Reviews

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim (Book 2)

# of Pages: 351

Time it took me to read: 1 Day

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

Rating: 4 out of 5

NOTE: This review will have spoilers from here on out. If you haven’t read the Spin the Dawn and plan to, I recommend skipping this review entirely. I’ll be back soon with fresh, spoiler free reviews. You’ve been warned 🙂

Maia Tamarin has already proven herself to be the greatest master tailor in all of A’landi. But in order to save her true love, Edan, from becoming the demon guardian of Lapzur, Maia has made a bargain with a demon and with the moon goddess herself that she will take his place so long as Edan is free.

Now, alone at the palace, Maia waits for the shensen’s daughter, Lady Sarnai, to wed the emperor. This wedding will preserve the delicate peace in the land after the war between the shensen and the emperor. But when things don’t go exactly as planned, Maia is forced to flee, on the run from the emperor as well as the shensen.

Maia must find a way to stop darkness from ripping apart her beloved land, all while fighting against the darkness rising within herself. But how long can she run from an enemy that seeks to destroy her from within?

Review:

Like its predecessor, this book came at just the right time. I just finished slogging my way through an absolute beast of a Sci-Fi for book club (see my review of Red Rising), and I’m really trying hard to get back into my reading habit, and Unravel the Dusk made it easy. I read the whole thing in 24 hours, without even trying that hard.

I’ve read a lot of great books this year, but usually the ones I end up enjoying the most are a little beefier and heavier on the fantasy aspect, which this one is not. But that’s not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy this book.

Maia is a great character. She’s noble, self-sacrificing, exactly the kind of protagonist you want to root for. And she made things really tough on herself. In this book, she literally had enemies attacking her from ALL sides. She promised to be in the emperor’s service, but then she has to leave, so he’s hunting her. The shensen is basically a demon himself, and know’s what she’s becoming, so he’s hunting her. And then there’s Baldur, the demon who forced her into swearing an oath to become the new demon guardian of Lapzur. And he’s all up in her head trying to get her to come back to Lapzur like, right now, so he can be free. And then there’s the fact that she’s actually turning into a demon more and more every day, so she’s got this demon voice inside her head, that is her own voice, telling her to submit and use the demon magic that is fueled by rage and vengeance but will only make her lose herself even faster. So she’s got a lot to deal with, and I think this final book in the series did a good job of making sure all of the enemies were fully vanquished by the end.

And then of course there’s Edan. No longer the all powerful enchanter he once was, he is still fiercely loyal and heart-meltingly loving to Maia. Even though in this book I feel like he is much more of a plot device in some ways, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because okay, hear me out.

So Maia basically made this decision to become a demon and take Baldur’s place because of her love for Edan. It was a decision made selflessly, but specifically to save one person, this boy she loves. Which is great, I love a good romance. But it would have been real easy for this book to basically have the theme “she sacrificed it all for true love, and in the end true love saved her”. I’ve read that book before, I’ve loved books like that. BUT. Elizabeth Lim made it so that every battle she had to fight, every obstacle she had to overcome, she did it herself. Edan was by her side for a lot of it, but she certainly had to fight her own battles and win in her own way. Particularly the war against herself, against losing everything she is to the demon. She fights that ever page of the book, and while love of Edan is a big factor in why she doesn’t give in, he’s not the only thing. She fights for her brother and her father, for her friend Ammi, for Lady Sarnai and her army, for her country. But mostly she fights for herself. Because she is a good person who is strong and even though any second of any day she could completely give in to the demon and feel no more pain, no more human emotion, and become all powerful, she fights that. So when she wins, and she does fully win in the end, it feels like she really earned it. I wasn’t expecting that and I really liked it.

I’ll quickly cover the things I usually do, pacing, world building, characters, style, etc. But there is very little else to say that I didn’t already say in my initial review of the first book, so head over to that review if you want more detail. Pacing is fast, as I mentioned I blew through this book and it did not feel like a hard push. World building is pretty good, I was really sucked into the land and immersed.

The one thing I’ll mention is that there are pretty much no rules to her magic system here. Elizabeth Lim has magic behave pretty much how she wants it, and you’ll just have to deal with it. It didn’t particularly bother me, since it’s not like this book takes itself particularly seriously anyway, but it did make me raise my eyebrows every now and again because I’m used to reading fantasy where worldbuilding is everything and the magic is very regulated and well explained. Not here. The reader needs to know what’s going on somewhere that Maia isn’t actually at? No problem, Maia has “demon vision” that takes over every now and again and shows her events that are important for her to see. That’s just one example too. Kinda funny.

I talked about characters already, Maia is pretty much the only actual complex character, but as I explained, I loved so much how much this book was about her struggle and her triumph, I didn’t mind pretty much everyone else being a plot device. I like the style, it’s “easy-breezy fantasy” that doesn’t take itself seriously, which is great especially after that heavy Sci-Fi I just read.

Once again I left a star off because I liked it pretty much exactly the same amount as I liked the first book, and once again no special “X Factor” to shoot it up to a perfect score. But a really solid 4 that I’d highly recommend to anyone who likes lighthearted fantasy romances.

The last thing I’ll mention, and it’s not necessarily a critique, but I’d be remiss if I skipped over the deus ex machina. For those of you unfamiliar, a quick lesson: deus ex machina originated as a device in ancient Greek theatre. In that sense, it describes when something, usually a god or a mythical creature appears at the end of the play to resolve the ending. For example, in Euripides’ Medea, Medea kills her children to get revenge on her scheming husband, and when it appears she will be killed for her crimes, a sun dragon appears and Medea rides off on it, escaping the consequences and denying her husband his revenge upon her.

Anyway, nowadays it’s mostly a device used in storytelling when a seemingly hopeless situation is quickly and conveniently solved at the end by a highly unlikely occurrence. In this case, Maia knows that if she destroys all of the dresses that she made in the previous book, which are connected to her body, mind, and heart, she will die. Those dresses are her life force. But the only way to win in the end is to sacrifice herself by destroying the last dress. So she should have died. And she kind of did, but then she goes up to heaven(?) and talks to her mom, who says the moon goddess is granting her the choice to go and live on earth with her dad, brother, and the boy she loves. Or she can become tailor to the gods and be with her dead mom and brothers. Yeah, seems kinda obvious what you’d pick. So she gets brought back to life with absolutely no consequences for her actions. A very convenient happy ending. But you know what? Not mad about it, because as I said, she works very hard to defeat all of her damn enemies, so I think she deserves a happy ending, no matter how suspiciously convenient it is.

And that’s it! Check out the series, it’s only two books, they’re really short and fun to read. See ya’ll next time!

If you liked Unravel the Dusk, try:

Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Defy by Sara B. Larson

Reviews · Summaries

Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare (The Last Hours Book 2)

# of Pages: 656

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 94

Rating: 5 out of 5

Cordelia Carstairs has loved James Herondale since she was a girl. She should be happy as can be, since she’s due to marry him. But this marriage comes on the aftermath of scandal, and it is a marriage of convenience in order to save Cordelia’s reputation: so not the romantic dream she always imagined. Besides, James loves Grace Blackthorn, he’s made that clear: this will be a marriage in name only, between friends, until they can get divorced in a years time and move on with their lives. All James has to do is resist seeing Grace, and Cordelia must shield her true love from her new husband.

Meanwhile, Lucie Herondale works tirelessly to bring the boy she loves, Jesse Blackthorn, back from the grave. This brings her into an uneasy alliance with Grace, Jesse’s sister, who is the only one who understands that Jesse’s soul hangs between life and death, and that there must be a way to bring him back. But necromancy is powerful magic, forbidden to the Nephilium, which forces Lucie and Grace to the Downworld, where the warlocks may be their only chance at success.

All this while a killer stalks London. Killing Shadowhunter after Shadowhunter, the entire Enclave is on edge, as no one can even catch a glimpse of the killer. Though James and Cordelia believe they have defeated Belial, James’s demon grandfather for now, they cannot help but think that he is somehow behind the mayhem. Along with their friends, Cordelia and James must figure out who is behind the murders and stop them before something even worse is unleashed upon London to threaten everything they hold dear.

Note:

Hi all, I’m soooo thrilled to be taking the time to review a Cassandra Clare book on this blog. I’m a huge fan of pretty much everything she’s done (besides the Mortal Instruments, but that’s another story), so this book was such a treat and an easy five.

However, to anyone who HAS read Cassandra Clare before, you know she is the QUEEN of large casts and complex plots. So I’m going to be styling this review / summary pretty differently. The review is going to be short, sweet, and spoiler-free. However, instead of doing the normal cast and summary sections after, I’m going to do sort of a blend. I’m going to hit major plot points, and then I’m going to do short sections on important character pairings and give a brief overview of what happens between them. It’s definitely going to be chaotic, but I think it will be the best way to get everything covered without having to actually write a 10,000 word summary.

Don’t worry I will very clearly mark where the spoiler section begins and ends, and believe me when I say that section will be RIFE with spoilers so please if you haven’t read Chain of Iron yet, skip at least that section if not the whole review, because this book is really worth remaining spoiler-free for.

Review:

I just wanted to take a few paragraphs to give a spoiler-free review. Well, really, this is just a chance for me to rant about how much I love Cassandra Clare and why, so if you’re also a fan, so glad you’re here to hang out, or if you’ve been wondering whether or not to give Cassandra Clare a try, hopefully this will be the push you need.

First off I’ll start with the world-building. Truly, nobody out there in YA today has such an expansive, detailed, and vivid urban fantasy world. She has a dozen “main cast” books written already, with more in the works, as well as several side cast stories (most of which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet). But everything she puts out is consistently excellent, and her historical fiction series (The Infernal Devices and The Last Hours), are well researched in their settings of Victorian and then Edwardian England, respectively. They feel so authentic, with everything from the parties to the social standards and even the clothing. It was all so very complex during that period, and though I’m no historian, I think that she really gives it that authentic edge while ridding with some of the rules where it fits her, since the Shadowhunters are a secret society within society, so while she keeps the sexist bits to a certain extend, certainly nobody would ever call her women repressed or powerless, which I love.

Anyway, onto the cast. As I mentioned before, nobody does large cast like Cassie Clare, and I’m truly not sure anyone ever will. Because unlike some large cast stories I’ve read, Clare really takes the time to delve deep into the side stories, so much so that they really read as just as important as the main storyline. Every character feels important, and is developed accordingly across her trilogies. In The Last Hours in particular, it’s such a treat for fans of the Infernal Devices because the main cast of The Last Hours are the children of the main cast of The Infernal Devices, so not only do you have a new generation to get to know and love, there are still plenty of moments from their parents that make true fans melt.

Lastly, as I am trying to keep this somewhat brief, I’ll cover plot. As well as being the queen of large cast, Cassie Clare is also the queen of complex storylines. There is always SO much going on, in every single book, and the chapters jump around from character to character, so you’d think it would be hard to keep track. But no, I’ve never found myself loosing the thread of one plotline as she moves to another. Everything is woven together seemingly effortlessly (though I’m sure it actually takes monumental effort). And her favorite thing to do is to start each book with a ton of seemingly unconnected plotlines but, by the end, many of them end up coming together as interwoven and related the entire time, which is undoubtably genius.

So anyway, I loved everything about this book, there are certainly parts that hurt, but it’s that beautiful hurt of a good story told well. And that last bit is not a spoiler, because you know if you’ve ever read a Cassie Clare book that she is going to hurt you somehow.

!!!SPOILERS BELOW!!!

Seriously, stop right here if you want to avoid spoilers. And I beg you not to spoil yourself if you ever have any intention of reading this book. Please, rather than spoiling yourself I’d rather you click from this page and pick up this book from the bookstore, online, or your library and start reading it right now.

Characters:

James and Cordelia: The story starts with James and Cordelia’s wedding. In the first book, Cordelia claims that James was with her all night, unchaperoned, the night he burned down Blackthorn manor at the behest of Grace. In order to save Cordelia’s honor and reputation, James agrees that they will marry. The two of them agree that it will be a marriage for appearances only, and then after a year they can divorce as friends and be with other people. Thus this story begins with the marriage between these two friends. Cordelia loves James desperately, always has, but swears that he will never know it. James, underneath it all, loves Cordelia certainly, but Grace Blackthorn has a bracelet locked around his wrist that makes him have complete devotion and loyalty to her. Their marriage is comfortable, and Cordelia only becomes closer to James, and vice versa. The deeper James’s feelings become, the weaker the bracelet gets, and then one night they end up kissing and the bracelet breaks, freeing James from the spell of Grace Blackthorn. But before they can discuss anything and James can confess his true love to Cordelia, Grace arrives. James confronts her and Grace admits to everything. But all Cordelia saw was their initial embrace and their first words, taken out of context. So Cordelia believes that he truly has chosen Grace over her, even though in her heart she started to believe just a little that James was starting to fall in love with her. Cordelia runs off to Matthew and they end up running to Paris together. James, after realizing what Cordelia saw and heard, flees after her, desperate to make things right. He has almost caught up to Cordelia, but his father intercepts him and says that they need to rescue Lucie, so James must let Cordelia go for now.

Cordelia and Matthew: Cordelia and Matthew become very close in this story. Matthew is often Cordelia’s escort when James cannot attend to her, which is perfectly acceptable because Matthew is James’s parabatai. Cordelia is the first and only person Matthew confesses his greatest secret to: that he bought what was supposed to be a truth potion from the Shadow Market as a boy. He fed it to his pregnant mother in order to know for sure that Henry was his true father. The potion ended up being a poison that nearly killed his mother, and did kill the baby she was carrying. Cordelia trusts Matthew to take her to try and find Waylon the Smith because she believes that there is something either wrong with Cortana or wrong with her. And Cordelia, after believing that James has chosen his loyalty to Grace over her, runs to Matthew. Matthew confesses his love for Cordelia, even though he knows she loves James. He proposes they run away to Paris together for a little while to try and do their healing and keep the whispers away from Cordelia should news of Grace and James get out. Cordelia, heartbroken over James, agrees.

Matthew and James: The relationship between these two loyal parabatai is pushed during this story. Though their love for each other never wavers, Matthew struggles with his secret love for Cordelia, because he both cannot stand to see Cordelia unhappy, as he knows she loves James, but he also cannot bear to watch them be together. James, on the other hand, watches Matthew drink more and more heavily and argue with his mother, Charlotte, about his health. It comes to a head when the two of them argue about Matthew’s drinking, the first time they’ve really ever talked about it. The story ends with James watching Cordelia and Matthew run off together to Paris (as friends, mostly, but still). Matthew thinks that James has fully betrayed Cordelia because of his “love” for Grace Blackthorn.

Cordelia and Lucie: Despite their upcoming parabatai ceremony, Lucie and Cordelia are more distanced than ever during this story. Lucie is keeping her knowledge about Jesse and her alliance with Grace under complete wraps from Cordelia and everyone else. Cordelia has never told Lucie she’s in love with James, and as that is a big secret that Cordelia is keeping, it is rare that the two of them are on the same page. In fact there is a scene where they train together and they are very out of sync. So much so in fact that when they practice their parabatai rites, something unexplained goes wrong.

Lucie and Jesse: Much of their history happens in the first book, but Lucie is totally in love with Jesse Blackthorn, the Shadowhunter boy who died at seventeen from receiving his first rune. In the previous book, he sacrificed his last breath to save James’s life, and now Lucie and Grace Blackthorn are doing everything they can to try and raise Jesse, as he is still trapped somewhere between the life and death. The two of them, after some arguing, finally confess their feelings for each other, and after that Lucie is more determined than ever that Jesse can come back so they can have their happy ending. At the end of the story, once the piece of Belial’s soul is removed from Jesse, Lucie uses her power of commanding the dead to apparently raise Jesse, though the story ends before we understand completely what happens.

Lucie and Grace: This slightly uneasy alliance was made at the end of the previous book, when the two agreed to work together to try and raise Jesse Blackthorn, Grace’s brother and the ghost boy that Lucie loves. The two decide to work with the warlock Malcolm Fade to try and raise the dead without having to perform unspeakable deeds to do it. Grace is a little too unfeeling and willing to push the boundaries, so Lucie always feels as though she has to reign her in, even though the two are equally desperate to bring him back for their own reasons.

Grace and Christopher: When Grace sneaks into the Fairchild home to get some ingredient for her quest to save Jesse, she comes across Christopher working in the lab. Christopher shows Grace around and they talk about science together before discovering the true nature of the false-stele that was found with Lilian Highsmith. The stele can take runes from one Shadowhunter and transfer them to another. This is only a quick scene, but I wanted to note it here. As much as I generally don’t like Grace Blackthorn (opinion), I think that if Grace somehow ends up redeeming herself and not dying, I like the thought of these two together, they had some adorable chemistry.

Thomas and Alistair: Most of the backstory is in the previous book, but Alistair and Thomas had a brief summer friendship a few years back in Paris, while Alistair was still in love with Charles Fairchild. But Thomas had a bit of a crush on Alistair that whole time. But here in London, where Alistair was often the bully of the Merry Thieves back in school, Thomas tries to convince himself that he hates Alistair as his friends do. But when Thomas is charged with the murder of Lilian Highsmith, Alistair comes forward and says he was following Thomas the whole time, and saw that Thomas tried to save Lilian, not kill her. While the two of them are being held together before their trial by the Mortal Sword, they get to talking and then the talking becomes kissing. After the big battle with Leviathan, Alistair says that there can never be anything between them because of what he’s done to Thomas and their friends.

Anna and Ariadne: From the beginning, Ariadne has her heart set on winning back the person she loves, Anna Lightwood. However, Anna makes it clear that while she is happy to dally around with her, there is no love and there can never be. The two of them engage in plenty of covert sexy-time, where Ariadne continues to try and win Anna over. But by the end, the two of them has a conversation that has Ariadne storming off because she finally realizes she’s not going to get what she wants. Anna breaks down over this, because though she’s had the cool exterior this whole time, inside she’s a cinnamon bun who loves Ariadne back.

Summary:

This section will be composed of short and sweet plot points. I will try and get them mostly in order, but if a few are out of order bear with me. I won’t be able to cover everything, but my hope is that anyone who is about to read Chain of Thorns (book three coming in 2022) can read this summary combined with the characters above and feel refreshed.

  • The night before his wedding, James falls into the shadow world, which he thinks shouldn’t happen again after wounding Belial in the previous book, but the shadow realm looks different, so he’s not sure that it belongs to Belial
  • Cordelia’s dad Elias comes back just in time for her wedding, giving her a beautiful sheath for Cortana as a gift
  • James and Cordelia get married in a ceremony that goes off without a hitch. The reception is nice, but Elias has a little too much to drink and has to be carried off by James and Alistair
  • Cordelia and James go to their new home, where they agree to have a this marriage be a partnership where they still talk every night, as friends. James has set up separate bedrooms with an adjoining bathroom for them. Cordelia loves him desperately, but James is still wearing the bracelet given to him by Grace that makes him “love” her
  • Lucie and Grace have been trying their own mix of magic and science to raise Jesse, but to no avail. Grace wants to dive right into necromancy, but Lucie will not do great evil to raise Jesse. They decide to try and seek the help of the warlock Malcolm Fade to see if he can help
  • A Shadowhunter, Amos Gladstone, is killed on patrol. There is no traces of demon ichor around, but they assume it must have washed away in the snow. The Merry Thieves think that it may not have been a demon, but a Downworlder or a Shadowhunter that killed him
  • Lucie and Grace ask Malcolm Fade for his help. At first he refuses, but Grace offers to get information on Annabel Blackthorn, Malcolm’s love, who has been an Iron Sister for nearly a century. He says he’ll see if he can help them after he gets this information
  • A second Shadowhunter is killed, Basil Pounceby, and James thinks he may have had a dream about it. He immediately suspects Belial, but Belial cannot inhabit the human world and should have been weakened for at least a century by the wound dealt to him by Cortana. He cannot ask Jem about it though, because he and Magnus Bane are on a mission in the Spiral Labyrinth and unreachable
  • Grace asks her mother about Annabel Blackthorn, because Tatiana is being kept as an Iron Sister by the Clave. Tatiana laughs and says that the old Blackthorns killed her for being in love with a warlock, she was never an Iron Sister at all. Grace and Lucie return to Malcolm, where Grace tells him in a pretty cruel manner. Malcolm refuses to help them
  • A young Shadowhunter girl, Filomena di Angelo from Rome, is murdered. This time James is sure that he sees it in a dream, and in the back of his mind thinks that he may be going out in his sleep and committing the murders himself
  • Lucie is told how to find Filomena’s ghost, so the Merry Thieves, along with Lucie, Cordelia, and Anna, go off to find her. They find Filomena’s ghost, but she simply tells Cordelia in Italian that as the bearer of Cortana she should have saved her. The group is then attacked by a demon, and when Cordelia attempts to draw Cortana, the blade burns her and she is unable to use it. She believes the blade no longer considers her worthy of it
  • Elias Carstairs comes to James and Cordelia’s home and demands that James loan him an exorbitant amount of money. James refuses, saying he cannot afford, and Elias leaves angry and drunk. The next morning they are told Elias has been murdered, and James becomes sure that he is somehow the culprit, that he’s being controlled by Belial somehow. Cordelia and her family must grieve the loss of her father
  • Cordelia gets Matthew to drive her out to find Waylon the Smith, forger of Cortana, to see if he can help her restore the sword. Cordelia meets with the Smith, who repairs the blade and asks Cordelia to be his paladin and serve him as his warrior. She agrees to do so because she wants to be able to help prevent future murders
  • Lucie goes to Malcolm and says that if he helps them with Jesse, she’ll help him find a way to raise Annabel. Malcolm tentatively agrees
  • James finally tells the Merry Theives about his theory that he’s the one doing the murders. They all agree to stay with him and watch him while he sleeps. Cordelia ties him mostly up, and they make out a little. Thomas goes out to patrol on his own, like he has been doing
  • James once again dreams of the murder, but Cordelia is able to confirm he never left the night before. Thomas, at dawn, hears a scream and finds Lilian Highsmith dying from wounds inflicted by the murderer. The Inquisitor finds Thomas covered in blood next to the body and they arrest him. When the Merry Thieves visit him in holding, Thomas gives to them what appears to be a stele, but isn’t really. Thomas will be tested by the Mortal Sword the next day to prove his innocence, and in the meantime Alistair comes forward as a witness to Thomas not being the murderer. Alistair and Thomas are held together in the Institute to await trial
  • The rest of the group goes to the Shadow Market to try to find out what the not-stele is. While they’re there they find Magnus Bane, warlock friend of their families, who was supposed to be away, but is in town for one night. They tell him about James’s dreams and Magnus says that he’ll come help James access the shadow realm again to see if it is indeed Belial who is to blame for the murders and the dreams. Cordelia will watch over with Cortana to make sure nothing goes wrong
  • Grace goes to the Fairchild house and runs into Christopher in the lab. After talking for a while, they come to realize that the not-stele is capable of transferring runes from one person to another, and that is how the killer is stealing runes from his victims
  • James and Magnus go into Edom, the realm that they believe has been taken away from Lilith by Belial. But when they arrive it is not in Edom. It is in a trap by Belial, who tries once again to get James to willingly let Belial possess him. James refuses, and Belial casts Magnus out and nearly overcomes James, but Cordelia is able to save him and pull him out of the trap. James and Cordelia kiss and the bracelet breaks
  • Lucie comes to the realization that Jesse’s body is the one being used to commit the murders. She goes to his coffin and finds the stolen runes all over his body. She’s about to destroy the body when Grace knocks her out. When she comes to Jesse’s body is gone and Lucie runs to try and stop it from committing another murder. Grace makes Lucie promise that she won’t let anything happen to Jesse’s body
  • Thomas is found innocent by the Mortal Sword, but as soon as that’s over, the Institute is under attack and everyone who is there, including Thomas, Alistair, Anna, Ariadne, Christopher, etc.
  • Magnus runs off after being ejected from the trap and Matthew comes over and they discover that the symbol that is being drawn by the murders is that of Leviathan, sea demon and brother of Belial. The three of them run to where the last murder would have to take place to find Charles, Matthew’s brother, clinging to life. Matthew works on healing him, because if he lives Leviathan won’t be able to fully enter the world and kill everyone.
  • Belial arrives in Jesse’s body, covered in the runes that he’s stolen from the murdered Shadowhunters. He is convinced that he has built a super warrior that will be able to defeat Cordelia and Cortana in battle. Belial says that he is giving James this last chance to join with him, or else Leviathan will kill everyone at the Institute and he’ll kill Cordelia for good measure. James refuses, and Cordelia locks into battle with Belial/Jesse, her powers as a Paladin giving her the edge she needs to keep up with Belial/Jesse.
  • At this point, a new player arrives. Lilith, mother of demons, reveals that she has tricked Cordelia into becoming HER paladin, who she controls. She had disguised herself as Waylon the Smith after putting the curse on Cortana herself to force Cordelia’s hand. She also disguised herself as Magnus to try and get back into Edom herself that way, but Belial had foiled her. She tells Belial that she will have Cordelia kill him unless he surrenders Edom back to her. Belial refuses
  • Lilith forces Cordelia and Belial back into battle, and just when Cordelia is about to strike a killing blow Lucie arrives and throws herself in front of Jesse/Belial. Cordelia must use all of her strength in order to avoid killing Lucie, even though Lilith is telling her to do so.
  • James ends up shooting and wounding Lilith with his special revolver, because it was blessed with the names of the three angels that are Lilith’s mortal enemies, so Lilith is temporarily out of the game, though Cordelia is still her paladin. Lucie is able to sort of force Belial out of Jesse’s body and Cordelia uses Cortana to deal a second mortal wound to Belial without harming Jesse. Belial disappears, leaving Jesse apparently completely lifeless on the ground.
  • Malcolm Fade arrives just as Matthew is able to save Charles and Leviathan is banished from the Institute. Everyone is caught up on the situation and they all head back to the Institute
  • End of Story: Lucie and Malcolm bring Jesse’s body back to the Institute to be looked over by the Silent Brothers so they can prove to the Clave that a demon possessing it was doing the murders. Malcolm and Lucy agree to go to Cornwall, Malcolm’s home, to work on Jesse and also look for where Annabel is buried. When everyone is gone, Lucie commands Jesse to wake, and he appears to do so, but the effort causes Lucie to pass out, and it seems that she’s being carried off by Malcolm and Jesse as she slips into unconsciousness
  • End of Story: Cordelia and James go home together. James is about to confess his love for Cordelia when there is a knock on the door. Grace arrives and embraces James, saying she’s going to leave Charles to be with him. James takes her into the other room and confronts her about the bracelet and the control she’s had over him. Grace admits to it all, her power to control men, everything. James says that he’s going to turn her into the Clave and she should stay here. Grace agrees, because she’s broken from under her mother’s influence and the only way to stay safe is for the Clave to know everything, despite how she will likely be punished. James goes to Cordelia to tell her about the development, when he finds out she saw Grace wrapped in his embrace and heard him say “Thank god” when she said she’d leave Charles, even though what he said right after was scathing. James runs after Cordelia, tracking her to Matthew’s, where he finds out the two of them are going to Paris. He runs to the train station to try and stop them, but Will catches up and says they need to go save Lucie, as she’s gone missing. James has to turn his back on Cordelia for now to get his sister back
  • End of Story: The epilogue shows Belial breaking Tatiana Blackthorn from the Adament Citadel. That defs won’t be problematic later.

Okay, yeah, I probably missed some stuff, but hopefully not anything super important.

!!!END of SPOILERS!!!

Anyway, just here trying not to freak out waiting for the final installment not coming until probably next summer. But for all of you that’s a good thing, because that gives you time to read both book 1 and 2 of The Last Hours.

If you liked Chain of Iron, try:

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

And I Darken by Kristin White

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Reviews

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (Book 4)

# of Pages: 511

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 73

Rating: 4 out of 5

The world is getting bigger. Ever since Queen Bitterblue found out about the two lands, Pikkia and The Dells, over the mountains that form the eastern boundary of her kingdom of Monsea, things have only changed more and more. Across the eastern ocean from The Dells lies yet another continent, full of countries with democratic governments and advanced technology. In the five years since their discovery, all of the lands of Bitterblue’s continent as well as the countries on the continent of Torla have exchanged languages and cultures and lived peacefully.

But when two of Bitterblue’s agents in the country of Winterkeep on Torla end up dead, she finds that it might not have been the accident that it seems to be. Along with her half sister Hava and trusted friend Giddon, Bitterblue knows she has to journey to the land of Winterkeep to get to the bottom of the deaths of her envoys, as well as the possible wars brewing along at least one of her borders.

Things have always been the same for Lovisa Cavenda. First born child in the wealthy and powerful Cavenda family, she has always known what her place would be: study government, choose a political party when she graduates, and follow her family’s expectations.

But things are heating up between the two political parties of Winterkeep, which are the Scholars and the Industrialists. Lovisa’s mother is the president of Winterkeep, and a Scholar, while her father is a shipping magnate, and part of the Industrialist party. When Lovisa learns they will be hosting the queen of Monsea at her home when she visits Winterkeep, she begins to sense that something isn’t right. Winterkeep is full of secrets, and Lovisa can’t trust anyone else to get to the bottom of it.

Review:

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!! I’m so sorry everyone, normally I try to post spoiler-free reviews, but many of my feelings about this book involve spoilers, so if you think you may be interested in reading Winterkeep but haven’t yet, please click away!


I’m going to try to not let this review completely derail into a rant, but it likely will at some point so thanks to anyone who is able to stick with me.

I’ll start by saying, as I’ve covered in other reviews of Graceling books, that Kristin Cashore might be one of the most creative authors in all of YA. She’s created not one, not two, but three completely unique lands with unique magic and unique problems. This book, which takes place primarily in Winterkeep, is no exception. Winterkeep doesn’t have gracelings like the Seven Kingdoms or monsters like The Dells, but the magic of the land comes in the form of two kinds of telepathic creatures who can communicate with people: the blue foxes and the silbercows. The blue foxes are very intelligent and will often choose a human to bond with, when human and fox share a special and closed connection. Silbercows live in the sea and are very friendly with humans, often saving them from drowning in the dangerous ocean. Winterkeep also has a unique government with two political parties rather than a monarchy like the countries on the other continent. Cashore has really gone all out in creating an immersive new world in this story, so A+ on that.

Next, plot and storyline. Cashore really seems to have found her calling in political dramas / mysteries. Ever since Graceling, each book after has had less and less of an action element and more of a spy intrigue feel, which is not normally my cup of tea, but Cashore is such a talented writer that her books are a joy to read no matter what. Winterkeep, like Bitterblue, started out very slow for me, but as the threads became more tangled, the excitement built. I felt that Winterkeep was a bit more on the predictable side than Bitterblue, which didn’t particularly disappoint me, but is something that I wanted to mention. In Bitterblue, there wasn’t really a singular antagonist, and it felt as though any of the characters, even the ones you were supposed to trust, could be working against Bitterblue. But in Winterkeep, it felt pretty clear from the beginning who the antagonists were, though the goals of those antagonists weren’t as predictable. I know it sounds like a pretty boring political intrigue / mystery if it’s predictable, but again, these books are so well written and generally enjoyable to read, I personally don’t feel let down by being able to predict the endings.

And now, onto certainly the most important part of these most recent Graceling books, the characters. Winterkeep was unique because unlike the previous three books, instead of having one main protagonist, there were arguably four: Bitterblue, Lovisa, Giddon, and Ad. Bitterblue’s voice was probably my favorite, because she’s familiar and I recently read her titular book, so I enjoyed getting to be back in her head again. Though Giddon has never had a protagonist role before, he’s been a part of three of the four books, so he felt somewhat familiar as well. At first I wasn’t really a fan of this book trying to endear him to me, because he’s never been a favorite of mine, ever since he was such a big baby when Katsa rejected him in the very first book. But over time I felt myself rooting for Giddon, even if it was a little bit begrudgingly. The character Ad, short for Adventure Fox, is one of the telepathic foxes of Winterkeep, bonded to Lovisa’s mother. Ad is an interesting perspective, pretty human-seeming, which I found kind of odd for an animal. I mean, I think Ad would have not been a particularly successful protagonist had he been so animal-like that he was unrelatable, but I think it was an interesting choice of protagonist.

And finally, Lovisa. She was probably my least favorite protagonist, but that’s just an opinion of mine, not due to anything I think was wrong with the way she was written. She’s sixteen years old, and I find her immensely unlikable for most of the story. I think it’s clear that she’s “the good guy”, so it’s not like she’s morally questionable, in fact she has to deal with all of the hardest hitting moral dilemmas of the story. She’s well written, and clearly on the “right side” so you have to root for her, but I just never felt as engaged when reading her chapters as I did with the other protagonists. She’s objectively interesting and well-written, and I think is probably an accurate reflection of her life experiences, many of which are traumatic, but I just didn’t like her. I think that were Kristin Cashore to write another book more specifically focusing on her, I’d certainly read it and perhaps she’d eventually endear herself to me, but in this story I felt that her arc didn’t particularly matter very much to me.

Alright, I’ve held off long enough, this is going to be my rant section and then I’ll wrap this review up. And this is REALLY where the spoilers hit, so if you ignored my warning above and kept reading, but you actually don’t want spoilers, LAST CHANCE.

The romantic subplot in this book belongs to Bitterblue…and Giddon. Which I could tell was going to be the case like fifteen pages in, and initially I was like NO. Because here’s the deal. There is no evidence that Giddon and Bitterblue really met in Graceling, when Bitterblue was ten and Giddon was eighteen, so I think we can avoid any gross “I’ve had my eye on you since you were ten” vibes. But they became close in Bitterblue, when she was eighteen and he was twenty-six. Now, in this book, Bitterblue is twenty-four and Giddon has just turned thirty-two, which in modern times is a pretty big gap for this age group, but in fantasy isn’t as big of a gap as I’ve seen and been okay with. And Bitterblue is VERY mature for twenty-four, as she’s been a queen for nearly a decade and a half already. But I think where my main problem is is that in Bitterblue, I sensed NO romantic inklings, their relationship gave me more sibling vibes, so I feel as though in Winterkeep this type of connection was just drawn up out of thin air. And while yes, by the end of the book I was rooting for it, it was a bit begrudgingly because I don’t fully feel as though Giddon had earned it because once again, I’m still bitter that he was a big baby in book one. Whew. End rant.

!!!END SPOILERS!!!

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much, it was a worthy addition to the Graceling world. I only ended up taking a star off for personal reasons: it took me a while to get into, I found one or two of the protagonists to be kinda meh, and there wasn’t quite enough action to get me to yell five out of five stars. I certainly hope that Kristin Cashore will write another Graceling book, and that she won’t wait ten years this time.

If you liked Winterkeep, try:

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

P.S. I’ve had quite a busy few weeks in my personal life, but I’m hoping to get back to posting here regularly again, so thanks a bunch for your patience!

Reviews

Lightbringer by Claire Legrand (The Empirium Trilogy Book 3)

# of Pages: 565

Time it took me to read: 4 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 81

Rating: 5 out of 5

This is the final book in the series, so I don’t feel the need to post a summary, but I just wanted to do a brief review. This review will, however, contain some spoilers. Most of it will be spoiler-free, but I’ve got some opinions and I would really like to share them. I’ll be sure and mark the section with spoilers in big print.

Review

If you’ve read the previous two books in this trilogy, you expect an epic conclusion, and Legrand does not disappoint. This is a very large cast story, especially since it transcends two different timelines, and in this final installment I believe you get more perspectives than ever before. This bob-and-weave between two different timelines and multiple perspectives (though it does stay in third person throughout) might be confusing and overwhelming in most situations, but Legrand masterfully blends this story together to make it cohesive and comprehensible throughout.

However, this is the second sequel in a row where the author, in my opinion, breaks the unspoken rule where the writer must give little hints of the major plot points from the previous book within the first 50-100 pages as a little refresher. Fifty pages in I nearly put the book down and thought about doing a re-read, but that’s close to 1200 combined pages in the previous two books, so I decided to forge on through. I’ll definitely do a re-read of all three books someday though, so I can get the full picture, because I’m sure there are some things I missed due to waiting at least a year between each book.

I would also like to say that this is probably the heaviest of all three of the books. In all but perhaps the last one hundred pages, all four of our “heroes”, Rielle, Audric, Simon, and Eliana, are utterly tormented and trapped within their own hells. So if you’re looking for something lighthearted, Lightbringer might be one to save for later.

However, Legrand offers a masterclass in worldbuilding, engaging though sometimes slow-moving plot lines, and the most morally ambiguous cast of characters you’ll find anywhere (except for Audric, who is a cinnamon bun).

!!!START OF SPOILERS!!!!

Here are the two main problems I had with this book, besides being mildly depressed through nearly all of it:

  1. I’m not really sure that Rielle deserved the redemption that she got. This book showed her getting real twisted and bad, and for the first time I saw her as nearly as much of a villian as Corien and didn’t have much pity for her at all throughout. I think while it was important that she got to the point where she would have killed Audric had Eliana not stopped her, I think she should have had to work a little harder to earn Audric’s trust back. I think he forgave her for everything a little too easily. It’s okay to love someone through their mistakes, but I feel she should have had to work harder to earn back the little bit of peace she got from their relationship in the end.
  2. I feel like all of those characters in the future timeline that were developed through all three of these books got the short stick. I know the whole point was to defeat Corien in the past to prevent the timeline they live in, but Navi, Remy, Patrik and Hob, and even Jessamyn, all just wiped from existence. I would have appreciated a little epilogue of “1000 years later” or something that went over that these characters were still born, but not under the same circumstances…because just wiping them all out seemed cruel and lame.

!!!END SPOILERS!!!

Overall I think that this book was a well-written, generally satisfying ending to a wonderful series that I would certainly recommend to everyone who loves fantasy. And considering the last book that I read with time travel (see last week’s summary of Greythorne), I think this series did a much better job of making things with time travel messy and imperfect, just the way it should be.

If you’re a fan of the Empirium Trilogy, try:

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (for epic worldbuilding)

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (for morally ambiguous protagonists)

The Reader by Traci Chee (for not-your-traditional happy ending)

Summaries

Greythorne (Bloodleaf Book 2) by Crystal Smith

# of Pages: 356

Time it took me to read: 3 days of reading over 15 days (during NaNoWriMo)

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: There is a lot that I liked about Greythorne. The characters are easy to root for, the pacing is pretty good, and I would say that it is decidedly unpredictable. However, I had to take a star away because though I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I had a pretty large gripe, and it’s the same gripe that I had with the first installation: the world-building is half-baked and the plot is rather confusing.

Listen, the world that I see, that I understand, I’m into it. The brand of magic is far from generic, and I think that keeping the scale small (a tale of two kingdoms) is smart, but I don’t really understand most of the rules of the magic or the world that’s been built. I’m not fully sure that Smith knows all of her own rules, which is pretty important for a writer.

As an avid reader and aspiring writer of YA fantasy, I like to look back on a book once I’ve finished it and understand how I got to the ending. While there were little clues left behind, they were so strange and out of place when you first read them, I was just confused, rather than intrigued, which I think was the idea. However, I also know world-building is crazy hard, having tried it myself. I very much respect her effort and look forward to the third book in the series coming August 2021.

Summary (SPOILERS AHEAD):

Aurelia – young princess of Renalt, older sister of Conrad. She is a blood witch, meaning she is able to use magic that involves drawing her blood or using someone elses. Renalt persecutes witches, so they must live in hiding. If they’re captured, they’re killed. Aurelia is the only blood witch who doesn’t hide her powers.

Conrad – eight year old king of Renalt, coronated in the early part of this book because his mother died in the previous installment. Likes puzzle toys and is wise beyond his years

Zan (Valentin) – rightful king of the collapsed kingdom of Achleva, Aurelia’s love interest. “Died” near the end of the first book, Aurelia saved him using her own life force, so they are bound together. In the beginning of Greythorne, thought by Aurelia to be dead (really dead).

Kellen Greythorne – bodyguard of Aurelia, his life is bound to hers with a blood oath. If she is about to die, he dies in her place. His was one of three lives protecting Aurelia’s: her mother the queen (who dies in the first book), Simon (blood mage mentor), and Kellen’s. He is in love with Aurelia, she does not love him the same way.

Onal – herb woman of Renalt, close advisor to royal family. Secret grandmother of Aurelia, when her adopted grandmother the former queen could not conceive children. Grumpy, but brave and intelligent.

Rosetta – new character in this book, the feral magic witch of the Ebonwilde. Immortal, called the Warden because she is the keeper of the balance of the world and cannot die until she is replaced by another descendant of the Ilithiya.

Dominic Castillion – self-proclaimed king of Achleva, supposed murderer of Zan. When Achleva collapsed and Zan went missing, Castillion took advantage and spends this book working on completely taking control of the country.

Lorelai, Rafaella, Delphinia, and Jessamine – the “Canary Girls”, saloon girls of the Quiet Canary inn. Friends of Aurelia, they protect her and her brother from the authorities.

Act 1

Aurelia thinks Zan is dead, and wants to get on the luxury boat of Dominic Castillion to kill him in revenge for Zan. Conrad is due to be crowned, and Aurelia is trying to stay out of it, knowing she’s a danger to her brother’s rule as a known blood witch. The Tribunal (judicial authority of Renalt) is after her. Simon, from his hiding place, sends her a mysterious book that she only partially deciphers.

On the day of her brother’s coronation, a woman named Isobel Arceneaux, a magistrate for the Tribunal, arrives and tries to use her brother’s coronation as an excuse to try her and kill her on the spot. She drags Zan forward, proving he’s alive. In desperation to save her own life and Zan’s, Aurelia kills one of Isobel’s men and uses that blood to transpot her and Zan to safety at the Quiet Canary.

Zan has been working secretly for the past year that Aurelia thought he was dead to help refugees and work to take his country back. He was captured by Isobel coming into Renalt.

At the Quiet Canary, despite being mad at him for not telling her he wasn’t dead, Aurelia gets a little drunk on sombersweet wine and decides to seduce Zan.

However, doing so kills her. Well, it kills Simon, who was her second protector after her mother. Simon tells her that when she touches Zan, it kills her because his lifeforce recognizes hers as his own, so when he touches her it literally sucks her lifeforce out. Simon tells her that there is a prophecy: if Zan dies, the Malefica (evil entitity) will be released upon the world, but if she dies, the Malefica will be trapped forever. But she can’t die, because before she can die Kellen has to die (due to the bloodcloth ritual). Simon tells her to go to the feral witch of the Ebonwilde for help to break the bond between Kellen and herself. Simon dies.

Aurelia awakens and runs away without telling Zan what happened (dumb), then goes back to Greythorne (where her brother is ruling from), and grabs Kellen and Onal to find the witch of the Ebonwilde.

Act 2

Aurelia, Onal, and Kellen find the witch, her name is Rosetta and Onal is her sister. Onal is like 120 years old, and Rosetta is just as old, but looks sixteen because she is the Warden, meaning she is the protector of all things in the world (descendant of the Emperya (goddess) ). Rosetta recognizes the book Simon gave her and tells her it belonged to her older sister, the previous Warden.

Rosetta teaches Aurelia how to travel using the Gray, a realm that is inbetween times. The first time she goes, she is looking for the Ilithiya’s Bell, which is a powerful magical artifact Aurelia thinks is needed to break the bond between her and Kellen.

The merry band (Aurelia, Onal, Rosetta, and Kellen) travel to Achleva, because they think that’s where they’ll find the bell. Instead they find Zan, who has resumed his duties in trying to save his kingdom. Aurelia goes into the Grey again and gets the story of how Rosetta and Onal’s older sister, the previous Warden dies. What happened was that soldiers came and murdered Rosetta. Galantha (oldest sister), is unable to accept it and uses her magic and the Gray to try and save her sister. Through a complicated series of events, it works, but Mathuin Greythorne, her love, got sent away to an unknown place (or time), and Galantha “died” to save Rosetta and make her the Warden, though she trapped the wrong spirit in the wrong body (as I understand it), which makes Rosetta immortal.

Also we learn that Isobel Arceneaux is the sister of Aurelia’s father, the dead king, though she was a girl so she was left to die as an infant, so she doesn’t know her background. Aurelia learns that Onal is her grandmother.

Act 3

Zan, Kellen, and Rosetta are captured by the Tribunal, Onal and Aurelia narrowly escape. In order to get back to Renalt where Aurelia is convinced she’ll find the Bell she needs, she gives herself up as a hostage to Dominic Castillion, the pretend king of Achleva. She tricks him at his own game and leaves him on his ship to die as it burns. In this escape, Onal is wounded and Aurelia must use her blood to get them out of the situation alive. This causes Onal to die.

Aurelia makes it back to Renalt to find the Tribunal has completely taken over, her brother is safe and in hiding at the Quiet Canary with Aurelia’s friends and the local children.

Upon going back to Greythorne, Aurelia finds a member of the Tribunal, Lyall, has been doing experiments where he traps souls of deceased Tribunal members in the bodies of other deceased people. Basically they slaughtered the whole village, including the refugees, to make them creepy zombies with the souls of Tribunal people. Aurelia takes them all out and goes back to rescue Kellen, Rosetta, and Zan from Isobel, who is convinced that the Empyrea (really the Malefica) will take over her body if she can kill Zan on the red moon day.

Everyone, including Kellen’s brother, the lord of Greythorne, is dead from this ghoulish experiment. Rosetta admits that there isn’t any real way that the Bell can break the bond, she was lying because she was trying to find the bell because she just wants to be able to die.

Aurelia realizes that Kellen doesn’t need to die to break the bond, she just needs to take away from him something just as valuable, for Kellen that is his purpose as a guard. So she takes her dagger and cuts off his right hand, his sword hand. He is understandably pissed, totally ungrateful that she saved his life.

Aurelia confronts Isobel, who is going to kill Zan. During the chase, Aurelia finds the Bell and rings it.

This is where shit gets the WEIRDEST (sorry, I try to be pretty objective in these summaries). Aurelia figures out that all her problems can be solved with time travel, and in fact have already been solved with her time travel. She splits her souls (or something) and puts the perfect, unblemished one to sleep somewhere safe. Then she takes her body that is fated to die and does all of the time travel tasks required to make everything work out. She saves Zan’s life where she thought he died in the beginning (convenient), she gives her little brother all the tools he’ll need to set everything in place, including a vial of her blood which will be needed to reawaken her other self. He is the only one she tells the whole plan to, so that’s why he is so calm and not worried the whole book. She goes back so far to a long dead king of Renalt and forces him to make peace with Achleva by saying the next daughter of Renalt would marry a son of Achleva (which is what got them all into this situation in the first place).

And at the very end she goes back to where Isobel has been completely taken over by the Malefica and rings the Bell so that Isobel/Malefica is the immortal Warden of the world, taking the mantel from Rosetta.

To make sure the Malefica is trapped forever in the Grey, Aurelia must die. So she goes to where Zan is and kisses him to kill herself, but tells him that it isn’t forever, that he just needs to find her.

Epilogue

They bury Aurelia, everyone is upset except for Conrad, who knows better. After the funeral, he gives Zan Aurelia’s blood and the instructions. It takes them a year, but I guess they find her other body in the glass coffin.

The end

Final Thoughts: This isn’t the most elegant summary, I’m going to try and do these right after I finish reading the book, not like a week later, in the future. To anyone who’s read Greythorne, I hope this is helpful in preparing for Ebonwilde, the final installment in the Bloodleaf series, due August 2021.