Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. 

Truth time: I’ve only read the Legend series by Marie Lu and I am now kicking myself in the ass for not reading my copies of The Young Elites before now because holy hell Warcross kept me on my toes and was absolutely wonderful.

It has everything a modern reader could want: advanced technology, a love story, rags to riches narrative, an intricate game, and so much more.

This book was addicting!

Emika is a seriously relatable character. I found myself completely invested in her narrative, the struggle she had from her parental background and her monetary problems. (Let’s be honest, what millennial wouldn’t relate to that?) Her intense love for art in all forms, her hair, her father’s, and the graphics of Warcross was so believable and it made Emika truly breathe off of the page.

I was completely engrossed in this story from start to finish.

Lu picks up with a chase for a criminal and then snowballs into a hacker being given all she ever dreamed of…but it comes with a price.

I think the only thing I wish had been elaborated on further was the friendships created within the Phoenix Riders.  Why? Well, I just wish I could have spent more time with these characters that Lu created. I know that they should be back for the sequel and I can only hope we get more of their development as well. Although I know the narrative for Warcross was so fast paced (and it needed to be) that some of this development had to be sacrificed, I just wish there was more!

On Twitter there were people complaining about one of the twists in the novel and I have to say that I whole heartedly disagree with their feedback on that. I found it absolutely twisted and excellent. Kudos to Lu for putting that in. Want to know what it is? Buy a copy of the book now.

4.5 Bards for Warcross

TTBF Author Repost Guest Review: More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera


Team Midsummer, Jessica & Lyv, are attending the Texas Teen Book Festival again this year in Austin, TX! To prepare and get ourselves amped-up for this event, we are reposting some of our reviews by some of the TTBF 17 authors!

This review was originally posted on October 31, 2016

eveThis review was done by another one of Team Midsummer’s favorite people, Eve.  She has submitted reviews to us before, so we were excited to have her on board for LGBT History Month! Thanks so much, Eve!

 

 

 

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again—but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. 

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. 

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

I was immediately drawn into narrative of this intriguing novel, although I’ll confess to being a little suspicious of its potential similarity to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, with a sexuality angle rather than the desire to forget a past heartbreaking romantic relationship. But I was impressed by the way the focus wasn’t specifically on any one of the main issues addressed by the story, but rather a cleverly crafted weaving of the elements of grief, mental health, class and social structures, teen relationships, and love developing outside of an expected heteronormative paradigm. For this reason, while the book certainly addresses the complexities and struggle of coming out, I found the whole story to be involving and important – not just the relationship between Aaron and Thomas. It also isn’t a copy of Eternal Sunshine – it has one similar element, the neuroscience of forgetting, but it fans out to be much greater than that.

One thing I will note, because it stood out to me so much while reading that I texted Jess about it at the time, is that Aaron and Thomas say, “No homo” to each other a seemingly inordinate amount of times in the space of two pages. Now, it may be my heterosexual, cisgender privilege showing that I have never had to clarify my sexuality while interacting in an affectionate way with someone of the same sex as me, but I did feel that this phrase was somewhat overused. I’d be interested to know if this is a common experience among young men, because perhaps this phrase is used so frequently and that is part of the culture of hiding homosexual attraction.

Aside from this, the character development seemed very natural and totally solid within a few chapters – I feel like I know Aaron Soto, his friends and family, and have an understanding of his perspective on the world. The outstanding part of this book for me was how bravely and easily it tackled upsetting and painful topics, making it comfortable for the reader to continue (albeit through tears) even when the characters were suffering. Silvera does not shy away from the impact of suicide nor from the violence inherent in some relationships. On top of that, the balance of wit and warmth is spot on, throughout the happy moments and the hard ones.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot but there are twists, and they’re the delicious ones that you sort of see coming but still have to pause and take a moment to think back on and process them once they do happen. The story will have you feeling all of the emotions and, while it certainly has a central homosexual relationship, I think it actually is a more profound commentary on humanity as a whole.

4.75 Bards

475-bards

TTBF Author Repost Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


Team Midsummer, Jessica & Lyv, are attending the Texas Teen Book Festival again this year in Austin, TX! To prepare and get ourselves amped-up for this event, we are reposting some of our reviews by some of the TTBF 17 authors! Today features one of Jessica’s all time favorites: E. Lockhart!

This review was originally posted on August 14, 2014

 

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

When I met E. Lockhart at Book Expo America, I was trying so hard not to fangirl because I had been looking forward to this book for months.  Not only did I get a chance to meet her, but she also write an essential message in my copy of the book (which I’m sure she wrote in everyone’s) “Please Lie About This Book.”

Well, it is impossible for me to lie about how much I enjoyed this book.  I want to tell you so much about it in order to convince you to read it, but this is a book that needs to be discovered by each person individually.  The story line is excellent.  There I will tell you that much.

Lockhart’s writing style in this novel really helps add to the characterization of the narrator, Cadence (which is a elockharttweetname I’ve always loved), and it allows the reader to discover things as Cadence does…kind of.  This novel really explores the idea of an unreliable narrator.

I’ve said too much!

I cannot praise this book highly enough, and I won’t tarnish your reading experience with anymore.  Trust me, you will enjoy it immensely.

5 Bards  (I know you asked me to lie, E. Lockhart, but I decided to just withhold information instead!)

 

fivebards

Book Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was. 

I am a massive fan of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Click the title to read my 5 Bard review)  so when Random House announced Genuine Fraud I was over the moon excited.

I can honestly say that I did not expect this book. Anything about it. It has everything that I love about some of my favorite classic novels:

An unreliable narrator (Example: Wuthering Heights)
Nonlinear Narrative (Example: Wuthering Heights) ***Look, I really love Wuthering Heights
Intrigue (Many classics)

Epic Beach Read

I could go on, but those are the basics that I am referencing. Lockhart is literally the queen of unreliable narrators in my book, because Jule and Cadence are similar only in their nonlinear unreliableness, but I love them both because of this and much more. Jule is much more hardened than Cadence and she spun so many lies and stories throughout this book that I found my head spinning but wanting more.

There are some incredibly hard things to read in this book and some of the plot points mentioned in the synopsis definitely happen.  Why yes, Murder is a part of the narrative (all True Crime fans rejoice!) and so are some doomed romances. Plus, Jule and Imogen get to visit some amazing places and have some epic experiences.

This is not one to be missed. I read it in 5 hours of sitting out in the sun on the beach, but I would have sat and read it in one sitting regardless.

Much like my review of We Were Liars, I can’t say much without giving a ton away!

Thank you, E. Lockhart, for doing it again.

4.5 Bards.

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, and earned the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl…everyone except the other Diviners.

Piano-playing Henry Dubois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret–for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City.

As Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess….As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

Libba Bray’s follow-up to The Diviners saw many improvements – and one major disappointment. I cracked the spine hoping for more about the other characters in Libba’s ensemble, and I definitely was not disappointed! We learned so much about the backstories for Henry and Sam, which was welcomed… but I missed Theta and Memphis. One of my major complaints about The Diviners was that Evie wasn’t a particularly likable character, and she sunk even further this time around. I found myself hating every moment that Evie was on the page and wondering how much longer it would be until someone else showed up.

The book is long, starts a bit slow, and, dare I say it, a bit too Henry-focused, but it is well worth the ride. Henry really grew on me as the book continued, and I found myself thankful for Libba’s portrayal of such a unique gay character who wasn’t a stereotype or a caricature. As Henry walks in dreams to find his lost love, Louis, we learn so much about his past and the path that has brought him to New York.

The villain of this book didn’t give me the same chills and creeps that Naughty John did in the first book but instead provides more of a psychological horror. I felt leagues of dread for the characters, which kept me hanging on to every word as each piece began to fit together. This puzzle feels a bit disjointed at the beginning, but as we collect more and more information and the picture starts to come together, you realize what you’re seeing is an emotional gut punch. Make sure that you’re prepared.

One of my favorite things about this book was Libba’s attention to realistic diversity. She isn’t afraid to discuss the KKK, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the general hatred faced by interracial relationships. Diversity for Lair of Dreams doesn’t feel tacked on – it is an integral part of the story.

There’s really not much that I can say here without giving the story away – and trust me, you will want to experience this one’s twists and turns for yourself. This one is well worth it!

The third book in the four-part series comes out next week, and I can’t wait! Libba is a master of cliff hangers, and I’m dying to know what happens next.

4/5 Bards

 

TTBF Author Repost Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Team Midsummer, Jessica & Lyv, are attending the Texas Teen Book Festival again this year in Austin, TX! To prepare and get ourselves amped-up for this event, we are reposting some of our reviews by some of the TTBF 17 authors! First up is Keynote Speaker Marie Lu! 

This review was originally posted on January 19, 2012

 

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’ death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a bit of a dystopian fiction junkie due to my Master’s thesis being focused on it. However, this first installment hasn’t provided much of the background information concerning how the Republic and Colonies came to be–so I can’t judge it on the political aspects of it yet (cough, Marxism, cough). Perhaps the second installment will give us more information…I hope.

I see the problem that many of reviewers have mentioned that the two narrators’ voices sound very similar. However, I’m not sure that this was unintentional. Both of them are prodigies in their own world, and have similar thinking patterns. This means that, YES, these characters will sound the same to an extent. Do I think there should have been more definition between the two? Of course, because it would only strengthen the novel, which is already strong in its own right. I agree with Lu’s decision to split this narrative into two point of views, because the reader would not understand Day’s story as deeply if told strictly from June’s point of view (and vice versa).

I’m not sure why people do not empathize with June as much as Day, because she has had her share of hardship as well–again this can explain why both characters are similar in personality and voice. I definitely enjoyed reading this, and hope that this trilogy isn’t another Matched fiasco, because Crossed ruined that trilogy for me.

Much like Divergent and Blood Red Road, these characters must complete a journey (of sorts) in order to discover secrets about themselves and the society in which they reside. Since Lu’s story is a somewhat typical young adult dystopian novel, there are some obvious similarities plot-wise. However, I do believe that the difference in the characterization really changes the perception of the story.

While it is not something completely new and groundbreaking, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading Legend. I recommend this for those who really enjoy any of the dystopian fiction coming out of the Young Adult genre. 4 Bards.

Book Review: Wonder Woman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Daughter of immortals.

Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world.

Daughter of death.

Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous 

Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together.

Two girls will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. Tested beyond the bounds of their abilities, Diana and Alia must find a way to unleash hidden strengths and forge an unlikely alliance. Because if they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

First thing you should know about me is that I tend to be a Marvel Comic purist. Why? Well, my dad was the one who used to buy me comics and he was a Marvel fan over DC, so that’s basically the gist.  However, once I started receiving an allowance, I would pick up the Wonder Woman comics on occasion.  Still wasn’t one of my must-read-every-month comics, but I loved Diana’s story and her adventures.

This book is even beautiful naked.

All this in mind, why would I want to read this book? Two reasons: 1. the movie starring Gal Gadot was absolutely fantastic and it reignited my interest in Wonder Woman’s story. 2. Leigh Bardugo was writing the book (she’s so great).

Much like the movie, the action in Bardugo’s Wonder Woman picks up immediately, and much to my dismay, also like the movie, we spend very little time with Hippolyta and the Amazons on Themyscira. What can I say, I just want to spend a lot of time with all of those kick ass women. Also, Bardugo explores the Amazonian origins in respect to how those living on Themyscira arrived on the island, and this is something that I suppose I never learned about during my sporadic reading or just didn’t remember, so I really enjoyed that.

Bardugo’s characterization of Diana is pretty spot on: feeling unworthy of her life on Themyscira, feeling unable to live up to Hippolyta’s expectations, wanting more than “this provincial life” (*pats self on back for Beauty & the Beast reference*), and being generally curious of life off of the island. I felt like she hit all the right notes for me to go ahead and relate to Diana the minute I started to read.

I loved the mythology in this novel about the descendants of Helen of Troy. It was glorious. The idea of the woman who launched a thousand ships being the precursor to a line of warbringers is so great. I tried to look up to see if this was ever an idea in the comics, but from what I can find (and feel free to correct me) this is a wholly original idea by Bardugo. SO many props to her for this.

There are some serious twists and turns in this book, ones that I definitely weren’t expecting, and I read this book in one sitting on the beach. I didn’t go in the water or play games with my family because I was so engrossed in Diana and Alia’s story. Also, for making the story completely focused on the two main female characters and backseating the males…ALSO MORE PROPS.

Thank you, Leigh Bardugo, for keeping me on my toes and making me fall in love with Wonder Woman all over again.

4.5 Bards

Book Review: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands… 

Richelle Mead’s novel The Glittering Court is a #1 New York Times bestseller for a reason; it is more than meets the eye. The story centers around noblewoman Lady Elizabeth Witmore, Countess of Rothford–otherwise known as Adelaide.

While born into privilege, economic problems in Adelaide’s family pressure her into an arranged marriage, “Better circumstances for me. A better title for him,” Adelaide sums up. She is also told by her grandmother that even marrying a successful businessman is out of the question as doing so would mix her noble line with “common blood.” The extreme classism in Adelaide’s society is overtly impressed upon the reader in the first few chapters–this is a classist society, “pure” blood is of utmost importance, and sacrifice is something that one does to benefit their own family. Adelaide’s grandmother succinctly sums this situation up by saying, “There’s nowhere else you can go. It’s the price we pay for this world we live in. For our rank…You’ll have people making choices for you your entire life. Get used to it.”

This proclamation seems to be the driving force behind Adelaide’s decision to abruptly run away from her family and rank and hide herself among women with a more common upbringing than her own in order to secure a marriage contract of her own choice in Adoria, the mysterious country across the ocean!

Adelaide competes among her now peers in a competition consisting of ladylike skills such as dining etiquette, needlepoint, dancing, and hosting. After being ranked based on their skill levels they depart to the “new world” to secure marriage contracts with the “new nobility.” However, complications arrive when she realizes that she has fallen in love with Cedric Thorne, the recruiter for the Glittering Court, and a man without the means to purchase her marriage contract.

And while Adelaide’s love story with Cedric drives the plot for the rest of the story, Mead instead chooses to focus the novel on important issues including sexism, freedom of religion, and classism. These focal points are no small feats, but Mead examines each of them with a deft hand. She addresses important current social issues and their implications for our own society while still providing the escapism of reading a good book.

While some of the groundwork that Mead has to lay in order to present her own versions of religious oppression and classism can drag on, overall The Glittering Court is a great read with engaging characters and a refreshing outside look on important social issues. It’s a great book to finish off the summer with those last few beach trips and pool parties that you’re trying to squeeze in!

Book Review: Solo by Kwame Alexander

Blade never asked for a life of the rich and famous. In fact, he’d give anything not to be the son of Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star and drug addict with delusions of a comeback. Or to no longer be part of a family known most for lost potential, failure, and tragedy. The one true light is his girlfriend, Chapel, but her parents have forbidden their relationship, assuming-like many-that Blade will become just like his father.             

In reality, the only thing Blade has in common with Rutherford is the music that lives inside them. But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities: the threat of losing Chapel forever, and the revelation of a long-held family secret, one that leaves him questioning everything he thought was true. All that remains is a letter and a ticket to Ghana-both of which could bring Blade the freedom and love he’s been searching for, or leave him feeling even more adrift.

Told through bestselling author Kwame Alexander’s and Mary Rand Hess’s expressive and engaging style, Solo is a melodic exploration of friendship, love, heartache, reconciliation, and what it means to finally come home.

I’m a big fan of Kwame Alexander’s verse novel The Crossover, a Newbery award winning book which deals with elements of family and coming of age. Compared to Solo, The Crossover is short but powerful and intimate. I brought that with me as I was reading Solo and I wish I hadn’t. In comparison, Solo is a sprawling story that dips its metaphoric toes into too many waters.

The story is divided into two parts Part One: Hollywood and Part Two: West Africa.

Part One: Hollywood

When we meet Blade Morrison we learn the basics of his life: his mother (Sunny) died suddenly about ten 10 years ago, his father (Rutherford) is a famous musician struggling with addiction, his sister (Storm) is trying to find her way as an adult, his girlfriend (Chapel) has parents who have forbidden their relationship, and Blade is currently struggling with, as one of his friends so succinctly puts it, first world problems. Some of these include his relationship troubles with his girlfriend, his father crashing his graduation, and his inability to navigate his sister’s social scene.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there struggling with the things Blade has as conflicts in the opening parts of the book, what I am saying is that it was superficial to me. I felt no connection to Blade, had little sympathy for him as a character, and considered abandoning the book. Initially I thought Alexander and Hess were going to clearly pursue more of the continuing grief the family is experiencing after the death of Sunny or the complexities of addiction. Blade’s memories of Sunny’s death and the impact her death has had on the family were by far the strongest part especially when compared with Blade’s angst over his relationship with Chapel. However, as the text seemed to digress further into angst with no other major plot evolution I couldn’t help but think there were too many plot elements occurring at the same time. This is perhaps best illustrated in the incident that catalyzes the second half of the book.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

In the middle of Storm’s big party, she’s insulted by one of the guests, prompting Blade to throw everyone out. As everyone is leaving, with Storm clearly upset, Rutherford arrives home having left his rehab facility before completing treatment. Disappointed in the life choices of both his father and sister, a fight breaks out between them which leads to Storm angrily telling Blade he’s adopted and not a real Morrison.

Like much of the plot surrounding Rutherford, this scene is helter skelter. It’s supposed to show how “Rock and Roll” they are since Blade’s life is just a series of increasingly erratic moments as Rutherford battles addiction. Instead, it just gives the opening section a scattered and unfinished feeling.

For me as a reader, when that scene unfolded, I empathized with Blade, but I also assumed that Storm was joking or attempting to hurt Blade by lying. It was so abrupt that after it’s confirmed that Blade is adopted I had to reread the fight to realign my reaction to the moment. The revelation sends Blade spiraling and I hoped that the novel was finally getting on track with Blade beginning a search for his birth mother, but Blade still dithers in Hollywood. With his relationship with Chapel now floundering (having been caught by her parents twice), Blade opts for a dramatic gesture before setting out on his journey. He gets a tattoo of her name and arrives to show her, just in time to catch her cheating on him. The tattoo and cheating on top of the forbidden love was too much for me. It also finalized my second major reaction to Part One: Chapel felt unnecessary to me as a character, she was vapid and shallow, a caricature, and the relationship was fraught with cliches that only weighed down other elements of the plot.

As Part One closes, our protagonist receives life changing knowledge, gets a regrettable tattoo, and sets out on his quest. In Blade’s case, this quest leads him to Ghana.

Part Two: West Africa

On the whole, I enjoyed Part Two infinitely more than Part One. Taking Blade out of his comfortable Hollywood setting and having him confront major world issues in Africa gave him the opportunity to grow more as a character. In Ghana he encounters poverty, communities impacted by natural disasters and disease, and some harsh realities about charity (there’s a wonderful exchange where Blade’s new friend Joy tells him that everyone who comes to the village tells them what they need instead of asking what they need). However, while I enjoyed this part of the novel more, I still felt that the plot was spread too thin and there was an overtly didactic tone. While focusing on the realities of life in Ghana the book also introduces the impact of malaria on the people, but it does it in a way that feels heavy handed: death. It was inevitable. I could tell it was coming from the many mentions of the disease, but it, again, felt like another example of too many plot points for one story.

That being said, there were some interesting moments of character development as it becomes clear that, barring issues with the death of Sunny and learning of his adoption, Blade has NO IDEA how to treat women. His strange relationship with his ex in Hollywood seemed like a teenage fluke in Part One; in Part Two when he tries to kiss Joy after they have been hanging out she says, “Blade, you can’t just come kiss a girl because you miss a girl.” It was an incredible moment that really brought out that to this character there are only two roles for women: mother figures and potential girlfriends. He truly struggles with this and Joy makes it clear that, even if she does have feelings for him, he has to learn to be her friend first.

It’s also in Ghana that Blade continues his attempts to repair his relationship with Rutherford, who arrives in Ghana with a luxury bus and a sober coach. Paired with his physical search for his birth mother, the novel finally finds a clear purpose. Blade becomes a more compassionate and empathetic character who finally seems more at home in his own skin as he confronts his problems, although the cliche of needing nature and exoticisim to do so comes to mind.

Finally, as Blade reaches the culmination of his journey, meeting his birth mother, the verse legitimately brought me to tears. It was beautiful in a way that I had not experienced while reading any other point of the novel and reminded me of the powerful emotions depicted in The Crossover.

Alexander and Hess mention that this book is a love letter to Rock and Roll and considering the inserted track titles, dogs named Mick and Jagger, and Blade’s guitars, it succeeds in that. However, my final reaction was that the book had too many plot lines for a novel told entirely in verse, relied too much on tropes, and failed to capitalize on its premise. It was a fairly quick read though and I came to like characters such as Joy, so for me Solo was a solid three bard tale, worth reading but not a masterpiece.

Repost: Interview and Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

 

28374007In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

Holy moley this book was an excellent roller coaster of emotions and craziness.

Blake has created an absolutely intriguing story world where the isolated island members are pretty fanatical about their precious queens and they will do almost anything to see their queen crowned.

The narration in this story is a bit muddled at times, because the story seems to flow from character to character third person limited, so that way the reader is in the loop about all of the dealings behind the scenes, and everything that is going on within the three areas of the island where the girls are kept.  Obviously the reader gets the point of view of each of the queens, Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella.  But we also get the point of views of those closest to them, Natalia and Pietyr for Katharine, Jules, Joseph, and Billy for Arsinoe, and Luca for Mirabella.  While I did find the narration switches to be confusing at times and sometimes the narrative voices blended together, it served the story well and it allowed for a few *gasp* moments during my read.

As for the queens themselves as characters: I can’t decide which one I like more.  Fierce Arsinoe who has overcome her faults and accepted her fate only to find her fate different by the end of the novel.  Loving Mirabella who can control raging fire but can’t control how much she loves and misses her sisters.  Shy Katharine who is stronger than anyone will give her credit for, despite her short comings.  They were all raised to hate and want to murder their siblings in order to take their crown, but fore the most part the girls are pretty reluctant.  It seems that for the most part, none of them actually hate each other, but are just kind of resigned to their lot in life…of having to commit murder in order to live.

It’s a pretty dark burden they all carry, but they do manage to find a bit of happiness in their worlds, although an unfortunate love triangle pops up that broke my heart for two different characters. Damn you, Blake for giving me feels.

The narrative has such a sense of urgency throughout the whole book, which is excellent considering the story takes place over a number of months leading up to the final conclusion of Beltane at the end of Three Dark Crowns.

The readers learn a pretty important plot point there at the end, one that will change the course of the next installment.  Overall the world building was excellent for a first fantasy novel, and I’m sure we will continue to get more details on the history of the prophecy for the triplets (I can hope!), and more insight into what happens if the queens fail to kill one another.

4.5 Bards! Keep an eye out for our interview with Kendare Blake from the Texas Teen Book Festival!

four.fivebards

 

 

 

 


Follow
Get every new post delivered to your inbox!
Join our other followers!
Powered By WPFruits.com
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers