fantasy · ya

Operation Return to Hogwarts: Year One

Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts. Like millions (billions?) of other readers around the globe, Harry Potter has my heart and has had it for years. I remember when I first discovered it – my mom bought the Sorcerer’s Stone for my 9th birthday. It had only been out a few months at this point and was starting to gain a following, but I was completely unfamiliar with it and, honestly, wasn’t too interested in opening it so I held off for a bit. When I finally did sit down to read though, it was all over for me. I was sold.

Eventually AOL created HP message boards and if anyone remembers Leah Riddle or Loki Riddle, HIIII~ I ended up meeting some of my very best friends there and a decade+ later our friendships are still going strong (take that, you naysayers that insist real friendships can’t be formed online.) In 2008 a friend and I flew to Chicago to take part in Terminus, a convention where we jammed to wizard rock, got sorted into houses, attended a ball, and even played Quidditch – our team reached the semi-finals and even went up against a professional team. We made it to the Chicago papers too! (I’ll definitely have to do some tbt photos on instagram, that week was an absolute blast.

ANYWAY, I love Harry Potter. A lot. Yet I haven’t read the series since Deathly Hallows came out eight years ago. With each release I would go back and reread the previous books in the series, but once it was all said and done a part of me was terrified of revisiting these books. Would they still hold up after all these years? Would it feel different reading them ‘alone’ instead of with millions of other people at the same time?

Over the weekend I made the decision to finally – finally – start from the beginning and I feel absolutely ridiculous for being so worried. I actually jumped into Chamber of Secrets immediately after finishing Sorcerer’s Stone and that’s something I NEVER do. I never ever EVER binge read series in one go. At least not since blogging – years ago I loved to do it and this weekend I discovered why I loved it so much.

I decided to do a mini series dubbed Operation Return to Hogwarts to jot down my thoughts/feelings/whatever else I want to discuss. These won’t be actual reviews – plenty of those exist.

I DIDN’T REALIZE THE WRITING WAS SO YOUNG. The first thing that stuck out for me when rereading SS was just how young the style was. Naturally, Harry is only 10/turning 11 in this book, but I now completely understand why adult readers who had never read the series find it a bit hard to get into. As someone who loooves Middle Grade, though, I didn’t mind, I was just a bit surprised. As he ages the writing style and voice matures as well (and as Jo became more experience, I suppose) so it would make sense that I forgot about the younger tone.

I FORGOT ABOUT A TON OF CHARACTERS. Minor ones though, I promise! Hahahaha, it’s not like I forgot about Dumbledore or anyone – but instead secondary characters like Mrs. Figg (how did I forget about Mrs. Figg??) and Norbert! ♥ Norbie I’m so sorry.

MCGONAGALL IS KIND OF A B. At least in the opening scenes/early chapters. When I think of her, I imagine a total BAMF and was shocked when I noticed her characterization here was more severe than I remembered. Also, when she and Dumbledore meet on Privet Drive (just before Hagrid drops off a baby Harry) their interactions/conversations felt really odd. As though they didn’t know one another and hadn’t been working together for years. Maybe that’s just me being overly critical these days. Either way, in the beginning of the book I felt as though McGonagall (one of my favorite characters) was set up to be a character to dislike.

I GOT THE BOOKS MIXED UP. Obviously not the Big Pictures (I know the Triwizard Tournament doesn’t take place in the second book, etc) but small things I misremembered. The zoo scene with the snake, in my mind, happened in CoS. I was shocked while reading about detention in the Forbidden Forest. Somehow I connected that to Aragog and convinced myself that happens in PoA. Having read the scene, however, I feel like an idiot. I’m discovering all sorts of details I knew at one time but had forgotten over the years.

I’M HOME. After all these years, Harry and Hogwarts hold such a large part of my heart and all weekend I was kicking myself for waiting so, so long to return to these books. Now that I have, I think I’ll have a hard time tearing myself away to read other books!

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fantasy · ya

7 reasons YOU should be reading Seraphina & Shadow Scale


Seraphina | Shadow Scale (Seraphina #1 & 2) by Rachel Hartman

If you follow me on goodreads, instagram, or twitter, you probably noticed that for the past two weeks I’ve been on a huge dragon kick. I had a review copy of Shadow Scale and a copy of Seraphina on my shelves that had been gathering dust for the past year. For once I decided to get my butt in gear and find out what this series is all about and OH MY GOSH WHY DIDN’T ANY OF YOU FORCE THIS ON ME EARLIER?! I fell hard for these two books and with Shadow Scale‘s release, I wanted to do something a little differently. Instead of my usual review, I’m going to give you seven awesome things you’re missing out on by not reading this series!

WORLD-BUILDING
Throughout high school I lived and breathed Fantasy. When it’s good, it’s great, and when it’s not, the problem comes down to one thing: the world-building. Contemporary fiction and Mysteries need world-building, yes, but because those genres tend to be firmly rooted in the Real World, it’s really not too difficult to make the setting sound convincing. Fantasy doesn’t work without a solid foundation. When I first started reading Seraphina and saw mentions of places like Goredd, Ninys, Samsam, and Porphyry, I was a little concerned. Would this debut author really have the chops to craft, not just a believable city, but an entire universe? …turns out that, yes, yes she can.

While the names might take some getting used to in the beginning, halfway through Seraphina they’re so ingrained in your mind that you think nothing of it. While reading, these countries became real, and that is the mark of a truly gifted writer. Although Seraphina takes place in Phina’s native country of Goredd, Shadow Scale introduces us to the other countries and I couldn’t wait to go exploring! Each land has a distinct voice, a distinct culture and I’m completely in awe of Rachel Hartman. Bravo, madam!

GLOSSARY/MAPS
Just like any self-respecting Fantasy, this series comes with a massive multi-page glossary in both books – trust me, you’ll need it. Ard, quig, saar (a shortened form of saarantras), ityasaari, these words all have very specific meanings and you do not want to get them mixed up (I think a Son of St. Ogdo would have your head if you called him a saar). Again, initially I was a little confused (it took a while for me to figure out Ardmagar was a title and not a separate character!), but once I got the hang of it, I was golden.

As if the glossaries didn’t make my heart swell already, Shadow Scale features a map! If a book has a map in it, there’s a good chance I’ll read it; I’m a total map girl.

CHARACTERS
Rachel Hartman created a mind-boggling amount of characters here. Don’t worry though, because there’s another glossary just for the characters! (seriously, it’s like Hartman peeked into my heart and found everything that makes me happydance) There are characters that exist in the world and then an entirely separate set that exists in Seraphina’s ‘garden’ in her head. I could seriously go on for days about these fantastic people – including my little love Abdo ♥ Instead I’m going to tell you a little story: last weekend I had a nightmare. In this dream I was in a house inside a bedroom, but I couldn’t sleep because the house across the street had an evil ghost inside who could see through the walls and would stare at me. At one point I left that bedroom, ready to run downstairs in an attempt to flee and when I did, I left the bedroom door wide open. When I got downstairs, there was a voice asking me if I had remembered to shut and lock the bedroom door because if I hadn’t it meant the ghost could come through. When I woke up I was completely baffled and chalked it up to a movie or something…only to later realize that HOLY CRAP my dream was about Jannoula, an evil character who tried to slip into Phina’s mind and control her until Phina was able to trick her into being locked up inside a cottage. What I’m trying to get at here is that these characters are so expertly written that I’m constantly thinking about them – whether I’m awake or asleep.

DRAGONS
The real kicker here. In Seraphina’s world, being half-dragon is seen as dirty, something to be ashamed of. Phina herself is half-dragon and she goes to great lengths to conceal her scales (a band around her waist and forearm). Phina’s condition really isn’t too bad – one character has to hide a tail and another (my dear, sweet Abdo) has never been able to speak because his mouth and throat are coated in scales. A treaty had been signed to make peace between the dragons and humans, but the hard feelings still remain decades later. There are groups who fiercely oppose the treaty and take it upon themselves to brutally attack anyone they suspect of being a dragon (hence Phina’s constant veil of secrecy).

That said, dragons are amazing teachers although they lack emotion to allow them to convincingly pass in their human form. This is actually pretty funny – there are multiple scenes where a dragon tries to joke or show affection and I giggled like crazy. In their dragon form, though, I wouldn’t dare dream of giggling – they’re all business.

So I might be getting a little ahead of myself, but not since Harry Potter have I come across such detailed dragons. This race has a history, they have their own customs and politics and more than a few blemishes in their past.

SLOW-BURN ROMANCE
Oh, Lucien. The romance between Phina and Lucien has a BIG red flag all over it: he’s the Prince and engaged to the Princess…who happens to be Phina’s closet friend and student (Phina teaches music). Yeah, it’s messy and they both know it. I honestly wasn’t even sure if I should include their relationship here: it’s slow to the point of nonexistence (particularly after EVENTS in Shadow Scale)

PLOT TWISTS
SORRY GUYS, that’s all you’re getting from me here! I honestly was caught off-guard a few times.

THIS SERIES IS SMART
Not just in terms of subject matter (philosophy, politics, and religion all play HUGE roles), but in the way threads weave together. I can’t even begin to imagine what Hartman’s outline or notes must have looked liked! Minor characters mentioned in a chapter in the very beginning of the story play vital roles, there’s so much depth to the characters, and Hartman has seriously created centuries worth of history for these people. When I read Seraphina, I kept thinking about how it was trying so hard to be a Serious Story with its new language and constant talk of treaties and documents and pacts that happened decades (if not centuries) ago. But, no. This series wasn’t trying to be anything other than what it is: a damn good story with a wealth of secrets and hidden nooks and crannies. Check your pre-conceived notions at the door, folks, Seraphina is about to take you on the ride of your life.

2 stars · 2014 · fantasy

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen
Pub. Date: July 8, 2014
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.

With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their never ending game.
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:

Everyone knows the evil Captain Hook, the villain of Neverland. What Alias Hook delivers is the tale of Jamie Benjamin Hookbridge, the eleven-year-old boy obsessed with ships. James Hookbridge, the charming young man who enjoyed women and drink and was in no hurry to settle down. The curse that cast him a devil, the boy who haunts him day and night, and his only chance at a way out.

I’m a big fan of retellings. A big fan. When I first heard about a retelling that focused on Captain Hook, the story that told his side, I couldn’t contain myself. This was a story for me. Unfortunately, after an extremely strong start, I quickly found myself losing focus; Alias Hook lost its steam hardly a quarter of the way into the story.

Hook’s childhood was fascinating and I loved these early alternating chapters between his life in London in the late 1600s and his hellish existence in Neverland in (what turns out to be) 1950. I’m a total sucker for a good backstory and I think it’s crucial to a successful retelling. Hook’s time spent with his father, his passion for the sea, even his early adulthood when he was often found in a saloon with his uppercrust pals or entertaining ladies in a seedy brothel. These windows into just who this man was made the story for me. I’ll take some good old-fashioned character exploration over action scenes any day of the week.

Unfortunately, once his backstory was established and there were no longer any of those lovely looks into his previous life – his mortal life – I found it was a struggle to continue. There was a woman Hook loved, though he secretly wasn’t looking forward to a life at home with a wife and children. He took to the seas and never returned. A dark curse was placed upon him, sending him to a boy’s fantasy world where he would forever be tormented and challenged. Two centuries later – two centuries worth of shipmates, Lost Boys, Wendys, and Pan’s antics – Hook discovers something new to Neverland: a woman.

Stella Parrish was a nurse who aided wounded soldiers in the Second World War. When that world became too unbearable, she sought the refuge of her childhood dreams and soon found herself in a place she immediately recognized from her storybooks. Naturally she doesn’t believe Hook is really the Captain Hook, nor does she take Pan’s word as truth; he’s just a silly boy, a child. What power could he possibly wield? It’s not until she witnessed firsthand just how deadly Pan’s games are that she comes to realize this isn’t silly, this isn’t a game. For centuries Pan has acted out his heroic fantasies while Hook is predestined to lose every single time. While he is never fatally harmed (despite his longing for release from this dreadful place), his men, mere mortals, die for Lost Boys grow up to become men and Pan would never allow grown-ups to plague his world.

Stella’s arrival is met with confusion – if Pan’s in charge and he adamantly refuses to allow adults, just how did a grown woman appear? Hook takes her aboard his ship in an attempt to protect her and possibly gain the upper hand on Pan for once (Hook reasons that Stella made her way to Neverland without Pan’s knowledge and he won’t pass up any advantage he could have over the boy). Over time the two become close and, yeah, I wasn’t at all surprised by the romance – anyone reading this book should not be surprised. The only woman in Neverland and the first woman Hook has seen in over two hundred years? Yeah.

There’s lovely homage paid to J. M. Barrie. Although he’d long since passed by Stella’s arrival, Hook remembers him as Pan’s Scotch Boy. Barrie was one of the Lost Boys and when he returned to our world and grew up, a part of him retained those childhood memories. In his recollections, however, Barrie viewed Peter as a great leader, as all Lost Boys do, thus making Peter Pan beloved and renowned while Hook was demonized.

While I felt the story began to drag once James became Hook, I was never not interested. I certainly wasn’t nearly as invested in the story as I had been in the beginning, leading to it taking nearly two weeks to read when I typically get through a book in two or three days. By the halfway mark I found myself skimming over the longer passages, usually those scenes where Hook was lamenting Stella’s absence or discussing matters with his men. A large part of the book was slow-going and as much as I love a story that takes its time, Alias Hook didn’t have enough to keep me turning the pages. Many nights I only got through a chapter – two if they were short. Although I wasn’t as in love with Alias Hook as I had hoped, I like the idea behind it and I loved the look into Captain Hook’s life before Neverland. His quest for redemption, for death, captivated me and the ending is open to a variety of interpretations. And, really, the cover is seriously spectacular in person. The colors are astoundingly vivid!

NOTABLE QUOTES

We were the envy of every clerk and apprentice in London, and most of their masters. We were dazzling. We were immortal.

This is what I am, what I’ve become in this place: handmaiden to the dead. My last, my only desire is to one day be rewarded for my centuries of service, earn my own passage into the Kingdom of Hades, and be allowed to rest in peace. But I am aged Charon ferrying the souls of the damned to the Underworld where I can never follow. The obolus has yet to be coined that will purchase my passage out of this never-ending Purgatorio.

1 star · 2014 · fantasy · romance · ya

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson
Pub. Date: July 15, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (thank you, Henry Holt!)
Summary: In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating:

On the day she is to be married, Princess Lia makes the rash decision to flee. She leaves behind her family, her home, everything she has ever known for a new life, a life where she’s free to do whatever she pleases and marry whomever she chooses. As First Daughter, she was nothing but a disappointment. All First Daughters are given the Gift, the ability to see and predict the future, but somehow this ability was passed over Lia. She grew up watching the effects it had on her own mother, another First Daughter, and realized nothing good could come from it.

Despite what the marriage would bring to her kingdom, Lia runs away, her maid in tow. They conspire to head to the maid’s hometown, a quiet little village where they can hide, and along the way barter for clothes, food, and horses. Unfortunately for Lia, the Prince isn’t one to handle rejection quite so easily and there’s also an assassin on her trail. That quiet life Lia had hoped for? Not gonna happen.

It’s a shame this book didn’t live up to my expectations. I honestly wanted to like it! It’s not for a lack of skill – Pearson writes beautifully. Instead it’s because I was lied to; the entire novel was a lie. The Kiss of Deception is pitched as Fantasy – High Fantasy at that! – when it’s actually an almost-500 page love triangle with a ‘twist’ that was so confusing I went back and reread earlier chapters because I had thought I misread.

I was looking forward to this princess who shares my name, particularly when other bloggers began lavishing her with praise over what a strong female she is. I’m wondering if I read a different book. Okay, sure, Lia has been practicing with a dagger, but where’s the kickass woman I was promised? She puts on an ever-so-brave face to wait on tables at a bar. She carelessly throws a generations-old ceremonial robe into a river and dons filthy commoners’ clothing. Clearly I missed something.

Because there’s nothing else as far as actual plot goes, the love triangle dealt with the Prince and the Assassin and the minute these two walk into the bar they’re all Lia can think about. One is dark-haired and brooding. The other is light and full of warmth. Gag. When Lia wasn’t pining after these two she was listening to Pauline wax poetic about her own love. A medieval tavern does not a High Fantasy make, Pearson! Dishing out mugs of ale to dockworkers doesn’t give you a free pass. The Kiss of Deception was a long, drawn out romance and had I known that, I would never have bothered.

Naturally there’s a Big Reveal, Lia chooses one of the boys, and that’s that. The entire thing could have been condensed into a novella. If you’re looking for a new Fantasy series, look elsewhere. Trust me, this isn’t what you’re looking for. However, if you’re a big fan of romance and love triangles, you might want to check it out. I’ve heard good things about Pearson’s Jenna Fox series, but after this book, you’ll be hard-pressed to convince me they’re worth reading.

2014 · 3 stars · fantasy · ya

The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colors of Madeleine #2) by Jaclyn Moriarty
Pub. Date: March 25, 2014
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Arthur A. Levine Books!!)
Summary: Princess Ko’s been bluffing about the mysterious absence of her father, desperately trying to keep the government running on her own. But if she can’t get him back in a matter of weeks, the consequence may be a devastating war. So under the guise of a publicity stunt she gathers a group of teens — each with a special ability — from across the kingdom to crack the unsolvable case of the missing royals of Cello.

Chief among these is farm-boy heartthrob Elliot Baranski, more determined than ever to find his own father. And with the royal family trapped in the World with no memory of their former lives, Elliot’s value to the Alliance is clear: He’s the only one with a connection to the World, through his forbidden communications with Madeleine.

Through notes, letters, and late nights, Elliot and Madeleine must find a way to travel across worlds and bring missing loved ones home.
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating:

This review is for the SECOND book in a series. I’ll try to keep things vague, but heads up for potential spoilers!

After last year’s A Corner of White (read my review here), I was sold. Who wouldn’t want to read about a world totally separate from ours where colors can execute deadly attacks!! Immediately after finishing I knew I needed to read The Cracks in the Kingdom – I wanted to read it so badly it was one of my most anticipated releases this year. While I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the first, it was still a solid second novel and worthy sequel, setting up the scene for a fantastic third book!

Madeleine Tully lives with her mother in Cambridge, England. Once spoiled by a lavish lifestyle, Madeleine now resides in a cramped, leaking apartment and the building’s residents take turns homeschooling the children. A few months ago she discovered something remarkable: a small crack in a parking meter leads to another world. Naturally Madeleine assumed it was a prank – there’s no way another world exists, right? The more she and Elliot communicated, however, the more she came to believe what she was seeing.

Elliot Baranski lives in a small farming community called Bonfire in the Kingdom of Cello. It’s a world much like ours, only with the added danger of colors. Yep. Certain colors can be wonderful things – turquoise, for instance, can give you an adrenaline rush like none you’ve experienced before! – while other colors can be devastating. Elliot recently lost his uncle to a Purple attack and his father still hasn’t been found, although there are rumors floating around that he’s been seen. When the entire royal family (save for Princess Ko) mysteriously vanishes, the entire matter is treated with the utmost secrecy; dealing with the World is extremely illegal and punishable by death. Elliot is among a small group recruited to help rescue them and now he needs Madeleine’s help more than ever.

While The Cracks in the Kingdom wasn’t a bad book by any means, it definitely suffered a big from Second Book Syndrome – and was very much Elliot’s story. A Corner of White beautifully set up both worlds and was chock-full of character development. This time around I didn’t get that at all. Madeleine’s mother played a large role in the first book; she wasn’t in it at all in the second. The same with her friends (and we’ll get to Belle’s mindboggling change of character in a moment). Instead, this book gave much of its focus to Elliot’s story and Cello – understandable, since the plot revolved around finding the missing royal family.

The Cracks in the Kingdom gives a deeper look into Cello and I loved exploring this world! There’s a lake where you can catch spells – and only if you’re under a certain age. There are strange new sports and, of course, the color attacks. Unfortunately, I felt the lack of both worlds ultimately made the story suffer a bit. I could have dealt with that if it wasn’t for the abrupt character changes. Out of nowhere Madeleine’s friend Belle leaves a note (the others joke that it’s a suicide note and her own mother doesn’t seem worried) and runs away from home to be with a “man” she’s fallen for. A grown man. These are 14-year-old children. That entire subplot not only seemed tacked on last-minute (particularly since it was at the VERY end of the book and lasted all of a few pages), but completely rubbed me the wrong way.

The end provided a few surprising reveals – I honestly didn’t see a certain one coming! – and sets things up nicely for the third book. The royal family, now found, is stuck in the World, half-remembered who they really are and unable to get home. Elliot and Madeleine have finally managed to see each other (in the first book I wasn’t quite sure how a potential romance could work out, but The Cracks in the Kingdom does a decent job of making it not only plausible, but a reality), and the cracks between the worlds are becoming larger. Despite my issues with this novel I still thoroughly enjoyed it and am definitely looking forward to the next book!

2 stars · 2014 · fantasy · mg

mini review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

17910570 Title: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
Author: Karen Foxlee
Pub. Date: January 28, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (thank you, Knopf Books!!)
Summary: Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Rating:

After the recent loss of her mother, Ophelia travels with her sister and father to a museum where her father is working on a sword exhibit. While exploring the various floors one afternoon, Ophelia discovers a mysterious boy who’s locked behind a door. He tells her his name was taken from him three hundred years ago by a group of wizards and that he had been sent to defeat the Snow Queen. Being a child whose beliefs lie in science rather than tales, Ophelia initially shrugs him off – this boy doesn’t look a day older than she does yet he insists he’s 300? As she hears more of his stories, however, she comes to realize there might be something to them after all. Unfortunately time is running out and the pair only have three days to beat the evil Snow Queen before the world ends.

As much as I wanted to love this one, I just couldn’t get into it. I should know better than to automatically leap at comparisons, yet the first mention of Roald Dahl had me hooked. While the similarities were abundant and clear, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy would have needed something more for it to work.

Throughout the book, Boy’s own story is told and these chapters were my favorite. There was definitely a fairy tale-like quality to them that I loved and the giant owls, the wizards, the King – they were all so vivid and full of character. Back in the present, however, I couldn’t connect with Ophelia’s story. Numerous times her mother talks to her and even after reading I’m still unsure as to whether that was real or if it was all in Ophelia’s head (with this story both options are entirely plausible).

Toward the end I was skimming more than reading and the big fight scene was over in such a rush it felt completely pointless. I had high expectations for Ophelia and the Real Boy and, sadly, they fell flat. Despite my lackluster feelings, I do think this book will find its fans and I’m disappointed I was not one of them.

2013 · 5 stars · fantasy · ya

epic recs: shadow and bone by leigh bardugo

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo
June 5, 2012
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Sometimes I need a push to read a book. Whether it’s because I’ve had an iffy experience with the author/similar novels in the past or I simply have too much on my plate already, there have been numerous books widely loved that I just haven’t managed to get to yet. Shadow and Bone is one of those novels. For over a year I’ve been hearing absolutely GLOWING reviews and the current buzz over the third (and final?! I HOPE NOT!) installment coming in the spring has brought this series to my attention once again.

Earlier in December, I posted about Epic Recs, a book club of sorts founded by Judith and Amber. What makes this book club different is that you have a partner and you recommend books to each other. You can read more about it in my post – including what book I recommended to Lillian! As for Lillian, she wasted no time in recommending Shadow and Bone and I immediately grabbed a copy from my library. Russia (or, in this case, Russia-inspired), high fantasy, mythology – these are things that IMMEDIATELY appeal to me. I dove right in and, much to my delight, was not disappointed one bit!

Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina and Mal, two orphans who were taken in by a Duke and raised together. When they were children they were visited by Grisha, people who possess magical abilities. Every child in Ravka undergoes testing to determine Grisha talents, but neither Alina nor Mal presented abilities and that was it. Ten years later, however, things have changed. Mal is a tracker in the First Army and Alina is a passable mapmaker. On an expedition to the Shadow Fold, a darkness home to creatures seemingly plucked from nightmares, Alina risks her life to save Mal’s and soon the entire kingdom hails the coming of their Sun Summoner.

Suddenly Alina is thrown into the world of the Grisha, a world with magic, fine clothes, and people so utterly breathtaking they can’t possibly be real (and I won’t say anything further on that!). As a Sun Summoner Alina ranks among the most powerful Grisha – comparable to the Darkling, a man who has taken quite an interest in this once-ordinary girl.

Alina’s put to the test – physically, mentally, and emotionally. She’s desperate for a friendly face, she misses the bond she shared with Mal, and struggles to perform her magic. The pressure of being Ravka’s savior weighs heavy on her shoulders and the complete lack of word from Mal cuts deep. Could this pale, scrawny, lonely orphan really be the answer to Ravka’s prayers? Could Alina truly be the person to banish the Fold?

Just like with The Raven Boys, I dreaded the thought of writing a review for Shadow and Bone. I loved this book, absolutely ADORED it, and nothing I could possibly type could ever do it justice. Leigh Bardugo thoroughly won me over, not just with the Russian-esque setting, but with her gorgeous writing, fantastic characters, and beautiful story. I was completely enchanted and had to make the hard decision of reading the entire book in one go (I definitely didn’t want to stop!) or take my time to live and breathe this world. Ultimately the latter choice won – though it was certainly a hard decision to make! – and I spent four glorious days immersed in the world of Grisha.

It’s extremely rare for me to jump right into the next book in a series, but my library currently has a copy of Siege and Storm and, well, I’ve never been very good at controlling temptation..