magic! And here, the very first–Golden hair! from a fairy godmother, who could give you anything–well, almost anything. They would only have invited the best to be the princess’ godmothers. But here was the second godmother. Surely she would do better.

Wrong.

The sass that occasionally comes out of Katriona. I’m pretty sure Kat is where Rosie gets her sass from. Among other places, I’m sure, but it was totally mostly Kat. I tended to agree with her during the princess’ celebration when the gifts came rolling in, and pretty much laughed at her reaction after every fairy lauded Rosie with a beautiful singing voice and golden hair and porcelain doll skin. Her sass is maintained later on in the books, but I often found the beginning bits my favorite part.

All the animal friends! The number of different animals helping Kat and Rosie throughout the story is astounding and pretty awesome.

The badass boy and girl fairies. While most of the magic-users who are women are designated fairies and the men–who apparently have a sort of “magic”–are wizards, there is such a thing as male fairies. A few of them even show up to help in hiding Rosie from Pernicia.

Love/Hate Relationships

The wishy-washy magic system. I’m not one to complain about old magic, especially when it’s ethereally described as McKinley often does with her books, but there was too much overflowing magic that made little sense to me in this book. What is baby magic and how does it differ from the other magics in the story? How are wizards and fairies different really? Can’t they both do magic? I felt like there weren’t any set rules to using magic, and it felt vague to me.

Slightly predictable getaway plan. Alright, so it may have backfired anyway, but I kind of saw that coming the moment Peony came into the picture. I would have been severely disappointed had the plan with Peony and Rosie tricked Pernicia. Thankfully, the story continued further from there.

3.5 out of 5 cookies! It wasn’t my favorite McKinley by a mile, but it was still pretty good.

The Benefits and Curses of the Fairy Gift

After some time chortling about the number of kind of pointless gifts the fairies gave to Rosie, I started thinking about whether it would be better to get useless gifts over ones that could potentially–and permanently–harm a child while growing up. I mostly remember Ella in Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and how the “gift” of obedience she got stuck with pretty much screwed her over for the most part.

Some of the gifts Rosie got–like having a bell-like voice–may not go down well especially when Rosie can’t carry a tune, but a few of them–like embroidery–would save up time having to learn a new trick. (Though arguably, the learning is half the fun of the thing, IMO.)

Now, my thinking is gifts shouldn’t be given so haphazardly like what fairies were doing in this book. I’m not too keen on changes to my natural hair unless I’ve got a say in it, and while I would love to have bright blue hair right about now (and would totally wish for it on a tooth or something, like Karou did in Laini Taylor’s The Daughter of Smoke and Bone), I wouldn’t want to be stuck with it my entire life. Rosie hated her hair for good reason. It wasn’t something she particularly wanted, and having her hair consistently blond and kiddy-curly would drive any self-respecting woman mad. It’s definitely why the girl took shears to those beautiful golden locks.

That’s just me, though.


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How about YOU? Are you willing to let fairies grant you a gift? What kind of gift would you like?

Love from the Stars, to the Stars || The Rose & the Dagger Review

rosedagger-review

Initial Thoughts:

As the second–and concluding–book of The Wrath & the Dawn duology, it delivered all the promises the first book made. And it did so with a language that was a mixture of poetry and song, in a setting that was filled with wonder and magic–both literally and metaphorically. And hot damn. Those characters and their sort of…togetherness. Loved them to bits.

THE ROSE & THE DAGGER

by Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, April 2016
YA fairy tale fantasy
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

rosedaggerThe darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

Note: As The Rose & the Dagger is the second–and final–book of The Wrath & the Dawn, expect spoilers from the first book.

Last We Heard…

Not too long ago (read: less than a month ago, actually), I’d listened and reviewed The Wrath & the Dawn in preparation for a book signing I was attending the same month. If I’d liked the book well enough, I was determined to own both hardcovers, because hey, it’s a duology, which meant Rose would conclude the story I fell in love with in Wrath.

Which meant an end to the cliffhanger of book one. Which I had fortunately only finished weeks back, so my wait for book two was not as long as most people who’d read Wrath and gone “WHAT. YOU CAN’T LEAVE US HERE. NOOOO. WANT. MORE.”

So by the end of the first book, I had a ton of questions I wanted answered, like, NOW.

Clearly the duology is a love story first and foremost, between Shazi and Khalid. But how does Tariq deal? Is he going to the path of eeeeeevil or does he redeem himself? Do we see more than a glance of Irsa for once? How are the people in Rey dealing with the aftermath of the fire? Are Jalal and the Rajput hanging on? Will Despina and Jalal work through their angsty romance? Is Musa going to re-feature now that it’s clear magic runs in the al-Khayzurans? Is Shazi going to fly her magic carpet back to Rey? Is Khalid going to be separated from Shazi the entire bookARE PEOPLE GOING TO DIE?!

Yeah, soooo many questions. And theories. And nervousness. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if the second book would live up to the first, and I adored the first.

I shouldn’t have worried. My glass ceiling was shattered enough times and I will say I loved The Rose & the Dagger much more than I did the first book.

And let me tell you why.

The Story is Practically a Love Poem

“Where is your heart, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran?” His voice was coarse in its insistence.

In an alley by the souk. In a night of oblivion.

In the promise of tomorrow.

First of all, Ahdieh writes beautifully. It could probably explain why, when I listened to the audiobook of Wrath, I was moved and soothed by the narration. It was lyrical and poetic and magical, and most of all, it told the story of Scheherazade in a way I’d often imagined it being told. I have yet to read Wrath in text form, but I plan to, if only to read the bits and pieces I loved in the retelling.

She’d always loved dusk. It was as though a hand in the sky had pulled the sun from its berth…only to have the sun fight back, resisting, leaving a trace of itself to fade amongst the stars.

Of course, with beautiful writing comes beautifully quotable descriptions. I mean, egads, the amount of times I’d taken pictures of pages just so I can quote them in this review.

The wonder of Shahrzad. Shazi goes through a lot of angst–and growth–throughout the two books. By Rose she’s able to temper a number of her emotions. She is no longer as angry as she had been in Wrath, and she has a couple of goals in mind that she wants to see through. One is to help her father. The other is to figure out Khalid’s curse. Another is to fix the mess of the impending war between two powerful nations. And only by figuring these things out will she finally be able to go Home. And yes, I capitalize that for a reason.

“Since you can’t say it, will you at least tell me how much you love me?”

“From the stars, to the stars.”

Khalid you beautifully dangerous man, you. Okay, I will admit it now. I fell in love with Khalid. I mean, I loved him in Wrath. How could I not with his lovely poetic letters and his flashing golden eyes and his expert swordsmanship? (I honestly had to tell myself “Whoah, Mari, down, the guy’s an effing serial killer, remember that?” And yes, I am aware things get better because there’s a reason behind his dilemma–which has lots to do with the ruthless calculus of curses and death.) He still constantly makes quips that made me squee every single time. And like Shazi, he struggles and grows.

The magic is real. And there’s much more of it in Rose, to a point where Shazi comes to her own magic–with the help of the people at the Fire Temple. Musa was lovely, but it was Artan that held my attention. Artan Temujin is first introduced in Rose and I have to say I loved him from the getgo. He’s an interesting fellow, and if there is any spinoff novel to be made in this world, I’d totally love it to be about Artan and his dysfunctional family (and maybe Irsa, because WHY NOT). Who knows, there may even be djinn involved, OH MY GOD HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE?!

Character arcs are actually concluded. Even the secondary characters have conclusions, and I was actually quite glad with how Tariq’s story panned out. Not that that says much, considering there were storylines that made me cry at the end, and one particular scene that almost made me want to throw the book out the window. But I didn’t. I held out. Thank the spirits I held out.

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Also, the inside artwork for the book. It just makes me melt. I am SO glad I got this duology. I can’t even.

But yeah, let me stop gushing now.

5 out of 5 cookies!


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