Tag Archives: fantasy

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3) by Scott Lynch
Published in 2013 by Del Rey.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (hardback).

Genre: Adult high fantasy.

My rating:

With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.

Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body – though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring – and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.

Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha – or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.

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This is the review for the third part of the series, so it will definitely contain some spoilers for the previous two books. You can read my reviews of The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies – and then we’ll chat! :) This isn’t a simple review, either, but a delayed sort of read-along I’m doing with DJ from MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape – we’re calling it The Bastard Read-along. So if you’re reading this as well (either for the first time or re-reading in preparation of the forthcoming publication of The Thorn of Emberlain), leave the link to your review in the comments and I’ll make sure to link it somewhere in this post and in the master post of the read-along as well. If nothing else, be sure to check out DJ’s review – he’s reading the books for the first time so his perspective is different from mine!

Now, I am definitely sure I only read The Republic of Thieves once before – I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d read Red Seas Under Red Skies once or twice, and I’ve now read The Lies of Locke Lamora at least five times (which makes sense since I’m translating it into Slovenian). My memory of this book was therefore much more sketchy than with the previous two books, which isn’t that bad, actually.

The Republic of Thieves brings back an element I missed with Red Seas Under Red Skies: the flashbacks to the time when Gentleman Bastards were still a young gang of thieves, going through a rigorous education. Here, though, we have an actual parallel story line, unlike with Lies of Locke Lamora, where the flashbacks serve mostly to illustrate the characters’ backstory and the setting.

The switching of timelines – the past one where the young Gentleman Bastards depart for a foreign city to put on a stage production of a famous play, The Republic of Thieves, and the present one where Jean and Locke are competing with Sabetha to win the election in Karthain – make for a fast-paced story, much like in the first book. None of the parts dragged like they did with the second book, and I was once again immersed in both stories, cheering on Locke and his crew.

But the tone of this third book is different from the first one. Here, Locke is no longer the cocksure, brilliant thief convinced he’s the smartest of all – he’s lost friends and made mistakes, so while his schemes are still brilliant, his thoughts are tinged with regret and even self-doubt. Jean is grieving but still his loyal self, ready to prove that his friendship with Locke will always stand the test of time.

The most significant addition to the story, however, is Sabetha. I know many fans disliked her – she is proud, distrustful, and even a little traitorous, but I thought she was great. We’ve been listening to Locke pine away for her for two books, and now that she’s finally here, she’s human. Yes, she’s brilliantly educated and beautiful – Locke’s obsession with her has not diminished – but she’s also wary and prickly and careful, worried she’ll make the same mistakes that made her run from the Gentleman Bastards in the first place. I loved her relationship with Jean, the fact that they managed to talk despite the huge obstacle that is Locke Lamora’s ego.

I also need to mention the Bondsmagi – the scary order of magicians we’ve met before in the form of the Falconer who aided the Grey King slaughter half of Camorri criminals in the first book. Here, the Bondsmagi are the silent force that toys with the people of Karthain, steering the election like it’s some sort of a puppet show. I liked the insight we got into their world, I admired (and loathed) Patience and was horrified by what remained of the Falconer.

The hints about the Eldren were also interesting; this ancient, mysterious civilization that left behind magnificent ruins and vanished without a trace. I really, really hope we’ll get to discover more about them in the rest of the series.

And now all there’s left to do is wait for The Thorn of Emberlain to be published. We know the unrest in the Kingdom of the Seven Marrows is reaching boiling point and our favorite thieves will probably try to make the most of it. I hope we’ll get to see more Sabetha as well, but I’ll let Lynch surprise me. This is definitely one of my most anticipated releases and I hope it’ll happen in 2017.

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Have you read The Republic of Thieves? What did you think?

Are you as eager as I am to read The Thorn of Emberlain?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

The Best Books I Read in 2016

The year has come to an end. Finally, most people will say, given that 2016 has been a pretty tough year. But as I said, it has been a good year for me, and these books made it better. Books have the power to do that sometimes. I divided them into categories and linked to my reviews where they’re available – I’m still behind with writing them, oops.

It has been a year of comfort reads and losing myself in fantasy worlds, so the list reflects that, I think. The lists themselves are in random order.

Best of Fantasy

Best of Romance

  • To Love and to Cherish by Lauren Layne – this one spawned a binge of Layne’s backlist. I haven’t reviewed any others yet but I fell in love with her stories! I especially loved Blurred Lines.
  • How Not To Fall and How Not To Let Go by Emily Foster – maybe the only romance that made me cry? I *loved* them!
  • Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn – I read this one twice and I still think it’s great!
  • Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie – okay so it’s not just a romance but it was laugh-out-loud hilarious.
  • The Year We Fell Down and the entire Ivy Years series by Sarina Bowen – sports NA romance at its finest, really.
  • Act Like It by Lucy Parker – very good + bantery.

Best of Other

  • When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – gorgeous writing and packs a real punch.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – this was fantastic. Not my usual fare but so good!
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I loved the book so much but the movie just wasn’t that good.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir – one of the few Sci-Fi titles I read this year. I loved it!
  • Saga by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan – I really need to catch up with this one.

 

Which books will you remember most from 2016? 

Was it a good reading year for you?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms #2) by Cinda Williams Chima
Published in 2011 by Voyager.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA high fantasy.

My rating:

Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But danger isn’t far behind, and Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. Meanwhile, Princess Raisa

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’ Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells to the safety of Wein House, the military academy at Oden’s Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.

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This is the review for the second book in the Seven Realms series. My review of the first book, The Demon King, is here. Go read it if you’re new to this wonderful series because this review here will contain some spoilers for book one!

People, I have no excuse for waiting as long as I do between reading sequels in a series. Yet I always seem to wait and wait and then I forget half of what was happening in the previous book. So it took me a while to get into The Exiled Queen (this edition also came without a map, so I was a bit confused about the geography, as there’s a lot of travelling at the beginning of the book), but when I did, it was one wild ride.

Raisa is the princess heir of her queendom (How cool is it that there’s a queendom? I’ve tried to translate that into Slovenian and it just doesn’t work! “Queen” is “kraljica” while “king” is “kralj” and “kingdom” is “kraljestvo”, so it’s weird because “kraljica” is a derivative from “kralj”… Anyway, you didn’t come here for a language lesson.) and is currently on the run because the High Wizard tried to marry her off to his son (also a wizard), which is forbidden by law. She’s being escorted to the military school by one amazing Amon, her personal guard – ohh, their story was the best! Raisa is bent on studying hard to become the best possible ruler to her people, which I found admirable. She knows she’s not equipped to rule a nation if she’s seventeen and knows very little about the world. I liked that aspect a lot.

Han is a wizard! Yeah. That happened. So he’s on the way to school to study magic, only he’s indebted to the clans that paid his tuition and he keeps forming alliances (against his will) that stretch him in too many ways. And now a girl he met at home (hint: our lovely royal) is attending the same school, the other wizards hate his guts, and the clans are breathing down his neck. Lots of tension! (Also: excuse me, this review is completely incoherent.)

I’ll always be a sucker for stories that happen at schools for magic. Or any other type of school, really, as long as there are loads of people stuffed into a limited space and emotions run high and there’s kissing involved. *happy sigh* We also meet some students from other kingdoms, which brings some diversity into the story, but I do wish these characters had more prominent roles.

A note on the kissing: I really liked that Raisa kisses more than one boy/young man in the course of this series. I could dislike her because she’s one of those young women boys seem to go crazy about while she insists she’s nothing special, but I liked the matter-of-fact approach Chima has to youthful relationships: of course you’re going to kiss more than one boy before deciding one of them is your true love. In any case, there’s no judgment involved on this, which is refreshing.

I loved the secondary characters in this story, especially Amon and Dancer (Han’s best friend). They are both loyal to the bone and help their friends even when said friends are bent on doing stupid things. The antagonists (especially the Bayar family) are well-written, too. I hope we’ll see more of their stories in the future. The political intrigue is growing more complicated, so I really need to read the third book before I forget everything that happened in this one.

Seven Realms continues to impress and is one of the best YA fantasy series I’ve read in recent years. I can’t wait to see what will happen to Han, Raisa, and their crews in The Gray Wolf Throne!

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Have you read The Exiled Queen yet? What did you think?

Do you prefer to wait until a series is finished before you start reading it?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Crop of Mini Reviews

My posting schedule doesn’t allow me to review all the books I’ve read, and I like it that way. Not all books are meant to be talked about at length, so I skip them and only mention those that are either very good, ARCs, or very bad. Sometimes, though, these mini reviews really come in handy. These are all YA and MG reads from November and December.

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Blankets by Craig Thompson
Published in 2003 by Top Shelf Productions.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my brother (paperback).

Genre: YA contemporary graphic novel.

My rating:

I read Blankets back in high school when my mom and dad gave my brother this copy as a present. It’s a beautiful story of a boy growing up in a highly religious environment, his experiences with faith, first love, friendship, and family. I didn’t remember the story well, so I picked it up when I saw it at my parents’ apartment – my brother didn’t take it with him when he moved out (dun dun dun! This only makes sense if you’ve read the story and maybe not even then, sorry.) It also seems to be largely autobiographical?

I really liked the artwork – it’s all done in black and white, so it’s really powerful. Thompson’s style is beautiful and clean, though he sometimes veers into fantastic shapes and creatures that break up the harsh reality Craig (yeah, the MC’s name is the same as the author’s) has to face every day. If you get a chance, definitely give this one a try, it really packs a punch.

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Paper Towns/Lažna mesta by John Green
Published in 2014 by Mladinska knjiga .

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my mom (paperback).

Genre: YA contemporary.

My rating:

I did not enjoy this John Green novel. *le gasp*

I read The Fault in Our Stars a couple of years ago, before I started blogging, and really, really liked it (like most everyone I know). Then I read Looking for Alaska and reviewed it here. It was good, I liked it, but I definitely wasn’t as star-struck as I was before.

And now my faith in John Green’s writing is failing, because Paper Towns were a disappointment. I read the Slovenian translation (by Neža Božič), which is actually really good, so it didn’t play a role in my lower rating. I know Green has a really loyal following so if you find it unbearable to hear his books insulted, please exit through the side door. Thanks.

My main problem was with Margo. Without going into spoilers, she’s a spoiled (ha!) little brat and I disliked her immensely. Quentin was cool but the entire story was actually very similar to Looking for Alaska when you think about it! I wanted to slap some sense into all of them but couldn’t, because they’re fictional.

And then there was the pretentiousness. I’m sorry but do you know many 18-year-olds who quote Whitman but are also very cool and hip and generally the most intelligent beings around? I’ve read enough to know when an author did not kill his darlings (and he really should have). Parts of the story were horribly long-winded and really dragged along. Look, I had my fair share of stoned conversations about existential questions when I was that age but nobody ever said those conversations were meant to be written down, let alone read my millions of random people. Ugh.

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The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
by Lion UK.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: MG historical fantasy.

My rating:

The Little White Horse is one of my childhood favorites. I think I must have read it at least five times when I was younger – in Slovenian translation, of course (it is very good). But I wanted to read the original, so I bought myself the English version a couple of years ago and the book has been sitting on my shelf until now. I’m really happy I re-read it! I see it with completely different eyes now but the nostalgia is strong, so I can’t help but love it still.

Of course there are some problematic elements to the story of the orphaned Maria who comes to live at Moonacre Manor. There’s the notion that ladies don’t get angry, or loud, and that women are represented by the Moon while men belong to the Sun; there’s the overwhelming religious element and a number of other details that I could name. But they didn’t bother me in the least when I was little and it’s also wrong to judge the works from the past with today’s criteria.

So I’d still recommend this as a classic work of English children’s literature, and I’ll be reading it to my kids when the time comes, because it’s a pretty fairy tale and I want to share it with them. But if you’re looking for a modern, enlightened fantasy, this most certainly isn’t it.

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Have you read any of these? 

What did you think?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton
Published in 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA high fantasy.

My rating:

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

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You know you trust a blogger’s taste in books when you buy a book based on their recommendation without even reading the blurb. When Alicia recommended this, I picked it up as soon as I saw it in the bookstore. To be perfectly honest, the gorgeous cover did influence my decision, but still. I was worried about reading this one because I’d had a bad experience with The Wrath and the Dawn and the two books somehow became linked in my mind, even if there’s no connection between them (apart from the fact that they’re both set in the desert). I shouldn’t have worried, however, because Rebel of the Sands is a different kind of beast altogether.

I liked the protagonist, Amani, even though she can be a bit of a special snowflake sometimes. But she’s also the kind of girl who takes her fate into her own hands and takes action, which is something I miss so often from other YA fantasies. She’s a great shooter, she’s not afraid of taking the leap and take care of herself. That said, I was surprised by how she was able to leave certain people behind – she seems loyal but then she saves her own butt twice. I don’t know – it’s a slight inconsistency of character, but it didn’t bother me too much.

Jin, the mysterious guy she meets when she tries to win a shooting competition, is another intriguing character. I liked their interactions a lot, especially the romance which was appropriately slow-burn for me. There was enough chemistry, and yet no talk of love and soulmates after only weeks of knowing each other, so I am very pleased with this. I’m eager to see how their relationship will develop in the rest of the series.

The world-building is interesting as well. There’s always danger of info dumps when the author is building a new world but I thought Hamilton did a good job here. She drew her inspiration from the Arabic world, which is rich and beautiful as well as really, really harsh. At times, I got the feeling she was trying to shock me with some of the more brutal elements of such a culture, but then she always made sure to show that there are always people who disagree with the horrible traditions, people who are willing to fight for a better world.

All things considered, this is a great debut and a very good start to a beautiful fantasy. I can’t wait for Traitor to the Throne, which is being published in February. I’m actually glad I waited a bit before starting this one, so I won’t have to wait too long for the sequel.

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Have you read Rebel of the Sands? What did you think?

What was the last good YA fantasy you read?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

Half Wild by Sally Green

Half Wild (The Half Bad Trilogy #2) by Sally Green
Published in 2015 by Penguin UK.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from a friend (paperback).

Genre: urban/paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

After finally meeting his elusive father, Marcus, and receiving the three gifts that confirm him as a full adult witch, Nathan is still on the run. He needs to find his friend Gabriel and rescue Annalise, now a prisoner of the powerful Black witch Mercury. Most of all he needs to learn how to control his Gift – a strange, wild new power that threatens to overwhelm him.Meanwhile, Soul O’Brien has seized control of the Council of White Witches and is expanding his war against Black witches into Europe. In response, an unprecedented alliance has formed between Black and White witches determined to resist him. Drawn into the rebellion by the enigmatic Black witch Van Dal, Nathan finds himself fighting alongside both old friends and old enemies. But can all the rebels be trusted, or is Nathan walking into a trap?

Meanwhile, Soul O’Brien has seized control of the Council of White Witches and is expanding his war against Black witches into Europe. In response, an unprecedented alliance has formed between Black and White witches determined to resist him. Drawn into the rebellion by the enigmatic Black witch Van Dal, Nathan finds himself fighting alongside both old friends and old enemies. But can all the rebels be trusted, or is Nathan walking into a trap?

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This is the review for the second book of the Half Bad series, so there might be some spoilers for the first one. Go read my review of it here if you’re new to this!

I really should binge-read series more. Every time I take too long between sequels, I inevitably forget half of what has happened and then need half the sequel to really get back in the mood again. *sigh* I did read my own review of Half Bad and even resorted to reading the post on Recaptains before I tackled Half Wild, but I still didn’t exactly remember what happened to Nathan and crew.

That said, I enjoyed this book a lot. I mean – is it the most original, wonderful fantasy I’ve ever read? Probably not. But it does explore some interesting themes and the characters are surprisingly well-layered, so I liked it.

The central theme, at least as I saw it, is still this balance (or imbalance, actually) between light and dark, good and bad. Nathan, being a half-code (the son of a white witch and a black witch), is rejected from both communities – from the good and the bad. It’s hard for him to find a place for himself, especially since most of them just value him for his ability to fight. His relationship with his father gets a lot more complicated, as do his friendships with Annalise and Gabriel. Gabriel, especially, was a very interesting character.

I remember Half Bad being pretty brutal at some points and Half Wild isn’t much different – especially as the war against the white witches escalates and the rebels get organised. I wonder how the story will continue after such an ending – and I’m looking forward to reading Half Lost as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

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Have you read The Half Bad Trilogy? What did you think?

Should I be super excited about book 3?

I’d love to hear from you! 

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.