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Review, Young Adult / March 7, 2017
The Song Rising by Samantha ShannonThe Song Rising
Author: Samantha Shannon
Series: The Bone Season #4
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Date: March 2017
384 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy
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The hotly anticipated third book in the bestselling Bone Season series – a ground-breaking, dystopian fantasy of extraordinary imagination

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London's criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…

* This review is for the third book in a series. While there are no big spoilers for the previous two, this is not a stand alone and will make more sense to those who have read the previous installments.

If I am reading a series that is longer than three books and am going to lose interest in it, typically book three is where it all starts to fizzle out. I enjoyed the first two book in The Bone Season despite the fact that, in general, I have no interest in dystopian novels. However the criminal underground + supernatural element in this one kept me invested and entertained. I went into The Song Rising with some prejudice, almost prepared to finally get bored and be let down.

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By: Diane
Adult, Review, Uncategorized / January 3, 2017
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine ArdenThe Bear and the Nightingale
Date: January 2017
336 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
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A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

I was really interested in reading The Bear and the Nightingale after it seeing it suggested for fans of Uprooted, one of my favorite books. In the end, I found this is hard to rate given that it was very good in some places and less so in others.

The first quarter I didn’t care for. I’ve never really enjoyed things with a hungry and cold atmosphere and have had trouble with other books set in Russia. I feel like one of the few people who didn’t like The Bronze Horseman. At the start the characters feel pretty remote, closer to fairy-tale stock characters than real people. I did end up invested in the protagonist, Vasya, by the mid-point. But she isn’t surrounded by much in the way of good side characters. Most are unlikable or forgettable. I get really into side characters, sometimes they are my favorite part of the story. The side characters in Uprooted felt more fleshed-out and real to me. There are a few here, but I’d have liked more. There also aren’t many interesting females beyond Vasya.

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By: Diane
Adult, Review / November 29, 2016
Elantris by Brandon SandersonElantris
Publisher: Tor
Date: May, 2006
638 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
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Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.

Arelon's new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping -- based on their correspondence -- to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.

But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.

A rare epic fantasy that doesn't recycle the classics and that is a complete and satisfying story in one volume, Elantris is fleet and fun, full of surprises and characters to care about. It's also the wonderful debut of a welcome new star in the constellation of fantasy.

Brandon Sanderson’s cosmere universe is large and can seem intimidating from the outside. Many recommend  Mistborn as a good starting place. Elantris  gets my vote. Some practical reasons for this: Elantris is a stand-alone. Mistborn is a trilogy with each book on the long side. And while his Stormlight Archives are my absolute favorite, the learning curve on the world building is pretty high.

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By: Diane
Young Adult / October 28, 2016
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Date: 4th June 2015
450 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
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Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?

For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.

For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.

When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.

But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself.

I read An Ember in the Ashes by the wonderful Sabaa Tahir last year after receiving the beautiful UK hardcover from my boyfriend. Honestly, if you haven’t seen it, it is beautiful. Once the jacket is off, it is this lovely gold and I am basically in love with it. Anyway, enough about how in love I am with the cover and more about this review! I thought I would do a mini review for An Ember in the Ashes before I share my review of A Torch Against the Night, the second book in this series. As I read Ember in Summer last year, I thought it would be best to post a short review, although I know that I may omit some details as I have read quite a few books since last summer.

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By: Vicky
Adult, Review / October 25, 2016
Den of Wolves by Juliet MarillierDen of Wolves
Publisher: Roc
Date: November 2016
448 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
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Feather bright and feather fine, None shall harm this child of mine...

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies...

Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone...

Den of Wolves is the final book in the Blackthorn & Grim trilogy and happily I also think it’s the best.

This review won’t contain any major spoilers for the earlier two books as each is written in a rather self contained way. That said, if you haven’t read this series, you do want to start with book one, Dreamer’s Pool, as these are not stand alone novels. If you haven’t read anything by Juliet Marillier (gasp!) then I would suggest starting with her Sevenwaters trilogy. I still think it’s the best. However there are so many things I love about this one, most of which comes down to Blackthorn and Grim themselves.

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By: Diane