Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

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

Wow this is a tough one to write a review on..I think I will be starting with what sounds like an essay. Sorry.

The first book in The Remnant Chronicles opens in a typical fantasy story way with a beautiful princess getting ready for her arranged marriage to a prince from a far-off kingdom meant to seal an alliance.  We soon learn she has no intention of going through with the wedding and runs with her handmaiden/best friend to a small town.  Here she is determined to live a real life: work for her keep, fall in love.

Of course, we learn the prince was not happy about the royal engagement either. So he is so curious about the girl that had the balls to stand him up, he decides to follow her.  At the same time, with the marriage alliance broken, the barbarians send an assassin after Princess Lia (the heroine).

So here is the catch. Who is the prince? Who is the assassin? This is so masterfully written, it's quite stunning. Pearson gives us the names of the pair. The pair interact with Princess Lia. There are chapters entitled "The Assassin" and "The Prince".  There are also chapters with their names as titles. She drops little hints to help you figure out which one is which because it isn't directly stated until halfway through the book.  Frankly, I did not even realize she did this. I just assumed who they were and was completely shocked at the big reveal. I went back and reread the chapters entitled "The Assassin" and "The Prince".  Nope, nothing was given away about the identities.

So here is the thing.  You could easily assume one way or the other. And I found myself liking both characters pretty equally.  Pearson did a great job of blurring the lines between black and white, good and evil.  I know this has been talked about a lot with this book.  But it is truly amazing.  As we get to know more about the assassin (when we know who he is of course) he doesn't seem like such a bad guy, or a barbarian at that. The Kiss of Deception is one of the deepest YA fantasy novels I have read to date.  I could go on and on about it.  But that would be useless babble.

What is my overall opinion? I loved this book so much. I can't wait for the next book in The Remnant Chronicles to come out. I have it pre-ordered.  I even forced my mom to start reading it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt

Okey dokey. I will start by saying that I pretty much loved Lu's Legend series. So I was super excited about the release of The Young Elites. I bought it and read it as soon as it came out. I am really sad to say that it was a bit of a disappointment.

I can't really put my finger on one exact thing that bothered me about the book. The pacing is slow, but I'm okay with that. I think my problem is more that because of the length of the book (a mere 355 pages including the epilogue 1.5 spaced 12 font), it did not really give me a chance to become invested in the story. I really wanted to like the characters. I did. But I just didn't know enough about any of them except for Adelina. And I just couldn't find it in myself to like her.

So here's my problem. I cry pretty much all the time when I read. The exception to that rule is George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, because I mean really. It's just obvious he's going to kill everyone so you shouldn't get too attached. I should have cried during this book. I know it. But I didn't care enough about the characters to. Oh yea, that was sad. Whatever.

All of my complaining aside, the concept of the story was truly intriguing. The base concept reminds me of Bracken's The Darkest Minds (disease strikes, the people that lived got special powers). But aside from that, they are absolutely nothing alike. The interactions with the queen and Teren distinctly made me think of A song of Ice and Fire (is Lu mayhaps a Game of Thrones fan??).

I did really like the fantasy world Lu painted: powers emerging from disease, courtesans in beautiful clothes, fighting over thrones, different kingdoms having different views over the Elites. The Young Elites has potential and I would like to see where Lu takes it. I won't be pre-ordering the next book, but I am sure to read it.

So what did I think?
I liked it. I definitely did not love it the way I thought I would. We'll see how the next book in the series goes. Maybe it can sway me to be more positive about it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

Ruby can't look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. Only Ruby can keep their highly dangerous prisoner in check. But with Clancy Gray, there's no guarantee you're fully in control, and everything comes with a price.

When the Children's League disbands, Ruby rises up as a leader and forms an unlikely allegiance with Liam's brother, Cole, who has a volatile secret of his own. There are still thousands of other Psi kids suffering in government "rehabilitation camps" all over the country. Freeing them--revealing the governments unspeakable abuses in the process--is the mission Ruby has claimed since her own escape from Thurmond, the worst camp in the country.

But not everyone is supportive of the plan Ruby and Cole craft to free the camps. As tensions rise, competing ideals threaten the mission to uncover the cause of IAAN, the disease that killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others with powers the government will kill to keep contained. With the fate of a generation in their hands, there is no room for error. One wrong move could be the spark that sets the world on fire.

Okay you might be asking, "Why are you starting with the last book in the trilogy?" Frankly it's for the sole reason that it was the last one to come out. There will be spoilers of the first two books in this review.

So this book was nothing like what I expected. Throughout The Darkest Minds and Never Fade Ruby becomes more and more independent. She starts to take charge more. In the Afterlight is no exception. As her role grows as a leader, so do her Orange abilities and her dangerous friendship with Cole. With this, her relationship with Liam is put to the test. She thinks he doesn't trust her to not wipe his memory again. He doesn't know his brother's Psi secret and doesn't trust him.

As a sci-fi I think this totally works. I could definitely see corrupt governments fighting to control freak kids supposing something like this could ever happen. There was even a small moment (and really it was just a moment) where I learned the cure for IAAN and thought, "maybe Clancy isn't the asshole I always thought he was." Nope, he is totally the biggest douche.

Bracken very carefully weaves through themes of death and love in this entire series. And I love the way she balances the two. Even though most children have already died from IAAN, we still see our fair share of death in this book. I totally cried. Like, a lot.

What did I like? I like the interaction and rivalry between Cole and Liam. And *spoiler* we are brought back to Thurmond for the first time since The Darkest Minds. We also get to see more than the factory, the cabin and the garden.

What did I not like? I think the ending maybe fell a bit flat. Yes, it was a nice ending. And yes I was kind of glad to see Clancy suffer the way he did. But the ending was kind of underwhelming for me. Especially when I think that Ruby has the education of a 10-year-old. What is she supposed to do after everything that has happened?

What did I think overall? I love this series. And even though the ending wasn't my favorite, I still love the book. I would recommend it to anyone who likes dystopian novels.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. The Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been searching for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics, and to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

 Where to start with my first review? Well, honestly I did not have high hopes for this novel. After reading the synopsis, I thought the concept of the Season Kingdoms was a bit silly. And yet for some reason I bought the book anyway. I am so glad that I did!

I am a huge fan of the fantasy genre. And this was a great start by Sara Raasch to a fantasy trilogy. Meira is a strong heroine who constantly questioned authority but also seeks constant approval. It's a coming-of-age completely unlike any other story I have read.

Okay so what is the downside? There is, of course, the dreaded love-triangle.  Thankfully, Raasch goes very light on this subject and it really doesn't hinder the story the way many times it would.  It wasn't as much of a triangle as it could have been in this respect since Meira went from wanting her best friend, Mather, to seemingly falling for Theron.  What are Mather's true feelings? We'll find out in the next book I would suppose.

Overall, the book did hold a few fantasy clich├ęs and stereotypes. But I can overlook them since Raasch paints a beautiful landscape not only of the Winter kingdom but of the other Seasons as well. We even get to learn a lot about one of the Rhythm Kingdoms.  It's such a rich world and I was easily immersed in it. I can't wait for the second book to come out.

So what did I think?
I really liked it. I would totally recommend this (and already have). This series has great potential. I just hope that Raasch does as good a job on the next book.