Title: The Night Country
Author: Melissa Albert
Page Count: 331
Series: The Hazel Wood, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 7, 2020 by Flatiron Books
Review: This book had a great start and then…stalled out. I ripped through the first few chapters, and then found myself losing steam as nothing really seemed to happen. The first book in this series, The Hazel Wood, was positively magical. I found myself wrapped up in the numerous fairytales and in the overarching storyline. I was hoping for much of the same in the follow up, and although there were some similarities, it wasn’t nearly as engaging as it’s predecessor. It was still dark and twisted, but there were less stories and it focused on a mystery that dragged on before ending abruptly. In the interim of time that has passed between Alice and Finch’s last meeting, Finch has been traveling between worlds. Sadly the reader sees almost none of that. Similarly, years have passed for Alice, but we still have no idea what she is doing aside from moping around. As with many sequels for books I loved, I just expected more than what I got. I am unclear if this is a duology or a series because the ending seemed to be rather definitive. I can’t imagine where the story would go from here, but maybe Albert will surprise me.
Title: Empire of Storms
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 704
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 5
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 6, 2016 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Review: My opinion of this book is very similar to my opinion of the last few books in this series. The action throughout is thrilling and the ending is particularly strong. Although this book is still categorized as Young Adult fiction like it’s predecessors, I would argue that it would more accurately be categorized as New Adult fiction. Aelin is now 20 years old, and the romances depicted in this series have gotten increasingly steamy with each installment. There is a whole lot of sex in book 5, so young readers be prepared if you are not expecting it!
My biggest gripe with this series in general is that Aelin’s elaborate scheming always seems to pan out just the way she envisions. Of course there is a real wrench thrown in at the end to keep the series going, but overall, things just seem to always work out, no matter how great the odds are stacked against them. A lot of it is rather far-fetched…for example, Aelin calls in a favor with one particular ally without actually communicating what it is she needs. The ally just happens to glean exactly what Aelin wants by receiving cryptic reports from a spy. Ohhhkkayyy. Seems unlikely. But I am going to move past it because I made it this far and I am still enjoying the series enough to finish two more lengthy books.
Title: Queen of Shadows
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 648
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 4
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 1, 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Review: I was so excited to start The Assassin’s Blade that I actually forgot to write a review for this book…oops. I suppose this is a compliment to Maas, who continues to impress me with her epic sagas.
At the conclusion of this book, it seemed like the series had reached it’s climax, only for Maas to throw another curveball that completely changes the game. I really appreciate this about Maas, because while some aspects of her story are predictable and formulaic, she somehow always manages to surprise me with the overall direction of the plot. I would say that reading this book, it was the first time that I really contemplated whether this series takes place in the same world as her A Court of Thorns and Roses series. For some reason I found this prospect to be thrilling, and I look forward to seeing new lands in the next three books.
As with the last book, Maas introduced new characters that I have grown very fond of, and I look forward to seeing how their storylines develop as well.
Also, revenge is sweet, and you get plenty of that in this particular installment.
Title: The Assassin’s Blade
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 448
Series: Throne of Glass, 0.1-0.5
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 4, 2014 by Bloomsbury Childrens
Review: Truly my only regret in picking up this collection of novellas is that I didn’t do so sooner. This collection is broken into five short stories that provide more context for Celaena’s backstory. Maas artfully interweaves storylines and characters that later appear in the Throne of Glass series into heart-pounding and thrilling adventures. The only novella that really had me struggling to get through it was the last one, and that was simply because I knew what devastating outcome awaited Celaena.
Maas is very formulaic in how she builds her romances – two people formerly at odds become passionate lovers – and the romance that ties together these short stories is no different. I found this to be slightly annoying at first, however, Sam was just so lovable as a character that I couldn’t help but fall for him. To be frank, the rest of Celaena’s romantic history really lost some of its sparkle after reading this because, well, I still wanted her to be with Sam. Because he is not actually present in any of the Throne of Glass books, I did not realize how influential he was in shaping Celaena’s later decisions. Celaena’s character has a certain naivety in these stories that no longer exists after the events that transpire in these novellas.
Now that I have picked up back where I left off in the Throne of Glass series, characters and events that are mentioned in passing suddenly make more sense and I am provided subtle clarity as I comb back through my memories of what has happened so far. I look forward to seeing more connections as I continue forward with the series.
Author: Marissa Meyer
Performer: Rebecca Soler and Dan Bittner
Length: 17 hr, 5 min, 45 sec
Series: Renegades, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2017 by MacMillan Young Listeners
Review: I am a big fan of Marissa Meyer and Rebecca Soler, so I knew I simply must listen to this book in audiobook format. Soler’s performance was stellar as always, but this particular book didn’t really showcase the breadth of her talent like other books written by Marissa Meyer have. There was not a lot of character voice variance, though this was partially because the second POV was narrated by a second performer.
As for the story itself, I have to start by saying that I really enjoy Meyer’s ability to write emotional origin stories for villains. This book sort of falls in that category, though I would not compare it to Heartless or Fairest. This book is written in two POVs, and this worked really well for this particular story, because it really highlights the blur between the hero and villain narrative. Both characters are fundamentally good people with radically different experiences and ideas. This puts them at odds, and while society worships one, they demonize the other. This creates some intriguing conflicts, and leads to a lot of character development.
Despite it’s many merits, I would not say this is Meyer’s strongest book. I love the X-Men stories, and though their influence is clearly apparent in this book, I found the story dragged a bit long and at some points frustrated me. I found it very odd that the Renegades embraced Nova so completely and she so easily infiltrated their ranks. I also found some of Nova’s ideology to be a bit contradictory, and her backstory did not fully convince me that it made sense for her to so whole-heartedly despise the Renegades. The conclusion sort of surprised me, though I had already predicted some of the plot twists. It was more of the manner in which they were revealed that surprised me rather than the actual reveals themselves. Based on the ending, I am strongly considering reading the next book, however, I am in no rush and will be attacking other books in my “to read” pile first.
Title: The Queen’s Assassin
Author: Melissa De La Cruz
Page Count: 384
Series: Queen’s Secret, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 4, 2020
Review: I see this author’s name on our book shelves quite frequently at the library, but I have never before read any of her books. When I saw this ARC being offered up by NetGalley, I decided to give her a try. To summarize my thoughts on this story: it was utterly predictable. In general this story went from plot point A to plot point B with little fanfare or complexity. For a book that is advertised as “perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas,” this was rather disappointing. The only thing I thought unique about it was that the author wrote one POV in first person, and the other in third person. I can’t recall ever seeing this done before, and I could not decide whether or not I liked it. It is unclear to me why the author made this stylistic choice, because it didn’t seem to add anything special to the narrative.
In short, it certainly wasn’t the worst YA fantasy fiction book I have ever read, but it didn’t interest me enough to want to continue onto the next book.
Title: Children of Virtue and Vengeance
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Page Count: 448
Series: Legacy of Orisha, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: December 3, 2019 by Henry Holt and Co.
Review: It pains me to write this review because I had such high hopes for this book. I LOVED Children of Blood and Bone and checked this book out the day it was available at our libraries. I immediately dove into it and then….stalled. No matter how many times I picked it back up, I just couldn’t get into it. It quickly became apparent that the characters I loved from the first book were gone. In their place were characters I didn’t even recognize or like. The relationships that I had hoped would be fleshed out more in this book still felt forced and lacked substance. The action was sporadic and when I should have felt devastated, I felt nothing. There was no character development that made me feel invested in the story, so the betrayals and atrocities made very little impact on me. There had been great potential for character growth after such an epic conclusion to the first book, which leads me to believe that the author rushed this book to meet some deadline. I read in one of Adeyemi’s interviews that she did not have a break between completing the first book and writing this one, but I had hoped that this would not effect the quality of her story development. Though these hopes were quickly dashed, I am clinging to my sense of optimism for the next book, which is why I could not bring myself to give this book a lower rating. Hopefully she takes her time with it because despite it all, I still believe in this story. The way the book ended, I highly suspect she will be taking a page from history and incorporating elements of the slave trade and African diaspora. Only time will tell where she decides to go from here. Until then, my fingers are crossed!
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Page Count: 335
Series: Lux, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 8, 2012 by Entangled Teen
Review: I can’t say I didn’t know what I was getting into with this. It was a light paranormal read that didn’t make me think too much. It follows a very standard formula. New girl who doesn’t know she is beautiful moves into small town and meets mysterious and attractive boy. There is instant attraction and they immediately start a love/hate relationship. The boy, who also happens to be an alien, runs hot and cold, but eventually succumbs to his feelings for human girl. Throw in some bad guys, a happy-go-lucky sister, a jealous ex and you’ve got a pretty predictable plot for this book. Admittedly, this is sometimes the type of book I want to read, especially after I have read books with heavier content, but it was nothing new or original. I will likely not be moving on with the series.
Title: Heir of Fire
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 565
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 3
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 2, 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Children
Review: I personally found this to be the most exciting installment in the series so far. We see entirely new settings, meet new characters, and get a deeper glimpse into Celaena’s past. All these additions add more depth to Celaena’s character and make her a more inspiring heroine.
This book also introduced an entirely new character point of view, that of the witch Manon. I LOVED her storyline, even though at this point it is hard to see how it will play into the larger plot. Her chapters literally had my heart pounding and there were some scenes that literally gave me goosebumps. I would finish the chapters feeling exhilarated and utterly disappointed to be moving back to another character perspective. I had to strongly resist the urge to skip ahead to her next chapter. I took a bit of a pause between reading books 2 and 3 in this series, but as soon as I turned the final page of this book I snapped up book 4 because I cannot wait to pick up her story again.
Title: A Violet Fire
Author: Kelsey Quick
Page Count: Unknown
Series: Vampire in Avignon
Publishing Date/Publisher: December 9, 2019 by Kelsey Quick
Review: I typically do not have high expectations for self-published books, but this one surprised me. I found it to be an easy read, and I enjoyed the concept of living vampires. I also enjoyed that humans could not be simply be turned into vampires. They could in theory make offspring with vampires, but they were genetically different enough that a human could not become one.
In some ways this book follows the typical tropes of paranormal romances, but it was different enough that the story kept me engaged. I felt that the weakest aspect of the story was the development of the central romance. It’s not insta-love, but not a lot of dialogue is shown between the two characters to help the reader understand the relationship. The reader is aware that time is passing, but aside from a first interaction and a final interaction, there isn’t much substance in between to make the relationship feel real. In fact, when the final twist is revealed, I was not at all affected because I was not made to be invested in the relationship in the first place.
I will say, however, that I liked the direction the story was moving in, and I would most certainly continue reading the series if it were to become available to me.