Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Information

Goodreads: Long May She Reign
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: Feb. 2017

Summary

As twenty-third in line to the throne, Freya never expected to be queen.  But someone poisons nearly the entire court at a banquet and suddenly the reclusive teen is expected to rule a nation.  Unfortunately, Freya never paid much attention to the court or to the country.  She imagines she can leave the ruling to the council but, with a murderer still at large, trusting others may cost Freya her life.

Star Divider

Review

“Perhaps you’ll have to kiss him again, if you’re not sure. Gather more evidence. In the name of science.”

Long May She Reign is one of those books with a protagonist readers are supposed to cheer because she “isn’t like the other girls.”  Unfortunately, this makes her all too much like a host of other YA protagonists.  Freya, you see, would rather conduct experiments in her lab than attend to the court.  And she detests girls like Madeleine Wolff who are pretty and adept at navigating social situations with wit and grace.  After all, who needs social skills when you’re so much more intellectual than all those other rich people?

To be fair, Freya does grow throughout the book.  She learns that she really should have been paying attention to the rules of court if she wants to survive there. And she begins to learn that there are people in the city with larger problems than “my dad wants me to go to a party and I don’t wanna.”  Readers will likely want to cheer her along her journey because she comes across as such an underdog.  As twenty-third in line to the throne and a teenager, she’s really like a lamb being thrown to the wolves.  She assumes she can trust other people in the court to attend to matters that they are supposed to know more about.  She has to find out the hard way that there’s a difference between relying on others’ knowledge and being negligent.

But I didn’t pick up this book for Freya; I wanted a book with court intrigue.  In this regard, Long May She Reign did a decent, if not spectacular job. We do see some of the inner workings of court politics and those politics  make more sense than most of the politics I see in YA.  I’m still wondering why Freya has so much free time and freedom to go sneaking around the castle and the city–with a man!–(doesn’t she have…laws to read and sign off on?  or something?) and I didn’t find the ending overly convincing.  (It assumes that the populace is ignorant and susceptible, which seems odd.  I didn’t get the general impression that science was something that could easily delude scores of people, many of whom are educated.  Unless we are supposed to accept the implied explanation that religious people are…dumb and not interested in science?)  However, I recognize that most readers of YA don’t share my enthusiasm for logical plots, so I don’t think these attributes will hurt the story for the general reader.

Long May She Reign is a fairly standard YA fantasy.  It features a typical “different than the others” heroine, a romance that falls into tropes towards the end, and an over-simplified vision of politics.  Still, it’s not a bad way to spend a few days.

3 Stars

Advertisements

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Furyborn

Information

Goodreads: Furyborn
Series: Empirium #1
Source: City Book Review
Publication Date: May 22, 2018

Official Summary

Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

Star Divider

Review

I admit had some concerns about Furyborn before going into it.  The plot summary on the jacket seemed like one of those unwieldy things where the editor(s) couldn’t quite figure out how to convey what the main point of the story was, so they just kept writing, and I had questions about how the stories of two queens born 1000 years apart were going to converge. After reading Furyborn…I realize my concerns were well-founded.

I think high fantasy like Furyborn often gets a pass on some striking flaws because when a book is “high concept,” readers can step back and say, “Oh, but it’s so imaginative! So creative! So unique!” It’s harder to do this with a book that’s, say, about a girl going to prom. If the pacing is off there, the pacing is off, and readers aren’t going to excuse it because some shiny magic or badass speeches about saving the world compensated for it.  Basically what I’m saying is that I have conflicted feelings about Furyborn because I am experiencing this; I had definite issues with this book, but the cool world building occasionally made me think that maybe I could deal with them.

The primary problem: The book purports to have two protagonists with chapters alternating their points of view—but keep in mind that these protagonists live over 1000 years apart.  My concerns that their storylines would be too disparate were well-founded.  For the vast majority of the book, I felt as though I were reading too entirely separate novels. Honestly, I think in some ways the book could use a complete overhaul.  The novel should have been about the “present day” queen, and the history of the older queen 1000 years in the past should have been woven in.  Why the author decided to write these two things as parallel stories, and why the editor kept it, is beyond me. It may be unique, but I think there’s a reason people don’t generally write books like this; it doesn’t really work.

I also got annoyed that there was basically a cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter (until Rielle began completing a sequence of tasks, for which the outcome was obvious because…Eliana’s half of the book is set 1000 years in the future, and all the characters already know all about Rielle’s life). Some reader may actually find these cliff-hangers engaging, so it’s a personality thing, but I found it incredibly frustrating to keep jumping between two different stories that were always keeping information just out of reach.

Finally, I just didn’t really connect with any of the characters in the book—the protagonists or their various love interests.  The author does try to make the characters complex, and I applaud that effort, but Eliana has the issue that she’s obnoxious and I mostly felt that other characters kept *telling* me she is secretly a wonderful person with a good heart, but it was hard to see why they thought so.  Rielle is more interesting in terms of whether she’s good/bad, but I think all the things I actually wanted to know about her weren’t in this book and I need to wait for the sequel (which I won’t be reading BTW).

So, why three stars? Yeah…because it’s high fantasy, and it’s sort of original and all that stuff I said above. I haven’t read a book *quite* like this before, so it stands out. The magic is interesting. The religion is interesting. The plot is occasionally interesting. The author is clearly trying to write something awesome and epic. It didn’t work for me, but I can respect parts of it.

3 StarsBriana

Mini Reviews (4)

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows and its sequel Crooked Kingdom impressed me as two of the strongest YA fantasies I have read in some time.  I was therefore eager to start the Grishaverse series with Shadow and Bone.  The plot of Shadow and Bone is a little less original: a teenage girl discovers she possesses hidden powers and must save the world, but, in the process, finds herself torn between her best friend and a dangerous new love.  Still, the plot is fast-paced and the magic system intriguing.  I was not blown away by Shadow and Bone, but enjoyed it enough to want to read the sequel.  (Source: Library) Four Stars.

Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis

Renegade Magic is the sequel to Kat, Incorrigible, in which a twelve-year-old girl discovers that she has inherited magic powers from her mother.  Of course, in the Regency period, proper young ladies do not practice magic.  But that does not stop Kat and her sister Angeline from using their powers in this book to try to get Angeline’s true love to return.  The scenarios are increasingly wild as Angeline encourages a well-known rake, Kat’s friend finds powers of her own, and the family generally manages to put all of Bath into an uproar with their social and magical indiscretions.  Readers will find themselves laughing out loud as Kat matches wits once again with high society. (Source: Library) Four Stars.

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

For the first 200 pages or so, Illusionarium feels like two different books: one where the protagonist Jonathan battles a deadly plague sweeping his city and one where he discovers parallel worlds and his ability to manipulate hallucinations within them.  This split made me feel rather disoriented and, unfortunately, Jonathan himself didn’t make me care about his story.  His voice sounds more like that of a teenage girl rather than of a young man about to start university.  And his companions are far more likable and far more compelling than he is.  Still, the action picks up towards the end of the book and I found the story gripping (if predictable) for the last few chapters. (Source: Library) Three Stars.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Frances Hardinge is one of my new favorite authors and I don’t understand why more people aren’t talking about her.  She is a master of creating worlds, a master of intrigue, and a master of creating complex, flawed, but likable characters.  She is the type of fantasy author you hurry home to each night, hoping to get a few more chapters in before bed.  The Lie Tree is just such a gripping story.  Set in the Victorian era, it follows fourteen-year-old Faith Sunderly as her family moves to a small island in the wake of scandal; her father has been accused of forging fossils.  When he dies, Faith believes it is murder and set out to find the killer by using the legendary Lie Tree–a tree that feeds on falsehoods and provides secrets in return.  Faith must navigate a man’s world to have her voice heard, but she soon finds that she may be in over her head.  (Source: Library) Five Stars.

7 of My Favorite Fantasy Authors

Frances Hardinge

Frances Hardinge has the ability to create magical worlds that come to life and characters who cannot help but capture readers’ hearts.  A Face Like Glass is a breathtaking look at a fairyland world and and an exciting depiction of court intrigue.  But Hardinge also specializes in tales with a feel for the creepy, the supernatural, and the Gothic.

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, of course, is famous for Narnia stories and I am not the only one who grew up immersed in his magical world.  I used to hope that closets could still open into Narnia and images from his work still stay with me.

Natalie Lloyd

Natalie Lloyd is a bit unique on this list because she writes low rather than high fantasy.  Her characters do not escape into magical worlds, but instead live in worlds where magic quietly surrounds them.  A Snicker of Magic caught my heart with its sunshiny exuberance while The Key to Extraordinary enchanted me with its focus on family.  Natalie Lloyd is a feel-good author who makes readers want to be good, too.

Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson has the ability to make worlds come alive through complex magic systems.  It seems anything can be the basis for magic in his imagination, whether it is metal or artwork or something else.  He also effortlessly moves between genres, giving us epic fantasy battles, superhero novels, or children’s fantasy.

J. R. R. Tolkien

The master of fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien has influenced generations of writers and yet he still remains unmatched in his ability to create a sweeping world that rings strangely real.  Reading one of his books always feels like going home.  I am surprised again and again by just how good Tolkien is.

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne Valente possesses a rare talent for creating worlds of whimsy and magic, and perhaps an even rarer talent for writing beautiful prose.  Whether she is writing a fantasy about the Brontës, a series about Fairyland, a retelling of a Russian folktale, or a version of Snow White set in the West, her words always possess a rightness, a tone that matches the tale.

N. D. Wilson

N. D. Wilson likes to set his fantasies in the contemporary U.S., making children everywhere feel that they have a chance at stumbling into a magical world, just as the Pevensies once did in England.  His books span the Midwest, the Old West, and the Florida swamps and each one introduces readers to thrilling action, sympathetic characters, and stunning prose.  My favorite series, however, begins with The Dragon’s Tooth.

Wires and Nerve and Gone Rogue by Marissa Meyer

wire and nerve cover

Information

Goodreads: Wires and Nerve
Series: Wires and Nerve #1
Source: Library
Published: January 31, 2017

Official Summary

When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the series.

Star Divider

Review

I didn’t read Wires and Nerve when it first came out because 1) I guess I’m not as obsessed with Iko as a character as some fans are, though I do like her and 2) while I have nothing against graphic novels, I generally prefer reading novels. However, I saw my library was finally getting a copy of Wires and Nerve,  as well as the second installment, so I gave it a chance. Ultimately, I found it a quick, enjoyable read, though I am glad I borrowed it rather than purchased it.

The plot line is interesting, following Iko’s attempts to rid Earth of the leftover mutant wolf soldiers from Queen Levana’s invasion—as well as Iko’s budding romance with an unlikely love interest. It’s well-paced and exciting and interweaves scenes with the core characters from the Lunar Chronicles novels, though the group has separated to pursue different interests. I particularly enjoyed reading the scenes with Thorne because, well, who doesn’t? He’s funny.

I admit I prefer Meyer’s novels, however. I like her writing, and I think her novels have a bit more nuance than this graphic novel did.  I was entertained more than invested here.

Also, although the art is nice, I’m not in love with it, which is my bar for actually wanting to purchase and own a graphic novel. The artist has skill, but in many ways the illustrations seem to just get the job done. They’re not particularly beautiful or in a unique style or anything.  Mostly I didn’t like that the entire book is done in shades of blue, which is a personal preference thing.

So, I did like Wires and Nerve and I do plan on continuing with the series. However, as much as I love Meyer’s work, this one read more like a light, one-time read for entertainment venture more than anything else.

Star Divider

UPDATE: Gone Rogue

Gone Rogue

I actually managed to obtain and finish reading Gone Rogue before my review for installment one went live. Normally I’d write a second review for the second book in a series, but, upon reflection, I don’t think there’s anything I’d say about Gone Rogue that I didn’t say already.  It’s fairly predictable (as Meyer’s work often is…sorry), but it’s great fun and amazing to see all the Lunar Chronicles characters again. I don’t think the android/human debate was explored with as much nuance as I would have liked by the end of the story, but I’ll live.

4 stars Briana

The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows

Information

Goodreads: The Mirror King
Series: The Orphan Queen #2
Source: Library
Published: 2016

Summary

Wilhelmina has revealed her identity to the Indigo Kingdom.  They know now that she was both a criminal and a false duchess.  But now she lives as an honored guest of the kingdom, waiting for the day she will peacefully retake Aecor from its current foreign overlord.  If only Patrick Lien would stop killing people in her name!

Review

Spoilers for both books ahead!

Sometimes a book is so bad, it’s good.  This one starts with Wilhelmina living as an honored guest of the Indigo Kingdom, now that she has revealed herself as the cause of the Inundation and the leader of the group who has killed the king.  Her actions have resulted in a great many deaths as well as the destabilization of a nation and the possibility that the wraith, thought to be years away, will devour the Indigo Kingdom far more quickly.  Fortunately, the engaged prince is in love with her, so everyone is willing to overlook how terrible Wil is at doing anything right, and even willing to pretend that one day they might politely hand back to her the kingdom they conquered.  With a premise this ridiculous, how could the book be anything but great fun?

I had thought that The Orphan Queen had a nonsensical plot driven by characters who make only nonsensical decisions.  The Mirror King makes the first book look like a serious and well-researched depiction of political intrigue.  Because now that Tobiah’s father is dead, the Indigo Kingdom can be run entirely based on Tobiah’s personal feelings instead of any logic or regard for laws or citizens.  But just in case the drama still is not great enough, the book introduces an increasingly random series of situations and characters who are there solely to make plot twists happen.  They might flatly contradict everything we know about the laws of magic, but that is okay.  This book never pretended to care about logic. It’s all about the action and the romance.

Part of the charm of this book is how much I get to laugh over everything that happens.  However, I have to admit that I still enjoyed every ridiculous moment.  I recognize that the premise is inherently flawed, that the characters do not do anything that makes sense, and that the story contradicts itself.  And I don’t care.  I still read it, wanting eagerly to know what bizarre plot twist would happen next.

4 stars

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Tempests and Slaughter

Information

Goodreads: Tempests and Slaughter
Series: The Numair Chronicles #1
Source: Library
Published: February 6, 2018

Official Summary

Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

Review

I’m going to start out by saying that I have never particularly cared about Numair as a character from Pierce’s other Tortall books. That is, I have nothing against him, but he’s never been up there in my unofficial list of favorite characters or anything, so I’m not a fan who was interested in this book specifically because it’s a Numair origin story. I’m interested in the book because I’ve been a Tamora Pierce fan since I first discovered her Protector of the Small series in middle school and I wanted to see what new fantasy adventures Pierce would serve up. I was not disappointed. Tempests and Slaughter is an engrossing, richly imaginative story that reminded of why Pierce is such a pillar of the young adult genre.

Tempests and Slaughter really has everything Pierce fans have come to expect of her work: complex characters, rich world building, dazzling magic, and a cute animal sidekick. The only real difference may be that the protagonist is a man, which stands out only because Pierce is also known for her badass female characters. However, there are still badass female characters here as side characters, and I was kind of intrigued to see that Pierce put the same thought into representing the male experience of puberty that she puts into the female experience of puberty in her other series. I can’t say I’ve really read a book where a boy wonders about waking up with an unprompted erection before.

I think I may have been most captivated by the world building in the novel, however. Obviously Pierce has several stories set in this universe, primarily in Tortall, so the in-depth exploration of Carthak is fascinating. I also enjoyed the look inside a mage university, a change from the knight training in the Alanna and Keladry books, and the look at subtle politics that are probably applicable to any type of academia (for instance, the general academic dismissal of traditional tribal magics and gods).

The plot is admittedly a bit meandering, but on further reflection I decided that many of Pierce’s books have a tendency to just sort of portray the day-to-day lives of the characters, and I like it because it’s interesting. Numair’s “thing” at school is that he’s the youngest mage at the university and has to deal with feeling out of place and facing jealousy from other students. There is sort of an overarching plot tied to the Carthaki political situation (readers learn more about Ozorne in this book!), but I think it’s really going to play out more later in the series.

Bottom line: I loved this book. It reminded me why I love Pierce and why I love YA fantasy. Sometimes my YA reading choices disappoint me, even though I am very fond of YA, but novels like this show just how good YA can be. Tempests and Slaughter is definitely going to be a contender for my favorite books of 2018 list at the end of the year. Also, if you’re not a Tamora Pierce fan yet and wondering if you need to have read her other books to understand this one, the answer is no; you can start right here.

5 stars Briana