Mini Reviews: The Bone Witch, Scrappy Little Nobody

Alright, after this point, I’ll be completely caught up with my reviews of 2018! Not too shabby, considering the last two books were finished during winter break.

I actually ended up reading The Bone Witch in several different mediums: as an e-ARC, a paperback copy, and then the last leg was an audiobook. To be honest, I think the audiobook was the best path in this case, because the formatting drove me absolutely nuts on both the ARC and paperback copies. I wanted to really like it, but eh. At least I finally finished it? It only took two years…

The other audiobook I listened to was a pretty quick listen, but one that definitely ended the year well enough. I do love Anna Kendrick, though, so the bias is there, and this book definitely made me like her more. Not in that creepy stalker-y way, though, Anna! I’m totally harmless. 😀

Have you read either book? What did you think?

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A Thread in the Tapestry || The Star-Touched Queen Review

Initial Thoughts:

This book was way too beautifully written. I sighed every time a description came my way because heaven help me, even the DEAD DEMONY THINGS were described beautifully. I really enjoyed this book.


THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN

by Roshani Chokshi
St. Martin’s Griffin, April 2016
YA fantasy, romance, mythology
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

So I don’t know Indian mythology very well, but when I sat in on a Chokshi signing, I knew I needed this book in my life. Chokshi injected cultural inspiration and mixed Indian deity myths with the more well-known Hades and Persephone story (because yes to Underworld love XD), I mean, what’s not to love about that, right? I also just came off of a reading of The Winter of the Witch, and this book was definitely along the lines of poetic prose with plot.

Except his voice…

It drilled through the gloaming of my thoughts, pulled at me in the same way the mysterious intruder’s voice had tugged. But where the woman’s voice brought fury, this was different. The hollow inside me shifted, humming a reply in melted song. I could have been verse made flesh or compressed moonlight. Anything other than who I was now.

I mean, if that was any indication of how things are going to be described scenically and romantically, I’m totally down for it!

In any case, what struck me as divine was the description of absolutely everything, including the worldbuilding. The book itself is split into three parts, the same amount as the worlds that Maya ends up visiting. Maya’s life as a daughter of a powerful raja isn’t exactly ideal: she’s mostly ignored by her father because she’s a girl and she’s hated by the harem mothers because of the horoscope attached to her birth, one that connects her specifically with Death. I mean, it’s written in the stars, so it’s bound to happen, right? Frankly the only comfort she has in Bharata is her younger half-sister, Gauri, who she tells fairy tale stories to in order to make life tolerable.

“Tell me about the other realms,” said Gauri wistfully. “I’m going to live there when I grow up.”…

“There’s our world, which has you, and is therefore the best one.” Gauri grinned. “Then there’s the Otherworld, with its Night Bazaar and strange but beautiful beings. And then,” I dropped my voice to a whisper, “there’s the Netherworld, which holds Naraka, the realm of the dead.”

Gauri shivered. “What’s there?”

“Demons,” I said.

And boy oh boy, how very spot-on these stories could be, even without Maya realizing it.

A lot of the story touches upon various ideas that Chokshi integrates well. There’s the idea of inescapable death, of a tapestry that shows the interweaving of fate. I really loved the description of the tapestry, but I won’t get into that because it was pages of exposition and information, and you really would have to read it to get the breadth of the piece.

The whole tapestry and threads of fate thing always reminds me of the Moirae in Greek myth, and so of course I’m biased over this whole idea of knowing one’s life through the length of her thread.

There’s the idea of power and how it gets wielded, especially since much of it is through sheer will and change and sacrifice. Maya, upon entry into the Night Bazaar and Akaran, has no idea what she’s initially doing and balks at the power found at her fingertips. She eventually comes to her own and realizes how she can wield her power, but it took work and I loved that sheer force of will she manages to harness later on.

No amount of captivity could strip the wild from the tiger. Amar was no different. He was feral. He was mine.

This was quite literally the moment I fist-pumped in the air and went: “GEDDIT MAYA”. I do love her as a character.

Then there’s the idea of reincarnation, which totally kaboshed the notion of “insta-love” once the story got under way. There’s a lot that Amar isn’t telling Maya, and eventually we find out that this is actually not the first time the two have met or even got together. But, lo and behold, Amar pretty much goes all “my soul sees its equal in you” (credit to Renee Ahdieh for that one…) and pretty much makes a blood oath the minute he gets Maya into the Night Bazaar.

“I make this bond to you in blood, not flowers,” he said. “Come with me and you shall be an empress with the moon for your throne and constellations to wear in your hair. Come with me and I promise you that we will always be equals.”

Honestly, if a tall dark handsome death god delivers the moon and stars and promises a ruling of equals in his kingdom, I’d totally take the deal, too, insta-love or not.

The romance isn’t hyper-sexually charged, which is actually a welcome sight, but it doesn’t make it less beautiful. The flirting is cute and swoonworthy, and reminded me a wee bit like Khalid from Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn (because of course it would).

“The truth,” said Amar, taking a step closer to me, “is that you look neither lovely nor demure. You look like edges and thunderstorms. And I would not have you any other way.”

Whisper those sweet nothings, Amar. You be you.

The only thing I was slightly bummed about was how not everything could be tied up at the very end. It wasn’t a very long book, and I understand Gauri gets her own story in the second book, but the end was so rushed! I totally wanted more resolution with Maya and Amar. But it’s a very little caveat. I have more feels in the positive direction, promise!

4.5 out of 5 cookies!


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Road to Midnight || The Winter of the Witch Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Finishing this book was like letting out the biggest sigh of awe and wonder. This book was a culmination of stories from the beginning of the trilogy, with a resolution that quite honestly made me tear up with satisfaction. Also, say what you will about the secondary romance element, but in a story with the breadth and depth of this trilogy? Super well done.

Warning: This is the third and final book of the Winternight Trilogy, so expect spoilers from the previous two books!

For my reviews of the previous books: The Bird and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower.


THE WINTER OF THE WITCH

by Katherine Arden
Del Rey, January 2019
Fairy tale fantasy, historical
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies
ARC provided by Katherine Arden (thank you thank you thank you!)

The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

This is probably the ONE book I’m reviewing this year that hasn’t come out yet, and again, many thanks to the lovely author for giving me an advanced copy so I could finish Vasya’s journey. And holy firebird, what a journey it’s become!

As with the previous book, this one continues straight after the events of The Girl in the Tower. Vasya has unveiled the secrets of Kaschei and released the firebird from its golden cage. This brings about the unintended result of a firestorm in Moscow, and it takes much of the winter-king’s powers–and Vasya’s–to put things aright. With the end of the snows and Morozko’s waning strength, Vasya fends for herself in the assault against her–magical and non-magical.

I’m not gonna lie, the end of The Girl in the Tower made me wonder if I would see a certain winter-king again, and whether it would end well between him and Vasya. I came off of a really good slow-burn new adult novel (see: A Court of Mist and Fury) and after the atmosphere of The Winter of the Witch‘s predecessors, I knew I was hunkering down for the culmination of what I thought was a slow-burn romance. And oooohhh boy, it pays off. That fight. That bathhouse. That scene. That smell of frost and pine. It couldn’t get any more steamy, am I right?! Swoon.

But I want to backtrack first to the harrowing beginning. Unlike the slow starts of the first two books, Winter of the Witch took Vasya out of the oven and threw her quite literally into the fire. Because of how Arden’s written the books–and how atmospheric her stories have been–the scene in the beginning was difficult to get through and caused me to have a slight meltdown where Solovey was concerned. I just…it was bleak OMG and then Konstantin heightens the witch-hunt with his craziness and anti-demon psychobabble (also, WHY hasn’t this guy died yet like, seriously, if Kaschei the Immortal managed to perish in the end of book 2, how has this guy managed to make it to book 3?!).

To credit Vasya and those who seek to keep her alive, though, she manages to survive to fight another day, all the while refusing the help of both the winter-king and his brother, Medved (because of course she would be stubborn at a time where she’s on the verge of being burned alive). Fear not, because she takes the road to Midnight’s lair, and, well, she discovers things about her heritage that made me absolutely squee.

So let’s talk about this heritage for a bit. Arden throws more homage to Russian folklore here. The firebird takes a bigger role in this book (which explains the beautiful cover) as do various fairy tale creatures straight from Russian legend. There are the usual household spirits, but also the spirits found within the demon world. There’s also the appearance of one of my favorite Russian fairy tale figures ever: Baba Yaga. I mean, I waited this long for an appearance, and Arden’s tie-in with her story (and how she’s related to Vasilisa Petrovna squeeee) was just mind-blowingly good. Like many retellings of Baba Yaga, though, this particular witch is cantankerous, a little bit mad, and absolutely fantastic. She lives in a hut at the edge of Midnight, and throughout the story little homages of the actual Baba Yaga tales are added in (we also find out that Midnight is one of Baba Yaga’s three horsemen–or, in this case, horsewomen).

Anyway, there are a lot of characters that are highlighted in this book, and mostly because the story is split into three parts: Vasya’s escape and survival through Midnight, the freeing of Morozko and fight against Konstantin and Medved’s legion of the dead (hands down my favorite arc), and the penultimate battle of the Mongolian army against the supernatural and human denizens of Russia. Medved–who, from the first two books, is pretty much thrown in as a catalystic chaos-spirit–gets a wonderful showing in this book. We get some really good Medved scenes in Winter of the Witch, and to be honest, while I absolutely hated Konstantin from the very beginning of the trilogy, I thought his constant downward spiral was well written, and ironically the pair-up of Konstantin and the One-Eyed Bear humanizes Medved. Which, if you look at it, kind of mirrors how Vasya’s relationship with the winter-king humanizes Morozko…but who’s drawing parallels?! (ME, YES, NO SHAME.)

I loved this book so much. It had everything I loved about Russian folklore and thensome. It had twists and turns I somewhat expected, and others that I didn’t but ended up absolutely delighting in. It had a main character who–while I did question her decisions from time to time–managed to come to her own power, independent of the stronger powers of others. It had a romance that made me swoon because it was worth its slow-burn, and yet it wasn’t the focus of the book; however, when the witch and the winter-king worked together, it was magic in all manner of speaking.

5 out of 5 cookies! Now…where’s my hot cocoa? I could do with reading this again.


Have you read this series yet? What did you think?

Mini Reviews: The Art of Asking, Heretics Anonymous

Audiobooks are the best. I’ve come to listen to them almost as frequently as I’ve been reading. That being said, nothing matches the thrill of reading and re-reading passages in books, and on occasion, I did find myself wanting to go back to something said in both these audiobooks just so I could quote them.

Well, I certainly just went and listened to “Girl Anachronism” over and over again after having heard it in The Art of Asking.

There were also things I found hilarious in Heretics Anonymous that I wanted to use as quotes. Also, I loved the narrator and his sassy tone, but considering he was the same narrator in Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda (which I loved), it’s no surprise.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Trappings of the Night Court || A Court of Mist and Fury Review

Initial Thoughts: 

I hereby apologize to all you Rhysand believers. I love him now. I didn’t think I ever would even if he IS sex on a stick…but I love him now. So terribly deeply. And I love Feyre’s entire growth as a character. And I absolutely loved the progression of the story and the character arcs.

And Velaris, the City of Starlight? Um, CAN I GO TO THERE?!

Yeah. You win, Maas. You win.


A COURT OF MIST AND FURY

Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury, May 2016
NA fantasy, romance
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world torn apart.

In Which Mari Eats Her Hat

I will start this review by saying that initially, I had had no plans to continue this series in the nearby future. It’s not that I’m highly against Sarah J. Maas–I loved Throne of Glass and will likely love Crown of Midnight as well–but from the last time my friend Meg and I discussed A Court of Thrones and Roses as part of our podcast, we were both pretty “meh” about it.

  • I found Feyre to be silly.
  • I didn’t particularly like Rhysand (because he was most definitely a prick).
  • The worldbuilding and plot took a secondary role to the romance.
  • I thought the romance was a wee bit awkward (as were the sex scenes).
  • Aside from the pretty riveting last 100 or so pages at the end, the only character I simply adored was Nesta and her sass.

But after some soul-searching (or, you know, the fact that I have to read this book for the Fableulous Retellings Podcast) and sighing of reluctance, I finally started to read it. After the first sex scene appeared 21 pages in, I didn’t have much hope that the book would pick up. (My friend said it did, and it was her assurance that spurred me on!)

Two days and 600 pages later, I started eating my hat. Because everything I’d objected to in ACOTAR got utterly fixed in ACOMAF and holy hell, when things got fixed, they got SO GOOD SO FAST, and I absolutely adored this book.

Feyre isn’t silly at all anymore. Feyre went a long way as far as her character development went. At the beginning of ACOMAF, she is a broken woman, traumatized by what she had to go through with Aramantha and the goings-on of Under the Mountain. It was a grueling experience in ACOTAR, and it shows by how different Feyre is at the beginning of this second book.

I was not a pet, not a doll, not an animal.

I was a survivor, and I was strong.

I would not be weak, or helpless again. I would not, could not be broken. Tamed.

And yet she riled up and became a powerhouse. Yes, she still has nightmares, and yes, it’s still going to take some time for her to heal from her traumas, but at the end of the day, she knows who she is and what she wants. And if she wants to be a High Lady to the Lord of Night, and if she wants to spend her days in the City of Starlight, who am I to begrudge her that dream of the future?

Rhysand is my sex on a stick TDH and I love him to pieces. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. How does that even happen.

The only evidence I had at all that Rhys remained on the premises were the blank copies of the alphabet, along with several sentences I was to write every day, swapping out words, each one more obnoxious than the last:

Rhysand is the most handsome High Lord.

Rhysand is the most delightful High Lord.

Rhysand is the most cunning High Lord.

Oh, right. It’s because Rhysand is a beautiful, sassy, tortured High Lord, and he is a fucking romantic. Like, who knew from his prickish ways from ACOTAR, right? But turns out he isn’t the villain he set out to be, and just like Feyre, he made a great deal of traumatic sacrifices Under the Mountain. One of the biggest things I loved about him was his loyalty to his people, to Velaris, and–of course–to Feyre.

“Delicious,” he purred.

My brows now knotted. I read the next two words, then whipped my face toward him. “You look absolutely delicious today, Feyre?! That’s what you wrote?”

He also taught Feyre how to read and use her powers. COME ON HOW IS THAT NOT SEXY?!

It also helps that he’s a beautiful man…and I was totally tempted to put a more risque picture here…but I’ll settle for him fully clothed. *snickers*

Seriously, though, I loved him to pieces. And after that heartfelt confession in Chapter 54, I can see I had it all wrong. And I’m glad I read ACOMAF to set that straight.

The Night Court, holy hell, can I go to there AND the Summer Court, too?! We get a look at the rest of Prythian–and Hybern–in this book. I’ve actually liked the descriptions of the Spring Court, but Maas totally dialed up the beauty and vivid aspect of the Night Court, particularly Velaris. This city of Starlight is legit, and if I could live anywhere in Prythian, it’d definitely be in a place where the nights are the most beautiful. The glimpse we had of the Summer Court wasn’t bad, either, but nothing seems to compare to the glamour of a hidden, 5000-year-old city.

(But of course as far as plots go, you totally know what’s going to happen when a war is coming in, and there’s a hidden city in the agenda to crush…)

The romance was absolutely everything. You know what, after the first sex scenes, it literally took a good 500-something pages to finally get the full-on Rhysand-Feyre action that I’m sure everyone was waiting for in this book. The fact that it was such a slow-burn was the best thing ever. Yes, there were flirtations, yes, there was some tension, and of course the whole mate bond thing seems to remind me of the mate bonds I’ve read in urban fantasy (which, to be honest, is either something you like or hate). But honestly, I adored the whole journey that finally brought the Feysand ship together.

His words were a lethal caress as he said, “Did you enjoy the sight of me kneeling before you?”

… “Isn’t that what all you males are good for, anyway?” But the words were tight, near-breathless.

His answering smile evoked silken sheets and jasmine-scented breezes at midnight.

I mean, if I wasn’t already fanning myself with all the sexting and flirting going on, then those steamy new-adult scenes definitely made me squee-swoon (Squoon?)

“He thinks he’ll be remembered as the villain in the story.”

She snorted.

“But I forgot to tell him,” I said quietly, opening the door, “that the villain is usually the person who locks up the maiden and throws away the key.”

“Oh?”

I shrugged. “He was the one who let me out.”

Ughhh. They’re way too cute for words. And the fanart for this fandom is AMAZING.

There’s also the fact that, mate-bond or no mate-bond, it’s clear Rhysand puts Feyre’s happiness above his own. He doesn’t force her to do anything, and always pushes and challenges her to surpass expectations. If you compare that to the possessiveness that Tamlin displayed in ACOTAR and the growing obsession of keeping Feyre safe from his enemies in ACOMAF, Rhysand is pretty much doing everything right to get the girl, including letting her decide whether to put herself in danger for his beloved City of Starlight.

He wiped away the tears on one cheek, then another. “You can either let it wreck you, let it get you killed like it nearly did with the Weaver, or you can learn to live with it.”

Sigh. Definitely shipping these two to kingdom come.

Rhysand’s Inner Circle is a barrelful of awesome. Seriously, Rhys pretty much is a misfit magnet, and that’s mostly because he’s a dreamer as well as the most powerful High Lord in all of Prythian. When I finally met Morrigan and Amren and Cassian and Azriel, I was already smitten with Rhys, and then I started being seduced into the Inner Circle madness. Cassian and Azriel are definitely fantastic Illyrians (they kind of remind me of Liraz and Hazael from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series), and Mor and Amren steal the show half the time. Hell, there were many more characters that I liked in this book, including Tarquin and Elain, and of course the fabulously fierce Nesta.

And the plot thickens. But I won’t get into what happens, only that things definitely heat up–and not in a sexy way–by the end. And yes, so it might take me a while to read the next book in the series, but I’m definitely not going to dismiss it outright like I’d done after ACOTAR.

5 out of 5 cookies! Sigh. SUCH a good book.


Did you read this book? What did you think?