Frostblood: Elly Blake

FrostbloodĀ follows the story of a young woman named Ruby, blessed with the power of flame. Unfortunately, she can’t control it very well.
Ruby lives a relatively simple life, alongside her mother, in her village… until someone turns her into the guard for being a Fireblood. She is then imprisoned, rescued, and decides to aid a revolution by eliminating the reigning king.

So I enjoyedĀ Frostblood;Ā I thought Ruby was an pretty multidimensional character. She goes through a lot of physical development after training hard and basically becoming a soldier of this revolution. She also goes through emotional and mental maturation, which is good since, you know, she’s planning to kill a king.

Arcus is her love interest and mentor, a sullen, solemn man who guards the revolution’s base with a sword, and his heart with a wall. What a cheesy sentence. I can’t believe I wrote that but I’m leaving it here bc it’s funny. Anyways, Arcus dislikes Ruby intensely in the beginning, and the feeling is very much reciprocated. He thinks she’s childish and weak, and in no shape or way ready to kill a king. And he’s right. Ruby’s still offended, though. Ā We find out a lot more about him; his big twist isn’t all that big a twist. Once you start reading, you’ll know what I mean. But I thought his character was still compelling. And I did feel bad for him. You find out a lot more about Arcus that makes him more personable than I’m making him out to be, also.

I think that the one thing I resent is not learning more about the current king, Rasmus. He was theĀ reallyĀ interesting character in this book; also, I don’t remember her name, but there’s a woman in his court who basically acts as an ally to Ruby for her own ulterior motives. It turns out that she’s been in love with Rasmus since they were young, though he basically ignores her existence. She’s watched him morph from the boy she loved into a tyrant, but she believes that he can be redeemed. Their story would have been more interesting than that of Ruby and Arcus; I think so, anyways.

So all in all,Ā FrostbloodĀ was a good book. I enjoyed the character arcs and the villain had an interesting origin story; the only downside is that it’s not really anything new for the high-fantasy YA genre. Girl finds out that she is special. Girl meets brooding boyfriend-to-be.Ā  Girl hones her skills with the help of an old and powerful rando. Girl has weird chemistry with the antagonist. Girl topples dictatorial empire by herself. Sound like any book you’ve read?

I might keep going with this series but the next book touts a love triangle so… probably not. Still, if you enjoy elemental powers and rebel factions, crazy kings and a weird, shadowy entity that’s (who’s?) hellbent on taking over the world, give this book a go.

 

 

Minor update: I’m trying to make my tags more descriptive so that you can look through my books to see tropes you might enjoy. šŸ™‚

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The Diabolic: S.J. Kincaid

I recently finished reading The Diabolic, a science fiction adventure by S.J. Kincaid. Diabolic follows the story of Nemesis, a genetically-engineered humanoid creature who has bonded for eternity to the daughter of a powerful senator: Sidonia. When the senator displeases the emperor and his family, Sidonia is summoned to be held hostage in their Chrysanthemum Court, where all of the imperial family and their most ardent supporters live. Nemesis goes in her stead, only to find herself delving deeper and deeper into a web of politics and lies.

I really enjoyed this book! It was fantastically planned– writing out a plot can be very difficult, but Ms. Kincaid managed to wrap up all loose ends and weave a story that flowed from point A to point Z, without any trouble. The universe she created was fascinating, with the strange aristocracy, the abandoned Excess, and the manufactured creatures such as Diabolics, Servitors, the fighting beasts, and the Exalted. And the characters were very likable: each had their individual story, which came to a climax during the events of the book. Neveni, Nemesis, Sidonia, Tyrus, Cygna, the Emperor, and everyone else involved, had a resolution to their tale.

Speaking of Tyrus: he was like a breath of fresh air in the realm of YA. Maybe Iā€™m not well-read, but I donā€™t think Iā€™ve encountered a character like him in any book that Iā€™ve ever read. Tyrus is the nephew of the current emperor, well-informed of his grandmotherā€™s scheming, and fully aware of his mortality. In order to protect himself in a court of vipers, he plays the part of a madmanā€”and successfully fools everyone. He only drops the act when he discovers that Nemesis might be the most useful ally he could have ever found, and she quickly discovers that not only is he a good actor; heā€™s also fathomlessly clever, and ten steps ahead of everyone else in the game.

Another thing I appreciate deeply is the hint of unease at the very end of the story. Can Nemesis really trust Tyrus? After all of her misgivings during the latter half of the story, can she really believe that he had no hand in Sidoniaā€™s death, nor that he would sacrifice far too much for her, or that he really loves her at all? Their union is bittersweet and fraught with tension on Nemesisā€™s side, but she has to find a way to reconcile her love for Tyrus and her distrust towards him. Itā€™s a precarious position to be in and sets up a fascinating relationship to be featured in the next book.

Nemesis is also a really wonderful character. After being told that her only purpose is to serve, and that sheā€™s a monster through and through, she holds herself in very low regard. Nemesis is convinced that sheā€™s brutal, heartless, merciless, some kind of killing machineā€”and she isā€”but massively discounts her own humanity. It was sweet to read about Nemesis discovering the beauty of laughter, of love and of pain, through the pages of this book. She reminds me a little bit of an androidā€”perhaps similar to the one in This, My Soul.

All in all, I found he Diabolic to be a really good read, and Iā€™m looking forward to reading the sequel– The Empress, and discovering what horrors await Tyrus and Nemesis. And the friction in their relationship. If you like a good sci-fi story and were intrigued by the likes of Illuminae and Gemina, definitely give this book a try!

Song of the Current: Sarah Tolcser

Song of the CurrentĀ is a debut novel by Sarah Tolcser, and follows the adventures of Caro Oresteia and her wherry crew, consisting of frogman Fee; joined this time by an “arrogant young courier with a secret”. When Caro’s father is imprisoned for refusing to transport a package down the river, Caro takes it upon herself to deliver the item– but instead falls into an adventure with hired guns and pirates and all sorts of shady types trying to kill her. Caro needs to keep herself, Fee, the courier, and the wherry in one piece, but that proves to be easier said than done.

For a debut novel, this was a fantastic read. Most of the time, authors haven’t really found their voice by their first book– I think so, anyways. It takes a few tries to settle into something that can resonate with the audience, or maybe that it’s by the third time around, you’ve kind of honed in on your audience. Anyways, it was really good for being her first try at publishing a novel, and I laud her for that success. The characters are fully fleshed and the world is fascinating, meticulously detailed, and you can tell that Ms. Tolcser knows her stuff about ships.

I really appreciate our arrogant courier. He’s charming in a newborn sort of sense– he doesn’t know the first thing about sailing or wherrymen or what life is like outside of his red carpet and silver spoons. But the character development is wonderful; he really matures over the events in the story, and proves to be a formidable enemy and a trustworthy ally. Also, his arrogance is really funny.

Caro is a headstrong, ferocious young sailor, and she really holds her own when seemingly the whole world is against her. And the choices she makes are emotional, but she acknowledges the dangers that come with each option and chooses the best course of action regarding what they’re going to do. An interesting quirk of Caro’s is that, while her whole family can speak to the river-god, he’s unbearably silent when it comes to her.Ā It’s the language of little things,Ā is what she says over and over again– the way the light flickers off the water, the birds and the bugs in the air, but Caro can’t decipher a word he is saying– that is, if he’s saying anything at all. She comes into her own power eventually, and it’s a relief. Caro deserves the best.

A last aspect I enjoyed is the relationship between Caro’s parents. Her mother is a calculating Bollard, a merchant’s daughter and a branch of the massive Bollard network. She works for her family: shipping, trading, smuggling. Caro is unsure if she can trust the Bollards due to their proclivity towards whichever side can pay the most; is her precious cargo safe in their hands? Unlikely. So another relationship tested by rough waters (haha) is the one between Caro and her mother.
Oh, but mom and dad: so they live separately, but there doesn’t seem to be animosity between them. In fact, the opposite: they do love each other, to some extent. They’re just two fundamentally different people. It’s an interesting romantic relationship, because there’s no indication that either has someone on the side, so I think that they’re still invested in each other but their lives branch in different directions, and both are fine with this setup. When they are together, there’s chemistry between the two and they make use of that chemistry; but when they’re apart, it’s fine, and they don’t pine for one another.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot! It was lovely to explore the vast ocean, and it gave me very pirate-y vibes, so that was awesome because I’ve been looking for a sea-faring novel to read soon (my eye’s onĀ Daughter of the Pirate King). Ā So give it a go if you’re into the sea, rough-and-tumble adventures, headstrong protagonists and over-confident couriers.

Queen’s Crown

I recently had some time to play a demo of an upcoming simulation game entitledĀ Queen’s Crown. I wasn’t expecting much since the developer, Agashi (Lee Almonte), works independently and I hadn’t heard of her before, but I really was blown away by how fun and meticulous this game is. Also, of course, I rescind all my preconceived notions about Agashi– her game was beautifully made and I’m excited to play the full version.

Queen’s Crown follows the story of a young princess turned monarch after the death of her older brother. Faced with an impending war, strange diplomats, and plays for the throne by her enemies, she’s forced to take the reigns and must choose which allies to trust, and which enemies to keep close. Queen’s Crown is story and choice based, so rather than functioning as a strategy game, like the XCOM series, it is more reminiscent of products made by TellTale Games, like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, although there isn’t a timer ticking down while you try to make a decision.

I can’t say how complex the branches of each choice are, because I haven’t played through the whole game. By that I mean, I don’t know if choices made at certain points during the game will affect later events. For example: you find that your brother’s wife may have betrayed the crown, and you can choose to forgive her, exile her, or execute her. Since the entire game has not been released, I’m unsure as to whether the choice I made will affect the way people view me, or perhaps add/get rid of potential allies in the future. In a similar vein, you can choose to do one of three actions during the day: study, train, or visit the villages. I only hope that the choice you make actually does affect the way the game goes.

I’m not aĀ bigĀ fan of anime-manga style artwork, but that’s just a personal preference. Objectively, the work in this game is very professionally done and very pretty. Great color scheme, subtle animation, and expressions to match the result of your choices. Also, you can customize your character a little, so that’s nice. The music in this game is also really lovely; it’s also original. It’s difficult to pinpoint good music because sometimes, a repetitive tune can be obnoxious, but the melody in the background added to the atmosphere.

You do have the possibility of romancing one of four gentlemen: Noah, Teiran, Desmond and Emry. Each one has a unique personality and background, and more importantly: each one can offer you a certain amount of power. Noah is a diplomat from the country you currently fight against; Emry is your old tutor, and knows more about the history of your kingdom than anyone else. I’m not too sure about Teiran, only that he’s a very wealthy aristocrat from an old family, and actually I know nothing about Desmond– just that he’s a stable-hand, so maybe notĀ everyoneĀ offers you power. Desmond may offer you pure love, which is, all things considered, utterly useless, but hey he hasn’t actually been released yet so maybe there are some surprises in store.

If you think you’d enjoy this game, you can download the demo here:
https://agashi.itch.io/queens-crown

I really hope that you give it a try and have as much fun as I did! It’s been weirdly difficult to find a good choose-your-own-adventure game because most come in a visual-novel format, which I hate because people talkĀ soĀ much and I want to make choices, not read. That was one of the best things aboutĀ Queen’s Crown:Ā you can actively make choices during the game instead of spending fifteen minutes reading dialogue and inner monologue.

Anyways, happy gaming! šŸ™‚

Gemina: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Man, I read this a while ago and never wrote a review for it, but the delight of reading a good story still lies light in my heart. If that makes any sense. Gemina is the much-anticipated sequel of Illuminae, but follows the story of Hannah Donnelly and Nik Malikov, residents of the Heimdall space station, which, if you recall, our heroes from Illuminae were hurtling towards after the disastrous invasion of the illegal mining colony Kerenza, and subsequent attack on the survivorsā€™ ship by dreadnought Lincoln.

Hannah is the capable, and rather formidable, daughter of Captain Donnelly of Heimdall Station. He runs the whole enterprise with fair judgement and a lot of patience. Meanwhile, Nik is a member of a notorious crime family which operates on Heimdall. The two of them are closely acquaintedā€”Nik is Hannahā€™s dust dealer, dust being a drug similar to, I guess, weed? ā€“ but find themselves forced to become even more closely acquainted when BeiTech mercenaries descend upon Heimdall, tasked with wiping out everyone on the station and intercepting the Alexander.

The book follows the same format as Gemina, with transcriptions of text messages, diagrams of the ship, so on and so forth. It never gets old because theyā€™re so much fun to readā€”and of course, the same tension is found in every page, every unanswered message and every foreboding circumstance. It is heart-stopping in the truest sense of the word. And then the inclusion of time-space dynamics near the end, with the hermium rods and the black holeā€¦ agh.

And good lord, everything is incredibly terse. Not only is the station collapsing around Hannah and Nik– there are numerous people trapped on the same slab of metal in space, plus merciless mercs stomping around and shooting anything that moves.
And aliens.
There are aliens on the ship.
And these aliens are scary. Plus, they’re parasitic.

I canā€™t adequately put the plot of this book into words, but seriously loved it. It was a fitting sequel to Illuminae and Iā€™m so so excited to pick up Obsidio, whenever it comes out! Happy reading! šŸ˜Š

Once and For All: Sarah Dessen

Like I’ve mentioned before I don’t really enjoy romance novels, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Miss Sarah Dessen. I started reading her books in eighth grade under recommendation from my English teacher, and I like that her books are female-centric: they focus on character development on the protagonist’s end, rather than building a steamy relationship between the two main characters. Love is a way for the protagonist to come to terms with a large problem in their life: in this case, the issue of tragedy. Louna Barrett’s last relationship ended badly, and she’s been hesitant to move on.

We follow Louna as she meets Ambrose, a really relaxed and personable dude who happens to also be a serial-dater. Ambrose is never not flirting with someone, never not going out with someone, and Louna is tentatively amused by his antics. He, on the other hand, is enraptured by her discipline and no-nonsense personality, which she’s cultivated from years of working at her mother’s wedding planning business.

Another large part of the book is said Wedding Planning Business. It’s a fantastically interesting career and it gave the book so much depth; though there are several established stories in which the protagonist is a cynic working in a romance-based industry, Louna is hopeful in romance but not quite sure what to believe, especially after the end of her previous relationship. Natalie Barrett and William, Natalie’s business partner and Louna’s godfather, are charming characters and loving guardians for Louna. The two of them are huge in the wedding industry and as essential to each other as Yin and Yang. Natalie is the brains of the operation, while William is the heart. It’s very warming.

The only reason I gave this four stars on Goodreads is because the ending is kind of anticlimactic. Since it was a book, I was sort of hoping for a little drama, but it wraps itself up rather peacefully– which is good for the characters, though not for my own selfish desire to see things implode.

This review is kind of short but there’s not much more to say without giving major spoilers, which I’m pretty loathe to do for this novel in particular. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, especially if you’re a fan of books likeĀ To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

Avenged: Amy Tintera

I managed to take a quick break over the weekend and finished upĀ Avenged,Ā sequel toĀ Ruined,Ā by Amy Tintera. The last book ended with Olivia Flores being freed, King Casimir’s parents being slaughtered, and a whole lot of bad shiz going down. It picks up a while after this situation; Em and Olivia have escaped and are looking to establish a camp for the Ruined somewhere, considering how Ruina has become a wasteland. Meanwhile, as is locked in his fortress, depressed by his circumstances.

One thing I liked aboutĀ RuinedĀ was how powerful and logical Emelina presents herself to be; she’s incredibly witty, tough as nails, and strategic to boot. She faces difficult situations with diplomacy rather than charging in, guns ablaze.
Unfortunately, Olivia is her foil. Olivia deals with problems with fists and fury, murdering anyone who stands in her way. After a year of being tortured by the Lerians, she’s less than forgiving towards their people and her goal seems to be to kill as many of them as she possibly can. Olivia is also powerful, but her methods rely on her Ruined markings, while Emelina really only has herself to depend on.

We are introduced to Violet, the new governor of the Southern Provinces after the death of her father during the events of the previous story. Violet becomes Cas’s right-hand woman, the only person other than Galo and Mateo whom he can trust. His cousin Jovita is making a play for the throne and ~someone~ poisons Cas, so there’s a lot of stuff going down in the fortress. Cas undergoes some hard-core character development due to his circumstances and a few revelations, and it’s good to see him graduate from a prince to a king. Also, back to Violet: she’s seriously cool. Very level-headed, unafraid to call Cas out when he’s throwing a tantrum, and very aware of the situation.
I’m still a bit suspicious of her because Jovita was like “Cas, I didn’t poison you!” and I kind of believe her. But we never find out who poisoned Cas… I hope it wasn’t V, since she’s really cool.

We see more of Iria and Aren, who are as cute as ever. Aren’s wrapped up in this “Rise of the Ruined,” and realizes pretty early on in the book that Olivia intends to marry him one day. Olivia scares him, so this is not the best of news. Aren and Iria struggle with their relationship because they’re from opposing sides of a war; Olso and its warriors have turned on the Ruined, and also Aren struggles to understand what it is that he feels towards Iria in the first place. It’s a budding relationship and it’s cute, I enjoyed reading about their drama. The pacing is appropriate for the setting of the story. There’s also more Em/Casimir, and they’re also cute, but it’s more tragic-love in this setting because they’re starting to realize that they may not be able to be together. But do they vanquish their obstacles and end up in each other’s arms? You’ll have to read to find out.

This book kept me feeling tense and frustrated, but my frustration was borne out of ire raised by Jovita and the Olso Royal Family, rather than by the writing or the plot. So it was the good kind of frustration. I really enjoyed it– I find myself liking these high-fantasy political thrillers, and also most of the characters are very likable. I think that the writing matches the tone of the story the author is trying to tell: no frills or fluff, it’s all very forthright.

I can’t end this review without talking about my favorite part. This is more spoilery than the rest of the review so don’t read any further if you haven’t read the book, although you really shouldn’t be reading my reviews unless you’ve already read the book because, again, they’re very spoilery. Anyways, fav part: Em telling August and the rest of the royals over and over again that they should let her go because Olivia is going to slaughter all of them, and the royals laughing in her face and King Lucio dismissing her concerns like whatevs, Em, and then Emelina waking up to people screaming and blood everywhere and broken bodies becauseĀ Olivia showed up and slaughtered everyone.Ā She literally told them that this was exactly what would happen but their pride was their downfall.

Okay. So I was really happy with this sequel, and fans ofĀ RuinedĀ don’t have to worry. I hope you pick up the book and give it a go!

Rebel of the Sands: Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the SandsĀ is the first of a trilogy by debut author Alwyn Hamilton. Well, I guess she’s not really a debut author anymore but this was her first book. It came out a while ago, amidst all the djinns-and-the-Middle-East-and-India fervor; the one that resulted in books likeĀ The Forbidden WishĀ by Jessica Khoury,Ā The Wrath and the DawnĀ by Renee Ahdieh, andĀ The Star Touched QueenĀ by Roshani Chokshi. I think I was overwhelmed by the similarities in the setting of all of these stories, so I ignored them in favor of other books. Then one day I was at the library, andĀ Rebel of the SandsĀ was sitting guilelessly upon the shelf, shimmering gold and black and blue, so I figured I should check it out at least for the sake of the cover.

I enjoyed this read! It was a welcome change after the start of a series of bad books, so here’s to hoping that I broke the curse.Ā Rebel of the SandsĀ follows a young woman named Amani Al’Hiza, “more gunpowder than girl”, desperate for a way out of her unwelcoming home. She’s a Cinderella of sorts; her aunt’s family hates her, she’s a bit of the chore-child, and her prince comes in the form of a reckless young foreigner named Jin. Amani, unlike Cinderella, isn’t looking for a man– only for a way out. Jin and Amani endure several misadventures before finally making it to their destination, or, well, Jin’s, and Amani finds herself wrapped up in a plot to overthrow the tyrannical Sultan and bring aboutĀ “a new desert, a new dawn.”

I actually don’t feel too strongly about the first half of the book. It’s a lot of build-up to justify the relationship between Jin and Amani, which is good, because the author took her time to clarify Amani’s goals and give the reader more time to connect with her. Jin and Amani fall in love even though neither of them says it outright; honestly, I don’t think I’m a huge romantic so I was kind of (rolls eyes) at those parts, but it wasn’t overwhelming or anything. I found it — funny? Considering how harsh and cold Amani tries to be, but how she melts whenever Jin’s around, and she knows this and hates it.

I was more interested in the latter half, after Amani and Jin reach the secret kingdom where the rebels are all hiding away, plotting at capturing the throne for the rightful Prince Ahmed. During the entirety of the first part of the novel, I expected Jin to turn out to be “the Rebel Prince” that everyone seemed to be obsessing over, supposedly this huge legend and slowly making his way to the capital and the Sultan. It turns out that the Rebel Prince is his brother. Ms. Hamilton presents a lot of red herrings in this way, where she reveals stuff at the last minute or introduces new aspects of familiar characters that we wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. I really liked this aboutĀ Rebel of the Sands. After reading so much YA literature, you get a little jaded and find yourself thinking, “I know what’s going to happen.” But I actually didn’t with this book.

I liked how Amani was not the quintessential good-girl hero trope that we see a lot. She leaves behind her best friend, Tamin, perhaps to die. She abandons a young prisoner despite the boy’s pleas for her to help. There’s another instance of this, but it would beĀ too muchĀ of a spoiler, believe it or not. Amani debates with herself, sure, but in the end she always saves herself when faced with the choice– unless the person in danger is Jin or one of her other rebel friends. Usually you get protagonists who are very much “no, I have to save everyone, I’m the Chosen one,” or whatever, but Amani is self-serving and that makes her interesting.

The lore that comes into play during the latter half was really interesting as well. We get introduced to a whole cast of secondary characters who make more of an impact in like one hundred pages than Jin did in the entire book. Not that Jin is bad; I liked him, but he seemed a little bland to me. I don’t want to say more on that because I’d have to dissect his character, and I’d rather let you guys make the decision for yourselves.

Anyways, if you’re looking for a gun-toting, folklore-quoting, scapegoats and gold-coated beaut of a book, you’re in luck.
Do you know how long it took me to rhyme that? I’m not even sure it made sense.
Anyways, yeah, giveĀ Rebel of the SandsĀ a try!

Update

I’m going to be taking an extended break in order to study for exams. Might still be updating but very infrequently! Thanks for sticking around ā¤