Code Name Verity: Elizabeth Wein

Oh. Man.

This book was an adventure. It was so good that I literally couldn’t stop reading last night, and finally ended up finishing at around 2 AM. Codename Verity follows the story of two girls working for the Allied powers during World War II. The novel starts out with Queenie, a wireless operator who was discovered as a spy for the Allies when she looked the wrong way down the street (what an awful way to get caught, right??) and was subsequently taken captive by the Gestapo.

At this point in time, Queenie’s been tortured and humiliated– and the torture in this book, while not mentioned too often, is incredibly graphic when it is addressed. Several methods are discussed; there’s a point where the Gestapo threaten to burn out Queenie’s mouth with carbolic acid, and then another point where it’s implied that they’ve stuck pins in her breasts (I actually read about this method of torture once. The flesh under your nails is very sensitive and generally unused to pain, and also full of nerve endings, so sticking pins up there burns like hellfire. Breasts are another sensitive spot on the body.) she talks about how she’s soiled herself several times, she talks about having to watch the Gestapo burn (off?) the fingers and toes of her fellow Frenchmen. She also has marks all along her throat and arms from a hot soldering iron. It’s horrible.

Queenie’s struck a deal with the Gestapo; she’ll write an entire account describing where she came from– everything secret about the Allies that she can divulge– and in return, they’ll let her live for as long as she can write the book. There’s a part in this novel where the head officer, I think his name is von Linden (v.L.) or something, and he refers to her as Sheharzaad– referencing the old Persian tale, 1001 Arabian Nights, where a young woman named Sheharzaad must tell a story to her king every night at risk of being murdered in the morning. It’s very accurate and very tragic.

Queenie’s story is written from the point of view of her best friend, Maddie, a pilot who dropped her off in Nazi-occupied France, but did not survive the plane’s crash landing. One of the first things Queenie learns upon being taken captive is that Maddie is dead. The rest of her memoirs are tainted with this knowledge, and there are several instances at which she gives up writing completely because she’s so overcome with grief. It’s stated that she was made to look upon photographs of the remains of the plane, where she could clearly see Maddie’s charred and lifeless body. Throughout the first part of the book, we learn a lot about Maddie and Queenie’s relationship– how they met, how they supported each other during the most frightening times that the world has gone through, and then of how they lost each other.

Queenie comes off as a haughty, stubborn, and vivacious girl; she’s beautiful and full of life, and she was one of the most interesting female characters that I’ve ever had the good fortune to discover. The thing about Queenie– who’s real name is later revealed to be Julie– is that she’s so, so manipulative and so, so clever. She’s like… I don’t even know how to describe her. A snake? She’s like a viper getting ready to strike. The thing about Julie is that she’s always two steps ahead of the game, as we find out in the second part of the book, which is told from the point of view of Kittyhawk– also known as Maddie, the supposedly dead pilot and Julie’s best friend.

Maddie’s story continues from her own perspective; it’s revealed that the plane did indeed crash, but she made it out alive and nearly got shot by  the Allied spies that were meant to meet her in France. After convincing them that she is on their side and discovering that Julie never made it to them, her sole purpose in life becomes finding her best friend. Julie is, from this point on, referred to as Verity: the mind-blowing double agent employed by the Allies, a woman of tens of thousands of masks and hundreds of lies. Honestly, the name Verity fits her so well; it’s such a contrast to her job, which is to fabricate and deceit her way through things. I can’t begin to explain how much I love that her code name is Verity.

The second part of the book is a little slower; Maddie can’t do nearly as much as Verity was doing, because she’s the real wireless operator and not a trained agent. It is revealed in the very beginning of Kittyhawk’s chapter that she accidentally took Verity’s ID card and Verity took hers– which is how Verity gets captured in the first place. She has the ID card of  British citizen, which automatically damns her to the Gestapo. God, things get so complicated at this point. During the first part of the book, Verity talks about how all the other prisoners hate her because she’s given out eleven sets of wireless code– betraying the Allied powers in return for an end to the torture. In the second part, we find out that none of the codes she revealed actually existed. She made everything up, and she’s not even a wireless operator! Verity was despised by the other captured Frenchmen and Allied prisoners because she writes out this entire manifesto of everything precious to the Brits, but Maddie clarifies in the second part of the book that literally nothing Verity revealed means anything. She fabricated every single name, every single place, even the aircrafts that Maddie was supposed to have flown! Everything– absolutely everything– is (excuse my language, but) a GD lie. Ha. Ha. Oh my god. It was amazing. I think you have to read the book to really have it hit you but LITERALLY NOTHING YOU READ IN THE BEGINNING IS TRUE. Maddie claims that the only truth in the manifesto is the way that she and Verity met, and how their friendship developed. But none of the people that Verity mentioned actually exist, and the only two places that truly belonged to the Allied powers were already known by the Gestapo, so she didn’t harm anyone by revealing their names. It’s so so great because in the beginning, Verity beats herself up so much about giving away all this information, calling herself a coward and at times, a traitor, claiming that there are those people that think they’re doing God’s work by servicing their country but all she wants is a little more time to live and really SHE PLAYED HER CAPTORS FOR FOOLS and she risked everything.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plotline because it’s confusing, and I’ll probably muck it up, but let me leave you with this: Verity is literally one of the most amazing characters I’ve ever read in a novel. She’s fierce and strong and she refuses to kneel to the Nazis, and it’s so refreshing to read about a truly ferocious woman like her; someone who doesn’t use their fists, but uses the fact that she’s constantly underestimated and constantly overlooked, to her advantage.

Oh man. I actually did shed a few tears during this book, because it’s not a happy story. It’s definitely not that. But it’s so amazing, and if you like WW2 literature PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. Even if you don’t like WW2 literature, READ THIS BOOK! I swore, in eighth grade, that I would never ever read a book that took place during this time ever again because I was so tired of reading sad Holocaust books. This book isn’t about the Holocaust– it’s about the actual war that went on– so if you don’t want to torment yourself by reading stories of Jewish people that are stuck in concentration camps, try this instead. It’s still torment, but it’s a lot more action and a lot less hopelessness.

I love this book. Please, please, do a service to yourself and read it.

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The Orphan Queen: Jodi Meadows

Just finished up the Orphan Queen this rainy afternoon, and although it took me a bit longer to finish than usual, I enjoyed it! Right off the bat, I’m going to admit that this book reminded me a lot of aspects of Batman, which might be one of the reasons that I enjoyed it so much.

We follow the story of Wilhelmenia Korte, the rightful Queen of Aecor, a kingdom that’s been overtaken by a new royal family. Wil’s entire life has consisted of building up to a point where she can rebel against the new imperials and take back her throne. She does this with the help of these other orphan children, the Ospreys, who are the remnants of her own kingdom’s now-dead aristocracy.

So there were several things that I really enjoyed about this book; one is that Wil is a really strong female protagonist. She’s full of this hope for the future, and she’s hellbent on getting her throne back and avenging her murdered parents by destroying the monarchy… but slowly starts changing, not because she’s in love with a boy or anything, but because she starts realizing that there’s more to the people that she wants to overthrow than just what she saw as a little girl. She realizes that her parents, who refused to sign the Wraith Alliance Treaty and also allowed for the kidnapping of the eight-year-old crown prince, might have been wrong about a few, very important things. Not everything is black and white in this story, at least not for our protagonist.

Also, physically, she’s totally kickbutt. I think that the most accurate way to describe Wil would be to call her Catwoman, because that’s essentially who she is: she steals from the rich, steals to survive, and she has one golden rule: do not murder people. It’s a pretty solid rule.
I also appreciate how many masks she wears throughout the novel; she plays the role of the demure and bravehearted Lady Julianna, the astute leader of the Ospreys, the vigilante companion of Black Mask, and also the clueless but determined soldier boy Will. She plays a lot of different people. There’s a lot of manipulation and disguise that goes on.

I also liked Black Mask, and the relationship between the two of them. They’re both creatures of the night; they ultimately want to do right by the people, protect the innocents and their city (like Batman…) and they work super well together. Their subsequent romance doesn’t seem forced at all; it’s very natural and happens slowly, and I like that it bloomed from mutual hatred and distrust. It’s always fun to see two characters who don’t like each other falling in love. Although I do have to say that it was super, super obvious from the beginning that Prince Tobiah was the Black Mask. I remember rolling my eyes when she was like, “Oh my God! Tobiah! You’re Black Mask? What the heck.” Yeah, that part was a little silly. I think it would have been cooler if she’d suspected from the beginning because, I mean, it seemed like the only logical conclusion. The Prince was this mysterious and aloof character who was always bored with his surroundings, always got up super late, I don’t know. I felt it.

I’m pleasantly surprised that there was no romantic triangle with the prince’s bodyguard, James. That would have been really cliche– but there is a sequel, and who knows? James might become the new love interest in that one, now that Tobiah has already sworn that he’ll marry that Meredith lady because it was what his father would have wanted. I liked that he did that; it was a great sucker punch to Wil, who describes her feelings so concisely but descriptively that I could tell exactly what she was going through. I’m sure that they’ll end up together in the end, though. I hope that we see more of Melanie in the next book, who I kept referring to as “Melania” because of the Falling Kingdoms series…

The whole thing with the Wraith was kind of choppily done– I couldn’t really tell if I should sympathize for the Wraith or despise it, and I’m not sure what kind of a role it’s going to play in the next book, but I guess we’ll see… I hope that they do something with that. And Patrick will be an interesting antagonist; he’s the “religious zealot” type, but not so much religious as bent on getting the kingdom back, no matter the cost. I mean, he assassinated the king, and later, the prince. There’s no coming back from that. I’m positive that he’s going to be the main antagonist in the next novel. I did like the descriptions of the Wraith forest while Wil was traveling through, trying to get to Mirror Lake. That was interesting. I wish we could hear more about the wraith-creatures.

Overall, I’m gonna stick with this series and check out the next book. Hopefully it ties a few loose threads, but all in all this book is really good!

Frozen Tides: Morgan Rhodes

This morning I finished reading Frozen Tides, the fourth and thus-far final book of the Falling Kingdoms series (although there are supposed to be six so far, so no worries.) Overall impressions: it was good. I liked it. But I also hated it. Not because it ruined the series or anything, but it had a lot of gray scenarios and character deaths, and that’s always difficult to read through.

First of all! I can’t believe Lysandra died. I mean, I guess I should have expected it but I actually thought she’d been elevated to “untouchable main character” status, like Jonas or Cleo. I guess not, because she erupted into a burning ball of fire. It was very sad, especially since she’d finally had her feelings returned by Jonas, but at least she’ll join her brother somewhere… man, her last words were “I love you.” Sort of, because she never got to finish them. Lysandra’s death is super tragic, but I feel like Jonas will move on really quickly over the next two books– which I’m kind of sad about, because I felt like they were a really sincerely in-love couple that could have evolved into the badass warrior family later on in the future. But now they can’t.
Because Lys erupted into a gigantic ball of fire.

Lucia annoyed me so much in this book. I think she’s supposed to come off as someone you can sympathize with, considering how everyone used her, but I just… couldn’t feel bad for her. Maybe it’s because in Gathering Darkness, she was just as spoiled and bratty. In this book, it only gets worse; she’s also blind with rage. I kind of like that she despises Alexius, and it looks like her pregnancy (which hey hey, I predicted correctly,) is making her act with a bit more common sense. I’m worried that Timotheus is going to die, because I like him, and he’s the only character that stands up to Lucia, but I don’t know… pretty sure Kyan will kill him later. Speaking of Kyan, that’s also an annoying character right there, but Lucia is definitely at the top of my “dislike” list. She’s just so… obnoxious. About everything.

Amara. I started to like her at the beginning of this novel; I thought she was going to redeem herself. I can sympathize with her because all her life, all she’s wanted to do is prove that she’s not some kind of trophy– she’s an actual person with actual power, and she can decide her own future. Unfortunately, her crazy grandmother has filled her head, and her heart, with so much hatred that she crosses too many uncrossable lines to ever come back from the darkness. She’s absolutely a supposed-to-be feminist turned misandrist, but also, she has a murderous streak. So no, I don’t like her either. Also, she gets really weird later on in the novel; I guess it’s because she proves that there is no “low” that she won’t stoop to. I mean, she marries Gaius. Who is old enough to be her father. C’mon, Amara. Have some self-respect. I do have to say that I appreciate how much time she spends feeling guilty over Ashur’s death; I think that it really gave her character depth. If she was just this insane, power-hungry sociopath, she wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.

I think that my favorite character so far in this novel, at least out of the ones recently introduced, is Felix. He’s suave and cocky and he meets his match in the prisons in this book, and I’m so glad that he got saved because he’s coolio. Also, now that his eye has been torn out, he gets to wear a pirate eye patch. That’ll make him a ton more interesting. And of course, the hatred he holds for Amara will also make for an interesting meet-up later on. Also, I hope we get to see more of his bromance with Jonas, because the two of them are great complements. Jonas is hotheaded when Felix is calm, Felix is hotheaded when Jonas is calm, one is impulsive and the other one thinks things through, both were in love with Lysandra… who erupted into a ball of flames.

And then finally, Magnus and Cleiona. All I really have to say is that their relationship certainly warmed up very fast, but I kind of like the way that it played out. I like seeing their conflict and the animosity that they have towards each other; hatred is always fun between two love interests. But that fades out in this book and actually becomes true love when Cleo is taken by Amara and Gaius, and Magnus believes that she’s been killed. That’s when he stops being an idiot and starts acting like an actual human being, and it’s a nice change of pace. Instead of being like “ugh, no, we lost the best hatred relationship in this story,” I felt like, “oh thank God Magnus isn’t being stupid anymore.”

Anyways, it’s late and I’m tired. This series is good; definitely recommend it.

Gathering Darkness: Morgan Rhodes

So I finished Gathering Darkness, book three of the Falling Kingdoms series, and it was pretty good! This book was a lot more slow than the others, but major stuff still happened, so it never got very boring.

I think that this book focuses particularly on Lucia and her strengthening elementia powers. Lucia starts becoming more of a major player as she learns, from a competent tutor, that she can summon the locations of the different Kindred crystals, and this is exactly what she does. This book is all about finding the Kindred and hunting them down. Of course, Cleiona sits in on her location-summonings, then discreetly sends the information to Jonas so that he might steal the crystals before them. Jonas gets to two of the three crystals; Lucia and Alexius find one, but this is taken by Princess Amara by the end of the book; and the fourth crystal, I think, is lost. No one really knows who has it.

Alexius also makes a heavy appearance in this book. Under the influence of Melania, he exiles himself from the Sanctuary and becomes mortal (uh oh #1) and flutters down to the mortal plane like an angel, bent on finding Lucia and helping her fulfill the prophecy… which he secretly knows will result in her death. Alexius is bound to Melania through an obedience spell that causes him great pain, if he even thinks about betraying her. For this reason, he can’t do much to warn Lucia to his less-than-genuine intentions, though he really does fall for the girl. In fact, Lucia and Alexius did the dippidy doo da so, I’m like 99% sure that she’s going to find out that she’s pregnant. She does something really good and then really bad at the end: she murders Melania, good. Okay. But then she summons this fire-god, who does not seem like the greatest person and is keen on freeing his siblings, who are trapped in the Kindred stones.

I found myself disliking Lucia more and more. She’s very much a selfish, conceited princess who has no idea what it’s like for those less-off, or of less power than her. I think that this might be deliberate though, because as earlier books address, her elementia powers have started darkening her soul. I remember her being kind in the first book, but by the third novel she’s really a horrible person. It’s kind of an interesting twist, though, which I hope will be resolved later.

Cleiona spends most of her time trying to manipulate her way throughout the castle. She does get really close to Lucia, and by the end of the book grows to actually care about her. She even claims that she hopes Lucia might have a place in her kingdom, when she takes the crown back. And her main concern at this point is finding allies– which she thinks about seeking with the Kraeshvian royals, but (rightfully) finds herself unable to trust. Her only friend is Nic, who is less in love with her now, but still considers her to be family, and he risks his life several times in order to get her more information.

Speaking of the Kraeshvian (I don’t know how to spell it) royals, they are the low point in this book, for me. Amara is your textbook villain– all she wants is power– although her reasoning for doling out so much violence and heartbreak as she searches for the Kindred is kind of funny, (“I want them.”) she’s overall a really boring character. She’s very much evil for the sake of being evil. There’s no interesting backstory for her.
Ashur, I had high hopes for. It’s insinuated later on in the novel that he’s a master manipulator and he’s really good at charming the pants off of people, and that this is exactly what he did to Nic. I legitimately thought that he had been playing Nic the entire time, and it would have been amazing because it would have been a super cool plot twist. But at the end of the book, he does a 180 and reveals that he’s actually been working against Amara, and he’s really in love with Nic, which 1. was ugh super predictable and 2. excuse my caps, but I’m kind of mad, YOU LITERALLY MET NIC LIKE A WEEK OR SO AGO. HOW THE HELL COULD YOU BE DEEPLY IN LOVE WITH HIM. STOP THINKING WITH YOUR BITS, ASHUR. We all saw how the Romeo and Juliet thing worked out with Theon and Cleiona– spoiler alert, he got a sword through the chest. Which is pretty interesting, actually, because Ashur got a dagger through the heart. So… up your games, Morgan Rhodes. Think of new ways to kill off characters, please. I think most of the deaths in this series have been sword-related, though.

Anyways, I was really glad when Ashur died. He was just boring. I was pretty mad that Ms. Rhodes took a potentially very interesting character and made him a cliche… and Amara is the one who kills him, which I was like, ha, you idiot, you should have seen that coming.
Alexius also dies, so that’s one off of my predicted-deaths list. Two more and I get caramel corn!

One thing I really loved was the blooming romance between Magnus and Cleiona, who really hate each other. Magnus knows that she’s deceptive and only wishes for his family to burn, and Cleiona hates him because he’s part of the royal family that took over her kingdom and also, he killed her one-true-love, Theon. They get set up in an arranged marriage, mostly for publicity, but find themselves genuinely falling in love with each other near the end of the book. Their relationships has its ups and downs though– a down, example, when Magnus beds Amara while he’s drunk. He spends most of the book trying to rile up Cleo and make her slip, but it culminates in Cleo being imprisoned and almost killed– which Magnus does put an end to, escaping the palace and dragging her along as well. They do have kind of a confession-thing, which ends in a brief but very passionate kiss, which is interrupted by Amara and Ashur.

Also, Jonas is in this book and it’s kind of funny because in the previous one, he was a legitimate threat, but in this book, he’s lost 90% of his rebel-army to the wedding massacre, and also he’s come to realize that all of his plans are failing– and so have many others. He’s now kind of a joke, but that doesn’t stop him anyways, as he continues to try and do his best to rise up against Gaius. There’s the introduction of Felix, an assassin who we find out later, works for Gaius, which was really interesting. He could be the potentially-great-background-plot-twist character that we never had, because he’s very much a good guy trying to leave his terrible past. I just hope he doesn’t fall in love and that becomes his whole story from there-on-out, like it did with Ashur. I also hope to everything holy that he isn’t the replacement Ashur… again. That would be so predictable.

One last thing I like about this one is that Lysandra evolves as a character. She’s forced to watch her brother’s decapitation, and this really changes her. As she’s lead to her own execution, she embraces death, but upon being rescued by the rebels she regains her fire. Also, she doesn’t trust Felix at first but then slowly warms up to him– and they make a fun “musketeers” kind of group, Felix, Lysandra and Jonas. Until, you know, Felix overhears them talking about who he is and decides that it’s not worth it to be a good guy when no one trusts you anyways. He makes a very compelling case in defense of his innocence, stating that he knew that Jonas would never trust him if he revealed that he’d been sent out by Gaius and that he had never, not even once, betrayed Jonas… but the moment that Jonas found out about him, he turned his back on Felix. I’m also glad that Jonas wants to redeem himself in his new friend’s eyes, instead of being angry about the whole situation.

There are good parts and bad parts to this book, but I’m hoping that the bad is resolved by the next installment. On another note, the next book is the last book until December (?) I think, which I will legit be sad about because this series is really interesting. Also– I’m calling it, Nerissa’s gonna die in Frozen Tides. She was waaaay too helpful in this book.

The Girl at Midnight: Melissa Grey

I finished “The Girl at Midnight,” which is author Melissa Grey’s debut novel, and I’m really, really glad that my streak of choosing boring books seems to have ended. The story follows a human thief named Echo, who’s caught in a war between the Avicen, who are bird-people and who Echo considers to be her own family even if the feeling isn’t mutual, and the Drakharin, dragon-people. Due to a bunch of unfortunate circumstances, she ends up having to work alongside two Drakharin, Caius and Dorian, and her Avicen friends Ivy and Jasper.

I loved the plotline: the story, although telling a tale of a war, follows what is essentially a treasure-hunt. Echo and her gang are trying to find the firebird, something or someone who is supposedly a myth that could bring an end to the war between the Avicen and Drakharin, and this results in their having to find different artifacts left by Rose, a dead Avicen who was Caius’s lover, which will ultimately lead them to the firebird. If there was anything in the world that I could be, I would be a treasure hunter, and books about this kind of thing always are super appealing to me. There’s a lot of mystery, so much excitement when you find the next clue to the treasure, and it’s just a huge adrenaline rush. I’m in the process of playing Uncharted 4, too, so it tied in nicely to my other projects.

The second thing was that I really enjoyed the characters. They have a lot of chemistry between them, which leads to good relationships. Caius is the “Dragon Prince,” which Echo doesn’t realize, but his title and position are a massive basis for his personality. Since he’s something like two-hundred-and-fifty years old, he’s a very tired, very sad and beaten person– but not the kind that snivels and wallows around in their misery. He’s more of the kind of protagonist that’s very aloof, very curt and proper and has walls built so high that you can’t see the sky anymore. Echo, on the other hand, is a seventeen year old thief and sassy as hell. She’s reckless and enthusiastic and unforgiving, and it’s great because she reminds me so much of Widdershins, the protagonist from Ari Marmell’s series, Widdershins Adventures.

The secondary characters, Ivy, Dorian and Jasper, are less interesting. Well, Dorian and Jasper are less interesting. Dorian is Caius’s oldest friend and also secretly in love with him, affections which Caius is aware of but plays dumb to. He’s also the (ex) captain of the guard, and entirely made up of silvers and blues. He lost his eye to an Avicen soldier in his first battle and tends to despise all of them, but slowly warms up to his feathered companions… or more than warms up, in Jasper’s case. Jasper is an Avicen criminal, the kind that doesn’t have much loyalty towards his people. He’s a peacock, and he’s got the personality of one, and he’s extremely attracted to Dorian and makes it his life goal to pursue the guy. Actually, I’m pretty sure that the only reason that he joins their motley crew is so that he can get more time with Dorian.

I wasn’t as fond of Dorian and Jasper, just because they were the kind of characters who are completely enveloped in their sexuality… which I mean, it’s good to have representation and everything, but I’m really hoping that in future books there’s more to Dorian and Jasper other than the fact that they’re “gay lovers.” They both have the potential to have developed from really interesting origins, and to have facets of their personality that give us more insight into them, but it’s kind of like Melissa Grey wrote them off as the gay couple as a fanservice to her readers. I’d like to see more of them in the future, but I’d like to see more of their personalities. Like, for example, with Caius and Echo– they’re in love too. They also end up being a couple. But the thing is that they have so many other parts to them. Echo grew up with a drunk mother, she was taken in by the Ava when she was young, she lives alone in a library. By the end of the book we know that she’s someone who tends to act first and think later, that her closest friends are Ivy and Rowan, that she still feels horrible about things that she wished for in her childhood, you know? She has an entire history. Same with Caius. He’s the Dragon Prince and though his sister takes the throne from him and is a horrible psychopath, he still hopes deep in his heart that she’ll realize how deep in the dark she is and that they can reconcile one day, even after Tanith murders his Avicen girlfriend. We know that his most prized possessions are the two swords that Tanith gave him when they were young. We know that he’s out of touch with the human world, that he’s quiet and graceful, but he’s also quick to apologize (at least to his new friends) and, while he tries to keep the peace, can take care of himself in a fight. I don’t think we got nearly a quarter of the information we get about Caius and Echo from Dorian or Jasper… maybe that’s because they’re secondary characters, but I don’t really think so because Ivy is also a secondary character and she’s described so, so well.

Ivy is absolutely my favorite character in this book. She’s the sweet best friend of Echo, an Avicen dove who wants nothing more than to live her life peacefully. However, when she gets kidnapped by Drakharin who are on the hunt for Echo, she’s unwittingly exposed to a life of crime. Ivy is a gentle soul and an apprentice healer; she’s kind and forgiving and good to a fault. Dorian is the Drakharin that captures her, and in their first interaction, she’s imprisoned and terrified. Tanith has just killed the other Avicen who was kidnapped alongside her, and she knows that she’s also going to die. This is where we see Ivy’s fire, when she insults Dorian to his face despite being chained to the wall and covered in bruises and wounds. Dorian retaliates by slapping her, and it’s this act that defines their relationship throughout the book. Ivy has a clear distrust of Dorian from the moment they become allies, and Dorian regrets his actions every step of the way. He tries his hardest to make it up to Ivy by being as nice as he possibly can to her, and ensuring that they are never left alone so that she won’t be scared. Ivy, in the meantime, saves his life immediately after being released from his capture: he’s stabbed in the side during their escape, and it’s Ivy who nurses him back to health. Dorian is forever indebted to her, but repays the act at the end of the book, when he fights to save her life as Tanith’s firedrakes begin their assault upon the three.

I will admit that I was confused about the relationship between Jasper-Ivy-Dorian. It was pretty obvious that Jasper and Dorian were supposed to be together, because Jasper is incredibly flirtatious and Dorian eventually thaws and becomes receptive to his advances. But Dorian and Ivy have some kind of relationship that’s soft and slow and unnameable; maybe it’s a blood debt. And Ivy and Jasper seem friendly with each other, with Jasper even telling Dorian that he saw him, “save their little dove.” near the end of the book. I couldn’t tell if Dorian was going to end up with one of them (or maybe both of them) and I do have to admit that I was a little disappointed that he ended up with Jasper, because their relationship was so obvious from the very beginning. I think it would have been cool for Jasper to end up with a different character, maybe someone who’s just as vain as himself, and for Ivy and Dorian to work on their slowly building relationship. They’d have to overcome the fact that he hurt her while she was unarmed and unable to defend herself, and the fact that he slaughters people while she brings them back to life, and I feel like the dynamic would have been a lot more interesting. Jasper and Dorian’s dynamic seems to be that one of them is flamboyant and unapologetic, has no filter and oozes bedroom vibes like a strip club. The other is proper and dignified. I don’t know. I’ve seen that a lot before, and for some weird reason, it’s especially common with gay side characters in YA literature. There’s always the one that is out and proud, and the one that is not-so-open and moderate. I wish that they would have some kind of variation with gay characters in the genre. I dunno. I’m not well-versed in LGBTQ+ issues, so maybe my opinion isn’t valid.
One thing that I didn’t really like throughout the book was how much Jasper came on to Dorian. It would have been cute if Dorian was receptive from the beginning, but Jasper is sometimes uncomfortably flirtatious when Dorian is obviously not responding well to his advances. So I think he could have been written better.

Another thing that I was disappointed in was the fact that the “oh you were dead but just kidding you’ve been brought back to life” trope happens three too many times in this book. There’s one instance where Dorian nearly dies during the escape attempt, and then there’s the time that Echo stabs herself, hoping to sacrifice her human vessel to bring life to the firebird, and then when Jasper literally gets impaled through the chest by a sword. All of these are really fatal wounds, but they’re always miraculously rescued. It would have actually been a really interesting twist if Echo had died at the end, because that would have not only given life to a new character, the Firebird, but it would have shifted the dynamics of the team monumentally. Caius and Ivy would have been heartbroken, to say in the least. The stakes would have been raised by a ton. Also, Jasper’s death could have made a huge difference. Dorian would have suffered losing someone that he loved, which would have made an impact on his personality and finally we’d see some individuality in him. Echo has worked alongside Jasper for a long time, so she would have been traumatized to say in the least, especially considering how close his death is to Ruby’s. And then there’s just the fact that they’re all so close now that it would have had deeply affected every member of the team, since Jasper was the one to keep them in hiding, feed, shelter, and even clothe them when times got tough.

I’ll end this post on something that I liked about the book: I though that the chapters in which Echo is going through the trauma of murdering Ruby were beautifully written. There’s a part where she describes herself as “decaying from within,” and I love that Ms. Grey dedicated several chapters just to talk about how horrified Echo is with herself, and the internal conflict that she faces. There are so many books where the innocent protagonists murder someone, and it’s brushed over in a few pages. I always hated that, because it felt like the author was skimming. In this novel, you get a distinct feel for the pain that Echo’s in.

Okay, this review is long enough, haha. Overall, I’d recommend this book. It’s good. And I’ll probably follow the series because I like the characters a lot. I’m just hoping that Melissa Grey doesn’t pull a “pair the spares,” thing and pair Ivy and Rowan. That would make me really sad.

Assassin’s Heart: Sarah Ahiers

I finished Assassin’s Heart yesterday, and I’m not impressed.

The book started out kind of interesting; the people in this land live and abide by a goddess named Safraella, who endorses murder through the works of assassins called “clippers.” Our protagonist, a young woman named Lea Saldana, is a clipper. These clippers have families, which work kind of the way that mafia families do. There are several separate ones, and the focus in this story is on the rival clans of Saldana and Da Via. The only problem is that Lea’s in love with the Da Via heir, a boy named Valentine (or Val, for short).
Of course, things go horribly wrong because when rival families end up with two kids in love, everyone will die. It’s a given. So in this case, the Da Via family slaughters the Saldanas while they’re sleeping, leaving Lea the one and only, lucky, surviving Saldana. That’s what she thinks, at least, until she realizes that her father’s brother, Uncle Marcus, live in a neighboring town and might be able to help her exact her revenge against the Da Via family.

So the synopsis is really interesting– again, I had hoped for a cruel and bitter antihero kind of protagonist, and Lea almost delivers, actually. She’s pretty ruthless. But there were two things that made me unhappy with this story:

  1. It moves so slowly, oh my god. The first half of the book is her trying to get to this other town. The second half is about her trying to convince her Uncle to help her, while falling in love with his protégé. Finally, you get to the good revenge stuff at the very end.
  2. Ghosts. There are ghosts in this novel? They’re seriously arbitrary and I didn’t understand– at all– what they were supposed to bring to the novel. I felt like they just took away from the story… I couldn’t take it seriously anymore, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, ghosts can be great when written well, and when they fit into the story. In this case, it felt like Ahiers wrote the book and then suddenly decided that, you know what would make this thing better? Ghosts.

It’s really good for a debut novel, which I’m *pretty* sure I read somewhere that it is? But I just couldn’t bring myself to be interested in the story. There are, however, a lot of people who really enjoyed it, so maybe it’s just me being weird.

I’ll list some things that I did like about the book:

  1. Ultimately, I’m glad that Lea didn’t end up with Valentine Da Via because her name would have ended up being “Lea Da Via.”
  2. Lea has a really strong faith in her goddess, which was cool because usually characters’ religions are not usually brought up in mainstream YA literature. She really has a strong belief in the teachings of Safraella and this is a huge basis for her personality.
  3. They left the kiddies alive at the end of the book. Emilie is her elder brother’s (who dies) son, and in the beginning you get a lot of grief-stricken wondering from Lea about how the Da Vias killed Emilie. But they didn’t. And he’s really cute, even if he only shows up for like three pages.

Overall, I don’t think that I personally would recommend this book to anyone, but again… a lot of people liked it. So do with that, what you will.

Hotel Ruby: Suzanne Young

This review is going to be pretty short. Hotel Ruby is a horror novel written by Suzanne Young, who also wrote The Program (which I think got to be pretty popular, though I haven’t personally read it.) I was excited for this book because it’s been a while since I’ve read a scary story, and the last scary story that I read and appreciated was that compilation of shorts in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

I ended up being pretty disappointed, though. While Hotel Ruby is written adequately and has an interesting plotline, it fell far from my expectations. It follows the story of Audrey Casella and her family (which consists of her brother, Daniel, and their dad,) all of whom are suffering greatly from the recent loss of Audrey’s mother. Their father’s decided that the best thing to do for their family is to dump his two kids off at their grandmother’s house, which obviously, Audrey and Daniel are not happy about at all. On the way to their grandmother’s, though, they decide to take a detour and spend the night at a very luxurious, completely randomly-placed hotel sitting in the middle of nowhere. It’s called Hotel Ruby, and it’s very much a high-end, five-star kind of place. So they stay the night and Audrey visits the ballroom, where every night they throw the same party, and promptly gets kicked out for not having an invitation. Slowly, through the book, you see the dad get sucked up into Ruby’s glamour, and then the brother. Audrey realizes that she might not ever leave and starts planning a way to get out.

The tagline of the book is “stay tonight. Stay forever.” which is a pretty catchy tagline, you know? And I was really excited to read it, but as I got further and further into the book, I just got so bored. For one thing, it’s really, painfully obvious that the people that Audrey is interacting with in the book are dead. I don’t know if that’s because it’s been done several times before or because all the ghost-characters make very cryptic comments about staying in the hotel forever or how “dead” everything is (for example, the woman that runs the gift shop says something along the lines of “this place is so boring, you’d think all the other guests are dead!!” HAHA. Get it? Because they’re actually dead! And then she said something like, “if something interesting doesn’t happen soon, I’ll just about kill myself.” Oh, gift shop lady. You’re a riot.)
Also, I really didn’t like Audrey’s character. She rubbed me the wrong way– I don’t know if it’s because she was so self-pitying all the time, which I feel bad about saying because she lost her mother three months ago, but most of this self-pitying isn’t even about her mother; it’s about her boyfriend, Ryan. Audrey was in a relationship with this perfect guy, Ryan, and she ended up falling out of love with him and only managed to break up with him really recently. She keeps talking about how she’s not in love with Ryan anymore and how she doesn’t want to go back to that relationship, and then every time Elias, the new love interest, does something, she immediately compares him to Ryan. I don’t know why, but it really grated on me. I don’t care about Ryan, Audrey! Also, god, there was so much awkward and unnecessary sexual tension between herself and Elias, who seemed like one of those really rich, “you can’t touch me my dad’s a lawyer” kind of kids. Actually, I think that the only character in this book that I liked was Lourdes, who is also the recipient of several very big injuries throughout the novel.

I think that the biggest thing for me is that the book moved really, really slowly. It’s a lot of backstory and her meeting ghost characters and getting creeped out by how cryptic they are. Kenneth the concierge is the main antagonist, and he’s written well-enough but we rarely see him around, except when he wants to make some terribly-veiled threats or intimidate someone, or then in his death scene. The Ruby is characterized as a living person, but you don’t see that in the novel except for in two specific parts. Other than that, the only reason you know that the Ruby is alive is because all the characters talk about how “the Ruby won’t let them leave, the Ruby has a mind of her own,” etc. And again, the characters just were not very likeable at all.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book. Read something else if you’re looking for a story.

The Shadow Queen: C.J. Redwine

I finished this novel, The Shadow Queen, yesterday! It’s about a Queen, Lorelai, whose kingdom has been taken from her by the evil enchantress Irina, and it’s a retelling of the classic Snow White. I’m familiar with Ms. Redwine’s work: I’ve read Defiance, and although I don’t really remember the story very well, I remember thinking that it was pretty good. I’m fairly quick at reading, but the problem is that I rarely remember the story afterwards. On the bright side, I can reread almost anything at any time!

Anyways, back to the novel. Lorelai is a total kick-butt heroine who can perform all manners of parkour and has powerful magical abilities. She’s currently in hiding, along with her captain of the guard and her younger brother, Leo– who is adorable and charismatic and full of life. He’s probably my favorite character in the entire book, and he has a lot of dialogue and a lot of significance in her life. Lorelai does everything she can to protect Leo… and of course, this makes it all the more heartbreaking when he dies. I actually really loved his death scene, though– it was totally unexpected. In fact, I kept waiting for Redwine to resurrect him later on in the story, but nope, Leo’s as dead as my hopes and dreams. His death also gives Lorelai a lot of motivation and helps the story move along; she initially plans to trap Irina in a long con, but after Irina kills her little brother, the whole situation becomes ten thousand times more personally than it was before.

Kol, the King of Dragons and the Country of Eldr, was also an interesting character. When I realized that he was the “huntsman,” I figured that he’d fall in love with Lorelai’s looks as soon as he saw her. Their love, however, runs deeper. Lorelai and Kol end up with a telepathic bond after Lorelai uses her magic on him, which allows for them to speak to each other through their thoughts and also to read one another’s thoughts, which can get understandably awkward during the story. It’s a great mechanic, though, because as the book mentions, they both learn the deeper things about each other before learning the surface, first-date type material. Kol realizes the extent to which Lorelai’s grief over the death of her family and her desire to make Ravenspire a prosperous and beautiful kingdom once again, and Lorelai learns of Kol’s motivations, his insecurities, and his hopes and dreams. She realizes that Kol is an honorable man because she finds that he genuinely is willing to die for the sake of his people, which conflicts with her earlier conceptions of this aloof and evil predator who helped the Queen kill her younger brother. They have a fun dynamic.

The world building was pretty cool. We’re introduced to a lot of different kingdoms: Eldr, that of the dragons who are being attacked by ogres, and Ravenspire, who is suffering a famine and being run by a tyrant. We even get cameos from wealthy neighboring kingdoms and the lands that the ogres came from, which I think is called Ville de Lume or something.
Character building was also cool. Lorelai is described as beautiful, but Redwine doesn’t make it one of her significant traits. Also, I like that Lorelai has black hair. I’m really tired of YA heroines being blonde-and-blue-eyed, which is a really boring, repetitive theme in most books for kids our age. You’ll find that I try to read books with heroines that don’t have blonde hair and blue eyes.

Overall, I think that the book was okay. It was a fun read to pass the time, but it certainly wasn’t anything amazing. There were many times that I got distracted, but I ultimately ended up finishing the story. I guess I was a bit disappointed because the summary made it seem like Lorelai might possibly end up becoming an evil queen herself, and I always love a good story about the origins of a villain, but she becomes good and kind and just. Oh well.

Rebel Spring: Morgan Rhodes

Just finished Rebel Spring and the first thing that I have to say is that it was infinitely more interesting at the beginning than Falling Kingdoms was– but again, the first story required a lot of exposition, so this is understandable.

So the focus in this book is around the building of a gigantic road that not only connects the three kingdoms, but also extends into the “forbidden mountains,” which are, well, forbidden (surprise), and a lot of people are not very happy with this decision to branch into mountains that are *forbidden*.
We get a lot more of the Watchers in this novel, which is pretty interesting. Alexius and his brethren play a much bigger part in this plot than I had initially thought– in fact, one of the elder Watchers, the most powerful one, a woman named Melania, is playing the entire cast of characters like a violin… or so it seems. Alexius is revealed to be a part of her secret missionaries, and he’s going to help her achieve her end goal (to free the Watchers from the Sanctuary), no matter what the cost… or so he thought. He’s starting to fall in love with beautiful Princess Lucia, which could put a damper on things, considering the fact that he’s the one that’s going to have to kill her in the end.

There’s a civil war brewing in the Watchers, too, because some of the members don’t trust Melania and her intentions. Namely, Alexius’s mentor, a Watcher named Timotheus, and his friend, a woman named Phaedra. Unfortunately, it also seems like the number of Watchers that are distrustful of Melania are slowly being killed off, considering the fact that one of the first dissenters that we ever meet is killed at the very beginning, and Phaedra is killed at the end of the book– which leaves a grand total of 1 Watcher who doesn’t believe Melania’s pretty speeches.

Another thing that happened in this book is that I started to hate Gaius a lot, lot more. He’s completely insane, that man. And he’s like the quintessential crazy king: a psychotic who cut his seven-year-old son with a dagger, has an assassin kill his wife, paves his kingdom with the blood and bones of his people, and uses abuse, threats and violence to intimidate those he deems irrelevant or harmful to his master plan.
Speaking of crazy people. Aron. That kid is such a creep. He spends 90% of the novel drunk off his ass and proceeds, several times, to puff out his chest and act more powerful than he is or ever was. After being appointed kingsliege by Gaius, who finds him amusing, Aron becomes nothing more than a nuisance. A violent nuisance. Throughout the course of the book he murders Brion and nearly rapes a young woman. I can’t say that I was disappointed to see him go. There are some evil characters who are fun and it’s a sad time to see them die off, but Aron was a moron and I, frankly, felt nothing but that “ugh, finally” feeling when he died.

There are a lot of character deaths in these novels. It’s kind of like GOT in that manner, I guess. I’ve never actually seen GOT. But I tried to guess who would die over the course of the book. Here’s a list:

  1. Jason
  2. Nic
  3. Tarus
  4. Lysandra’s brother

Out of those, I kind of got Jason since he nearly died, and I was almost right with Nic. Wrong twin, though– they ended up killing off Mira, which I was actually pretty sad about. In all truth, I hoped that Mira and Magnus might get a little friendly. That died pretty quickly, around the time Gaius broke Mira’s neck.

Speaking of characters getting friendly, I kind of like that I can’t figure out who’s in love with who in this book. Magnus was in love with Lucia– and might still be, I don’t really know. But now he seems to be interested in Cleiona, who is currently attracted to Jonas but also maybe Magnus? Alexius and Lucia have a thing going on, and Jonas has a thing with Lysandra– and also Phaedra. And Cleiona, most of all. And then Nic might have some thing going on with the Prince of that other country?? These guys can’t keep it in their pants. I don’t think I’ve read any books with such complicated romance charts. If you get really attached to one couple, prepare to be disappointed. I’m sure someone will die or someone will get betrayed or something will happen. Loss of interest.
The trick is to be objective. Which is hard, but doable. Just enjoy the story for what it is and don’t get attached to any characters. I’ve made a game of, as I said, trying to guess who will die over the course of the series. Here’s that list:

  1. Alexius
  2. Timotheus
  3. Lysandra
  4. Lucia
  5. Franco
  6. Nerissa

We’ll see how many I get right. If I get three out of the six, I’ll get myself a bag of caramel corn. Yum.

Falling Kingdoms: Morgan Rhodes

Okay. I just finished Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes, and I have to say that my initial assumptions about this book were completely blown out of the water.

I initially picked it up because I recently read A Book of Spirits and Thieves, and while it was an interesting read that I might continue, I wasn’t too impressed by it or anything. It was something light and fun, there were some intriguing characters, but I didn’t fall in love with it. This book, on the other hand, was… something else completely. It was like hiking up a large hill and then boom, you get to the top, everything’s fine—and then the ending is just a descent into unbelievable, intense horror.
This book was a slow-burning bomb. That’s the only way I can think to describe it. The beginning is very chill. Nothing really happens but you get a lot of character establishment and world building. Morgan Rhodes makes sure to delve into the backgrounds of the different cities- Auranos, Limeros, and Paelsia- and to be totally honest, it’s interesting but it also dawdles a lot. We learn about Cleiona and Valeria, the two main goddesses, and how the conflict between the three kingdoms is the product of years and years of barely-restrained animosity. In fact, the whole thing is a bit reminiscent of World War I, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered—except in the book, it was a young Paelisian boy named Tomas.

I almost gave up on this book because I didn’t care much for the exposition. Like I said before, we get a lot of information about the different characters—Prince Magnus, Princess whoever-his-sister-is, Princess Cleiona, and Jonas. We read about their pasts, their primes and their pitfalls. Speaking of pitfalls, the relationships in this book are a mess. Two, specifically, come to mind—the fact that Magnus is in love with his sister, for one thing. I can’t forgive that at all. Sure, there’s the argument that she’s adopted and therefore not blood-related to him, but oh my god, still. This girl grew up alongside him as a sister, and he spends half of the novel talking about her in this uncomfortably, unforgivably infatuated way.
Well, maybe I’m being a little unfair—I should clarify that his interest would have been totally normal if he was any other character and not her brother. He didn’t make any gross comments about her. You know what I mean, calling her curvaceous or talking about bedding her or anything. But the fact that he’s her brother makes even the most innocent of his romantic intentions completely and totally inexcusable. I was justifiably weirded out, and almost couldn’t keep reading because I was so weirded out, but I’m glad that I did.
Another really creepy relationship is the one that Princess Emilia has with the guard, Simon. This one, luckily, did not last, but it was just a strange situation that could have potentially arisen. The thing was, Emilia was romantically involved with Simon, a guardsman—who is the father of Princess Cleiona’s bodyguard, Theon. So if Cleiona and Emilia had both gotten their men… Emilia would have been Theon’s stepmother, and Cleiona, his aunt through marriage. He would have been hooking up with his aunt.
It was weird. So weird. So, super weird.
Luckily, Simon died.

I couldn’t get close to Theon, though, not after realizing this, but there are also other reasons—he’s a love interest for Cleiona throughout the book but I felt like their romance was seriously rushed. The first time she meets him is when she and her group of friends go to Paelsia to buy wine. She notices him and how handsome he is. And then he becomes her bodyguard through various other means, and when she runs off to Paelsia to find magical seeds to save her sister from dying, he realizes that he’s falling in love with her. When he reunites with her near the end of the novel, after rescuing her from Jonas’s sister’s makeshift prison, they immediately confess their deep and undying love for each other, and… seriously, they were apart for 70% of their relationship. To be fair, I don’t know what the chronology was exactly, but I’m confident that they didn’t spend more than a month or two together. I couldn’t’ take their love very seriously. Sorry, Theiona.

Also, I could see his impending death coming from a mile away, so that was no surprise. I do have to ask, how come in these medieval-fantasy YA novels, someone always gets speared through the stomach/chest area with a sword? There are a lot of creative ways to kill a person in a medieval-fantasy YA. Please, use some other method.

I’m being too critical right now, though, because if you’re still persevering through this review let me tell you—this book is good. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s incredibly interesting, especially if you like stories with inscrutable characters and gray scenarios. There are a lot of misunderstandings, many of which end in tragedy, and there are a lot of perspectives into each one. No one is completely wrong, and no one is completely right. You get to see the makings of an evil king, and possibly and evil queen. I always love seeing good characters get corrupted, not because I’m a sadist but because it’s both sad and fascinating to see a good character going down a bad path. There’s also a modicum of forgiveness and moving on. You see characters maturing as their overall goals change, and you get to see those goals changing and be with them through the experience of realizing that their world is not just whatever tiny angle that they’ve taken on the story. Each one of the characters in Falling Kingdoms comes to the understanding that they are very small fish in a very big, very convoluted pond.

Let me talk about some of the things that I liked about the book. One thing was Cleo’s big secret—the fact that she had a one-night stand with Aron, her betrothed and a person that she despises. I can get why she doesn’t like Aron—he’s selfish and vain, quick to act and dismisses those that aren’t as high-status as him as savages. (this is a little off-topic but I like that he’s not presented as totally evil all the time, though. He displays moments of vulnerability that make you realize that, no matter how horrible he is, he’s still just a kid.) Anyways, one night she got drunk on wine and had sex with him, and she keeps this secret close to her heart because princess are supposed to be pure and virginal and sweet, and if her father or anyone else found out, they’d be devastated, angry, etc. Also, I think it’s clear in the book that Cleiona’s very ashamed of the fact that this happened—she regrets it. I thought for a while that he’d raped her, actually, but she admits later on that in her intoxicated state, she welcomed his advances and wanted to be showered with affection from a man that many other girls wanted to be with. This could devolve into a whole debate about, if they were both drunk, was it consensual or was it still rape? But I’m not going to go there because it’s very philosophical and I’m kind of tired. Back to the topic at hand, Aron’s not completely out of hot water. The fact that he uses this knowledge—that Cleiona’s ashamed of what they did and that the aristocrats and her family have a certain expectation of her being virtuous and pure—as leverage against her already makes him skeevy. He displays obvious contempt for her at several instances, and makes poorly veiled threats to reveal this information to the people that matter to her if she tries to go against him. Also, near the beginning of the book, Cleo goes to him to see if he feels any guilt over senselessly murdering Tomas, and this quickly turns into a tense situation where Aron makes his intentions of raping her very clear. He even mentions that he’ll make sure that they have a lot of time for intimacy—an idea which she is clearly uncomfortable with—in the future, and also makes several crass remarks regarding their wedding night.
Conclusively, there’s no redeeming Aron. He’s a douchebag and a creep.
The reason I liked this whole thing, though, is because it’s a very real and personal issue for Cleo. She lost her virginity—and also slept with this person that she loathes—because she was drunk. There’s a lot of regret and fear, and it makes you sympathize with her a lot. What happened between them was unfortunate, and it leads to pretty awful situations later on in the book, but it also shows us just how important virtue and purity are in her society, for a person of her stature. There’re a lot of double standards in this book—for example, Magnus and Jonas mention, several times, that they’ve slept with a number of women and with no consequence. Cleiona made one mistake and it haunts her for the rest of the novel. That’s not to say that every girl suffers this fate, though, as we see later on with Amia and Sera and snake dance lady (I think her name is like Liela or something), all of whom have had multiple sexual interactions with various characters. I’m not complaining about this, though! I think that it’s an interesting dynamic, actually.

Speaking of that serving girl that worked for Magnus, I liked this whole thing where, although he didn’t save her from the beating that she endured at the hands of his father, he sent her away to a place where she’d be safe and with enough money to last her a few years. It kind of redeems him. Magnus is interesting because he continues to flip between being good and being horrible—you’ll grudgingly start rooting for him, only for him to do something completely assholey and make you despise him again. But then he does something kind, and once again, you’re conflicted. I do have to say that I didn’t care too much for his sister. She didn’t get that much “screen-time” in the book, I guess, and even when she did she wasn’t that interesting.

I also really like Cleo. She proves herself to be selfish, manipulative and ignorant of the real world, sure, but she’s also incredibly strong, perseverant and fiery. She suffers a lot by the end of the novel—and maybe it’s all karmic retribution for her role in Tomas’s murder—but what I love about her is the fact that she has the perfect origins for becoming corrupted. Her whole family was murdered, she’s all alone, her kingdom was taken from her and all she knows for sure is that she’s in danger of being killed at any moment. She has to depend on fairy tales about lost gods that might be able to help her regain power, but she has nothing concrete to go off of. She’s been completely abandoned by everyone she ever loved, and it starts to harden her by the end of the book. I thought that the part where she discovers that Emilia had died was beautifully written, though I do wish that it had been longer. It was brief. I would have loved to read more about her emotions and turmoil. I guess I like tragedy, haha. But I do feel like that was a pivotal point in the novel. Then, a few hours after she realizes that her elder sister (whom she’s been trying to save for 90% of the book) has passed away, her father dies in front of her. Both of them tell her to be strong, and her father gives her a last piece of advice that he hopes will help her to take their kingdom back.

Okay, well… that’s it, I think! Pretty tired after writing all of that. I liked this book a lot, overall, and I’m definitely going to read the sequels.

Also, it is currently 1 AM and I did not read through this post before publishing it. I don’t plan to, either. I’m 2 tired.