Category Archives: Fantasy

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

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Title: The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: YA, fantasy –> Fairies
Series: #1 The Iron Fey
Publisher: 
Harlequin Teen
DOP: 2010
Pages: 363
Rating: 3/5 stars
ISBN: 978-0-373-21008-4
Twitter: @JKagawa

On the day Meghan Chase turns sixteen, a Changeling has appeared in her home, replacing her brother Ethan. On a quest to find him, Meghan discovers the Nevernever and all its mythical creatures. Jumping from one adventure into another, Meghan meets Grimalkin and comes eye to eye with the Winter Prince, Ash, who chases after her to capture her for Queen Mab. Then, she’s summoned to King Oberon’s Summer Court and has to obey his demands, taking her further away from finding Ethan. On top of that, another King lurks, poisoning the land of the Faery with iron.

While reading The Iron King, the first book in The Iron Fey series written by Julie Kagawa, it felt like a modern retelling of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Both girls step into an entire new world and are introduced to the fantastical creatures of the Nevernever, creating a likewise magical vibe that’s so known from Alice in Wonderland. Not only did it have a sense of Alice in Wonderland, Kagawa doesn’t hide the fact that a few characters, Puck, King Oberon and Queen Titania, are taken from Shakespeare’s comedy play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Kagawa took from both worlds and created an unique view on the Nevernever, where two faery courts stand opposite of each other for power and a third Iron King is rising to destruct the Nevernever and change it forever. Within this background, Meghan Chase tries to find her younger brother Ethan, who’s been abducted to this foreign land.

Although there’s a hint of comedy with the addition of Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Iron King is not. The fantastical creatures are cruel towards humans, bullying and using them for their own entertainment or as a late afternoon snack. On a few occasions, there is fighting added and here and there curses are thrown along. In the land of the Faery, being in someone’s debt can cause more trouble than preferable and one of the creatures that actively seeks for deals it can make, is Grimalkin, a talking cat who guides Meghan through the Nevernever (and reminding me a lot of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland).

 photo Puck Quote_zpsjntavx8g.jpg
Quote from The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Puck and Grimalkin were my two favourite characters in this book. Grimalkin, mysterious in his ways of knowing almost everything and disappearing when least expected, felt like a trustworthy friend even though it’s clear that one should be extremely careful around him. His blunt, to-the-point remarks gave him a dry sense of humour whereas Puck was the opposite, recognising authority but simultaneously taking the mickey out of them. His humour created light-hearted moments between the serious, and sometimes scary, adventures Meghan undergoes, erupting snorts on more than one occasion.

Nonetheless, there were a few things that bothered me while I read The Iron King. Perhaps I’m getting old, and if I do you may definitely call me so, but I experienced Meghan’s journey as a rapid jumping around from one disaster into another with not one moment to catch my breath and process what’s been happening and who and what everything within this world was or represented.

Kagawa shot one fantastical creature after the other to her readers with a minimum of description and although this reminds me a lot of J.K. Rowling’s “this is my world, accept it without questions” attitude, J.K. Rowling at least had the curtsey of describing her creatures; even if we already knew how a dragon looked, her dragons were distinguished and not just a dragon, giving the reader a moment to picture the image and accept it. I tried to remember all the creatures Meghan came across with but I had to drop my towel into the ring; I lost my sight of them. I was often confused, not able to remember and imagine the fantastical creatures she encountered.

The reason why I’m mentioning this: at some point I had Shrek in my mind when I read about ogres but when I googled it later, the ogre looked a lot scarier! So suddenly, the entire meaning of the act when the ogres appeared changed. Instead of cute greenish monsters that wouldn’t hurt a fly, the image is replaced with vicious beasts! As you can see, the connotation of this scene can vary 180 degrees, depending on your own emotional association with the word “ogre” and if you’re like me, having grown up with Shrek…well…what more do I have to say?

The minimal presence of description of the monsters and the constant jumping from one fight and flight moment to the other, has put me off from giving this book a four star rating. The pacing was fast without fluctuations and thus giving me no time to think and process the new world. Too slow paced is boring but too fast paced can be mind dazzling. A nice mixture of both would have been preferable.

On a different note, have you seen the cover of this book? The colour is cleverly thought of, adding to the belief that fairies live in forests and unconsciously forcing the buyer to the connection. The chapters were introduced with cute twirls (because at first glance, faeries do look beautiful and cute) but when looking closer, the thorns on the twirls added an extra dimension to be careful around faeries: they are deceiving, nasty things! Brilliant!

More books by Julie Kagawa:

The Iron Fey series:

 

 

 

 

 

The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten series:

Blood of Eden series:

Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

Talon series:

This was the first book I read for the June series for the #SummerofSeries challenge. If you want to read more about the challenge and which books and series I’ll be reading during the summer, check out this post.

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Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Vintage
DOP: 2012 (originally published in 2010)
Pages: 490
Rating: 4/5
ISBN: 978-0-099-57029-5
Twitter: @erinmorgenstern

When Celia, Prospero the Enchanter’s daughter, shows up after her mum’s suicide, he quickly finds out that Celia is anything but ordinary. He dares the man in the grey suit for a game, already convinced of his victory. Both Celia and Marco are raised, trained for the day when the game begins and they have to compete against each other.

Erin Morgenstern created a mysterious and magical story that elevates you to the world of The Night Circus. Divided into five parts, each having different chapters written from different point of views, the enchantment starts straight from the beginning as it is written in second person singular, immediately dragging you in the story. That, combined with the beautiful cover and the way the parts are illustrated, finalises the magical feeling.

If I had to choose a favourite character, it would be Poppet and Widget. From the moment they were introduced, the story gained a new level. Their enthusiasm was catching and their talent interesting. Their input was playful and serious at the same time but they were open to accept someone from outside the circus, breaking through the boundary that is the night circus.

However, although I could appreciate the writing, I had a hard time finishing the book.

One of the issues I had, was the fact the story was slow paced. I know it never meant to be rushed, giving us the time to enjoy the details and mysteriousness of the night circus but at the same time, it created a wall for me to climb every time I had to pick up the book again. A lot of things happened but I had the idea of everything standing still and not moving forward.

Some actions and motives weren’t thoroughly explained either and although this adds to the mystery of the story, it had me confused at some moments too. What was the purpose of the game? What did Prospero and Alexander gain while holding it?

I loved the dynamic of the circus and how the individual tents were conjured. The descriptions of the magic were different, inventive and inspirational in The Night Circus. Morgenstern succeeded in creating such a special story that will be remembered and take you on a magical adventure the moment you turn that first page.

Review: Let the Storm Break by Shannon Messenger

Let the Storm Break cover by GoodReads

Title: Let the Storm Break
Author: Shannon Messenger
Genre: YA, fantasy
Series: #2 Sky Fall
Publisher: Simon Pulse
DOP: March 2014
Pages: 381
Rating: 4/5
ISBN: 978-1-4424-5044-8
Twitter: @SW_Messenger

#1 – Let the Sky Fall: read the review here.

Treacherous winds are trying to entice Vane in a nightmare that might be impossible to escape once he gives in. It doesn’t help his training and when the pull of their bond weakens as Audra’s running from a past she’d wish to forget, it isn’t helping him focus either. Questions are asked about her disappearance. The Gale force are rapidly losing in number after each new attack and the winds are shifting, a promise of another change. In the meantime, Audra discovers something about Raiden and his newest weapon that threatens to dissolve the power of four winds. Will she get back in time to warn Vane and the Gales?

The whirlwind story of Vane and Audra continues in the second Sky Fall book written by Shannon Messenger: Let the Storm Break. Despite the slow start from its precedent, Let the Sky Fall, this book makes up for it tremendously, immediately familiarising us again with Vane and his sarcasm. After a brief recap of what’s expected of him and what his goal is, we’re thrown into a new story that not only reads a lot quicker than the previous one, it’s a lot more interesting too.

During this book, Vane and Audra are separated for most of the time, giving us a break from the similarities of their point of views. They both experience different things and thankfully, so do we too, receiving a nicely balanced duality. It definitely speeds things up in a good way, switching from boring repetition to exciting new events with each new chapter.

The only problem I have left is with Audra. In all honesty, she’s a weak character pretending to be strong, cool and knowledgeable but as soon as she’s faced with temptation, she loses all control. Instead of facing her mistakes, she runs away until everyone’s too busy to realise what she’s done. She leaves Vane behind, the guy who’s head over heels in love with her and who knows little, if not nothing, about their world. He has to answer questions, has to lie in order to protect her, while she couldn’t care less, her own selfish behaviour coming first now. Her jealousy is ugly and uncalled. She left him. He should ditch her. There’s growth, I don’t deny this, but I really don’t like Audra and I wonder if Vane isn’t too blind to see that there might be others besides her. Someone who is kind, genuine and destined to be Vane’s future wife perhaps?

More characters are introduced to us, helping us remember that this isn’t solemnly about Vane and Audra but about the entire sylph species too; and it’s war. A lot of funny Vane-and-his-guard-slash-friend-Gus interactions keep the story upbeat in the otherwise dark and action filled plot.

The tension slowly builds towards a crescendo until it blows up and throws you miles away. Less predictable, although still predictable with some thought, a few twists will jolt you back into your earth elemental body. Leaving us with one frustrating cliffhanger, the anticipation of the next book release is so high that it’s dancing on the edge of being either unbearable or just comfortable enough to wait for an entire year (hopefully, since no release date has been mentioned yet).

 

Review: The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

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Title: The Warrior Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: YA, fantasy
Series: #1 The Heir Chronicles
Publisher: Indigo
DOP: 2011 (first published in 2006)
Pages: 426
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
ISBN: 978-1-78062-047-3
Twitter: @CindaChima

Born without a wizard’s stone behind his heart, Jack’s life was at danger when he was a baby, but he was saved thanks to Dr. Longbranch, by placing a warrior’s stone and thus making him a Weirlind: a warrior for one of the Roses. Now, at sixteen, Jack feels like any other teenager because his aunt managed to convince Dr. Longbranch to not take him away. When Jack forgets to take his daily medicine for his heart one day, everything starts to change. He feels better and less suppressed. His aunt shows up to take him on a journey to find one of their ancestors and soon, Jack finds himself amidst a war between wizards and traders in search for a warrior.

Although literally thrown into a new world during the prologue, it takes a while before we get some sense of understanding of the world in The Warrior Heir, the first book in The Heir Chronicles by Cinda Williams Chima. For a while, it’s not clear what’s so special about Jack or the reason why wizards and traders are after him but once the story picks up, it is hard to put the book down. There’s something about the world that’s captivating, enticing you to read as quickly as possible to get to the end. With a few twists, some predictable, others coming by surprise, the story is wrapped up in the end, leaving no questions unanswered, despite this being a series.

I loved most of the characters, especially Leander Hastings. He’s complicated, mysterious and his motives aren’t always clear which makes him a very interesting person to read about. He’s got his flaws and I hope when I continue this series that we get to know more about him and his history. Another character I liked, was Ellen. She really has a strong personality and I wished we could have seen more of her.

The reason why I’m rating this book three-point-five stars is because I have one major issue with the world: the entire reason of the tournament. It is hard to explain this without spoilers but let’s just say that wizards are on top of the hierarchy and warriors are at the bottom and they are enslaved and trained to compete in the tournament. The winner of the bout ensures that the family, who sponsors him, seizes the power until they are being challenged again. It’s a bit ridiculous because I wouldn’t wait for someone to challenge me. I’d never put faith in one warrior either. I’d make sure once I got the power, I’d stay in power forever (there’s an evil cackling sound in my head now).

If this hadn’t bothered me, I’d give it four stars. That, and the fact that the ending felt too clean; it was solved too easily for my liking (and perhaps that’s the reason why this is a series because it was too perfect?).

Have you read The Warrior Heir? What did you think of the world and the characters?

Review: Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger

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Title: Let the Sky Fall
Author: Shannon Messenger
Genre: YA, fantasy
Series: #1 Sky Fall
Publisher: Simon Pulse
DOP: March, 2013
Pages: 404
Rating: 3.5/5
ISBN: 978-1-4424-5041-7
Twitter: @SW_Messenger

Every night since a tornado killed his family, Vane dreams about a dark-haired girl. He wishes for her to be real, comparing every girl he dates with her. It’s not until Audra reveals herself to prepare him for battle that Vane finds out she’s real. And hot. And in a dress that’s not worthy of the name. But Audra is not ready to play his flirty games because the same enemy that killed his family is on his way in a matter of days and Vane is their final hope. He’s the last Westerly and their future king.

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger introduces us to the world of sylphs (Windwalkers): air elementals who can speak to the wind, walk on the wind and create weapons from the wind. The whole idea fascinated me enough to read it.

The story is written from two alternating point of views, first person singular, and it’s done beautifully. Messenger has separated Vane’s and Audra’s inner voices perfectly, making them both unique and recognisable in their vocabulary and mannerisms; something many authors seem to struggle with. She’s done it so well, that I found myself hungry for Vane’s point of view chapters. I love him. He’s funny, sarcastic and his failed attempts to win over Audra make him a typical male teenager. Despite him being the hero, he lacks heroism. He’s uncomfortable with his position as a potential king and he doesn’t have the stomach to fight, something that’s necessary if he wants to defeat his nemesis. It makes him so likeable and real.

As the first book in the Sky Fall series, it has its flaws too. The world was amazing but overwhelming. Usually, the first book in a series is needed for world building and although it’s acceptable and understandable, it almost came to a point when it became dull. A lot of explanations and descriptions are repeated, causing the story to be slowly paced. Because of this repetition, it also caused my mind to wander, making it difficult to focus. This resulted in a story that felt dragged out. Approximately 300 pages were used to describe the world and Vane’s training with Audra. Besides this, nothing else really happened and the training felt like a background activity even though it’s meant to be very important. The main focus was on their conversations, unbalancing the natural alternating flow of description, action and dialogue.

With that being said, once you’re familiarised with the world, the plot is great. The story ended at a crucial moment, keeping you eager to continue the series but it wasn’t stopped midway either. It was nicely wrapped up and it created the foundation for the next book: Let the Storm Break. You’ll be able to find a link to the review soon.

Although people categorise this book as young adult, to me it feels more at home in a Teens category, based upon the simplicity of the sentences and the fact it was easy to read. If you’re into fantasy and want to step away from vampires, werewolves and wizards for a while, then this might be the next series you’d want to pick up.

Do you want to find out more? Read my review on Let the Storm Break, the second book in the Sky Fall series.

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

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Title: Clockwork Angel
Author: Cassandra Clare
Genre: YA, fantasy
Series: #1 The Infernal Devices
Publisher: Walker Books
DOP: 2011
Pages: 482
Stars: 5/5
ISBN: 978-1-4063-3034-2
Twitter: @cassieclare

After losing her only relative in America, Tessa Gray travels across the Atlantic Ocean to stay with her brother, Nathaniel. The moment she arrives in England, two strangers – The Dark Sisters – are awaiting her arrival. Forced to save her brother’s life, she’s pushed and pulled into a magical world she didn’t know its existence of, quickly learning she’s more than just an ordinary girl. In her quest to find and save her brother from the Downworlders, she meets the handsome dark-haired Will Herondale and his best friend, the kind and pale James (Jem) Carstairs: Shadowhunters.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare takes you on a new Shadowhunter adventure, set in nineteenth century London. As a fan of The Mortal Instruments, I have to admit I was sceptic about this. I was afraid it would be repetitive and I am pleased to say that wasn’t the case. Just like The Mortal Instruments, the story immediately pulls you into the world of Shadowhunters, Downworlders and demons but the difference between City of Bones and Clockwork Angel lies in the fact that the world is already known by most fans and doesn’t need too much explaining, thus giving Clare the time and space to work out a beautiful, enthralling plot with unexpected twists. For those who haven’t read The Mortal Instruments yet, there are brief descriptions as you go along, providing the right amount of information needed to understand the world at the exact right time, so you don’t have to worry!

And if returning back to a familiar world wasn’t good enough for the fans from The Mortal Instruments, then re-introducing warlock Magnus Bane (or should I say, pre-introducing?) definitely will have made our little hearts beat faster. It sure caused the corners of my mouth to twitch into a smile! Returning names and characters such as the Lightwoods and vampires, de Quincy and Camille, made this book feel complete; as if I’m coming home after a long trip away. Reassuring but fresh.

With the freedom of not having to explain too much, Clare submerges us with detailed descriptions of the city, its culture and mannerisms that suit the time and space of Londoners in 1878 perfectly. A detail I can’t ignore and that shows her dedicated research for this book, are the quotes that can be found at the beginning of each chapter: they fit the era nicely!

Although a lot of the elements within this book feel mundane, the Infernal Devices – based upon reading Clockwork Angel – is so much different compared to its companion: The Mortal Instruments. If you haven’t picked it up yet, then I suggest you do it now! It’s worth your time and the five stars!

Have you read The Mortal Instruments and Clockword Angel? What are your thoughts on the series? Which one do you prefer? Or do you like them equally?

Review: Teardrop by Lauren Kate

Title: Teardrop
Author: Lauren Kate (@laurenkatebooks)
Series: Teardrop (#1)
Genre: Speculative, fantasy (YA)
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 441
DOP: 2013
Stars: 2/5

Ander is faced with two choices: fulfil his destiny and save the world or save the girl he’s fallen for from a terrible death. Eureka survives the bizarre accident but has to let go of her mother. Months after losing her, Eureka lives with her father, her stepmother and her twin brother and sister. She’s hurting, not wanting to continue life without her mother but when Ander appears everywhere she goes and Eureka’s given a few rare objects from her mother’s will, her world is not what it used to be.

Lauren Kate has begun another round of series in the speculative genre, a genre she feels most familiar with (read: the fallen series) but the question is, has she improved? The book is mostly written in Eureka’s pov and although this may give an author the opportunity to expand the story, the writing style asked for a first person narrator. A lot of Eureka’s emotions felt distant and stretched, almost surreal and because of that it never created empathy for the protagonist.

When Ander appears, the tension is increased. There is something mysterious about him. However, the fact that he has the same characterisations of a real stalker is absolutely disappointing and troublesome, especially when the intended audience are teenagers. Why are authors nowadays supporting this kind of behaviour? Why do they pretend this is appealing? Why do teenagers even fall for this? It’s a pathetic way of introducing this interesting new character in the protagonist’s life.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem Ander has. Besides his stalker personality, he’s showing the beginnings of an abusive personality as well. Schizophrenic? Perhaps. After only knowing Eureka for a few hours, he already dictates her whom she should talk to or not. Enter massive sigh of frustration and rolling eyes. Do teenagers really buy this? Really?

Of course, a love triangle is one of the key ingredients to be “über-cool” in YA novels these days as well. Let’s forget the fact it gets boring, and quite truthfully, Lauren Kate sticks to what she knows and has done before – which makes the difference between her fallen series and this one almost non-existent (except for the angels).

If it weren’t for the creative way in which she turns a myth into reality, the story would have been bland and it’s most certainly the only reason why the book was a tad bit interesting but it didn’t erase the sharp edges of disappointment. Perhaps if this story was dealt with properly and more thoroughly, this could have been the next best thing in speculative YA novels but alas, it wasn’t. The credibility was far-fetched, the characters felt wrong and the what-could-have-been-amazing book felt slightly unhinged.

Is it good enough to continue reading the series? I’m not sure. There will be people out there who will have fallen in love with this new book by Lauren Kate but I wasn’t. Maybe she needed time to adjust to her new series so I might pick up her next book, Waterfall, and give her another chance (and review how it hopefully improved.). Its current releasing date is set in October.