Reviews

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

WW Warbringer

# of Pages: 364

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 52 pgs

Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Diana has lived her whole life on the beautiful, isolated island of Themyscira. Her mother, the Queen, and her battle-tested Amazon sisters have always made Diana sure that she has something to prove. What Diana doesn’t know when she pulls a young girl from the wreckage of a sinking ship, is that this girl holds the fate of the world in her very breath. Alia Keralis has been facing the threat of danger her whole life, but what she didn’t know is that it’s because she is the Warbringer, the latest in a long line of descendants of Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships and brought war to the Greeks and Trojans.

The pair make an unlikely team as they escape from Themyscira and hurry towards Greece, because only at the resting place of Helen can Alia be purified and end the line of Warbringers forever. But the World of Man is unfamiliar to Diana, and though she has sworn to protect Alia, there are enemies hidden all around them: those who would seek to destroy the Warbringer before she comes into her full powers, but also those who would seek to use her powers to thrust the world into a new age of war.

I just have to start by saying that this book was amazing! Like, I’m really not surprised, but I’m also just a little bit surprised. I’m not really into reading books that come from movie franchises. I’m all for the books that I like getting turned into movies, but vice versa? Not so much. Though this book is not a literary retelling of the Wonder Woman movie, don’t be confused (though if you’ve seen the movie and you read the description at the top, you’ll know they’re nothing alike). They are set in the same DC world, but the mythology and timeline of the book and movie are very different. Diana is a fully grown adult in the movie, which takes place during World War I, but in this book she is only 16, and it is the modern day. The reason I’m not a) mad about it, and b) actually really loved that aspect of it, was because I’m not into the DC Comics world at all. I’m a Marvel girl all the way, and even then, just the movies, not the comics. Also, this book delved much further into the Greek mythology aspect of the Amazons and included Helen of Troy and other deities much more than in the film.

The reason I’m not surprised that I loved this book was because it’s Leigh Bardugo, whom, if you read my first Throw Back Thursday mini review, you’ll know I’m absolutely in love with. I’m not surprised she was able to make a world that was totally her own, while remaining true to the Wonder Woman character that we all fell in love with this last year with the release of the film. I’m very impressed that she was able to make something creative and different, because it would have been very easy for her to fall back on the world building and mythology that was established in the movie and the comics, and though I’m sure that she borrowed from both, the world felt more realistic than comic book worlds usually do, even with all of the gods and monsters Bardugo invokes (which is very much her style).

Now, to talk a little bit about characters. I absolutely loved teen Diana, because though she is still the strong, socially inept badass that we know and love from the movie, she is a lot more relatable as a teen, because she hasn’t come into her powers and isn’t as sure of her place in the world, which is something that I’m sure a lot of young readers will identify with. I’m sure of this because I identify with it, and at 23 I’m seven years Diana’s senior in this story.

The other main character in this book is Alia Keralis, the daughter of two of New York’s most famous scientists, and the descendant of Helen of Troy. While it is clear that this girl is much more comfortable buried in books, she still contains the street smarts of a girl who has grown up in New York city. Alia is also black, from her mother’s side, and Bardugo doesn’t shy away with making commentary on race in this story, though she does not fall back on using stereotypes at all which is awesome. Alia seems like a totally realistic teenage girl from the city; self conscious, but also scrappy. Though she is initially disbelieving of the world of mythology that she falls into when she meets Diana, she goes from skeptical to resilient and brave in the face of adversity, which is what we all love in our YA heroines.

Quite possibly my favorite part of this book, however, is the insane plot twist at the end. Like, honestly, I haven’t been this surprised by the climax of a book in probably years. While there are usually little parts of every book that are unpredictable and exciting, I typically finishing the book able to say that I guessed pretty well how it was gonna turn out. But I have never let out a more emphatic “damn, I did NOT see that coming” than I did when I got near the end of this story. I won’t say any more, but seriously, so good. No punches pulled at all with that one.

Anyway, just a few last things before I sign off. The pacing of this book was excellent, I was constantly on my toes, excited for that next page, which I haven’t been for quite some time, so that was very refreshing. The side characters were funny and dynamic, very well written additions to this story. The plot was engaging and fresh, thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. This book is well-deserving of every one of its five stars.

I’m kind of digging this idea of hiring famous YA writers to retell classic stories. They’ve got a bunch of ones based on Disney movies, of which I’ve only read one, and it was okay, but this one was a win by far. This book definitely proved the Leigh Bardugo is more than capable of escaping her fantasy-dystopia niche.

 

If you liked Wonder Woman: Warbringer, try: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

AntiGoddess by Kendare Blake

Defy by Sara B. Larson

Siren’s Song by Mary Weber

Reviews

Scale: A Novel by Keith Buckley

Scale A Novel

# of Pages: 241

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 35 pgs

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

 

Ray Goldman is a conundrum of a man. He strives his whole life to make something of himself, following the paths of good role models and bad ones, as he tries to make it in the world of music. This book has everything that you could want in the fictional biography of a musical artist: drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Ray starts down a path early in his youth that brings him to a point where he explores the ideas of love, nihilism, and the motivations behind creating art.

This book was really a big leap out of my comfort zone. I haven’t really read much of what I’d consider “literature” since I left college, but this definitely fits the the definition of a “great American novel”. My friend Sam and I were talking about books recently, and we decided that we’d both try and branch out a little bit. This book, Scale, is by the lead singer of one of Sam’s favorite metal bands “Every Time I Die”. Sam told me that he didn’t do a lot of reading, but he liked history, so I gave him And I Darken, so hopefully he will enjoy the fictional retelling of Lada (Vlad) the Impaler.

I have to say, I’m pretty surprised at how much I liked this book. Typically, I really am not into books that are cerebral and character driven like this, but I found that I was really drawn into the writing style. This book was written in such a way that I was sort of forced to take it slow (I know, reading a whole book in 3 days doesn’t sound like taking it slow, but if this was a YA book under 250 pages I could have read it in 4 hours).

I’m not sure that I can explain very well why I read it slow, but it wasn’t entirely because the book was very heavy on big vocabulary and light on plot. It was more that even when the story was outlining something fairly lighthearted, I felt like I had to take a pause between sentences or paragraphs to digest a little bit. And normally when I’m enjoying a book I don’t stop for anything. I just chew and chew and don’t stop to swallow or sometimes even to breathe. But reading this book can be accurately represented by how I actually eat: one small bite, then a drink of water, then a bit of conversation, a deep breath, then another small bite and repeat. Scale requires you to take a bite, wash it down, then think about it a bit before diving back in. And, though reading those kinds of books has always felt like homework to me, I found this book a refreshing taste of the world outside of YA.

Buckley also made a really interesting move with how he designed the timeline of this story. The odd chapters were the “present day” of this story, while the even chapters start in his late teen years and lead up to how he became the man that he is in the odd chapters. This stylistic choice kept the book fresh and interesting.

This book also has a great cast of side characters, all of whom were very well written, but none of whom I liked very much on a personal level. In fact, I don’t think I liked the characters at all that much. And maybe that’s the way its supposed to be? I’m really not sure, this book really gives you a lot to think about, and it’s one of those books that makes me super sleepy after reading it for a while. It’s a lot to process.

After reading this book, I also did a bit of research on the author, because I had a few theories that I wanted to check out. Keith Buckly is a pretty interesting guy. He’s married to his high school sweetheart (which I love), and this is his first novel. He definitely drew from some of his own life experiences when writing Scale. Ray Goldman went to Virginia Tech, and so did Keith Buckley. The other events that he borrowed from his own life I won’t reveal, cause spoilers, but Ray Goldman was certainly an interesting way for Buckley to explore certain aspects of his own life as a career musician.

I’ll go over briefly what it was that brought this book down half a star from a perfect score, though I will begin by saying that this bit is highly based on my own personal experiences and bias, and doesn’t reflect negatively at all on the book itself. My friends Chris and Sam give this book a perfect 5 out of 5, and they aren’t wrong. The reason I docked this book half a star was because a) there were some parts of it that went over my head, and b) I found it to be just a teensy bit pretentious. I will add a however, because the parts that didn’t make sense to me after trying to read them a few times over probably made perfect sense to somebody else, I just think that my life experiences and my worldview don’t always allow for a lot of philosophical thinking. And the pretentious part? Well, I think that all books that are character driven and could accurately be described as a “great American novel” are a bit pretentious by definition. There was a lot of big vocabulary words thrown about in such a way that it almost seemed like he was trying too hard to be deep. But again, that is merely an opinion, and I don’t think that either of these things should discourage anyone who might be interested in this book from reading it.

I can’t say that I think that everyone would enjoy this book, but I do think that it is a well-rounded, well-written book overall, and even I, someone who ever so rarely ventures outside the folds of the YA genre, enjoyed it very much. So I feel like anyone who enjoys books with very realistic characters, a great pace, and heavy philosophical and nihilistic overtones, or really any of those traits, should give this book a try.

I am going to, once again, forsake the “If you liked ____, try ____ section of this review, because honestly I don’t think that I’ve read anything remotely similar to this book that I would actually recommend to others.

Reviews

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Sweet Venom

# of Pages: 345

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 50 pgs

Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Grace, Gretchen, and Greer could not be more different. Grace is a quiet computer nerd who strives to save the environment. Greer is rich, popular, and strives to be a senator someday. Gretchen escaped abusive parents at a young age, and ever since then has dedicated her life to hunting the monsters that appear all over San Francisco…before the monsters can hunt the humans. What these girls do have in common is that they’re triplets, separated at birth, and they all have the power to see the monsters.

Suddenly everything begins to go awry. Gretchen’s mentor, the woman who taught her everything she knows about being a huntress, has disappeared, and the monsters begin to break the rules they’ve always been bound by. Will the sisters be able to see past their differences and work together? Or will the very power that brought them together keep them apart?

Okay, first off, you know that spiel I went on last week about how I like it when YA books transcend their genre? If you don’t, then go back and read my review for Elusion. Anyway, so I gave this book 5 stars, but this book does not transcend genres. This may seem like me going back on everything I said before, but hear me out.

I’ve read several other books by Tera Lynn Childs. Primarily her series about mermaids. And I have to say, that every book I’ve ever read by her has just been amazingly fun to read. Like I tear through her books because they’re very engaging and and fast paced. And her characters are always just plain adorable, and her worlds so magical.

But this book is very firmly in the realm of YA. Like, if you don’t like books that were clearly written for readers aged 14-16, you will not enjoy probably anything that Tera Lynn Childs has written. However, what makes Childs stand out from other YA books that don’t transcend genre is that she doesn’t try to. Childs has found her niche, and she is very, very good at what she does. I mean, I’m 23, but did I still thoroughly enjoy reading this story about long lost triplets who fight mythological monsters? Yeah. But not all 23 year olds, in fact I’m going to hedge the bet and say that most 23 year olds wouldn’t like this book as much as I did. But I’m young at heart, so what can I say?

Alright, age range aside, I’ll get to the reasons why I gave this book a 5 star review. I’m an enormous sucker for any YA book that takes a spin on Greek mythology. Percy Jackson isn’t the only one out there, folks, just in case you were wondering. It’s turning into a whole sub-genre, and one that I could not be more in love with. I also really appreciate that Childs did something pretty unique in terms of the world of YA Greek myth books. Her characters are the descendants of Medusa, the mortal Gorgon best known from the Perseus myth as the monster with snake hair with eyes that turned people to stone.

Well, Childs spins her as a good guy that was totally persecuted by the Gods because they were jealous. It’s something I’ve never seen done before, and I liked it very much. It was very obvious that Childs did her research, but she also took lots of liberties and made the story and the characters very much her own, which I liked a lot. Several of these Greek myth YA books either try and borrow characters and stories too heavily from myth and don’t do enough research and make it nearly painful to read for someone who has studied a lot of myth. Anyway, so far A+ on the mythology aspect of this story.

The writing itself is great, and the pacing fantastic. I read the book in 3 days, 3 work days mind you. That basically means I couldn’t put it down. Were there parts of this story that were fairly predictable? Sure, but there were also parts that surprised me. The characters had a pretty basic story arc for each of them, but they had all of the components of a well rounded, three-dimensional character, so that’s fine.

I’m going to try and not do sequel reviews on this blog any more. That’s right, every book I review is going to be an original. And I do promise to try and get more regular with the reviews coming up soon, it is taking me much longer than I anticipated to get my schedule regulated. But I’m finally done working 6 day weeks, so hopefully I’ll be a little less tired.

If you liked Sweet Venom, try: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs

Reviews

Crewel by Gennifer Albin

crewel

# of Pages: 357

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 51 pgs

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

 

Adelice has a gift. She has the power to see and weave the threads that make up everything in her world, a gift that means she will be called by her government to be a Spinster. Though being a Spinster means a life of glamorous parties, decadent food, and unparalleled privilege, it also means that she will have to leave her family and her home behind forever. But being a Spinster isn’t what it seems, and when Adelice arrives at her new home, she knows that she has to make allies, and fast. Because in a world of politics and desperate bids for power, Adelice might not be able to trust anyone besides herself. And if she wants to protect the few people left that she loves, she has to make sure that she has more leverage than the people who are trying to control her.

 

 

First off, I can’t shake the feeling that this book reminds me of the book that I read last week. It’s super weird, the premises aren’t at all the same, the style isn’t particularly similar, and the characters don’t have the same characteristics at all, so I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps it’s because I enjoyed them about the same amount.

 

Author Gennifer Albin wastes no time jumping right into her almost fantasy seeming world, though later it evolves more into a dystopia/sci-fi type universe. Normally I try and talk about some of the good parts of the book first, but I really can’t get past the biggest issue I had with this book, and that was that there were too, too many details. It is very clear that Albin had a clear picture in her head when she was writing this book, and I think that’s fantastic. I also think that she didn’t do the most amazing job transcribing that vision onto the page. Sometimes I had to go back and read a passage two or three times to try and understand exactly what just happened, and every once and a while I still couldn’t understand it after a few passes, so I just moved on. Albin’s concept of Adelice’s whole world of Arras being made up of threads of time and matter that the Spinsters can weave and manipulate is fascinating, I just think that I got lost along the way in the sheer number of details and Albin’s complex way of describing them.

 

Something that I also thought was interesting was that in the beginning of this story, I thought this was going to be an interesting gender power swap kind of book, where the women actually have all the power. And while that is technically true, women are the only ones that have the capabilities to be Spinsters, it is actually the opposite in terms of who holds the power in this world. Because while the women do the important work and wield the power of weaving the threads, the men have the true power in this story. They keep the women placated with fancy parties and beautiful gowns, while the male politicians make all the real decisions.

 

Adelice figures out the power structure pretty quickly, to her credit, but can’t do a whole lot initially to fight it. She rebels in her own smalls ways, and gets punished fairly severely for it. It doesn’t stop her, though, and I admire that kind of tenacity in a character. In fact, as protagonists go, I don’t have a lot of problems with her. Sometimes it takes her a while to figure things out that I, as a reader, understand a lot quicker, but I guess I understand that some things can’t be revealed until later for plot reasons. But I guess that if I were writing this story, I would have made things slightly less obvious so it didn’t make Adelice seem totally oblivious for not seeing them sooner.

 

I’m definitely going to pick up the sequel pretty soon here, because the end of this book left me with a lot of questions. I have high hopes that Albin will reign in her writing style a little bit in the second book, and that I’ll have a bit of an easier time understanding the “science/magic” behind the power that Adelice possesses.

 

This book was definitely a brain candy kind of book, and I think that it’s books like this book, and like Incarceron, that give YA a bad name among those who don’t know better. Don’t get me wrong, I think that brain candy books like this are just fine, for entertainment’s sake. I enjoyed reading this book and Incarceron, but they certainly weren’t perfect, and I don’t think that they were particularly substantial, and perhaps that’s why I was getting a kind of de ja vu while reading Crewel.

 

YA is my favorite genre, and I feel like day by day, the genre itself is becoming more and more cutthroat in who gets published, because YA has got to be one of the most highly monetized genres in publishing. I’m into it, because I have a lot of feelings about why YA is the most important genre because it is written for an age group where people commonly fall out of reading for fun, particularly in this age where digital media is on the rise and becoming more and more accessible. Okay, end rant. But if you ever want to have a conversation about this kind of stuff, hit me up! I have a lot of opinions and would love to hear yours!

 

As much as I hate to have this kind of thought process going in, I have a feeling that my book for this upcoming week is going to leave me with much the same feeling, but here’s to hoping that I’m wrong and it’s spectacular. Stay tuned!

 

If you liked Crewel, try: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Maximum Ride by James Patterson

After the End by Amy Plum

Reviews

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron

# of Pages: 442

Time it took me to read: 5

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 63 pgs

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Incarceron is a prison unlike any other. It is a conscious, living organism that keeps its prisoners locked away. There are no windows and no doors, and no one goes Outside, ever. Because everyone is born in Incarceron, and they die there, too. But Finn knows that he came from Outside, even if he doesn’t have any real memories from being there. But with the help of an extraordinary device, Finn is able to contact Claudia, who claims to be Outside, and that her father is the Warden of Incarceron. Finn and Claudia must work together to piece together the mystery of Incarceron before anyone can thwart their plan to Escape, because many obstacles stand in their way: the Warden, the Queen, and even Incarceron itself.

 

Hi everyone, sorry that it has been a minute since I’ve posted a review. This was the craziest moving week of my life, but the dust is finally settling and I have a little time to sit down and write this review. But even though my life has been totally cuckoo, I have still been reading! I’m just a little bit backlogged. But I I should be back to my regular schedule of posting my reviews on Sundays this coming Sunday.

 

But for now, here is the review for Incarceron. I just have to start out by saying that this was a pretty funny book for me to be reading as I’m starting my new job. Because Incarceron is alive, but it’s a machine: It has some organic parts, but it’s basically artificial intelligence gone wrong. And I now work as technical support at an artificial intelligence software company. Luckily, all our AI does is help people sell cars, not keep them trapped in an inescapable prison.

 

Anyway, this book was super unique and interesting conceptually. And its uniqueness really made it so that this story was very unpredictable. Which is nice, as I like to be kept on my toes. I really liked Claudia as a character: whip smart, skeptical, and independent. All traits I like in my female protagonists. Honestly, I thought that Finn fell a little flat as a character in comparison. Finn felt more defined by the side characters around him, which I was far more interested in, anyway.

 

The book was basically split into two different narratives: Claudia’s story, which took place Outside, and Finn’s story, that took place inside Incarceron. And while I thought that Claudia’s story was quite fast paced and interesting, Finn’s was dull in comparison.

To summarize, in my opinion this story was unique and had a lot of potential, but was not as well executed as it could have been.

 

I know it probably seems like I didn’t like it very much, I’ve been focusing a lot on the negatives, but I did have fun reading this book, which is why it still earned a solid 3.5 out of 5 from me.

 

Unrelated, but I got a total of $75 to Barnes and Noble for my birthday recently, so I’ll be making a trip there coming up soon, and I’ll have lots of new and amazing books to review. Thanks again for being patient with my wonky schedule. Like I’ve said in other posts recently, once my life straightens out, I’ll be doing my reviews regularly, and I should be doing more daily stuff on this blog throughout the week. So stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

 

If you liked Incarceron, try: The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

The Broken Hearted by Amelia Kahaney

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Reviews

The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa/Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

# of Pages: 393

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 56

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

(Statistics above are for The Forever Song)

 

Hey everybody, just a quick life update. Like I mentioned last week, I started a new job this week, and it’s been a big challenge, so while I did read a book this week (The Forever Song), I really don’t really want to review the last book in series I’ve already done two reviews on. I’d rather review a book that’s unique. So that’s why I’m going to talk about Three Dark Crowns, because that was a book that I read just before I started this blog, and I’d like to review.

I’ll say a few things about The Forever Song first, just to sort of wrap up the Song of Eden series. I think that The Forever Song was sort of the most predictable of the three, but not in an entirely bad way. Just the two or three main plot points of the book I definitely saw coming, but as a reader I was satisfied because I like happy endings and strong character arcs. And all of these characters certainly grew and progressed and became more than they were in the beginning. And the whole story had good resolution, which I like. No loose ends, which always bugs me when a series ends, even if the author wants to argue that it’s more “realistic” that everything isn’t wrapped up in a neat bow. In my opinion, a vampire dystopia doesn’t need to be particularly “realistic”. I do recommend this series overall, I think that if you want to read a vampire series that is unique in it’s dystopic universe, it’s a good choice. But if you want the best of Julie Kagawa, the Iron Fey series for sure. Also she’s got a new series about dragons, but I’m not super into dragons, so I probably won’t pick them up (at least not until I get some sort of confirmation that they are excellent).

 

For generations in the Queendom of Fennbirn, three royal sisters, triplets always, are separated at a young age, knowing that one day they will grow up and have to attempt to kill each other to take the crown as their own. Each sister has her own unique form of power, one a poisoner, one a naturalist, and one an elemental. They are raised by foster families that teach them to use their power, hoping that one day their sister will be Queen and rule them all. For generations the poisoners have ruled Fennbirn, but there are whispers that this will be the year a new power will rise. Fate, family, and prophecy affects each sister differently, but doesn’t change what they all know to be true. There is one crown only, and the last one standing at the end of their sixteenth year will be Queen.

Anyway, now I’ll talk a bit about Three Dark Crowns, but I’m going to be pretty brief, because I did read it a couple of months ago, and because I’m running short on time and energy. I appreciate the patience of anyone who reads my blogs weekly, because I know these last couple of weeks have been a little sporadic on timing and quality of blogs. But I am human, and I can only really do what my life allows right now. But when things slow down, I promise I’m going to do more daily post stuff, maybe even more than one review a week. I’d love to start a throw back Thursdays for book recommendations, and maybe a compilation of recommended books by genre.

Sorry, back to the point. Three Dark Crowns was a book I ended up liking a lot more than I thought I was going to. I’d rate it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. The fantasy world that Blake has created is immersive, and the powers that the characters possess are original and capable of moving the story along in unpredictable ways. Original books such as this are usually far less predictable, and this book was no exception. One of my favorite parts is that I didn’t like any sister more or less. I didn’t want one of them to win, or one in particular to lose. All three sisters have their strengths and weaknesses as characters. It’s difficult, because as a writer I think that it would be fabulous to actually have two of the sisters die and one win supremacy, because even though that’s the premise of the book, I kind of  think that these sisters will find a way to break the cycle of sororicide (the killing of one’s sister). As a reader I hope that will happen in the next book, because I like all of the sisters, and I don’t want any of them to die in the end.

I think that the best part of this book is the power that they give women. All of the rulers of Fennbirm since the beginning of time are Queens, not Kings, and the women tend to have more magic in this realm. All of the main characters are women. The men, if not merely plot devices, are obviously all secondary counterparts to the women of this story. In fact, I think that if all of the male characters were taken out of this story, not a whole lot would change. The romantic subplots of this story are few, and clearly secondary to which woman is going to take power.

The one reason that I took a star away is because it starts slow. Even though the premise is interesting from the start, it really didn’t grab me until about a quarter of the way in.

Okay, anyway, I promise that next week I am going to have a fresh book for you, on time, that is a full and comprehensive review. And more good stuff will be coming for this blog, like I said above. Sorry again for the inconsistency, I just have to get my life on track. But just remember, even though I’m currently working six day, 48 hour weeks and getting ready to move, I still have time to read a book a week, and you do too.

P.S. Normally I’d put an “If you liked” down here as well, but since I read and talked about two very different books this week, I’m not going to put anything. Which feels lame, I know, but I promise it’ll get better. Please stay tuned!

 

Reviews

Now I Rise (And I Darken) by Kiersten White

Now I Rise And I Darken

 

# of Pages: 459

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 66

Rating: 5 out of 5

(Author’s Note: the review below is actually for both Now I Rise (the book I read this week), and And I Darken, it’s prequel, which I read last year. There are some light, unfortunately necessary spoilers for the first book in this review, but there wasn’t a lot I could do. If you absolutely cannot abide by spoilers of any kind, I’d skip this review.)

 

In a world that continues to crumble and darken each day, two siblings must rise. Lada Dracul has chosen to leave her only brother, Radu, and the man she loves, Mehmed, sultan of the Ottoman Empire. She has known since she was a child that her native country of Wallachia is her destiny and that she belongs on the throne. With a group of ex-Ottoman soldiers at her back, she leads the charge to take the throne she knows she deserves. But the roads are paved with blood and blades, and Lada must make decisions she never anticipated to emerge victorious.

 

Radu was a vulnerable child, always the opposite of his fearsome sister. Now that she is gone, his loyalties lay only to Mehmed, the sultan he loves but knows he can never have. Given a dangerous mission outside the Ottoman capital, Radu travels to Constantinople with his loyal wife Nazira, who use each other to shelter the true nature of their affections. Their companion is Cyprian, the charming cousin of Emperor Constantine, and during Radu’s time in the city, he must abandon everything he has ever known in order to survive.

 

Hi guys, sorry this is posting late this week. I started a new job yesterday and things have been hectic for the last little bit.

 

Anyway, this book feels a little bit tough to review. Only because it’s a sequel, and I read the first book over a year ago, so it was never reviewed on this blog. I really don’t want to post any spoilers for the original book, though I kinda had to do it in the blurb above. So gosh, I guess I’ll give a quick summary of the first book below, and then talk as much as I can about the sequel so that it makes sense.

 

The first book, And I Darken, is a historical fiction piece that turns Vlad the Impaler, one of history’s most famously bloodthirsty characters, into a girl, Lada. It tells the story of her and her younger brother, Radu, a gentle soul, as they are forced to leave their native land of Wallachia to be royal hostages to the Ottoman Empire. This first book tells of the coming of age story of Lada, Radu, and their friend, Mehmed, a son of the sultan by a concubine, unlikely to ever see the throne. With Lada’s ferocity, Mehmed’s cunning, and Radu’s personality, the three are a deadly team that do what they must to survive in the beautiful but dangerous court of the Ottoman Empire. But hearts will be broken and loyalties tested when it turns out that three children who were once a team grow into adults who have very different paths.

 

I’m not doing a particularly good job of really describing what these books are about,  but I’m really trying to be vague and non-spoilery. These books a set in a rich, well-researched historical background, but are so fantastical it’s almost impossible to believe that much of the historical narrative, at least, is true. I have to admit, this isn’t a historical period that I know much about, but I had a morbid fascination with Vlad the Impaler when I was about fourteen and did a lot of research on “real life” vampires. I wish I could remember the name of that great book I read that had short histories on real vampire myths and historical figures that were feared as vampires, like Vlad the Impaler and Mary Bathory.

 

The book I’m actually trying to write about, Now I Rise, is just as well written and researched as its predecessor. Lada is a wickedly fun character to read about, as bloodthirsty and deadly as her historical inspiration. She somehow manages to maintain her humanity, however, which is an astounding feat. Radu is sensitive from the start of his life, but grows useful politically as he ages. In Now I Rise, Radu becomes trapped in the city of Constantinople during the Ottoman siege. Radu has to abandon all his morals and qualms and sensitivities if he is to survive. Each must learn to think like their sibling, which Radu manages with some success, and Lada tries, but struggles with. Anyway, not only those two, but all other characters, such as Mehmed, Constantine, Cyprian, Nazira, and Bogdan are rich additions to the story of the Dracul siblings.

 

The only thing that I have to say against this book, and it’s not even necessarily a negative, is that it’s really heavy. I found the sequel easy to read, but that was only because I knew the characters from the first book. And I Darken is dense with historical references and backstory, but it’s all very interesting and important, it just took me a little bit to get through because, as someone who a) doesn’t read a lot of historical fiction, and b) knows very little about this period in history, it was a lot.

 

But I absolutely recommend this series, 100%. It is a wonderful reimagining of a fascinating period of history. It’s a rich, heavy, decadent bite of literature, but absolutely worth the slightly slow, foggy feeling that accompanies it.

 

Sorry again about the delay, I hope to be timely this week. See you next time!

 

If you liked Now I Rise, or And I Darken, try: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud