The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins is a wonderful conclusion to the Great Hunt Duology.

28370779.jpgLochlanach has traded the great beast for something far more terrible, a Lashed enemy veiled in beauty, deception, and a vengeance passed down through generations: Rozaria Rocato. And she’s offering the hunter Paxton Seabolt power and acceptance he could never receive in his homeland. Pax must decide how far he’s willing to go under her tutelage, knowing she is the opponent of Princess Aerity Lochson.

In a land where traditionalists dread change, the Lochlan throne must contend with mysterious foes and traitors, while attempting to keep revolt at bay. As dire circumstances strike the royal family, matters of the castle are left in Aerity’s hands. It’s time to put aside her fears and grasp the reign, taking actions that have the potential to save or destroy her people.

One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continue. In this sequel to The Great Hunt from New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins, political intrigue and romance intensify in another thrilling fantasy. Princess Aerity embraces a quest for identity and passion before making the ultimate sacrifice for her kingdom.

I am a huge fan of The Great Hunt. As my first Higgins novel, I knew I wanted to read more of her stuff, so I was ecstatic when The Great Pursuit released.

Right away, I loved being back into the heart of this special story. The Great Pursuit is a great continuation of Aerity’s story. There is duty and passion, romance and danger. Even though the violence is tame, there is plenty of danger and real-world consequences for these characters. This is definitely YA fantasy.

Paxton and Aerity are such a mature couple for their age and this genre. I was yearning for them to be together the entire time. I also enjoyed the secondary romances sprinkled throughout, specifically Aerity’s cousin, Wyneth, and her sister, Vixie. I’m always down for more than one couple to get a happy ending. Other than Paxton, my next favorite character has to be the guard Harrison. He was the most intriguing of all the men. He is extremely loyal yet restrained. The lengths he would go for the sake of the kingdom was so endearing. I’m happy he got what he deserved. And I can’t help but mention Furball. I don’t want to give anything away, but the animal lover in me loved this aspect of the story.

I read this book like a demon – I couldn’t put it down. I thought I would miss the hunt aspect that was so prevalent in the first book, but the impending war and contention between the lashed and unlashed left me breathlessly turning the pages. Plus, my desperate hope for Aerity and Paxton to be together had me clinging to the storyline. If you like YA Fantasy, this is one of the best examples of it that I’ve read in a while. It left me swooning with a goofy grin in the end. I highly recommend it.

STARS: 5 out of 5

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

I just finished A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas, the final installment of Feyre’s story. I want to sing and dance and laugh and cry. But mostly, I am content. I want for nothing.

23766634Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

I abhor spoilers so I will try my best to review this magnificent story without telling you anything. I know this review will not do it justice because it is SJM’s very words and spellbinding storytelling that make this series my favorite series of all time. Just know that it is a fitting end, a story that is satisfying without being bittersweet even knowing it will be the last.

The manipulation and deception in the first part of ACOWAR was so well done. My favorite scene at the wall is when Feyre reveals her badass fighting skills to Lucien. So. Epic. In fact, all the battle scenes had my blood thundering in my veins, that primal bloodlust simmering to the surface. With the very lives of everyone Feyre loves — that we, the reader, love — on the line, I almost couldn’t bear it, putting the book down just to catch my breath. It was an absolute honor to witness Cassian and Azriel fight. From the moment Cassian bellowed “SHIELDS!” as he led his army into certain death, it made my heart race. I’m getting goosebumps again just thinking about it.

And the BONE CARVER! Guys, that twist was spectacular. It’s like a gift from SJM to her readers. And I, for one, am grateful.

The scenes between Rhysand and Feyre I will always hold close to my heart, from their eventual reunion to standing together at the last. Rhysand’s heart-breaking words to his mate echo still, ringing in the deepest depths of my heart.

“Remember you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.”

I don’t know if I can say anything else. I cried, oh I cried, and I hoped, a painful kind of hope that fills you up too much, until desperation is pouring through your very skin. There is pain and terror and devastation, but there is also redemption, reconciliation, and for some characters, faint flickers of a fated future, one that may just come to pass.

My one request is I want MORE. There are so many unresolved relationships and new ones I didn’t even know about til now that I SHIP SO HARD! I hope to God that SJM will write more on these individuals.

ACOWAR is everything I wanted it to be and more. I’m in awe of SJM’s masterful writing and epic twists. However, it was the quieter twists in this book that stole my heart. How SJM finds quiet moments to capitalize on, where it isn’t the battle scenes and fights to the death that steal the spotlight, but the battles within ourselves, that are the hardest to fight but must be won before a blade can even be drawn.

I am sad that Feyre’s story is over, but I am content. It was well told, my heart bursting with a comfortable kind of satisfaction. However, knowing there will be a spin-off in 2018 makes the end easier to swallow.

READ this book. It may very well change your life. It did mine.

STARS: 5 out of 5

 

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

*deep breath*

Guys, I have too many feels about this series.

22698569.jpgIn 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.

When Queen of Tearling first came on the scene, I avoided it after reading reviews that pointed out it didn’t really have a romance, and I like stories with a romance somewhere in the narrative. Time passed, and when I heard that they’re making a movie, starring Emma Watson (who’s my homegirl), my interest piqued and I took the time to read it.

I LOVED Queen of Tearling. It was engaging and exciting, and had just enough Game of Thrones feel to raise my bloodlust. It was a heart-stopping and literal death-defying adventure for our young heroine.

Then book two happened. The Invasion of the Tearling was great, but it felt like the story suffered from split personality disorder. I loved reading about Kelsea and her world, with the historic feel as she fights for her Kingdom. I enjoyed Lily’s story as a woman living in a dystopian future. I did not like them together. Of course, the back and forth had a point and played a huge part in the story but I was in the mood for sword-fights and political maneuvering of kings and queens NOT survival in an oppressive society.

For book three, I had high hopes. The Fate of the Tearling was going to have all the answers, and it did. I was a little disappointed with who her father was, but I enjoyed the progression of some of the secondary characters like Father Tyler and Andalie’s daughter. However, there was ANOTHER type of split personality disorder, where Kelsea sees, yet again, into the past and it takes up half the novel. I was split between wanting to know what would befall the fate of Kelsea and her guards, and not caring AT ALL what happened in the past. Granted, the past and the future collided in the present with an epic ending, but I hated it so much that maybe there’s a sick part of me that actually loved it.

The ending left me bereft, adrift, and unsatisfied. I know the author was making a point and I understand it, but when it comes to entertainment value, I was left wanting. It made my heart hurt for the heroine. The ending was no ending at all but like being dropped open-ended into the abyss with no closure. And to top it all off, there really was zero romance in this series. There are pops of love interests but nothing ever comes to fruition in a satisfying way. Kelsea is as lonely in the beginning as she is in the end and it’s heartbreaking.

To be perfectly honest, there is a part of me that wishes I had never read this series because it makes me feel so bad. Granted, any book that can make me feel THIS MUCH certainly has an impact that most novels don’t have. I may grow to love it after much retrospection, but for now my opinion is solidly set in the disgruntled and dissatisfied reader territory. Read this series at your own risk.

 

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

When I finished the Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen, I couldn’t believe how long I waited to read it. It was so awesome and epic; it blew my mind. So I quickly picked up the sequel, The Invasion of the Tearling, expecting to devour a book equal in greatness. It was still awesome, but there was one particular element of the story that left a bad taste in my mouth.

22698568.jpgKelsea Glynn is the Queen of the Tearling. Despite her youth, she has quickly asserted herself as a fair, just and powerful ruler.

However, power is a double-edged sword, and small actions can have grave consequences. In trying to do what is right – stopping a vile trade in humankind – Kelsea has crossed the Red Queen, a ruthless monarch whose rule is bound with dark magic and the spilling of blood. The Red Queen’s armies are poised to invade the Tearling, and it seems nothing can stop them.

Yet there was a time before the Crossing, and there Kelsea finds a strange and possibly dangerous ally, someone who might hold the key to the fate of the Tearling, and indeed to Kelsea’s own soul. But time is running out…

Erika Johansen’s fierce and unforgettable young heroine returns in this dazzling new novel of magic and adventure, set in the beguiling world of the Tearling.

Unexpectedly, The Invasion of the Tearling is two books in one. Very early in the story, the main character Kelsea starts to have visions of the past (or what readers would consider a dystopian future). It was interesting to see how the world as we know it translated into the historical-feel of Kelsea’s time, but I hated switching back and forth. It was two completely different genres mashed into one story. I knew the past scenes had an impact and importance on Kelsea’s present, but I didn’t care to go back. It distracted me from Kelsea’s story, and to be perfectly honest, I was in the mood for a historical fantasy not a dystopian apocalypse and it made me frustrated as I read.

Another frustration I had was Kelsea’s character growth, or lack there of. To put it simply, Kelsea turned into a bit of a bitch with no remnant of the girl she used to be, the one I fell in love with, the one that saved her people from slavery because it was the right thing to do. Granted, the author may have done this on purpose to show later growth in Kelsea’s character, but I found it disheartening rather than endearing.

Now, this book wasn’t all bad. In fact, I can see where most readers would love the back and forth technique used in this novel. It was unique and different. I still love Kelsea and her guards. I want her to succeed and she kind of turned into a badass by the end of the book. At this point, I’m dying to know who her father is.

Overall with the series, the first book was awesome, the second book was so-so, but I’ll definitely be reading the third book to determine how I feel about this series.

STARS: 3.5 out of 5

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

In what now seems like many, many moons ago, I met Sara Raasch at DragonCon in Atlanta. (Well technically I didn’t meet her exactly, just watched her speak during a panel but we made eye contact at least once.) She seemed so cool, like I wanted to be her friend so I immediately bought her book…aaaaand it sat on my shelf for a few years. But NO MORE! I have read it and it’s as epically awesome as I thought it would be!

17399160.jpgA heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Snow like Ashes is my favorite kind of YA fantasy. The young heroine grapples with identity as she works her butt off to make a difference in the world. She’s deadly with a Chakram (awesome boomerang-like circle sword) but still struggles with hand-to-hand combat. There is a good ol’ fashioned love triangle that has substantial evidence to cause torn feelings while still moving slow through the relationships. It’s like Raasch preheated the oven perfectly before baking this love triangle to perfection. By the end of the novel, it’s been put in the oven and the batter is still rising! My face is pressed perilously close to the scorching window on the oven door as I salivate in anticipation. (Okay, maybe went a little overboard there. Lol.)

This story follows a very classic YA fantasy plotline but I didn’t mind it. It didn’t feel regurgitated or overdone. Within the first few pages, I took one step into Raasch’s world and I was gone, lost, drinking the Winterian kool-aid. The stakes felt real and the desperation of the Winterians permeated throughout the novel, making the final battle at the end that much sweeter. Even though this is the first book in a trilogy, I liked that there was still a building climax that left the reader satisfied even while wanting more.

Now, about that love triangle. Mather is the King, long-time friend and crush and Theron is the newcomer prince. I loved that each character was introduced in such a way that I felt like I knew them even as Meira is getting to know them. It makes my heart giddy just thinking about it.

I really, really like this one and I can’t wait to finish this trilogy.

STARS: 5 out of 5

 

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

This beauty of a book appeared on my doorstep as part of the monthly Uppercase Box subscription. Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill has been on my to-read list and I was excited to get started.

28114396Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

This story is not what I expected. In a good way, I think. To be perfectly honest, I was on a reading binge when I read this book, like, I read multiple books from the same genre in the span of 2-3 days. With that said, the details blur together but I’m going to do my best to explain why I liked Ever the Hunted.

I was struck by the discriminatory world of magic v. non-magic that the author created. I enjoyed the tension right of the bat for the female protagonist Britta. (I freaking loved her name and it immediately reminded me of Faerie Queene’s Britomart. Both women went on an adventure looking for their love. I’m not sure if it was intentional but it made my literary heart pitter patter.) The nature of Britta’s birth, as a descendent of one who practiced magic and as a Bounty Hunter’s “illegitimate” daughter, made the romance between her and bounty hunter apprentice Cohen have this forbidden quality. The fact that Cohen was wanted for her father’s murder was another layer of hurt, betrayal and distrust, and I liked the way the story progressed as Britta slowly unraveled the emotional trappings to how she really felt and the truth of the matter. The history between Britta and Cohen made their romance believable, and I was definitely on board with their relationship.

The magic component was probably my favorite part of the story and I’m hoping it expands as the series continues. As much as I liked this story, there wasn’t anything overtly special about it. It wasn’t until the end that I felt the plotlines were weaving into a more complex and intriguing web, specifically when the life-saving magic appears to create a connection that I’m secretly hoping turns into a love triangle in book two. Who knows, though, I might be reaching.

The mystery of who killed her father is slowly unveiled throughout the story but I felt the ending was too quickly – and neatly – wrapped up. It depended too much on a person’s honor. Where was their honor when they wanted to put her out on the street and steal her inheritance earlier in the story?

Bottom line, I liked it. I was entertained. I swooned as Britta and Cohen fought their feelings for each other and I was intrigued by the magic. This first book gave the impression that there is far more to the story and I’m hoping book two is bigger, more vibrant and better than its predecessor.

STARS: 4 out of 5

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab was incredibly original, intriguing, and quite honestly mind blowing.

“Monsters, monsters, big and small, They’re gonna come and eat you all.”

23299512There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

This Savage Song is the first book I’ve read from this author, but I’m going to remedy that as soon as possible. Schwab’s effortless writing style sucks the reader in immediately. The monster v. human dynamic within her bloodthirsty world was a refreshing, yet terrifying, escape for this reader. I’m always down for some bloodletting and Schwab did not disappoint.

Kate Harker, the main female protagonist, was gritty, corrupt and tormented, yet redeemable. August Flynn, the male protagonist, was vulnerable, raw and a deeply genius character. I loved how they were stereotypical opposites (e.g. the kind monster and the evil human). I loved that they were each searching for the same thing (to protect their kind/side) and both unable to condemn the other even though they tried. Their relationship was natural and confusing, unnatural and obvious all at the same time. I loved it!

“It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he felt human after doing something monstrous.”

I particularly enjoyed the different kinds of monsters; ones readers can recognize as pseudo-vampires (Malchai) or pseudo-zombies (Corsai), but my favorite were the Sunai – the soul-stealing, musical, eyes-like-coal monsters. The way Schwab portrayed the way the Sunai feed with music was beautiful. I really enjoyed being inside August’s head.

“He wasn’t made of flesh and bone, or starlight. He was made of darkness.”

Overall, I found myself breathless and mind-blown after reading this amazing novel. It told a unique story with an old-as-time “what makes us human?” undertone. This Savage Song was exciting, bloody and had me sitting on the edge of my oversized, reading chair.

“He could be a monster if it kept others human.”

STARS: 5 out of 5