Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 536
Series: Six of Crows #2 (Duology), Grishaverse #5
Release Date: September 27, 2016

4 Stars

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This is the highly anticipated sequel (and by “highly anticipated”, I mean that I had to wait four whole days to read it and they were very difficult days) to Six of Crows and is also the conclusion to the series.

In the end of the first installment, Van Eck (the bastard) cheated our fabulous crew out of their hard-earned money and kidnapped Inej. Obviously, Kaz was unimpressed and has now sworn to get Inej back and to annihilate Van Eck, after which he will focus on slowly annihilating Pekka Rollins (Kaz clearly doesn’t have many hobbies).

The novel starts with out crew in hiding. They’re making plans while also trying not to die, or to lose the precious cargo they freed from the Ice Court.

Now, there are many reasons to love this book. And they’re not surprising reasons because I loved the first book as well and this one is quite similar, so I’m just gonna go through them.

The biggest reason is the characters. All six of our protagonist are so awesome and likable in their own ways. Each person has his/her own arc and they’re all handled together brilliantly. My two faves are, to no one’s surprise, Kaz and Inej. Kaz because he’s so freaking smart and complex, and Inej because she’s wise, badass and all-around freaking amazing. I love all the characters so much that, even though I love duologies the most, I wish there were more books in the series because I’m in no way ready to say goodbye to them.

The other reasons for loving the book are the story, the relentless pace, the Grishaverse, how well it’s written and the perspectives balanced.

But unlike with book one, there are also reasons to not love the book. One of them being something I mentioned above: it’s very similar to Six of Crows. And while that’s not a bad thing, I wish there was something to distinguish it more. For example, I wish it has less moments when the chapter ends on a point that makes us think ‘oh no! the plan is failing!’ and then we find out that no, that was actually part of the plan.

It’s a trick that works the first couple of time, which it did in the previous novel, but afterwards becomes predictable. I feel like the author was trying to prove how smart Kaz is. Except, she doesn’t need to. We know he’s smart. Let’s focus on something else.

Other than that… something happened later on in the novel that should have invoked a lot of emotion (chapter 40, for those who’ve read the book) but it didn’t. I was actually pretty ‘meh’ about it. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it was so anticlimactic and… pointless; it happened just for the sake of happening. Or maybe I felt that things would be fine sooner or later (which bothers me because Hello! that happened!).

Anyway, I’m sorry for the paragraph that didn’t make much sense to those who have yet to read the novel. This is actually a very good read. I don’t have to tell you whether or not I recommend it because if you liked Six of Crows, you’re gonna read this one no matter what I tell you. But still, it’s a good conclusion. I just hope we get to meet these characters again at some point.

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 462
Series: Six of Crows #1 (Duology), Grishaverse
Release Date: September 29, 2015

5 Stars

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Even though I finished reading the novel almost a week ago, it’s taken me this long to finally get to the review because a) I couldn’t seem to come up with anything to write. I loved the book, but I wasn’t sure how much, and b) I couldn’t think about it without also thinking about how much I wanted to read the sequel.

Now, I’ve read the sequel and it was, as usual, a terrible idea (not because the sequel was bad). You never read the sequel before writing the review, I know that. It creates the ultimate bias. But what’s done is done. And now I’m gonna keep things short.

Six of Crows is set in the Grishaverse (the world of The Grisha Trilogy) but follows a different cast and is set in a different nation. There are six main characters, all thieves or criminals and basically dregs. Kaz Brekker is one of them and he’s approached by a very rich merchant to perform and impossible heist. In order to get the job done, he needs the right crew. And that’s where the other characters come in, forming a band of misfits who are likely to kill each other before they even start the job because they seriously do not get along.

Some of the characters know each other already while others are close to strangers. All have their strengths, weaknesses and agendas. And since this is, hands down, my favourite trope, I was really freaking excited. I love the ‘band of misfits’ thing. And in this case, it was done really well.

For one, Leigh Bardugo, is a very good writer. The Grisha world is hella awesome and this new cast is the best. Kaz Brekker is a self-proclaimed monster and he is just so brilliant in his schemes… Smart people are my weakness and he’s very smart. Inej is strong, highly skilled and awesome. Jesper is the fun sharpshooter who’s also addicted to gambling and prone to losing. Nina and Matthias have a history and very different personalities while Wylan is basically the odd one out; he’s cute, all innocence and blushing. Overall, an interesting team.

The main plot regarding the heist keeps you on your toes, the pace is fast, and the story gripping enough that the book is very difficult to put down.

This was a great addition to the Grishaverse and I highly recommend it. I’d say I can’t wait for the second book, but I’ve already read it so… you get the picture. Read this book, if not for the story then, for the cast.

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

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Genre: Young-Adult, Science-Fiction, Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 374
Series: Under the Never Sky #1 (Trilogy)
Release Date: December 1, 2011

3.5 Stars

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Under the Never Sky is a novel set in a dystopian world which is divided into the inside and the outside. After a series of Aether storms made the outside world unfit fit survival, a large part of the population went to live in domes carved into, and under, mountains, while the other part braved the outside world. Why those people didn’t go into domes as well, we don’t know. The people inside have since had a lot of technological advancement and spend most of their time in highly realistic virtual worlds. The people on the outside have regressed to move primitive times.

The protagonist, Aria, is from a dome and has never been outside. But due to a complicated situation, she’s kicked out and now has to find her mother, who she hasn’t heard from in weeks, to know what happened to her and to get her life back. She makes a deal with an outsider, Peregrine, who is looking for someone himself.

And they both team up in a very convenient way. Convenient because the situations that led to the team up felt very planned and exaggerated. The “evil government” was evil for no reason than to be evil. It was almost like a parody at first; like the author had an idea as to what she wanted to happen so she made it happen. Thankfully, near the end, a lot of the events that happened in the beginning were given valid enough reasons. They really saved the book.

And the characters did. I liked both Perry and Aria. At first, Aria came off as whiny and incompetent, but that could be chalked up to the fact that the life she lived didn’t actually require her to do anything. She really grew as a character as the book progressed and I started to like her. Perry, too, didn’t have the best first impression but, by the end, I really cared about him.

The story was interesting. I liked the world that the author created, even if she didn’t elaborate much on things. The tech, to me, seemed too advanced. Like something out of a comic book or cartoon. And the Aether wasn’t explained at all; we have no idea where it even came from. It’s in the sky and to me, it looks like an Obscurus (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) but one that attacks like a lightning storm.

The pace of the novel was really good, even when they were travelling. The writing was okay in the beginning and only got better. I got more and more invested in the story and, despite the rocky start I had, ended up liking it. It felt too planned at times but that got better toward the end as well. It’s a book worth checking out and I’m curious to see what will happen next in the series.

Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 288
Series: No
Release Date: March 9, 2010

3 Stars

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If it weren’t for the fact that I adored I’ll Give You the Sun, I probably wouldn’t have gone close to this book. It follows a girl, Lennie, who is very sad and very lonely, mourning the recent death of her sister, and who somehow finds herself involved with two guys, Toby and Joe; the former being her sister’s boyfriend.

So not only does the novel require me to sit through another love-triangle (seriously writers, can we please be done with those already?), this time, it’s a very messed up love triangle because she’s got the hots for her dead sister’s boyfriend, who’s got the hots for her in return.

But, I  would’ve let it slide. Because things were less about Lennie being interested in Toby (or vice versa) and more about the fact that she felt lonely in her grief and thought that he was the only one who understood. Her pain just manifested itself in a different way; even though there were other people who felt the same way and Lennie was simply being a self-absorbed twit; it happens. Grief is complicated, and I think the novel did a good joy of portraying it.

What I wasn’t okay with? Her complete betrayal of Joe. That pissed me off.

Speaking of Joe. He was… interesting. At first, I liked him. He was a joyful guy and an entertaining presence. But he was too joyful. His personality felt exaggerated. Like a wanna-be John Green character. His and Lennie’s romance was overblown and happened way too fast. There were cute moments, sure. But not enough real ones. Len and Joe were practically floating in their gushy feelings. Who needs a deep connection when you can just gaze at each other dreamily and make out, right?

I read that the author initially wanted to write the book in verse, and maybe it would have been better that way. Poetry is made for exaggerated moments.

Overall, this wasn’t exactly my kind of book. I liked some parts, the pace was good, and the prose was pretty. But it could have used some more… authenticity in the feeling department. As for recommending it, that’s entirely up to you.

Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

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Genre: Young-Adult, Science-fiction, Time-Travel
Pages: 532
Series: Passenger #2 (Duology)
Release Date: January 3, 2017

Disclaimer: This review will contain spoiler for the first book, Passenger.

3 Stars

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The pace of this book was so slow, it could give The Kiss of Deception a run for its money. But at least that book had a straight-forward plot which simply moved too slow. The plot here was a convoluted mess with an endless amount of pointless tangents.

Wayfarer started off with Nicholas and Sophia trying to find a way to get to Etta, and Etta waking up, injured and lost, to find herself face to face with Julian Ironwood. So basically, both pairs are trying to find each other as well as the astrolabe, before Cyrus gets his hands on it.

At least, that’s the plot we’re told to expect. What we’re not told is that halfway through the book, we’re going to be introduced to witches and magical, evil villains that are very out-of-place in the world that we’ve been introduced to. We’re also not told that most of the novel will be spent not actually following the plot at all. Instead, Etta and Nicholas will be travelling from one place to another every chapter and will be nowhere near find each other the entire time.

On top of that, while they’re travelling, we’re subjected to the description of every fucking thing they see, a history of the places they visit, as well that every single thought that crosses their head!

You know, if someone were to write down everything that goes inside my hyperactive, won’t-even-let-me-sleep mind… there’s not enough paper in the world. That’s why no one does it. Just because someone thinks about something, doesn’t mean everyone needs to read it. Especially if we already know it or if it has absolutely no relevance to the plot.

But does Alexandra Bracken get that. No, she doesn’t. So she decided that we needed to read every internal monologue and debate inside Etta and Nicholas’s head as well as Etta’s moping about her mom or Alice or her violin, and Nicholas having another of his moral conflicts. But I don’t blame the characters. People think, that what they do. No, I blame the person who decided that she needed to write all of that shit down.

I swear to God, I was so fucking tired to read endless paragraphs of history, descriptions and basically all the shit that did nothing but bury the actual plot in pointlessnessUgh!

Between all of that, I had to look for the main storyline because I genuinely felt like the book was only written so that the author could explore different events in history and tell us about them. The sheer amount of scenes that has no fucking reason to be in the book! It was all: go to new time, descriptions, history lesson, internal ponderings, danger, go to another time; rinse, repeat. I didn’t even know that I actually possessed the amount on patience that I needed to get through this novel.

But… And yes, of course there’s a ‘but’. I didn’t give it 3 years just for inspiring a rant, you know. So yeah, But… there were things that helped make the tedious journey bearable.

For one, I still like both Etta and Nicholas. Etta is a badass chick and Nicholas has the kind of honour that you just don’t find these days. He’s a really good guy and very adamant about doing the right thing. I was rooting for the two of them to be united. I also liked Sophia. Not at first, but she grew on me. And seeing her relationship with Nicholas develop was a highlight of the read. Julian was good too, but we didn’t really get to know him all that much, what with the pages full of nothing-important.

Other than that, I was happy with the ending. There were still things in the world and the series that weren’t elaborated much, but the ending was really good. It felt right for the series and it gave a little validation to The Moral Dilemmas of Nicholas Carter.

Overall, this series, and especially this book, was an exercise in patience. But I loved the concept behind it, I liked the characters, and I’m noat-all disappointed by the way things ended. If you were bothered by the pace in Passenger, I’d recommend avoiding this one because it’s so much worse and the plot is barely comprehensible. But if you’re okay with very slow burns, go for it. I’m just glad it’s over and might never pick up a book by Alexandra Bracken again.

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

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Genre: Young-Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 368
Audiobook Duration: 11 Hours, 52 Minutes
Audiobook Narrator: Avita Jay
Series: Dark Gifts #1 (Trilogy)
Release Date: February 14, 2017

4 Stars

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Gilded Cage is set in an alternate UK in which society has been divided into people with magical abilities, Equals, and people without. The ones who don’t have abilities have to give 10 years of their lives to slavery. These years are called the Slave Days.

Eighteen-year-old Abi Hadley, to save her family from the harshness of a slave town, manages to get them all positions as household slaves for an Equal family, the Jardines. She thinks that it will be better for them and will keep them together. But then her 16-year-old brother, Luke, is separated from them and sent to Millmoor, a slave town. And while she’s trying to find a way to bring him back, she starts to realize that she may not have saved them at all. Because the Jardine family is plenty messed up.

The Jardines have three sons: Gaver, Jenner and Silyen. They’re all about a couple of years apart in age with Silyen (sixteen) as the youngest. And the most messed. Seriously, that kid is so smart and so cold. He has an endless amount of evil schemes and he’s very interesting. He was my favourite character to read about. Which kinda sucks because he’s got all the makings of a villain and villains usually end up dead by the end of the series.

Though he’s not ‘the villain’. We don’t exactly have one of those. The thing to defeat is the system and all those who are very bloody determined to maintain it.

The book is told in the third person perspective and we’re usually switching between what’s going on with Abi and her family, and what’s happening with Luke in Millmoor. Luke’s story was quite interesting as he became a part of a rebel group, of sorts. Very small-scale though, just helping people get medicine and stuff. Not something to cause a revolution. A revolution that is very necessary.

I mean, the country is being run by a bunch of entitled bastards with super-powers who think it’s perfectly fair, even generous, that all un-Equals are being forced into slavery. It needs to end. Though I have no idea how, because the Equals are really fucking powerful and other people seem to just have accepted 10 years of slavery. They just wish each other a “quick ten years!” and go on their jolly ways.

Though obviously something will happen. This book was just an introduction to the world (a very good introduction), the characters who will play an important part, and basically setting things up for the big things to happen.

But even though the purpose was to set things up, the book has a great story, a good pace, many good characters, good world building, good writing, and an unexpected ending that’s gotten me very eager to get my hands on the second book. From the events of this novel, I have no idea what’s going to happen.

The narrator did a really good job as well. I loved her Scottish accent which she used for dialogues by the Hadleys but at the same time, I’m not sure why she used it, since the family was from Manchester. Still, I liked her narration and the novel and I highly recommend it, especially to lovers of fantasy, and the dystopian genre.

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Retelling 
Pages: 352
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe #1 (but also a Standalone)
Release Date: January 28, 2014

2.50 Stars

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Initially, Cruel Beauty had many things going for it. It’s a fairytale retelling (a Beauty and the Beast one at that), it’s supposed to be a darker take with less-than-perfect protagonists, it’s well-written, and it’s got Greek mythology, which I’m obsessed with.

With all these elements, it was supposed to be perfect. Why wasn’t it perfect? I’ll get into that. First, a little bit of what the book is about.

The protagonist, Nxy, has been betrothed to marry a demonic lord who rules over her kingdom, since before she was born, due to a bargain that her father made with the lord. The plan is that she will marry him to infiltrate his castle and sacrifice herself to kill him, so that the kingdom can be saved. But the lord is charming and he accepts her for who she is, darkness and all, so can she really find the courage to fulfill her duty?

Not that it matters. The kingdom is full of dumbasses who don’t know shit, and the “duty” might just be guess the people made somehow because it’s not like the magic system was ever explained at all. In fact, it was so vague that I almost forgot to mention it in the review.

And that’s just one of the not-perfect things in this novel. There was also the protagonist and the convoluted plot near the end. But mostly the protagonist.

Nxy had a strange personality. She hated her sister for not being chosen to marry Ignifex (the lord) but felt guilty about her hatred. I understood that. But she kept flip-flopping between hateful anger, guilt, sadness, resentment, relief, so many things. She fell in love with one guy (Ignifex’s Peter-Pan-like shadow, Shade), then she fell for Ingnifex. One moment she was fine, then was miserable; one moment she hated everything and everyone, the next she was happy; one moment she was selfish, then she would go on and on about her duty. She was supposed to be smart, but was ridiculously easy to manipulate. And her motivation for most of her actions was flimsy, at best.

Some might argue that she’s just a complex character. think she needs psychological help. Especially for the “duty” thing. She did something in the name of duty that was very stupid and did nothing but over-complicate things and render any development that took place in the novel as obsolete. All the hints, the build-up, the research, it was all for nothing. And the “reveal” was very predictable.

On top of that, this is being sold as a Beauty and the Beast retelling (or at least based on the fairytale). But it isn’t like that at all. Beauty and the Beast is about a girl who’s peculiar, and wise beyond her years, falling in love with someone’s inner self. It’s about change and looking past a person’s outward appearance, not giving in to your dark side. It’s also not about lust or temptation. And the fact library was shoehorned in there but had no significance other than to fit the book into the mould of the fairytale a little better; I was very disappointed.

Overall, like I said, this is a well-written novel and I liked the main plot. I liked that it had some darkness in it and I loved the addition of Greek mythology. I enjoyed some parts even though it seemed like a lot of things got lost in exploring the castle. The ending was good but so many things didn’t work. It was a bit of a mess, when I think about it. And I, personally, don’t recommend it.