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: The Bone Season

boneseasonTitle: The Bone Season

Series: The Bone Season #1

Author: Samantha Shannon

Read via: Borrowed from Alleluialu

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

It’s truly astounding that this is a debut. The plot is so incredibly original and intricate, and I cannot wait to see how the series plays out. It definitely took me a while to get to this one, and I might not have if Alleluialu hadn’t let me borrow her copy. However, I’m really glad she convinced me as this was a fascinating book filled with some remarkable characters and brilliant world building.

Warden is the classic dark and brooding male with a mysterious past. Even after finishing the book it still feels like we don’t know a lot about his history, but the hints and few details we get are certainly intriguing. I also think his development throughout the story was awesome, and I enjoyed the dynamic between him and Paige. Despite all of the supernatural elements, Paige also felt delightfully human. I sympathized with her, admired her, but she could also frustrate me with some of her choices. I loved the complexity of her situation, and found her story to be heartbreaking. Her boss, Jaxon, was also extremely complicated. There is no way to classify him as “good” or “evil” and I absolutely loved that. The conflicted relationship between him and Paige was a marvelous subplot. Nashira was another highlight as I felt she was a fabulous, freaky, and honestly terrifying villain. My favorite characters though were probably two of the supporting characters. I adored Nick. I fell in love with him from the start, and I could not have predicted how his story played out. I also really liked Liss. So many of the moments with her broke my heart. Julian, Seb, and Michael were also amazing. A group of great depth and emotion. I was very impressed with the wide array and individuality displayed in such a large cast of characters.

My one main fault with The Bone Season would be the pacing. The first two-thirds of the book is rather slow. There’s a lot of world building/mythology explained which, while interesting, can become tedious. Also, at first I found it hard to keep track of all the different types of voyants (really wish there was a handy chart or pamphlet!). The last third of the book, however, was packed with intense, edge-of-your-seat action. All of the various plotlines crash together, and I thought it was amazing.

Overall, The Bone Season started out slow, but the well-rounded, intense characters and original world kept me intrigued until the action picked up. I have very high hopes for the next book in the series, and I would definitely recommend this one. I’m not sure whether this is “officially” categorized as young adult or adult, but I think it leans more towards the latter. Though it is definitely a great crossover book between the two genres.

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

Overall: 3.6 out of 5

Review: Ignite Me

ignitemeTitle: Ignite Me

Series: Shatter Me #3

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Read via: Library

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

I’m always very wary when it comes to the last book in a series. Usually, a final book is either awesome or disappointing, and I’m heartbroken to say that, for me, this falls into the latter category. I really wanted to love this book. I think Tahereh Mafi’s writing is absolutely gorgeous, and I immensely enjoyed the first two books (especially, Unravel Me). However, this book just didn’t work for me.

The plot remains interesting, but I also found it underwhelming. This was particularly true of the ending. The majority of this book is building up to this final fight, but then it’s over in just a few pages. There was no real struggle and it was kind of a letdown. There was also little emotional fallout or impact from the major events that occur throughout the book. Obviously, I do not think characters should just be killed off randomly, but I also find it unbelievable that given the stakes so many people lived. Also, it seemed like there were repeated near or fake deaths, but nothing ever actually seemed to stick.

Warner’s storyline was probably the most frustrating part of Ignite Me. My reaction can be summed up by one word – WHY? By the end of Unravel Me I was already starting to sympathize with and like Warner, and I felt like trying to undo all of the bad things he’d done wasn’t necessary. People – right or wrong – can still care about “evil” character and I felt changing him so much just was not needed. Similarly, Adam’s changes didn’t ring true. I was frustrated with him in Unravel Me, and I still felt that his development and actions weren’t believable. He repeatedly behaved irrationally and childishly. I really like the idea of people changing and growing apart, so I found that to ring true, but he doesn’t seem to in any way be the character we met in Shatter Me.

Overall, there were some elements of Ignite Me that I enjoyed, but the character development did not feel natural and I found the climax to be underwhelming. For me, I would still say the series was worth reading for Unravel Me if nothing else. Also, I am still in love with Tahereh Mafi’s beautiful, lyrical writing, so I will be checking out whatever she does next.

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

Overall: 3.2 out of 5

Review: Sinner

sinnerTitle: Sinner

Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls 3.5

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Read via: ARC received at Book Con (thanks!)

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole’s story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole’s darkest secret — his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel’s life. Can this sinner be saved?

If there was one thing that would have made the chaos of Book Con worth it, it was receiving an advanced copy of Sinner. Cole and Isabel were my favorite characters in Linger and Forever, and I was disappointed with the ending they had in Forever. Therefore, you can imagine how I thrilled I was when plans for Sinner were announced, and I’m happy to say that it was so worth the wait. I am utterly in love with this book, and it completely killed me.

Cole and Isabel are just as broken, raw, and amazing as they were before. Cole, especially, repeatedly broke my heart. His emotional struggles felt so incredibly real, and I empathized with him immensely. However, Isabel remains my favorite character. She’s rough, brutal at times, but her tough exterior hides so much pain and heart. The relationship between the two of them is complicated if nothing else, but for some reason these two seem to make each other better. It’s a messy road they travel though. In addition to Isabel and Cole, Sinner is filled with a marvelous cast of characters. Leon, Jeremy, and Sofia were amazing. All of them provided brilliant moments of humor, but also heartbreaking and fun glimpses into their own lives.

From the moment I began reading, Sinner was impossible to put down. It has Maggie Stiefvater’s usual gorgeous writing full of dramatic storytelling and lyrical prose. While this may classify as fantasy (there are werewolves after all), honestly, there were moments when I forgot about this because these characters and their struggles could easily exist in the “real world.” There may be wolves, but Sinner is truly an in-depth look at addiction, fame, relationships, and pain in so many forms.

In the end, Sinner may be my new favorite of The Wolves of Mercy Falls. I cannot explain how brutally intense and emotional this book was, and I would highly recommend it. Occasionally, when authors decide to continue on a completed series it doesn’t work, but Sinner only improves upon the books that came before. However, I would warn that some moments could be triggering.

Cover: 3.5
Plot: 4
Writing: 4.5
Personally: 4.5

Overall: 4.1 out of 5

Review: Until I Die

untilidieTitle: Until I Die

Series: Revenants #2

Author: Amy Plum

Read via: Purchased

Kate and Vincent have overcome the odds and at last they are together in Paris, the city of lights and love.

As their romance deepens there’s one question they can’t ignore: How are they supposed to be together if Vincent can’t resist sacrificing himself to save others? Although Vincent promises that he’ll do whatever it takes to lead a normal life with Kate, will that mean letting innocent people die? When a new and surprising enemy reveals itself, Kate realizes that even more may be at stake—and that Vincent’s immortality is in jeopardy.

I know; it has taken me ages to read this book. I originally read Die for Me way back in 2011 when it was first released, and even though I’ve owned both this book and the next since they were released, I hadn’t actually read them. So when I decided to start cracking down on my ridiculously large to-be-read pile, I first went back and reread Die for Me before diving into Until I Die. I realized again how much I enjoy the world Amy Plum has created, and not just because the series is set primarily in Paris, France. The mythology of the revenants is absolutely fascinating, and the characters of the series are marvelous.

Until I Die picks up Kate and Vincent’s story shortly after the events of Die for Me. If I were to choose any YA character who I think is most similar to myself, Kate would definitely make the short list. I completely relate to her ability to exist happily on her own, but at the same time, to have very meaningful, important relationships with a handful of people. Kate’s family dynamic is a very unique one for YA. She has extremely devoted grandparents and her sister, Georgia, doubles as one of her best friends. Kate’s other friends are Vincent’s “family.” Sadly, we don’t get as much of Charlotte as I would have liked, but we get plenty of Jules and Ambrose. Both of whom I absolutely adore, and of course, we have Vincent. I really enjoy him as a character, but I must say I think my heart ultimately lies with Jules. There are also two new characters: Violette and Arthur. Fascinating, intricate, and brilliant that’s all I can say about them without giving anything away.

Most of Until I Die revolves around Kate and Vincent’s relationship, and their individual efforts to make it work. This makes the book a bit strange as the focus is on them, but they also spend a lot of time apart. However, it does work, and there are also several subplots running through the story as well. Some highlights include: Violette & Kate’s budding friendship; Jules just being fantastic; Georgia integrating herself a bit more into the world of the revenants; and the heightening struggle of the numa versus revenants. Then there is some foreshadowing which I’m thrilled to say I actually caught, and I completely predicted a major twist from book 3. Plus, there is the cliffhanger. It is intense, shocking, and just heartbreaking.

Overall, I enjoyed Until I Die. Amy Plum has created a remarkable series populated by a lovable but flawed cast of characters and set against the amazing backdrop of Paris. This is a fast-paced, creative read that is definitely worth reading. I would also recommend reading the books one after another as there are a lot of minor details from each book that come into play later.

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

Overall: 3.7 out of 5

Review: United We Spy

unitedwespyTitle: United We Spy

Series: Gallagher Girls #6

Author: Ally Carter

Read via: Purchased

Cammie Morgan has lost her father and her memory, but in the heart-pounding conclusion to the best-selling Gallagher Girls series, she finds her greatest mission yet. Cammie and her friends finally know why the terrorist organization called the Circle of Cavan has been hunting her. Now the spy girls and Zach must track down the Circle’s elite members to stop them before they implement a master plan that will change Cammie—and her country—forever.

It’s come to the end. Wow. I still am unprepared for this series to be over, but what a brilliant way to end. So in the week leading up to the release of this, I went back and reread the series. I fell in love with it all over again, and while it helped me to tie the various plots together better, it also made it even harder to say goodbye to this incredible cast of characters. I have never read a series quite like Gallagher Girls, and I will miss my adventures with these amazing girls. Ally Carter struck gold with these books, and I think it is a seriously underrated series.

Cammie would definitely make the top ten of my favorite YA characters, and she has come so far since the start of the series. In United We Spy, she is still dealing with the aftermath of the events from Out of Sight, Out of Time. However, she has not allowed the trauma and grief she experienced to break her, and she is determined to destroy the Circle for good. Things quickly begin to spiral out of control and it becomes nearly impossible to know who to trust. But of course, Cammie can always rely on Bex, Macey, and Liz. The friendship between these four girls is truly remarkable. They would literally die for each other, and after leaving the “safety” of their school, dying certainly becomes a real option. Cammie also has Zach. The relationship between these two is brilliantly written. United We Spy is not a romance, but there is romance in it. It’s refreshing to have a book like that, and Cammie and Zach prove to be incredibly supportive of each other.

I was quite worried as I began to read this book. It’s very hard to write a satisfying end to any series, but with Gallagher Girls, there were a lot of loose ends to tie up. I can happily report that Ally Carter manages the impossible, and United We Spy is a perfect, exquisite ending. Cammie, Bex Macey, Liz, and Zach are put to their hardest tests yet, and they will all be changed forever.

Overall, I was blown away by this book. It was heartbreaking, epic, adorable, hilarious, and terrifying. I found myself laughing aloud and also in tears. Saying goodbye to this series was extremely hard, but Ally Carter crafted an amazing ending that ties the entire series together. I would highly recommend Gallagher Girls. It’s both lighthearted and it reaches the deepest depths of emotion. Plus, it’s about a school for spies- what’s not to love?

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

Sorry, but I had to share this quote as it had me sobbing.
Also, it is the one issue I had with the book. It mentions parents being there, and it’s like a “normal” graduation. Then there’s all the revealing of Gallagher Girl secrets…color me confused with where the secrecy went, but I do love this still.

“What is a Gallagher Girl? When I was eleven I thought I knew the answer to that question. That was when the recruiters came to see me. They showed me brochures and told me they were impressed by my test scores and asked if I was ready to be challenged. And I said yes. Because that was what a Gallagher Girl was to me then, a student at the toughest school in the world.
What is a Gallagher Girl? When I was thirteen I thought I knew the answer to that question. That was when Dr. Fibs allowed me to start doing my own experiments in the lab. I could go anywhere- make anything. Do anything my mind could dream up. Because I was a Gallagher Girl. And, to me, that meant I was the future.
What is a Gallagher Girl? When I was seventeen I stood on a dark street in Washington, D.C., and watched one Gallagher Girl literally jump in front of a bullet to save the life of another. I saw a group of women gather around a girl whom they had never met, telling the world that if any harm was to come to their sister, it had to go through them first.
What is a Gallagher Girl? I’m eighteen now, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I don’t really know the answer to that question.
Maybe she is destined to be our first international graduate and take her rightful place among Her Majesty’s Secret Service with MI6.
Maybe she is someone who chooses to give back, to serve her life protecting others just as someone once protected her.
Who knows? Maybe she’s an undercover journalist. An FBI agent. A code breaker. A queen. Maybe she’s even a college student. Or maybe she’s so much more.
….
What is a Gallagher Girl? She’s a genius, a scientist, a heroine, a spy. And now we are at the end of our time at school, and one thing I know for certain is this: A Gallagher Girl is whatever she wants to be.
And, most of all, she is my sister.”

 

SPOILERS ABOVE

Cover: 3.5
Plot: 5
Writing: 4.5
Personally: 4.5

Overall: 4.3 out of 5

 

Review: With All My Soul

withallmysoulTitle: With All My Soul

Author: Rachel Vincent

Series: Soul Screamers #7

Read via: Purchased

What does it mean when your school is voted the most dangerous in America? It’s time to kick some hellion butt…

After not really surviving her junior year (does “undead” count as survival?), Kaylee Cavanaugh has vowed to take back her school from the hellions causing all the trouble. She’s going to find a way to turn the incarnations of Avarice, Envy and Vanity against one another in order to protect her friends and finish this war, once and forever.

But then she meets Wrath and understands that she’s closer to the edge than she’s ever been. And when one more person close to her is taken, Kaylee realizes she can’t save everyone she loves without risking everything she has…

I put off reading this book for ages because I was terrified that it wouldn’t wrap things up perfectly, but I am glad to say that I was worried for absolutely no reason. Rachel Vincent has written a stellar conclusion to this amazing series. Soul Screamers is a must-read series and if you haven’t started it (or if you have and stopped) read it (again if necessary, I didn’t appreciate the first couple of books the first time I read them). I guarantee that if you have fallen in love with these characters like I have you have nothing to fear with this ending.

It was wonderful to be back with all of these amazing characters. Kaylee and Tod are brilliant as always. Both of them are so selfless and determined to protect their families at any cost to themselves. There’s also a lot of fantastic interaction between Tod and Nash. The relationship between the two of them has been so complicated, and they have a lot to work through. Nash and Sabine continue to be both hilarious together but also perfect, and Emma faces all new amazingly difficult problems. It’s even hard to not like Sophie. All of these characters have come so far and developed such depth. It’s so hard to say goodbye.

At this point, it feels as if Kaylee and company will never get the chance at a happy ending. They’re fighting hellions. Immortal beings with exceptional power, and while Kaylee is undead, has a reaper for a boyfriend and is surrounded by bean sidhes and a mara, the odds just do not seem good. Everything just seems desperate in this book. There seems to be absolutely no way out, but then we get to know Wrath who truly changes everything.

Overall, With All My Soul blew all of my expectations out of the water. We get a final chance to see how these fantastic characters have grown and changed, and how much Kaylee is willing to do to save everyone that she loves. Kaylee makes a sacrifice that may as well deem her a saint. She is one of the most remarkable characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and I will be missing her and of course Tod. Okay, I will miss every single character that Rachel Vincent brought to life (except for the hellions, I am willing to never see or hear them again!).

Cover: 4
Plot: 5
Writing: 5
Personally: 4.5

Overall: 4.6 out of 5

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: 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