Review: Rebel by Marie Lu

**POSSIBLE SPOILERS** Fans of Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy knows that it ended on a bittersweet note. Our heroes June and Day save the Republic and live to tell the tale but don’t end up together. The illness that Day suffers gave him amnesia and he doesn’t he remember who June is. June for her part, promises that if Day pulls through she will let him live in peace. So Day takes his brother, Eden, to the technological advanced country of Antarctica to get away from the Republic and give his brother best education. June stays to help the new Elector reshape and rebuild the Republic. The Epilogue of Champion left readers with hope that one day June and Day will one day end up together and Rebel answers that questions. As well as to what happened with the Republic and Eden. Rebel picks up about a month after the Epilogue, which took place 10 years after the events of the Legend trilogy. Eden is a top student at Antarctica’s top university and is about to graduate with his Masters and will soon return to the Republic for a prestigious internship. Thanks to Day’s heroics, Eden and Day are afforded to live in the luxury and all the benefits that go with it. Day, who now goes by his real name of Daniel works for the AIS, Antarctic Intelligence Service. Daniel has been investigating the mob boss Dominic Hann in the Undercity. Ross City the capital city of Antarctica is split in to two parts, the Undercity and the Sky floors. Citizens are live in a kind of gamified society, in which every action they do are given points. The more points citizens earn the higher level they are the higher level they are the more opportunities they have. The levels determined where they can live, where they can work and even what food and medicine they access too. The system is supposed to inspire people to make the right decisions and work hard. The better and harder they work they more points they earn and the more opportunities they earn but in reality it hard for those with low levels to move up. If you are limited in what food you can buy and because of that left hungry. How are you going to have the energy to work harder? If you are sick but your level doesn’t allow you to see certain doctors or get the right medicine, how can you expect to get better? Eden and Day see the Undercity and it’s unfairness as reminders of how they lived in the Republic but react to it different. Eden is drawn to it, while Day tries to avoid it even though his job requires him to work down there. It’s no surprise that Eden gets caught up with Dominic Hann, the same man that Daniel has been investigating and that’s really where the story picks up. This also coincidentally is when June, the Elector and the Republic delegation visit Ross City. Daniel has slowly been recovering his memories of June since their chance meeting with her in the Epilogue. He remembers how much he was in love with her and even though the last decade he didn’t remember her he never took off the paper clip ring she gave him. So really deep down he never stop loving her but does she still love him? It’s been 10 years and they have both grown up and changed and had other relationships. Can they just pick up where they left off? Well, not really because chaos once again strikes and they are retreating back to the Republic.

While we still don’t know what happened that split the US into pieces and how or when people settled in Antarctica, we do know that change is slow and really there isn’t a perfect form of government. We learn from June that while the Republic has improved and is rebuilding but that costs money and you will always have those who will want to go back to what they are familiar with. Meanwhile, the gamified society of Ross City seems like a fair solution, that we are all rewarded and penalized for our actions because we don’t all start at the same point it makes it hard for people to move up. More importantly when you treat half of your population with contempt and just assume that they are lazy and that is why they stay at such low levels, well you’re going to have trouble. What makes a good villain is that you might agree with them. There is a reason after all why Eric Killmonger is the best Marvel Villain because he wasn’t wrong. He was absolutely right that Wakanda was wrong for their continuous isolationist policy. It’s how he went about it that was wrong. Nakia argued the same thing but proposed a different method of going about it and that is what T’Challa ultimately went with. Hann is also not wrong that the system that Antarctica wasn’t the fair system it was presented as but he’s solution wasn’t the way to go about it either. Eden, Daniel and June once again come to the rescue and save another nation from ruin. For us readers, it gives us the ending that we truly wanted for our characters and gave closure to a fantastic series. I’m glad that Marie Lu decided to write it because it was a fun read. For me it hit all the right notes of the original trilogy and gave a satisfied ending. There are still many questions left open as to how Antarctica and the Republic will move forward but you do have to hope that they both took lessons in what each nation has gone through and learn from it.

Review: Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

***POSSIBLE SPOILERS***

This was a satisfying series. Mirabella, Arsinoe, Katherine, Jules and Emilia have gone through a lot in the last four books and for the most part, I’m okay with how it ends The ruthlessness of how Kendare Blake wrote her story really brought up the tension. I think I always knew that some of the girls would not make it to the end. After all from the beginning two of the three sisters were supposed to do die to allow one sister to ascend to the crown. So it wasn’t a surprised that two of our queens did not make it to the end. At least one of them, I was really said about, almost as sad as the characters themselves and a little annoyed that another succeeded but that’s life I guess. Katherine and Arsinoe both had the biggest character growths of all the characters. Katherine went for a weak Queen who was nothing more then a puppet to the Arron’s who raised her. Thanks to the Dead Queens that saved her life and possessed her helped her grow into a fearsome Queen who was to be feared but also confident in her own decisions. There was some kind of peace in her as she understood her role in how it was all going to end. In a way, as the book progressed she was only one who knew it. Arisone, started out also weak and wanting nothing to do with being a Queen. Her original plan was just run away but she eventual learned you can’t escape your issues and excepted her role. She may never want to take a role of leadership but she is also no longer shying away from who she is and what she had to do to get there. Mirabella pretty much stayed the same and it was kind of her downfall. She always believed that her love for her sisters and their love for her would be enough to get them through. If they were going to defeat the mist and the Dead Queens, they needed to do it together. In a way she was right, just not as she imagined. Jules is still not my favorite character but she was better in this one. Maybe because the story focused more on Katherine, Arisone and Mirabella then her and because of the events of past books, she was a little more subdued. All in all, it was a very interesting and engrossing story. A feminist fantasy about a Matriarchy society filled with all the social and political intrigue of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. The book is populated with strong women, who are complicated and nuanced. None of them are perfect and all do questionable things but most importantly that were allowed too be. They were the damsels in distress and the villainess. They were the heroes and the bad guys. Yes, there were romances but they were subplots and not central to the narratives. In the end the sisters prevailed because of their own skills and strengths and the skills of strengths on their friends. They controlled the story and their destiny. They saved themselves. We need more books and series like this.

Quick Review: Broken Throne by Victoria Aveyard

Fans of the Red Queen series should devour this short story collection. Even if they have already read the two previously released short stories, it is still worth the read. Broken Throne is gives more insight into the world building that author Victoria Aveyard did to create her series. Historical notes by Julian is the perfect way to go deep into how Norta, Montefort, Lakelands, Piedmont and neighboring countries came to be and gives perspective on where they are now. In between the history lessons are short stories, new and old, set in this world that focuses on supporting characters or backstory. The story that fans will probably be the most interested in reading is Fire Light. Fans who were left a little disappointed on how Mare left thing with Cal at the end of War Storm will get some closure in this story. Mare and Cal have been through a lot. They have both done things to others and to each other that they can’t take back. They both needed time to heal from everything that has happened and accessed who they are now and not who they were before they meant. Can they forgive each other? Can they forgive themselves? It was a sweet story that wraps up their story nicely. While I think this was a wrap of the series but I think there is a lot here for more book set in this universe. The Nortan states push towards a representative government is rocky and the epilogue mentions further drama that could easily be turned into a series. There are a few countries that were mentioned but we haven’t been that could be explored. Not to mention, as more and more Reds turn out to be New bloods, there could be so many more stories about them and how that plays out in the world. So what I’m saying, I don’t think we have seen the last of Norta or the Lakelands or Montefort or the last of Mare, Cal, Evageline, Iris, Farley and the other characters either. Whenever Victoria is ready to come back she should know I’ll be waiting.

Review: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

I fell in love with the premise of this book immediately. A crew of woman sailors out for revenge against the regime that killed or hurt their families. It just seemed like the book I needed to read right now. Caledonia Styx, the captain is a flawed heroine for sure but she is also a good leader. Wracked with guilt after hesitating to kill the Bullet, member of the so called Army that rules the oceans, that lead to the death of her own family. She builds her ship and crew along with her friend Pieces. Many of her decisions on her personal desire to kill this one Bullet and this at times clouds her judgment. The weight of being the Captain and responsible for the lives of her crew members weighs heavily on her as their mission becomes more and more dangerous. After taking on one enemies ship they take on a Bullet. She doesn’t trust him but he offers her information that she can’t deny and things start moving very fast.

From the very beginning this book was intense. I could feel the tension that the characters were feeling throughout their journey. The story is in Caledonia’s point of view and we get a glimpsed of a determined but also conflicted girl. She is a born leader and has the complete loyalty of her crew but has so many doubts and fears that she can’t see it. Almost the entire book , Pieces tells her how much she needs to let go and trust that her crew has her back and just when I thought the message got through, she does something stupid but I won’t go into that because that would spoil the end. That’s the beauty of this book. It really is about female friendship. Caledonia only succeeds because of the crew she assembled and that’s a powerful message. Often girls are taught to be in competition with each other but we can be so much stronger together. All of the characters are fully fleshed out. We don’t get as much of their back story but we get full character traits and that each girl is their own person. In the upcoming books, I hope we get more of her crew and where they came from and how they joined the crew. I really loved this book and happy and sad that it’s a trilogy because I don’t want to journey to end but I also want to read the next book like right now.

Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

***Possible Spoilers from this book and the previous Grishaverse novels***

In King of Scars is the perfect mix of the previous two series in the Grishaverse. It has the mystery and court intrigue of Shadow and Bone and the caper mystery of Six of Crows. In a way it’s two different novels. You have King Nikolai who is trying to save Ravka from falling apart while trying to vanquish the monster from within. Left over power from the Darkling. Then you have Nina, who has returned to Ravka’s service by helping to smuggle Grisha from neighboring nation Fjerda. She is also there to bury Matthais. Nina is still dealing with the aftereffects of the Parem addiction and how it has changed her powers. While at the moment these two story lines don’t have a lot in common, you can bet it will all come together in the end. Nikolai is just as charming as he has always been, even with the world seemingly against him. His country is struggling financially and in between two powerful nations. He’s trying to do everything he can to keep them afloat while avoiding another war. To complicate things more, he’s turning into a monster, thanks to the power the Darkling put on him during the last war. Nikolai has always come off as flippant and care free but his love for his country has never been in doubt. More proof of that is the lengths he will go to keep it safe, even from him. A welcome character development is Zoya. The beautiful but hard as nail Grisha from Shadow and Bone. In the past series, she was nothing more then the mean girl who wanted to be the best, the favorite. She did come around to Alina’s sign when the Darkling finally revealed who he was. Here we finally get to know her better and why she is so stand offish. As always there’s more then meets the eye and I found myself liking her, which is something I never really thought I would before. Meanwhile, Nina’s new power takes her mission to horrifying places. They may have destroyed the Fjerdian’s research on Jurda Parem in Six of Crows but apparently that strain wasn’t the only one they were working on. Nina organizes her own heist-like rescue to save more Grisha’s from a truly terrifying fate. I like how Nina is dealing with her grief. I like how she admits that she is not always the noblest of people and has thoughts of lashing out and being rash. It’s real and despite the pain, she hasn’t stopped. She still is out there fighting for the good. There were a lot of twists and turns in this one as you would expect from Leigh Bardugo. It was truly enjoyable and I can’t wait for the next one.

Review: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

I really do love a good mystery, especially when it’s well done. I thought I knew what was going to happen only to find that I was wrong. The clues were there but unless you were paying attention, you completely missed it. Just as many of the characters. Stevie is an amateur sleuth who wants to solve one of the greatest mysteries in American history. The Ellingham Academy was started by an eccentric millionaire. He had a dream to have the brightest kids study at his school and focus on what they want. An educational experiment unlike any other but when his wife and daughter were kidnapped and another student was killed during the first school year, the school became infamous. Despite it’s history, the school still strives and Stevie is determined to solve it’s most famous mystery. The problem is that once she arrives another student is killed and another goes missing. Her conservative parents pull her out of the school for fear it isn’t safe only to be convinced by their employee, Senator Edward King (not so subtlety modeled after Steve King) that the school is safe. Of course, King has his own reasons for Stevie to return. His son, David, is also a student at Ellingham and Stevie and him have a complicated relationship. Stevie doesn’t like making a deal with King but her want to go back overrides her concerns. A bright spot is when the author of the definitive book on the Ellingham case needs a student to help with research on a new edition of the book. Soon Stevie is making breakthrough in the case but at what cost. This is the middle book in the trilogy and they often times feel slow but this one moved at a pretty fast clipped. One of the revelations, I knew it was coming but I wasn’t expecting it to come midpoint of the book, really throwing me off. It was a great misdirection by Johnson, to get us to focus on one direction while the answer was in the other direction. There were answers and part of the original crime was answered but who so many more are still unanswered. Who killed Iris Ellingham and is Alice alive? What happened to David and Hunter and how do they play into the mystery? Were Hayes and Ellie’s death really accidents or did they know something more? I’m really looking forward to the finale next year.