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.
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.
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: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Page Count: 292
Publishing Date/Publisher: July 3, 2012 by HarperCollins Children’s Books
Review: I had a very difficult time rating this book because it had a lot of elements that I loved, and yet the ending did not make the impact on me that I was expecting it to.
I really enjoy reading retellings of classic tales, and this one really takes the cake for originality. I thought that the author very cleverly wove in concepts such as modernization, colonialism, and the proselytization of indigenous peoples into the narrative. She also touches upon some very difficult topics such as abuse, rape, murder, suicide, trauma recovery, and transphobia (for lack of a better word). A lot of these subjects can be gleaned through subtext, so they may not be apparent to every reader. I want to stress that this book is not at all graphic or gratuitous. It simply shows that even in a place as magical as Neverland, darkness lurks beneath the surface.
The author does a really good job of balancing the heavier content with the yearnings of first love. Tiger Lily and Peter’s love is intense and raw, but their naivety adds an element of innocence to it. It is heartbreaking as a reader to witness their struggles as they try to define themselves and what they mean to each other. This book very eloquently shows that although we may not always end up with our first love, they can still hold a special place in our hearts long after we have moved on.
The ending of this book was satisfying in it’s own way, while at the same time feeling a bit rushed. That, coupled with the slow pacing, prevented me from giving it a full four star rating.
Title: The UnTied Kingdom
Author: Kate Johnson
Performer: Julia Barrie
Length: 15 hr, 4 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2013 by Recorded Books
Review: Well I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, but it was still an enjoyable read. The narrator was easy to listen to, and the story for the most part had a lot of action. This book was surprisingly light on romance for a romance novel. It was clear from the beginning who the fated pair would be, but the romance really doesn’t blossom until well into the last half of the book.
I am always a little leary of “time travel” books because I find the concept to be so confusing and overdone. I would consider this to be more of a “parallel universe” book with very little explanation as to how the hole between worlds works. The parallel universe Eve lands in is more of an alternate history where the trajectory of significant historical events has been changed, resulting in Britain essentially becoming a third world country that has been torn apart by civil wars. I would have liked to know more about how the rest of this reimagined world works, but you only get snippets here and there throughout the story. In a lot of ways this makes the story very insular and I was left with many questions. It is always interesting to think about how changing the past might affect the future, and it is fascinating to consider how even one decision could change the whole course of history. I suppose Johnson could write a thousand novels based on this topic and I would still have questions, so I must be content with the brief glimpse I am given in this one.
Title: Impossible Things
Author: Kate Johnson
Performer: Penelope Rawlins
Length: 13 hr, 34 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2015 by W.F. Howes, Ltd.
Review: I decided to veer away from the realm of Young Adult fiction because most of the audiobooks I want to listen to are on hold. I browsed around for awhile and landed on this audiobook, which was immediately available through my library. I checked it out with low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised from the very first chapter. The performer was very engaging, and I was immediately sucked into the story of Ishtaer and Kael.
Ishtaer was an interesting character. She had a lot of depth and her character arc was very profound. She spends most of the book working through her traumas, coming into her powers, and finding the version of herself that was lost through years of abuse and captivity. Kael was a rather cliché character – brooding, fierce, and secretly sensitive – but, I still enjoyed him. I appreciated that this was not an insta-love story, but rather a slow build romance (my favorite kind). Although it was clear that there was going to be a romantic angle, it wasn’t very critical to the plot until the very end. This allowed for a lot more character development from Ishtaer and overall made the story feel more like high fantasy rather than a paranormal romance.
This book lost a star for me because although the author is a very talented writer, her action sequences were short on description and entirely implausible. I was glad to see representation for people with disabilities in a fantasy novel (Ishtaer was blind and her best friend was an amputee), but it almost seemed like Ishtaer’s blindness was used as a literary crutch to explain away things that should have been better described, and this was especially apparent during scenes where Ishtaer was pulling off something heroic. Even so, the book was so engaging and well-written that I was able to look past these shortcomings and love the story for what it was. I will absolutely be reading more books by this author!