Throne of Glass

I picked up Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas sometime in 2015. May? October? Not sure when. I recall purchasing it a week before I had to drop my mother at the airport; on the way back I stopped at a Starbucks and started reading it. I stopped after about 30 pages, then didn’t pick it up again until recently.

Not surprisingly, it was another of those books I bought because of the interesting cover. Pretty covers, the bane of my bookish existence.

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Throne of Glass is the Cinderella inspired story of Celaena Sardothien, a notorious assassin who, one year prior to the story, was caught and sent to the salt mines of Endovier. It is thought that she wouldn’t survive the brutality of Endovier, but she does and is propositioned by Crown Prince Dorian Havilliard to be his Champion in a contest held by his father, the King of Adarlan. If Celaena beats 23 other sponsored Champions – all assassins, thieves, or disgraced soldiers – then she will become the King’s Champion, doing his bidding for four years before gaining her freedom. Celaena agrees and is promptly whisked away to Rithfold, Adarlan’s capital, where she is trained mostly by the Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall. While at Rithfold, she befriends the princess Nehemia, a rebel princess from a conquered country, who has her own secret agenda. Without spoiling any details, Celaena does win the contest as one would expect a lot of different events occur in the meantime, including many of the Champions being mysteriously and brutally murdered before the final Test.

Throne of Glass takes place in a richly imagined country. The writing isn’t Shakespeare (but that’s never been a factor for me) but it is well written and paced. The supporting characters are great. Dorian starts seemingly as the typical spoiled Crown Prince but the reader soon learns that he is nothing like his father and vastly disagrees with the ways in which the King rules and conquers. Chaol is a stoic, loyal Captain who at first distrusts Celaena but comes to realize that although she is an assassin she still has honor. Nehemia appears as an exotic princess from a foreign land, woefully undereducated in the ways of Adarlan court; but it is later revealed that she has secrets and she doesn’t reveal all her secrets in the end. The scenes are well thought out and written; there’s even a ballroom scene reminiscent of Cinderella.

What I really don’t like about Throne of Glass is Celaena. 97% of the story is written from Celaena’s point of view, and by all accounts she is the typical teen heroine. She is vain, arrogant regarding her skills, a smart aleck (though no denying she is smart and witty), and somewhat of a brat. She’s also atypical; she’s a well known assassin at 17, suffers from PTSD, has a traumatic past that she sometimes has trouble suppressing, and she obviously has feeling for both Dorian and Chaol but doesn’t go so far as to say she loves either one. It’s Celaena’s atypical qualities that I like best, but I still had trouble connecting with her throughout the story. I hear it gets better in the subsequent books, but I am still deciding if I want to read them.

Overall, Throne of Glass has promise but I feel it falls a little short with its heroine. Celaena has a lot of promise and I do hope she improves in the later part of the series. But as a book on it’s own, I’m not sure I’m enamored with this volume.

My rating: 3.5/5

 

The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Prince

Let me start by saying that: I LOVE the Infernal Devices trilogy. I love the characters, I love the setting, I love everything about it. I recently finished Clockwork Prince, the second installment of the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare and it was just as good as Clockwork Angel.

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The story picks up about two weeks after Clockwork Angel; the story itself also spans a two week period. We learn that everyone in the London Institute has been questioned/interrogated about what occurred at the end of Clockwork Angel. We also learn that no one still understands who or what Tessa is – apart from the Magister himself (who, by the way, does not make an appearance in this novel). We also learn that Will has been having secret meetings with Magnus, which continue throughout this story.

Charlotte Branwell’s leadership of the London Institute comes in question. She is challenged for the position by Benedict Lightwood and is given two weeks to find the Magister or she forfeits the Institute. At the same time, Charlotte struggles with the fact that she loves Henry but he doesn’t appear to return her love.

If the threat of losing her most recent home isn’t a problem, Tessa also has to contend with her feelings for Will along with growing attachment towards Jem. At one point, both boys declare their love for Tessa and she has a difficult time reconciling her feelings towards them. To love one means to hurt another, but when Tessa finds herself unable to decide she discovers that the one hurt the most ultimately might be herself.

What I really like about this middle installment is that we get a better sense of who the characters are. We find that Charlotte, while outwardly she appears strong, may actual be breaking inside. Tessa continues to struggle to find out who she is while also trying to solve the problem of her warring feelings. Jem continues to remain a cheerful, steady force but at one point succumbs to his own very shortened vulnerability. And Will continues to war with himself over his love for everyone – especially Tessa – and curse that could kill them all. In the end, without revealing spoilers, Charlotte keeps the Institute but the group must suffer a betrayal they didn’t expect. How will it all, ultimately, end?

Just one more book to go! 🙂

My rating: 5/5

War of the Seasons, Part 1: The Human

I was working as a volunteer at ConCarolinas in 2015, assisting Michael Hogan at his table. (I know, right?!) One of the many people who came up to Mr. Hogan was Janine Spendlove. Janine is not only an author, but a geek and a Marine pilot. She loves her job and she loves her fandoms, especially Star Wars. I love following her on Instagram and seeing the amazing aerial pictures she takes during her flights. It’s also a really awesome feeling when she likes my photos or responds to my comments.

As she was speaking to Mr. Hogan, I listened – intrigued – by her description of her books. ConCarolinas was the weekend after another convention I attended and a week before I was to leave for a Yellowstone trip, so I had zero funds to purchase one of her books at the time. During a brief encounter, I asked her the name of her book series and Janine was kind enough to give me a postcard with the book covers (and remember me). A few months later, I purchased the first book in her War of the Seasons series, The Human.

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War of the Seasons is a simple read, nothing Shakespeare-esque but very well written and eloquent in its own right. The story follows Story who, during a weird spelunking incident, finds herself in another world. It’s a world of faeries, elves, and dyads, a world very much akin to Middle Earth yet very different at the same time. Faeries are not inherently good or bad, but they are very mischievous. The Faerie Prince has a long standing feud with the elves of which only a prophesied individual can sever. Story is, as many believe, that prophesied one. It is the duty of Eirnin, a young elf of the Hunter clan of elves, to find Story and bring her back to the Elf Queen. During their journey, they meet more fantastical beings before meeting the Elf Queen and setting off on another journey and meeting even more fantastical beings. Along the way, Story learns a few things about herself that are hinted at to the reader but never explicitly said.

The book ends with the prophesy being fulfilled but not in the way most everyone was expecting. Some are confused by the change, some are angered by it, but what it brings remains yet to be seen…in this volume at least. I have book two, The Half-Blood, currently on my to-read pile so we shall see soon.

I found this book to be delightful, familiar to things I’ve read before but not so familiar that it becomes redundant and cliche. I’ve always liked elves and Janine’s version is similar yet different from other stories I’ve read. I found myself really drawn to the dyads in the story. Looking forward to seeing what the next installment brings. 🙂

My rating: 5/5

Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor was recommended by a librarian friend of mine when I complained that the book I was reading at the time wasn’t holding my interest (despite its high recommendation from a few good friends, I just can’t read Swordpoint).

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DSB is a fantasy novel that makes you feel like it could actually be real. This is mostly due to the fact that Taylor sets and starts the story in modern day Prague. I do not know anything about the layout of Prague except that it is a place many people consider worth traveling to. It is known to boast old world architecture and the author makes reference to many places within the city. Again, I know nothing about Prague but Taylor has been there before so I trust she knows the area.

The story starts off with Karou, who by all accounts is a normal girl. Except she has no parents. And nobody knows where she came from before she came to Prague. And the fact that she’s a foreigner who speaks perfect Czech (as one of the characters says “who speaks Czech besides the Czechs?”) among other languages. The reader soon learns that there’s more to Karou than one believes, but even she does not realize who she really is. Not until the end of the story anyway.

The novel is filled with the supernatural, but only Karou is aware of its existence for most of the story. There are chimera and angels, and you never know who is in the right and who is in the wrong. There is magic and wishes, but everything comes with a price. It doesn’t take long for Karou to see that there is more to the world than even she knows.

By the end, both the reader and Karou come to grips with who she really is. But then it all ends…on a cliffhanger. And you are literally left wondering: what happens next?

Luckily, everything continues in Days of Blood & Starlight. Stay tuned for its review.

My rating: 5/5

Have Courage, Be Kind: The Tale of Cinderella

Growing up, Cinderella was probably one of my least favorite Disney animated movies. It wasn’t really a story that appealed to me. When I was younger, I was a tomboy so I preferred the princes over the princesses…and Prince Charming was a bit of a dud. (Prince Phillip, on the other hand, now that was a prince.)

As I grew older, I began to shed my tomboy habits – not much though, but I began to like more feminine things. So when the live action Cinderella movie was released, all I could think about was “ooooh, pretty dress.”

But enough of that, how about a book review?

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Have Courage, Be Kind: The Tale of Cinderella is a beautiful book. Literally beautiful. The hardcover book sports glossy pages with color illustrations scattered about. The glossy, thick pages makes it difficult to bend back the spine and the book doesn’t lay flat but they are just right for the almost watercolor-like illustrations. The story is easy to read with medium sized font. It’s also a very fast read if you are familiar with the movie; I read the book in a single day after a long day at work.

The story alternates between Ella and Kit’s point of views, following the flow of the movie. While not being very descriptive, it still is faithful to the movie. There are some added bits you don’t get in the film, such as Kit’s thoughts as he is returning from the stag hunt just after meeting Ella but before his portrait scene. You also get a little more insight to the scene between the Grand Duke and Lady Tremaine just before their meeting. My favorite addition is Kit and the Captain’s conspiracy before the slipper search; if you’ve ever wondered just how Kit came to be the search party, you’ll find out in this book. There is also one addition scene after the wedding that ends the story very sweetly and happily.

The book itself isn’t a great work of fiction, but it is beautiful and very much worth a read if you are a fan of any version of the Cinderella tale. The illustrations alone make it well worth the price.

My rating: 5/5

The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel

A few years ago, I tried reading City of Bones just after the movie was released. I couldn’t. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t. I liked the world, I liked the story concept, the writing was fine. I have no issues with Cassandra Clare starting as a fan fiction writer – hell, I wrote fan fiction in college. I just didn’t really like the characters – beyond Alec, Magnus, and Izzy. Clary and Jace just didn’t speak to me; I couldn’t feel them or feel with them. I know their story (thanks Google) but I just couldn’t read the books.

At about the same time, Clockwork Angel was released. Again, I was sucked in by the cover. (If you hadn’t noticed, I like pretty art. Pretty cover art is constantly my downfall.) The storyline was interesting, and the characters seemed more varied than the Mortal Instruments – to me at least. But I wasn’t a big reader at the time so I brushed it off.

Fast forward to this year where I am devouring books. I decided to give Clockwork Angel a try since the Shadowhunters tv series came out. (Still don’t like Clary and Jace even though Katherine McNamara and Dominic Sherwood do such a wonderful job with their characters.) The cover art has changed, but still pretty. And the story…oh yes, I do like this story much better than Mortal Instruments.

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I am a sucker for Victorian England based stories. Even though I am no historian, I love the elegance of the time period. And to see how Shadowhunters function in such a society was refreshing. Again, I’m not a historian so if Clare gets any facts wrong about the time period or place I can’t spot them – not that it really matters since this is a work of fiction. But what I enjoy the most about the book is Tessa Gray. I simply adore Tessa. I love discovering the Shadowhunter world as she discovers it. Even in the span of one volume you can see Tessa starting to come into herself, becoming a confident woman who is accepting of who she is and the world she finds herself in. I like books and movies where there are characters I can relate to, and I definitely relate to Tessa.

Reading Clockwork Angel is like discovering the world of the Nephilim anew. If you haven’t read the Mortal Instruments series like me, you won’t be missing much. I’m almost certain that there will be some scenes in MI that will be eluded to in the later volumes, but for the first volume I didn’t see anything confusing. It does help a bit that I have seen the 2013 movie (even though it wasn’t the greatest) and am currently watching the Shadowhunters tv series (even though some scenes seem to have changed).

I am so glad I waited to read Clockwork Angel. I’m sure if I had read it as the series was being released, I would have been either super anxious because of the waiting or have become discouraged by it. Now, I can read them all without having to wait unless I decide to.

And, for the record, I like Jem over Will. 😛

My rating: 5/5

Outlander

I’m about 20 some years behind the curve on this one, but hey I was just a babe when it was first published. (Not a babe, exactly, more like 10 and way too young to be reading such a book.) I recall my mother talking about this book, describing the parts of the story she could remember when I was older. Who knew that one day I would actually be reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon myself?

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I actually didn’t read the novel under after watching about half of the Starz television series. I absolutely fell in love with the costumes and set designs, the backdrops and scenery. It made me curious as to the original novel, so I picked it up on the Kindle (then later in actual paperback). It’s a long novel, near some 600 pages, and I’m a slow-ish reader so it took me nearly a month to complete. But I fell in love with the scenery and the characters, particularly Claire. I am one of those people who do believe that magic exists in the world, but there are all forms of it and it takes mysterious shapes.

The fascination with Outlander, I believe, is that it is entirely possible. There’s no oddness to how Claire actually finds herself in 18th century Scotland. The possibility is all rooted in druid mysticism, which makes the concept entirely possible. There’s no superhuman or supernatural-ness about it. Claire doesn’t suddenly gain all this insightful knowledge of the past. She has to rely on herself, her own knowledge and wits, and the few bits of information she has picked up to get by in what seems to be a more primitive world.

Outlander is the first of what is – currently – eight volumes. I have no desire to read the remaining volumes, however. I have read the synopsis of each and, while intriguing, the plot line doesn’t hold my attention beyond the first novel. The intrigue for me was the possibility of time travel, the chance that it only works once, and what would life be like if one were stuck in the past. With Claire journeying back and forth – and later other characters – that intrigue is lost for me. I feel Outlander ends perfectly, with a “what if?” type of scene that allows one to imagine the possibilities. I know many people love the entire series, but I think for me personally I won’t be reading any other volumes.

My rating: 5/5