Allied

Rating: 
Author: Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined (Book 3)
Genres: Fantasy
Pub Date: May 2018 (read May 2018)

I’m between 3 and 4 stars on this book, but after writing this review I’ve settled on 3 stars. Allied is the final book in the Ruined Trilogy. I won’t give a whole lot of a plot synopsis because I don’t want to spoil the first two books, but if you haven’t read the first 2 you should probably skip this post. I’ll keep this review spoiler free for Allied though if you have read the first 2.

I was pretty much trash for the first book in this series. I didn’t expect to love Ruined, but it was so fun and fast-paced that I just got totally pulled into the world. I loved Cas and Em in the first books and Olivia is straight up crazy and I was just totally flabbergasted by her character in the first 2 books. I didn’t love Avenged as much as Ruined and while I liked Allied and was excited to return to these characters, it’s not quite the series finale I was hoping for.

Let’s start with what I liked. This was still super fast-paced and enthralling. We get perspectives from a larger cast of characters and I enjoyed the addition of Gallo and Mateo to the story. What I liked so much about Ruined was that it’s not a traditional good vs. evil narrative and the idea is that there’s not really a right and wrong side. Both parties have made mistakes and harmed other people and at some point you have to start working at forgiveness and reparations instead of continually chasing after revenge and violence. I really liked Cas in this novel and I thought that his character had some really great insights.

I loved when he was reflecting on how easy and good things used to be for him, but how he had to acknowledge that while things were good then for him, they were not good for Em, and so you can’t romanticize the past because the past is painful for some people. I thought this was so relevant to America (and Canada too!) and Trump’s whole “Make America Great Again” approach to politics. Sure, America was great for rural white folks 30 years ago, but that success was also built on racism and oppression and you can’t romanticize it just because things were good for you.

I also liked that Cas and Em arrived at a point where they were able to talk about their families again. Even though their parents both did bad things, they were still loving parents in their own ways and I loved that they were able to look fondly on the memories that were positive, while acknowledging that their parents still did bad and inexcusable things.

There are things I didn’t like that much about this novel though. While it was still a fast-paced book overall, I thought the pacing was a little off in the middle. We go from battle to battle and then all of a sudden there are all these political negotiations in the middle. I thought it was super cool that Tintera basically disbanded a monarchy in favour of democratic government in this book, but I thought the location within the plot was so odd. She ramps up the reader with all these battles and escape scenes and then suddenly there’s just all this boring negotiation. It brought the plot down a little and I thought it was overdone and a bit unneccesary.

I was also a little over the romance in this novel. I’m sorry, but Cas and Em have pretty much already decided to be together before this novel and the chemistry just wasn’t really there anymore. I don’t want to be super critical because I still liked reading about them and having just read A Court of Frost & Starlight (which was way worse and a lesson in how to totally kill a romance dead), this wasn’t actually that bad. I do think the author tried to re-focus the romantic emphasis on several other characters, but they just didn’t work that well for me either. I really liked Aren and Iria, but they both just fell a little flat for me in this novel. Aren just doesn’t make mistakes anymore apparently and Iria wasn’t as moving for me in this book.

My biggest criticism is just that I didn’t think this book was clever. Characters always find themselves in these crazy situations that you have no idea how they’re going to get themselves out of and then the author writes this crazy sequence to resolve things, but that didn’t really happen in Allied. I was waiting for this epic showdown with Olivia and her cronies and things just kind of fizzle out. I feel like Tintera wrote herself into a situation that she couldn’t elegantly write herself out of and the action towards the end of the novel felt forced. I had also anticipated some plot twists and surprises from some of the secondary characters that just never materialized and left me feeling disappointed that the plot was so simple. I kept waiting for more.

Anyway, I did really like this series overall. I liked the writing and the fast-paced nature of the story. Was it perfect? no, but I did get a lot of enjoyment out of reading this series and I totally flew through each of the books.

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A Court of Frost and Starlight

Rating: 
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses (Book 3.5)
Pub Date: May 2018 (read May 2018)

Self indulgence at its finest. This is why you don’t write books about after the characters have ridden off into the sunset. Sure, I know the last book ended with the conclusion of a bloody war and that there was bound to be further conflict and a long healing time, but it’s not engaging and I don’t want to read about. What was the plot in this book? Does anyone know, because I sure don’t.

First off, I’m just going to say it, the sex scenes in this book are cringe-y. Especially anything from Rhys’ point of view. I know everyone was super excited to get some new POV’s, and I was too, but like from Mor, Amren, and Azriel. The Rhys in ACOMAF is like my one true love, but reading his POV was like reading Twilight from Edward’s point of view – his love is too perfect and all consuming – it felt fake, it made me cringe, and it was boring.

I do understand that Sarah wants to introduce a whole new storyline in subsequent books, focusing on more characters, and honestly this won’t deter me from those books because I trust they will have a plot, but this just felt unnecessary. Nothing about solstice was engaging. It kind of felt like fan fiction. I mean, you love thinking about your favourite books and characters and what might have happened to them after a beloved series ends, but this is why some things need to just end and why I appreciate authors who are able to walk away from a successful story. To decide they’ve said what needed to be said and move on. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, because I thought Deathly Hallows ended perfectly and that revisiting the story can sometimes just cheapen what came before.

I don’t think Sarah knows how to walk away from her characters. She’s literally never done it and always has to revisit them. I didn’t like Tower of Dawn either because I felt it was just way too overdone for a side story and that we didn’t need 700 pages on Chaol. He could have come back in Kingdom of Ash and I would have been fine just knowing that he healed himself and brought back a nice healer with him. Likewise I feel like 80% of what happened in this story is going to be totally irrelevant at the end of the day in the next book. I’ve also been very disappointed in Sarah’s editors for her last 3 books because I feel like they’ve stopped actually editing her now that she’s become so popular, but someone needs to cut out some of these extras. It’s just over-indulgent and I don’t want to read about it.

I don’t even really want to talk about the plot in this book. What’s the point. If you care at all about this series, you know what’s going on. If you haven’t read this series, it is worth your time just to read the second book in the series, A Court of Mist of Fury because it is in my opinion the best book Sarah J Maas has ever written and has the most wonderful blend of character development, plotting, and romance.

In conclusion, I did not like this book. The only real new POV in this book is Cassian’s and to be honest I didn’t really see the point, it didn’t seem to add that much to me. She did have a few random chapters from other POV’s, but it was mostly Feyre and Rhys, which really seemed counter-productive to me. I’ll still be here for the next book, but I really hope it’s better than this disappointment.

Children of Blood and Bone

Rating: .5
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Genres: Fantasy
Pub Date: Mar. 2018 (read May 2018)

I was so worried this was not going to live up to the hype – The Cruel Prince was a huge letdown for me earlier this year – but this absolutely did!

Children of Blood and Bone is the hottest new fantasy novel in 2018 and is particularly exciting because of it’s representation. Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American and this is very much a West-African themed fantasy novel. I loved almost everything about this. It is well written, has interesting and well developed characters, it’s not too romance heavy, it’s gritty and dark, and it had a fast moving plot that I actually cared about!

Children of Blood and Bone is set in the land of Orisha, which is a very lush and vibrant world. It has been 11 years since the King rid Orisha of magic and executed all of the Maji (the wielders of magic). However, he left the diviners, which are the children of Maji who have not yet matured enough to develop their magic. The diviners are identifiable by the white streak in their hair and the King continues to oppress them by increasing their taxes and forcing them to do brutal manual labour in the stocks when they can’t afford to pay.

Zelie is haunted by the death of her mother, who was a Reaper until the King destroyed magic and then strung up her mother with all of the other Maji. Zelie is a diviner, but her father and brother Tzain are not and she feels a constant threat to them. The attention drawn to her as a diviner puts the rest of her family at risk too. So she trains in the ways of the staff with Mama Agba in hopes of one day being able to fight back against her oppressors.

On the other side of the Kingdom, Inan and Amari are abused by the King in an entirely different way. They are his children, heirs to the throne, but he shows them no love as he tries to toughen them up and prepare them to one day take the throne. Amari is the younger child and her father has all but given up on her. He believes her weak and she hides from him with her friend and servant Binta. But when a rare magical artifact shows up that threatens to return magic to the Kingdom, her father threatens Binta and Amari makes a choice to steal to the artifact away and in a chance encounter, teams up with Zelie to try and bring magic back. Her older brother, Inan, is commissioned to hunt down Zelie and Amari and return the artifact by any means necessary.

Zelie, Tzain, Amari, and Inan are the main characters of the story and the novel shares narration between 3 of them. This would be one of my small complaints because I was curious why Adeyemi choice not to have Tzain narrate any of the story. I thought he was a fascinating character too and I would have really like to hear things through his perspective. We mostly only get his perspective through Zelie or Amari.

I thought Zelie was a fantastic protagonist though. She’s strong but vulnerable, a leader but still flawed. She makes mistake after mistake, but she is persistent and you can’t help but love her. I feel like the author took her character through the ringer in this novel and I loved that she wasn’t afraid to take risks with the plot. Parts of it were still a little predictable, but she throws in enough twists and turns and heartbreak that it doesn’t really matter. The stakes were high.

I loved Amari too. Inan is the dark, brooding villain who you just want to see the light so badly, but you never really know if he is capable of turning against the brutal upbringing that has been ingrained into him by his father. But Amari is soft spoken and timid and I love those quieter female characters who demonstrate different kinds of strength. She struggles to fight or kill, even though she’s been trained by her father her entire life, yet her love for her friend drives her to take the ultimate risk to steal the scroll. She had so many opportunities to turn back to her cushy palace life and even though she seemed weak to Tzain and Zelie, she never seriously considers abandoning them. I’d admired her tenacity. If I’d grown up in a palace I think one look at poverty, hunger, and violence would send me running back to my tower. I love bad-ass characters like Zelie and Celaena Sardothian and Katniss Everdeen. But I also really appreciate those softer characters who fight their battles through other means. Characters like Sansa Stark and Hermione Granger and Amari.

My other minor complaint would be about the romance. I liked that the romance wasn’t central to the story, but I also had a really hard time buying into the romance at all. I feel like I was supposed to be frustrated with Tzain’s views on the romance, but I actually think he had it completely right. I might have given this 4 stars in the middle of the book because of the romance, but I ended up liking some of the outcomes of the romance and how awry things ended up going, which I thought more accurate. So it gets the extra half star because I ended up actually being impressed with where the author took some of these relationships by the end of the book.

There will of course be another book in this series and I am definitely here for it! I can’t believe this is a debut novel and I will definitely be coming back for more!

The Queen of Attolia

Rating: .5
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen’s Thief #2
Genres: Fantasy
Pub Date: 2000 (read Apr. 2018)

This is a surprisingly hard book to rate! It has such high reviews and I went into it with such high expectations and it just didn’t quite live up to them 😦

The Queen of Attolia is the 2nd book in the Queen’s Thief series and follows where The Thief left off, so there are spoilers from The Thief in here if you haven’t read the first novel. Gen has returned to Eddis to continue in his role as the Queen’s Thief. He continues to steal into the Queen of Attolia’s court and when he is caught, she takes swift vengeance against him. He is returned to Eddis, but he barely recovers from his run-in with Attolia and is listless, hiding away from the rest of the court. Eddis, Attolia, and Sounis war with each other and Eugenides comes up with a plan to steal the Queen of Attolia and find justice for his country.

Megan Whalen Turner is definitely a good writer and I really like how clever her plots are. Every character and every sentence matters. I think I said this in my last review, but it reminds me of Melina Marchetta’s writing in that every single character matters and nothing happens by chance. This book has a pretty brutal start, but I only grew to love Eugenides more and more. I like that she gives Attolia a back story and that she’s not just an evil shadow queen. It’s still a pretty short book for fantasy and I’m interested to see what she’d going to do with the story in the next book.

The only part I didn’t really like in this book was the romance. I liked the little surprise in the middle, but I just didn’t really buy into the romance. I could buy into the proposal as a bid for power, but I didn’t get the love.

Anyways, I don’t have a whole lot else to say about this book. It’s a struggle to rate because it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, so I want to rate it a 3.5, but I gave the Thief a 4 and this was just as good as the Thief. I didn’t expect much from the Thief and it ended up really surprising me with how clever it was, which is why I gave it a 4. I was expecting this one to be clever, which is maybe why I didn’t love it as much – my expectations were just too high.

Avenged

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐.5
Author: Amy Tintera
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pub Date: May 2017 (read Mar. 2018)

Between my monthly challenges, my book club, Canada Reads, and Netgalley, I finally got a chance to read this sequel to Ruined. I’ve been trying to get to it for the last 2 months and I finally found some time. I shouldn’t have worried though because I devoured this book in a single day.

I LOVED Ruined. I know it’s not ground-breaking literature or anything, but it was just such a fast-paced and fun read! Avenged picks up right where Ruined left off, with the Ruined returning to their homeland after rescuing Olivia. This one has a bit more politics than the first one, but it’s still a fast paced read. I didn’t love it quite as much as Ruined, but I’d still give it a solid 3.5 stars.

Em and her sister Olivia have just returned to Ruina. Em is the oldest, but because she doesn’t have powers, the throne passes to her sister Olivia. The torture Olivia suffered at the hands of Lera has weakened her emotionally, but it has only strengthened her powers. She becomes incredibly powerful, but has little interest in politics and negotiations, so she proposes a diarchy with her sister whereby they will both be queen.

It’s a rough start for the Ruined. Their castle was destroyed by Lera and Vallos and the land in their country is dying. Em wants to continue their alliance with the Olso warriors because she fears the Ruined cannot survive without their aid and supplies at this time. Olivia doesn’t want their help and feels that her and Aren are strong enough to protect the rest of the Ruined and can teach them all how to be stronger.

At the same time, Cas struggles to take control of his own country in the wake of his parents death. He made a pact with Em that neither would attack each other, but his cousin (and only living relative) Jovita sees this as a huge sign of weakness and makes a coup to take control of Lera. She tries to attack the Ruined again and all hell breaks loose between the 4 kingdoms.

Like I said, I didn’t love this as much as Ruined, but it was still a solid second novel. Olivia is a 100% certified psychopath and she makes for an interesting and intense story. She had a pretty crazy introduction at the end of Ruined, but she was really only just getting started then.

I liked that this novel is still very morally grey. You definitely root for Em and Cas and their quest for peace, but you also couldn’t fault Olivia for how she felt about Lera. She was tortured by Lera for a year and even though Cas didn’t directly play a role, a simple ‘sorry’ isn’t enough for Olivia, especially when he’s done nothing meaningful to help the Ruined, like provide supplies or help them re-build their homeland.

“No. His regret was not enough for Olivia. Regret did not give her back her mother. It didn’t erase the year of torture she’s endured. No apology, no matter how sincere, was enough for her people.”

I also thought the dialogue was fantastic and I love how witty the characters are. Ruined had quite a bit of humour woven into it and Tintera continued that humour in this book. I can’t wait for the final book of the trilogy to come out in May!