Cake and Godstars || Dreams of Gods and Monsters Review

Initial Thoughts:

*sobs* This was a love-hate. I love-hate myself for love-hating the last book of what I found as a terribly beautiful trilogy. And it was SO GOOD. Up until I got around 200 pages of story that got thrown in there just to make people SUFFER. So I’m crying inside here. I can’t help it, because I really wanted to love this book more. Ugh. Maybe I’ll be able to say better things once I’ve thought about it a bit.

I LOVE LIRAZ POV THO?


DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS

by Laini Taylor
Little, Brown & Company, April 2014
YA fantasy, romance, supernatural
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited – not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

An epic war and an epic alliance

**Note: Here be spoilers of the previous two books.

Make no mistake, I think Laini Taylor is a godstar in her own right. I admire her writing, and I will recommend this trilogy over and over again, even with my frustrations in Dreams of Gods and Monsters. In DoGaM, we get the conclusion to a war between angels and demons and for the most part, a resolution to all the shipping that’s been happening since book one (I’m looking at YOU, Akiva and Karou!). Joram, the seraphim Emperor, is dead, as is Thiago, the chimaera Warlord. To continue the charade, Ziri poses as Thiago with the help of Karou and her close friends. Meanwhile, on the seraph’s side, Akiva leads his contingent of Misbegotten against a more formidable foe: his uncle, the deformed and cruel Jael. Without the idea of working together, both armies–Misbegotten and chimaera–are doomed to fail. But slowly and slowly, Akiva and Karou’s dreams of peace and cohabitation become a reality.

But not without a bit of struggle and a ton of butthurt feelings.

Always. XD

Like Taylor’s previous two books, there is a slow-burn story in the making, and while at this rate I would normally object the pacing–because I mean, come on, between the first book and the second, can we get to the action already?–I didn’t mind so much because Taylor is just such a lovely wordsmith. It doesn’t work as greatly in this book as it did in the previous two, but I appreciated it nonetheless, and I found that she fleshed out the other characters so well.

Liraz felt…guilty.

It was not her favorite feeling. Her favorite feeling was the absence of feeling; anything else led to turmoil…

She hadn’t felt their magic drill its sick ache through her for the entire time that they’d been encamped here. And that was why she was angry. Because they weren’t giving her a reason to be angry.

Feelings. Were. Stupid.

I loved Liraz’s development. And I absolutely loved that she gets a bit more POV in this book. Ever since Haz in the second book (OH GOD I STILL CRY INSIDE FOR THAT), Liraz has gone through a roller coaster ride in emotional turmoil. Yes, Akiva has, too, but Liraz took longer to persuade to make nice with the demons. But when it comes down to it, Liraz is a stalwart and loyal ally and I would never want to be on the receiving end of her anger.

Laughter and helpless grins, a swift breaking down of barriers. No one could hold out long against Haz. Her own gift, she thought with an inward shudder, was very different, and unwelcome in the future they were trying to build. All she was good at was killing.

She’s also badass. Like…seriously. So badass.

…Another moment, and they might have kissed.

But Ellai was a fickle patroness and had failed them–spectacularly–before. Karou didn’t believe in gods anymore, and when the door crashed open, there were only Liraz and the Wolf to blame for it.

“Well,” Liraz said, her voice as dry as the rest of her was not. “At least you still have your clothes on.”

And hilarious in her own dry humor. And yeah. Okay. I totally just threw in as many Liraz quotes I could find. Because I fangirl her.

“We haven’t been introduced. Not really.”

I also fangirl the fact that Liraz follows in the whole “demon-loving” route that her brother Akiva had undergone. In this case, there’s a recurring exchange between Ziri and Liraz that made me giggle like a schoolgirl because they are just. So. Damn. ADORABLE. Even near the end I was hoping things would work out.

“It might turn us both into Japanese men.” She squinted at him. “Would you still love me if I were a Japanese man?”

“Of course,” said Mik, without missing a beat.

Also, more Zuzana and Mik antics. They’re always a hoot and a half and a welcome cool breeze amidst all the warring and hating on each other.

So with all of this awesomeness, what went wrong?

To be honest, this story did not need to be 600 pages. Everything could have wrapped up nicely in 300, with the end of Jael and his Dominion, with the combination and alliance pulling through in victory. IT WAS FEASIBLE, YOU GUYS.

But nope. NOOOOPE. Deus ex machina happened, and an entirely new story got thrown in by the last 200-300 pages.

Several new characters got introduced, and yes, it helped build the world around them, and honestly, if I wasn’t already so invested in the characters in the previous books, I might have liked Eliza and Scarab. But as is, I found that I was skimming through most of Eliza’s chapters and rolling my eyes with the whole Stelian plotline. It could have been a completely different book, and a spinoff to the trilogy. The ending became super-anticlimactic to me, because most of the resolution was finished 100 pages or so before the damn epilogue. And I will say I didn’t read the epilogue. Not for a while. Because I knew if I read it, I would probably have chucked the book across the room or something, and I wouldn’t want to do that because I loved the first two books and the first 300 pages of DoGaM so much. So. Much.

3.5 out of 5 cookies! I would still recommend this book, for Liraz and Ziri and Zuzana and Mik. For Akiva, who’s still pretty awesome, even in his broody, angry form. And for Karou, who’s still got a lot of resurrecting ahead of her.


Have you read this book (and this trilogy)? What did you think?

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Peter Peter and Sky Eater || Tiger Lily Review

Initial Thoughts: 

For a retelling based off a children’s adventure story, this was kind of a snorefest. Kudos for the transgender Tik Tok at least?


TIGER LILY

by Jodi Lynn Anderson
HarperCollins, July 2012
YA fantasy, retelling, romance
Rated: 2 / 5 cookies

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

Okay, so I admit I expected to be writing a very squee-ful review of A Conjuring of Light by now, but my commitment issues got in the way and I’ve been refusing to read the last two hundred pages of Schwab’s book because I DO NOT WANT IT TO END. So I picked up this book that I’d stopped reading in the middle of February for various reasons, and I finally finished it in one sitting.

Unfortunately, the feeling I had for the entire book was really just…meh?

(I’ve tried real hard not to turn this into a rant, but I swear my fingers have a mind of their own…)

So Tiger Lily is a retelling of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, a story about a flying boy who never grows up. In the original source, Peter takes the Darling siblings on a grand adventure in Neverland, only to find themselves in trouble with Captain Hook and his band of pirates. There’s a lot of shenanigans happening, and in the end, the story takes a cyclical turn, staying true to Peter’s everlasting boyish persona: that everything goes round and round, and will always stay the same where Neverland is concerned.

One of the secondary characters that show up in Barrie’s work happens to be Tiger Lily, the daughter of a tribal chief in Neverland. She is often pitted as the foil to Wendy, because she, too, loves Peter, and has eyes for no one else. Now, the Barrie original has an image of Tiger Lily walking onto Captain Hook’s ship with a knife in her mouth. And honestly, that image alone made this girl the most interesting character in Neverland to date. That’s saying much, considering there are mermaids and pirates and fairies to contend with!

I won’t get into an argument about the depiction of the Piccaninny tribe in the Disney movie, but honestly, I do remember loving what glimpse I had of this feisty little girl!

A lot of the book blurb hinted at some fast-paced, love-at-first-sight adventure romance. I mean, it’s a retelling of Peter Pan, and what wouldn’t be a retelling of Peter Pan if it didn’t have a magical Neverland brimming with mermaids and dangerous pirates and its indigenous, non-colonized people? The entire selling point was that the focus would be on Tiger Lily, one of the most interesting characters in the stories.

Here’s the problem with the blurb, though: it’s another unfortunate, inaccurate write-up. The most accurate it could have gotten was that the focus is on Tiger Lily. However, insta-love doesn’t happen (thank goodness). Tiger Lily is her own character for a majority of the book, and she does fall in love with Peter Pan, but her realization doesn’t even come about until halfway through the book.

Here’s the other problem: there wasn’t much “risk” involved on Tiger Lily’s part. Not once did I feel the need to worry about how the Sky Eaters would react to Tiger Lily’s involvement with the Lost Boys. There was clear and present danger, yes, but nothing immediate, and when dealing with a story where most people already know the ending (heck, the friggin’ fairy already prefaced the story as something that would not end happily for the two lovebirds), it was already predictable that Tiger Lily and Peter would come out unscathed. Probably heartbroken, but largely whole.

And to top it off, meeting Wendy Darling was pretty much the last fifty pages of the book. Honestly, I was half-hoping the entire scene had gone the pirates’ way in the end, because at least that would have been a trifle more exciting. Also, I didn’t think Wendy could get even more boring than the usual persona she is often depicted as, but she did. She got even less interesting in this book, and frankly, even Tinker Bell had developed more personality within the last fifty pages than Wendy did (and that’s saying something, because I swear Tink didn’t have an opinion in her little fairy body either).

It’s gotta be said, Wendy.

My biggest gripe of the story was probably the narration itself. It was hard trying to sympathize with any of the characters when the storyteller kept changing tenses and perspectives on me. The whole book is seen in the eyes of Tinker Bell, a mute fairy whose sole purpose in the book was really just to watch and observe things unravel before her. While I do not mind plot-driven books, the addition of Tink as the unreliable narrator made the storytelling clunky. There were too many POV changes in one scene, and it was sometimes difficult to determine whether or not it was Tink thinking some things or if it was Tiger Lily or another character whose mind Tink can view.

And honestly, Tinker Bell’s limited, single-minded view pretty much distorted the story to revolve around what she wanted to see. Everything else was white noise for her, and unless it dealt with the well-being of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan, Tink pretty much just glazed over things. This in itself is irritating when there were darker, grimmer issues surrounding the story that had nothing to do with Tiger Lily and Peter’s doomed romance. At one point, a rape took place, and Tink’s narration of it lasted a couple paragraphs, like it was just some sort of pitiable thing she happened to have come across. Instead of feeling any sorts of disgusted or worried, she doesn’t even bring this shit up to Tiger Lily. Oh, but Tink has time to prank Wendy Darling, though!

(In Tink’s defense, I doubt she would have been able to say much to Tiger Lily, who was also unfortunately too wrapped up in her own miseries to be paying attention to what was happening to her own damn friends. Ugh, shame on you, Tiger Lily!)

That said, it could have been worse. Tink could have had a voice…

That all said, there were a few things I liked about Tiger Lily.

The writing had its moments, for sure. I thought the prologue and the first few chapters were the best parts to read, because it had a poetic feel to them, and it was easy to forget that Tinker Bell was narrating the story for the most part. The letter at the end was probably one of my favorite bits, too, it was bittersweet and a bit sad. If I sympathized with the relationship more, I might have cared more, but Peter was kind of a jerk for the most part, and only the letter really indicated how much he changed when he got older.

Tik Tok, Pine Sap, and Moon Eye. Honestly, there were some really good characters written into the story. I thought Smee was characterized rather well, though I found this an interesting take on Hook’s most notorious lackey. Pine Sap and Moon Eye were great secondary characters, though I will say that Tik Tok was my absolute favorite. Honestly, Tik Tok’s and Moon Eye’s storylines were the most compelling for me in Tiger Lily, both of which dealt with darker issues. Hell, I was sad for Tik Tok. I was not sad that Peter chose the other woman.

2 out of 5 cookies! It got one extra cookie for Tik Tok and the conclusive situation with Giant. Yeah.

This counts as #6 of my Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Skill and Slavery || Gilded Cage Review

gildedcage-review

Initial Thoughts:

Hot damn, but this was a very good book. It was DARK by the end, and now I’m bummed because I have to wait for the second book, but omg, that ending though. I can’t trust anyone in this book! And I definitely should have told myself not to get attached to people. TOO LATE DAMMIT.


GILDED CAGE

by Vic James
Del Rey, February 2017
YA fantasy, dystopia
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley (thank you!)

gildedcageOur world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

Down with the Monarchy, Down with Equality

This book took me a bit by surprise. Not so much because I’d expected it to be bad, but that I’d expected something as heady as slavery and politics to be a slow read and not at all the fast-paced narration I’d encountered in Gilded Cage. So when I started reading, there were many things that I had to soak in and think about, things that I didn’t really see coming, and characters that definitely made me go “OMG X IS REALLY Y HOW CAN I TRUST THIS LITTLE SHIT EVER AGAIN?” by the end of the book.

Luke’s little sis and her friends were careering round behind the house shrieking at the tops of their voices, while some unforgivably awful C-pop boy band blared through the living room window.

The time of the Equals. First off, I did want to point out that one of the most interesting things for me is that this particular England mirrors more of a modern England than any other time period. There are cars and magazines and TV and technology. Heck, the opening scene follows Luke and his family during his sister Daisy’s 10th birthday, and already from the first few paragraphs we are shown that the Hadleys seem to be a regular family living a routine, regular life. Luke is attempting to study for his exams, his older sister Abi is reading a smutty romance novel, and his sister Daisy is partying with her friends. Nothing out of the ordinary, right?

Until, of course, we are told a page or two later that this seemingly ordinary English life is fitted within a city drenched in a history of slavery. And it is still happening as of the beginning of Gilded Cage. Instead of open rebellion against such injustice, Luke takes it in stride and mostly for granted up until his parents sign the entire family up into ten years of enslavement. Then things begin to change for the Hadley family.

Let me tell you, those first few pages in Chapter 1 were already a doozy. Imagine an England where citizenship is not allowed to non-Equals unless they consign themselves into a decade-long servitude. Imagine these non-Equals taking it for what it is and not opposing the government, because what can the Skilless really do against the Skilled Equals, whose mysterious powers are beyond their understanding. It’s pretty heavy stuff, and right then and there I was already on the mindset that things were about to get pretty dark, pretty damn fast.

“Oh, shit” indeed, Varric.

The book largely tells the story of Luke and Abi, brother and sister whose parents decided to take their entire family into the slavedays, where they and their family enter into a period of slavery in order to fulfill their citizenship obligations. Abi, evidently the smartest of the three siblings, has managed to sign her entire family up into servitude at Kynestone, the household of one of the most powerful Equal families in England. It looked like a cushy 10-year position for everyone, except for one thing. By some stroke of misfortune, Luke is separated from his family and taken to Millmoor–a town where slaves are treated like animals. Working conditions are poor, difficult, and very long at Millmoor, and to Luke, it’s only the start of what looks like the most miserable ten years of his life.

Enter the various points of view that really helped with the pacing. I had initially thought the main POVs would be that of Luke and Abi (and quite possibly Daisy, because many reviews mention her a lot), but the book itself had many more characters that were given chapter POVs. It really added a more in-depth look of the inner workings of the Skill and the characters who wield them. It also gave a more in-depth look at some of the character motivations on both sides. After all, it isn’t just Luke and Abi roaming the pages, there’s also Silyen, Euterpe, Gavar, and Bouda. At first I thought this would become problematic, considering a lot of these secondary character POVs only showed up once or twice, but honestly, their chapters helped to form the bigger picture of the world of the Equals.

Beside him, her own exams long since completed, Abi was lost in one of her favorite trashy novels. Luke gave it the side-eye and cringed at the title: Her Master’s Slave. She was nearly finished, and had another pastel-covered horror lined up. The Heir’s Temptation. How someone as smart as his big sister could read such rubbish was beyond him.

And on a related note, I totally related to Abi. Completely and utterly.

“It’s an ability, origin unknown, manifesting in a very small fraction of the population and passed down through our bloodlines. Some talents are universal, such as restoration–that is, healing. Others, such as alteration, persuasion, perception, and infliction, manifest in different degrees from person to person.”

“Magic, you could say?” Silyen offered.

Then there’s the Skill itself. As of Gilded Cage, not much is known about how it manifests in a few people, and what the limits of the Skill are. Some Skilled people are clearly kill-able, yet the how is still a little vague. In some cases, the plot conveniently kills off Skilled people in a fire. Yet others are burned and mutilated, yet somehow within minutes and quite possibly seconds, they are right as rain. There was a bit of explanation about why some siblings had a great deal of Skill while others didn’t, but it was only briefly touched upon, and not altogether fully developed. It will be interesting to see how the Skill continues to be unraveled within the later books.

In the Philippines, Skilled priests regularly repelled dangerous weather systems that threatened their islands. What were Britain’s Equals capable of? Abi wasn’t sure.

The fact that the Skill manifested within the rest of the world makes this magical system even more interesting!

…word must have gone round the whole of Zone D.

And Luke had talked it into existence.

Thinking about that made his head spin. It was almost like Skill–conjuring up something out of nothing.

“There no magic more powerful than the human spirit,” Jackson had said at the third and final club meeting. Luke was beginning to dare to hope that was true.

I couldn’t say which place had been the most interesting part of the book. On the one hand, I thought Luke was getting more action within the story, having been mistakenly thrown into Millmoor as opposed as being stuck in the Jardine household. On the other hand, a lot of political bullshittery hit the fan within the Jardine household that I almost wished Abi had taken some sort of initiative and went out of her way to find out more about the household she served. I mean, there were parts where Abi did do something, but I thought she’d been sidelined as a character who pined for someone unattainable and slaved away as a secretary. She’s much more than that, and I really hope she gets a bit more into the plot in the next book (and from the look of things, it sounds like she will be!).

Be warned: This book ends in a cliffhanger ending. And you might want to cry just a bit if you get attached to certain characters. Because OMG HEARTBREAKING THINGS HAPPEN.

You tell ’em, Meredith!

4 out of 5 cookies! Did I think the pacing work for the book? Yes, I did! Did I enjoy the politics behind it? Surprisingly, I did! Honestly, I thought Bouda Matravers played a great game, though she wasn’t the only one with far-reaching ambitions. Do I want the next book now? Ugh. Don’t talk to me about another trilogy. Because of course I want the next book now.

This book counts as #5 of the Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


gildedcage-bouda

Did you read this book? What did you think?

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

emberashes-review

Initial Thoughts:

Holy shitcakes in the oven, THAT WAS SO GOOD. I have nothing but good words to say about a high fantasy with men and women with complex loyalties to a seemingly two-sided war. I have SO MUCH to say about the women, in particular, and the world of jinn and ghuls and a school of Spartanish-trained assassins. Just…omgah. So. Damn. Good.


AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

by Sabaa Tahir
Razorbill, April 2015
High fantasy, young adult
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies

emberashesLaia 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.

All Good Things, All Good Things

Not gonna lie, this book took me FOREVER to finish reading. I think it was due to the fact that almost every other chapter brought about some sort of catastrophe for the main characters, and I was having none of that shit half the time. Hell, the minute the Trials began, I was so worried over a few characters that I had to make sure one of them survived into the next book (yes, spoilers, omg, but that character did, thank goodness). Not that that helped much, I was still glaring at the book from time to time because Tahir pretty much did everything she could to make something go wrong. And I won’t even talk about the Midsummer Night’s Dream-esque love triangle (square?) happening in the book. (I ALREADY HAVE A SHIP AND IT’S NOT HAPPENING, WHY.) Ugh, I shake my fist at you, Sabaa Tahir. Shake. My. Fist.

That being said, I have quickly forgiven her. It was only right, considering how great the book was, how vivid the world looked, and how awesome the characters were.

An Ember in the Ashes focuses on a dystopian fantasy society, where the Martials rule the land and the Scholars are designated slaves. There is a resistance that tries to go against this mold, but rebellion is an insurmountable task. After all, the Martials have the Masks, ruthless soldiers and assassins trained at the militarily renowned Blackcliff Academy. Pulling inspiration from Ancient Rome, the Martials are heavily disciplined, battle-hardened, and ultimately they hold all the weapons. It’s almost a lost cause already, but throw in the immortal, oracular Augurs and the supernatural powers of the jinn, and hell, the Scholars’ freedom really does look impossible.

The book focuses on two main character POVs, Laia and Elias. Where Laia is a Scholar born and bred–and, turns out, the daughter of an infamous Scholar rebel leader–Elias is a Martial soldier, arguably the best in his class at Blackcliff Academy. Both characters emerge from different backgrounds, yet in some ways, their struggles are very similar, and it’s in Blackcliff where their stories intertwine.

Now let me tell you about the two lovely POV characters.

Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. The moment Darin called out–that was such a moment. It was a test of courage, of strength. And I failed it.

Laia starts off as the sort of sheltered girl doted upon by her grandparents. She was largely an herbalist and a healer, helping her family with the modest work around the house. This all changed when the Mask came calling, and instead of taking a stand and fighting, Laia flees into the night. To her, running away is a sign of cowardice, and throughout the book she battles with the guilt of having escaped, of being unable to keep her brother Darin from being captured, of never holding a candle to her brave, Lioness mother. It’s pretty bleak thinking, and normally I have no patience for the type of hesitant character that Laia represents. But she pushes forth and stays alive. She’s not a combatant–evident in her Scholar background, where her kind are expressly forbidden to hold or even examine a weapon–but she’s got a spitfire personality when it counts. Give Laia a knife and she will use it. Provided the proper motivation, and there is no shortage of motivation for this seemingly timid girl.

The field of battle is my temple. The swordpoint is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release. The mantra is all I’ve ever needed.

Now Elias. Elias is one hell of an emotionally charged character. He’s also my favorite by far. Well, second favorite, I suppose, if you count the secondary characters (but we’ll get to that in a bit). Elias has just as much of a tragic backstory as Laia. Abandoned by his mother in the middle of a desert, Elias is raised by Tribesmen until the Augurs bring him into Blackcliff at the age of six. From there, he undergoes the most grueling gladiator-like training imaginable, making it to the top of his class through sheer will, practice, and perseverance. The thing with Elias, however, is that he absolutely hates Blackcliff. The beginning of his chapter shows him trying to desert before his graduation ceremony, failing to do so due to his best friend’s diligence. When the Augurs arrive once more in Blackcliff, it becomes impossible to leave, and Elias finds himself competing in the Trials–a set of tests that would ultimately lead to the title of Emperor.

I could honestly gush a lot about Elias, but I will say this: he’s the type of character who has the potential to change the world, but refuses to cross certain lines at the risk of losing his soul. He faces several situations that test much of his emotional and physical strength, and by blood and bone, the young Mask has seen shit and still manages to survive anyway.

Now, while the two main POVs were definitely likable enough for me to read the entire book and enjoy it, I will say that the highlight is the fact that Tahir filled her story with the most capable women I’ve ever seen. The women were warriors, slaves, rebels, storytellers, oracles. Many of them were maimed and scarred in a fashion, and yet they all rose to the occasion, some to fight on one side of the Scholar-Martial conflict, others in search of better situations. If this review wasn’t already over a thousand words long, I’d have gone on and on about how awesome Izzi and Cook and Keris and Helene and Sana are. And those aren’t even the only women worth mentioning.

And as if that wasn’t enough, there are the jinn and ghuls and the Nightbringer to talk about. I won’t get into them because I’m sure they’ll become more prominent in the second book, but holy hell, adding them into the story took the cake. I have a weakness for jinn, and ghuls are scary as hell. I wanted to know more about the stories of the jinn, and I was not disappointed when they finally talked about the Nightbringer.

4.5 out of 5 cookies! Honestly, the book was great. I need the next book in my life. Especially because *spoilers* HELENE’S POV IS IN IT YAAAAAAAAY *end spoilers*.

This counts as #4 of the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge.


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Have you read this book? What did you think?

A Hierarchy of Sixth Senses || The Bone Season Review

boneseason-review

Initial Response: 

Hngrrsrrdhhhggghgh. Okay, Ms. Shannon. You win. I laughed and rolled my eyes and everything, but that didn’t seem to stop me from going “WAIT NO. DON’T STOP THE STORY NOW.” Damn this series.

THE BONE SEASON

by Samantha Shannon
Bloomsbury, August 2013
YA science fiction, fantasy, dystopia
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

boneseasonThe year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

First let me tell you about how I had avoided this book for a good few years because reasons.

A) It was overhyped. I’d heard about this book from so many sources, yet when I started browsing the reviews, there were some pretty scathing reviews that practically tore the material apart. Not that this would have stopped me from reading anything (critics should never really be the deciding matter if the book itself interests you), but it certainly gave me pause, because hype-fail, you guys.

B) I wasn’t really feeling like reading another UK-based book. At the time, I’d already read the first book of Shades of LondonThe Friday Society, several of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and The Golden Compass, which practically was a book based in Oxford. Not to mention the television shows I’ve been following that’s based in the UK. So as an Anglophile, I was pretty Anglo-tired.

THAT SAID, I saw this on one of my TBTBSantee’s wishlists, and decided if I was going to read at least one book that I’d send to my TBTBSantee, it was going to be The Bone Season.

This was a good decision on my part.

What I Loved

clairvoyance

The order of unnaturalness. The first thing I saw when I opened the book was a two-page categorization of voyants. Look at all those fancy names for divining! There were so many “mancies” that I was slightly surprised “somnomancer” wasn’t on the list. I mean, it makes absolute sense to be able to tap into the aether through the process of sleeping and dreaming, right? If there’s a dreamwalker, there has to be a dreamgiver. THERE HAS TO BE.

(Oh boy, did I just call a part of the plot? I’m letting y’all know that I totally did.)

But seriously, you guys. I love it when magical systems are charted out. I appreciate how much work authors put into doing it, and let me tell you right now, it’s a general bitch to do. I should know, I’ve tried it many times, and for the most part, I’m still trying. Is hard work.

The key was in the door when I arrived. I turned it and stepped quietly onto the flagstones.

Not quietly enough. The second I crossed the threshold, my keeper was on his feet. His eyes blazed.

“Where have you been?”

I kept a tenuous mental guard up. “Outside.”

“You were told to return here if the siren sounded.”

“I thought you meant to Magdalen, not this exact room. You should be more specific.”

Paige, you sassy Irish girl, you. Never mind that Paige has been enslaved, put under the scrutiny of super-powered non-human entities, and given the limited option of dancing to the Rephaim’s grueling, tortuous tune or dying gruesomely in the hands of the Emim. She still has time to be insolent to her own effing keeper. I mean, how much more sassy can you get?

“I’m sure the angels are sorry.”

“They despise her.”

“You don’t say.”

“I do.” He was clearly amused by my disdain. “We have only been speaking for two minutes, Paige. Try not to waste all your sarcasm in one breath.”

I wanted to kill him. As it happened, I couldn’t.

The fact that Warden can sass back is just as fantastic. Actually, Warden reminds me of a few characters I ended up liking at the end of the story, albeit he keeps the feisty female a captive in his home. Don’t be surprised that this pretty Rephaim man with yellow eyes (OH COME ON, GUYS. YOU KNOW I LIKE GOLDEN-EYED MALES) turns out to be a not-so-evil-guy.

Welcome to No Man’s Land. Your test is simple, return to Sheol I in as little time as possible. You have no food, no water, and no map. Use your gift. Trust your instincts.

And do me this honor: survive the night. I’m sure you would rather not be rescued.

Good luck.

Alright, okay, maybe that was pretty diabolical on his part. But considering the other Rephaim, Warden’s the best support system Paige can have in Sheol I. (Not to mention, at least he’s not a jackass like Jax…).

Anyway, if I was going to put Arcturus Mesarthim in my boy-crushometer (I really should have one of those…just saying), I’d put him somewhere above Sarkan from Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and a great deal below Valek from Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study.

Very little hijinks happens. But it so happens, yes it do. Honestly, Warden’s interactions with Paige are some of my favorite dialogues in the book, so again, don’t be surprised if hijinks happen. Don’t, however, hold your breath, because for the most part, the book doesn’t focus on any romance. Most of it was pretty subtle up until a certain point, where the way was made pretty clear who Paige was holding a candle for. I thought this was a good move. I liked that the romance doesn’t overpower the rest of the book, and that it gradually got built up to a somewhat steamy, um, okay, so no explosions just yet. But I’m expecting one in the later books, yes I am!

“The mind of an amaurotic is like water…But a clairvoyant mind is more like oil, richer in every way. And like oil and water, they can never truly mix…”

Something occurred to me. “If voyant minds are like oil”–I weighed my words–“what are your minds like?”…

“Fire.”

IF THAT IS NOT INDICATION OF HIJINKS, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS. *cough*

Love/Hate Relationships

“We all know their false names.”

“And what might those be?”

“The White Binder, the Red Vision, the Black Diamond, the Pale Dreamer, the Martyred Muse, the Chained Fury, and the Silent Bell.”

The Seven Seals and Jaxon Hall. I admit, I didn’t see the particular appeal of being a part of this crew. I know the gangs are pretty much where clairvoyants go to hide from the government, but I always thought Jax took his mime-lording too far. Paige has this hero-worship complex with Jax–and in some ways, with Nick–that I wasn’t a big fan of. I hope at some point she eventually does make a break from the gang, though I will say that I’m fascinated by what each of the Seven Seals can do. The little that I’d seen in the book piqued my interest in that matter. And I will say this about Jax, he does have a flair about him.

What I Didn’t Like

A lot of the story revolves around two things: Paige’s involvement with the Seven Seals and her present situation in Sheol I. There’s a lot of back-and-forth from present and past in the narrative, and I admit at times it got cumbersome. There was already too much information being thrown at the reader, so I could have done with a little less of that and more of the actual plot.

Overall info-dumping and worldbuilding. Occasionally I did feel that Paige was unnecessarily “derped” out for the benefit of the reader. The first few chapters certainly lent to that belief, because there was just so much information being thrown in. There was the whole mess with the Scion conglomeration, then there was the deal with the voyants and oxygen bars and mime-lords. That was just the first few chapters, too, because soon after, BAM, we get hit with even more terms and politics, what with the Rephaim and Emim and Sheol I being thrown into the picture.

That silly glossary. On top of that, there were several words used for the same type of voyant that were explained within the parameters of the novel, so I didn’t see why there was a need for a list at the back. I’ve never been a big fan of glossaries at the end of the books; I rarely turn to them to look up a word, considering this just distracts me from the story. Then, of course, none of the terms for the different types of voyants are defined in the back, which I thought would have been the more important appendix to have. Personally, I thought it was much more important to know what the hell an extispicist or a macharomancer is than to know what a Buzzer or dollymop was (I swear dollymop was used only once and somehow it made its way to the back of the book…WHY?!).

4 out of 5 cookies! I will have to pick up the next book, though I do understand this is to be a seven-book series. I’m still not sure why, unless Ms. Shannon is going to drag out the conflict and romance (oh god, I really hope not…I really, really hope not).

This book counts as #1 for the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge and #1 for the Food and Fiction Reading Challenge (which I will make a separate post about once I actually put pictures up…the snowstorm I got this weekend kind of made it impossible to go out and get ingredients, lol!).


boneseason-lissrymore

Have you read this book? What did you think?