I'm a beginning fantasy writer. My favorite genre is fantasy and science fiction. I'm currently on a young adult kick.
I won my first book to review from Netgalley!
THE LAST CHANGELING by Chelsea Pitcher
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pre-order from Amazon
Parental Rating: 12 and up. Mild Swearing and teenage ‘making out’.
The faerie Elora is trying to start a rebellion against her mother the Dark Queen, but to overthrow a millennium old faerie she needs the Bright Queen’s help. The Bright Queen sets her a riddle, asking Elora to bring her a human offering. Elora travels to the human world, having only heard bad things about humans. She meets a human high-schooler named Taylor who lets her stay at his house. (She tells him to call him Lora, which is the name she mostly goes by in the book.)
The book is told from the perspectives of both Lora and Taylor. At the beginning Lora has a poetic voice and makes her seem more otherworldly, but as she assimilates to the human world she talks more normally. There were a couple of instances where Taylor sounded like Lora, too poetic for a normal teenage boy, but overall the characters were realistic and distinct. Though they were both told in first person I didn't confuse the two.
The characters were the stars of the story. I genuinely liked both of the main characters, which isn’t always the case for me. The romance between them was gradual and felt natural. It was a sweet realistic romance. The side characters were just as good as the main characters and the friendships blossomed at a realistic pace the same way the relationship did.
Taylor and Lora gradually grow to trust one another and it makes them both better people. The change in their personalities is gradual and well done. They’ve both had a rough family life and they both have their secrets. They slowly open up to one another, and it felt like they would actually reveal these closely guarded secrets. Lora’s tells her story to Taylor as a nightly ‘fairy tale’. Since there is a lot of back story, this was a good way to do it without being boring.
Though there is plenty of magic in this book and excitement at the end, most of the book isn’t fast paced. That doesn’t mean it’s boring, not in the least. The Last Changeling mostly takes place in a modern high school and romance plays a large part of the story. Normally this wouldn’t sound like my kind of book, but I really enjoyed it! There’s the normal teenage stuff, but it’s handled well and Lora is so different it’s fun to see through her eyes and watch her navigate the human world.
The world of the faerie has been done so many times, but the author still creates her own unique mythology. Like most fairies, those in Last Changeling can’t lie outright, are hurt by iron, and use glamours. (They also have wings, which I thought was the best part!) There isn't too much magic in the book, but what was there was imaginative and just plain cool.
There wasn’t a to be continued ending, which I appreciated, but there’s certainly more to come. (At least I hope there is!) I would’ve appreciated if one question had been answered though. (I can’t say what it was without spoilers.)
I plan to buy The Last Changeling when it’s released and would highly recommend it.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
The end of the Mortal Instruments...
I enjoyed the Mortal Instruments series for the most part. There's a bit too much romance and long descriptions for me, but that's just my taste. The best part is the world the author has created and all of the unique characters. My favorite is the glittery bisexual warlock, Magnus Bane. (Yes, seriously. He's the best!)
Clary is a normal girl who enjoys drawing and hanging out with her best friend, Simon. She's at a club when she sees three other teenagers with strange tattoos murder a guy, but no one else can even see them. When her mother is kidnapped, (or dead, but she really hopes only kidnapped) she's thrust into a world of Demons, Fairies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Warlocks. Turns out those teenagers are Shadow Hunters and the man was a demon. Shadow Hunters keep the peace using a device called a stele to draw runes on themselves that give special powers like grace and speed or invisibility to Mundanes. (Normal people, like muggles)
There are six books in the Mortal Instruments series (and a prequel trilogy) and the last book has just been released. The series spans only six months, but it felt like longer to me. I liked the first `trilogy' better than the second, though I liked Simon more in the second. There wasn't nearly enough Magnus, but I always think that.
If you haven't read the series up to City of Heavenly Fire (or the prequel) don't keep reading, there be spoilers below.
Heavenly fire was an exciting finale, which certainly didn't seem as long as it was. I was so afraid to read it, (I didn't want anyone to die) but I'm pleased by the ending. It was a good and fitting conclusion to the series.
Emma Carstairs (who will star in the next series, the Dark Artifacts) gets her own point of view. She grew up a Shadow Hunter and is already quite skilled with weapons. Her best friend is Julian Blackthorn, a boy with six siblings. (Two of which are half fairy) I liked all the Blackthorns, they already have unique personalities. (Ty reminds me of Sherlock)
This book takes place mostly before the end of Infernal Devices, so Zachariah is still a Silent Brother. He doesn't get his own point of view. His parts are mostly told by Jia Penhallow. (How disappointing!) I really wanted more Jem and Tessa in this book! (I guess I'll have to hope for more of them in Dark Artifacts.)
I'm also sad we didn't get a Sebastian point of view, because it would've been interesting to see into his mind a bit more. He's a better villain than his father, more black and white, even though I think it was supposed to be the other way around.
SUMMARY (Plotline spoilers for first half of book)
DO YOU WANT SPOILERS?
City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass - 9/10 Stars
City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, City of Heavenly Fire - 8/10 Stars
Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, Clockwork Princess - 9/10 Stars
I kept getting that song Matchmaker, Matchmaker, find me a match caught in my head while reading these books. (Just thought I’d share, you’re welcome.)
People who reviewed this book either loved it or they hated it. I think that’s because when people hear dystopian they expect something like The Hunger Games or Divergant, but Matched is a quieter dystopian. Where Hunger Games is a dystopian with some romance and Divergant is a romantic dystopian, I’d say Matched is a romance in a dystopian world.
Cassia is seventeen and that means it’s time for her Matched ceremony, to find out the person she’ll spend the rest of her life with. The Society controls everything, which books you read, which art you can see, and even whose hand you can hold. No one has any choices, but most people don’t realize it, and are happy with the way things are. Cassia was happy, until she got home from her Matched ceremony and put in the chip, which was supposed to contain data about her Match. The face on the chip isn’t just that of her match. There’s also the face of another boy, a boy she knows.
Based on the summary I thought Matched would be faster paced with more action, but that isn’t what these books are about. They’re about people, relationships, and their personal struggles. I’m not saying that Matched is a boring read, the author kept me flipping pages.
Whenever I hear that a book has good prose, poetic, or flowery writing I cringe inside. I think this is because it often seems forced or false. The author of Matched has a natural effortless poetic voice, which doesn’t feel like she’s trying. It also made sense that the character’s voice would be poetic, because she loves poetry, which plays a large part in the book.
If you thought Matched was too slow paced than you won’t enjoy the sequels either, because they have the same pace. (Crossed might be even slower.) That’s not to say that nothing happens, but the focus remains on the characters and not on their struggle against the world.
In Crossed they are mostly traveling throughout the novel. I think if I knew this going in I wouldn’t have been so impatient for them to get somewhere and could’ve enjoyed the journey better.
We meet some new characters along the way and get to see what life is like outside of the Society.
Cassia and Ky are both trying to get back to each other. The book is told from both of their perspectives. (I kept wishing that one character knew what the other did.) The author did a good job of remembering what each character knew and not having them know something they shouldn’t. There might have been a mistake towards the end, but then again Cassia could’ve figured it out for herself too.
Xander is in the book as well and just because Cassia told him she loved Ky he’s not giving up. She did say she loved him too after all, so it’s understandable that he still loves her.
This is a strange book, because I think that if you skipped Crossed, Reached would still make sense. (The few things that happened in Crossed are explained again in Reached.) I’m not saying you should skip Crossed, I just think it’s weird that you probably could and not miss much in the way of story line.
The author did a good job of the two perspectives in Crossed. (I was occasionally confused, because both were told in first person.) In Reached not only are Cassia and Ky telling the story, she’s added Xander too. I worried that she was biting off more than even she could chew, but the chapters were kept short enough that I didn’t get confused.
In Reached there’s a rebellion against the Society and all three of the characters are on their own. Then there’s an outbreak of a plague and a rush to find a cure. (Unlike Crossed, Reached doesn’t lack for plot, but the focus is still on the characters, not the action.) The author did a good job of making me worry for the characters.
There are new women in both of the boy’s lives, so it wasn’t obvious which one Cassia would end up with. (I didn’t like Xander, so I actually cared who she wound up with in one of these stupid love triangles.)
Other than the dystopian aspect these books aren’t my normal style, so it surprised me that I enjoyed them. If Matched sounds interesting to you, you should give it a try.
Matched 7 Stars
Crossed 6 Stars
Reached 7 Stars
What was the last book you read that wasn’t what you expected?
When everyone turns sixteen they change from ugly to pretty by means of advanced surgery. These new pretties are shallow and party all the time in New Pretty Town. Tally is almost sixteen and can’t wait until it’s finally her turn to be pretty.
Tally’s best friend turned before her and now she’s all alone. Uglies, those who haven’t had the surgery yet, enjoy playing tricks like sneaking into New Pretty Town. During one of her tricks, Tally meets Shay, a fellow Ugly whose friends have also all turned before her.
Over the course of the summer Shay and Tally become good friends and plan all sorts of fun tricks together. Shay teaches Tally how to hover board and takes her into the Rusties, the ruins of our civilization.
When it’s finally time for the two to turn pretty, (they have the same birthday) Shay confesses that she doesn't want to be pretty. Shay plans to run away to a place called the Smoke where apparently people live in the wild and don’t turn pretty. Tally decides she wants to be pretty and stays behind. On the day of her surgery Special Circumstances, the advanced police force (who are pretty, but pretty scary) tell Tally that she can’t be pretty unless she goes after her friend and activates a tracker for them to arrest all the Uglies in the Smoke.
The characters in Uglies are fine, but it’s mostly the world that I’m reading for. The author’s explanation of how the world wound up like this was unique and so is the society he’s created. I liked the idea of the hover boards and how they worked. They’re magnetic and only over metal or rivers. (Because of the metal fragments in the running water.)
The beginning of the book is interesting, but after Tally goes in search of the Smoke, things slow down and it feels like we are only waiting for Tally to get there. (Actually, if you skip Tally’s entire journey to the Smoke you won’t miss anything, because they talk about it all afterwards.)
Once she gets to the Smoke the pace picks up a bit, but I still felt like I was waiting for something to happen. It’s only half-way through the book things have to go wrong somehow. Is the Smoke all it seems? Will Tally betray her new friends? Come on, something happen already!
When things pick up, they really pick up. The end is as good as the beginning and a quick read.
Warning: It ends to be continued. (I couldn't go to bed until I’d started Pretties, which unfortunately starts slow.)
It’s hard to say anything about the sequels without spoiling Uglies, so I’m just going to give my impressions.
There are fewer slow spots in Pretties, because even the less exciting parts are fun and the plot is much less predictable than Uglies. The slang is so awful it’s funny, but I think it’s supposed to be.
Uglies hooked me with the world and concept, but I love the characters in Pretties. This book has everything the first one was lacking.
Another to be continued ending. (grumbling)
I liked the powers in Specials, but I didn't like Tally as much. (I especially didn't like her interactions with David and Zane and I wanted to see more with both of them.)
Again there were slow spots towards the middle, but the author didn't go into as much detail so they weren't as long.
It felt like everything happened too quickly at the end, but that was largely because of the point of view and the plot was wrapped up nicely. I wanted more at the end to find out what's next for Tally. (Like an epilogue.)
There’s an extra novel (ironically called Extras) that takes place after the trilogy, but it has different characters.
Uglies- 7 Stars
Pretties- 8 stars
Specials- 7 stars
I didn’t realize that the three books in this trilogy would be so independent, so I had to write a description and review for each one. Sorry that it’s so long. Feel free to skip to the end where I summarize the strengths and weaknesses of this series.
Certain people have mismatched eyes and are graced, meaning they have a particular skill or talent. Some talents are as simple as a skill at cooking, but others are more mystical such as swimming like a fish or reading minds.
Katsa has the Grace of killing. Her uncle, the king, uses her to dispense punishment to people who displease him, but Katsa’s not content to simply be her uncle’s pawn. She established the council to help people in trouble when the kings make unjust decisions. She thought she’d be alone, but the council has expanded and now spans the seven kingdoms. The council does things such as shelter farmers who are being punished for not paying their taxes after the king’s men trampled their crops.
On one such mission for the council, Katsa goes to rescue the father of one of the kings who has been kidnapped. There she meets a young man who has the grace of fighting. She knocks him unconscious and returns to her kingdom with the kidnapped man only to have the graced fighter show up at her king’s court. The man’s name is Po and the man who was kidnapped is his grandfather and he’s here to rescue him.
Deciding to trust this young man, whose silver and gold eyes have a disarming effect on Katsa, the council tries to figure out who kidnapped his grandfather.
The first half of Graceling is quick paced and interesting. Then the characters go on a journey and it becomes a series of traveling and running. I’ve read lots of fantasy so I’m accustomed to such ‘journey’ novels, but it caught me off guard after the exciting beginning.
The characters started out well, and they certainly grew from their experiences, but they felt underdeveloped for me somehow, as though the author couldn’t keep up the witty lines in the beginning of the book.
At around 50% there’s a sex scene making this an older YA novel, though you can see it coming and it’s easy enough to skip.
From the moment I learned the true nature of Po’s Grace I was afraid of what was going to happen. I hoped the author wouldn’t be so obvious, but sadly she was.
Fire is set in the same world as Graceling, but in a different place. In the land of Dell there are brightly colored animals, called monsters. They have the ability to bewitch people with their beauty and ensnare people’s minds. Fire is the only human monster, a girl of seventeen with hair the color of living fire. Fire’s father was the adviser to the king and an evil man. Most people hate her because of her father or fear her for her power.
I recommend reading the prologue as an epilogue (or at least after chapter 27) because it really should have been put later in the book. Otherwise it feels like you’ve read the revelation to a murder mystery and learn how the villain is thwarted first and it spoils the suspense of the book. I imagine it would be a much better book reading it this way.
Like Katsa, Fire is a strongly independent woman with no desire to marry and doesn’t want children. Though in her case it’s because she knows that any child she has will also be a monster and she’s afraid that the child would be like her father.
The love story in Fire is slower to get started than Graceling, yet still felt as though it happened all of a sudden. He hated her, then he spoke to her civilly, now he loves her? The reasoning was explained, (but I would’ve preferred if she won him over herself.)
Fire was a good character for about the first 70% of the book. She was a tough young woman similar to Katsa, but different enough to still come off as her own person. Then the character I’d been rooting for and liking for the majority of the book turned into a moody, selfish, weakling.
Bad things happened to the girl and I can understand her being sad, but falling into complete despair, and giving up didn’t fit her character.
When he finally confesses his love, she’s in a bad mood, so instead of the dramatic kiss I was hoping for, she’s mopy and mean. At that point I was largely reading to find out how their relationship turned out, so it was depressing when this was all I got.
Also, I didn’t see the point in her frostbite other than to depress her further and take away her occupation as a musician.
Bitterblue is eighteen and the queen of an entire country. Her days are filled shuffling endless stacks of paper. One night she decides to sneak out of the castle and see what her kingdom is really like. She discovers that people are still recovering from her father’s reign of terror, but things are worse than she thought.
She meets a pair of boys who work at a printing press. Are they thieves? What are they up to? They have many secrets, but she’s not exactly honest with them either, pretending she’s only a baker in the castle’s kitchen.
In a world with Graceling magical powers, Bitterblue is just a normal girl. She might be a queen, but I wish she had some sort of special ability. The plot felt more like a mystery than a fantasy and a rather predictable one at that. All of the excitement with the council takes place off page in this book, because like the first two books, it’s told from a single viewpoint. I wished we could go with Katsa and Po instead of being stuck in the castle with Bitterblue.
The high point of this book is seeing the old characters from Graceling, particularly Po. I liked Bitterblue in Graceling, but sometimes in her own book she grated on my nerves. She seemed stronger as a kid. I understand she went through a lot, but she was constantly breaking down and crying on someone’s shoulder. Her life in the castle was dull and frustrating, which makes for a rather boring tale.
Like Fire (where I kept reading to see how Fire would win Brigan over) I kept reading Bitterblue to see how her friends would find out she’s actually the queen. Unlike Fire the revelation wasn’t a disappointment and was probably my favorite part of the book.
The author ties the books nicely, but I wanted an epilogue to tie up all the loose ends. Maybe the author wanted to leave it open for another book.
The best part of the book was the glossary. (Odd, but true.) It’s ‘written’ by the librarian in the book Death (pronounced like Teeth). I wish the rest of the book was told with such a good voice! I chuckled a couple of times while reading it and not at all during the third book.
Throughout the entire book we’re present for the friendship then romance between two characters. At the end it seems like a waste of all this effort that they don’t wind up together. I realize this is realistic, but it’s sad that she winds up alone even if there are hints of something else.
The saving grace of these books (sorry couldn’t resist the pun) is the unique magic system the author has created.
The world building is simple until we get to Dell in Fire, but there are enough details for it to feel like a real world.
The characters are good, but I felt like the idea of the main characters was better than the execution. (They started out well, but it’s almost as if the author couldn’t keep up the good writing.) I liked all of the minor characters and kept wishing to see more of them.
If you’re one of those ‘show’ don’t ‘tell’ people the first two books will annoy you. The author tells a lot and it feels like we’re missing some good stuff that happened. By Bitterblue the author’s figured out how to tell a story, she still tells how time passes, but unlike the first two books the telling flows naturally.
Overall I don’t really recommend the Graceling books. They don’t live up their excellent premise. If you’re curious, I’d say read the first half of Graceling. Literally at 50% on my kindle is when it goes downhill. (Or uphill as they’re climbing a mountain.) Whatever you make up in your head for the rest of the book will be better than what happened in my opinion, though I doubt I could ever read half of a book.
Graceling- 7 Stars (First half 8 stars, second half 6)
Fire- 6 Stars (Same, First half 7 stars, second half 5)
Bitterblue- 6 Stars (whole book consistent)
What was the last disappointing book that you read?
Cinder, Scarlet & Cress (Winter forthcoming)
Oddly enough the book I recommend most right now is Cinder, where Cinderella is a cyborg. Seriously that’s the plot, but it’s a good book honest.
The market is flooded with fairy tale retellings, and I almost didn’t read Cinder, but it looked popular on goodreads (and I found it on sale for $2) so I decided to give it a shot and I’m glad that I did.
Cinder is set after the fourth world war, where the world is divided into six kingdoms. Cinder is a mechanic living in the capital of New Beijing. The crown prince, Kai comes to her to have his android fixed. She keeps it a secret from him that she’s a cyborg, because cyborgs are looked down upon and have few rights.
Yes, Cinder has an evil step-mother, her legal guardian who practically owns her, and two step-sisters, but only one is evil and she’s really more bratty than evil. And of course there is a ball coming up, which both the stepsisters are preparing for, but that’s where the Cinderella plotline ends.
The plague that has swept the globe has come to New Beijing and Prince Kai’s father, the emperor, has been diagnosed with the disease. There’s no cure and it has a 100% mortality rate. Desperate to combat the disease, the government issued the cyborg draft. Cyborgs, considered less than human, are used as unwilling test subjects.
As if that wasn’t enough for the young prince to deal with, the evil Lunar queen is threatening war if her demands are not met, and one of those demands is to marry the prince. Her spaceships aren’t even her biggest threat. Lunars, the people who colonized the moon, have evolved into a separate race with the ability to create glamours and bend others to their will.
The Lunar Chronicles has excellent world building, an interesting plot, and good characters. (My favorite character is one of the minor ones, Iko, an android with a personality as the result of faulty programming.) A couple of the reveals which were supposed to be a surprising twist were rather predictable in this series, but it didn’t hurt the overall story for me.
The second book stars Scarlet as re-imagined red riding hood and a man with a shady past called wolf. This was my least favorite of the series, because it felt more like a side story with most of the book focusing on two new characters. I kept yelling at my book ‘Where’s Cinder? Get back to Cinder!’ As you can tell it took me a while to warm up to Scarlet. I understand she was going through a rough situation, her grandmother had been kidnapped after all, but it annoyed me when all she did was stress and complain. Scarlet gets better, mostly through her interactions with wolf, and towards the end the action really picks up.
Cress, re-imagined Rapunzel, is trapped on a satellite instead of a tower. I liked her character right away, and it's nice that we get to learn more about Carswell Thorne. Cress doesn't feel like a side story the way Scarlet did, because much more happens to advance the plot of the trilogy. I feel like the author really followed the ‘what would be the worst thing I can have happen to this character now?’ method of writing for this book. I can’t say too much about Cress without spoilers, but it’s almost as good as Cinder.
Cinder 9/10 stars
Scarlet 7/10 stars
Cress 8/10 stars
I’d recommend all three books, but I have no idea which books to compare them to, because they’re just so unique. Maybe dystopian, because the main plot features a world in chaos and characters that are trying to make things better.
Now I can't wait for Winter! (Never thought I'd say that, I hate the cold.)
Do you like fairy tale retellings? Usually I don’t, but Cinder is a happy exception. (and Grimm)
The Maze Runner is a read in an entire day sort of book. It’s fast paced and never lets up. The continual questions kept me glued to the pages. What is going on here? My imagination ran wild with the possibilities and I was afraid that in the end I’d be disappointed, but surprisingly I wasn’t. The conclusion actually made sense and didn’t seem contrived just to explain the author’s cool concept.
I would have liked more character development, so that I could get to know the characters better and care about what happens to them more. (Though this is the sort of book I don’t dare get attached to anyone going in.) I understand that it must have been hard for the writer to show characterization when none of the characters has a past. Yep, that’s right none of the characters can remember anything before the maze.
Thomas wakes up in an elevator box with no memory other than his name. He’s greeted by other teenage boys in an area called the glade. The glade is surrounded by a massive maze that the boys are trying to solve to escape. Surprisingly for a group of kids they’ve established an organized society where everything works. I can’t really say anything more about the premise without spoiling things. The whole point of the book is to keep reading to figure out the why behind the maze.
The Maze Runner is a quick book. There are no slow spots with flowery descriptions here. Other than height, age, and shoe size all we know about the main character’s appearance is he has brown hair. I like a bit more than that, but that’s not the sort of book this is. Maze Runner’s also light on romance, which is odd for a young adult book, but it worked. There wasn’t time for romance. (Though there is more romance in the Scorch Trials.)
The Maze Runner is almost an eight star book, but fell just short of great for me. I can’t explain without minor spoilers, so skip the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want spoilers of any sort. (It’s not really a spoiler that characters die in a book like this, but I know how some people are about spoilers of any kind.) I have no problem with characters dying, but I didn’t like the way a certain character died. It didn’t feel necessary and it was too brutal for me. (Though it was tame compared to a death in the Death Cure. I just know I’m going to have nightmares about that.)
The rest of the trilogy (spoiler free) I haven’t been so disappointed in an author in a long time. These books had such potential! Most of the story is good, but the Scorch Trials and The Death Cure had some serious flaws. (In my opinion) They were too gruesome, (scary doesn’t have to be gross) there was too much pointless action, (it got a bit much after a while) certain parts made no sense, (and I didn’t like them) and the main character kept acting stupid. (After the Maze Runner I expected more out of him, he is supposed to be a genius after all.)
So my recommendation is you should read the Maze Runner, it’s a good, unique book, but skip the the Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. (Though I doubt I’d be able to follow my own advice. I just have a need to find out what happens.)
The Maze Runner: 7/10 Stars
The Scorch Trials: 5/10 Stars
The Death Cure: 4/10 Stars