The Throne of the Five Winds by S.C. Emmett – Review

Cover- The Throne of the Five Winds

Published: October 15, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Hostage of Empire #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 704 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Two queens, two concubines, six princes. Innumerable hidden agendas. Yala, lady-in-waiting to the princess of a vanquished kingdom, must navigate their captors’ treacherous imperial court.

The Emperor’s palace — full of ambitious royals, sly gossip, and unforeseen perils — is perhaps the most dangerous place in Zhaon. A hostage for her conquered people’s good behavior, the lady Komor Yala has only her wits and her hidden maiden’s blade to protect herself — and her childhood friend Princess Mahara, sacrificed in marriage to the enemy to secure a tenuous peace.

But the Emperor is aging, and the Khir princess and her lady-in-waiting soon find themselves pawns in the six princes’ deadly schemes for the throne — and a single spark could ignite fresh rebellion in Khir.

And then, the Emperor falls ill, and a far bloodier game begins…

The Throne of the Five Winds is the first installment of the Hostage of Empire series, an intricate and ruthless East Asia-inspired epic fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Ken Liu, Kate Elliott, and K. Arsenault Rivera.


Could this book have been any better? Probably not! The Throne of the Five Winds truly just struck all the right chords for me and ended up being this lovely, enticing, and somewhat saddening beginning to what I think will be a tremendous fantasy series. This book could fittingly have been titled “A Game of Thrones” as well – almost the entire book focuses on the political machinations of the six princes, two queens, two concubines, and countless others that surround the throne of Zhaon. It was far more fascinating than I would have initially anticipated – I expected dense and possibly a dragging pace but that wasn’t the case.

Lady Komor Yala (called Yala, as her family name is listed first) was chosen to accompany her childhood friend, Princess Mahara, to Zhaon when she was to be married to the eldest prince to secure peace. Yala is intelligent and deadly, having been raised in the traditional Khir fashion whereas Mahara was raised to be a silent figurehead meant to bear children. I loved both Yala and Mahara for their bravery, friendship, and Yala’s dedication to her role as protector and lady. The other women of power in the palace (aside from the second concubine) were dreadful – scheming, cruel things out for their own gain. The princes and princesses were a mixed bag, with some being wonderful and others just as conniving as their mothers and twice as cruel. It was unavoidable that some of the princes found Yala appealing, as she was alluring if not traditionally beautiful, and that was honestly one of my favorite parts of the story. 

Ah yes, the story – it’s one of politics on a grand scale. With the Khir beaten and peace secured, the Zhaon have returned focus to their inner political battles though it may not be as peaceful as they thought. Mahara’s illegitimate brother has become heir and he doesn’t hold the same views on peace that perhaps his father does and he begins his own scheming. The Zhaon prince are either warriors or snakes (and sometimes both) and are trying to outmaneuver one another and it only escalates when it becomes apparent the Emperor is dying. The throne will soon be vacant and one of them will have the opportunity to fill it. There are numerous assassination attempts on multiple characters and there’s enough violence to sate the bloodthirsty reader. No full scale battles perhaps, but the action is certainly there. Though I love a good battle, the truly fascinating parts featured Yala and Mahara (good, since they’re the main characters). Yala is the quiet strength behind her princess and fills so many roles – secret guardian, spy, the fall guy (or girl in this case), companion, and so much more. She’s demure and intelligent and it’s made even better because she could also knife you with her hidden blade faster than you could imagine. 

I can’t fit all my feels for this book into words. It was just SO, SO GOOD and I was taken by surprise at how much I loved it! It saddens me that I have to wait for the next book which will hopefully be released in 2020 because this book ended on such a sad note with so many loose strings. I’m unsure where this will go next and what Yala’s next moves will be and I just want to know if she will be a magnificent and avenging angel. GEEZ.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie – Review

Cover- A Little Hatred

Published: September 17, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Age of Madness #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 480 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.

On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specializes in disappointments.

Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union – plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.

The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another…


JOE, YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN. YOU’VE WRITTEN A BOOK THAT IS BOTH DRAMATIC AND BLOODY AND I SUSPECT INTENTIONALLY HAS LINES THAT MAKE ME SNORT-LAUGH IN AN UNLADYLIKE FASHION. 

Seriously though, this book was announced and I think the fantasy community lost their collective mind. I mean, if you read fantasy you’ve at least heard of Joe Abercrombie even if you haven’t read his books. And if you haven’t read his books, maybe you should remedy that… unless of course you don’t want to read about Northmen fighting one another, impending invasions, certain invasions, and that rat bastard Bayaz the magician. And that’s just the first trilogy. A Little Hatred is the start of a brand spankin’ new series called The Age of Madness and like the promo says, “The kids aren’t alright”. 

A Little Hatred takes place several decades after the events of the First Law trilogy (I’m guessing around 30 years) and the main characters are the children of the much beloved or beloathed characters from said series. The elegant viperess Savine dan Glokta is reveling in the new industrial age and has made herself a fortune off of investments and financial bullying. Prince Orso is a drunken sot and is honestly a sad excuse for a prince – he needs a rough journey to toughen him up, much like Jezal did. Rikke, daughter of Dogman, is trying to hone her skill with the Long Eye and is training the hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, though that’s interrupted when the North goes to war with itself again. Leo dan Brock, the handsome golden boy is coming to terms with the fact that war isn’t quite as glorious as perhaps it first seemed. Abercrombie has once again written characters that you can both hate and love a little at the same time. They’re so flawed, but in such a realistic way and you just can’t help but sympathize with them even when they’re being SOOOO terrible!

The plot is, well, as I expected epic in scope. Adua has entered the industrial age with all the growing pains that go along with it. Thousands of people have moved to the cities in search of work, housing is in short supply, and the factories that have sprung up have no one to govern worker conditions, fair pay, or rights of any sort. It’s a bloody free for all the common man is rising up against the owners who profit from their endless toil. The Northmen are once again at war with one another and it’s always the same grim cast of troublemakers – Bethod’s sons are rising up once again and the Dogman is left on the defensive along with the Union troops led by Finree dan Brock and her son Leo. Trouble within and without the Union is par for the course at this point, though after multiple wars I think things may finally come to a head once again. Bayaz still has his manipulative fingers in the affairs of the world and has Jezal and Glokta both dancing on puppet strings, though I think both loathe to admit it to anyone but themselves. 

This book was an absolute wild ride from beginning to end. I loved Savine’s POV chapters and she emerged from the fires forged anew, though not necessarily for the better. There were some awkward moments and scenes where I could barely contain my laughter or dismay (sometimes equal parts). I am loathe to give away the meat of the story since it’s such a joy to go in with no idea what’s going to happen. Rest assured, this is Abercrombie gold and I dearly wish I could binge read the whole trilogy right here and now. Alas, though I believe the series is already complete, we must wait for the next installment. One last point – this can be read as a standalone series, HOWEVER, it is so much richer having read the other books and you get a lot more nuance than you would otherwise.

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Review

Cover- Walking to Aldebaran

Published: May 28, 2019

Publisher: Solaris

Series: Standalone

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 140 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

My name is Gary Rendell. I’m an astronaut. When they asked me as a kid what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “astronaut, please!” I dreamed astronaut, I worked astronaut, I studied astronaut.

I got lucky; when a probe sent out to explore the Oort Cloud found a strange alien rock and an international team of scientists was put together to go and look at it, I made the draw.

I got even luckier. When disaster hit and our team was split up, scattered through the endless cold tunnels, I somehow survived.

Now I’m lost, and alone, and scared, and there’s something horrible in here.

Lucky me.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.


I don’t pick up novellas too often, but when I do they either sound irresistibly appealing or they’re written by authors that consistently write awesome books. Walking to Aldebaran falls into both of those categories, having an amazing synopsis and having been written by an author that produces out of this world stories (pun entirely intended).

Clocking in at 140 pages, you would expect to be left wanting more but that isn’t the case with this book at all. It is ENTIRELY sufficient as a novella and reminds me of one of the creepier episodes of the Twilight Zone. Gary Rendell is walking through a wormhole in the dark, lonely expanse of space. He just wants to find the other astronauts that survived the trek into the depths of what he calls the “Frog God” and go back to Earth. He’s the narrator, which is particularly handy for knowing his inner thoughts and also for being slightly unreliable… like maybe we’re not getting the whole picture here. He recounts his experience, what led he and his crewmates to the reaches of space beyond icy Pluto, and his horrifying journey through the dark, endless passages of what he calls the Crypts.

It’s truly haunting and so well executed that I devoured this in a single sitting. Not usually a big deal for me, especially since this is a teensy little book but I’ve been in kind of a reading slump lately. I think this successfully pried me out of the rut I was in and now I can’t wait to read more weird stuff. I would HIGHLY recommend checking this out, and Tchaikovsky fans won’t be disappointed in the least. Heck, I’m considering reading again so I can reprocess all that weird goodness.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab – Review

Cover- Vicious

Published: September 24, 2013

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Villains #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 368 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?


Vicious is another book that I put off reading for far too long. Why you may ask? Well, aside from the usual issue of I have too many other books to read, it’s because I just didn’t love A Darker Shade of Magic and was hesitant to start another Schwab book. I did though because it just sounded so cool. And the best part was, once about five pages in I already knew I was going to love it.

Victor Vale is a troubled college student – he’s got a dysfunctional family and takes great joy in making angsty black out poetry from his parents’ self-help books. When his best friend and school golden child Eli Cardale decides to do his senior research on the so-called EO’s (extraordinaries) Victor’s life changes rather quickly. Essentially, the pair conclude that an EO can be created by having a near death (or to be more precise an actual death) experience and they set out to test the hypothesis. Eli and Victor both succeed and gain powers, though not without cost. Long story short, Victor ends up in jail for a decade, gets out and has revenge at the forefront of his thoughts. The story is split into two timelines – the college days ten years prior and the present day with post-jail Victor, his cell-mate Mitch and a young EO named Sydney who is carrying her own grudge against Eli Ever.

This story has the most excellent anti-heroes. Neither Eli nor Victor is really a hero, though in each of their eyes they are. Eli thinks his calling is to kill all the horrid, unnatural EOs and Victor’s is to kill Eli, not because he’s killing other really, but because Eli wronged him all those years ago. I couldn’t help but to root for Victor and most especially tough little Sydney. She came back with a unique and rather useful gift and her young age and rather traumatic life experiences made her fascinating. Mitch was also an interesting character and I spent most of the book wondering if he was an EO as well and if so, what was his gift. It doesn’t become clear for quite a while if he’s a normal dude or not and the mystery was kind of a nice touch.

Overall, I’m extremely happy with this book. It was awesome on many levels and the story was an excellent one, made even more memorable by a cast of delightfully dark characters. I would LOVE to see a screen adaptation of this and I definitely want to read the recently released sequel, Vengeful as soon as time allows!

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence – Review

Cover- Holy Sister

Published: April 9, 2019

Publisher: Ace Books

Series: Book of the Ancestor #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 368 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

The third installment in a brilliant fantasy series from the international bestselling author of Prince of Thorns.

As a young girl, Nona Grey was saved from the noose by the Abbess of Sweet Mercy. But behind the convent’s walls she learned not a life of prayer and isolation, but one of the blade and the fist. Now she will serve as the convent’s fiercest protector as the emperor moves to destroy the last bastion that stands against him.


The epic, much anticipated finale to the Book of the Ancestor trilogy is here at last and WOWEEE it was great!!! Battle nuns, armies at the city’s doorstep, and oh yeah, THE MOON IS FAILING AND THE UNFORGIVING WALLS OF ICE ARE CLOSING ON THE CORRIDOR. ICY DEATHS AWAIT ALL THOSE WHO DWELL UPON ABETH. Whatever shall they do?

That’s easy, Abbess Glass did some plotting (did she ever stop?) and Nona did some thieving, and there was deception and risk involved. So, not actually that easy or simple. It was pretty epic though, watching all that unfold like one of those perfect little tea leaf flowers submerged in hot water. So elegant. The most jarring thing was the split timelines. One immediately follows the events at the end of Grey Sister and the other is three years later. At first I didn’t really get the purpose of the split timelines, though I quickly got used to it and towards the end everything comes together. This book focuses primarily on the events unfolding in the world at large – ie. The invading armies – and not as much on life at the Abbey, including class time and such. The battles were epic and the bloodshed fierce enough to break the readers heart at times.

Mark Lawrence continued to build on the world he had begun to create in the first two books. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to read more books set on Abeth, whether merely in another country or in an era other than the one Nona’s story is set in. As it is though there is plenty of delightful mystery surrounding the past and those who first populated Abeth. That undefined era lets my imagination and speculation run wild. I liked that there were a few new locations explored in this installment. Imagining a trek across the ice of a frozen planet chilled me to the bone… or maybe that was just February on the East coast.

Overall, Holy Sister was an excellent conclusion to what has been my favorite of Mark Lawrence’s trilogies yet. Following Nona’s journey from childhood to adulthood and up through the ranks of students has been a delightful adventure with heavy doses of action and mischief. 10/10, would read again.

A Parliament of Bodies by Marshall Ryan Maresca – Review

Cover- A Parliament of Bodies

Published: March 26, 2019

Publisher: Daw Books

Series: The Maradaine Constabulary #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 400 (Mass Market)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Mixing high fantasy and mystery, the third book in the Maradaine Constabulary series follows Inspectors Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling as they track down a dangerous murderer.

The city of Maradaine is vexed by the Gearbox Murders: a series of gruesome deaths orchestrated by a twisted mechanical genius. With no motive and no pattern, Inspectors Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling–the retired spy and untrained mage–are at a loss to find a meaningful lead in the case. At least, until the killer makes his most audacious exhibit yet: over a dozen victims in a clockwork deathtrap on the floor of the Druth Parliament.

The crime scene is a madhouse, and political forces conspire to grind their investigation to a halt. The King’s Marshals claim jurisdiction of the case, corruption in the Constabulary thwarts their efforts, and a special Inquest threatens to end Minox’s career completely. Their only ally is Dayne Heldrin, a provisional member of the Tarian Order, elite warriors trained in the art of protection. But Dayne’s connection to the Gearbox Murders casts suspicion on his motives, as he might be obsessed with a phantom figure he believes is responsible.

While Satrine and Minox struggle to stop the Gearbox from claiming even more victims, the grinding gears of injustice might keep them from ever solving these murders, and threaten to dismantle their partnership forever.


Once again MRM has given his readers another glorious fantasy crime drama genre mash-up and I loved every page of it! This is the third book in the Maradaine Constabulary series and it may just be my favorite yet. The stakes are much higher, the plot has a sense of urgency that I don’t recall in the previous books, and if you’ve read all the other Maradaine books you’ll recognize some character cross overs that always make me lose my mind. I love it when the characters cross over even though it’s not really surprising.

Inspectors Rainey and Welling, now members of the Grand Inspectors Unit, have been working a series of grisly killings dubbed The Gearbox Murders. Dayne Heldrin, initiate of the Tarian Order, believes the murders to be the work of Sholiar, a murderous genius he encountered during his stay in Lacanya(??), so when the killer sets up his latest grisly contraption on the floor of Parliament he knows just who to summon. It quickly becomes suspect that this is an insider job – how else could have the deadly contraption have been installed with no one the wiser? People are in danger, there are possible traitors at every turn, and the icing on the proverbial cake is that Minnox is being evaluated to see if he’s truly fit for duty after the events of the previous book.

I pretty much love every character in this book though of course Satrine and Minnox are my favorites, with Corrie Welling a close runner up. I maintain my opinion that Dayne Heldrin is an idiot and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. Minnox’s magical hand remains a largely unexplained oddity though it is now known to be quite the danger. Satrine’s past isn’t quite the secret she thought it was, though we readers don’t get much additional info there.

All in all, A Parliament of Bodies was a solid, entertaining book that I read in a single, very long sitting. I literally did not put this book down all day and carried it around the house with me to get snacks, relocate, etc. because I was utterly engrossed. I’m both slightly miffed and glad that I only have to wait a handful of months before the next Maradaine installment is released.

A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery by Curtis Craddock – Review

Cover- A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery

Published: January 22, 2019

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: The Risen Kingdoms #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery is the masterful sequel to Curtis Craddock’s critically-acclaimed high fantasy An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, which continues the engrossing tale of courtly intrigue and breathtaking magic, and starring our fiercely intelligent heroine Isabelle des Zephyrs with her loyal musketeer Jean-Claude.

Isabelle des Zephyrs has always been underestimated throughout her life, but after discovering the well of hidden magic within her, unveiling a centuries-long conspiracy, and stopping a war between rival nations, she has gained a newfound respect amongst the cutthroat court.

All that is quickly taken away when Isabelle is unfairly convicted of breaking the treaty she helped write and has her political rank and status taken away. Now bereft, she nevertheless finds herself drawn into mystery when her faithful musketeer Jean-Claude uncovers a series of gruesome murders by someone calling themselves the Harvest King.

As panic swells, the capital descends into chaos, when the emperor is usurped from the throne by a rival noble. Betrayed by their allies and hunted by assassins, Isabelle and Jean-Claude alone must thwart the coup, but not before it changes l’Empire forever.


Curtis Craddock’s debut novel An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was an utterly stunning favorite of 2018, filled with magic and mystery. A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery was no less stunning and filled me with equal delight! Also you can see with your own eyes how lovely the cover art for both books are, so this series is practically everything I could want.

Isabelle has always struck me as clever and fairly sensible, so when she basically insta-crushed on one of le Roi’s guards I was kind of delighted. She never stopped being the clever, resourceful girl she’s shown herself to be and this added another layer to a character I already found likeable. The introduction of le Roi’s the mistresses, known collectively as the Trefoil, was another delight. Each is in charge of her own little domain of the government – spying, scheduling, managing etc. and are intimidating women in each their own ways. Funnily enough, Jean Claude’s relationships with each of them make the whole situation even more interesting and helps to illuminate his less than perfect past. Who would have thought he was such a ladies man in his youth? There are a handful of other new and troublesome characters introduced here, but I don’t want to go into detail because it would spoil things.

There are a few major plot threads (I hesitate to claim one as the main since they’re intertwined) all of which kept me turning pages late into the night. First of all, le Roi’s disinherited son has appeared in the capital after a lengthy absence and he’s stirred up trouble and *gasp* talk of reform. Simultaneously, there are people displaying signs of magic that didn’t previously which should NOT be possible… and it’s being stripped from some that do have magic. It’s all quite the scandal and the city is in an uproar – no surprise really, since the presence of a bloodshadow or other magic grants nobility and power.

Overall, this was another excellent read on par with the quality of the first book and possibly with even more courtly intrigue! This is definitely turning out to be one of my favorite fantasy series and it just doesn’t get the hype that many less deserving books do. If you’re looking for a strong female protagonist and a lovable cast of characters you may just want to check The Risen Kingdoms series out before you’re late to the fun!

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden – Review

Cover- The Winter of the Witch

Published: January 8, 2019

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Series: The Winternight Trilogy #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

Reviewers called Katherine Arden’s novels The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower “lyrical,” “emotionally stirring,” and “utterly bewitching.” The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

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


I tend to find that series finales disappoint me to some degree – I mean, I hype these books up in my head and spend time thinking up possible endings. The Winter of the Witch was actually a VERY satisfying conclusion to Vasilisa Petrovna’s story and had a nice balance between melancholy and triumph.

At the end of The Girl in the Tower Moscow was set ablaze and it was partially Vasya’s doing. The events catch up with her and results in that possessed priest at the head of a mob hungry for blood and vengeance. Have I ever mentioned how much I can’t stand that character? He’s just awful! Vasya escapes into the land of Midnight and she slowly morphs INTO HER FINAL FORM. Nah, not quite that dramatic, but she eventually becomes who she’s always meant to be – a bridge between human and chyerti. I loved Vasya and her fierce bravery and the powerful beings like Morozko, Medved, and Polunochnitsa that swirl through her life. There’s an interesting give and take relationship between them that makes things feel balanced rather than the power being skewed to one side or the other.

This installment had some serious moments of sadness that were written so well – absolute jabs to heart. The setting was, as always, magical and memorable. I particularly like when Vasya travelled through Midnight – the idea that this realm was each and every midnight that every existed or would exist was like, the pinnacle of fairytale coolness. Oh, and if you fell asleep in a midnight that wasn’t yours, you wouldn’t be able to return home again. Plus there were mushroom-men, river spirits, and even the undead upyry (Russian vampires).

I loved The Winter of the Witch, though honestly I’m not sure which of the three books ended up being my favorite. I would say this one, but I think that’s just because it’s the one I read last. All three books in the trilogy were so well written and feel like the perfect books to be read aloud on a cold, firelight filled winter night. Katherine Arden has really written something special that could be our next modern classic.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – Review

cover-three-dark-crowns

Published: September 20, 2016

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 398 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Synopsis:

When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.


I have been so excited for the release of Three Dark Crowns since I read the synopsis many, many months ago and LO, IT WAS FINALLY RELEASED. Guys, I read this in a single sitting. I ignored people and didn’t get anything particularly useful done for the better part of a Sunday. I had intended to read it over the course of the week, but it was too good to put down so I didn’t put it down.

The premise is that there are triplet sisters born to every Queen of Fennbirn. Once the sisters are born, the queen and her consort abdicate the throne and leave for the mainland, never to be heard from again. The girls are aspected towards being a poisoner, a naturalist, or an elemental and go to train with a prominent family of the same aspect. When they reach their sixteenth birthday, they go through a bunch of higgledy-piggledy ceremony and then the bloodbath begins. One sister must triumph over the others by killing them within the space of a single year. The winner will be crowned Queen and the process begins anew. The whole thing is so dark and terrible- I simply loved the idea.

Arsinoe, Katherine, and Mirabella have just turned sixteen and each is struggling in their own way with the looming possibility of death. To compound this, there’s a serious political power struggle between the Black Council (interim rulers) and the Temple priestesses of the island, which believe they deserve power of their own. Each chapter switches perspectives between the sisters, so none is over or under-represented to the reader. This is something I really appreciated because that’s a pretty darn good way to sway the reader into choosing a definite favorite or in this case making the winner obvious. This book seemed straightforward and predictable at first glance, but I soon realized that it was anything but simple.

HEREAFTER SPOILERS ABOUND. Continue reading

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks – Review

Cover- The Black Prism

Published: August 25, 2010 (1st Ed.)

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 661 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. Yet Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live.

When Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.


I always thought the idea of light and color based magic sounded a little cheesy, but after seeing so many rave reviews for the Lightbringer series, I decided that I had to at least give it a try. Can I just apologize for making judgments? This was one of the most interesting and laugh out loud funny books I’ve read in so long! I was constantly grinning and laughing about one character or another’s antics and it was an absolute joy to read.

The whole premise of the light magic is incredibly fascinating and has a good logic to it. The Prism (Gavin Guile) can wield all colors in the spectrum from sub-red to superviolet and doesn’t have to worry about overextending himself to the same degree that other “drafters” do. He’s more of a religious symbol than a political power, though he does have significant influence over the other colors and keeps a balance on the amount of color drafted. Other drafters can be monochromes, bichromes, or polychromes, wielding one, two, or multiple colors respectively. They can overuse their power and break turn into color wights which are basically varying degrees of madmen and are killed as soon as possible to keep order and prevent chaos from reigning.

The plot was rich- an abundance of action, a plethora of plot twists, and you would not believe the subplots and the games within games. It’s truly a thing of beauty. The best plot twist didn’t happen at the end of the book, but rather in the first third. It was one of the most mind-blowing revelations that I’ve EVER come across in my many years of reading. HOLY CRAP IT WAS AWESOME. I read the rest of the book with an entirely different mindset because it changed everything I thought I knew. For this alone I think fantasy readers should give it a go.

The actual characters, their choices, and actions are what really made this book so on point. The Prism is likable and charismatic and the man has a seven year plan, which is respectable. Everyone should have goals. Karris White Oak is one tough chick- she bounced back from relationship rejection to become a powerful fighter and drafter in the Blackguards. Kip though might be my favorite because he’s the one that kept making me laugh. His lines were spectacular, for instance, “Oh, the little brother comparison. Just what every man wants to hear from a beautiful woman. I’ve just been castrated”. That’s not even the best one because I forgot to tag the best one (silly me). Liv Danavis is also amazing and it’s great to read a book where there are two awesome female characters and they aren’t immediately lovestruck. I could go on, but I’ll spare you people.

I hope that anyone out there who was initially skeptical of this book will give it a chance like I did and find it to be enjoyable at the very least. I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series and did I mention that The Blood Mirror comes out later this year?? Well, it does, so I can go ahead and binge read if I feel like it! I would like to do an in depth analysis or discussion post about some of the characters or the storyline of this book (and others) – perhaps I’ll find the time to do that soon!