Vengeful

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genres: Science Fiction
Pub date: Sep. 2018 (read Nov. 2018)
Series: Villains #2

I didn’t think it was possible, but Vengeful is like 5 times nastier than Vicious! Our favourite characters are back, along with some new ones, and they are out for vengeance. This book had an interesting dynamic in that I would say the new characters were actually more interesting than the existing characters. Vicious explores that line between good and evil and whether your intent impacts the morality of your actions. It became very clear in Vicious that both Victor and Eli were bad people. They make really bad decisions, resulting in horrific consequences, and they don’t even feel bad for it. Eli is driven by his belief that EO’s are inherently wrong and that it is his duty to remove them to protect innocents. In contrast, Victor is motivated to get rid of Eli to protect EO’s, but also for his own personal form of revenge. Both are dangerous men who commit evil deeds, but somehow Schwab still gets you to care about them.

Vengeful introduces two new main characters, Marcella and June. June is really interesting because she is a but of a mystery and we don’t even really know what her motivations are, yet we still cheer for her despite all the bad things she does. Marcella is more straightforward and makes for a deliciously evil character. She is straight up driven by selfish motivations, yet they are born out of a lifetime of being a woman and being constantly pushed to the side. Power has always belonged to men and they don’t want to give it up, but when Marcella gains some truly horrifying abilities, she is finally poised to take power for herself. Her intent and her actions are evil and you know she really does need to be taken out, yet a part of you still really wants to see her succeed in her bid for power. To finally take what has been denied to her gender for so long.

So I was really into the new characters and how Schwab constantly makes you evaluate your feelings for these characters. Victor kills so many people in this book to protect his anonymity that it became hard to see the good in him, whereas Eli’s experience in EON is so horrible that I really wanted him to escape, despite how dangerous I know him to be. I also liked Sydney’s development in this book. She struggles with the realities of her sister’s death and clings to a hope that she might one day be able to bring her back. She’s a growing girl stuck living with two grown men, and she’s stuck in a body that no longer reflects how she feels on the inside. I love Sidney’s relationship with Mitch and I loved him just as much in this book as I did in Vicious, but I felt he could have been developed a little bit more.

Overall though, I don’t think this was quite as strong as Vicious and I do have some criticisms. I thought the disjointed structure worked well in the last book, but this book was so long (too long), that I don’t think it worked as well in this one. Vicious really only switched between the present and 10 years ago, whereas Vengeful had a running 5 years of plot that it was constantly moving between. it got a bit confusing and it took pretty much the entire book for the plot to finally reach present day, which I found frustrating. Overall I didn’t think the plotting was as strong. Honestly, Victor’s story was extremely repetitive and I didn’t feel invested in it at all, plus it never really had a conclusion. Eli’s storyline was stronger, but overall I don’t think Victor and Eli carried this book. It was really carried by the other characters.

Mostly I just wasn’t sure what the plot was. We never really know what Marcella is plotting and it took a long time to finally figure out where the story was going. Victor’s entire story felt like the beginning of a story arc. Like I kept waiting for him to figure shit out so that the story could move on, but it just never happened and I felt like he didn’t really have a story arc at all. So overall, I thought the characterization and themes were really strong, but something about the plotting just seemed lacking. I still really liked it and the conclusion was pretty open-ended, so you never know, we might be getting a third book out of this.

Vicious

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genres: Science Fiction
Pub date: Sep. 2013 (read Nov. 2018)
Series: Villains #1

I have a weird relationship with Victoria Schwab. I really liked her Darker Shades of Magic trilogy, but for some reason it took me absolutely forever to read. I still don’t know if it was just bad timing and I was really busy, or if it the story was somehow slow paced (despite not being slow paced). I know, it sounds weird, but it took me forever to get into the books.

Then I read Our Savage Song, which is the first book in her duology, and I just didn’t feel it at all. I think I gave it 3 stars at the time, but in retrospect I was very uninspired by the book and decided to abandon the series without reading the second one. Vicious sounds a lot different than her other books though, and I’ve heard lots of people say they like it even better than the darker shades trilogy (high praise indeed!), so I was curious to pick it up.

Vicious was totally different from what I was expecting, but I can absolutely see why people like it so much. I was enthralled with the story from start to finish. The plot was mildly confusing at first with the jumping back and forth in time, but I definitely could never accuse this book of being slow paced. I don’t know what I was expecting from Vicious, but it wasn’t a story about near death experiences gone wrong. Plus it was extremely Vicious, which I know, I know, it’s baked right into the title, but the story was a lot nastier than I was expecting and I loved it.

I thought the plotting was fantastic. I think the jumping back and forth between timelines worked really well in this story and I liked how the story felt like it was split in two. The first half is really Victor and Eli’s origin story. To give you a quick synopsis, this is basically the story of two college roommates who do their thesis on EO’s – people with ExtraOrdinary powers. But through the course of their studies, things go horribly wrong and the two students end up as enemies. The first half of the book is very much the science of their studies and how things go so horribly wrong between them, whereas the second half is much more action oriented with both men trying to get revenge on each other.

I thought the world building was fantastic in explaining where EO’s come from and all the different superpowers the characters have are really interesting. The characters were also fantastic and I loved Victor’s little ersatz family with Mitch and Sidney. Eli and Serena were great antagonists and I loved how clever the story was. That Schwab makes you really care about some pretty broken characters who make questionable, and often bad, decisions.

March Reading Challenge

I have to admit, I’m pretty pleased with myself and how my January and February challenges have gone. If I hadn’t challenged myself to read them, I don’t think I would have got to any of the books on my February challenge, and they were all really good, so I’m glad I finally set aside time for them.

It can be kind of hard to pick them up sometimes. I like being able to just pick up and read whatever I’m feeling in the mood for, which can be a challenge when I’ve already set myself 3 books for that month, plus my monthly book club read. But it has been paying off, so I’m going to try and stick to it for now.

I’ve got a huge list of challenge ideas, so every month I’m torn about which one to pick, but I’ve been wanting to just do a generic Fantasy challenge, so I decided to go very broad on my March picks. I’ve got a huge pile of fantasy novels at home, so it’ll be nice to set aside some time for them. So my March Challenge is:

Read 3 Fantasy Books

Like I said, I’ve got a huge stack, but I do still want to be intentional about which ones I pick, so I’ve settled on 3 that have all gotten great reviews and that I’d like to finally get to. My only concern is that these are first books in multi-book series, so my TBR will only grow and I have a feeling I’ll be trying to fit some sequels in there too. My March picks are:

  1. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  2. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  3. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

The Thief is a older fantasy series that was first published in 1996 and had 4 books, but the author just published a 5th book last year, so it seems to have been getting a lot of hype again. To be honest, I don’t actually know what any of these 3 series are about, but they’ve been on my TBR for ages because they’ve all gotten such great reviews. I know The Thief focuses on a thief (duh) who the King has released from prison to try and steal something for him and I believe each of the books in this series are from a different point of view, but are all political fantasy-type novels about a place called Attolia. So I’ll see how accurate my description is and report back!

The second book I want to read is the first in the Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin and is called The Fifth Season. Again, all I know about this series is what’s in the goodreads synopsis, but it’s about the world ending and it sounds brutal! I’ve heard so much good stuff about this series and I’m excited to read it because it falls more within the adult fantasy/science fiction genre, whereas most of the fantasy books I read are very much YA fantasy books.

And finally, I’m planning to read This Savage Song, which is the first book in Victoria Schwab’s OTHER series. I read the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy last year and at the time I wasn’t as obsessed with it as everyone else seems to be, but I think I may have just read it at a bad time (mid-summer when I was super busy), because even though I didn’t love it, I can’t stop thinking about it. I keep recommending it to people and I feel like I want to re-read the whole thing. So I’ve decided to try her other series, which is a duology, but has likewise received fantastic reviews. This book has monsters! And embarrassingly that is the extent of what I know, but I promise a full synopsis in my review!

I feel like I should start reading these books right away to leave time to fit in some sequels in between them, but I just received an ARC for the Beartown sequel, Us Against You, which was my absolute favourite read last year, so I definitely have to read that and potentially also re-read Beartown before I can get around to these. So I think this may be a very successful reading month. Winter is almost over in Vancouver and transition seasons tend to be my best reading months because I’ve finished up my winter activities, but the hiking season hasn’t started up yet, so here’s too lots of books!

A Conjuring of Light


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genres: Fantasy
Read: June 2017

 

Yes! This book was everything that I wanted from this series!

This is the third and final book in the Shades of Magic series and disclaimer, there are a few spoilers in here (I can’t figure out how to hide them in wordpress…), so maybe best to wait until you’ve read the series for this review.

For some reason I had a hard time getting into the first two books in the series. I can’t really pinpoint why – I liked the characters and I thought the writing was good, but whenever I’d put the book down I never felt anything compelling me to pick it back up again.

A Conjuring of Light still took me a fair bit longer than normal to read, but it was because I was on vacation and not for lack of suspense! The story starts right where A Gathering of Shadows leaves off and the action completely draws you in right away. I still found the pacing a bit off in places, but overall, a very fast-paced and compelling story.

The characters were everything to me in this installment. Holland has fascinated me from the start and I was thrilled to finally get the full breadth of his backstory. What do other readers think of Holland because I thought the characters were quite hard on him – he had his faults, but I totally sympathized with him and I couldn’t blame him for Osaron. Kell questions whose actions set everything in motion – his decision to smuggle vitari into his own world, his decision to send Holland to Black London, or Holland’s deal with Osaron? I couldn’t condemn either of them, but it’s a powerful testament to the power of our choices, even tiny choices, to change and influence the world.

This story had a lot of depth and boy, was it dark. I never know what to expect from Schwab, she doesn’t hesitate to kill off characters, so it’s hard to predict how things will turn out. For example, she set the story up for us to hope that Holland would be able to trap Osaron in the inheritor, leaving Kell and Lila to pursue their own happy ending. And even though this is what happened, I really didn’t know which way things would go and I wouldn’t put it past her to have had either Lila or Kell take the fall.  I loved how each character had their own strengths and weaknesses. This was consistent in all 3 novels, and I liked that Kell and Lila looked out for each other and both came to each other’s rescue depending who was having a better day.

I’ve got to hand it to Schwab for her diversity of characters, a cross-dresser and a gay love story between two major characters seems like too much to ask for in a fantasy novel, so I loved seeing both of these elements play out in this series. There was a lot of sub-plots happening in this book and it was interesting to learn more about some of the minor characters. Lila is definitely my favourite character of the lot, but I enjoyed Rhy and Alucard’s story, and the insight into Rhy’s parent’s lives as well.

A Gathering of Storms was probably my least favourite of the 3 novels and felt a bit like a filler novel. In the scheme of things I didn’t think the Essen Tach was important and I was bored with the endless fight scenes. It was good character development and relationship building, but offered little in terms of the plot. The final book in the trilogy had it all though – a fast paced plot and a ton of character growth. A redeeming novel for me!

A Darker Shade of Magic


Rating: 
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genres: Fantasy
Read: May 2017

 

I feel like A Darker Shade of Magic probably deserves more than 3 stars, but it took me a while to get into it. The book has a really interesting premise. There are 4 parallel versions of London: Grey London, Red London, White London, and Black London. Grey London is essentially our world and doesn’t have any magic. Red London is a vibrant world filled with magic, as was White London once upon a time. But Black London is also known as Dead London and the dark magic that destroyed it has slowly been leeching into White London.

Our main character, Kell, is an Antari from Arnes in Red London. Antari are the only people who can create doors and travel between the Londons. Kell acts as ambassador for the king of Arnes, travelling between London’s to deliver messages to the other reigning monarchs. On the side Kell is a smuggler, sneaking objects between Londons. But when he mistakenly transports a dangerous magical stone from Black London, he is forced to pair up with Lila Bard, a cross-dressing pirate from Grey London who is in great want of an adventure, to try and destroy the dark magic that begins wreaking havoc in Red London.

I was intrigued by the concept of multiple Londons and I really liked the diverse set of characters in this book, but I found this book to be pretty slow paced at the beginning and it wasn’t really until the halfway mark that I got into it. I was really busy while reading this one though, so I’m optimistic about the rest of the trilogy and I’ve jumped right into A Gathering of Shadows and I already think it has a much stronger start.

I loved all the characters in this book, from Kell and Lila, to Holland and the evil Dane twins. I really liked that Kell and Lila both has strengths and weaknesses and both helped each other out of scrapes. I felt like they both made so many bold and stupid decisions, but that it was realistic of two young people bumbling along trying to make the right choices and not be seduced by the power of the stone from Black London. They both had a lot of vulnerabilities and I enjoyed the honest portrayal of their characters.

I really hope Holland returns in the next book because I found his character fascinating and I would really love to learn more about his background. I liked Rhy too, but I feel I haven’t got to know enough about him yet either. Kell obviously loves Rhy and I’d like to know more about his character so that I can better understand their relationship.

There were a lot of plot points that weren’t addressed in the first novel and the story still has so much potential, so I am excited to see where it’s going to go in the next book. I’m hoping for something a little more fast paced, but I did still enjoy A Darker Shade of Magic. Onwards and upwards!