Review: Lifeblood by Gena Showalter

Series: Everlife #2

9780373212194.inddMy Firstlife is over, but my Everlife is only now beginning.

With her last living breath, Tenley “Ten” Lockwood made her choice and picked her realm in the Everlife. Now, as the war between Troika and Myriad rages, she must face the consequences.

Because Ten possesses a rare supernatural ability to absorb and share light, the Powers That Be have the highest expectations for her future—and the enemy wants her neutralized. Fighting to save her Secondlife, she must learn about her realm from the ground up while launching her first mission: convincing a select group of humans to join her side before they die. No pressure, right?

But Ten’s competition is Killian, the boy she can’t forget—the one who gave up everything for her happiness. He has only one shot at redemption: beating Ten at a game she’s never even played. As their throw-downs heat up, so do their undeniable feelings, and soon, Ten will have to make another choice. Love…or victory.

3 Drink Me Potions

Lifeblood is a middle book that made me wish it was the first book. Filled with better world building – or should I say afterlife building? – and more kickass characters, this sequel was everything I wished book 1 contained.

Ten Lockwood, girl wonder that fits your mold of a special snowflake protagonist who’s invaluable to the central plot of the story, annoyed me less this time around. Which is a gigantic feat to accomplish. Her over-obsession with numbers and counting literally everything around her wasn’t overtly used, although that’s not say that it wasn’t still very much present in her life. However, I could say that she grew drastically as a character since last we saw of her. No longer is the indecisive girl who couldn’t choose between the 2 afterlife realms. This is a young woman with her whole being set on the Troikan values.

To keep this short and sweet, there weren’t many highlights aside from these things. I didn’t mind the info dump that occurred since Ten went to Troika as this was what I had wanted to know from the start . It was imaginative and well-described to the point that I felt I could navigate Troika myself. We get some info about the enemy realm, Myriad, and their history together too, so don’t you go worrying about lack of information there.

Both familiar characters and new ones play bigger roles here. The hot Troikan labourer, Deacon, and possibly your least favourite character, Sloan, are both still kicking, and even fallen characters who succumbed to Second Death aren’t necessarily gone for good (*hint hint*). We finally get a sense of the bigger picture now as Ten prepares to join in on this war between the realms. It’s finally pumping my blood a little at how this whole chaotic thing is gonna end.

I’m guessing Ten’s special powers have something to do with it. There’s minimal information about what exactly she can possibly do, but I suppose that’s why we have a book 3, right?

So world building and some minor character development helped with this rating as it took me forever to finish this book. What I still couldn’t really stand for was the romance . I mean, he’s hot and all and there’s apparently physical chemistry going on there, but for the life of me, I just am feeling nothing when it comes to Killian. He’s too textbook bad boy with a sad past that makes him a papercut-out copy of too many love interests for me to care. If you came here for the romance, I will say there’re plenty of little fun scenes where they do manage to get together, but if you just want everything else aside from it, no worries. You can totally skip those scenes as fast as possible without losing too much relevant information!

While the above states some of the more trivial things that I liked or not-so-much liked about Lifeblood, there was one thing that really got to me. I absolutely adored the underlying message in this book. To love even those that are hard to love or may not really deserve it. To forgive. To never give up on those who can be saved. These themes make this novel more than just your average book and for that I finished it.

Overall Recommendation:
Lifeblood was the kind of sequel that excelled beyond what the first book gave us. With plenty of war action between the realms and yes, even hot little romantic scenes, this book definitely had more of everything I was looking for. Both familiar and new characters will surprise you as the momentum builds for the conclusion. Although I wasn’t considered a fan of this series before, I think Lifeblood may have just convinced me to see it through.


Review: Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #3

into the bright unknown -rae carsonThe stunning conclusion to Rae Carson’s New York Times–bestselling Gold Seer trilogy, which Publishers Weekly in a starred review called “Simply terrific.” A historical fantasy brimming with magic, romance, and adventure—perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Sarah Maas, and Westworld.

Leah Westfall, her fiancé Jefferson, and her friends have become rich in the California Territory, thanks to Lee’s magical ability to sense precious gold. But their fortune has made them a target, and when a dangerous billionaire sets out to destroy them, Lee and her friends decide they’ve had enough—they will fight back with all their power and talents. Lee’s magic is continuing to strengthen and grow, but someone is on to her—someone who might have a bit of magic herself. The stakes are higher than ever as Lee and her friends hatch a daring scheme that could alter the California landscape forever. With a distinctive young heroine and a unique interpretation of American history, Into the Bright Unknown strikes a rich vein of romance, magic, and adventure, bringing the Gold Seer Trilogy to its epic conclusion. Includes a map and an author’s note.

3 Drink Me Potions

Into the Bright Unknown plays well as a wrap-up to Rae Carson’s latest trilogy but ultimately falls a bit flat in amping up suspense for an explosive finish.

What exactly do I mean by that? Well, with the ultimate enemy as I saw it, that being Lee’s Uncle Hiram, being dealt with at the end of the last book, there just wasn’t a whole lot left that threatened their existence now that everyone’s arrived in California. The first book had the action and pacing that came from the hard journey across the country. The second book dealt with the ramifications of coming to this supposedly wondrous land and Lee’s uncle catching up to her like a big dark storm cloud.

What’s left for this book, you may ask? Not too much, really.

The “enemy” is the man Lee made a deal with earlier who may or may not be altogether good. Turns out, he’s not. Yet their whole demise and plan to destroying their last enemy in the way of their happiness was the only thing in this book. It was too simple of a plot. I suppose there’s beauty in simplicity at times, but I was expecting more from a finale. Maybe too much of the action occurred in book 2 so now there really wasn’t much more to add to everyone’s problems to continue the story.

Alas, if suspense and action couldn’t sustain my expectations, maybe a dose of romance could? Yet the beauty in the tension and sometimes misunderstandings between Lee and her best friend Jefferson just wasn’t really there anymore now that things have settled between them. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the fact that they finally are together and that they’re happy, but it’s like a bit of their chemistry was snuffed out in the process! Unlike Rae’s other trilogy with plenty of romance that was sustained even when the love interests got together, this was almost the exactly opposite. Maybe it’s the time setting. People weren’t as expressive of love before marriage as they are now? Yet I can’t help but think even historical fictions do fairly well in the romance section while keeping it fairly accurate.

Aside from these things, Into the Bright Unknown WAS a good ending overall. Things get wrapped up in a nice bow for everyone. Dreams that were half-formed in the beginning are coming to fruition, and even those we weren’t aware of initially are coming true. I do like myself some happy endings and an optimistic look towards the future. I do also admire the amount of effort it takes to research historical fictions accurately for the time period it’s set in. Rae has done an amazing job with this and I do feel like I’m there in the 1850s with these characters, excited about the prospect of gold and infuriated by the limited rights of the indigenous peoples, Chinese and African Americans.

Overall, it wasn’t all that I expected it to be, but it at least delivered a decent ending for a trilogy ensconced with characters that have captured my heart.

Overall Recommendation:
Things did not go all as I expected with Into the Bright Unknown. While still characteristically and historically accurate as is Rae Carson’s style, I felt it lacked in plot development. Where there are normally many layers to her previous plotlines, this lacked substance and came across as way too simple. Even the romantic aspects weren’t too satisfying now that the tensions are gone between Lee and Jefferson. I love Rae’s work overall, and this finale delivered a happy ending for the characters I’ve come to enjoy, albeit a light one.

Review: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

Series: The Queen’s Rising #1

the queen's rising -rebecca rossWhen her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

3 Drink Me Potions

**The Queen’s Rising comes out February 6, 2018!**

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

The Queen’s Rising was a refreshing take on different factions known as “passions” with a good mix of impending battles and forbidden love.

I didn’t bring too many expectations into this novel and I think that made it more enjoyable for me. We follow Brienna, a half-Maevan girl living in another neighbouring kingdom of Valenia, who just doesn’t know how to choose between the different passions. Like, girl, just make up your mind! But the system was interesting. There are 5 passions which include knowledge, music, art, wit, and dramatics. It takes 7 years of schooling to complete the training at which time you gain a passion cloak that is a symbol of prestige and completion akin to a school degree upon graduation.

Likewise, the different clans in Maevana was really cool, especially the history and timelines of certain clans. With Brienna being part Maevan, I assumed there’d be quite a bit of information about them.

While I enjoyed this world building, I felt it wasn’t ENOUGH.

First, there’re beautiful maps made of the kingdoms at the front of the book. Half the places here we never really get much information on, or barely mentioned at all during the plot. Maybe I’m just jumping the gun and they’ll appear more in later books of the series, but besides the bits about individual clans and certain city names, there’s really not much given to us in the actual book.

Second, those darn ancestry timelines! Of course since they’re at the front of the book, I looked at it. And if you were hoping for a surprise twist or whatever in the plot, especially about the identity of Brienna’s father, then don’t look at it! It totally ruins everything unless the point was that this tidbit of information wasn’t meant to be a surprise to the readers.

Third, both the passion system and the magical abilities of the Kavanaugh clan wasn’t really developed. Most of the story is focused on Maevana while the Valenian half was like a filler leading towards how Brienna could understand more of her Maevan heritage. What I don’t get is that there’s really nothing much explored with WHY the Kavanaughs are solely powerful and HOW it can go awry if used poorly. And the passion system seemed thrown in there like a last minute thought sometimes without truly developing the system such as who is allowed to passion, and what is the point of it all when you complete/waste 7 years of your life on it? Maybe these questions don’t matter to some of you, but it does for me as it gives me more of a taste of this world that they live in.

The amount of character building felt lacking to me too! With a page full of different characters at the front and their roles in the story, it just made me assume that this was necessary in order to keep track of all the people we’d meet along the way.

But no! That is not the case here. I thought the girls Brienna passioned with would play more prominent roles but most of them aren’t mentioned after a quarter into the plot. And for the ones who feature more, they just felt flat. I couldn’t understand how they could “love” each other so strongly after such a short period of time. The lengths they’d go to to sacrifice for each other was difficult to comprehend. It was nice, but hard for me to wrap my mind around.

Overall, yes, I had my issues with this book, but there were a lot of good ideas that just needed more time to flesh out more thoroughly. I enjoyed the passion system. I liked some of the characters that we do stick with, and I love the romantic interest. It’s a very slow-burn kinda romance that probably started before the timeline of the story which makes it more plausible in my opinion. It may be a bit weird for some people who don’t love the previous teacher-student relationship, but if you’re into forbidden love tropes, then this was delicious in a slow-burn way.

The ending wrapped things up nicely (maybe a bit too nicely) so I’m not sure what’s in store for the future books. However, I still think this was a good start no matter my less-than-ecstatic comments. There is a whole lot of potential for great improvement with this series and this author in the future, and I wanna be there when that happens.

Overall Recommendation:
The Queen’s Rising was fairly fast-paced with a unique system of passions. While the romance was a bit more subtle which normally would bug me more, I appreciated the role it played and the ability to focus more on the main plotline. However, character development and plot could’ve been better thought out but there was definitely potential in its world building. Ending on a happy note, I am curious and still interested in seeing where else this story is going.