Dumplin

Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) by Laura Sebastian

Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) by Laura SebastianAsh Princess by Laura Sebastian
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on April 24, 2018
Genres: High Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia's family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess--a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.


It took me longer than usual to finish this book. I picked it up and put it down multiple times, not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because  other books came along that I wanted to read more, like A Court of Frost and Starlight. I’m glad I finally sat down and finished Ash Princess, because it was a good start to what I think could be a great series.

Here’s two things I liked about Ash Princess, and one thing I didn’t.

I liked:

The love triangle. I know, I know, bleh love triangle – but hear me out! This one wasn’t so bad. I think I was easily able to get on board with it, because it didn’t drive the story. Ash Princess mostly focused on Theo’s journey to rising from the “ashes”. Theo had been beaten down (physically and emotionally) for ten long years, and in the process, lost sight of her true self and her true purpose. Once a fierce will is rekindled in Theo, she constructs a plan to reignite her people’s will to rebel against their conquerors, the Kalovaxians. Theo’s not a bad-ass warrior like say, Throne of Glass’ Aelin, but she’s incredibly clever, and knows when to verbally push, and when to back off. Strengths come in all forms, and it was nice to see a new type of heroine kick ass with words instead of swords.

The magics. Yes, it was the commonly used elemental-variety, but it was also achieved in new, unique way. There’s some individuals who have the innate ability to summon elemental powers, and the others who can’t, can still accomplish some magic by holding special gems that have been imbued with elemental power. I loved this new take on magic!

I disliked:

The first third (maybe closer to half) of Ash Princess. The brutal opening with Theo being forced to harm one of her own people, was shocking and made me want to dive right into the story, but then what immediately followed was pretty boring. I didn’t really get into the story until Theo started plotting her people’s rebellion, and when she started spending time with the swoon-worthy Soren. So far Soren is my favorite character in this series, and not just because I’m #teamThoren. He’s complex, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where his story is headed in the future books. 

Overall I thought Ash Princess was a solid first book. I’m eager to read book two, because the ending of Ash Princess had a huge WTF moment and I think it’s gonna make book two even more intense and high stake.

three-half-stars
Dumplin

Shadow and Bone (The Grishaverse #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone (The Grishaverse #1) by Leigh BardugoShadow and Bone (Grisha Verse, #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Henry Holt and Company on June 5, 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 358
Source: Self Purchase
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.


I dragged my feet with starting The Grishaverse series, because there’s such a huge, intense fandom that loves it, and I was afraid I’d be that odd duck who didn’t. I’m glad I finally read Shadow and Bone, because it was a good read, but like I feared, I didn’t think it was amazing. I ended up feeling like it was  just an average YA high fantasy. You can see some of my likes and dislikes below –

I liked:

Alina, because her character was well-conceived. She doesn’t suddenly become a formidable bad-ass because she discovers she has powers. Alina has very little physical and emotional strength to begin with, so when it’s revealed that she has the potential to be great, and make a difference in the world, she spends the rest of the book strengthening her body, mind, and magical abilities.

The mystery surrounding The Darkling was really intriguing and exciting. He’s that dark, brooding, mysterious and attractive male character who always draws my interest in books. His motivations and agenda was so hard to grasp, and it made me want to understand him desperately. He seemed to toe the line between light and dark, but maybe he didn’t? Maybe he already had chosen a side but he wouldn’t or couldn’t reveal it? He’s a really deep character, and it drove me nuts not knowing who or what he really was.

There are some magic-wielding Grishas who can control fire and wind – been there done that – and then there’s some who have the really cool ability to manipulate and mold materials like metal and bone. That was so cool! So unique!

What I didn’t like:

The pace was very slow. A good chunk of this book takes place at the Grisha palace, where Alina is strengthening her body and her powers. This section bored me. The Darkling is off doing mysterious things, and I constantly wished that he’d return. The story felt dull when he wasn’t apart of it.

Alina and Mal… ugh. I liked their friendship, their shared childhood history, and interactions, because it’s super heartwarming, but the idea of them romantically involved just rubbed me the wrong way. There’s comfort and sweetness there, but no passion. Their relationship was familiar and steady, but lacked sizzle. I much preferred the idea of Alina and The Darkling getting together, because they’re both the most powerful magic users in the world, and therefore relate to each other in a way they can’t relate with anyone else.  Plus: The Darkling bursts with sex appeal and allure  – yum!

The ending of Shadow and Bone was really surprising, and a tiny bit epic, so I really hope book two builds on that and ends up being smashing.

three-half-stars
Dumplin

Everless by Sara Holland

Everless by Sara HollandEverless (Everless, #1) by Sara Holland
Published by HarperTeen on January 2, 2018
Pages: 362
Goodreads
three-stars

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.


I loved Everless’ concept. Jules lives in a world where the poor sell days, months, or even years of their lives to the wealthy for things like rent, food, protection from ruffians. What a fascinating concept, taking blood and making it into iron that you can consume to extend your own life. With the exception of HP’s Sorcerer’s Stone, I haven’t read any books with alchemists.

The characters:

I really liked Jules. She’s brave, kind, stubborn, has flaws, like her tendency to jump into things without completely thinking it through. Sometimes I wanted to scream “stop being so rash!” but she thinks and acts with her heart, so I couldn’t stay mad at her for too long.

I was immediately enamored by Liam. He was a mystery that I impatiently wanted unraveled. Jules has awful memories of him from when they were both children, and it takes a while for her to start working through what was real and what wasn’t.

Roan was a huge disappointment. Jules and Roan were extremely close as young children, always playing together and getting into mischievous, and I was excited to see what their relationship would be like when they finally came together again. Unfortunately, their paths didn’t cross nearly as much as I would have liked and when it did they barely connected. I was also disappointed that we didn’t learn much about Roan’s life during the time he and Jules were apart. There were some allusions to him leading an unsavory lifestyle, but they were extremely vague and just left me with a very faint idea as to what kind of person he was.

I feel like this book would have benefited from a couple less minor characters in order to focus deeper on characters such as Roan. There’s two characters in particular that were briefly introduced, faintly utilized, and then left to bleed into the background.

The pace:

This book didn’t flow very well. Sometimes it dragged and I started to lose interest, and other times it sped up and whiplashed me an onslaught of information and events that didn’t feel 100% conceptualized due to lack of tiny details.

Other thoughts:

Although I wish there’d been more emphasis on romance in Everless, I’m glad it wasn’t one of those books where the characters forgot the dire situations around them because they couldn’t think past their burning loins.

Overall:

Even though this book had some rough patches, I think it’s a good start to what could be a great series. I was pleased with Everless’ ending and I’m looking forward to what will happen in book two.

three-stars
Dumplin

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3) by Mary E. Pearson

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3) by Mary E. PearsonThe Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles, #3) by Mary E. Pearson
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 679
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Lia has survived Venda—but so has a great evil bent on the destruction of Morrighan. And only Lia can stop it.

With war on the horizon, Lia has no choice but to assume her role as First Daughter, as soldier—as leader. While she struggles to reach Morrighan and warn them, she finds herself at cross-purposes with Rafe and suspicious of Kaden, who has hunted her down.

In this conclusion to the Remnant Chronicles trilogy, traitors must be rooted out, sacrifices must be made, and impossible odds must be overcome as the future of every kingdom hangs in the balance.

This series has been an emotional, thrilling, wonderous, and at times, heartbreaking ride, and I’m so glad I finally finished it.

Lia grew so much throughout the series. She went from a scared girl afraid to marry a stranger – to a formidable queen who inspires everyone to listen to their hearts and fight for what’s right. She gains a strong, loyal following of family and friends in The Beauty of Darkness, which comes at no surprise, because she’s a strong, natural leader, with a kind heart and a steel resolve. I was amazed by the many sacrifices Lia made in this final book, blood, flesh, reputation and love.

I was also happy with the conclusions of Rafe and Kaden’s stories. Like Lia, they were also forced to make hard decisions and sacrifices in The Beauty of Darkness. Often when I read books with multiple POVS I dread switching back and forth between characters, because I almost always dislike at least one. I loved the entire trio in this series because each had their own unique personalities and journeys to travel.

Even though there was so much to love about this final book, it was my least favorite of the bunch. Because of the high energy books one and two built-up, the final showdown in The Beauty of Darkness should have been epic, unfortunately it wasn’t. The ending was extremely anticlimactic.

Regardless of the feeble finale, I still love this series so much and can see myself rereading it in a couple years.

three-half-stars
Dumplin

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie GarberCaraval (Caraval, #1) by Stephanie Garber
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31st 2017
Pages: 407
Goodreads
five-stars

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

 


There’s just a sad love… deep in your eyes… a kind of pale jewel….

That’s the lyrics to As the World Falls Down, my favorite song from my all time favorite movie, Labyrinth. Why am I type-humming it? Because my brain thought of Labyrinth so many times while reading Caraval! EXCELLENT.

The gist of Labyrinth: A sister, trying desperately to rescue their younger sibling, is forced into a beautiful, yet terrible magical place, that plays tricks on you, and forces you to make hard decisions. A ticking clock, a handful of characters that you don’t know if you can trust, and a very possible tragic ending.

Caraval reminded me of Labyrinth often, but it also was so completely its own thing. It was colorful, deadly, romantic, full of lies and promises and nightmares. I didn’t think I’d like this book, so I waited nearly a year after it was released to read it, and now I’m irritated with myself that I didn’t read it sooner. It was phenomenal!

Scarlet is racing against the clock, taking leaps of faiths, and reaping the benefits and consequences of those decisions. She’s often questioning her own sanity while trying to save her little sister Tella. Scarlet is so strong and brave, and full of so much love to risk everything to save her sister. But, this book is not just about Scarlet saving her sister, it’s also about her saving herself. Scarlet is forced to work through her own deep seated fears and unrealistic expectations, and has to question who she is, and who she wants to be.

There’s so many twists and secrets in this book, and I would never wish to spoil anyone, so I’m not going to go into any more details about the plot. Honestly, most of the time I didn’t really understand what was going on, because like Scarlet, everything was an illusion, lies mixed in with some truths, and I didn’t know what to believe. All of this was definitely purposeful though – so yay! The author succeeded in confusing me, not giving anything away, and making me so enraptured that I stayed up to 3am reading. #shameless

Garber’s writing is vigorous and vivid. This book is scary and beautiful. Part of me really wants a movie adaptation, but then the other part, really doesn’t. I’m conflicted, because I’d love to see the magic and dark beauty brought to life on the big screen, but also totally scared that the adaptation will be a failure like so many book-to-movie adaptations end up being.

Has anyone else fallen in love with Caraval? What do you think about a movie adaption?

five-stars