A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

So, like…it was fine.  It didn’t live up to the hype but it didn’t utterly fail me, either.  It was engaging, the characters were interesting, the world was cool, but I just didn’t find myself particularly engaged at any point.  Like an “okay” first date, there was nothing wrong that I could put my finger on, but there was no…spark.  For this reason, I probably won’t be continuing with the series.

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Scythe by Neal Shusterman

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Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

I had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it.  I picked it up because it’s a Printz Medal winner, so it had to be good, right?  Yes.  I went in totally blind but it paid off so well.  I absolutely loved how Neal Shusterman took a no-holds-barred look at the role death plays in our lives and explored the problems of immortality.  All of this packaged up with characters to cheer for and a fascinating world.  I can’t wait to have this book for my shelves.

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The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Never thought I’d give a book in this series anything less than a 5/5 but good lord if that ending didn’t just ruin the whole thing. I loved everything right up until the last chapter. That last chapter made me question the existence of this entire series, this series I loved so much. I still love it, but I feel I’ll have to love it without that last chapter, like cutting out an ex-boyfriend from an old picture.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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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.

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

It’s books like this that make me suspicious of overnight successes that clog my bookstagram feed.  What a complete disappointment.  There was nothing clever about this book; it wasn’t “unique.”  It was a bore and a chore to get through.  The plot was laughable, the characters paper thin, and the writing style disengaging.  The world, which was supposed to be one of the major draws of the book, was meh.  For a book that haunts my social media, it’s just as insubstantial as a ghost.

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The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

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One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One NightsThe Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

If this were high school, The Wrath & The Dawn would be the popular girl who wore all the right clothes and never got an answer wrong in class, that everybody liked except me, but deep down I suspected that maybe she wasn’t all that bad.  Even after 100 pages, I was left wondering why everyone was crazy about this book.  Shahrzad wasn’t a bad character, per se, but she didn’t seem all that, either.  Combined with the execution of the plot and the writing style, The Wrath & The Dawn did not live up to its hype for me. Continue reading

Rook by Sharon Cameron

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History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

My main issue with Rook was the way in which the story hit every beat that has been hit a hundred times by hundreds of other stories.  The idea was sound, I thought, but none of the elements of the story seemed to really come together.  The characters came off as puppets, the plot was confusing since I had no idea where information was coming from, and the writing was pretty shy of the mark. Continue reading

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Thank the Lord for Erika Johansen.  I’d been despairing slightly about the state of fantasies lately, until I stumbled upon this gem.  As I understand it, this is her first novel, and good grief, am I not torn between admiration and envy.  Erika Johansen accomplished so much within 500 pages.  Everything about The Queen of the Tearling seemed effortless–except for the characters’ journeys, of course.  The writing seemed to disappear as I read, and the characters came to life, all little 3D reliefs against the backdrop of this beautifully imagined world. Continue reading