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: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Page Count: 230
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 12, 2007 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Review: I was looking through available eBooks in our library catalog, and decided it was finally time to read this book. I recommend it a lot to teens because the format, cartooning, and writing style has made it beloved by many young readers.
I have to admit I was very impressed that Alexie could make such serious content humorous. Arnold/Junior does not have an easy life, yet he approaches each new situation with courage, wit, and resilience. There were times when I was both cringing and laughing simultaneously – an odd feeling indeed.
Arnold/Junior makes a very difficult decision to leave the “rez” to attend a “white” school in a neighboring town. At first he is shunned by both the Indians he left behind, and the kids at his new school who view him as an outsider, but gradually he starts to gain acceptance from his new peers. In a lot of ways this book was very illuminating regarding life on a “rez,” and reveals some of the challenges that many Native American tribes face today. Arnold/Junior is very realistic about his situation, discussing in particular the difficulties of poverty and alcoholism in his family, but I never once got the impression that he felt unloved or unsupported by his family members (which is rare in a book that features alcoholic parents). Arnold/Junior knew he wanted a different situation for himself, thus branching outside the rez, but he never forgot where he came from and he still held out hope until the very end for reconciliation with his tribe. I would imagine this book has been very inspiring for people in similar situations – those who are afraid to break the mold and step into the unknown. Arnold/Junior shows that it’s not easy, but it is possible, and sometimes the results can be positive in ways you do not expect.