A Court of Wings and Ruin

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy
Pub. Date: May 2017 (read May 2017)
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3

I’m not going to blurb this because if you like Sarah J Maas, you’ve definitely already read it, and if you haven’t read Sarah J Maas, you probably don’t care at all about this review. So it will have SPOILERS, BEWARE. Heads up – I wrote this back in February, just days before ACOSF was published.

For those who care, I hate ACOTAR and love ACOMAF. I’ve read ACOMAF several times, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to re-read ACOTAR. The best I could do is this time around I decided to re-read just the parts of ACOTAR that Rhys was in because I wanted to see how I perceived him in the first book having now finished the series.

Anyways, I couldn’t help myself from launching into ACOWAR right after finishing ACOMAF (that cliffhanger!). Undeniably it is just not as good. I did really like some parts, but as a whole, this book is long and to be honest, kind of boring. The beginning is a fun ride with Feyre being so empowered, but then it turns out she pretty much completely f*ed Tamlin over, and consequently Prythian, so it kind of takes some of the joy out of it.

After that it’s a lot of running around. I mean, ACOMAF was a lot of running around too, but it was balanced out by all the awesome character development. Maas is soooo good at writing tension and flirting, but ugh her sex scenes CRINGE. Like can we talk about the fact that after Feyre leaves the Spring Court she basically wanders the wilderness for a full 7 days with no food, before being brutally attacked. Then when she finally winnows back to Velaris, her mate is like, ‘you smell, but let’s get it on’! Like girl, go eat some food first!

Then it’s just preparing for war, yada yada, a million battles, yada yada, Cassian staring at Nesta, yada yada. For a book with so much action, it’s surprisingly slow. Also, I feel like I’ve read this before, you know? Like, we already tried to destroy the cauldron once; we already had an amazing 7-high-lords-resurrection; and literally every romantic reaction is the exact same. Soulful brooding with deeply obsessive, creepy mating behaviour.

Here’s the excerpt Maas released on her instagram from ACOSF today “The first time I saw that look on your face, you were still human… and I nearly went to my knees before you”. I can only assume this is Cassian talking to Nesta, but like, WHO TALKS LIKE THAT?!? And also, how is this any different from Feyre and Rhys, I could literally believe that was Rhys talking to Feyre. Why are all Maas relationships so all consuming? There’s something said for having a bit of balance in your life, but every relationship in her books is this creepy possessive mating thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Rhys, but there’s only one Rhys. Can we get some variety here?

Anyways, I’m clearly going off on a tangent rant. You know what I did like about this book? Tamlin! I’m glad Maas redeemed him a little – poor dude has still some issues to deal with, but at least we saw some growth here. I also was into the whole bone carver/weaver/library demon thing, that was a nice side plot, as well as what Maas decided to do with Eris in this book. I love when authors take an evil character and give them more dimension. They can still be evil without it being the entire summation of their character.

So will I read A Court of Silver Flames? I am very much on the fence. I guarantee I won’t be re-reading ACOFAS, because that book was trash, but I am on the fence about Silver Flames. Apparently in my review for ACOFAS I said I would be reading the next book, but so much time has passed I’ve kind of lost my zeal for the series. I’m tempted to read it because these books are now fresh in my head, but I don’t really like Nesta that much and Sarah’s little blurbs on social media are not convincing me that she’s going to do anything new or interesting in the next book. She did leave some doors open at the end of ACOWAR for where the plot can go, but as for characters, I’m not sure how much more I can grow with these people. They have great characterization in books 1-3, I just don’t want to keep beating a dead horse.

I definitely won’t be paying money for the book, it’ll have to come from the library, so I guess only time will tell if I continue with the series or not. Sorry to all the dreamers out there. I gave this a 4 as my initial rating. Now I think it’s probably closer to a 3, but I’m going to leave it as a 4 because it is still a pretty epic series and even though it was somewhat lacking in execution, Maas did create something magical.

A Court of Mist and Fury

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy
Pub. Date: May. 2016 (read Dec. 2016)
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #2

I recently re-read ACOMAF and ACOWAR (but not ACOTAR because I hate it). I had a review for ACOMAF on my goodreads that I’ve apparently never posted here, and discovered I’d never actually written a review for ACOWAR. So check out my old review for ACOMAF here and I’ll post my ACOWAR review shortly.

This review has some spoilers for ACOTAR and ACOMAF.

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I love this book so much!!

I read this series for the first time about 5 months ago because I love Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Unfortunately, I really didn’t like ACOTAR, but I stuck with it because I heard ACOMAF was much better and I’m so glad I did!

I love Feyre’s journey in this book. She was such a contradiction in the first book, being both strong, but also whiny and pathetic. I thought she was so real in this book. What happened Under the Mountain completely destroyed her and I appreciated Maas for recognizing that it’s okay for strong characters to fall apart. It took time for Feyre to accept the things that happened to her and her slow healing felt so natural and cathartic.

This book was quite a bit longer than the first of the series, but I thought the flow of the story was fantastic. I love where the story went and all the new characters we were introduced to throughout. I loved everyone in Rhysand’s inner circle and I felt they were all well-realized characters, yet I’m excited because I know there’s so much more to learn about them.

And of course, this book was sexy. The slow build flirtation and romance throughout completely moved the story along. I absolutely love the love story in this book. Feyre and Rhys’ relationship was so moving and healthy, I totally fell in love with Rhys too. A lot of romances feel very one sided (i.g., the man as protector or decision maker), but the romance in ACOMAF was built on equality and the freedom to make your own choices. What I loved about Rhys was that all his imperfections were what made him perfect. I loved that Maas took a character that had been pretty awful and made me fall in love with him.

As much as I didn’t like ACOTAR, I can appreciate it a little bit more now that I’ve seen where Maas was planning to take the story. This was my second read-through and I am going to start A Court of Wings and Ruin immediately because it just came out today!!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genres: Fantasy
Pub. Date: Oct 2020 (read Nov. 2020)

Addie LaRue was my book club’s pick for December. Despite having already read a lot of V.E. Schwab’s work and having liked most of it, I wasn’t super enthused to pick this one up for some reason. It’s probably related to my ongoing fatigue with fantasy, but mostly I just wasn’t that into the premise of a 300 year long love affair with the devil.

I heard a lot of good things about this book though and I ended up eating my words as I was completely sucked into the narrative almost immediately. Addie is born in the late 1600’s and yearns for the opportunity to travel and really experience life. She’s disenfranchised by the expectations of her sex and wants to marry for love rather than duty. So on the eve of her wedding, she strikes a deal with the devil to allow her to escape her obligations and be granted the time to live her life. The catch, she becomes invisible. She can still interact with people, but the second she is out of their sight, they immediately forget her – nor can she tell them her name – giving her a long life, but one where she is unable to develop relationships or leave a mark on the world.

If this sounds like a nightmare to you, it is to Addie as well. The first few years of her life are dedicated to just surviving in 1700’s Paris. It was horrifying to read about, but Addie is still determined to make the most of her life and does her best with the gift of time she has been given.

Like I said. I was sucked into the story pretty quickly. Addie was ahead of her time and her determination and stubbornness are endearing. The devil continually tries to break her, but it only spurs Addie on and she becomes more determined in her quest to leave her mark on the world. She discovers that while she cannot be remembered herself, she can inspire ideas and dedicates the rest of her life to seeking out artists and musicians for whom she can be a muse. Until 2014 when she walks into a bookstore in New York and suddenly everything changes.

While this is a compelling story, it’s also a long one. The story jumps back and forth between the past and modern day. Initially I was more intrigued in Addie’s early days trying to make sense of her curse, while after Henry enters the story, I wanted to spend more time in the modern day. The story is both entertaining and made me think a lot, but I also thought it could have been about 100 pages shorter. The length and scope of storytelling definitely made me feel like I was reading an epic, but I think the author could have shortened a few parts of the book. After a while the past did start to feel a bit repetitive and I wanted to spend more time in the present since at least something new was happening there. 

I also felt there were a few plot holes with how Addie’s curse actually worked, but I can let it go because it doesn’t take away from what the author is trying to evoke. It’s both enthralling and horrifying to think of what it would be like to have all the time in the world but to be forgettable. I really enjoyed the relationship that developed between Addie and Luc over the years and despite the length, I did really enjoy reading this one. Can’t decide where it sits in my repertoire of Schwab books though… certainly better than her monsters duology, but on par with Vicious and Darker Shade of Magic. 

The Diviners

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: Libba Bray
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Historical Fiction, YA, Paranormal
Pub. date: Sep. 2012 (read Aug. 2020)
Series: Diviners #1

The Diviners has been on my TBR for AGES, so I’m thrilled that I finally got to it. It took a little bit longer than I would have liked, but it was a good read! I heard that the book has a slow start, which was definitely the case, but if you’re willing to stick with it you’ll find an impressive cast of characters and a unique plot.

This is definitely something I haven’t seen done before in YA. It’s paranormal, which I’m not really a fan of, but setting is key. The Diviners is set in 1920’s New York and Libba Bray does a wonderful job capturing the atmosphere of the time period. Our story centers around 17 year old Evie O’Neill. She has a quirky habit that she can read people’s history from objects, which until now she’s only used as a harmless party trick. But when she accidentally spills the local town gossip, her mother ships her off to New York to live with her Uncle.

Evie is quickly drawn into the glamour of New York and gets into all kind of shenanigans with her best friend Mabel and mischievous Sam. But her Uncle is the curator of the museum for the supernatural and when the police approach him about a ritualistic murder, Evie is drawn into the murder investigation.

This book covers so many genres. It’s YA, but mystery is a key element of the story, as well as the fantastical elements, historical content, and even a bit of horror. The story is downright creepy, though its characters keep it light. The plot is slow developing in the first half, but I quickly went along for the ride in the second half.

What makes this a winner though is the characters. It’s a large cast of characters and every single one of them has a richly imagined backstory. I feel like I’m still getting to know most of them, but this is one of those series where you can tell the first book is really only the tip of the iceberg for the plot. Bray introduces the idea of diviners and that something dark is coming on the horizon. We don’t really know what it is, but can feel it looming throughout the course of the book.

Lastly, I have to commend Bray on the representation in this book. It would have been so easy to write a book about 1920’s New York and have absolutely no representation, but here we have a black numbers runner, a queer musician, and all kinds of immigrants and misfits. The plot maybe could have done with a bit of trimming, but overall a fun read – can’t wait for the next one!

Deathcaster

Rating: ⭐⭐.5
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genres: Fantasy
Pub. date: Mar. 2019 (read Feb. 2020)
Series: Shattered Realms #4

I’m a bit torn on how to rate this book and I think I’m somewhere between a 3 and a 4. I still flew through it – loving all the different characters and relationships, but I thought the plot could have been a little stronger. I was still really engaged in the story, I just wanted a more!

It was nice to finally see some resolutions between characters and some new relationships forming. As always, I think Chima writes interesting and flawed, but relatable, characters. Lyss and Hal were probably my favourites of the series, but I also really liked Lila and had a bit of a soft spot for Destin. I liked that he was introduced as a bit of a villain in Flamecaster, but turned out to be really nuanced and even though he’d done some questionable things, you still really wanted to root for him.

So the series still gets full points for characterization, but let’s get into where I thought the plot suffered. I have two main complaints – the first is about pacing and the second is about where the importance of the story was placed.

A lot of information was revealed in this book. Chima holds on to a lot of secrets throughout the series. I think it’s a huge bonus when a series has an overarching mystery that continues throughout each book. But I also think it’s important to provide some answers and closure to other mystery elements as the series progresses. I think Chima held on to a bit too much information and as such, the story felt a little overwhelming at the end, with too many things being tied up too quickly.

For example, we have to wait through this whole series to find out who attacked Ash in the first book, what the Darian brothers are, who was behind the attack on Lyss, and who the mole at court is. When everything is finally revealed, the answers just feel a little anti-climactic. The plot elements weren’t necessarily large enough to carry this mystery through 4 books and I was left feeling disappointed by the answers. I think the individual books would have benefited had Chima given up a little more information earlier in the story.

That said, there were some elements where I think it made sense to string along your readers for 4 books, namely with the mystery of Celestine and her relationship to Jenna, Breon, and Evan. Which brings me to my second criticism – how Chima chose to frame the story around these 4 “casters”, but then didn’t really give their story the airtime if deserved.

The books are named for 4 individuals. I’m assuming that Celestine was ‘deathcaster’. Every thing about Celestine and the north islands and her dynasty is shrouded in mystery. We don’t know who she is or what her tie is to any of the other characters. We can tell she is seeking more power and represents a big threat to the realms. But Chima holds out on the significance of these individuals until the very last minute and then throws in a couple of (in my opinion) poorly cobbled together explanations of their relations and then quickly defeats the empress in a chapter. I was left not really understanding who the empress was or why she was so powerful, and then disappointed at how easily she eventually seemed to be defeated. It just left me wondering what bearing she really even had on the story, except providing enough of a threat to the realms to finally mend the relationship between the Fells and Arden. I just wanted SO MUCH MORE.

Like I said, overall I still loved the series. It just felt rushed and I felt we were still left with some unanswered questions. It wasn’t totally clear what happened with Raisa and Han and I would have loved a little more time devoted to Aedion and the healing of this family the reader has grown to love. Still a fan though and I am planning to read Chima’s first series, which I’m pretty sure is now the only one I have left. 3.5 stars overall – disappointed I never got a 5-star book out of this series.