Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – Review

Cover- Red Sister

Published: April 4, 2017

Publisher: Ace

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 432 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…


Red Sister, the first book in Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor series, which is a brand new world and completely unrelated to the Broken Empire. That statement was for all you people that couldn’t get past Jorg Ancrath’s callous exterior to his broken interior and find out that he was only about 90% the bastard you thought he was. Rest assured, Nona Grey is much more likable than Jorg but just as much a killer, thus fulfilling all your grimdark needs.

This book had me at hello or rather those killer opening lines which, upon reading, should make anyone immediately run to purchase this book.

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.

Seriously people. Battle-nuns. I didn’t know this was missing from my life until it was there. Nona Grey comes to the Convent of Sweet Mercy at a tender young age, having narrowly escaped the gallows for the attempted murder of the son of a wealthy and powerful man. At first glance you may think that going to a convent will tame Nona and turn her into a pious girl, but nothing could be further from the truth. You see, the Convent of Sweet Mercy trains girls who have the blood of the ancient tribes to be killers.

At the convent Nona meets many other girls around her own age and surprisingly makes a solid group of friends. I anticipated a rivalry between Nona and another girl, but was pleased to find that they end up being closer than any of the others. That was definitely a petty, mean-girl catfight that I didn’t want to deal with for an entire series and I breathed a sigh of relief when it didn’t happen. I greatly enjoyed all the characters, whether student, teacher, or enemy. Nona in particular was wonderful and as many reviewers before me have said, Red Sister was a classic coming-of-age story. Abess Glass is cunning and if she were in Game of Thrones, she would sit the Iron Throne or run the spy network. The Sisters who teach each class are ridiculously proficient and tough and the whole teaching system reminded me of that featured in Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.

Mark Lawrence also managed to squeeze some fascinating world building in between all that nun training. Abeth is a planet on the brink of death- the sun is dying and ice has encroached on much of the planet. Only the nightly heat from the focus moon (which I suspect is a type of satellite or space mirror) has kept the ice at bay from a narrow strip around the planet and even that can’t hold doom at bay forever. Abeth’s magic is fueled by the blood from the ancient tribes (gerant, hunska, marjal, and quantal) and enhanced when in proximity to the shiphearts. Most of the shiphearts are lost under the ice, but one resides below the Convent of Sweet Mercy, providing toasty warm water and easier access to the magical Path. Did I mention that there’s intrigue, prophecy, and some exciting subplots?

Overall, Red Sister was an excellent book and definitely one that will appeal to a broader audience than Mark’s previous two trilogies. This is one series I’ll have to have hardcover copies of, because they’re too good to not be gracing my shelves. If Red Sister sounds like your cup of tea, check it out on April 4, 2017!

Waiting on Wednesday: Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature a book that we just can’t wait to get our hands on!


Cover- Godsgrave

IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL. Plus the title is awesome and I just can’t wait to see how much trouble Mia and Mister Kindly get into. The synopsis for Godsgrave promises a gladiatorial combat theme, which I’m pretty fond of and I’m sure there will be a least a little bit of satisfying vengeance. Definitely going to try and get my grubby paws on an advanced copy so I don’t have to wait so long! If you haven’t read Nevernight you should, so you can dig into Godsgrave with the rest of us when it’s released on September 5, 2017.

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay – Review

cover-tigana

Published: 1990

Publisher: Roc

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 676 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

Synopsis:

Eight of the nine provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm, on a world with two moons, have fallen to the warrior sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior.

Brandin’s younger son is slain in a battle with the principality of Tigana, which the grief-stricken sorcerer then destroys. After sweeping down and destroying the remnants of their army, burning their books and destroying their architecture and statuary, he makes it so that no one not born in that province can even hear its name.

Years later, a small band of survivors, led by Alessan, last prince of Tigana’s royal house, wages psychological warfare, planting seeds for the overthrow of the two tyrants. At the center of these activities are Devin, a gifted young singer; Catriana, a young woman pursued by suspicions of her family’s guilt; and Duke Sandre d’Astibar, a wily resistance leader thought dead.

Meanwhile, at Brandin’s court, Dianora, his favorite concubine and–unknown to anyone, another survivor of Tigana–struggles between her growing love for the often gentle tyrant and her desire for vengeance. Gradually the scene is set for both conquerors to destroy each other and free a land.


Of course Tigana was good, I mean, it was written by Guy Gavriel Kay so how could it not be? This is only the third book of Kay’s that I’ve had the privilege of reading, but I can say that it will not be my last, though another currently holds the title of favorite.

The setting of Tigana is predominately Mediterranean-like, bringing to mind Italy or Greece. The Palm is a single island, divided into 9 city-state regions, each having their own traditions and sub-cultures. Twenty years prior, two mages from different lands came and conquered eight of the nine provinces, with the ninth (Senzio) remaining somewhat neutral. The four western provinces are under the control of Brandin of Igrath and the four eastern provinces are under the control of Albarico of Barbadia. The two conquerors are enemies, however they are at a perpetual impasse, each refusing to antagonize the other to the point of war. As is typical of Kay’s books, these titans aren’t our main characters. The MC’s are a deposed prince and his rebellious Tiganese compatriots.

3 WEEKS LATER….

I’ve been putting of completing this review because honestly, I don’t have all that much to say about it. Tigana shows the expected layered complexity of Guy Gavriel Kay’s other books and plays on the idea that small choices and common people can make great impacts on the outcome of events. It’s magical (literally and figuratively) and is definitely worth the read. I like the audio versions of Kay’s books, particularly those narrated by Simon Vance because I feel less bogged down in the details that way. Of course I’d recommend this book, simply because it’s quality fantasy!

Currently Reading: 3/27/17

Cover- The Falconer

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

I got a copy of this from NetGalley a few days ago and I’m just super excited to read this one! This is the first book in trilogy which will be completed in June 2017, so if I like it I’ll binge read the next two books in the next few months. A mix of faeries, steampunk, and historical fiction makes The Falconer sound like a pretty awesome read.

I’ll be starting an as of yet undetermined audiobook this week also!!

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves – Review

cover-blood-rose-rebellion

Published: March 28, 2017

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.


Blood Rose Rebellion is one of the more highly anticipated debuts for Spring 2017. In many respects, it holds characteristics that are common in YA fantasy, however, the setting and folklore make it stand out from the crowd. The story begins in London but several chapters in the setting changes to that of Hungary, which is a country that I’ve not seen pop up in any of the fantasy I’ve read. The folklore is similar to that found in stories like The Bear and the Nightingale, which was set in Russia- yet again something that hasn’t yet been overdone in fantasy literature.

Anna Arden is a member of a prominent Luminate family but lacks the magic that so defines every member of that social class. She can however destroy spells, which is no easy task and should be impossible for anyone that can’t seem to access the reservoir of magic employed by the Luminate. After a bit of a scandal, Anna is packed off to mainland Europe to accompany her aging grandmother back to her homeland of Hungary. In Hungary, she’s surprised to find a place of her own, though not necessarily a place her family would approve of. As in many YA books, there’s political dissent, a young heroine, and enough tragedy to make the story seem legitimate rather than another gilded fairy tale, and a difficult decision that will be pivotal for the entire social system.

Am I the only one that is getting a bit fed up with the constant repetition of themes across YA fantasy? I give Rosalyn Eves due credit for making her story somewhat unique among a herd of sameness, but changing the setting and giving the story an Eastern European influence can’t hide the fact that’s it’s really just more of the same. I did appreciate the fact that Anna didn’t suffer from the plague of insta-love and her romance was much more slow burning than I usually see. Anna and her acquaintances choices also had very real, serious repercussions that didn’t affect only themselves, but the entire society. People were killed, thrown into prison, and suffered other consequences for the choices made by themselves and others.

Blood Rose Rebellion certainly had its pros and cons, but was an enjoyable book and a strong debut. I suppose I’m feeling jaded with the YA genre and as a result may be over-critical about certain aspects, but all genres seem to go through fazes. Right now it’s the political dissent/unique culture faze, which is cool but everything begins to feel overused so quickly. I loved that this book had me googling pictures, terms, and historical events. I think it’s great that by reading fantasy I can also learn a little about a new topic! Overall, I would say that yes, Blood Rose Rebellion is definitely worth a read.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – Review

cover-crooked-kingdom

Published: September 20, 2016

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Pages: 546 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

 

Synopsis:

When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.


I have no explanations for why it took me so long to read Crooked Kingdom, because I’ve had it since the day the it was released. All I can say is “Woe is me, my TBR pile is large and continues to grow”. Fortunately, it’s no longer growing exponentially… I think its reached the plateau phase.

Crooked Kingdom was a strong sequel, though because it’s been over a year since I read Six of Crows I forgot a lot (okay, most) of the details! I had to play catch-up and fill in all the blanks, so that took away from my overall reading experience but aside from that, it was really a very good story. Crooked Kingdom is a book primarily about revenge, meaning plenty of violence and action sequences. The story also manages to expound on the history of both Wylan and Jesper, which was good because I don’t remember learning much about them in Six of Crows.

SIX WEEKS LATER…

Guys, I forgot to finish writing this review!! I’m keeping it short and sweet now and apologize for how disjointed this review probably seems, but I’m being lazy and I’ve got other books to read and reviews to write. Crooked Kingdom was a fine follow-up and finale to this duology, though it doesn’t leave me DYING for more of any of the characters. It was entertaining, fun, and at times satisfyingly violent but the impression it left on me was shallow and is fading. At this point I can’t remember much of what happened. Perhaps one day I’ll re-read both books consecutively and further analyze the story, but for now this is what I’m leaving you with.

Waiting on Wednesday: Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature a book that we just can’t wait to get our hands on!


Cover- Deadhouse Landing

Isn’t it beautiful!!!? Deadhouse Landing is the second book in the Path to Ascendancy series which tells the story of the rise of Dancer, Kellanved, and the Malazan Empire. In my opinion, the writing and story in Dancer’s Lament is ICE’s strongest yet and expect much the same out of this installment. I’m pretty stoked to see what kind of mischief and mayhem is caused in Deadhouse Landing and fortunately I’ve only got to wait until August 8, 2017!

Currently Reading: 3/20/17

Cover- Hunted

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

I read a really positive review for this one a couple weeks ago and I was struck by a desire to also read this book. I CAN’T WAIT ANY LONGER TO READ IT!! Also, the cover is cool and in person it’s sort of pearlescent. Hunted is a Beauty and the Beast retelling and I’m pretty excited to dig in. I might even binge-read it!

 

 

I’m also going to start on Kings of the Wyld this week and finish up The Fifth Season!

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu – Review

cover-twelve-kings-in-sharakhai

Published: September 1, 2015

Publisher: DAW

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 592 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings—cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens, and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.


I have always loved beginning a new book series and Twelve Kings in Sharakhai was an amazing series debut. I couldn’t have asked for something more refreshing to my recent fantasy menu- the desert setting, the culture, the politics… all of these things kept me turning pages, losing myself in the story.

The city of Sharakhai was engrossing. I imagine this giant, shining city that’s like an oasis in endless miles of desert. It’s bustling, full of life and you can buy anything your heart desires in its endless stalls and shops, from spices to secrets. Of course, like any city, Sharakhai has a darker side- there are fighting pits, thieves, rebels, and the twelve kings that have ruled for hundreds of years in their hilltop palaces. It is in one of these areas that we first find Ceda. Ceda is famous in the fighting pits for her efficient skill, though she keeps her identity secret from all but her closest acquaintances. She does some delivery work for one of the pit bosses and when one of the jobs goes awry, Ceda’s story truly begins.

I found Ceda to be a savvy character who knows how to interact with each person she encounters. She always has a strong personality, but she is forceful with some, respectful to those who demand it… what I’m saying is she isn’t this brash, mouthy idiot with every single person she encounters. Her manner shifts for each situation, which I think makes her much more genuine and well-written than characters in many other books. Each of the characters, secondary, tertiary and so forth are all written with quality and care which I love.

The history, culture, and even the flashbacks to Ceda’s younger years add such depth to this story and are so engaging in their own right, that I could go on a decent tangent about just that. All of these add solidity to the story and make it something that I want to come back to and reread time and time again. I will absolutely be buying both the short prequel novel and ALL the future installments in this series. With Blood Upon the Sand was released at the beginning of February and will be high up on my list of purchases. I have to have it in hardcover, of course. I would highly recommend this series to anyone that’s a fan of fantasy, particularly if you’d like a break from the pseudo-European stuff!

Fictional Fight Club – UPDATE

Alas, my schedule has been extra busy as of late- lots of books to read and reviews to schedule by a certain date, weekend activities, etc. This has limited the amount of time I’ve spent on my ‘extra’ posts like Fictional Fight Club. It will be a few weeks yet before you’ll see another, but I’m coming up with ideas and tweaks to the original design in addition to having a few in the queue!

HAPPY READING!!!