The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

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Make sure you check out our reviews for the other books in The Raven Cycle, Blue Lily, Lily BlueThe Dream Thievesand The Raven Boys.

Cabeswater is dying. It’s being poisoned. It’s being unmade by the second sleeper, a demon who shouldn’t have been woken. It was created by all the making in Cabeswater, and it’s mission is unmaking. It will start with the forest and all of its wonders and dreams. It will end by unmaking the dreamer who created Cabeswater.

Seven years ago, a life that should not have been lost was taken on the ley line and  Gansey’s life was saved when it should not have been. It’s time for him to repay the favor.

Are Adam and Ronan a spoiler if you’ve seen it coming? I’m going with no. A relationship between Adam and Ronan has been building since early in the story. And it fits. Ronan saved Adam from his dad that night. Ronan brought Adam (and everyone, really) to Cabeswater, a place that has become a part of Adam’s identity and that fights to protect him. And in Adam, Ronan sees someone who fights so strongly for what he wants. I don’t know that Ronan is capable of that kind of fight anymore. I know he respects that in Adam, even if he finds it as exhausting as the rest of us sometimes.

Seondeok is a dream artifacts collector. She specifically collects Niall Lynch’s dream-things. Henry Cheng is her son. When Henry was young, he was kidnapped and held hostage by Seondeok’s competitor, Laumonier (the creepy triplets-who-are-actually-the-same). Henry knows about magic (or whatever you want to call what’s up with Gansey and the gang) and it’s not so much that he wants to be involved, but he wants to share that with other people. I think everyone can understand that need to be included and to know that there are people who know what you know.

I can’t imagine that saving Gansey would have worked half as well if it had been attempted by any other author. Stiefvater’s been building up to Gansey’s death for the entire series, and she’s also been building up to a grand loophole involving Glendower and the wish granted for whoever wakes him. When that plan goes down the drain, all of our hearts break. Will this truly be the end of Richard Gansey III? An death in service to his friends and Cabeswater would be noble enough for our Raven King, but what a sad ending to a story that has otherwise been so much more about the magic in the world than the misery.

The only real negative is the resolution. We received so much more Adam than Blue and Gansey. I’m not sure why she Stiefvater thought we’d be more interested in Adam and his parents than Blue and Gansey’s new life, but that’s what we got. Honestly, I could’ve told Adam that his parents didn’t want him back. They don’t want to hear about his success or his future. They don’t want ownership and they won’t be proud of him. I didn’t need or want to watch that trainwreck.

I’m so excited for Blue to go off and discover the world. Gansey’s been there, done that, but it’ll be a different experience with Blue. Her sense of wonder at anything that isn’t Henrietta will thrill them both and her authenticity will win over everyone they meet on their travels. It’ll be the time of their life. After that we just have to get Blue into college (if that’s still what she wants); she’s got hella admissions essay materials.

The Raven Cycle‘s final act was everything I hoped it would be. It was terrifying and exhilarating and sad. All the pieces of this giant puzzle of a story finally fell into place. Questions were more than satifactorily answered, and my expectations were not only met, they were smashed straight through. One of the best conclusions to a book series I’ve ever read.

Frostblood by Elly Blake

Frostblood is Blake’s debut novel.

Frostbloods and firebloods are natural enemies in this world.  The king is being controlled by an evil entity called the Minax.  However the king is a frostblood with a vendetta to kill all of the firebloods in his hunt to find the Daughter of Darkness.

Ruby is a fireblood livng in a small village with her healer mother when the soldiers of the king raided the village and taking Ruby prisoner.  For half a year, Ruby is held prisoner until a handful of frostblood refugees break her out.  Confused, Ruby reluctantly agrees to go with and help the refugees destroy the throne, which wields the darkness, controlling the king.  Arcus and Brother Thistle, frostblood refugees, help Ruby control and master her fire.  However, some of the other refugees come to find out that Brother Thistle and Arcus are housing a fireblood.  Most of the residents are very iffy about Ruby putting their safety in danger.

Ruby is taken prisoner again but this time taken to the palace to be held prisoner.  She is forced to fight for her life against frostblood champions to get close to the king.  The king has his suspicion that Ruby is the Daughter of Darkness that he has been searching for.  Wishing to take Ruby as an ally, King Rasmus tried to convince her with the Minax’s help, they could rule the kingdom with an iron fist.  Arcus then storms the kingdom with this followers, claiming he is the rightful king Arelius Arkanus.

This is a page turner, however it is predictable.  Arcus turning out to be Rasmus’s elder brother, thought to have died in a fire, comes out of no where to claim his throne.

Ruby is a weak teenager who doesn’t know how to control her gift, or even summon it unless she is mad.  She is afraid throughout most of the book to even summon her fire, which grew irritating, especially when Arcus would taunt Ruby. Towards the end of the book she learned how to use her fire to kill the frostblood champions she was going against, which drew the Minax towards her even more.

Blake does a phenomenal job describing scenes and how the characters look in her head.  Arcus’s face is burned and scarred due to an assassination attempt on his life when he was young.  Brother Thistle took Arcus  under his wing when he was banished from the kingdom.  Blake made sure to leave no loose ends in this novel, leaving me satisfied with finishing it.  However, the predictability of the book is a bit of an upset.

The character development was meager.  There was little improve on Ruby throughout the story.  She was just as scared at the beginning as she was in the ending.  She never seemed to be brave, just a poor forced soul that went along with the plan unwillingly.

  • 3/5
  • Decent read, although slightly predictable
  • Little character development
  • Some romance 


Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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This is a world where the color of a person’s blood determines who they are and what they do. Those with silverblood have power, in the political and supernatural sense. Those who bleed red are normal. They are the lower class workers and soldiers. Life is hard, but uncomplicated for the Reds; they must find work before they turn 18. If they cannot (which many can’t), they will be drafted conscripted into the Nortan army, where they will likely die on the front lines.

Mare Barrow is a Red who’s about to turn 18. She’s a pickpocket, which isn’t exactly considered legitimate work. But when she pickpockets the right person, she finds herself summoned to work at the palace, effectively taking her out of the running for conscription. In an accident, it’s revealed that Mare has powers. The King forces her to pose as a lost heiress to a Silver High House and uses her as a tool to quell the growing unrest among the Reds.

Just to get the inevitable discussion about the love-triangle out of the way, Maven and Mare should work so much better than Cal and Mare. Maven is kind, and believes in the same things Mare does, and he supports and protects her as she’s learning to navigate this new life. Cal is busy studying battle tactics and training and, oh yeah, spending time with his actual fiancee. But the chemistry between Cal and Mare is so much stronger. Which is something I’m sure Maven is used to; being overlooked in favor of his brother for something intangible like chemistry or charisma. And while I’m on the subject, don’t get me started on the upcoming Kilorn drama. We can ask Gale and Peeta how that one’s going to turn out.

Mare is self-centered. She makes some poor attempt to help a once-scrawny boy turned best friend who she can’t seem to get rid of and who obviously doesn’t want to be saved in an effort to help her conscious. Golly gee, can’t wait for the oncoming boy next door triangle. Her self-centeredness ruins her sister’s career; her need to save herself results in the hunting-down and the execution of her friends; her belief that the Prince is so in love with her destroys Scarlet Guard’s plans for a coup. She shows no development and never stops to take a look at herself, choosing instead to think about how awful the snakes she’s being forced to live with are.

What becomes increasingly clear to me as this story continues is that Mare is an expendable piece in the cog that is this ‘rebellion’. If you can call it that. Because at some point, the Scarlet Guard is going to have to take a look at whether or not the ends justify their means right now. Yes, there are people with rights who need to be fought for. But the Scarlet Gaurd isn’t so much fighting as playing God. They are choosing the Silvers who live and die. They are letting their actions result in the deaths of innocent civilians. Now they need to ask if it’s worth it to them.

But Mare is replaceable. The only thing that makes Mare noteworthy in this novel is that she can’t be shuffled off and killed quietly because hundreds, if not thousands, of Silvers saw her powers. In order to maintain the fragile facade that the Silvers are strongest because of their gifts, the King forces Mare to pretend to be a long-lost heiress of a Silver House. If it had been any other Red, they would be where Mare was. If any other Red were in this position, the Scarlet Guard would have sought them out and asked for their help. We find out there are hundreds of others who are Red and Silver, and for some reason, we’re stuck with whiny, self-centered, hard-to-swallow Mare Barrow.

A lot of the problems with fleshing out these characters is that there isn’t any time to do so. There’s a lot of description of what’s going on, and not a lot about who is doing what and why they’re doing it. Part of this comes from it being a debut novel. Aveyard has yet to find a strong voice and a distinctive style. Events of the book are relayed to other characters, and the events themselves become meaningless in the retelling.

But don’t get me wrong. This book was fun. There was definitely a lot of action, and I am always a sucker for a book about any kind of royalty. The plot twist, though predictable, was at least understandable. You can’t treat a person so horribly for their entire life, constantly overlooking them and patronizing them, and expect them to be okay with it. Like I said, Red Queen is a fun ride, just not a particularly good book.

 

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Cycle #3: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by [Stiefvater, Maggie]
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Blue and her Raven Boys are still searching for a long-dead Welsh king, but along the way they’ve found strength in their friendship, a mystical forest that protects 2 out of the 4 of them, and they’ve discovered their own strange abilities. They’re also braving incredible dangers like an uncontrollable ley line, the boss of the assassin who killed Niall Lynch and is after the Greywaren, and cursed caves. The pyschics of 300 Fox Way are trying to help guide them, but with Maura missing and so many things about the Raven Boys fate unclear, it’s almost impossible to untangle what is going on in Henrietta.

 

In Blue Lily, Blue and Gansey’s budding romance continues to bud. They can’t admit to each other that they may like each other because 1) let’s not forget Blue is cursed and 2) they don’t want to hurt Adam. This was probably the most emotional part of the novel, because it’s not hard to see how badly they want to be together, and we already know that Gansey is going to die. It’s impossible not to empathize with Blue’s panic any time she sees Gansey in his Aglionby shirt.

Robert Parrish wanders into Adam’s apartment before the hearing, and that was terrifying. It’s been impossible to forget the night we last saw Adam’s dad (in the first book). He’s volatile and hard to predict. His hatred for his son comes from fear and jealousy of what his son’s becoming. Mr. Parrish is tired of his son thinking he’s better than the rest of his family, but what’s really sad is Adam doesn’t believe that. In fact, his worst fear is that he is just like his father; angry and destined for nothing more than living in the same small trailer for the rest of his life.

Adam finally learns in this book that not all help is charity. He can’t do everything by himself. That’s something that he finds in his work with Persephone. An extremely powerful ley line, a magical entity with a mind of its own, cannot physically move items blocking its flow of power. It needs Adam to do that, and Adam needs Persephone to teach him how to communicate with Cabeswater. He’s grown so much, that when Gansey and Ronan show up at his father’s hearing, without his asking and without him even telling them when it was, he accepts their help and support. Sometimes people help people to make their lives easier, not because they expect or want anything in return.

Of the three sleepers, two are woken during this novel. We can safely assume Gwenllian was the third sleeper; the one that could have been woken or not. She’s batshit, but she seems to be harmless enough. And Blue is learning about herself through Gwenllian. Maura is found near the sleeper that shouldn’t be woken. She went underground to find Glendower (presumable the sleeper that should), and instead found Artemus, her long-lost lover, and is trapped by the second sleeper.

In the journey to find Maura, we find that Gansey has power too. Adam the Magician, Blue the Mirror, Ronan the Dreamer, and Gansey the King. Gansey III finally finds his voice, and its more than just charisma. With this voice, he is capable of commanding the dead to rise. But Gansey is a Gansey, and they don’t command, they only ask and hope. This unwillingness to command others is part of what makes Gansey who he is; it’s part of what binds the Raven Boys together. He never commands, never expecs, and rarely asks. But when he does ask, he receives.

Even the secondary and tertiary characters are real, fully developed people fighting their own demons and living their own lives. I’ve never read another series that has so seamlessly woven everyone’s story into one cohesive plot, while paying more than sufficient attention to the characters that aren’t directly involved. When your characters are that sound, that well-written, it almost doesn’t matter what plot you’re trying to sell.

Strange things happen in this world all the time. It would be easy to dismiss them as corny or impossible. But the authenticity of the characters breathes life into the magic of the events. The reader believes in the characters, so they believe what the character tells them. Maggie Stiefvater’s characterization is the key to The Raven Cycle’s success, because once the reader is attached to Blue and her Boys, they’re impossible to leave.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval is one of the most anticipated books for 2017 and I’m so glad I got a copy so early!

Scarlett and Tella are forbidden to leave the small island that they live on with their ruthless father.  When she was little, Scarlett dreamed of Caraval coming to their island, where the audience takes part in the performance.  Their father arranges a marriage for Scarlett with a man she has never met.  A mysterious sailor comes and whisks the two girls away for a five night escapade, where Tella is the prize.

Scarlett starts out following all the rules, because if she doesn’t her father would beat up on the person she loves the most, Tella.  After their invitation to Caraval arrives we stumble across a sailor who has a thing for Tella.  Scarlett tells her sister that Caraval is performing on a close island in a couple days.  However, Scarlett is supposed to meet her fiance in a week.  Scarlett determines that they will not be able to go to the show with enough time to make it back to meet her fiance.

Scarlett starts out as a character who abides by the rules that are set to stay out of any unnecessary trouble.  However during the five days she is in Caraval she learns she needs to break a few rules to get the prize.  She grows more confident in herself and in her own opinions.  The character development was very well thought out and portrayed as the book progressed.  Scarlett breaks out of her shell.  She goes from slightly timid and shy to strong, demanding, and determined.

Julian, the sailor, is a mass of mystery.  Throughout the book he disappears many times and leaves Scarlett on her own.  He claims he’s been through the game before and is looking for revenge against Legend, the caraval master.  He definitely gives off the definition of mysterious.  Garber defines him as tall, tan, and handsome.  But really, who describes their characters as pale and ugly, other than Stephanie Meyers.

Julian and Scarlett’s relationship remains pretty rocky throughout most of the book.  Most of the time, you can tell there is something between them but neither of them want to admit to such feelings.

We don’t see much of Tella throughout the book because she is the prize.  But she comes off at first as very coy.  At the end of the book it is revealed how manipulative AND coy she is.

The plot left very few loose ends, except for the cliff hanger at the end.  All off the plot twists made sense and they were well thought out.  The clues that were left for the character to figure out were not easily predicted.

  • 5/5
  • Very well written
  • Read it!
  • Interesting plot and characters.

 

The Crown by Kiera Cass

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Make sure you check out our reviews of the rest of the Selection Series novels, The SelectionThe EliteThe One, and The Heir.

Eadlyn would still like to think there is no one as powerful as her. But it’s hard when her mother is dying of a heart condition, and her brother left the country without telling anyone, and her people hate her, and she has to choose between the 6 suitors still at the Palace, but the man she really wants to be with isn’t one of them. Not to mention, there’s an Illea out there stirring up trouble by suggesting he and the Princess are in love. Yeah, sure. No one is more powerful.

Anything interesting that happened in this story, happened during the last book. There is little plot development and no action. It’s simply Eadlyn trying to decide what to do with her life. The ending was entirely predictable, from who Eadlyn chose to what Eadlyn chose to do with the country. The one truly shocking thing was Lady Brice’s identity, and even that felt lackluster due to the lack of foreshadowing or description or character building to actually make us care about Brice. Yeah, everyone love someone who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself, but who is Brice as a person or a character? We really just don’t know.

Speaking of Brice and the advisers, why are they even still around? What purpose do they serve? How were they chosen? Why hasn’t Maxon gotten rid of them? All they seem to do is propose terrible ideas and attempt to bully whoever is in charge into listening to them.

It wasn’t even a fun read, because I could care less about anyone in the novel. America’s relatively absent the whole time, Maxon is mopey, twin brother is gone. Who else have I got? Oh, that’s right. I’ve got the guy who can barely speak English; the architect who used to use his talents to help the impoverished, but can’t seem to stop designing palace parlors these days; the boy who promised to provide a reason to choose him everyday, until he tells Eadlyn he likes someone else; and a boy who’s not even in the Selection. Right. Interesting.

There are some moments in this story that had the potential to be very heartfelt, and they were very rushed, especially near the end. It was like Cass had a page limit that she was trying hard not to go over, even though there were things she desparately wanted to talk  about. Maxon’s conversation with Eadlyn? Was there a reason we wait until there were 7 minutes to the announcement? Was there a reason the conversation with Marlee about Kile needed to happen in less than 10 seconds? Probably not.

TL;DR

  • I don’t even know what to say
  • Not good
  • 1/5 stars
  • It’s not even fun anymore

 

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

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Also check out our review of Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver.

Lena Haloway contracted the Deliria. She ran away from Portland and her identity has been Invalidated. Lena Halowey has never existed according to the people in charge. But a new Lena was born when the old Lena was erased. And now Lena Haloway has to go home.

Hanna Tate reported her best friend when she contracted the Deliria. She’s the reason Lena left and the reason Alex is dead. When the Lena ordeal is over, she gets to go back to her life engaged to the future mayor. But maybe Hanna should be more worried about Frank’s past than his future.

Oliver seems to struggle with resolutions, which is fine when the series is continuing, but not so much in a book meant to conclude a story line. I would like to see what comes next for Lena and the resisters. What comes after they’ve torn down that wall? I guarantee it’s not the end of the war; the government’s not going to give up that easy. And what about the people who were already cured? Is there a way for them to be uncured?

The entire second book was a waste of paper. It was filler that was designed to string the reader along to the ending of that book so the main conflict of the final installment could be established. You’d hope think that the main conflict in a story about a Resistance fighter would be said Resistance’ struggle against the DFA and the Scavengers and the fascist and corrupt government. You’d be wrong. The main conflict of this story is a love triangle.

It’s not even a great love triangle either. Is it really a competition when one of your suitors is bland and boring, barely speaking a full paragraph in the entire novel? Where’s the fun in a love triangle where the main character has to choose between a boy who annoys her more every day she’s with him and a boy she can’t take her mind off of? What is supposed to convince us that she’s going to choose Julian? The fact that she should? The fact that she rescued him from the DFA in New York and brought him into the Wilds, where he has no clue how to survive? That’s laughable, because if there’s one thing Lena’s learned in the Wilds, it’s that should doesn’t mean anything. Lena’s choice was obvious before she even had a chance to make it.

It was great to see Hanna again, and watching her struggle in her new life was the most compelling part of this novel (though I am completely confused at to why Oliver thinks splitting the narrative this way is the only way to write a good story. It didn’t work on Glee, and it’s barely working here.). Frank is the epitome of everything Resistance is fighting against. He’s a dictator trying to maintain control Portland by restricting the rights and privileged of those he’s deemed wrong. He’s willing to let people die as long as it helps him maintain his precious order.

Hanna’s story is so much more compelling because she’s supposed to be safe. She’s fully committed to the ideals of this society. She’s gotten the cure, she’s set to be married to the mayor, she’s forgone her education and any possible career she had so she could marry Frank and be a good wife. And her society is failing her. Her cure didn’t take as expected, something that isn’t her fault, but that she’d surely be punished for. Her husband is psychotic, with some insane new ideas about how to rule Portland with an iron fist. Her city is being attacked by the resistance, who her best friend ran off to join. And somehow, Hanna manages to keep going. It’s remarkable, and indicative of her resilience.

TL;DR

  • 3/5
  • Ending was unsatisfying
  • Poor attempt at a love triangle
  • STOP. SPLITTING. THE. NARRATIVE.
  • Hanna Tate has still got some fight left in her