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.
Title: Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All
Author: Laura Ruby
Performer: Lisa Flanagan
Length: 9 hr
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2019 by Balzar + Bray
Review: I had great expectations for this book, because I really loved Bone Gap. Ruby does a great job with magical realism, and this book is no exception; however, I found this book to be a bit too meandering for my liking. It follows two characters, one alive and one deceased, and oftentimes there really doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the plot. It jumps from one story to another, with the reader occasionally getting a glimpse of the past. The deceased character, Pearl, is fascinated by Frankie’s life although it isn’t really clear to me why. Pearl isn’t sure why she hasn’t ascended, and there isn’t any real resolution to this (in my opinion). Secrets are revealed, but they didn’t blow my mind because there was no anticipation built up around them. I wasn’t bored listening to this audiobook, but I also wasn’t chomping at the bit to get back to it. It was a nice snapshot of the time period, but overall a very average read for me.
On an entirely different note, I loved the title of this book, loved the cover, and I thought the reader did a great job.
Author: Madeline Miller
Page Count: 393
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 10, 2018 by Little, Brown and Company
Review: Lyrical and enchanting, this book had me enthralled from the very first page. Very little attention is given to the witch Circe in most mythological tales, but Miller creates a backstory that is humanizing and utterly unforgettable. In this rendering, Circe is not a predatory monster, but rather a woman driven by her passions and yearnings. She refuses to be a victim and takes ownership of her own trauma and pain, weaving it into a tapestry of strength and love. She and she alone controls her destiny.
When I finally turned the last page and closed this book, I was filled with such a feeling of completeness. Although the year is not quite at an end, I can say with confidence that this is by far my favorite read of 2019.
Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Page Count: 208
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 10, 2019 by Make Me a World
Review: After reading this book I am surprised that it is cataloged as YA Fiction. It really read like J Fiction to me. I had to keep reminding myself that the main character is seventeen, because her character seems much younger.
The setting is a sort of Utopia where the “monsters” have been eliminated and everyone treats each other nicely (or so they think). From the very first chapter I could have outlined the entire plot of the story. I can’t say much more than what is in the synopsis without completely giving everything away, but I can tell you that the story follows a very predictable path.
I admire what the author is trying to do with this book – she is revealing the dangers of complacency and denial – but it is all overly simplified. The backstory as to how this “Utopia” setting was achieved is completely preposterous. Basically anyone and everyone who has ever committed an atrocity has supposedly been identified and imprisoned. Society has realized the error of their ways and all people are accepted regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ableness, etc, etc., etc. This book was very short, but I honestly think it could have been shorter. This would have been a great short story for an anthology if all the repetitive filler was removed.
I generally enjoy books that employ elements of magical realism, but this one just wasn’t for me.