Review: Grisha Trilogy

shadowandboneSeries: Grisha Trilogy

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Read via: Purchased, Purchased, and Library

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Shadow and Bone

I had purchased this and the second book ages ago, but it was Lauren DeStefano’s tweets about Ruin and Rising that finally convinced me to start reading the series. This book was a fantastic start. I loved the mythology and the world that Leigh Bardugo has created. It felt very fresh and different. I enjoyed Alina from the start, and I think her development throughout the book is wonderful. She definitely displays a great mix of strength and vulnerability. The Darkling was probably my favorite character. I loved him, and I was just as intrigued with him as Alina was. Mal is the only character I was not sure about. I liked the back story especially the childhood friendship between him and Alina, but I was not a big fan of him otherwise. He lacked spark for me. However, all the secondary characters were excellent. Genya was especially brilliant, and she quickly became a favorite. While all of the characters were fabulous, I also absolutely adored the ending of this book. It was completely unexpected, and it changed all of my expectations for the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Siege and Storm

Once again I quickly found myself surprised. I expected the “on the run” plot to last longer. However, I loved the introduction of Sturmhond, and while I was not surprised by the reveal, I enjoyed it immensely. In addition to Sturmhond, we meet Tamar and Tolya. Both of them are fun and truly add to the series. I continue to not be Mal’s biggest fan, and again I found myself rather entranced by the Darkling (wrong of me, I know), but he definitely makes some disastrous choices which affect his likability. Overall, I thought this book was much faster paced than Shadow and Bone. Plus, it incorporates a variety of great settings and some fantastic new characters. Often castle politics/political intrigue can become tedious or frustrating, however, I thought such scenes were addressed really well here and kept me interested.  The climax at the end was shattering. My heart was broken completely as everything fell apart.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Ruin and Rising

Despite all of the horrors they are facing as the series comes to an end, the characters truly shined here. Everyone grows and shows such depth, and I greatly appreciated the beautiful friendship that the group shares. After being somewhat less present in Siege and Storm, Genya plays a larger role here which I loved. Nikolai remains hilarious and charming, but he also experiences some truly life-changing moments. Even Zoya has grown on me, and I found her to be marvelous throughout this book. Also, I came to like Mal particularly during the last half of the book. Harshaw and Misha were certainly my favorite new characters. Poor Alina faces impossible choice after impossible choice, but somehow she becomes an even stronger, more beautiful character.

Like with Siege and Storm, this book is fast paced and often seems to take the unexpected route. I especially appreciated the fact that nothing was black or white. This idea is evident throughout the series, but it is definitely more noticeable here. Alina may be the “hero” of the story, however, even she cannot be classified consistently as good. Similarly, the Darkling has made undeniably evil decisions, but he is not all bad. Books that allow their characters to operate in shades of gray are infinitely better for it as it is a more accurate representation of real life.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Grisha trilogy is one of the best fantasy series I have read in some time. Leigh Bardugo has created a fascinating, original world populated by an incredibly diverse, intelligent group of characters. While I was not always a fan of the romance, I immensely enjoyed all of the other elements. Happily, I found Ruin and Rising to be a well planned, strong conclusion, and, in the end, I would highly recommend this series.

Reread Lately #2

Just brief thoughts on books I’ve read for the second (or third or fourth…) time.

forgetyouForget You

Jennifer Echols

“Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her.”

Although I still enjoyed this the second time around, I found it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. I was frustrated by Zoey through a lot of the story, and I felt that some of Doug’s actions bordered on controlling.

Originally read: 2011/2012(?) – 4 stars
Reread: 4/29/14 – 3/3.5 stars

The Girl of Fire and Thorns girlfirethorns

Rae Carson

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. 

I enjoyed this about as much as I did the first time. There were points when the pacing was slow, but the characters were able to capture and hold my interest. Once again I fell in love with Cosme (she’s brilliant!), and generally liked a lot of the secondary characters. Definitely was worth a reread (and I’m so glad I did before reading the second book).

Originally read: 8/20/11 – 3 stars – Original Review
Reread: 6/30/14 – 3 stars

pushingthelimitsPushing the Limits

Katie McGarry

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Yes, so this book is still just bursting with passion, heartache, and beautifully flawed characters. I remembered loving this story the first time I read it, and nothing has changed. Definitely would recommend this, and I plan to hopefully finally read Katie McGarry’s other books!

Originally read: 8/28/12 – 4 stars – Original Review
Reread: 7/7/14 – 4 stars

Possible Upcoming Rereads

Sarah Dessen books
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Review: Clash of Kings

clashofkingsTitle: Clash of Kings

Series: Game of Thrones/A Song of Fire & Ice #2

Author: George R.R. Martin

Read via: Purchased

Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over and age of enforced peace are dead…victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. 

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky—a comet the color of blood and flame—six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard’s son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King’s Landing. Robert’s two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers.

The second season of Game of Thrones was, in my opinion, fabulous. I thought it built nicely on the first season, and I loved all of the character development. I knew going in that A Clash of Kings and season 2 of Game of Thrones had many more differences than book 1 and season 1. I must agree that the changes were definitely more pronounced when comparing this book to season 2, but I also found A Clash of Kings to be even more engaging than the first book.

Most of the characters that I loved (and hated) in book 1 return in A Clash of Kings. The loss of Ned (Eddard Stark) is deeply felt, and his loss has caused ripples throughout the land. Those who are most affected by his death are definitely his children. Sansa remains trapped in King’s Landing without any allies, and develops a strange but oddly interesting relationship with the Hound. However, she continually suffers physical and emotional abuse at the orders and hands of Joffrey. I know many people consider Sansa to be a weak, female character, but I think this book truly shows otherwise. To remain in such a hostile environment and manage to keep her life is truly remarkable. With the help of Yoren (a man of the Night’s Watch), Arya manages to escape King’s Landing after her father’s execution. Thus begins a long and twisting journey for Arya, and also allows her to form some fantastic new relationships. The bond between her, Gendry, and Hot Pie is both heartwarming and hilarious, but I must say I was most intrigued by the relationship between her and Jaqen H’ghar. However, I think my fascination with Jaqen stems from the actor who plays him in the series (who did a brilliant job!). Daenerys’ story in the book was slightly disappointing compared to her story in season 2. I do understand both plots, but I just love how kick a** Dany is with the Qartheen leaders on the TV series. Catelyn continues to be a compelling character, and her journey also introduces us to Brienne of Tarth. Brienne is an incredibly sympathetic character, but at the same time, she is exceedingly strong.

Of all the male characters, I think Jon and Tyrion had the most interesting tales to tell in this book. Though I must admit that my enjoyment of Jon’s storyline is at least partially driven by the introduction of Ygritte. She consistently challenges both Jon himself and his beliefs. Plus, as Jon travels beyond the wall, the stakes for everyone in the series rise. Winter is coming, and it has a bite. While Jon faces physical trials in the North, Tyrion must deal with the deathly dance also known as courtly intrigue. Tyrion is truly a brilliant Hand. He has no problem standing up to both Cersei and Joffrey, which is something that is desperately needed. Plus, Tyrion thrives on playing the game of thrones, and he is unarguably one of the smartest, most cunning leaders King’s Landing has had in a time. Stannis, Robb, Bran, and Theon all have stories of their own to tell as well, but I must admit theirs were not the best for me.

The plot of A Clash of Kings is intricate and contains even more action than its predecessor. The nation is at war, and this, of course, leads to many battles. The highlight is certainly the Battle of Blackwater Bay. This battle is not only a brilliant example of Tyrion’s great skill as a strategist, but it also proves a game-changer in many ways. In the North, the most chilling “battle” is Theon’s capture of Winterfell, and the subsequent destruction of the Stark’s home. My heart broke as I read of the deaths of the people of Winterfell.

Overall, A Clash of Kings was a heartbreaking, incredibly fascinating read. It builds upon the set up from the first book, but it also introduces many new characters while also reminding readers that no one is safe in this world. I was very impressed with A Clash of Kings, and I would highly recommend this series. After reading this book, I am even more in love with this series and its characters.

Cover: 3.5
Plot: 4
Writing: 4
Personally: 4

Overall: 3.8 out of 5

Review: Nightspell

Title: Nightspell

Series: Companion novel to Mistwood

Author: Leah Cypess

Read via: Library

A stand-alone companion novel to the much-acclaimed MISTWOOD.  When Darri rides into Ghostland, a country where the living walk with the dead, she has only one goal: to rescue her younger sister Callie, who was sent to Ghostland as a hostage four years ago.  But Callie has changed in those four years, and now has secrets of her own.  In her quest to save her sister from herself, Darri will be forced to outmaneuver a handsome ghost prince, an ancient sorcerer, and a manipulative tribal warrior (who happens to be her brother).  When Darri discovers the source of the spell that has kept the dead in Ghostland chained to this earth, she faces a decision that will force her to reexamine beliefs she has never before questioned – and lead her into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens the very balance of power between the living and the dead.

I adored Mistwood! Absolutely, completely, fell in love with that book, so I had very high expectations for Nightspell. It took me ages to actually get my hands on a copy, but when I finally did it when to the top of my reading pile. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed it, this never really lived up to Mistwood. I am not even quite sure why, but it just never clicked with me.

The multiple narrators was both a good and bad thing. It allowed for various viewpoints into the story and setting, but it felt like it broke up the natural flow of the story. Whenever it seemed like I was beginning to connect with one of the characters, the point-of-view would change. Darri and Callie’s relationship was probably my favorite element of the story. I loved the exploration of the changing dynamic between the two of them. The only other character with whom I felt any real connection was Kestin. Although I feel like his potential for the story was never fully realized. Clarisse is the only character that makes the jump from Mistwood to Nightspell, and she remains devious and cunning.

The story and plot were full of potential. Just read the summary and you will realize that. Unfortunately it feels like much of that potential is lost. There are some truly brilliant moments in the story. There’s a huge plot twist that I absolutely adored. I did see it coming, so I was not shocked by it, but I loved the way the author handled it. I also liked the parts between Kestin and Clarisse and the scenes between Kestin and Darri.

Overall Nightspell was an interesting, nice little fantasy, but it never succeeded in realizing its full potential. If you are looking for a good fantasy to read, I would definitely recommend Mistwood over Nightspell. This was worth the read, but not something I will probably read again. I will be looking forward to see what the author does next though.

Cover: 4
Plot: 3.5
Writing: 2.5
Personally: 3

Overall: 3.2 out of 5

Review: Nightspell

Title: Nightspell

Series: Companion novel to Mistwood

Author: Leah Cypess

Read via: Library

A stand-alone companion novel to the much-acclaimed MISTWOOD.  When Darri rides into Ghostland, a country where the living walk with the dead, she has only one goal: to rescue her younger sister Callie, who was sent to Ghostland as a hostage four years ago.  But Callie has changed in those four years, and now has secrets of her own.  In her quest to save her sister from herself, Darri will be forced to outmaneuver a handsome ghost prince, an ancient sorcerer, and a manipulative tribal warrior (who happens to be her brother).  When Darri discovers the source of the spell that has kept the dead in Ghostland chained to this earth, she faces a decision that will force her to reexamine beliefs she has never before questioned – and lead her into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens the very balance of power between the living and the dead.

I adored Mistwood! Absolutely, completely, fell in love with that book, so I had very high expectations for Nightspell. It took me ages to actually get my hands on a copy, but when I finally did it when to the top of my reading pile. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed it, this never really lived up to Mistwood. I am not even quite sure why, but it just never clicked with me.

The multiple narrators was both a good and bad thing. It allowed for various viewpoints into the story and setting, but it felt like it broke up the natural flow of the story. Whenever it seemed like I was beginning to connect with one of the characters, the point-of-view would change. Darri and Callie’s relationship was probably my favorite element of the story. I loved the exploration of the changing dynamic between the two of them. The only other character with whom I felt any real connection was Kestin. Although I feel like his potential for the story was never fully realized. Clarisse is the only character that makes the jump from Mistwood to Nightspell, and she remains devious and cunning.

The story and plot were full of potential. Just read the summary and you will realize that. Unfortunately it feels like much of that potential is lost. There are some truly brilliant moments in the story. There’s a huge plot twist that I absolutely adored. I did see it coming, so I was not shocked by it, but I loved the way the author handled it. I also liked the parts between Kestin and Clarisse and the scenes between Kestin and Darri.

Overall Nightspell was an interesting, nice little fantasy, but it never succeeded in realizing its full potential. If you are looking for a good fantasy to read, I would definitely recommend Mistwood over Nightspell. This was worth the read, but not something I will probably read again. I will be looking forward to see what the author does next though.

Cover: 4
Plot: 3.5
Writing: 2.5
Personally: 3

Overall: 3.2 out of 5

Review: A Song of Fire & Ice // Game of Thrones

gameofthronesTitle: A Song of Fire & Ice / Game of Thrones

Series: A Song of Fire & Ice #1

Author: George R.R. Martin

Read via: Purchased

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

It seems as if everyone has heard of Game of Thrones. The HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s books has become a popular and critical favorite. I must admit I was hesitant about the series, and after watching the pilot I still was not convinced. However, a few episodes in, and I was completely hooked. Unfortunately, TV seasons take a great deal of time to create, promote, air, etc. so I had to start reading the books in order to satisfy my own curiosity (Reading is such a hardship for me, I’m sure you understand my pain).

This book started off much the same way as the TV series did for me, slowly. The world-building and character introductions can become rather tedious, but by the end, it pays off greatly. The story may start slowly, and for the first half of the book much of the action is based around political intrigue and verbal spars. However, as the political climate moves toward war, the stakes rise for each and every character.

There are certainly many fabulous characters in this series. There are those to hate (Joffrey! I need him to die), to love (Arya, Tyrion, and Daenerys top this list for me), to admire (Ned, despite his faults), and to despise (Littlefinger!!). The list of characters that populate this series is enormous, and it is quite daunting as you begin. As the stories continue to weave together though, it becomes easy to keep track of the characters and become absorbed in their tales.

I had read previously that the initial season of HBO’s Game of Thrones was remarkably faithful to Martin’s book, and I definitely agree. Certainly, there are differences. The most obvious being the changing of many characters’ ages, but considering some of the content, this was very necessary for the network. I have seen many adaptations, and I would rank this as one of the best (Note: this is strictly a comparison of A Song of Fire & Ice / Game of Thrones and season 1 of Game of Thrones. I’ve heard the second season is not quite as faithful).

Overall, I found this to be a fascinating, entertaining start to what promises to be an unforgettable series. Martin manages to weave together the lives of an amazing number of individual characters, and he has also created a world which fantasy fans are sure to marvel at. I would highly recommend A Song of Fire & Ice and HBO’s Game of Thrones, although there is certainly material that is only appropriate for mature audiences.

Cover: 3
Plot: 4
Writing: 3.5
Personally: 3.5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Review: Falling Kingdoms

fallingkingdomsTitle: Falling Kingdoms

Series: Falling Kingdoms #1

Author: Morgan Rhodes

Read via: Purchased

In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects’ lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:

Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.

Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword. . . .

The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

I had been lusting after this book for ages, and I splurged on it as a post-Christmas present for myself. After staring at the gorgeous cover for a time, I finally got a chance to read this. Sadly, I found myself to be quite disappointed in it. I’m not sure if my disappointment was due to the high expectations I had for this, but either way I wish I could have loved it.

The characters are the biggest issue I had in this book. There are a lot of characters, and I’m not sure why, but I found it quite hard to keep everyone straight initially. Normally, I don’t have such trouble, so I don’t really understand why I had it here. The jumping between narratives was also difficult to follow at times. Then there are the four main characters. Initially, I felt a lot of sympathy for Magnus, and I was fascinated with his story. However, by the end, I hated him, and I’m not sure he can be adequately redeemed. Jonas, I feel, was never as well-developed as the others, and his swiftly shifting opinions and loyalties annoyed me. I was actually very interested in Lucia, but I despised her attitude during the battle. Ironically, I couldn’t stand Cleo at the start of the book, but by the end, she was one of the only characters I was even somewhat invested in. Sadly, my favorite character and the one I thought to be the most interesting died before the story was over.

The storylines that thread together this story were quite interesting. I liked the mythology of the Kindred and the Watchers, and the way the author weaves magic into the story was awesome. However, there are a lot of elements of the plot that either did not make sense or just frustrated me. One of the weirdest things in the book was Cleo being in love with a boy and it is later revealed that her sister was in love with this boy’s father….It does not seem that Cleo and her sister are that far apart in age, so I just found this to be completely strange. Also, Cleo’s love felt like insta-love to me. Then there’s Cleo’s delightful, repeating abduction scenes. You would think this girl would gain some sense after the first time, but, no, that is not the case.

Overall, I found Falling Kingdoms to be sadly lacking. The book has some potential, but it is quickly lost amongst unbelievable love stories, ever-changing loyalties, and hard to like characters. Although I am somewhat curious how Morgan Rhodes will resolve things in the next book, I’m not sure if I am interested enough to continue. I’m very much a character reader, and, in Falling Kingdoms, the characters who showed the most promise are dead. I find it very hard to remain invested in a story when I despise the main characters. Sadly, this is not a book I will be recommending.

Cover: 4
Plot: 3
Writing: 2.5
Personally: 2.5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Review: The Crimson Crown

Title: The Crimson Crown

Series: Seven Realms #4

Author: Cinda Williams Chima

Read via: Purchased

A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed—Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.
Now, once again, the Queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa ana’Marianna, maintaining peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible; tension between wizards and Clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells’ inner turmoil, Raisa’s best hope is to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she’s falling in love.
Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cut-throat world of blue blood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among Clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Han finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for Raisa. Before long, Han finds himself in possession of a secret believed to be lost to history, a discovery powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can use it?

I began reading the Seven Realms series simply in preparation for an event Cinda Williams Chima was appearing at, but I fell in love with a beautiful, intricate series. This series is a delightful treat for anyone looking for a high fantasy with an amazing, creative world and some of the mostly perfectly written characters.

Revisiting Raisa, Han, and all of the other wonderful characters that populate this exquisite world was a wonderful experience. Raisa remains one of my favorite characters in YA lit. I admire her drive, determination, and intelligence. She is very well-rounded, and she has a strong sense of duty. I loved the relationships she has, and I really enjoyed seeing her relationship with her sister develop even more in this book. Han remains an intense, conflicted character that both terrifies me and entrances me. Despite having so much time with him, I still feel like I cannot predict his actions. Of course, I also was thrilled at the developments with many of the supporting characters, especially Dancer and Night Bird.

The story picks up where The Gray Wolf Throne left off, and the country is in the midst of chaos. There is a solid mix of both political intrigue and action, which causes the story to fly by. There were so many threads that needed to be pulled together in this book, and I was terribly worried that it would be impossible for things to be woven together adequately. Fortunately, Cinda Williams Chima is a fantastic author, and she puts the story together perfectly. This book is a solid, beautiful conclusion to a truly wonderful series.

Overall, I was highly impressed with this book. It built nicely on the previous books. It also serves as both a beautiful conclusion to the series and a stunning story on its own. Unlike some finales, The Crimson Crown makes a graceful, classy exit. I would highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys an intricately woven, high fantasy series.

Cover: 5
Plot: 5
Writing: 5
Personally: 5

Overall: 5 out of 5

Review: Grave Mercy

Title: Grave Mercy

Series: His Fair Assassin #1

Author: R. L. LaFevers

Read via: NetGalley

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

The  summary for this just captured me. The idea, at first glance, reminded me of a story idea I had once. After reading it, it does not resemble that idea, but I still love the premise. There is something refreshingly unique about this book, and I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable. Some might be a little bit worried about the length, but it is well worth the read.

Ismae is a sympathetic character from the beginning. The circumstances of her life have conspired against her, and brought her to an impossible position. There was definitely a historically realistic element to Ismae’s treatment at the hands of her father. It eerily echoes circumstances that could have undoubtedly come to pass a few centuries ago. Upon her entrance into the convent of St. Mortain’s, however, she discovers a whole new world of opportunities, and two very different, yet interesting, friends. Annith and Sybella both entranced me from the beginning, although in very different ways. I loved their relationships with Ismae. Duval was another remarkable lead. He had such a captivating history, and his relationship with Ismae was so full of fire and intensity. At the same time, however, there was a perfect tenderness to it. I love the interactions between the two of them.

As I mentioned, the premise of this book was absolutely fabulous. Each element was so well-developed and perfectly captured. The detail to the setting and background of the story was excellent. I loved the intrigue and the strong role loyalty played within the story. The maneuverings of the court and all of the different power struggles were engrossing and filled with tension. Then, of course, I will reiterate the fantastic characterization.

Overall, this book is a little bit long, but it is also well worth the read. My biggest issue with the story was that Ismae’s time in the convent and the development of her relationships with Annith and Sybella is something more told than actually experienced. So I do wish that there had been a bit more added to that, but overall I think it was a marvelous story. I would highly recommend this both to fans of historical and fantasy books, and, of course, there is also a perfectly excellent romance. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series, and it will definitely have a place on my wishlist.

 

Cover: 4
Plot: 4
Writing: 3.5
Personally: 3.5

Overall: 3.7 out of 5

Review: The Hermetica of Elysium

Title: The Hermetica of Elysium

Author: Annmarie Banks

Read via: Copy provided by publisher

1494 Barcelona. As Torquemada lights the fires of religious fervor throughout the cities of Spain, accused heretics are not the only victims. Thousands of books and manuscripts are lost to the flames as the Black Friars attempt to purge Europe of the ancient secrets of the gods and the bold new ideas that are ushering in the Renaissance.
Nadira lives a dreary life as servant to a wealthy spice merchant until the night a dying scholar is brought to the merchant’s stable, beaten by mercenaries who are on the hunt for The Hermetica of Elysium. To Nadira, words are her life: she lives them as her master’s scrivener and dreams them in her mother’s poetry.  She is pursued as passionately as the fabled manuscript for her rare skill as a reader of Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew that makes her valuable to men who pursue the book to exploit its magic. 
Kidnapped by Baron Montrose, an adventurous nobleman, she is forced to read from the Hermetica. It is soon revealed to her that ideas and words are more powerful than steel or fire for within its pages are the words that incite the Dominicans to religious fervor, give the Templars their power and reveal the lost mysteries of Elysium.
As Nadira begins her transformation from servant to sorceress, will she escape the fires of the Inquisition, the clutches of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI and the French king, Charles VIII? And will Montrose’s growing fear of her powers cause her to lose her chance for love?

From the moment I read the summary for this, I knew it was going to be an interesting read. I mean just the summary itself is completely intriguing. Still I was not sure exactly what I was expecting as I began reading this, and I am glad to say I was pleasantly surprised. From the historical and magical elements to the surprising romance, I found this to be thoroughly enjoyable.

Nadira is definitely an unusual girl for her time period. She is very literate, speaking and writing several languages. I love how she defied expectations again and again. While she is fearful and scared at times, that never stops her from doing what she needs to do. She is such a strong person within. Montrose completely surprised me. At the start of the book, or at least his early part in it, I was not sure if I even liked him, but as the story went on I began to fall in love with him. There were so many fantastic side characters as well. Even if they just appeared for the briefest moment, every character was an individual.

There were some elements that I was not completely happy with. For example, Nadira’s circumstances seemed repetitive at times, and Montrose was a bit sexist, but otherwise I was very pleased. My favorite element of the story was the relationship between Nadira & Montrose. It was rather unexpected, but an absolutely brilliant twist. The devleopment of it was perfectly timed and written. The friendships between Nadira and her various male companions throughout the story were also fantastic. The magical elements of the story were also very cool. I loved the idea and story surrounding them, although it was a bit confusing at first.

Overall, I would definitely say this exceeded my expectations. Whether it is the sequel to this or something new, I will be looking forward to reading whatever the author writes next. I am excited that this will be a series though, because I completely fell in love with the characters! This was an interesting, compelling story with an unexpected romance. I would recommend this, especially to fans of fantasy and historical fiction.

Cover: 2.5
Plot: 4
Writing: 3
Personally: 3.5

Overall: 3.2 out of 5

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