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 · Summaries

Wings of Fury by Emily R. King (Book 1)

# of Pages: 285

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 41

Rating: 3 out of 5

Althea and her two older sisters have lived with the priestesses of Gaia since their mother died. The three sisters, along with everyone else, live in fear of their ruler, the Almighty Cronus, who’s soldiers terrify the population and collect honor maidens to satiate the desires of the undying God of Gods. But Althea has extra reason to fear, because she has been marked as the future bride to the despicable General Decimus, who will come to collect her any day now.

Althea knows it is time for her and her sisters to flee Thessaly to the southern islands, where the hold of Cronos is weaker and Decimus can never find her. But after visiting an oracle that tells her that her fate is inextricably woven with the Boy God who will defeat Cronus and take his throne, Althea must go on a journey unlike any other if she is to save her sisters and discover who she was always meant to be.

Review

Okay, I’m just going to say that I have two different ratings for this book. 3 out of 5 is my official rating, which is very diplomatic and objectively, this book is not bad and has the building blocks of a solid historical fantasy, and as someone who is also a writer who is working on a historical fantasy, I have to give the author at least a 3.

However, personally this book upset me and if I were giving it a purely subjective rating I would give it a 2 out of 5. And here is where this review will likely devolve mostly into ranting, so buckle in.

Fun fact about me is that I minored in the completely useless but incredibly fun program of Greco-Roman Classical studies when I was in school. So I am very familiar with ancient Greek literature, and thusly the mythology surrounding the culture. And while I love, love, LOVE a good reimagining of Greek myth, or a unique story set in the time period, I would largely call myself a “purist” in many ways. If you’re going to tell a story that is mostly well known characters from myth, I believe that it should be mostly true to the source material. That being said, there are many different versions of lots of the most popular myths, so there is often some wiggle room here, which makes it easier to be creative. 

It also doesn’t help that I *thought* this book was going to be something completely other than what it was. It’s marketed as a mortal woman taking on Cronus in the time before the Olympians, where there is not a whole lot of myth or storytelling, so I was pretty excited because due to the lack of a lot of well-known source material from this time of the Titans, I thought the author was really going to have the opportunity to spread her wings (no pun intended) and do something unlike a lot of the myth retellings out there.

I’m not going to put any spoilers in this part, but I’ll just say that the twist came at the end of the book, and in my opinion this twist really threw away everything that the author had worked on building, because what seemed to be a unique story about unknown mortals actually ended up being a version of a well-known myth, and that’s what really killed it for me. Because all of the setup that the author did, all of the various possibilities that were open to her, completely shrunk down to two options for the end of the sequel: a) have the myth remain true to the original source material, which would require a bunch of character building that was done in the early part of the book to all have to be thrown away OR b) be completely disingenuous to the original source material. Both of which I think are very crummy options.

I’ve talked a lot about the end of this book, but before I even had begun I suspected that I wouldn’t like this book because of a very specific pet-peeve I have about these types of stories. And that pet-peeve is when the Greek gods are the “good guys” in any way. Because, like I said, I’m a purist, and the Greek gods suck. In every single story, they suck. They exemplify all of the worst human traits without any human compassion. So I automatically have a bias against books where mortals team up with gods to defeat other gods because the gods do not care about mortals, at all. And just by reading the blurb I knew the protagonist was gonna be teaming up with Zeus, arguably one of the worst gods, so I knew that this book was gonna have to work real hard to win me over. And it really didn’t.

But I did give this book a 3 because I feel like the author did a good job of making this story feel accessible, because when they’re set in the ancient past like this one is, if you’re not careful it can lose the ancient vibe and feel too modern, but if you lean too hard into the ancient thing, it feels inaccessible and hard to fall into. I think this book walks a very good line, and I felt like I was into the ancient world she built. And I didn’t dislike the characters either. Althea was easy to root for because she had a tragic past and a noble cause, and I do like protagonists who are easy to root for.

Alright, end rant, now onto the summary. Because though the ending of this book made me upset, you can be damn sure I’m going to read the sequel to see how she ends up wrapping up the messy threads she’s left everywhere.

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Cast

Althea – protagonist, youngest sister of Cleora and Bronte. An oracle tells her that her fate is to help Zeus defeat Cronus and take his throne. Althea is dedicated and loyal to her sisters. Interested romantically in Theo, but “tagged” by General Decimus as his future bride when she was eleven. Strong, stubborn, does not trust easily.

Bronte – middle Lambros sister, very good with plants. She’s kind, and she always wants to do what is best for her sisters and anyone around her. A lovely singer and a student of philosophy.

Cleora – oldest Lambros sister, happy at the temple of Gaia with the priestesses and wants to live as a virgin. Captured early on by Decimus and taken to Cronus.

Theo – Theo Angelos is a commander in Cronus’s army. But when his mother is in danger he deserts the army to join Althea in her quest to find the Boy God who will topple Cronus from his throne. Bastard son of the Titan Prometheus and the love interest of Althea.

Decimus – General in Cronus’s army, “tags” Althea for marriage when she is a young girl. A proud and cruel minion of Cronus, he is determined to have Althea as his one way or another.

Zeus – fifteen year old son of Cronus and Rhea, but hidden from Cronus at birth to keep him safe. He was hidden away living with nymphs and an all-female tribe of worshippers of Aphrodite on the island of Crete, far from his father’s far-seeing eye. Arrogant, but also afraid of his father and nervous that he won’t be able to take his father’s place. Cares a lot about Althea.

Cronus – The Almighty, God of Gods, king of the Titans. Rules over the land, and is known for his cruelty. Takes any young women he pleases as “honor maidens”, who make up his haram. When those girls and women become pregnant, they pretty much always die giving birth to a half-Titan. Known for eating his fully-Titan children to prevent them from overpowering him.

Stavra Lambros – human mother of Cleora, Bronte, and Althea. When she angers Cronus, she tries to hide her daughters with the priestesses of Gaia, but the army finds her and she becomes an honor maiden to Cronus until she dies giving birth to his daughter, a half-Titan girl who is immediately taken away. Her and her husband smuggled oppressed women off of the mainland to Crete to live with the cult of Aphrodite.

Summary

Act 1

In the prologue, Althea and her sisters have fled to the temple of Gaia at the bidding of their mother. Soldiers arrive at the temple, but before they can find the girls, their mother Stavra steps out and gives herself up to protect her daughters. Eleven year old Althea runs from her hiding spot and tries to defend her mother, but just calls attention to herself. General Decimus decides that he wants her for his future bride, so she is given a “tag”, which is a brand on the back of her neck declaring that she is spoken for. The soldiers take Stavra away to be an “honor maiden” of Cronus, which usually means eventual death.

Nine months later soldiers return Stavra to the temple, where she is in labor with Cronus’s child. She does not survive the birth, but the baby girl does, and Stavra tasks Althea with watching over her sisters. So she grabs the baby, but the soldiers return for it, as it is a child of Cronus. Althea tries to defend her infant half-sister, but the soldiers take the baby away.

Seven years pass and the three sisters are grown up. Althea knows the time to leave the temple is approaching fast, as Decimus could return to collect her as his bride any day. Althea is sent into town where she meets a kindhearted soldier who gives her the olives she’s looking for. Later that night, she sneaks back to town and goes to see an oracle, who tells her that if she wants to save her sisters, she has to follow her destiny, which is to go to Crete and work with the secret son of Cronus, who is the only one who will be able to dethrone his father. She is told to take as her guide a stranger who has a good heart.

Althea runs back to the temple, where the soldiers have arrived and are looking for the sisters. Althea finds Bronte and Cleora hiding from the soldiers, but they don’t have the pouch with all of their money. Cleora volunteers to go and get it, but she is captured by Decimus. The General says that he’ll exchange Cleora for Althea, but they know he is likely lying, and Bronte convinces Althea that the best way to free their sister is to get to Crete and help the Boy God dethrone Cronus. So Althea and Bronte flee the temple to a hidden cave nearby.

The next day, they are discovered at the cave by Theo Angelos, who was the soldier that gave the olives to Althea in the market, and he is one of the soldiers who accompanies Decimus. He says he wants to desert and come with them, because the oracle also told him that he needed to find her and help her in order to save his mother. They initially refuse his help, but they are ambushed by Decimus’s soldiers at the cave, and Theo bravely helps them fight off the soldiers, but not before Decimus lays a curse on Althea that she’ll belong to him and nobody else.

Theo, Bronte, and Althea manage to escape to the port, where the fishing boat Althea purchased the previous day is waiting for them. Theo is a sailor, and they’ve decided to accept his help as their guide. They take the boat and make it to Crete with no trouble a few days later.

They meet the cult of Aphrodite, composed only of women, who want to send the sisters away and kill Theo, but it turns out that their mother Stavra was once one of them, so out of respect the cult allows them to stay one night. They are joined by the two nymphs that live with the tribe, Adrasteia and Ida. Althea tells them that her and her companions were sent by Rhea with a message for her son, the Boy God. The nymphs are convinced to let Althea and Bronte go and visit the boy, who’s name is Zeus, and at fifteen he really is a boy god. They try to convince him to work with them to overthrow Cronus, but Zeus refuses out of fear and sends them away.

Act 2

The next morning the three set out from Crete. They stop briefly on an island, where they find evidence that Stavra and Tassos were the main smugglers of women away from the mainland to safety on Crete. They are also set upon by the Erinyes, the Furies who punish oath breakers and murderers. They manage to get rid of them, but are sure they’ll be back.

The three companions sail back to Crete, sneak onto the island, and Althea goes to Zeus and changes his mind about training to overthrow Cronus. Theo agrees to train Zeus for it.

Theo, Bronte, and Althea settle into life on the island. Theo trains Zeus, and Althea falls harder for Theo. Althea is attacked once again by the Erinyes, but Zeus saves her life. Althea goes to talk to Ida, who tries to convince Althea that if she allows Ida to ritually purify her by cutting her up, but Althea refuses.

There are calls for the warriors to come down to the beach, there is a sea dragon down there attacking the cult members. Althea and Theo are working to fight it off, but it’s not until Zeus arrives and summons the lightening storm that the dragon is chased off.

However, the use of his godly powers brings General Decimus to the shores of Crete. He has teamed up with slavers as well as the goddess Ida, who was tired of “wasting away” on Crete. Adrasteia tries to convince Ida to come to her senses, but Ida kills her instead. Decimus captures Bronte, and says that he’ll exchange her for Althea, tries to use the curse he placed on Althea to get her to come to him. But Theo manages to get her and Zeus to the boat and escape Crete, leaving Bronte behind. Althea falls unconscious.

Act 3

When she awakes, she finds that they are at the home of Helios, god of the sun. Althea has dinner with Helios, Selene, and Eos, as well as Zeus’s betrothed Metis, who gives Althea a draught to weaken Cronus so that Zeus can strike him down. They lay out their plan, and it is revealed that Theo is the son of Prometheus, so half Titan.

The next morning, the Decimus and the soldiers have found them again, and it seems as though Theo has betrayed them all, because he seems to be working with them again, he helped them capture Zeus. But Althea manages to free Zeus, and he escapes with Metis on a boat, but Althea is captured by Decimus, who says that the Almighty wants to speak to her.

So Althea is brought to Cronus’s palace, where she is reunited with Bronte. The two sisters are brought before Cronus, who has Cleora with him, but she appears to be happy and fine. Cronus reveals that the three sisters are actually his children with Rhea, full Titans, but that he took away their powers to “protect them”. Their mother Stavra was only their surrogate. The goddess of memory altered Stavra’s thoughts so that she believed she’d birthed the three girls, but Stavra had the Titan Oceanus reveal her memories and she remembered that the girls were Titans, and tried to tell them, which is why Cronus took her out. He reveals that Cleora is Hestia, Bronte is Demeter, and Althea is Hera.

Althea doesn’t want to believe it, can’t believe it, but then she finds that Bronte’s memories have been altered as well, and she is happy to be here with Cronus. When Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, arrives to alter Althea’s thoughts, Althea uses half of the draught Metis made for her to drug Mnemosyne, and then pretends to be addled when she’s brought in front of Cronus. 

Althea realizes that her powers, as well as those of her sisters, are trapped within Cronus, and after drugging him she is able to use the adamant sycle to have their powers restored. There is a big battle where Zeus and Theo (who only pretended to betray them), help attack Cronus. 

Eventually, Cronus is temporarily defeated when Althea flings him into space (I think), but he’ll be back. This epic battle was all possible because the power reveal included that the sisters all actually had wings. Decimus is also defeated, as Althea demands that he remove his curse or she’ll kill him. He removes the curse, which ends up killing him anyway, which puts the Erinyes off of her tail.

The story ends with the sisters finding their little half sister, Delphine, where she was hidden with traveling nomads.

Cronus will return, and they will have to be prepared. Dun dun dun.

End Book 1

!!!END SPOILERS!!!

Well, as much as I overall disliked the book (especially the ending I thought was weak), I’m certainly interested enough in how everything is going to come together to pick up the sequel sometime soon.

If you liked Wings of Fury (or are looking for something better in the same genre), try:

Troy by Adele Geras

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

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.