The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark – Review

Cover- The Court of Broken Knives1

Published: August 15, 2017

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Empires of Dust #1

Pages: 512 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

In this dark and gripping debut fantasy that Miles Cameron called “gritty and glorious!” the exiled son of the king must fight to reclaim his throne no matter the cost.

It is the richest empire the world has ever known, and it is also doomed. Governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The Yellow Empire is on the verge of invasion–and only one man can see it.

Haunted by prophetic dreams, Orhan has hired a company of soldiers to cross the desert to reach the capital city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from the ashes can a new empire be built.

The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Young, ambitious, and impossibly charming, something dark hides in Marith’s past–and in his blood

Dark and brilliant, dive into this new fantasy series for readers looking for epic battle scenes, gritty heroes, and blood-soaked revenge.


Months prior to its release, The Court of Broken Knives was already receiving significant and consistent praise from basically every fantasy reader that had managed to snag an advanced copy. That in itself, regardless of synopsis and fancy cover design, was enough for me to add it to my ever growing list of books to be read. At long last, I received my own copy and the anticipation was over! It was well worth the wait, as this is one of the most striking debuts I’ve read this year.

If you’re looking for an epic fantasy with heroes galore, happiness, and high moral standards this book doesn’t meet those requirements. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read The Court of Broken Knives anyways though – it’s way too awesome to ignore! The book starts out with a company of mercenaries that are willing to knife their own men in the night if they can’t keep up the grueling trek through the desert, so we don’t exactly have any heroes in the mix. It only gets more interesting from here as additional characters are introduced, storylines weave together, and situations get progressively worse. Our main protagonist, Marith, is a particularly interesting piece of work. Entire character studies could be done on him and his host of personal demons. He’s has the appearance of naïve innocence at first, but as the story progresses you realize he’s a bloody monster and he’ll be watching the world burn to ash before it’s all said and done. I loved to hate him and hated to love him and can’t wait to read more in the sequel.

Anna Smith Spark’s writing style is unusual and suited perfectly to her story – I would describe it as elegantly blunt, if such a thing is possible. She details the world, the characters, tidbits of history, and incredible battle scenes with an artist’s touch. I could easily visualize EVERYTHING. Whether that is actually a good thing is still up for debate. This book has all the interesting stuff you could ever want – battles, politics, betrayal, attractive love interests, flawed characters – so if you haven’t already you should really check this book out. Unless you’re only into heroes, then maybe not.

Overall, this is definitely one of the coolest debuts of the year. The continual reinforcement of dual natures/feelings was really interesting and made me think harder about, well, life in general. This was particularly strong for Thalia, as she was both attracted to and abhorrent of Marith, depending on which side of him he was showing. Their relationship was an interesting one and I’m curious to see how it will play out over the course of the next two books. Excitingly enough, we already have a cover, title, and exceprt for the second book, The Tower of Living and Dying, at the end of The Court of Broken Knives.

Wicked Like A Wildfire by Lana Popovic – Review

Cover- Wicked Like A Wildfire

Published: August 15, 2017

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Hibiscus Daughter #1

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love.

But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?


When I first came across Wicked Like a Wildfire I was initially drawn in by the gorgeous floral cover art. Then there was the synopsis. The idea of manipulating beauty (or appearances) is nothing new in the realm of mythology and fantasy, but the exact brand of manipulation in Wicked Like a Wildfire is unique.

Iris and Malina are the youngest in a long line of women who were beautiful beyond compare and used beauty as a weapon. Iris can create mesmerizing fractals while Malina has the voice of a self-harmonizing angel (or a Mongolian throat singer).  Their mother runs a bakery where she creates sweet delights that can call up memories of places you’ve never been. I loved the whimsical concept of each woman’s gift, but I felt they didn’t translate to paper as well as I had hoped they would. Iris’s gift (or gleam) in particular wasn’t done justice in my imagination by the words on paper. I could only visualize something akin to what you would see through one of those cheesy plastic kaleidoscopes. I was also pretty unclear as to whether this was a tangible thing or a purely visual media, which is an important distinction later in the book.

Aside from the cool magic, the setting of Wicked Like a Wildfire may have been my favorite part. This book is set in the small, Balkan country of Montenegro of which I was very unfamiliar with prior to now. I took frequent reading breaks simply to google pictures of the locations mentioned, from the idyllic seaside town of Cattaro, to the cliffside Ostrog monastery, to the wild, ragged peaks of Durmitor. I was absolutely enthralled and my sense of wanderlust was screaming at me to book a plane ticket and fly away and visit this country.

I was rather impressed by Lana Popovic’s debut novel and will absolutely be reading more by her. It wasn’t perfect and I wished the secondary characters would have been developed as lovingly as the scenery was, but it was lovely nonetheless and had a nice flair to it. Iris and Malina had a great relationship and the Jerry Springer meets fantasy family aspect was pretty interesting. It’s rare that a dysfunctional family is portrayed quite so believably in a more contemporary era fantasy book. There’s so much more to this book, but I refuse to give away the smallest spoilers!

Age of Assassins by R.J. Barker – Review

Cover- Age of Assassins

Published: August 1, 2017

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Wounded Kingdom #1

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

TO CATCH AN ASSASSIN, USE AN ASSASSIN . . .

Girton Club-foot, apprentice to the land’s best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But their latest mission tasks him and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince’s murder.

In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire land.


Books about assassins are awesome. That could literally be a one-line review, but I suppose I won’t be lazy and I’ll go into more detail. Orbit has been rolling out a phenomenal array of books this year and the fantasy debuts I’ve read have been quality reads, including Age of Assassins.

Age of Assassins is the story of the assassin Girton Club-foot, which is an accurately descriptive moniker as he does have a club-foot. The story is told by an older Girton, largely focused on the events unfolding in the city of Maniyadoc when he was about fifteen, with a few flashbacks from prior years thrown in for added detail. Girton and his master Merela Karn are captured on a job and brought before Queen Adran who blackmails the duo into protecting her son from an assassin. As the saying goes, who better to stop an assassin than another assassin? Adran’s son turns out to be a power crazed little maggot that isn’t worth protecting, so it’s probably a good thing she had serious leverage otherwise Girton or Merela would have let him have an ‘accident’ about 45 minutes after taking the job. Girton is charged with playing the son of the noble ap Gwynr family and playing the part of a squire in training. His squire training introduces him to a host of boys around his age who are more cliquey than your average high school girls though for good reason. One group has thrown their support behind the loathsome Aydor ap Mennix and the other has decided to support Tomas ap Dhyrrin, who some claim is the rightful heir. This, plus about a dozen other things combined, means that literally anyone could be the assassin.

This book is a nice introduction to the very likable (if occasionally whiney) Girton, his master, and a cast of characters that I think will play significant roles in upcoming books. I liked that there was some variety between the characters – some were likable, others not so much. Some kind, cruel, suspicious, honest, elderly, sickly, etc. Not everyone was a hardened warrior and they had realistic flaws because this isn’t an epic fantasy. No, it’s a bit more down to earth than that. I also liked the air of mystery here… I spent the entire book wondering who the assassin was and when it was finally revealed, I realized I had been SO WRONG the whole time!! That was a great surprise and I all but cackled with sinister delight.

Age of Assassins was a pretty great debut, but it isn’t without its flaws. First of all, I would have liked some more in depth world building and better descriptions of certain things. I was particularly enamored with the mounts (not horses!), with their antlers, tusks, toed feet, and long lives, but there was little description of them beyond the most basic characteristics. The magery and the ‘soured’ lands were also lacking in description for something that played such a profound role in shaping the world and characters. Overall, I really liked the book and would definitely recommend the audio version for its solid narration. I can’t wait to see what the sequels have in store for us and I hope that Rufra makes more appearances as he was one of my favorites! He reminded me of Sevro from Red Rising for some reason – perhaps the fact that he didn’t fit in well, but was the most loyal of friends.

The List by Patricia Forde – Review

cover-the-list

Published: August 8, 2017

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Genre: Middle Grade

Series: ???

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

My Rating: N/A

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

Synopsis:

In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.


I don’t usually read middle grade books since they’re geared for an audience much younger than me, but I couldn’t resist the synopsis for The List. This is a dystopian book where a great flood has covered much of Earth’s landmasses and the only civilized sanctuary is called the Ark. In the Ark, citizens have fresh water, food, and occasional electricity, but their language is being limited by mandate of John Noa, leader of the Ark. He thinks that by limiting language he can prevent what he sees as the failures of the previous society, but not everyone agrees with his decisions.

The Ark may be the only truly developed sanctuary, but there are a few other small enclaves of humanity left – the town of Fearfall and an enclave of artists known as the Desecrators, many of whom fled the Ark when restrictions were placed on freedom of artistic expression. The Desecrators regularly stage rebellious expositions of their talents (from art to music) to protest Noa’s ridiculous laws. What surprised me was how docilely the citizens seem to accept the new impositions on their language and everyday life… when your freedoms are taken slowly and every day is about survival, I suppose you don’t think about things like that. Letta, the wordsmith’s apprentice was just like everyone else – meekly accepting each new law handed down from above – until an injured boy entered the shop. Marlo was a Desecrator, or as they refer to themselves, a Creator and should have been turned in to the gavvers who enforce Ark law.

Letta was a likable enough character, though I was frustrated with her on several occasions because she couldn’t accept that Ark law was wrong and John Noa wasn’t such a beneficent ruler after all. This was a believable and expected reaction, and I was mostly annoyed that she didn’t see what I (the knowing reader) could see from an outside perspective so it wasn’t a big deal. Overall, the story was pretty good and I think that to a reader of the right age group, it would be awesome. I’m a little old to appreciate middle-grade to its full extent, but The List was creative and pretty entertaining!

Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell – Review

Cover- Traitor's Blade

Published: July 15, 2014

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Greatcoats #1

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

Synopsis:

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…


It’s been about a week and a half since I finished Traitor’s Blade, but between writing other reviews and life I nearly forgot to review this! Shame on me because this book was such fun and I guess you could say that I’ve joined the Greatcoats fan club now. I can’t believe I’ve never picked up any of de Castell’s books prior to Traitor’s Blade, but at least the series is finished now and I can read them in quick succession!

Traitor’s Blade is the first installment of what readers and reviewers alike call the greatest Three Musketeer’s trope since Dumas’s original tale. While I’ve never read the original, I know the general plot (thanks Wishbone) and can safely say that this does in fact channel the same feeling. Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats and perceived traitor to the throne, has resorted to guarding caravans with comrades Kest and Brasti. They’ve sunk low from their former positions as traveling adjudicators to the realm, but it’s more honorable than thievery and they have ulterior motives anyways. Being labelled Trattari doesn’t stop them from being the finest swordsmen, archers, and fisticuffs brawlers in the world… plus, such skills are useful when you’re searching for the dead king’s lost jewels (his final request).

Falcio, Brasti, and Kest are fantastic and lovable characters that will by turns have you laughing and shedding tears. Falcio in particular had some very moving scenes and as a result was the easiest to connect to while reading. Brasti never misses a target with an arrow, but doesn’t always have as much luck with the ladies he’s so fond of chasing. Kest is an artist with the blade and you’ll find that he’s quite a saint by the end of the book (hehe). Sebastien de Castell has done a marvelous job of writing the story as a first person narrative (I’m no English major, is that the correct term?) that weaves past and present events together flawlessly.

I can’t even tell you how glad I am to have finally begun my journey through the Greatcoats series! I already have book 2 ready and waiting once my schedule slacks off a bit and I really wish they were available in audio format so I could get to them quicker.  If you haven’t read these yet and love fantasy, then do yourself a favor – take my advice and read this book!

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor – Review

Cover- Days of Blood and Starlight

Published: November 6, 2012

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2

Pages: 517 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?


As soon as I finished DoS&B I downloaded the sequel, Days of Blood & Starlight, because after that ending, how could I not!? I was impressed to find that this book was even better than the first- no sophomore slump in sight.

Days of Blood & Starlight drops us back into the story several months after the events of Daughter of Smoke & Bone and much has changed since then. Karou knows of her chimaera heritage and has joined the fight against the seraphim, though their group of rebels is pathetically small and they have a special hatred for Karou despite her usefulness. She’s miserable, lonely, and scared despite the assurances of safety given her by Thiago, the rebel leader and killer of Madrigal. Akiva has returned to his seraph brethren, but continues to feel guilt for the slaughter of chimaera and distraught because he thinks Karou has died. The POV now switches between Karou, Akiva, Zuzana and Mik, with the addition of a few minor characters. I still enjoy chapters featuring the Zuzana and Mik- they’re just so cute!

The plot line (or should I say lines?) in Days of Blood & Starlight is considerably stronger than that in the first book. The action is in full swing, bringing more battles and intense scenes that left me wide-eyed with concern! Characters that were mere mentions in the previous book become much more fleshed out and can I just say that I’ve really begun to hate the Seraph king and his scarred brother? What evil creeps!

I recommended this series after the first book and now do so wholeheartedly. The story keeps you at the edge of your seat, unthinkingly holding your breath in anticipation of the next scene. There are loops and twists and awesome moments where you just want to jump up and cheer a bit. I can’t wait to dig into the third and final installment. I think I mentioned this in my review of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, but allow me to reiterate that the audio edition is really fantastic!

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw – Review

Cover- Strange Practice

Published: July 25, 2017

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Dr. Greta Helsing #1

Pages: 400 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family’s specialty for generations.

Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.


Strange Practice was such a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t sure what kind of quality to expect when I requested it, but the synopsis was far too interesting to pass up. The cover art makes you look twice and better yet, the story inside bundles of somewhat morbid fun.

Greta Helsing is doing what she loves – running her own medical practice in a prestigious location with a unique clientele. You see, Greta doesn’t cater to mere mortal humans like the rest of us, she is doctor to the hidden, inhuman class of London. She creates replacement bones for deteriorating mummies, treats depression in ghouls, patches up sanguivores, and prescribes cough medicine to infernal accountants. Her already unusual everyday life gets turned topsy-turvy when a group of semi-possessed monks begin murdering both human and supernatural people in an attempt to cleanse and destroy London. Much madness ensues and beautiful dry humor shines through even in the most perilous moments.

I absolutely loved the characters and the plot in Strange Practice. The supernatural is present, but in a more reasonable way than I expected it to be. Rather than being gaudy and laughable, the inhuman characters are credulous in behavior, appearance, and how they fit into society. Plus, the fact that they actually need doctors is pretty original in my opinion. Why wouldn’t they? Greta is a fabulous character in her own right, being intelligent, capable, and compassionate, but the secondary characters are absolute gems. Fastitocalon (our infernal accountant) has been a friend of the Helsing family for many years and he seems quite lovable, despite his unsettling powers. Lord Ruthven is a 400-year-old vampire (classic Dracula type) with a penchant for spending and a surprising adeptness with modern technology. Sir Francis Varney is a vampyre (lunar type) who seems to abhor his own monstrousness and is getting somewhat jaded with the whole idea of living. Cranswell is a normal human who happens to be aware of the supernatural and he also works in a museum where recent events have gotten in the way of his first exhibit. These short descriptions give you the most basic insight about the characters, but trust me when I say that they are much more than this!

Strange Practice was the perfect blend of serious plot and dry humor for my tastes and has enough action to keep anyone interested for the duration as it was well-paced and didn’t seem to rush or drag in any noticeable way. I was pleased to find out the second book has a title (Bad Company) and a short excerpt included at the end of Strange Practice, though a release date doesn’t seem to have been announced as of yet. Vivian Shaw is an author I’ll be keeping an eye on because this debut was quite impressive and I don’t want to miss any of her work!

Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan – Review

cover-age-of-swords

Published: July 25, 2017

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Legends of the First Empire #2

Pages: 512 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

In Age of Myth, fantasy master Michael J. Sullivan launched readers on an epic journey of magic and adventure, heroism and betrayal, love and loss. Now the thrilling saga continues as the human uprising is threatened by powerful enemies from without—and bitter rivalries within.

Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhune make it all but impossible to unite against a common foe. And even if the clans can join forces, how will they defeat an enemy whose magical prowess makes the Fhrey indistinguishable from gods?

The answer lies across the sea in a faraway land populated by a reclusive and dour race who feels nothing but disdain for both Fhrey and mankind. With time running out, Persephone leads the gifted young seer Suri, the Fhrey sorceress Arion, and a small band of misfits in a desperate search for aid—a quest that will take them into the darkest depths of Elan. There, an ancient adversary waits—an enemy as surprising as it is deadly.


I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Michael J. Sullivan’s books because even after reading so many, I’m still so entertained and enthusiastic about them. His characters are lovable (or at least likable) and the plots are always top-notch.

Age of Swords literally goes from 0 to 100 in about 5 pages. It was one of the most incredible intros that I’ve ever read because I was NOT EXPECTING IT AT ALL. I mean really, tornadoes pretty much never happen in fantasy books, and MJS made it into this great moment that set the mood for the entire book. Not kidding, this entire event sequence kicks the story into high gear and far outstrips the pace of the previous book. Persephone is now the chief of Dahl Rhen and she sets about to call for a meeting of the clans to elect a keenig, which is basically a king, so they may make war upon the Fhrey. Throw in some dwarves, a pile of Tolkein-esque action and monsters, a few heartbreaking moments, and you’ve got one heck of a story coming your way. Go ahead and set aside whatever tasks you thought you were going to do because you’ll want to binge read Age of Swords.

The characters develop significantly throughout the course of events and I grew to like them even more, though not so much as I loved Royce and Hadrian. These characters just don’t have the same witty banter and camaraderie as those two, but this is set in a very different age. Persephone continues to kick butt mostly by having common sense and a level head. I think she makes a fine leader, especially since she surrounds herself with bright and clever people that totally support her. Brin and Suri both become older, wiser, and more world weary. Suri in particular becomes quite the spectacular butterfly, though she is such a different person at the end. Raithe is somewhat frustrating and Mawyndule has actually gained some sympathy from me because his sheltered and soft lifestyle left him stupidly naïve.

Overall, Age of Swords has left much more of an impact on me that Age of Myth did. It’s got so much more going on and I wasn’t bored for a second! The ridiculous pace at which things were invented/discovered (writing, the wheel, the bow and arrow etc.) made me laugh just a little because it was like society was on fast-forward. The Lord of the Rings influence was very strong for a portion of the book which was simultaneously amusing and overbearing. I’ll tentatively say that I rather liked it, but the whole Gandalf v. Balrog parallel was crazy obvious (I’m making the assumption it was intentional). However, I am REALLY looking forward to the release of Age of War because I can only think this series will continue to gain in awesomeness.

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana – Review

Cover- The Library of Fates

Published: July 18, 2017

Publisher: Razorbill

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Pages: 354 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 2.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?


Fair warning for all the people like me that were excited for a book that seemed to be about a mystical library that could change the past – The Library of Fates is barely about a library at all. I suppose you could say the title and synopsis are somewhat misleading.

The plot of the story was fairly interesting – the country of Shalingar is being visited by Sikander of Macedon (obviously Alexander the Great) who’s offering them a lovely trade deal that includes the engagement of Princess Amrita to Sikander. Amrita and her father are none too happy about this because Sikander is a pestilent old despot with golden front teeth and a nasty habit of enslaving and murdering his way across continents. Amrita escapes with a Seer named Thala and they go on quite a journey to find both the Library of Fates to alter the course of events that lead them to their current situation and warn the Sybillines, a secretive people who produce a coveted drug, that Sikander is determined to find and enslave them. Sounds like a riveting read, no? Well, not really.

The Library of Fates has the benefit of a beautiful and exotic setting reminiscent of the romanticized version of India that we are often presented with. There are glittering palaces, lush gardens, elephants, and mountain temples visited by a steady tide of pilgrims. I couldn’t help but to imagine how wonderful it might be to live in Shalingar, as our protagonist Amrita does, because at times the description of the setting is vivid. Unfortunately, the story suffers from a lack of depth by which I was rather disappointed. I liked the characters, but the author wasn’t exactly going to any great effort to wring emotion from my cold, jaded heart. Really though, this read more like a lengthy bedtime story than an actual novel and I know that sounds like a callous judgement (it is), but the story did nothing for me other than to fill a few hours of my day. It wasn’t a truly bad book and I liked the concept, the gorgeous setting, and the overall plot of the story. If it sounds like something you would enjoy, then by all means, check it out but don’t set your expectations too high!

Overall, The Library of Fates simply lacked the depth, detail, and character engagement that would garner a higher rating. This is a young adult book, but aside from the discussion of drug use and withdrawal process, it would read more like a middle grade novel.  The plot threads were wrapped up very quickly and rather easily in my opinion, but the author left enough open ended that a sequel is definitely possible. I think I will refrain from reading the sequel unless reviews sway my opinion otherwise.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor – Review

Cover- Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Published: September 27, 2011

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1

Pages: 422 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?


I never realized how much I needed Laini Taylor’s madly awesome books in my reading repertoire prior to last month. Now I’m doing that thing where I obsessively read everything a new favorite author of mine has ever published. In this case, that meant beginning Daughter of Smoke & Bone, which before now was something I wasn’t really interested in. Now I’m pretty much head over heels for Karou, Akiva, Zuzana, and Mik!

Many books tend to have either characters or plot developed much more than the other. With this particular book, the characters shine most brightly at the beginning but as the book progresses the plot begins to shine almost as brightly. From the very first pages I was unbearably curious about Karou’s misfit family of chimaera. Where did they come from? How did Karou come to be raised by them? What’s with all the teeth?

That last question is really the most interesting. Karou’s chimaera family are in the business of trading teeth for wishes. Hunters, grave robbers, slavers and worse come through the doors of Brimstone’s otherworldly shop to bring teeth from every toothed species you can imagine to trade in for wishes of varying degrees of strength. The teeth are sorted and inspected and sometimes Karou will even travel through other portal-doors to collect from those banned from Brimstone’s shop (like a magical blue-haired mollisher). Karou doesn’t know what the teeth are for and therefore neither does the reader. This grabbed my curiosity by the throat and shook- WHY THE TEETH!? Rest assured, you do find out eventually but I won’t be the one to spoil your fun!

Here it is, the fourth paragraph, and I’ve barely even mentioned the characters! There is, of course, Karou of the naturally blue hair, bullet scars, and 90+ sketchbooks who plays the starring role in Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Then there’s her BFF Zuzana whose petite frame is filled with mock malice and judgement. Akiva is also kind of a big deal, what with his tiger’s eyes and burning wings. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s an angel (or more correctly, a seraphim) and they happen to be the mortal enemies of the chimaera? Then we’ve got Brimstone, Issa, Yasri, and Twiga who are Karou’s unusual family. I especially liked Brimstone for his gruff fatherliness and Issa for her love of human gossip.

Overall, this book was really, truly awesome! My only real complaint is that Akiva + Karou kind of have that insta-love thing going on and it does get a bit over the top with ooey-gooey feelings. What starts out as completely silly insta-love does get explained after a major plot reveal later in the book, so it’s definitely something I could live with. I was so hooked that I started the second book almost immediately afterwards! I listened to the audiobook, which I highly recommend because the narration was beautifully done and really enhanced the experience of the story. I’ll be continuing with this format for the rest of the series because it was great!