A Court of Mist and Fury – SPOILER ALERT

The sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury – or ACOMAF as many refer to it – expands upon the world of Prythian and the lives of Feyre and those around her.

Let me start by saying that I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! This is likely my favorite book of the year and was so much better than the first. Normally sequels do not live up to the first volume, but ACOMAF surpassed ACOTAR by far. I have read very few reviews to the contrary; no matter how anyone felt about ACOTAR, almost everyone seems to love ACOMAF much more.

As such, while I normally refrain from mentioning spoilers in my reviews, the amount of love and feelings I have for this book might prevent me from refraining this time. So, before you read any further, know that I might unwittingly mention spoilers in this review. This will also likely be a lengthier than normal review.

Shall we begin?

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Set about two months after Under the Mountain, Feyre is trying her best to live in a new world free of Amarantha’s influence – and in a new fae body. But the three months Under the Mountain has taken its toll on her, and she suffers from nightmares – terrors that Tamlin is either oblivious to or just refuses to acknowledge. (It is noted that Tamlin likely has his own terrors he is suffering from, but the fact that he doesn’t acknowledge Feyre’s is a big rift in their relationship.) This leaves Feyre relatively alone in coping with her PTSD while trying to learn her new role in the spring court as bride-to-be and future Lady. She tries to overcome her nightmares by going out, helping to rebuild the Court, but is constantly told by Tamlin and High Priestess Ianthe that it is too dangerous and her help is not necessary. This leaves Feyre depressed and she starts to slowly wither away.

On the day of her wedding to Tamlin, so withdrawn despite her love for Tamlin, she secretly begs for someone to save her. As if sensing her request, Rhysand appears and calls in his bargain with Feyre, for her to stay in the Night Court one week of every month in exchange for saving her life Under the Mountain. While at the Night Court, Rhys attempts to teach Feyre to read and helps her to build mental shields to prevent other fae from invading her mind. He also encourages Feyre to explore her new fae powers that she appears to have inherit from each of the High Lords. While there, the only other fae she meets is Morrigan, Rhysand’s cousin, and the twins Nuala and Cerridwen, her fae handmaidens from Under the Mountain. Rhysand is careful to keep Feyre secluded from the Night Court while still giving her the freedom she so desperately craves.

This goes on for a few months until Tamlin, determined to keep Feyre “safe,” locks her in the mansion. This sets off her PTSD and the powers she seems to have inherited. Morrigan comes to save her and deliver her to Rhysand, who allows Feyre to stay in the Night Court as long as she wants. Eventually Feyre sends a letter to Tamlin not to find her as she makes the decision not to go back to the Spring Court.

As Feyre now attempts to find her place in the Night Court, she learns a great deal about Rhysand and who he really is. She learns why he did what he did Under the Mountain. She learns about who Morrigan is and what atrocities she has had to endure; about Cassian and Azriel and how they overcame being just Illyrian bastards; but of Amren Feyre only learns that she is ancient and powerful. But Feyre learns the most about Rhysand, how he is not the ruthless High Lord everyone thinks he is. Rhysand plays the role of ruthless High Lord in an effort to remake a Court and a Prythian that allows fae, High Fae, and even mortals to live together in harmony within the hierarchy that currently exist. He is willing to sacrifice himself in any way possible in order to achieve this dream and keep his friends, family, and beloved city of Velaris safe. Feyre becomes enthralled with and eventually a part of the Court of Dreams, hidden away in Velaris, a city no one in Prythian really knows exists. She learns about the powers she possesses, how to harness them.

But most of all Feyre learns of her mating bond with Rhysand. A bond that supersedes her engagement to Tamlin, that is more permanent than any other vow of bond made. And she accepts it. She accepts the bond, accepts Rhysand, and accepts her place in the Court of Dreams and Velaris. She accepts it all so thoroughly that she is willing to sacrifice everything – even herself – in the end to save it all against the invading king of Hybern, against the traitorous mortal queens, and against the most unlikeliest of enemies.

What I love so much about this book is how Sarah J. Maas manages to address so many current, modern day issues in a fantasy based book. There’s feminism, depression, PTSD, abuse (mental and physical),  and love. Each character is flawed but learns to accept their flaws as part of who they are. They put on masks for others while revealing their true selves to very few but trusted individuals. There’s conflict, both internal and external, that each individual has to somehow overcome. Each character is willing to sacrifice themselves of the people and the things they love, while feeling as if they don’t deserve happiness no matter how hard they strive for it. I like to call them “perfectly imperfect.”

And can we talk about the adult content? *fans self* This book is often liken to a new adult book rather than young adult. There are scenes – even a whole chapter – that elude to the more sexual side of human (fae?) nature. Maas does a great job of writing these scenes without being overly explicit. And, more importantly, the scenes serve a purpose than just being senseless fodder.

I read this book slower than normal because I didn’t want it to end – and it ends on a cliffhanger as one would expect. I am impatiently waiting for the next volume that won’t be released until 2017. I want to see Rhysand and Feyre back together. I want to see the Court of Dreams succeed in making a happy world. But mostly, I want to see Feyre come into herself – and rip Hybern apart for the sake of the man, the people, the city, and the dream she loves so much.

I adored this book so much that I actually have two copies: one is a first edition signed exclusive from Books A Million, and the second is the Target exclusive with a short story featuring Cassian and Feyre’s sister Nesta. If the first book left you feeling a little “meh” like it did me, I highly encourage you to stick with it and read A Court of Mist and Fury. The character development is superb and I can’t wait for the story to continue.

My rating: 5/5

The Mortal Instruments: City of Heavenly Fire

At last! We’ve reached the final installment of the Mortal Instruments series. I was a bit wary going into City of Heavenly Fire since City of Lost Souls did not entice me as was expected. At 726 pages, it is longer than all the previous volumes so I was concerned I was going to spend all that time not liking the story. While there were moments that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, the overall story was nicely paced for my tastes.

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The prologue starts with the introduction of Emma Carstairs, who is dropped off at the Los Angeles Institute to study while her parents investigate a supposed demon attack. Along with her best friend, Julian Blackthorn, and his extensive family the day starts off ordinarily enough. Then things quickly escalate as the institute is attacked by Sebastian and his Dark Shadowhunters, who use the Infernal Cup to turn many of the institute’s inhabitants – including Julian’s father – into one of them. Julian, Emma, and Julian’s siblings barely manage to escape via Portal to Idris, but sadly have to leave Julian’s half-faerie brother, Mark, behind with an unknown fate.

Back in New York, a few months have passed since Jace’s rescue from his binding to Sebastian. The heavenly fire courses through his veins but he is doing is best to contain and control it, with the help of his friends. Simon has lost his Mark of Cain in exchange for Glorious from Raziel to save Jace, but he still has Jordan looking after him. The story, however, quickly leads to unhappiness for our heroes:

-All of the Shadowhunters are recalled to Idris to make plans regarding Sebastian and his Endarkened, resulting in many good-byes
-Jordan and Simon’s apartment is soon attacked by Sebastian’s Endarkened, which ends up with Simon being kidnapped by the vampires at Maureen’s request
-The Praetor Lupus is attacked by Sebastian when his attempt to take the London Institute fails
-The Downworlder representatives – including Jocelyn – are kidnapped by Sebastian’s allies, the faerie courts
-Clary, Jace, Alec, Isabelle, and Simon travel to the hellish dimension of Edom in order to stop Sebastian and free the Downworlder representatives, but Jace loses control of the heavenly fire

As one might expect, our heroes do indeed defeat Sebastian, but they pay a high price for it. Many of their friends do not survive the war – either physically, mentally, or both. Virtually no one comes out of the Dark War unscathed, and that includes Clary and Jace.

But the volume does end on a happy note: the wedding of Jocelyn and Luke. It is then that we are reunited with a number of characters, including Tessa – who was mentioned frequently in this volume but never actually made an appearance until the end. We are also reunited with Church, who hasn’t made an appearance since City of Ashes.

A lot goes on in this volume. We are introduced to a number of characters that will be the main focus of Cassandra Clare’s current series, the Dark Artifices. There are multiple points of view and settings, from Edom to Alicante to New York. The action is interspersed with quiet moments, such as the one our heroes share in a cave in the midst of Edom.

Overall, this is likely my favorite volume of the Mortal Instruments series. Each character has developed to a point where they are entirely different from how they started the series. Throughout the volumes, there were times where I really disliked a character, but in the end that made them richer in this final segment. I look forward to seeing them all again in later series, but as secondary characters, and to being introduced to new members of the Shadowhunter society.

My rating: 4.5/5

 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The second book in The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire, is probably my favorite of the three. (Almost my favorite movie of the four.) We catch up with Katniss and Peeta six months after their Games, trying to live a normal life – as normal of a life and Victors can have. Both now, due to their victory, are richer than they were before. While we only get glimpses of how Peeta feels about the change, we fully understand Katniss’ feelings since this volume continues the first person narrative.

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Katniss is unsettled with her new life. She tries to make the best of it, but she can’t shake the nightmares of the Games. Her mother and sister Prim seem to be adjusting to their new ways, and for their sakes Katniss tries as well. But the Victory Tour is approaching, and she is not looking forward to visiting the districts of the Tributes she has slain. Worst yet, President Snow pays her a visit on the eve of the Tour. He believes Katniss’ play with the night lock berries is a sign of rebellion, even though Katniss only wanted to save both herself and Peeta. But rebellion is stirring and Panem, and President Snow wants Katniss to quell the unrest – or he will harm everything she loves. Katniss does her best but the rebellion is building momentum even without her involvement.

After the Tour, things seem to go back to being quiet…until the 75th Hunger Games, a Quarter Quell, is announced. Each Quarter Quell, to celebrate another 25 years of the Games, has a different set of rules to choose Tributes. This year the Tributes are picked from surviving Victors of each district. Being the only female Victor from District 12, Katniss is by default a Tribute and finds herself in another Hunger Games. This year everything is different; this year, everything changes.

Catching Fire is more fast paced than its predecessor. There is more action once the actual Games begins. But the real action appears to be in the characters’ interactions and development. Once the Games begin, while they accumulate allies Katniss and Peeta can only trust each other.   As the story progresses, Katniss finds herself more and more connected to Peeta. In The Hunger Games, she wants both herself and Peeta to survive. Her actual feelings for him are platonic, even though they feign at being lovers (or at least on Katniss’ part, Peeta really does love her). But in Catching Fire, you start to see Katniss genuinely care for Peeta. It may not be love – not yet – but she really cares about what happens to him.

The one thing that drove me a little nuts was the fact, like its predecessor, the Games don’t actual begin until almost halfway through the book. Then it seems like the Tribute Parade, the interviews, and all of the Games happens so fast, far too fast. While I am glad we don’t linger on the actual Games too long, it just feels a little rushed in the end. Still, overall, a great book and addition to the series.

My rating: 4.5/5

The Mortal Instruments: City of Lost Souls

Whoops! I somehow forgot to post on Friday as I usually do. Sorry all; I blame HeroesCon. :3

The fifth book in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Lost Souls continues where City of Fallen Angels left off with a two week intermission.

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Jace, after reviving Sebastian, has disappeared. No one can locate either boy no matter what attempts they make. Clary has been questioned and cleared by the Clave, and soon learns that while the search for Jace has not been officially ended it is no longer top priority for the Clave. As if matters weren’t awful already, our protagonists learn that Jace and Sebastian are bonded to each other in the demonic version of the parabatai ritual; if one of them is hurt, so is the other.

This causes our little band, out of desperation, to undermine the Clave and take matters into their own hands. They consult with the Seelie Queen, the Iron Sisters, and even demons to find ways to separate Jace and Sebastian. Clary ultimately decides that the best course of action is to go with Jace and find out what he and Sebastian are planning, but to do so will cut her off from her friends and family. This leaves Clary on her own, mostly defenseless and with little means of communication.

Meanwhile, Alec struggles with his continuing mortality and Magnus’ immortality, going so far as to meet with Camille Belcourt in private. Both Isabelle and Maia struggle with their feelings for the boys they like (Simon and Jordan, respectively). And just what is Sebastian’s plan? What is it he really wants to accomplish? It may very well be the end of the Shadowhunters if he succeeds.

City of Lost Souls is probably my least favorite of the entire Mortal Instruments series so far. I was really starting to like Clary even more with the last book as she started to grow into herself. However, I feel like she starts to become too enthralled with Jace to the point that she is ignoring everyone else’s sound advice. I realize that she is trying to save the boy she loves and is willing to take any risks necessary, but she completely ignores the advice of her mother – who more than anyone understands what she is going through – and her best friend. She ignores the advice of seasoned Shadowhunters (Isabelle and Alec) and Magnus, with hundreds of years of experience.

I can’t help but compare Clary to Tessa sometimes. When Tessa wanted to turn herself in to Mortmain to save Jem, she was willing to sacrifice everything for him. But she didn’t as she listened to how that would affect everyone else in the London Institute and ultimately didn’t go. This didn’t stop the chain of events that eventually led her to Mortmain (unwillingly), but she did take into consideration the feelings of her closest friends. But Clary seems to disregard what her friends suggest she do. She follows through with her plans, which even she admits is dangerous and has no idea what she is getting into. This makes me very, very disappointed in Clary as a character after all the development she has gone through.

There was this one moment when Jace comes back to himself and is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. That one moment redeemed Jace in my eyes, much for so than Clary as he was being sensible. This one moment helps to redeem the story for me, despite all the other shortcomings.

There’s enough momentum and plot building in this volume to keep me going (and just enough features and mentions of Brother Zachariah), but the character development for Clary and Jace fall flat for me. Just one more volume and I will be finished with the Mortal Instruments.

My rating: 4/5

Me Before You

I recently saw the movie trailer for Me Before You with Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. I love both of these actors and from the short clips it seems like a lovely movie. Shortly after I found out the movie was based off of a book of the same title by Jojo Moyes. While contemporary based – not my usual genre – I wanted to give it a read since I had heard so many good things about it.

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Louisa Clark is a 26 year old who recently just lost her job at a local cafe in a small British tourist town. In search of a new job to help support her family, Louisa is accepted as a caregiver in the Traynor house. The Traynors are wealthy individuals; Camilla Traynor is a local magistrate, Steven Traynor runs the local castle, and William Traynor was a successful business negotiator. After an accident that leaves him a quadriplegic, Will is in need of a caregiver for the next six months. Although having no experience in the field, Louisa is instantly hired by Camilla and begins to care for Will when his nurse, Nathan, is off duty.

At first Louisa and Will do not get along. Louisa finds Will brash, rude, and arrogant; Will finds her to be naive and can’t understand why she would prefer to stay in their small town rather than see the world. But as time progresses and each sees a different side of the other and they come to have a routine that only they understand. They continue in this new comfortable routine they build – until Louisa learns why her contract is only for six months. Then she sets out to change Will’s mind about life. While unsuccessful in her attempts, Louisa does find herself in the process and ends up finding the courage to do things she never dreamed of before.

Me Before You is so much more than a love story. It’s a growing up story, but not in the traditional sense. It’s about finding herself and the courage to do things that scare you, things that are right even though it breaks your heart. It has both a happy and a sad ending. There is a sequel entitled After You, but I have chosen not to read it; it’s reviews are not as stellar, and I prefer to leave the ending open and to the imagination.

While contemporary isn’t my chosen genre, and I found this book a little more tedious to read than my fantasy novels (probably because it’s not my chosen genre), it is still a worthwhile book.

My rating: 4.5/5

The Mortal Instruments: City of Fallen Angels

City of Fallen Angels is the fourth book in the Mortal Instruments series, and the first book of the second trilogy set. While the story still revolves mostly around Clary and Jace, Simon features quite prominently in this volume.

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It’s been six weeks since the events in Idris at the end of City of Glass. Everything seems to be returning to a relatively normal pace, even if everything isn’t exactly normal for our little group of protagonist. Clary has decided to stop attending her mundane high school and begin her Shadowhunter education, all while she helps her mother Jocelyn prepare to marry werewolf pack leader and former Shadowhunter Luke. Jace has taken to calling himself Lightwood in honor of his adoptive family while struggling to reconcile himself with his real family, the Herondales. Alec is largely absent for the first 2/3 of the book as he is on an extended trip with Magnus.

Meanwhile Simon is attempting to live a normal life as a teenager – except that he’s still a vampire who can walk in daylight and now bears the Mark of Cain. He is troubled that he doesn’t know how the Mark of Cain will affect him (it hasn’t so far), as well as the fact that he is especially dating two women at the same time – Isabelle Lightwood and werewolf Maia. Neither of whom know about the other, by the way.

Then, things start to slowly change. Simon has a meeting with Lady Camille Belcourt who has a proposition for him; soon after he is being followed by tracksuit wearing strangers, who try to kill him and activate the Mark of Cain. A stranger known as Kyle offers Simon a place to stay when circumstances at home force Simon to leave. And suddenly Jace is wanting to protect Simon while trying to avoid Clary for some inexplicable reason. Everything culminates to one person, the one individual everyone thought was out of their lives forever – Sebastian.

I am a bit torn on my thoughts of City of Fallen Angels. While I really liked reading the book largely from Simon’s perspective, and I really like how Clary is starting to grow up and come into her own light as a Shadowhunter (and be less annoying to me), I found myself disliking Jace even more than I did before. I realize that Jace’s way of thinking about love and life is a bit twisted thanks to his nearly decade long upbringing by Valentine. But I just found his methodology for avoiding Clary and helping Simon to be whiny, angsty, and just wrong. Perhaps I can’t relate because I never was and never will be a sixteen year old teenaged boy in love, but I just couldn’t stand it. Luckily, we don’t linger too long on Jace in this volume.

Because it is largely from Simon’s perspective and I do find myself liking Clary a bit more (saving grace since there was a lack of Magnus), I still give this volume my typical Mortal Instruments ranking of 4 out of 5 stars. I’m both hopeful for and dreading the next volume. I really hope Clary keeps with this “growing up” phase and not revert back to the character I previously didn’t like, but with the events of the ending and the summary for the next book, I’m a bit wary.

My rating: 4/5

 

Fangirl

The first time I saw Fangirl was in my local bookstore (now sadly closed) as I was perusing the racks of young adult novels. Just the title stood out to me. When I read the summary, I was suddenly propelled back into my college years, when I wrote a lot of Lord of the Rings fanfiction. A LOT. I didn’t read Fangirl right away, but I came back to it about a year later.

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The story follows Cath, a freshman in college living on her own for the first time away from her single father and twin sister. Cath’s sister, Wren, is outgoing and friendly but Cath is a little more introverted. She spends a good deal of her free time writing Simon Snow fanfiction (Rowell’s equivalent of Harry Potter, I assume). Cath initially cowrote fanfiction with her sister, but Wren has since moved away from the Simon Snow fandom. This leaves Cath feeling a little abandoned. She has a lot of fans online, but not a friends in real life. But she soon warms to Reagan, her roommate, and Levi, who initially is introduced as Reagan’s on again, off again boyfriend. Cath starts to realize that there’s more to life than fanfiction (but she doesn’t give that up in the end).

Fangirl is a growing up story that I relate to a lot. Though I didn’t live Cath’s life, I lived a lot of her experiences. I spent a good amount of time reading this novel and thinking “I remember doing that” or “OMG I did that!” It was a great nostalgia read and seems to follow Rowell’s lightheaded story telling. (Admittedly I haven’t read any of Rowell’s other books, but Eleanor and Park is on my list.) I found it a little slow at times and struggled to pick it up again once I had put it down. I’m not sure that I would read this one again but it was still nice for the nostalgia.

Since I originally borrowed Fangirl from the library, I didn’t actually have a copy. Recently I was perusing the book aisles of Target and happened upon an exclusive collector’s edition. What made it exclusive? Fan art of Fangirl.

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Both front and back covers sport 4 different fan art illustrations of either Cath and Levi, Cath with Simon and Baz, Simon and Baz, or Cath with Levi and Regan.  My favorite is the front covers, as you can see above.

My rating: 4/5