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.

 

3.5 star, YA

Review: Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Series: Heart of Iron #1

heart of iron -ashley postonSeventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?


3.5 Drink Me Potions


May the stars keep you steady. And the iron keep your safe.

Science fiction at its best, Heart of Iron has notes of action, romance and intrigue in this Anastasia retelling!

Ana and her crew of misfits aboard the ship Dossier were a wonderful found family that reminded me a lot of Melissa Lander’s Starflight series. From the spunky Ana with a heart for non-humanoid individuals to her Metal boy, D09, and ambitious pilot Jax with some secrets of his own, I thought this was a unique (enough) cast of characters. The format of the novel was easy to get through as it alternates between most of the main characters’ POVs, although the downside is having rather short chapters at times before it’s onto the next person.

Although I would categorize this book in science fiction, there’re elements of fantasy embedded. Set in what is known as the Iron Kingdom where 3 different planets have aligned together, they worship a Goddess who’s been said to have vanquished a Great Darkness a thousand years ago. And as the 1000th year approaches, they’re awaiting a new Saviour to come and do it once again – which you can probably guess, sounds rather familiar with other fantasy tropes.

In some other places, it felt particularly reminiscent of Star Wars. For example, the interactions and characteristics of D09 and E0S reminded me of C3P0 and R2D2, respectively. I absolutely loved it as these non-humanoid characters were given such distinctive personalities (or close enough, in the case of a non-speaking, bleeping-only bot). Sometimes I felt like I looked more forward to their POVs as their human counterparts weren’t always as exciting.

Action abounded and their mysterious quest to unearth what happened to their kingdom’s royal family years ago was definitely intriguing. I think the middle just lacked good pacing in places, and certain plot points were predictable, especially if you know and love the original story of Anastasia. I did admire Ashley Poston’s ability to weave this story as both something unique and completely hers while keeping to some things found in Anastasia, which can be hard to do it justice.

I wasn’t expecting the love interest to be Di (D09) at first, thinking Robb, the Ironblood Ana runs across on her journey to unearthing the secrets of a lost ship, would fit the bill more. But there’s the diversity in relationships as Jax and Robb have something cute going on. Di and Ana’s relationship was a little bit harder to swallow at first (he is a Metal, after all), but it grew on me and I’m totally rooting for them.

She didn’t know who she would be without him, and she never wanted to know. Her heart beat, and his wires hummed, and they were Ana and Di – and there were no words for that.

All in all, it’s still a fun and enjoyable read and I look forward to seeing what comes next from this series – especially from that ending!

If you’re fans of Melissa Landers and Amie Kaufman/Meghan Spooner’s books, I would definitely recommend this for you.

Overall Recommendation:
Heart of Iron takes the great things of both fantasy and science fiction and weaves together a story about found families, your fate and the lengths we go to save the ones we love. As story retellings go, I thought it was a unique spin on Anastasia while keeping to some original material that added to the overall space setting and plot. Fans of YA science fiction should not be disappointed! I can’t wait to see what’s in store next!

4 star, Uncategorized, YA

Review: The Traitor Prince by C.J. Redwine

Series: Ravenspire #3

the traitor prince -cj redwineJavan Najafai, crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at an elite boarding school, far away from his kingdom. But his eagerly awaited return home is cut short when a mysterious imposter takes his place—and no one believes Javan is the true prince.

After barely escaping the imposter’s assassins, Javan is thrown into Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. The only way to gain an audience with the king — and reveal Javan’s identity — is to fight in Maqbara’s yearly tournament. But winning is much harder than acing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena, but also a band of prisoners allied against him, and even the warden herself.

The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive — but she has dangerous secrets.

Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight the deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.


4 Drink Me Potions


**The Traitor Prince comes out February 13, 2018**

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

This may be my favourite book from CJ Redwine yet! The Traitor Prince artfully pieces together another story in the Ravenspire universe, this time set in the deserts of Akram. While the story starts off with another character (the traitor devising a plan to steal the throne), we follow the male protagonist, Javan, a lot in the beginning which was a refreshing change.

The story was fairly fast-paced, and oh boy, pretty action-packed. With people working against him and betrayals coming from every direction, Javan gets sent to Maqbara, the infamous prison that’s changed since he’s been gone in another kingdom. There he meets Sajda, the warden’s slave, an initially fearsome girl with a deep secret.

Their romantic chemistry is subtle and not over done – just the way I like it. Redwine doesn’t make it seem like they instantly hit it off, or confess any huge attraction for each other instantaneously. In fact, they’re downright hostile to each other at first (particularly Sajda). To my delight, the transformation in their relationship as they’re forced to work together to escape Maqbara was so realistic and honestly, felt JUST right. As wariness slowly turned into trust, you can totally reach out and roll around in the feels there. Not just in their own relationship, but the tenuous ones forged in the heart of the prison.

If you’re not such a huge romance lover, never fear! There’re fights to the death in this novel.

That’s right. To the DEATH.

Like, gladiator style. Good thing Javan can fight.

The descriptions throughout these fights and the messes Javan gets in with other inmates keep your blood pumping as vicious creatures – all crazily described including their abilities and fatal weaknesses – attack the prisoners from all sides. And they’re not this prince’s only problem! I love that I felt everything just as deeply as he did. The injustice that was done to him. The honour he tried to bestow on his family all these years that could disappear in this prison with him. But mostly, I loved how his character strengthened throughout this ordeal. His faith in his god wavered at times, but there was a purpose in his being here – a royal who wouldn’t ever get this chance – mingling with the lowest of the lows.

Now, if none of the above draws you into this story, I dunno what would impress you. To throw it in there, little sweet cameos/appearances or mentions of the previous protagonists in the Ravenspire series also feature. But if you haven’t read them, never fear! Sajda and Javan’s story work well on its own as well.

So what are you waiting for?

Overall Recommendation:
The Traitor Prince has outdone itself with a well-paced plot, continuous action and suspense (to the death style), and a slow simmering chemistry between the main characters. The emotion it can invoke in you is outstanding as we get drawn into Javan’s story from the very beginning. If you’re one to enjoy fantasies with the odds stacked against you and a slow-burn kind of romance that develops along with the characters, I’d say this is a book for you.