Tag Archive | historical

Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Series: Flame in the Mist #1

flame in the mist -renee ahdiehThe only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.


4 Drink Me Potions


Flame in the Mist was steeped in gorgeous Japanese lore that made the story both unique and enticing. While it wasn’t always moving at a fast pace, I can see why this book has been raved about. Because it’s very very true.

I haven’t read any of Renee Ahdieh’s other works yet but I’m not surprised that I enjoyed this novel. There was a lot of background work, I’m sure, to set this novel in such a setting and time. Although I was a little wary, to be honest, about how well this kinda YA book could be executed, I was delightfully surprised.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s like stepping into the Japanese culture and the way of the samurai. It never felt like the author only briefly did her homework and called it a day. She sold me on the genuine authenticity feel to this book.
  2. Intriguing things being laid out in the story’s background (for the next novel). There were little tidbits throughout that made me wonder if such events would become relevant later and things were tied well together in the end, no matter the cliffhanger-ish ending.
  3. The ability to weave a story with 2 main guy characters and not have a love triangle to keep things interesting. Okashi, the Wolf, was by far Mariko’s preferred choice, no matter that Ranmaru was so much more likeable at first.
  4. Mariko. Just Mariko ❤

To elaborate a bit more beyond those brief points, Flame in the Mist had a cast of characters and plot events that genuinely seemed to portray the Japanese culture. From teahouses to geishas and the lay of the lands, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Japan like this in a YA novel.

The one negative thing I would note is that the beginning is rather slow. It takes time for Mariko to even find her way to the Black Clan camp, and then she’s stuck there for a while doing nothing exciting at all. Except for mundane tasks. But once you get past this bump, it will surprise you as things develop more quickly.

Overall Recommendation:

Flame in the Mist shouldn’t be a surprise to fans of Renee Ahdieh’s books. She has weaved a beautiful story steeped in Japanese culture that still fits so relevantly in YA fantasy. Although it was slow to start, Mariko as our protagonist and the two mysterious guys leading the Black Clan will capture you in their story until the very last pages.

Review: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

midnight at the electric -jodi lynn andersonKansas, 2065 Adri has been handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before Launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate. While Adri knows she must focus on the mission ahead, she becomes captivated by a life that’s been lost in time…and how it might be inextricably tied to her own.

Oklahoma, 1934 Amidst the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called The Electric. But as her family’s situation becomes more dire — and the suffocating dust threatens her sister’s life — Catherine must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.

England, 1919 In the recovery following World War One, Lenore tries to come to terms with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. But even if she makes it that far, will her friend be the person she remembers, and the one who can bring her back to herself?

While their stories spans thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined in ways both heartbreaking and hopeful.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


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

**Midnight at the Electric comes out June 13, 2017**

Going into this novel, I barely knew what I was getting into. Sure, the synopsis suggests that it’s like a 3-in-1 kinda book, right? 3 girls living at different times with their own set of problems.

But what I hadn’t anticipated? The amazing way that Anderson connected and intertwined the girls’ stories together in a way that was just so beautifully done.

There’s a little something for everyone in this novel. The futuristic side takes place with Adri’s story, living in 2065 where people can actually fly off to Mars to hopefully start over again as Earth has been ravaged with natural disasters and parts of cities have fallen. She’s not a very nice or social person, but her story really sets the foundation of this whole book. Coming to live with the only relative she’s got left in this world, Lily, as she’s about to embark on the opportunity (and journey) of a lifetime to Mars gets her reflecting about family. Enters the gorgeous introduction of the next girl’s story, Catherine, as Adri finds her journal.

Catherine’s story turns this book into a historical plot. With the horrible setting of the Dust Bowl that terrorized the farmlands in the ’30s, her story brought out the true struggles such families faced to even physically survive the amount of dust blowing into their lungs. With a tragic love story at the heart of Catherine’s plot, it kept me greatly entertained and as intrigued as Adri was in figuring out who this family was that used to live on Lily’s farm, and how they may possibly connect to them.

But WITHIN Catherine’s story was a link to Lenore’s story, our final protagonist. As Catherine’s mother’s best friend before she moved away, Lenore’s letters to her childhood bestie made me reminisce about my own childhood friends and the pain of wondering if time changed us no matter how we may’ve wished we stayed the same. Set in the aftermath of WWI, I really enjoyed Lenore’s story too, in a different way from the others. First, I adore letter formats for stories, but Lenore’s voice was so relatable. She wasn’t perfect and she felt far from it many times. There was a bit of romance in there, but it wasn’t essential to have her falling in love with someone for her story to be amazing the way it was. Figuring out how to move on from the pain of losing her brother to the war and feeling the closeness of her relationship with Catherine’s mother no matter how many years it’s been since they were physically together was more than enough. And some mysterious components that were present in Adri’s time could only unfold from as far back as Lenore’s time, which really excited me at the prospect of linking everything together.

But what did I love the most?

We have to go back to Adri’s story. As a person who didn’t know how to get along with others very well, it was how she grew from this experience of connecting to these people who had departed so long ago that touched my heart. She took what Catherine’s journal and Lenore’s letters gave her to realize more about herself and where she was at the moment with Lily. That family was important. And so is what we leave behind that stays beyond the finite length of our lives. It was so profound. And I may have even teared up a bit at the end.

I shall end off with some of Adri’s insights that resonated with me, as I hope they too will also resonate with you (especially after you read it in context of the full novel when it comes out).

“I’m not much on writing, and I always wondered why some people are so drawn to it. But now as I sit here trying to think of what to say, I think I understand. No one wants to disappear. Words pin things down and make them real, and they last so much longer than we do…

I wanted to tell you most of all that I think it’s our love that gets passed along. Onward and forward.”


Overall Recommendation:
Midnight at the Electric connects 3 girls and their stories together in a such a poignant way, touching on various matters from loss of a family member to struggling to save a loved one. Despite the time difference between the stories, they’re all connected somehow, and figuring out the links between them slowly was half the fun of this novel. For such a short length, Anderson really packed it in with just the right amount for each girl. I truly recommend reading it, no matter if you don’t like historicals or futuristic novels. It’s a book that weaves together what’s truly important to people despite the cultural context, and I guarantee this would be a read that keeps you guessing and an ending that leaves some parts up for the imagination.

Review: The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

Series: The Crown’s Game #2

the crown's fate -evelyn skyePerfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and Red Queen, The Crown’s Fate is the thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Crown’s Game, an atmospheric historical fantasy set in Imperial Russia.

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.


2 Drink Me Potions


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

**The Crown’s Fate comes out May 16, 2017**

What can I say? The Crown’s Fate didn’t do much more for me than its predecessor. But I won’t glum down this review – at least, not for its entirety.

This novel, for those of you who may have rather enjoyed The Crown’s Game, might be a decent sequel (don’t let my low rating score you yet). The gorgeous Russian setting and culture continues to be explored here in this sequel. Maybe not as much as the first novel where we’re all still getting acquainted to all that is Russian history, but it’s still present with a larger focus on historical events over the actual setting and location. There’s an unsettled atmosphere with our main characters after the events of the first book, but it only gets amplified with what happens fairly earlier on in this novel. While that may have started out more exciting, I grew pretty weary with it all rather soon.

But first, any other praises I may have. Hmm.

Well, I suppose one point for Skye was how she handled her “love triangle”. Honestly, this never was a love triangle. It was 2 guys who fell for Vika way too fast because she was “different”. She only ever loved Nikolai (sorry Pasha shippers). And for that I’m glad. She wasn’t some wishy-washy girl who couldn’t make up her darn mind about who she wanted to be with and tagged along both boys until she could decide. She at least knew herself well enough in this regard, and it made me respect her more than the apathetic feeling I had for her before. But the romance was still very much hard for me to wrap around as it didn’t feel like there was enough substance for Vika, and Nikolai for that matter, to feel so strongly for each other. Was being the only 2 magical enchanters enough of a reason to love each other so quickly?

Anything else besides these two things just didn’t impress me. The plotline that started earlier with Aizhana continued here, but it felt so anticlimactic with what happened there. Like, there should’ve been something more to her role that, I don’t know, could’ve brought the main characters closer to unite against one common enemy. But nooooo. The main antagonist in this story felt so….unimpressive. It’s not unheard of for a story to twist like this, but at the same time, I felt like Skye could’ve gone a whole other direction with this book (like maybe focus on saving Nikolai, or defeating some larger problem together).

And this pattern continues from here. The other plotline dealing more with Pasha and his fight for the crown wasn’t exciting. Period. The ensuing climax for this growing tension in his country as he was ascending the throne was short and didn’t really focus in on that element. It was just there as another component to further emphasize the main problem and antagonist of the book (which I really can’t say without ruining everything, but argghhhh was I annoyed with it).

The ending I will concede wraps things up nice enough. It’s a happy ending, no worries. Yet I’m just left unsatisfied. Things ended too quickly and problems such as the country’s feelings towards our trio of characters are pretty much summed up as “yeah, everything’s gonna be fine. we’re totally okay with them and whatever excuses they came up with, I will gobble them up as if they’re truth even though some of it sounds pretty sketchy what with the devastating aftermath”. Honestly, you’ll see what I mean if you read the ending. Just…I’d rather there’d be a 3rd book on Vika/Nikolai/Pasha if it meant doing it right.

But who knows? Skye is trying to write a 3rd book. And if she does, I hope it’ll be on new characters in this setting ’cause I’m getting way too sick of reading a plot that seems to have dried up fairly early on.

Overall Recommendation:
I’m not sure if I feel more disappointed or apathetic, but The Crown’s Fate just didn’t meet my expectations in anyway. Even with further demonstrations of Skye’s knowledge and love for Russian history and culture, the main storyline faltered in way too many places. The romance, while devoid of true love triangle madness, was too quick without driving home the real chemistry between the characters. The main story arcs were slow and resolved in a rushed manner at the end that felt so anticlimactic. I may be a bit biased as I didn’t love its predecessor, but this novel just wasn’t any better. I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend it, but if you enjoyed The Crown’s Game, it’s still worthwhile to at least complete this series.