City of B

Royal Bastards (Royal Bastards #1) by Andrew Shvarts

Royal Bastards (Royal Bastards #1) by Andrew ShvartsRoyal Bastards (Royal Bastards, #1) by Andrew Shvarts
on May 30, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

Hands down this is one of the best books I’ve read this year!

Do you like Game of Thrones? Royal Bastards often reminded me of it, because of the scheming, backstabbing, epic fight scenes, despicable people, and terrifying beasts. Royal Bastards is definitely not as effed up as Game of Thrones though. It’s tamer, lighter, funny, and of course YA.

I chuckled a lot! The constant humor in Royal Bastards was one of the best parts of the book. The writing is chill and casual, which really surprised me when I started the book, because most fantasy stories have dense, poetic-like descriptions and dialogue. The informal writing made reading this book easier and more fun.

Tilla is a gem! I loved her immediately. She was always making me smile and laugh with her hilarious inner and outer dialogue. Tilla’s a bastard, which means she’s had the short straw since the day she was born. She’s such a good, brave, and caring person, and it was so unfair how awful she and the other bastards were treated because of a ridiculous label.

There’s great supporting characters! Jax, like his sister Tilla, is also very funny and brave. His jokes helped raise everyone’s spirits during the awful times. Zell is attractive, brooding, and stoic, which meant I fell for him instantly. The princess Lyriana annoyed me in the beginning, because she was super bubbly and naive. Eventually she grew on me when she got smacked with a dose of harsh reality, and started to mature. The other characters were likable enough, I just didn’t like them as much as Tilla, Jax, Zell, and eventually Lyriana.

You need to read this book! It’s entertaining and never boring.

City of B

Sweet Black Waves (Sweet Black Waves #1) by Kristina Pérez

Sweet Black Waves (Sweet Black Waves #1) by Kristina PérezSweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez
Published by Imprint on June 5, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Supernatural
Pages: 448
Source: Netgalley

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what's right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she's ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

So I’m a complete mess right now. I’m stuck between wanting to scream or cry. Maybe I’ll just cry very, very loudly, because I’m angry and so intensely sad. The ending of Sweet Black Waves shattered me. This book is loosely based off of Tristan and Eseult, a story that I’m not entirely familiar with, except for the fact that it’s a tragedy. I knew going into Sweet Black Waves that it wasn’t going to end with sunshine and daisies, but ugh, I still didn’t expect it to hit me so harshly.

Branwen is a complex character, who I loved immediately. She’s got a huge heart, always giving, and putting everyone, especially Essy, first. Sometimes I was mad at her, because she kept harmful secrets and made dubious decisions. I wished that Branwen had been more forthcoming sometimes, and let herself lean on others, instead of always letting them lean on her. But that’s not in her nature. She wants to fix everything, and everyone, herself, and her constant love and sacrifice made me love and care about her even more.

The Tristan and Eseult connection wasn’t what drew me to Sweet Black Waves. I immediately knew I wanted to read Sweet Black Waves, because it was described as being a book that fans of The Mists of Avalon – a huge favorite of mine – would love. I’m also obsessed with the Mabinogion, which some of the characters and their stories in Sweet Black Waves, are loosely based on. I loved Pérez’s new spin on this beloved literature of mine! You can tell that she also really loves the Mabinogion.

I thought the story was dragging a bit during the last third of Sweet Black Waves, but then thankfully two hugely significant things happened. One that thrilled me, because I never ever expected it, and I’m really excited to see how it plays out in the future books. The second thing completely broke my heart. Even though I knew something of the sort was coming, it still caught me unawares.

I read an ARC of Sweet Black Waves, but fully plan on buying a finished copy for myself.

City of B

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1) by Soman Chainani
Published by HarperCollins on May 14, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 488
Source: Self Purchase

The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

I read The School for Good and Evil many years ago, and had always meant to continue on with the rest of the series, but one thing led to another, and I sort-of forgot all about it. Well, after spending some time removing books from my Goodreads TBR list, ones that I knew I’d never actually get to, I came across book two in the The School for Good and Evil series. I recalled enjoying book one, so then and there I decided I wanted to finally continue with the series. However,  first I needed to re-read book one, because it had been so many years, and I definitely knew I didn’t remember enough to read books 2, 3, and so forth.

And, wow! It only took about 50 pages, before I remembered that I loved The School for Good and Evil. This series is a delicious, magical dish, concocted with clever, hilarious, heartwarming, and at times, very dark ingredients. It explodes with creativity and magic, and I hated having to put it down for silly things like work, sleep, etc.   

The School for Good and Evil is a shining example of the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. You have two girls, one dark, sullen, and macabre, and one who’s vivacious, bright, and constantly called extremely beautiful. You’d think it’d be obviously as which girl belongs in which school, but not so fast! Looks can be extremely deceiving, and in a surprising move to everyone in this book, the melancholy girl is dropped into the school for good, and the angelic-looking one, the school for evil.

I loved how this book was all about shades of gray.  There’s no such thing as perfect. Everyone has their own strengths, flaws, and weaknesses, and hard choices to make, and those choices are what defines you, not your appearance and/or personality. Being beautiful doesn’t make you good, and being ugly doesn’t make you bad.

I’m so glad I reread this book! It’s got magic, budding romance, and lots and lots of fairy-tale characters and creatures. Plus, it’s all about sisters before misters. *high five*

City of B

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

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.