Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones – Book Review.

Title: Shadowsong

Author: S. Jae-Jones

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Gothic Literature, Fairytale


Feature Image Credit – MadReviews

These days, it’s a rare thing for me to find a good fantasy novel and really enjoy the romance that inadvertently seems to crop up within its pages. And last year, I was sent Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones, and I immediately fell in love with the gothic world of the Goblin King and his conquest, the musical protegee Liesel.

Unfortunately, I didn’t review this book (but I’ll link a blog post from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books if you want to get up to speed with the gist of the tale) before I dive into the review of its highly anticipated sequel, Shadowsong.

Shadowsong is the conclusion of the Wintersong series and had quite a lot to live up too. At the end of the first book, Liesel had broken the old laws and had left the Goblin Underground and her husband to go back to the real world. However, it was obvious that this would have a ripple effect on the world, and I was excited to see how it would pan out.

Six months had passed since the end of Wintersong, and Liesel is just existing in her world. Stuck between missing her Goblin King and realm underground and coping with the running of her family’s failing tavarn in the backwoods of Bavaria, Liesel is trapped between the past and the present. Unable to compose or even really listen to music, she cannot find comfort in her day-to-day life. Along with this, Liesel’s closest confidante – her brother Josef – has been spirited away to the glittering social circles of Vienna and Salzburg, there is little to salvage once was the feisty, musically inclined Goblin Queen.

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However, when Liesel receives an emotional summons to join her brother, she quickly flees to his side to get caught up in the baroque decadence of the big cities. Yet, little to Liesel’s knowledge at first, The Wild Hunt is furiously pursuing her. And soon Liesel has to confront her demons, her past and the warped creature that was her austere young man that she left in the Underground.

As I said, this book was highly anticipated for fans of Wintersong. I know readers couldn’t wait to clamour all over the rich world that Jae-Jones had envisioned, and see whether Liesel and the Goblin King would ever get reunited again.

Yet, for me, this book fell incredibly short of the mark.

First thing. The romance wasn’t there. Like I said, it takes me a lot to actually enjoyed the YA/fantasy romance of books nowadays. But the tension and relationship between Liesel and her Goblin King were one of the main hooks of the first book. So much so that I couldn’t wait to read all about their exchanges and scenes again.

But in Shadowsong, it barely was there. The couple spent 95% of the book separated. So, soon I got bored of the plot.

Don’t get me wrong, the lyrical style of writing was present. S. Jae-Jones is a beautiful writer, and her descriptive passages are lovely to read. But I really wasn’t invested in the plot this time. I didn’t really care for the struggles of Josef (a fairly bland, angsty character in my mind) or the twists and turns of the novel. I very nearly put this sequel down a few times, just because I felt a little cheated. However, I did persevere. The ending tied all the loose ends together well, and I did feel that it sort of brought it back from the brink (although the plot line where Liesel was trying to discover the Goblin King’s real name should have been more prominent, I feel. To me, it was kind of lazy writing how it was just thrown in there at random points and rushed at the end) but I really did feel let down.

Perhaps, in a few months, I’ll pick up Shadowsong again and read it. But I know that for my first impression, it radically fell short off the mark. However, I would read more of S. Jae-Jones work, so I will give her that.

Our Dark Duet by V.E Schwab – Book Review.

Title: Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity Book 2)

Author: V.E. Schwab

Rating: 3/5

Fantasy: Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult, Fiction, Adventure, Teen Fiction


Last year, I got the chance to review the wonderful kick off of the Monsters of Verity series, This Savage Song on my blog, and I loved it!

So when Titan Books sent me the sequel and conclusion to this series (without even requesting it, so a huge thank you to Titan Books for keeping me in mind), I was thrilled. Obviously, I had to do a reread of the first book, and I fell back in love with the world that Schwab created, along with the badass characters that she wrote about.

Without giving too much away, Our Dark Duet is set six months after the big climatic end of This Savage Song, and the world of Verity is thrown into chaos. With the monster issue really becoming a problem, and war between human and creature becoming an inevitable reality, we follow as our protagonists battle to save their cities along with themselves. August has become the leader he never really wanted to be, and Kate has become the hunter she always knew she could become. But when a new monster comes into a fold – a monster that seems unstoppable, uncatchable but reaping devasting power, Kate and August are thrown together again in a battle that will determine the real winners. Lives will be lost, blood will be spilled and sacrifices will be made9781785652769.

Our Dark Duet shows real character growth, as both August and Kate have to deal with relationship issues from newcomers, along with having to confront demon’s from their past. Schwab has maintained this easy flow of writing that I commented upon in the first book, and she has once again made the story very readable and addictive from the first page.

With a new monster coming into the fold, this gave the novel a much-needed kick that I was hoping it would have. This Savage Song did leave the story
off with a good cliffhanger, but I didn’t think it would be enough for the entire book to be based around, as I felt it would’ve weakened the storytelling. So to have a brand new nemesis mixing with the older ones became very effective.

However, I do have some criticisms about this novel. I felt the solution to the new monster’s death was a bit rushed and didn’t feel as strong as it could’ve been, along with the speed of the final battle. There were also character’s who seemed relatively important at first, and then really disappear without a trace. Having them come back into the narrative would’ve been a cool little reminder for me.

But this was a good conclusion for the Monsters of Verity series. I’m definitely going to be looking out for more from this author.

Our Dark Duet is out on the 13th June – preorder now.

The Way of Kings: Part One (The Stormlight Archives) by Brandon Sanderson – Book Review.

Title: The Way of Kings: Part One (The Stormlight Archives)

Author: Brendon Sanderson

Rating: 4.5/5

Genre: High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, World-Building, Action, Adventure, Mythical, Alternate World


 

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”

In recent years, the genres of High and Epic Fantasy has gone through a resurgence in popularity and interest, and attracted more of a public and mainstream status and audience. Through film sagas like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, and into television shows such as Game of Thrones, Beowulf and even the children’s favourite, Merlin, the sub-genre of High Fantasy has moved into public consciousness and shown off its talents of world-building, alternative realities, epic battles and mythical creatures.

I’ve always been a fan of fantasy novels, but apart from reading 513o1fxkp8l-_sx324_bo1204203200_the obvious Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire series, I’ve never actually ventured into reading really high fantasy. But when I was sent Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance books (the third and the fourth books in The Stormlight Archives), and was intrigued by the back covers, I knew I had a new winter read on my hand. So I bought the first volume, The Way of Kings, and when I got this tome of a book of nearly 1,000 pages, I knew I was in for some serious world-building and character exploring.

(Quick sidenote: In the UK, The Way of Kings has been split into two halves, due to the absolutely massive size of the book. But without realizing it, I bought it in one complete volume of over 1,000 pages. This review will be on The Way of Kings in its entirety, rather than limiting it to having two reviews for both halves).

Roshar is a land of harsh climates, fierce battles and raging conflicts. The country is frequently decimated by fierce tempests, which have not only shaped the geography of the land, but also its people, and there are wars fought and won over the capture of territories, spoils, and pieces of weaponry known as Shardblades and Shardplates – which make the wearer near-invincible and impossibly strong. The narrative primarily follows three plotlines – Kaladin (the ex-soldier turned slave), Brightlord Dalinar (ex-war hero who is feared to be going insane) and Shallan (ex-noblelady who turns to crime and nefarious deeds to get her family back to a higher rank), and how they all navigate Roshar’s tempestuous landscape, torn warzones,  fragmented cultures and spiritual beliefs. The novel also deals with the typical high-fantasy tropes of drawn-out battles with swords and weapons, mythical beasts, battles between good and evil and quests of high significance.

Now, like I’ve said before, the only high fantasy novels I’ve read have been Tolkien and George R.R Martin’s creations, so I really didn’t know how I was going to get on with these extreme levels of fantasy. But I was pleasantly surprised over how readable and enjoyable I found this book. Yes, it is very high fantasy, and at some points it can be fairly muddled and confusing – personally, I found the descriptions of the religious beliefs to be somewhat convoluted and appear to be too thought out and confusing – but for the majority of the time, I adored the world-building and the attention Sanderson put into his characters, and bringing the world to life.

The characters were readable and enjoyable, and I found as we moved through the pages, their backstories were unraveled slowly, so we could fully appreciate and see how they react to events and circumstances. I particularly liked Brightlord Dalinar, whose apparent insanity is an interesting read, as we see it from Dalinar himself, but also his comrades and family members. Shallan was also very interesting, as she had a lot of choices between good and evil to deal with, and her relationship with her tutor, the King’s heretic sister, Jasnah was one of intrigue and tension. The characters are also never put forward as being perfect, but flawed and entirely human in that respect. What I did find interesting was how social hierarchies were dictated by the colour of a persons eyes, and how ‘light-eyes’ were always higher up, no matter how good or bad this person was. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that particular story arc progresses during the rest of the books.

the_way_of_kings___cover_by_michael_whelan_by_arcanghell-d4ky8hlAs in most fantasy series, there are a great deal of warzones and fight scenes. And Sanderson doesn’t disappoint with his descriptions of the battles. Yes, they are bloody, but not explicit. And with the addition of the Shardplates and Blades, the battles reach new heights of intensity and skill. Sanderson has also included layers of technology, magic, science and Other-ness throughout the story, so there isn’t really any point when anything seems too out there or farfetched.

So, did I enjoy this book? The answer is a definite yes. I have read another story by Sanderson called Steelheard, which I did find good, but I found this book to really surpass that. This has been an excellent attempt at high-fantasy, as he not only excels at world-building, but also at just giving characters a voice and storytelling. At some points it is a bit confusing, and the first third of the book isn’t the fastest moving, or most dynamic part, but all in all, I did enjoy it. Fans of Tolkien and George R.R. Martin should definitely read this. At the moment, I am reading the second book in The Stormlight Archives, and I’ve heard that this is going to be a ten-book series. And truthfully, I cannot wait.

But, let me know what you think! I’d love to hear feedback.

Links:

To buy Part 1 of The Way of Kings: Click Here (Waterstones/Amazon)

To buy Part 2: (Waterstones/Amazon)

Sanderson’s website – Click Here.

 

 

 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Book Review.

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Fiction, Fantasy, Phantasmagorical Literature


“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”

Now, if you’re like me, dear reader, you’ll have bookshelves in your room that are full to the brim with unread books that have never been organised, opened or touched past the initial removal from the Amazon packet or the Waterstones bag. In my tiny room at home, I have three floor-to-ceiling high bookshelves that are triple layered with books, and only about one-fifth of these have been read. There is even a Japanese word for this – ‘Tsundoku’. It is a real affliction for all us book lovers, and one that has no end, but just get progressively worst.

And, like me, I’m sure that you have little gems of novels tucked away that you picked up one day, bought and said ‘Yes, this is next on my list’, and whenever you rediscover it on your shelf, you have that little stab of guilt.

Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus was one of these books. I could see it every single day, drawing my eye in with the bold title, and gorgeous cover, but it was only recently that I finally grabbed it, and tucked it into my bag to become my train companion.

Published in 2011, and compared significantly to Harry Potter or TwilightThe Night Circus is a phantasmagorical historical novel, set against the backdrop of a myste

rious circus that appears on the outskirts of towns without warning or promotion, and it entrances all those who wander in. Alongside this circus – which also has intersecting chapters where you, as the reader, is put into the novel and you get to walk through the circus and get all the sensory experience of the circus – the plot focuses on two magicians – Hector Bowen, a public personality who performs under the guise of Prospero the Enchanter, and the other man, figure who is only referred as ‘the man in the grey suit’ or ‘Mr. A. H-‘ – and their profound rivalry which has spanned over countless generations, and has been played out as a ‘battle’ between their appointed pupils. And in this novel, Bowen decides to appoint his only daughter Celia as his chosen player, and his rival chooses a nameless orphan, who decides to be called Marco Alisdair. Following tutelage, both Marco and Celia start to develop significant powers of illusion, and are permanently bound and aware of the competition that they both are involved in, despite not meeting their adversary.

And alongside this competition, the reader gets to know about the origin of the Night Circus. Initially a creation by a producer called M Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre and more subtly, Mr. A. H-, it becomes obvious that the workings of the circus, the magical draw of it, and even the structure and tents, all stem from Marco and Celia and their conflict which manifests itself in each creating spectacles in an attempt to outdo the other. But, when the inevitable meeting does happen, Marco and Celia both find themselves falling in love with each other, and their battle becomes not only a test of their powers, but also in whether they can escape their drawn-out competition and rewrite their own fates, together.

Now, the plot is promising. And whilst writing the summary down here, I was reminded how involved I was in the story, and how much I wanted Marco and Celia to get together, and how impossible it all seemed. Morgenstern wrote Celia to appear to be a fragile beauty, but the strength of her desire for freedom, and her powers, made the reader really warm to her. And the same with Marco. Their love seems boundless, passionate and sensual, and that makes for very enjoyable reading. But, it wasn’t necessarily the plot that kept me going through the book, or even the sweet side-stories about the red-haired circus twins, Poppet and Widget or the clock-maker, Thiessen, but the sheer beauty of the writing, and description. Morgenstern has created a beautiful world, and one that is equipped with all the sensory flavours that you, as a reader, wants to experience. The description of the circus, the food, the clothing, and the individual tents makes you desperately want to visit it, and it has the right level of Victorian-historical-whimsy that is befitting a YA novel. However, for some readers, it may be a bit too much of a whimsical novel, and so sweet it may be cavity-inducing.

Another thing that I felt slightly off-putting about this novel is that sometimes it felt a bit confusing and the writing wasn’t particularly clear, and unfortunately, all in all, the ending did not feel entirely satisfying when you consider it against the novel as a whole. With a climax of the novel, it should be wham-bam-clear-and-in-your-face-exciting, but this felt a bit short to me. It seemed as though Morgenstern had an excellent idea of what she wanted to do, but she couldn’t quite convey it in the right way.

But, this novel does focus on the dreamlike, illusion and magic, so it could just be Morgenstern tried to write in this fashion. However, for a young adult novel, this one doesn’t fall short to be a good and satisfying read, the magic doesn’t feel too whimsical or forced, and the characters are written in a good way. I’d thoroughly recommend it!

So, if you as a reader, enjoyed:

  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
  • Circus of the Unseen by Joanne Owen

Then you’ll love this!

Links:

To buy the book – Waterstones/Amazon

Author’s website: Click Here

Author’s Twitter: Click Here