Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale | Katherine Arden | Published January 12th, 2017
Rating:
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads | Book Depository


The Bear and the Nightingale incorporates Russian folklore and history to create a beautiful, mesmerising and immersive fantasy.

In a time where women are very much expected to be in the kitchen and their main purpose to marry and bear children, Vasya is more at home outdoors with nature and in the stables. She has been gifted with the sight which means she can see the spirits who protect their house and the surrounding forest. When her stepmother arrives who also has the sight but deems the spirits as demons and is terrified, and the arrival of a priest who uses this to make the village abandon the spirits in favour of god, Vasya is quickly cast as a witch but is determined to use her powers to protect her family.

It's not a fast read but instead slowly and steadily unravels so as not to give away all its secrets at once. This does mean that the pace and plot dip at times but there's always something waiting just around the corner to lift things back up. I admit I'm not usually a fan of such a gradual unraveling and prefer a faster pace, but I think it works wonderfully in The Bear and the Nightingale. I enjoyed the development of the characters over time and think the slow progress is fitting to the often harsh and slow winters experienced by the characters.

I have no experience of Russian folklore but I think it is obvious that a lot of thought and research has been put into the story and I really appreciate all the small details. My only real complaint is that the Frost-Demon isn't in the story much until the end (and not even much then) and that some plot details aren't quite thoroughly explained (such as the necklace). With more books in the series planned, though, I'm hopeful that this is still to come.

A truly magical and intriguing read.

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Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Frostblood | Elly Blake | Published January 12th, 2017
Rating:
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads | Book Depository


Frostblood is a fast-paced fantasy that plays on a lot of common themes we see throughout YA fantasy but is still thoroughly engaging and a lot of fun.

I thought the world-building in Frostblood was really strong. The story has been likened to Red Queen, and can probably be compared to other YA fantasies with similar components too, but the world in Frostblood still feels brand new. I was captivated from the beginning with the contrasts between hot and cold and loved how descriptive Blake is in her writing. For a story that plays on a lot of the typical YA fantasy tropes, it would have been easy for this world to feel “samey” or like we’ve been there before but I don't think it suffers from that problem.

Our main character Ruby is a Fireblood in a world that is dominated by Frostblood and she has to hide her powers. When soldiers infiltrate her small village to capture her, killing her mother in the process, she is imprisoned and left to await execution. She is rescued by two Frostbloods and taken to a monastery where she is trained by the dark and mysterious Arcus to control and develop her powers for one goal: take revenge on the Frost King and destroy the throne.

I enjoyed the characterisation of both Ruby and Arcus. Ruby is fiery and impatient whilst Arcus comes across as cold and distant. I liked that these qualities suited their Frostblood or Fireblood heritage respectively. The mystery with Arcus slowly unfolds as the book progresses, and there does come a point where you can guess, but I did enjoy the revelation. The romance is also very much a slow-burn and there is an element of love/hate going on which I'm a sucker for. The romance propelled me through the pages a lot quicker than I might have done otherwise.

Overall, I really enjoyed the pace and world-building of Frostblood as well as Blake’s take on some of the common tropes we find in YA fantasy.


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Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Monday, 21 November 2016

Caraval | Stephanie Garber | Published January 31st, 2017
Rating:
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads | Book Depository

Caraval is one of those books that grabbed my attention from page one and just wouldn't leave my mind. It took me by surprise in the best possible way with vivid world-building, an intriguing set of characters and a plot full of twists.

Scarlett and Tella live with their over-protective and abusive father, constantly in fear of what the next punishment will be. Their father has arranged a marriage for Scarlett which she hopes will be the beginning of freedom for her and her sister but then an invitation to the legendary Caraval arrives and is impossible to ignore.

The relationship between Scarlett and Tella is one that I really liked. Whilst there is a small romance, it didn't get in the way of the sisterly relationship and the drama going on there. They both know what their goals are and their love for each other comes before the boy they've just met.

One of the central points running throughout the book is that Caraval is just a game - nothing that happens is real. Things start to get darker and weirder as we get further into the “game” though and Scarlett, as well as the reader, just can't be sure. If you see something happen with your own eyes, right in front of you, then you can be sure that it's real, right? The mystery of what is actually going on, and who Legend is, is so well done. I had some theories early on, was convinced I had it figured out, and then the plot twists in a completely different way. I love that. There's nothing better than a story that keeps you guessing all the way through and presents you with a revelation that you just didn't see coming.

Full of action, intrigue and alluring prose, I was completely swept away into the bewitching world of Caraval. I can't wait to experience the further twists that the sequel is sure to present.

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Review: The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Friday, 11 November 2016


The Fate of the Tearling | Erika Johansen | Published December 1st, 2016
Rating:
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads | Book Depository

This was so good! I've been looking forward to this conclusion for so long and it was definitely worth the wait. If you think you had things sussed out in book two, or know where certain characters or relationships are going to go… think again!

The pacing felt a lot more quicker than in the previous books and this helped create a level of intensity that kept me fully engrossed until the end. The world is expanded upon again, and we all know how tricky it can be to stay on top of the different times, but it worked so well. I mentioned in my review for the previous book that I preferred being in Kelsea’s time but Katie’s narrative this time around was just so interesting. I found myself enjoying both times equally and I really loved learning more about Row Finn and the Fetch.

The other characters continue to be so well developed too. I love that whilst Kelsea is the main show, other people still get their own stories and time dedicated to them. Aisa, Javel, Ewen, Mace and Father Tyler were all compelling. They are each in the story in varying degrees but the fact I care what happens to every one of them is a sign of great storytelling. Kelsea and the Red Queen was an interesting relationship. It goes in a direction that I wasn't expecting but learning more about the Red Queen and how she became so treacherous was fascinating. As for Kelsea.. she is still so badass and not afraid to get her hands dirty. It's actually really refreshing to read about a heroine who isn't constantly pining over a man. She just gets things done and I love that about her.

I have conflicted feelings over the ending. I can't quite make up my mind as to whether I like it or dislike it. I think I'm wavering somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, I can see why the author decided to end things this way. It feels fitting for Kelsea who has spent the series with one ultimate goal: to protect the people of her kingdom at all costs. On the other hand, it feels quite bittersweet and anticlimactic. The ending comes about rather quickly and it is different than what we’re used to so maybe another chapter of exploration would have made a difference. I did really love the last line though which I think is very fitting for the series as a whole.

I've really, really enjoyed this series and getting to know the world and its characters. It's not always an easy ride (the Tearling is not an easy world to get to grips with!) but it has been a fascinating and exciting adventure. I can't wait to see what Erika Johansen’s impressive imagination comes up with next.

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Review: What Light by Jay Asher

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

What Light | Jay Asher | Published October 20th, 2016
Rating:
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads | Book Depository


What Light is a sweet and sugary Christmassy read dealing with friendship, family and first-time love. There's nothing too heavy or serious but rather it's lighthearted and cute.

Sierra and her family own a Christmas tree farm and for one month every year, during the Christmas period, they move to California to run their Christmas tree lot. One of the best things about What Light is the theme of Christmas trees running throughout. It was interesting to get an insight into how the tree farms work as well as how Sierra essentially has two different lives: her life at home and her home away from home in California.

Sierra was generally a likable character. I didn't really have any strong feelings about her either way, but I didn't dislike her. I wasn't a huge fan of her friends who didn't come across as particularly nice and I think the story probably would have been ever better without them. I did like Caleb and the romance between him and Sierra was cute. I really liked the theme of not believing what you hear about someone and giving them the benefit of the doubt. The small town mentality of a rumour getting out of control and everyone gossiping about what a terrible person someone is was nicely dealt with. Caleb was lovely and although their romance felt a little insta-lovey in some places, I was still smiling away at the enchantment of it all.

The story is brimming with festivity and that was absolutely my favourite thing. The descriptions of all the trees, the peppermint mochas, the Christmas jumpers, cookies and lights were all so perfect. As someone who absolutely loves Christmas, I was just in heaven. What Light is a perfect holiday read. It's light and fluffy in the best possible way and is sure to put a smile on your face.

 


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