It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.
In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.
I’m going to admit, I was a bit confused when this book first started. I didn’t realize there was a time gap because I hadn’t read the blurb. I’d figured they’d have immediately started trying to salvage Endura, but clearly not.
I’m going to admit this right now, I can’t stand Goddard. He’s egotistical, he’s power hungry, and he’s a grade-A jackass. Yes, I said it. He’s a jackass. The way he treats people makes me want to reach through the pages and punch him. I can see why everyone hates him.
Greyson Tolliver’s character becomes much clearer in this book – he’s more defined than in Thunderhead and his reason for being in the story makes a lot more sense now than it did when I read Thunderhead. He’s not a particularly likeable character for me – he’s more just there because he needs to be, not because I’m intended to like him.
Sycthe Anastasia and Rowan are back, still like Anastasia better than Rowan and have no idea why those two are so much in love with each other, because there really isn’t much of a romantic arc to this story at all. But there you have it, they’re in love, for whatever reason.
I rather liked the Thunderhead and its scheming to save humanity. I understand totally why it was creating the different iterations of itself and how Cirrus came to be. I also understand that quite frankly, humans can destroy anything, even a perfect world. It’s our nature to destroy what is good and perfect.
I do wish for one thing though. Even if it’s just a novella, I want to see the aftermath. Both on earth and in space. I want to know what groups made it, which ones didn’t. I want to know of their lives after they made it to their new homes. I’m sitting here with burning questions and no answers.
This one was fast paced, even though it took me a bit to read it because I paused to read Blood Heir. When I was working on The Toll, I didn’t want to put it down. It’s a definite must read if you’ve already read the first two books.
Title: Blood Heir
Series: Blood Heir Trilogy
Author: Amélie Wen Zhao
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: November 19, 2019
Source: Personal Collection
In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.
When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.
A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.
In case you didn’t know, this book is basically a retelling of Anastasia with magic and fantasy built in. Let me tell you, it works.
I love the concept of the Affinites and their affinities. I love that it isn’t just your basic elements, but that Affinites could have any number of things for their affinities. We see marble affinities, flesh affinities, blood affinities, grain affinities, as well as the basic elements. So the concept of having an affinity for a particular element has been taken much further than normal, which is awesome.
Ana is a great character. She’s tough, but she loves with all her heart. She loves her empire and she loves her people. And yes, she is naive when it comes to some things because she did spend the majority of her life living behind the Salskoff Palace walls. So there are things that she doesn’t know regarding the empire she loves.
I also liked Ramson’s character. He’s no stranger to tragedy and he knows exactly what goes on with the Affinites and how they are treated. He gives Ana a rude awakening to how things really are in her empire, which helps to move the story along very well.
As for the story, again, it’s a retelling of Anastasia and it’s very well done. I found no issues with the writing style as it was easy to read and the plot made me want to keep reading the book.
Now, to address the controversy that surrounded this book. You can read an explanation of the controversy here. There are some things that I can see – such as people feeling that the author took things from other books. There’s a sentence that is the same as in a Tolkien novel, as well some “copying” from The Hunger Games. I don’t think it’s actually enough for people to accuse her of plagiarism, because let’s face it, some of these things are found in multiple books, but it gave people something to gripe about.
The other issue was that the book was seen as anti-black. Part of this is due to May, a character that started off as a slave, and ended up as Ana’s companion. May is a little girl who came to the Cyrilian Empire with her mother – both were Affinites – and her mother was contracted to a different employer than May was. Ana was trying to help May find her mother.
At one point in the book, May does something that causes her death while attempting to save Ana. This is construed as a black girl being killed to allow a white girl to live. Ok, first, descriptions of May have her as “tan” skinned and “ocean blue” or “aquamarine” eyes. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t see too many black people who are just “tan” and have “ocean blue” eyes. I also don’t get where they get that Ana is “white” because she is described multiple times as having olive colored skin – which is a trait that several Middle Eastern and Asian cultures would be described as having.
I also heard some things on social media about how insensitive she was when she portrayed slavery. Well, slavery isn’t something that you can portray sensitively, and frankly, she portrayed it in a way that was very common at one point – indentured servitude. An employer would “buy” someone and that person would have to work to pay off their employment contract and gain their freedom. It wasn’t right in real life, it isn’t right in a book. And just like in real life, people didn’t like that it was going on and wanted to change it.
The controversy surrounding the book caused the author to delay the release of the book. She considered editing the book to fix what people said was wrong and ultimately decided to release the book as originally written. I’m sure people “cancelled” her because that’s what social media does – they cancel everything and everyone they think is wrong or they don’t like. But I’m glad she didn’t change her story. Because if she had, it wouldn’t be the amazing book it is.
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Author: Ryan La Sala
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Source: Personal Collection
Amazon / Book Depository
Inception meets The Magicians in the most imaginative YA debut of the year!
All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember how he got there, what happened after, and why his life seems so different now. And it’s not just Kane who’s different, the world feels off, reality itself seems different.
As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know.
This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.
When the Barnes & Noble book club chose this book for the January book club, I was a little leary. I actually had this book from NetGalley and just couldn’t get into it. I tried for months to get into the book and just couldn’t do it. But, I hate to miss a book club, so I bought the book, hoping getting it in a physical copy would help. It did, but so did finally just sticking to it and getting through the first portion of the book.
I’m going to say this now – the only character I actually like is Ursula. The main character, Kane, is so annoying I want to reach through and just smack the daylights out of him. His thing of nothing being able to remember anything about his accident or who he was/what he was like before the accident, asking people what he was like or who he was before the accident, and then not believing them drove me bonkers.
Adeline’s attitude of seeming to be better than everyone is also annoying, Sophia’s overprotective character makes me cringe, and Elliott spends most of his time trying to impress Ursula. Poesy is a whole other ball of wax… let me tell you. I still don’t know if Poesy is biologically male and a drag queen, biologically female and dressed as a man for Kane and Poesy’s first meeting, or if Poesy is simply supposed to be unknown in gender – Poesy is referred to as “he” once or twice, “they/them” at other times, and “she” at other times. It’s a bit confusing and seriously easy to mis-gender Poesy because it’s hard to keep track of gender on that character.
The writing is done very well. The editing not so much. There are several places were words are misspelled, the wrong words are used, and where words are missing, but that’s a double edged issue – writing and editing. I mean, honestly, you’d think the editors would have noticed.
The story in and of itself is very creative. It gives a whole new perspective on “our own little worlds” and what could happen if those worlds managed to escape into reality. If you’re looking for a YA fantasy with major LGBTQ+ rep, I suggest you read this book. If there’s a sequel, I’m definitely going to read it.
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A YA retelling of classic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty
Prince Thomas cannot take the throne without a queen. Though the problem isn’t his lack of suitors but his refusal to marry a princess that is less than perfect.
The cardinal presents him with an opportunity: a quest to find the most beautiful princess in the land who has been in slumber for a century. But, unbeknown to the prince, the cardinal plans to kill him as soon as the prince embarks on his quest, and take the throne for himself.
Luckily, Prince Thomas’s path crosses with Lucy, a spirited orphan runaway, who saves his life and convinces the prince to continue the quest. When they eventually find Princess Aurora, they also find another contender – Prince Philip – vying for the princess’s heart.
Despite their mutual disdain for each other, Lucy agrees to assist the prince, and Thomas accepts her help to keep him alive long enough to beat out his competition and return to rule his kingdom alongside his perfect bride.
They just don’t count on falling for each other in the process.
If you’re looking for a fairy tale retelling that makes you ask, “what did I just read?”, then this book is for you. It’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty… with elements of Snow White. Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. Elements of Snow White. Prince Thomas = Snow White. Cardinal Lionel = Evil Queen. Prince Thomas’s Guards = Huntsman. Yep.
So let’s start off with what I thought of the characters, shall we? First up we have Lucy. A tomboy in a century where that’s just not appropriate, of course. She’s sassy, mouthy, and opinionated. I love her. She’s hilarious. She’s also a feminist, getting angry when someone tries to make something easier for her because she’s a female.
Next up we have Jack. Lucy’s best friend. I’m not sure what to think of him. He’s got an eye for color coordinating and fashion, but can’t seem to get the hang of basic “manly” things. It’s like he and Lucy are the polar opposites of what the time period considers appropriate for their gender.
Prince Thomas is, well, a pompous ass at the beginning of the book. He’s shallow, rude, and just plain irritating. I don’t like him much for about 2/3 of the book. Then he finally becomes a likable character.
Cardinal Lionel is the bad guy. He’s a real piece of work. He masquerades as a man of God but has designs on taking the throne himself. He’s obnoxious and honestly, kind of stupid and boring as a bad guy.
Princess Aurora – finally, our Sleeping Beauty. She’s stupid, vapid, and so shallow and self-centered, I want to scream. I can’t believe how obnoxious she is. All she cares about are her looks.
Prince Phillip – he’s not much better than Aurora and honestly, they deserve each other. But at least he is loyal and a man of his word if nothing else.
The plot lines are ok I suppose. They aren’t great, but they aren’t terrible either. The book had the hate-to-love trope in it and honestly, in my opinion, it wasn’t done very well. I would rather the main characters either been in love from the beginning or hated each other through the whole book. It just bugged me. It was far too predictable.
I gave it a 3 out of 5 stars because it was quick and easy to read and it wasn’t a horrible book. Just not one I’d choose to re-read.
I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.
Series: Gravemaidens Duology Author: Kelly Coon
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 29, 2019 Format: Kindle
The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.
In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.
When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.
But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.
Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.
I’ve been trying to read this book since I first downloaded it from NetGalley on May 1. The problem is, the book just doesn’t really hold my interest.
The book is considered fantasy by many readers who’ve given it the genre of YA and Fantasy on Goodreads, but so far, there’s no reason to call it fantasy. Unless you mean because of the world itself – but honestly, I’ve seen no indication of magic. Just primitive healing like you’d have found in medieval times.
I guess the biggest thing is that the book doesn’t get to the point. I mean sure, you have to give the reader something to read, but you also don’t need to take forever to do it. I made it almost 40% into the book and for the most part, the most exciting part was the selection of the Sacred Maidens.
I can’t stand Kammani. She’s whiny and annoying. She refuses to marry the boy who loves her because she wants to be a great healer. She wants to heal the Lugal for her own selfish purposes – to save her sister, even though her sister doesn’t want to be saved. She’s just a seriously annoying character that I can’t get behind. I honestly don’t care if she gets what she wants because I don’t like her.
I didn’t finish this book, which is why it has zero stars. Maybe I’ll try again later, but honestly, as much as I hate the main character, I doubt it.
I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.