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!

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Book Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

First things first: THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. I loved this book so much that I ended up dedicating an entire BookTube video to making Strange the Dreamer themed cupcakes while I talked a bit about what I liked so much about the novel.

Check it out below and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more fun videos!

Now, let’s get to the meat of the review.

As I mentioned in the review, I fell in love with Lazlo himself within the first few chapters of this book. How pure and wonderful is my tall crooked-nosed son with his love for reading, learning, and dreaming (see what I did there?)? Lazlo may not have any idea about his heritage, but unlike some book characters, this doesn’t weigh him down with questions of “who am I,” “what is my purpose in life,” etc.  I think his acceptance of that, or even the fact that he doesn’t consider it to be a problem in his life, is what makes him such a humble and caring character that helps those who need it without expecting anything in return.

Speaking of those people who probably should given him something in return, I was extremely irritated by the golden godson and all of his nonsense.  I found myself eye-rolling through a bunch of his scenes, which is exactly what I think Taylor intended, but still. I’d kick him in the shin if I could.  At least he does have intelligence, although we all know that he wouldn’t be able to do anything without help from the best crooked-nose librarian there is (this isn’t spoilery…well, kind of).

I’ve read some reviews where people found the pacing a bit slow at the beginning, but I didn’t find this a problem at all.  I really loved the development of Lazlo as a character, and while I do think it would have been fun to see more of the journey from their home to Weep, I know this wasn’t the point of the novel.  However, the action does pick up significantly after the arrival of Lazlo and the other characters to the mythical Weep, so even if you are struggling to get to that point, push through it! I promise it’s worth it.

Since I was so fond of Lazlo and his character development, I must say that the only one of the Godspawn that I truly felt connected to, and I’m sure this is because Sarai was the other point of view in the novel, was Sarai.  She is such a complex character with an odd gift, to say the least, but it allows her to grow and have empathy for humans in a way the others don’t.  This becomes a major plot point as well.  But the others kind of felt almost like unnecessary background noise (all except Minya, of course), but I anticipate they will play a much larger part in the second book.

I loved this book and I cannot wait to pick it back up again and read carefully for clues about the twist at the end.

5 Bards!

 

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

27774758Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Some thoughts I texted to Jess while reading:

  1. Oh no my best friends in love with me. Are all girls like this?
  2. Why are they so confusing I can’t handle basic human emotions and I just generalize all girls because she’s the only one I know
  3. I liked it at first because she wasn’t in love with him. She was annoyed when he stared at her and told him to get his life together
  4. So not only is his best friend a girl and in love with him, he finally meets the other main character and they fall in love instantly blah blah blah
    I mean, they’re not together, but they had that instant eyes meeting let’s stare at each other for minutes on end like nothing else mattered before now
  5. “I shout at her now because I’m so angry at her for loving me”
    This is an actual sentence that I just had to read with my own two eyes
    “If she had controlled her emotions we never would have fought”
    Aaaaaaand it got worse
  6. I want to like Elias, I really do, but he’s so [damn] stupid that I want to shove him off a cliff.
    And we’ve gotten to the part where the best friend hates being in love him. Of course.
  7. Honestly, if this book were only Elias, I wouldn’t keep reading. I like Laia’s story so far. Even if she can’t help loving Elias because that’s what you do in a YA novel.
  8. It is strange though that they both have other love interests. It’s a love square instead of a triangle.
    I mean, there’s not much to know about Keenan so far. Other than he’s with the resistance. And her father saved his life. At least he’s not an idiot like Elias.
  9. And now, Elias and Helene have to fight each other to the death. That’s one way to get rid of a love interest.
    So. He didn’t kill his best friend. But they literally gave him Laia as a prize for winning.
    Gross.

Now for a semi-real review:

This book mentions rape as a punishment for women, almost every other chapter. Not only mentions but characters are actively threatening (and almost succeeding) to rape other characters. And I am just… so tired. I need for all authors to do better.

I almost didn’t finish this book, but I have hope for the next one. Because the story is interesting and I want to know what happens. The idea of the augurs basically overthrowing the current emperor to host the trials for a new one is pretty interesting. The weird family dynamic of Gens Veturius is intriguing. Plus the drama within the resistance and how Laia and her family are connected and the betrayal that got her parents killed. I’m waiting every other chapter to see if it’s finally revealed. I’m always expecting anyone she talks to to slip up and give a hint that they were part of the reason her family was killed.

As annoyed as I was at some parts of the book, I’m excited to read the next one, and I’d give this one 3.5 bards.

3.5bards

 

 

 


Book Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

Note: I “read” this novel via Audiobook on Audible (Pssshhhttt, I did it this way: Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks)

I think that it should be something of note that this is the first audiobook that I’ve ever finished that I haven’t previously read in print.  I had trouble focusing on audiobooks in the past that I hadn’t already read, as my mind would wander and I’d lose minutes of narration that would be important to the story.  Side note: I do workout while I listen to audiobooks, so sometimes I get distracted looking around at other things.

So it is definitely saying something when I say that I not only finished Stolen Songbird, but that I actually paid attention and didn’t lose interest.  In fact, it was to the point that I ended up doing an 8 mile green way walk while listening to this novel and didn’t realize it until I was already two hours in because I was so engrossed in the story.

stolen songbird

I made this after ALL THE FEELS. Tristan x Cecile

Things that were fascinating about Stolen Songbird:

The use of Trolls (or what are seemingly Trolls–it is alluded to that they might not be *actual* Trolls, but I suppose that is something that will be addressed in the sequels) as some of the main characters, and the trolls are not stupid, or ugly, or brutish…they are calculating, beautiful, and brutal in ways. But it’s definitely a race of fantasy creatures that get relegated to the background in the majority of narratives, so it was quite refreshing to have them in the forefront.

Other than Tristan and one or two others, a lot of the main characters were women.  Despite the use of alternating point of views with Tristan, Cecile’s POV dominates the text and her friends, Elise, Zoe, Victoria, and even Anais are more present in the text than any of the other male characters bar Tristan and possibly the King.

The narrative picks up really quickly and what could possibly be considered a major climax of the story takes place within the first few chapters: Cecile is kidnapped, taken to a city that she thought was a myth, and then forced to marry a handsome prince.  ALL IN THE MATTER OF A NIGHT.  Talk about a tumultuous evening.

Other than the wonderful blossoming of friendship and love between Cecile and these creatures she always regarded as monsters, I think the class struggles were a wonderful addition to the story that I wish we could have seen more of.

Sure, there’s a lot of time spent discussing the half-bloods (troll/human) and their plight under the mountain, relegated to servant duties and other physical labor that is deigned too base for a full-blooded troll.  It is a very literal interpretation of a proletariat/bourgeoisie society, and the proletariat has their bourgeois sympathizers that help them to gain some power within Trollus.  Marx describes the proletariat’s plight as one where they “live to work and work to live,” which is exactly how I’d describe the miners in the bowels of Forsaken mountain.  I could go on and on about that, and it’s a different post!

I’ve already downloaded the audiobook of Hidden Huntress and can’t wait to get back to Cecile and Tristan’s world, because that ending broke me.

4 Bards

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