Review: Greywaren by Maggie Stiefvater

After finishing the Dreamer’s Trilogy, I think I liked The Raven Cycle a little bit better. No disrespect to the Lynch brothers. I’m glad they were able to get their lives together but as I reading this, I sort of forgot that they were trying to stop the apocalypse from happening. Not a minor thing. I was definitely more invested in the emotional journey of Ronan, Declan, Matthew, Jordan, Hennessey and even Carmen then I was in whatever mission they were supposed to be on. It was definitely a journey. I love that these characters who have been through so much that they got the healing they needed and will be able to move on with their lives in a more healthy way. So much time of this novel was spent on their healing journey and their past that when it came time to save the world it was a little jarring. Like oh that’s right. That’s why Hennessey destroyed the Ley line. It’s why Ronan is asleep and Declan is frantic. It’s why all of them are in the state that they were in are catching up with the story. That all being said. I’m glad that this series existed because Ronan was one of my favorite characters from the Raven Cycles and I’m happy that he has got the closure he needed. It was also good to catch up with the Blue and the other Raven boys. I feel like that Maggie left a little bit open that if she wanted to pick up again with Blue and Gansey she could but if she doesn’t. The Raven Cycle and The Dreamers Trilogy were beautiful stories with characters, I’ll never forger and grateful to have spent time with.

Review: The Poppy War Trilogy by R.F. Kuang

This series is brutal and unflinching. It is a really a brutal read. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I truly understood what I was getting into when I started this last month. It was like the one book that people on Booktok seemed to all agree was a must read. I was intrigued that it was a fantasy that was based on East Asian history. Specifically Chinese history. I am not familiar with Chinese history but I definitely recognized the parallels from 20th century China and the Japanese occupation of some areas of the country and the attempted colonization from Western Nations. The Poppy War Trilogy tackles the trauma of colonialism, war, famine, sexual assault and racism. The Poppy War follows Rin, an orphan from a poor southern province of Nikara. Her guardians try to marry her off so she decides to take the test to get into the elite military school and not only passes it, she gets the highest score in her province. This shocks everyone and instead of celebrating it, she is accused of cheating. Things don’t get much better when she arrives at Sinegard. She is looked down for her poor upbringing and dark skin. She has to fight to prove hat she belongs and it isn’t easy. The first day, she makes the enemy of Nezha, the son of the Dragon lord but also make friends with Kitay, the son of a minister to the Empress. The Mugenese, who live on the island of the coast of Nikara, who has tried twice to conquer Nikara in the Previous Poppy wars. After a couple of years at Sinegard, the Mugenese invade and Rin and her schoolmates have to go to war. Rin discovers she is a Shaman and can channel the power of the Phoenix god and summon fire. With great power there are costs and Shamans don’t always have control of her minds. She is constantly fighting to keep her own mind while wanted to have the power. She likes the power it gives her. However, coming to grips with what she can do and how it effects others is hard to always come to terms with. To be clear, Rin does some unconscionable things in this series. There are at times, I just couldn’t justify her behavior but most of the time I could. The biggest criticism, I read about her online was how unlikable she was. And yeah, she’s not so great. She’s immature, stubborn, easy to manipulate and easy to rile up but even when she starts to spiral into madness, it made sense to me. When you factor all that she has been through. All that she had to endure in such short life, it made sense why she would act this way Yes, it is hard to justify but it rang true to who she was.

As the story progresses and we go further and further into the wars, the cost of war becomes evident and devasting. War effects the poor more than it does the rich. It’s not the rich that have to flee their homes or starve. It’s not usually their woman who are raped or their man forced into service. The depictions of all these things are unflinching. There is no shying away from the brutal results of war. It can be triggering. Just as the cruel depiction of colonialism and the trauma of being erased in your own country. The Mugenese were the first enemy but other outside enemy is the Hespira, who represented Western Nations who came in wanted to take advantage of the natural resources. I appreciate how religion played a huge role in the Hespirans plans to take control because often times the role of Christianity is downplayed or unmentioned when we talk about western colonialism. The Hespirans wanted to make Nikara more “civilized” and to do that meant making them more like them and that includes converted them to their religion.

I truly loved this series but it is not for everyone. It is not for everyone. As I mentioned, it does not shy away from the graphic depiction of violence of war, towards woman. Rin is own penchant for committing violence herself is no less jarring. All of this is necessary to telling the story and if you are willing to take it all in. It is worth the ride.

Review: The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

For anyone who has seen Encanto will find many of the stories themes familiar. Especially from the beginning. It starts with the Matriarch of the family, Orquidea Divina invited her family back to her magical home for her death. The Montoya’s grew up in her home that always had everything they needed and they never questioned it. When they arrive, things are a miss and her death doesn’t go as planned but family pulls together to send her off. Orquidea was a complicated woman, like most people are but even more so to her family. She was a loving woman who gave all to her family but she was also very secretive and leaves the family reeling if they even knew here. Marimar, her granddaughter in particularly has some feelings about her Grandma. As does her cousins, Ray and Tatinelly. Seven years after her death, they are forced to go to Ecuador where Orquidea was born to discover her past to save their futures. Its basically a story of family trauma and family healing. Again, a lot like Encanto.

That’s where the comparisons end though. This story goes back and forth and the “present day” and the Orquidea’s past. Both storylines entwine to tell the story of Orquidea and the Montoya’s. Before she passes, she tells her family that she can’t tell them who is coming for them and they must find who. Marimar is to me the main character. She inherited the house and rebuilds. I feel like she is the one that is most connected to her. She goes through the wringer in this book but really comes out of it better. She is quite a extraordinary person. She starts out to be very guarded and for awhile she really starts to shut herself off. It’s her way of protecting herself but when tragedy strikes the family and she has to move, she does. It’s really through her eyes that we get to know Orquidea and the Montoya’s family and who they were and what they will become. So, if you like magical realism and Encanto, I think you will like this book too.

Quick Review: The Inheritance Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I mentioned earlier that I was surprised to find out this book was a trilogy because I thought it wrapped up pretty nicely in the last book. They found Toby, the missing Hawthorne. Avery had picked between Jameson and Greyson but I guess her year wasn’t quite over yet and hadn’t officially inherited the Hawthorne fortune yet and I guess we still hadn’t found it why she was picked. Well all of that was answered and some of it was good and some of it was okay. The fast pace nature of the story telling is still there. The puzzles were more complicated and we have a new antagonist to play against. Tobias Hawthorne was an asshole but I can’t imagine anyone who accumulated that much wealth is a decent person. What he did to Avery is kinda cruel but I do like what she did with the money at the end. How people can play with other people’s lives like this is just horrible? I get that in his way, he was protecting his family but at Avery’s expense. Anyway, Avery got the upper hand so good for her. The Hawthorne brothers got the closure and healing they needed though I do hope they all are in therapy after all of this. And I like how it’s been left open for future books if the author ever wants to return to. So yes, this was a fun mystery series. I highly recommend it.

Quick Review: A Venom Dark and Sweet by Judy I. Lin

Ning is on the run with the Princess and the banished Prince has taken over power. Ning knows who is responsible for the poisoned tea across the country but since she has been branded as the enemy of the state she doesn’t have many allies. So she goes with Princess Zhen to find solutions. Meanwhile, Kang wants desperately to get his father’s approval but he also can see that some things are a miss. They soon discover a magical conspiracy centuries in the making and only Ning’s Shennong-shi powers can save them. I like this. I thought it was a good sequel to the first book. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite in love with Kang’s POV as much as Ning’s but it was necessary for us to know what was going on in the capital since Ning was no longer there. I love Ning’s strength and self doubt. She was real She is dealing with other worldly powers and she isn’t even a trained Shennong-shi but she persevered through it. Her sister, Shu was a welcomed addition to the story and I adored Princess Zhen and Ruyi’s relationship. So, if you are looking for a fantasy that is not based on western mythology or world building. I highly recommend this series.

Quick Review: This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede

I like this book but it was a bit too long. So Alessa is the only standing between her people and the threat of the Gods. All She has to do is find a partner to help fight them with her but she already married and buried three partners so far and time is running out. And then there is a new threat of fundamentalist who believe that she is more of a threat then savior and is trying to kill her. So she hires Dante to be her bodyguard. Of course they fall in love and of course he is not what he seems. He has a dark secret. Okay, this is right up my alley and I was loving it but She finds a partner to fight the bad guys and there are still 100 pages left and it starts to drag on. Which was a shame because it really started to take me out of the narrative and I started to get disinterested. When the ending came, I was more relieved then anything else. I’m still going to read the sequel because I’m curious to see how they resolve the cliffhanger but I hope the pacing will be better.

Quick Review: The Sandman Act 1 and Act 2 by Neil Gaiman

I don’t know why I have waited so long to read or at least listen to his book. It’s just a fun world that Neil Gaiman has created. We have Dream. A cranky, emo boy who gets himself kidnapped and then has to rebuild his world and meet the most interesting and somewhat unhinged characters. Even though some of the stories are short and at times not connected to each other it was still a lot of fun. The audio production with voices of James McAvoy, Kat Dennings and Michael Sheen really brings out the story and brings even more life to the story.

I think I what I liked the most about the story is how messing Morpheus is. For a being that is eons old. He has no idea about who people are or who he is either. He has a long history of falling in love with human history only to spurn them when they don’t reciprocate his feelings or do as he wishes. The most egregious example is the story of Nada, an African Queen. They fall in love but when Nada realizes who he is and how impossible their relationship would be tries to break up with him and eventually kills herself. Upset that she choose to end her own life instead of being his Queen, he condemns her to torture in hell. For Thousands of years she suffers and he still feels that she wronged him until he is finally called out by his own family and he goes to free her. Speaking of her family, the Endless are the dysfunctional family we all love. They equal parts love each other as much as they hate each other. While they support they also scheme against each other and it’s fun. Not to human characters who get stuck in the middle but for us as readers. Desire, doesn’t have a big of a role so far as I thought they would but they are a treat all the less. They like the drama and I’m here for it. So yes, I do hope that Audible releases a volume 3 soon because I do love listening to it.

Quick Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Once upon a time, Alice’s Grandma wrote a book of creepy fairy tales and then build a house in the woods and shut herself off the world. That alone sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale, right? That was purpose because in a lot of ways this is just an elaborate fairy tale dressed up as a novel. Alice and her mother for years moved from place to place, trying to outrun their bad luck that always seemed to follow them because of course they would be cursed. Then they finally settled down and well Alice’s mom got kidnapped and now Alice has to find her but she needs help from classmate and super fan of her grandmother, Ellery Finch to find her. Her mom’s disappearance has something to do with her Grandmother’s stories but Alice has never read them and they are hard to find. I won’t’ say more as to not spoil it but this was fun and kind of creepy. Like a good fairy tale should be because lets be honest. A lot of fairy tales were creepy before they Disney got a hold of them. So yeah, solid book. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Quick Review: Blade Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

The mistake I might have made was read this right after The Priory of the Orange Tree because it’s not that it was bad or anything but the The Priory was such a well written, tightly constructed fantasy that I couldn’t help but compare them. I like this series. I think it’s fun and do love the expanding on the world building but there were times I felt it dragged. I’ve also started to be more drawn to Queen Erida more than Corayne. Corayne is still the brave kinda naive girl she was in the first. In a lot of ways she is a lot like Erida. They are both women who are living in a man’s world and have to prove themselves. While Corayne has choosen the path that will save the world and others, Erida has choosen the path of glory for herself. Her methods may be questionable but I can’t really fault her reasonings. If she was a King instead of a Queen. No one would question her ambitions or her claim to the throne. It would just be accepted. As wrong as she may be, I can’t help be drawn to her and a little sad that her story takes place so far away from the other main characters that her time is limited. A solid middle novel. It will be interesting to see where it goes next.

Quick Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

This was delightful. I like a good entertaining fantasy novel. It’s told through the narration of 4 different characters. Ead, a handmaiden from the Priory of the Orange Tree, Tane a dragonrider from the East, Dr. Roos, an alchemist from the West exiled in the east by Queen Sabran and Loth, a Lord from Queen Sabran’s court. They all tell the story of how their known world is set to fight the threat of the Nameless One. A powerful dragon that 1,000 years ago terrorized the world a but was thought to be defeated by a king but was actually defeated by 2 woman. This was a good book. All the narrators were interesting and brought a different world view to what is going on. The one thing that I did find overwhelming was the love story. I had read before starting that it was a sapphic love story, which it is but it’s not the main focal point. I guess when you only have 700 pages to tell your story and 4 narrators, romance has to wait. For fans of fantasy novels like Game of Thrones or the Lord of the Rings. This is right up you alley but better since it’s all one book so no waiting years between novels. That being said, I just read that Samantha Shannon is going to release a prequel early next year. So yes this was great book. You should read it.