Happy new year everyone! I know I’ve been absent for a few months now, but I had a crazy-busy end of the year. But when I have the time, I always want to keep up this blog because I so enjoy sharing the books I read out into the world. But sort of in a whirlwind, I read three books at the first half of this year, and I have two more to read for my book club, so I’m consolidating these first few reviews this year into a comparison, because I could not have felt more differently about the first book I read vs the duology I read back-to-back.
My first book of the year was Blood, Metal, Bone by Lindsay Cummings, and the next books I read were The Storm Crow and The Crow Rider by Kalyn Josephson. I’m going to compare the different aspects of both of these stories and then give a final score to each at the end. Let’s get into it.
First, pacing. Blood, Metal, Bone is a standalone novel, which in my opinion means that the story should waste no time in grabbing your attention. Setup is important for any novel, of course, but when you have less than 500 pages to tell your entire story from start to finish, the action needs to start early or the characters have to make you care early on. Neither of which happened for me with this story. I found the pacing to be almost agonizingly slow, which does not bode particularly well, especially in the YA genre, where I expect to be grabbed early on. The Storm Crow, on the other hand, had action and tragedy strike quick, so not only was I invested in the narrator and what was going to happen to her from the get-go, but the inciting action set my expectations within the first fifty pages. I was hooked.
Next, characters. Blood, Metal, Bone had a mid-size cast of characters, and two very different narrators. Normally, I don’t mind a split narrator situation, in fact I often write stories that way myself, two different perspectives can add a lot. However, in this case, I didn’t really care for either of the narrators, and I felt like one of them was the main narrator and the other one was sort of added in there as an afterthought, since I would say that probably 2/3 of the book was in one narrator’s perspective and 1/3 was in the other’s. It gave sort of an unbalenced feel. The Storm Crow duology was told entirely from a single perspective, and in this case I felt like it added to the attachment I felt to the narrator and kept me invested in the main storyline. The cast of the Storm Crow duology was also smaller, and while I do often enjoy a large cast story, I find with many small cast stories I care much more deeply about the outcomes of each one because the time is dedicated in the story to make me care about them.
Next, worldbuilding/genre. In Blood, Metal, Bone, I believe the author was going for a bit of a genre blend, but I don’t believe it was particularly successful and just left me feeling as though this book has a bit of a identity crisis. The prologue sort of tricks the reader into believing it’s a fantasy, but then all of the sudden in chapter one, the narrator changes and the book is suddenly set in space, turning it into a sci-fi somehow? And then we switch back to the original narrator and she’s this kind of desert outlaw, and the book then tries to read like a western? Too much, in my opinion. Pick one or two. I think if the author had made it more clearly a sci-fi from the first page, it would have been simply a space-western, and that could have been more successful. And since the genre was so confused, that left the world-building all over the place and I never had a clear connection with the setting at all. With Storm Crow, it was relatively simple yet fun fantasy world with giant, intelligent crows that have elemental magic. I think Josephson did a pretty good job with giving a history and backstory to the magic and mythology, and then having that become relevant in the second book.
Finally, overall story/endings. I’ll keep it spoiler free, but try to give as much detail as I can. For Blood, Metal, Bone, the prologue sets you up with this kind of mystery from the very beginning, which is honestly the whole reason I read this book to the very end. There is so much lead up to the discovery of this mystery, and the truth ends up being, in my opinion, a huge letdown. The ending also takes a bit of a wild turn, and not in a good way. I found myself to be pretty dissatisfied with the resolution of both the plot and the characters. For Storm Crow, I liked the story pretty much immediately, and am very happy with how it ended. My one gripe is that it did contain a love triangle, particularly in the first book, which is not my favorite trope, but it did end up resolving in a way that I was very happy with (both the love triangle and the story overall).
It should come as a surprise to nobody after reading this that the Storm Crow duology was a clear favorite. I gave the first book in the Storm Crow series a 4/5 and the second a 5/5, because I was hooked from beginning to end and absolutly devoured the series in about five days total. Blood, Metal, Bone, on the other hand, I almost DNF’d (did not finish), and only really kept going because I didn’t want to set a bad precident for my first book of the year, and also I was sort of invested in the resolution of that mystery, which ended up being a big letdown. I gave that one a 2/5, because I did indeed finish it.
So in the end, I can’t recommend Blood, Metal, Bone, but highly recommend the Storm Crow duologies for fans of YA fantasy that enjoy a quick, engaging read. I also felt as though the Storm Crow books gave a really realistic, thoughtful representation of grief, PTSD, and a character with depression.
P.S. I probably won’t do many of these comparison-style reviews and will return to my traditional formatting, but if you enjoyed this side-by-side review, please let me know and I’ll throw some more in there. As always, thanks for reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree with my assessments, I always love discourse.
If you enjoyed the Storm Crow duology, try:
Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
Defy by Sara B. Larson
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
The Glass Spare by Lauren Destephano