An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Enchantment of Ravens

Information

Goodreads: An Enchantment of Ravens
Series: None
Source: City Book Review
Published: September 26, 2017

Summary

Isobel is renowned for her portrait painting, and the beautiful, deadly fair folk are her most prestigious patrons, being unable to engage in any creative Craft themselves without losing their immortality. She has perfected her dealing with them and their tricksy wish-granting to an art itself—until the day she paints human emotion into the Autumn Prince’s eyes—a weakness—and must stand trial for her treachery.

Review

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into An Enchantment of Ravens, but I think I anticipated that this would be more of a fantasy adventure novel and less of a paranormal romance. I like romance in books but not when the romance is the entire book of the book, which was one of the primary reasons An Enchantment of Ravens did not quite work for me. The other issue is that the book is fairly generic and just doesn’t stand out from the YA crowd or even from other human/Fae romances I’ve read.

The book starts intriguingly, with a description of a town called Whimsy and a fairy folk who have zero ability to perform Craft (which apparently includes “making” literally anything, from clothing to art to writing to food; don’t ask what these people eat since they can’t cook). However, as the book progresses, the world building gets more and more muddled, as Rogerson springs an increasing number of magic rules, customs, and creatures onto the readers. And, frankly, I still don’t understand how the world works at large, such as how one gets into the Fae lands or how one gets into the World Beyond (which seems to be the rest of the human world besides the single town of Whimsy?)

The romance is equally baffling at the beginning, since it’s not really clear how or when the protagonists fall in love.  In theory, they have days of interaction; in reality, Rogerson fails to actually describe their conversations or what might have led to their romantic feelings. It’s not necessarily instalove because there is some build-up; it’s more that the build-up is bafflingly off-page.  As the book progresses, the romance gets better, and I do think Rogerson has some talent in writing romantic tension and declarations of love. I simply wish she had used more of that talent at the start of the story.

Plot-wise, it seems as though things happen primarily because they are obstacles to the protagonists’ love.  There’s not really a larger story here, even though there are hints about the transformative power of Isobel’s Craft that I would have loved to see further explored.  I have seen some readers complain about the episodic nature of the beginning of the book.  Episodic quests don’t inherently bother me, but it does seem here as if there’s no real purpose to a lot of the challenges that Isobel and the prince face.

Overall, the book is fine but not remarkable. If you’re normally a fan of Fae/human romances, like the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa, An Enchantment of Ravens could be something to look into.  If, like me, you want more adventure than romance, this might not be for you.

2 star review Briana

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

darkest part of the forestINFORMATION

Goodreads: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Series:  None
Source: Gift
Published: 2015

SUMMARY

Hazel Evans and her brother Ben live in the town of Fairfold, where the locals know that Fae inhabit the forest and that if you are smart you leave out milk to appease them and go indoors after dark.  Tourists come each year to view the prince in the glass coffin, the boy with horns on his head.  And Hazel and Ben dream that he is their prince and they can set him free.  But when he finally awakes, he is  not the prince they were expecting.

Review

The Darkest Part of the Forest achieves that rare feat of making the girl who kisses all the boys not the snotty “popular” girl but the protagonist.  Even when she admits she breaks hearts by making some of the guys think they have a chance, she doesn’t seem like the type of character you want to hate, but the type of character you want to save from herself.  But perhaps it helps that we see very little of her high school life and much more of secret woodland life–the one where she hunts the magical creatures who harm others.

Without making a big deal out of it, Holly Black casts Hazel as the sword-wielding hunter/champion and Hazel’s brother Ben as the cautious one, and the one who possesses a magical gift for music.  We don’t have to read any justifications for this or read any “girl power” manifestos.  This is just the way it is.  A teenage girl can pick up a weapon and her brother can prefer not to fight.  Now let’s jump into the action.

The story itself is perhaps not novel or groundbreaking.  Indeed, as I sit here writing a review, I struggle to remember just what I thought of it.  It was interesting.  It kept me reading through the night.  I liked it.  I just don’t have much to say about it.  If you like fantasy or fairies or paranormal romance, you will probably like this.  It’s not particularly mysterious or romantic or thrilling, but it tells a story and it does it without feeling like it’s using all the YA cliches.  Sometimes that’s enough.

3 starsKrysta 64

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

Halloween Button

Nightmare AffairINFORMATION

Goodreads: The Nightmare Affair
Series: Arkwell Academy #1
Source: Gift
Published: 2013

SUMMARY

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart is a Nightmare, meaning that she has the unenviable need to break into people’s homes and feed on their dreams to survive.  Then Dusty breaks into Eli Booker’s room and everything changes.  Eli is dreaming of a murder at Dusty’s magical boarding school Arkwell Academy–a school he has never even heard of–and then the murder actually takes place.  Only by stepping into Eli’s dreams can Dusty find the murderer and stop the next killing.

Review

I don’t typically read paranormal romances, but this one seemed different from the others, both because the protagonist is a Nightmare who feeds on people’s dreams and because the protagonist is the one with powers, rather than the one falling for an attractive, brooding vampire.  Or whatever happens in paranormal romance.  However, though I enjoyed the magical boarding school setting, The Nightmare Affair proved less original than I had hoped.

The cover bears recommendations raving about the unpredictability of the plot, but I knew who the criminals were almost as soon as they were introduced.  I also knew the outcome of the (apparently required) love triangle.  I even knew how the final battle would end, thanks to the plethora of similarities between this book and Harry Potter.  This is a shame because I enjoyed the book when I wasn’t sighing over  the use of all the old plot devices.

Dusty is an engaging narrator with a bit of sass that is often actually funny, such as when she pokes fun at the cultural trend of making vampires romantic instead of dangerous.  Furthermore, she resides at quite an interesting school, peopled with sirens and minotaurs and all kinds of creatures familiar to fantasy.  Her desire to fit in, her encounters with bullies, and her troubled relationship with her mother all make her relatable, despite her Nightmare status.  These elements, if combined with a more original plot, would have made a most excellent boarding school mystery.

As it is, I liked The Nightmare Affair--I simply felt it could have been much better.  Cut out the love triangle, don’t try to force a romance with a character who had little development, and remove the elements of Harry Potter, and you might have a great story.

3 starsKrysta 64

The Awakening by L. J. Smith

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INFORMATION

Goodreads: The Awakening
Series: Vampire Diaries #1
Source: Library
Published: 1991

SUMMARY

High school senior Elena Gilbert has it all–looks, popularity, even the star quarterback for a boyfriend.  But when she spots new student Stefan Salvatore, Elena knows he has to be hers.

Review

[Plot Spoilers Below!  I do not hold back!]

I know several people who have enjoyed The Vampire Diaries TV show, but this book seems to be an entirely different creature.  Nothing happens in it.  The plot is literally that Elena Gilbert wants Stefan Salvatore and she’s willing to do anything it takes to get him–treat her friends like dirt, ignore her studies, act like a lunatic in front of the school, run around with him in the dark while her aunt stays up worrying she’s been murdered.  She even makes her friends take a blood oath with her, swearing they’ll do whatever she tells them to do in pursuit of this mysterious new student.  Because she has to have him–“even if it kills her.  Even if it kills him.”  The cover might tell you something about an evil brother and a girl torn between two vampires, but honestly most of that is irrelevant at this point in the series.

Fortunately, the book is so bad that in some weird, twisted way it’s almost good.  It was written in the early 90s, but has all the standard YA cliches. Elena is blonde, beautiful, popular, self-absorbed, entitled and vapid.  Yet she still ends up in a love triangle with two vampires willing to fight for her.  (Note she doesn’t get a choice–they will decide who owns her.)  It’s full of cliched writing and overwrought prose.  It’s filled with descriptions of Elena’s looks (amusingly told from her perspective so we get lines about how “Elena knew she looked [filled in the blank]”–even if that means Elena knew she looked like an ice goddess with softly parted lips and a soft, curved neck or whatever.  (Who thinks about their neck?!)  And we get detailed descriptions of all the outfits, including the custom-made Venetian silk Italian Renaissance dress that this high school student will wear ONE TIME for Halloween.  I guess her family’s rolling in wealth?  She’s using up the inheritance she received from her dead parents?  It’s never explained.

Best of all, vampires can read minds, but Elena’s stands out from the rest for its golden light or something.  And she just so happens to look almost exactly like Katherine, the girl Stefan and his evil brother both loved in their past lives!  Except, you know, she’s not soft like Katherine.  She’s a “tigress” and has fire and steel, etc., etc.  We have no evidence of this strength unless you count her obsession with running men down like prey, but who are we to argue with what the narrator tells us?

There are precious moments, like the opening scene where Elena meets a crow who stares at her the way the boys do when she’s wearing a sheer top or a bathing suit, like he’s “undressing her with his eyes.”  You got that right.  A crow.  There’s the line where Elena describes boys as puppies–“adorable but expendable.”  The part where she breaks up with her boyfriend, hurts him by spreading a rumor she was cheating on him, then somehow enlists him to help her get Stefan for her new boyfriend.  He says she’s selfish but does it anyway.  Okay…And, of course, the necessary scene in the graveyard where Elena and her friends feel an evil presence and run stumbling through the dark for the bridge, the bridge that Elena just miraculously knows will save them for whatever reason.

All this culminates in Stefan and Elena randomly meeting one day then automatically falling in love and making out and now they are just the ONE TRUE COUPLE, y’all.  Except Elena can’t figure out why he’s so distant.  She told him she loved him the third time they ever spoke, right?  Why doesn’t he let down all his emotional barriers to this girl he barely knows and who is frankly scarily obsessed with him?  I mean, after you make out with a person and you know they are THE ONE, you just are obligated to tell them every single thing about you.  What’s so hard for Stefan to understand about that?  Now, thanks to his bad attitude, she has to rifle through his secret possessions (the ones he specifically asked her not to touch) to figure out who he is because for some reason he just doesn’t trust her!

Luckily, shortly after this, Elena will learn Stefan is a vampire and will tell him that she wants him to suck her blood so they can have a real bonding experience.  (So, basically she wants to have sex except in this world it’s blood sucking instead because I guess that’s more socially acceptable behavior for a teenager and her much older boyfriend to engage in.  Nice how how vampire books get around that problem.)  He’s really upset about this because one doesn’t just go around sucking other people’s blood willy nilly–what if he can’t stop, what if he hurts her?  But Elena assures him that she knows all about it, better than he the vampire does, and they should go for it.  Because who wants barriers and safety and caution?  Not Elena.  Stefan, after like 30 seconds of doubt, gives in.  Because being safe is so unromantic, am I right?

And then vaguely important stuff happens and the book ends in the middle of a scene and calls it a cliffhanger.  Hurray?

I have to admit, this book is hilarious, even if not intentionally so.  But will I be spending time on the rest of the series?  That’s highly unlikely–even the supposed cliffhanger isn’t going to convince me I need more of Elena in my life.

2 starsKrysta 64

Nameless by Lili St. Crow

NamelessGoodreads: Nameless 
Series: Tales of Beauty and Madness #1
Source: Gift
Published: 2013

Summary

Found in the snow at six years of age and adopted by a powerful branch of the Family, Camille has no memory of her past.  She only knows that she is human, not a true member of the Family, even if they treat her as one of their own.  And her past is about to catch up with her.

Review

You can read Briana’s review here.

Nameless puts an original spin on the story of “Snow White”, replacing the dwarfs with branches of a powerful Mafia-like family and shrouding the past of the protagonist in shadow.  The result is a compelling paranormal romance set in an alternate universe where magic entered history sometime after the Industrial Revolution.  The world building can sometimes be confusing and the protagonist bafflingly oversensitive, but, overall, Nameless is an engrossing read.

Initially I found myself somewhat overwhelmed by the world of Nameless, which is never explained in-depth.  The protagonist Camille simply names creatures, historical events, etc. when they occur and does not provide much background.  Eventually one may surmise that the Family are vampiric, that something bad called Twisting can happen to people with something called Potential (which seems to be magic), that things can be charmed, and that names here are somewhat randomly based on our own names–the Renaissance, for instance, is now the Renascence, or something like that.  But it takes time to build up this knowledge and even now I am not entirely sure what a jack is or why Twisting occurs.

Eventually I just accepted that the book was not going to explain anything, which left me with the dilemma of the narration.  Camille does not speak much as she has a stutter and worries about people becoming impatient with her.  This means that much of the narration is her thoughts.  The other narration could be her thoughts or could be the third-person narrator.  The line is blurry, which is all the more confusing because it curses so much.  Camille herself curses verbally once, I believe.  And she seems pretty demure in general, a quiet girl who goes along with whatever her bolder friends say and whose main desire seems to be to avoid any trouble.  So the narration calling everything g—d can be jarring.

Camille herself is a sweet and engaging protagonist, though oddly concerned with “not fitting in.”  The narration suggests that the Family girls might bully her, but Camille never interacts with them so we’ll never know.  She also implies that her school mates don’t like her or think her odd.  She only interacts with her two friends Ruby and Ellie, so, again, we’ll never know.  But one suspects no one really cares about her, other than the run-of-the-mill gossip you might expect when you’re a member of a prominent vampiric-immortal-Mafia Family.  After all, she’s always moping about how she’s not Family and they plan to cast her out, even though she’s accepted as Papa’s daughter and having a years-long flirtation with the Family heir Nico.  But, sure, Nico’s going to cast her out one day when he suddenly remembers that she’s adopted.  Oh wait.  He’s known that since they met.

Camille’s desire to learn her past makes sense, but her insistence that she “doesn’t belong” and “isn’t wanted” does not when you consider how lovingly her Family treats her, how she is an integral part of the household, how she attends important functions for the Family, how she is finally indisputably and publicly announced as a member of the Family.  This insistence could make her annoying, but somehow I only found Camille a bit odd and maybe a tad wearying.  Her weird decision to “make everything right” by doing the dumbest thing imaginable was more frustrating to me in the end and I was willing to overlook whatever emotional hang-ups she had.

These issues plagued me throughout the novel, but the plot itself is so compelling that I chose to wave them aside while reading.  Plot-wise, the only things that bothered me were an extraneous shirtless scene with Camille (because she just forgot a guy was in her room when she decided she didn’t need a shirt anymore?) and, again, the weird decision to “help” all her friends and family by getting herself killed.  But, hey, the premise of this retold tale was original and I liked the characters.  So I’m willing to pick up the sequel.

4 starsKrysta 64

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George (ARC Review)

silver in the bloodInformation

Goodreads: Silver in the Blood
Series: None
Source: Netgalley
Publication Date: July 7, 2015

Official Summary

Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate . . . or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

With a gorgeous Romanian setting, stunning Parisian gowns, and dark brooding young men, readers will be swept up by this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives.

Review

Jessica Day George’s Silver in the Blood indisputably proves that there is something left to be said for books about werewolves and vampires.  Taking a historical bent, the story follows young New York ladies Darcia and Lou as they visit their family’s home in Romania for the first time–and stumble upon a wealth of danger and secrets.

Admittedly, the suspense as to what exactly these secrets are is drawn out so long that it comes close to being boring; readers may find they just resign themselves to the fact they don’t know and may, at the rate the book is progressing, never know, instead of staying on the edge of their seats. Once the secrets are revealed, however, the pace picks up and the drama increases; the second half of the book will definitely keep readers hooked.

Until then, readers are treated with some great character studies of protagonists Darcia and Lou.  The two girls are inseparable, and this literary friendship is sure to please.  Their thoughts and actions are revealed to readers alternately through epistolary and narrative sections.  The form is nice homage to Dracula and to a time period where epistolary novels were more in vague, yet the mix of styles also means the novel is able to feel modern.

Jessica Day George is one of my favorite fairy tale retelling authors.  Her foray into folklore, vampires, and werewolves shows she has great range in writing, and that she can write young adult that is just a touch dark.  A great choice for fans of Shannon Hale, Julie Kagawa, or Cameron Dokey.

Briana

World After by Susan Ee

World AfterInformation

Goodreads: World After
Series: Penryn and the End of Days #2
Source: Netgalley
Published: November 19, 2013

Official Summary

When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige, thinking she’s a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels’ secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can’t rejoin the angels, can’t take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?

Review

World After is a fantastic contribution to the Penryn and the End of Days series. Susan Ee shows off her writing chops by crafting a story that is exciting, moving, and dangerous even while the love interest readers have come to adore in the first book is absent for most of the plot. Although protagonist Penryn would love to have the protection of Rafe and his comforting presence, she shows she is more than capable of handling herself—and caring for her family—in a broken world.

The stakes for Penryn and her world are actually higher than ever in this installment. The resisters to the angel occupation thought they had pulled off a brilliant and devastating attack in Angelfall, but it turns out that they had destroyed very little and understood very little of the angels’ real plans. Penryn, Rafe, and the rebellion are suddenly faced with enemies more dangerous than before and prospects bleaker than ever. Ee keeps the story from becoming too dire, however, by using the dangerous to explore what it means to be a hero and if Penryn has to make the choice to act like one.

Penryn certainly grows along with her ever-growing responsibilities. She must tackle whether it is enough to save her sister, whether she should save everyone else as well, or if she even can. The other characters also get a lot of development in this book, however, including Rafe and Penryn’s mother and sister. Paige suffered terribly from the experiments performed on her in Angelfall, and coming back into human society may not be enough for her to recuperate. Penryn’s mother must come to terms with how much she, broken herself, can be held responsible for protecting her own daughters. And Rafe is still torn between obligations to angel commands and his own sense of ethics.

This means the romance between Penryn and Rafe is still up in the air, and I love it. Their relationship is not just frowned upon; it is absolutely forbidden, and consummating it in any way will have dire consequences. I love not going how this all will play out, and being torn between whether I should be rooting for them to get together, or hoping that Rafe should stay true to the commands from his God.

World After, all at once, is thrilling, romantic, and thoughtful. I can’t way to finish the journey with Penryn and Rafe in book three.

Briana

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Gray (ARC Review)

The Girl at MidnightInformation

Goodreads: The Girl at Midnight
Series: The Girl at Midnight #1
Source: Netgalley
Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Official Summary

For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Review

The Girl at Midnight is an imaginative book that will appeal to bookworms and lovers of fantasy. Protagonist Echo lives hidden in the New York Public Library and smuggles books to her room, but she is also the adopted daughter of the Ava, one of the bird-like Avicen race, and gets to go on magical adventures of her own. The story takes readers through Echo’s journey to find herself as she races across the world to locate the mythological firebird she believes can save the future of her adopted family.

The marketing plan has been to compare The Girl at Midnight to City of Bones and Shadow and Bone. However, readers will also see echoes of Daughter of Smoke and Bone (What’s with all the “bone” books?) in the way travelling magic works and parallels to Avatar in the character of the Dragon Prince. Like Zuko, Gray’s prince has conflicting ideas about the best way to lead his people and a complicated relationship with the protagonist that has the opportunity to fall into either friendship or enmity. He also happens to have an insanely violent sister who can wield fire and is bent on fighting him for the throne. The characters are not straight transplants of Zuko and Azula, but Avatar fans will certainly call them to mind.

Echo comes across as more original in her characterization, but not in her dialogue. The majority of her speech is composed of cliché expressions, literary quotes, and literary allusions. The author’s goal was most likely to convey the sense that Echo is an avid reader. Unfortunately, however, so little of Echo’s speech is her own that it is hard to read her as either a sincere character, or as one with serious thoughts about the world. Her character often exudes the sense she is just being carried along for the ride, even when she is ostensibly making active decisions about how her life will go.

Other characters, however, nicely round out the two protagonists and add a bit of diversity to the book. The Dragon Prince has a loyal guard who is a bit more in love with him than his position allows. Echo is friends with a flamboyantly criminal Avicen. Other friends are more quiet and introverted, but not less useful to the plan to save the world.

Plot-wise, the book is well-paced and offers readers variety of schemes and locations. The Avicen can travel by magic dust, and have passed the secret on to Echo, who can romp freely about in America, Paris, or Japan, as she pleases. There are also some great museum adventures, which are sure to appeal to many readers. A sense of Grey’s love of literature, history, and learning pervade the book.

Unfortunately, the conclusion is somewhat lacking. Of course, this is partially due to the fact that this novel starts a series. The result, however, is that absolutely nothing is resolved and the big reveal is underwhelming. The role of the firebird is overstated, and though arguably it is because the characters misinterpret that role, the feeling of the novel is really that the narration itself is misdirecting readers about the firebird for the sake of interest and suspense. The Girl at Midnight would benefit from having a stronger story arc, instead of pretending it has an arc for most of the book, then suddenly pulling back at the end and saying, “Wait, actually you have to wait for the sequels for anything to happen! This is just an opening scene.” The fact that The Girl at Midnight is book one is a series does not mean it must feel quite as incomplete as it does.

Angelfall by Susan Ee

AngelfallInformation

Goodreads: Angelfall
Series: Penryn and the End of Days #1
Source: Netgalley
Published: May 21, 2011

Official Summary

It’s been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain.

Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night.

When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back…

Review

Angelfall captivatingly blends angelic myth and apocalyptic scenarios to result in a book that is nearly impossible to put down. A strong heroine, noble hero, and unrelentingly urgent plot guide readers through a world ridden with chaos and a few bright spots of hope. Most other angel books cannot compare.

Admittedly, Angelfall begins a bit slowly. The prose is clunky, repetitive and sometimes too self-aware. The post-apocalyptic elements, the decrepit town where gangs rule the street and no one can go out at night, seem unremarkable and familiar. Then the angels come, and everything changes. Penryn doesn’t just have to face street gangs with guns; she has to befriend one of the enemy and go on an epic quest to save her little sister. Whether the prose also improves at this point or its awkwardness is just less noticeable as the plot of the novels picks up, I can’t say for certain, but suddenly the story seems fresh. Even as other tropes of the genre pop up—the rebel alliance, the streams of people seeking haven in large cities—Ee manages to put a supernatural spin on them and make them new again.

Penryn is a particularly well-drawn character for this genre. She isn’t just harsh and she isn’t just disillusioned. The end of the world scenario has certainly toughened her, but she has always been tough and bears the trait well. And beneath that, she has a genuinely good heart, which seems like just the right thing if you’re going to have to deal with angels. Raffe is a great companion for her. The two work well together, a true team, and there’s just enough romantic tension in the novel to make readers swoony and leave them hoping for more in the sequels.

The cast of side characters is equally nuanced, including the kidnapped younger sister, Penryn’s mentally unstable mother, and a whole rebel army. I admit, however, I can do without the twins-who-are-perfectly-interchangeable trope. Seriously, they call themselves Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, which is absurd enough, but eventually they just get called Dee-Dum because, you see, when you’re dealing with twins it doesn’t actually matter which one you’re talking to; they’re just the same person anyway. This is pretty insulting to twins and I do wish it would stop being portrayed in media as cute or the norm.

Parts of the backstory could also use more explanation, but the plot is so engrossing this is practically unnoticeable until the story is over. Then the questions—Wait, how exactly did angels take over the world? And when?—start coming to light. I’m hoping more of this will be answered in the sequels because, as in-depth as Ee describes the present-day world, it all seems a bit hazy when you can’t tell yourself a complete narrative about how it came to be that way.

In the end, however, Angelfall stands out as an imaginative and captivating take on both post-apocalyptic stories and on the angel/supernatural romance. I’ve seen a lot of hype for this book, and it really deserves it.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods and MonstersInformation

Goodreads: Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3
Source: Library
Published: April 8, 2014

Summary

Leading stolen rebel armies, Karou and Akiva seek to finally end a generations-long war between their people.

Review

Taylor ends the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy as strongly as she started it, giving readers a book full of high stakes and powerful emotions.  Everything fans loved about the first two books are present in Dreams of Gods and Monsters and with the same intense quality.  Readers will re-fall in love with Taylor’s richly imagined worlds and characters and with her beautiful, dreamlike prose.

The pacing of Dreams of Gods and Monsters is better than in Days of Blood and Starlight, of which my main complaint was that it felt too much like a “middle book” with no clear goal in sight.  Taylor quickly stops playing games with readers in this conclusion and gets to the point: the battle between the angels and the demons, and the poor humans that are caught between.  Action is everywhere in Dreams of Gods and Monsters, as plot threads weave together and plans are made and executed.  Readers will be unable to put the book down, desperate to know what happens next—and who lives or dies.

Taylor likewise stops playing games with her characters, and Karou and Akiva quickly get their act together.  They finally realize that there is too much at stake for them to prolong their petty fights.  Other characters adopt a sense of carpe diem, as well, and a lot of unexpected but brilliant and seemingly right relationships develop.  Whole new sides of well-known characters are revealed, but they seem natural, as if they were always there but hidden.  Taylor is not manipulating her characters or directing them, but simply discovering them.

Most compelling, however, is Taylor’s finely tuned ending.  Readers will get part of what they want, what they have been hoping for throughout the series, but they will not get everything—and that too seems appropriate.  Taylor has been chronicling a war, and wars do not end neatly, with everything wrapped up in a bow.  One task ends in Dreams of Gods and Monsters, but the rebuilding of a world is left—and an even bigger fight is introduced.  This leaves the series open-ended, with the potential for not just a sequel, but a whole second series.  Personally, though I would love to read more of the characters’ lives, I hope that series remains unwritten, left to readers’ imaginations.  After all that has happened to Karou, Akiva, and their friends, the hint of inconclusiveness seems right.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy is YA literature at its finest, featuring a mature fantasy style that is beautiful and fierce and never watered down.  Taylor takes readers on a gripping journey through two universes that will make them laugh, cry, and long in turn.  Highly recommended, and a perfect choice for anyone who enjoys a very, very good story.