3 star, YA

Review: Spindle by E. K. Johnston

Image result for spindle e k johnstonIt has been generations since the Storyteller Queen drove the demon out of her husband and saved her country from fire and blood. Her family has prospered beyond the borders of their village, and two new kingdoms have sprouted on either side of the mountains. There the demons are kept prisoner by bright iron, and by the creatures the Storyteller Queen made to keep them contained.

But the prison is crumbling. Through years of careful manipulation, a demon has regained her power. She has made one kingdom strong and brought the other to its knees, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with the final blow: a curse that will cost the princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life.

The threads of magic are tightly spun, binding princess and exiled spinners into a desperate plot to break the curse before the demon can become a queen of men. But the web of power is dangerously tangled – and they may not see the true pattern until it is unspooled.


3 Drink Me Potions


The world is made safe by a woman, yes, but it is a very big world.

Spindle is a dramatic retelling of one of the oldest classics: Sleeping Beauty. However, it is not merely the same characters given different names and guises; a whole new world is created to bring a much different life to the story. Despite its fairytale origins, this book actually has many more mature themes compared to the Disney version, but nevertheless it had all the nostalgic value of the original story.

At first, the story was a little bit hard to follow. The theme is completely different: a cursed baby princess forced spinners in her country to leave due to a plague that attacks spinners specifically. The demons feed off of skill and the making of things, and spinning was chosen as the cursed skill that will ultimately let the demon take over the princess. If you are already confused at what I mean, that is exactly how I felt.

Since the people were cursed to not spin, the King and Queen banned spinning in their whole kingdom, and this led to the massive bonfire of spindles in the city – sound familiar? This is where I finally started to realize that this was the fairytale that I knew and loved (perhaps I should have realized from the title). The final straw was of course this “birthday party” of the Little Rose (the princess – another clue I missed), where magical guardians came bearing gifts, and before the last gift was given, the demon came and cursed the child. The last, and of course the weakest, guardian was left with the task of giving her the princess a small reprieve from the curse. The demon cursed the child to be taken over when she learned to spin, and the guardian gave her the “gift” of sleep if she reached for the spindle. Ding ding ding! Princess Aurora, is that you? Why yes, yes it is.

However, this is not your typical useless princess waiting for her prince to come. As one of the main characters, the Little Rose is a fierce and courageous young lady who embarks on a dangerous journey to break the curse with four new friends – ex-spinners looking to break the curse on their family and country. While Princess Aurora was given the gift of beauty and song, the Little Rose was given much more interesting and dare I say, useful gifts such as the discernment of truth.

The Little Rose was only five years old when her parents ruined my mother and brought ruination to my own life.

Spindle initially follows the journey of a young boy named Yashaa who is the son of an ex-court spinner. With his mother’s position being close to the princess, Yashaa once lived in the castle before the demon came and drove all spinners out of the land. This leads Yashaa to have an inborn hatred for the princess for being the cause of their damnation. Due to the King and Queen banning spinning and exiling all those who practiced to protect their daughter, this left many homeless and bitter. Those who spin in the land are cursed to have a worsening cough until their last breath, such is the demon’s curse.

Yashaa and his friends embark on a journey to save all the spinners and to break the curse on the land. Eventually they meet the princess, who is not at all as they expect. Together they run away and wander through the desert to look for a way to break the curse. All seems hopeless: the Little Rose has the choice of being taken over by a demon or eternal sleep. Romance develops as the journey continues and all the tensions start building as the demon begins to hunt for the lost princess. Will they be able to find a way to break the curse in time, or will eternal sleep be the fate for the Little Rose?

Overall Recommendation:
Sleeping Beauty is one of my favourite fairytales. The elements of magic and a powerful evil villain in Maleficent really enraptured me as a child. As a much older child now, I appreciated the more mature elements of this retelling, especially where the princess is not just some damsel in distress. The whole premise is completely new, and therefore may be hard to catch on. But for me, who loves any fairytale retelling, there was at least that element that I loved. I would say I enjoyed the nostalgia that came with the realization of what the story meant, but it was definitely a little bit more difficult to follow sometimes. Give it a try though, if you enjoyed Sleeping Beauty as much as I did.

 

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3 star, YA

Review: The Emerald Sea by Richelle Mead

Series: The Glittering Court #3

the emerald sea -richelle meadThe dazzling conclusion to #1 New York Times bestselling author Richelle Mead’s The Glittering Court series.

Meet Tamsin, the Glittering Court’s hard-angled emerald. Her outsized aspirations make her a fierce competitor, rising to the top of the ranks. But when the ship she boards for the New World is tragically lost at sea, she is quite literally thrown off-course.


3 Drink Me Potions


This is the first series I’ve read where all the stories mesh together but it’s from different protagonist POVs. While book 1, The Glittering Court, ravished me in one long sitting, my heart just wasn’t into the second book following one of the other girls.

So with wary expectations, I jumped into Tamsin’s story. After all, it’s partly the same story as what I’ve read twice already!

To my surprise, The Emerald Sea was intriguing. Tamsin’s little secret that made her such a pain in the ass sometimes (or like all of the time)? It’s finally revealed and it’s made some difference in how I view her.

The pacing was slow, but I can’t say that it’s ever boring in the life of Tamsin Wright. From skirmishes with different races of people to living with fringe religious groups, it’s like one bad thing after another comes her way. Mind you, this makes the book unnecessarily drawn out at times.

I wasn’t particularly fond of the romance, but I did like the love interest. Jago Robinson wasn’t your typical nice guy who’d never say or do anything less than polite for the “fairer sex”. He’s sarcastic, and protective of what he thinks is right no matter the consequences for him. I loved their conversations and interactions as they were at times teasing and fun with witty banter.

This book – or series, really – isn’t for everyone. Basically a fantasy version of colonial America and its early settlements, it reminds me a lot of Rae Carson’s Walk on Earth a Stranger series. Thankfully I like historical fictions so it wasn’t a complete turn off for me.

Because of the historical kind of setting, women portrayals were sometimes hard to read. Yet Tamsin’s ability to always “get things done”, no matter the complexity of her circumstances, really pushed the boundaries of what women could or should do in such a society. And for that, it was empowering to follow such a character in such a world as this.

While this is by far not one of Richelle Mead’s better works (I mean, just think of how popular the Vampire Academy series and its sequel series has been!), I enjoyed this book well enough. Clever in its execution as it seamlessly tied together some of the events we’ve seen in the other 2 books, The Emerald Sea made for a good conclusion to this trilogy. But I’m confident in saying that I’m good if I don’t visit the land of Adoria again in yet another POV any time soon.

Overall Recommendation:
The Emerald Sea covers the third protagonist from The Glittering Court, Tamsin, and the adventures she was simultaneously having during the timeline of the previous 2 books. Written in the same slowly flowing pace with a touch of the historical atmosphere, I found it slow at times but never quite boring. Filled with new insights into Tamsin’s character and her motivation behind every action, this was a rather female empowering story given the setting. Intrigue, action and heady romance, this book’s got it all, though I will warn that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

3 star, YA

Review: Evermore by Sara Holland

Series: Everless #2

evermore -sara hollandThe highly anticipated sequel to New York Times bestseller, Everless!

Jules Ember was raised hearing legends of the ancient magic of the wicked Alchemist and the good Sorceress. But she has just learned the truth: not only are the stories true, but she herself is the Alchemist, and Caro—a woman who single-handedly murdered the Queen and Jules’s first love, Roan, in cold blood—is the Sorceress.

The whole kingdom believes that Jules is responsible for the murders, and a hefty bounty has been placed on her head. And Caro is intent on destroying Jules, who stole her heart twelve lifetimes ago. Jules must delve into the stories that she now recognizes are accounts of her own past. For it is only by piecing together the mysteries of her lives that Jules will be able to save the person who has captured her own heart in this one.


3 Drink Me Potions


**Evermore comes out December 31, 2018**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Evermore was a quick journey back into a world where blood is bound by time and into a centuries old battle between the Alchemist and Sorceress. While I read through this book in almost one sitting, I’m left with some mixed feelings.

Jules Ember, aka the long-lost Alchemist in her 12th life, is on the run for murder. And what a semi-cliffhanger that was, wasn’t it? The queen and Roan are dead but unfortunately, Jules has been framed.

Her only ally and friend? Liam Gerling, brother of Roan and for the longest time, sworn enemy of Jules.

I feel that every single element of Evermore has both made me happy and slightly dissatisfied at the same time. I will try to break it down.

World building
PRO: I still thoroughly enjoy this kingdom of Sempera who thrives on blood irons as currency. As a quick recap, people’s blood can contain time of varying lengths depending on the volume taken, such as hour coins to year coins. Ingesting blood irons allows others to ‘gain’ the time that was bound to that amount of blood. I still find this element unique among the overly congested world of YA fantasy.
CON: Yet, there’s almost nothing largely new about this world found in Evermore. We hardly even get to spend much time at Everless, the setting that much of Everless took place. New lands are mentioned and some new histories into this kingdom come to light, but if you took away the use of blood irons here, it’s like Sempera could be like ANY other place. There’s nothing special at the end of the day.

Age old battle trope
PRO: Jules gets fragments of her previous lives at a time, kind of like a mystery slowly unfolding piece by piece. We have no idea exactly what happened between her and the Sorceress and just how she may end this battle once and for all. It adds to the mysterious air of the book, driving some urgency towards the conclusion of this duology.
CON: But this is ALL it seems Evermore focuses on. Jules: how to kill Caro. Jules: keep on running from Caro. Jules: keep all loved ones at arm’s length because Caro may try to will kill them. Jules: WHO am I as the Alchemist?
After a while, it just got tiring, you know? Maybe I just needed a little something else to focus on sometimes.

Romance
PRO: I never had any huge love for Roan in book 1 so I was desperately excited at the hints of Liam becoming more in book 2. Yes, he’s your stereotypical brooding male who may not always be so great at showing his feelings. Okay. Maybe that suggest he’s emotionally unavailable but somehow, he did almost a 180 change in Evermore so *shrugs*. I’m good with that.
CON: However….
Somehow in between book 1 and 2, I lost the connection I felt for Liam and Jules together. Although Liam was very much present here (yay!), it just took a long time for me to really be happy about it. To really feel their love and connection. Come on, you’re trying to sell me on the fact that Jules’ heart may break if Caro kills Liam. I NEED to feel it to believe that without just being told so. And sadly, it didn’t really work most of the time.

I think this duology overall was a great debut and the ideas were definitely intriguing. It’s hard to deliver a stunning ending to such a good start to a series, so here I am feeling like I’m left holding the bag waiting for something.

That’s not to say the ending wasn’t great. It was a really good couple of last chapters with many answered questions. The middle just needs some working on, in my opinion.

Overall Recommendation:
Evermore had big shoes to fill after its predecessor and it may not have fully reached its potential. While the action amps with the centuries old war between the Alchemist and Sorceress taking front stage again, everything else seemed to have been pushed aside as less important. The romance with Liam was hard to believe sometimes (and oh, I wanted to believe) while the world building felt lacking after what was already learned in book 1. With a heartfelt ending, I do believe Evermore still has something to offer but just may not have met my high expectations.