Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli


Title: The Last Namsara  
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Format: Hardcover 

Page Count: 432

Rating: 

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. (taken from goodreads.com)


Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things. Things like forbidden, ancient stories. 

Gah, that ending was just lovely. If you enjoyed the How to Train Your Dragon movies and The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, then you simply must give this book a chance because it's a fascinating combination of the two.

Asha has spent her life hunting down dragons ever since the greatest of them all permanently scarred her body and face with his toxic flames. She knows everyone in her city blames her for the destruction the First Dragon caused when he attacked, and she's used to it. Kind of. However, when she's coerced into marriage with a ruthless brute, things start to unravel. There are more secrets lying in her father's palace than she ever dreamed.

Alright, so we have (a) dragons, (b) a badass princess, (c) forbidden romance, and (d) political intrigue. What's not to love about this plot?

The worldbuilding is such fun. I had no idea The Last Namsara took place in a Middle-Eastern inspired land, and I had a great time learning about the culture and history of Asha's realm. Filled to the brim with ancient lore, this novel is far from lacking in the imagination department. Plus, did I mention DRAGONS.

The characters are equally as strong. Asha did rub me the wrong way at first with her backward ideas about slaves and killing, but as the story progresses, her character blossoms wonderfully. At 432 pages, this novel is no short read, so keep that in mind as you start it. There's so much more around the corner if you just keep chugging through the slower parts. I definitely enjoyed the latter half of the story much more than the first.

The storyline might not be packed with shocking plot twists, but it is thoroughly entertaining. You'll get a kick out of Asha's spunk, her attraction to Torwin (a slave from her bethrothed's household), and of course the dragons she is so desperate to destroy.

If you're in need of a quality fantasy read, I'd highly recommend you give this one a shot. There are lots of great ideas in The Last Namsara, so even if you find parts of the story lacking, you'll have a fun ride anyway.
 



Then I'm there.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Review: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell


Title: The Last Magician 
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
Format: Hardback 

Page Count: 500

Rating: 

Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past. (taken from goodreads.com)



But then, liars do make the best magicians, and he happened to be exceptional. 

*cracks knuckles* Alright, I hope you guys are ready for a wild ride because this review is full of contradictions, mixed emotions, and scrambled thoughts. But let's be honest: most of my reviews are.

Anyway, The Last Magician. I've always been a sucker for bad boys with mystical abilities and girls who don't take any crap, and this book promised both. Plus, the fact that most of this novel was set in the early 1900s sounded fantastic. So, I picked it up in hopes of discovering an amazing tale, even though I'm not a huge fan of time travel novels. What I found is a story that's incredibly intriguing and yet somewhat cliche and more than a little slow.

To keep my thoughts in order, let's just break this review up into two parts.

The Good

I really enjoyed getting to know Maxwell's characters. Her main heroine, Esta, is full of spunk and charisma, so despite the mistakes she makes, I truly admired her personality. Same goes for Dolph, Harte, and the rest of the crew. After reading 500 pages, I definitely got to know their quirks and sincerely started to care about each and every character.

Additionally, this book is a little like an episode of Peaky Blinders. There are gang bosses, hidden clubs, death threats, and criminals galore. You'll have fun with atmosphere Maxwell paints, even if some of the details don't add up and it doesn't truly feel like the characters are in the 1900s.

The ending also holds a lot of promise. Despite my disdain for several parts of this novel, I actually turned the last page and thought to myself, "hm, maybe I'll pick up the second book if there is one." I probably won't, but it's pretty impressive that the ending was interesting enough to pique my interest, even when I didn't enjoy large swaths of the story.

The Not-So-Good (Because I Don't Like Saying "Bad")

In my opinion, by far the biggest detriment to this book was the length. This story could easily have been told in 350-400 pages, and yet it stretches into 500. There were several points where I found myself utterly disinterested in the plot simply because it was taking too dang long to progress. Yes, I appreciate attention to detail and typically love lengthy stories, but unfortunately The Last Magician took a little too long. It lost my interest a number of times, which automatically affected my overall rating.

Like I said, I don't like time travel novels in general, and this one fell particularly short in some areas. I get that Esta was trained to go back in time and blend in, but she slipped into the 20th century far too easily if you ask me. She hardly ever voiced confusion at being in a different time period and she didn't ever really seem to miss the present or even the people she left behind. All in all, I found her trip through time pretty unconvincing.

Now this isn't exactly a criticism, but it is something that held me back from loving this book: the romance falls so flat. Maxwell teases us over the course of her long novel, and in the end, we really get nothing in terms of love or steamy scenes. It's not that I always need romance in my novels, but when you build up sexual tension for 500 flipping pages, you have to give your readers a little something eventually...

People kept talking about how this novel is full of twist and turns, and here I have to blatantly disagree. I had the entire ending predicted before I was even three-quarters of the way finished. Maybe I just read too many similar novels, but the ultimate plot twist didn't impress me.

In all, The Last Magician was not a bad book. In fact, I sincerely enjoyed parts of it. The characters are lovable, the plot is entertaining, and the ending leaves you wanting more. However, I was disappointed by several aspects, so I couldn't bring myself to wholeheartedly sing this book's praises.



I spent most of my time waffling between like and dislike with this one.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Waiting On Wednesday: Heart of Iron

Waiting On Wednesday was created by Jill over at Breaking The Spine. It's a weekly post for you to share what upcoming books you can't wait for! Here's mine for the week.


Title: Heart of Iron
AuthorAshley Poston
Release Date: February 13, 2018

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35181314-heart-of-iron

An action-packed tale full of romance, royalty, and adventure, inspired by the story of Anastasia. Perfect for fans of Six of Crows, Cinder, and the cult classic television show Firefly.

Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves? (taken from goodreads.com)

Why I Need It: 

Inspired by the story of Anastasia? I AM SO THERE. Everything about this one sounds wonderful. Agh.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Review: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson


Title: An Enchantment of Ravens 
Author: Margaret Rogerson 
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books 
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Format: Hardcover 

Page Count: 300

Rating: 

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel. (taken from goodreads.com)


Why do we desire, above all other things, that which has the greatest power to destroy us? 

I seriously can't explain why I adore tales of the fae as much as I do. Whether I'm crying over A Court of Mist and Fury for the umpteenth time or searching for my next favorite fantasy novel, I always find myself drawn to the world of fairies, or as Rogerson calls them, the fair folk.

Maybe that's why I was so thrilled to begin An Enchantment of Ravens and immediately stumble into a world full of enchantment. Rogerson tapped right into my addiction, and I was more than happy to let her novel satisfy my cravings.

Isobel lives in Whimsy, a town set between the world of humans that of the fair folk. The fair folk might be blessed with powers and immortality, but they lack the ability to create. That is why they return time after time to Whimsy; the humans there paint, draw, sew, write, and provide other services for the immortals. However, as the most talented painter in the entire town, Isobel knows better than anyone that no fair folk's patronage comes without danger. When the autumn prince pays her a surprise visit, she finds herself more involved in the world of the fair folk than she ever hoped to be.... and maybe just a teensy bit enamored with the mysterious prince.

Okay, so where to begin. Let's talk about the good. I loved Rogerson's portrayal of the fair folk. She does an exemplary job of setting them apart from humans and painting them as truly unsettling creatures. Yes, there are some common details shared with other similar novels, but I still found Rogerson's creatures to be unique and intriguing. Rook especially captured my interest with his lack of human understanding but desire to do good.

In addition, the world Rogerson paints is a beautiful one, and I enjoyed getting to explore both the town of Whimsy and the surrounding lands ruled by the fair folk. I can definitely say I got a healthy dose of fantastical worldbuilding, and that always leaves me a happy reader.

Isobel's a wonderful heroine. Full of heart, she's someone any reader can relate to, but she's also not one of those hard-headed heroines who dashes into danger without caution. I can't tell you how many times I have shaken my head at YA protagonists because they're more focused on being brave and independent then they are on actually surviving. It was refreshing to feel admiration for a heroine instead of consternation.

Now for the bad, or rather, the not-so-good. An Enchantment of Ravens is only 300 pages long, and if you ask me, it should have been about 500 pages. There was so much more Rogerson could have done with the story. The ending feels like a bit of a slapdash job, and the enchanted lands of the fair folk are left annoyingly under-developed. Even the main characters could have used a little more attention, and I believe all of my criticisms could have been avoided if the author had tapped into her imagination and taken things the extra mile. Besides, Rogerson's writing style is a joy to read, so the more pages, the better.

Overall, I'm thrilled to say that An Enchantment of Ravens didn't disappoint. I was so excited to give it a shot, and I came out on the other side smiling. Sure, it's not the most original fantasy novel I've come across recently, but it's well-written and oh so much fun. If you're a fan of Sarah J. Maas' works or in search of a quick but enjoyable read, pick this one up at the soonest opportunity.