Tag Archives: high 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.

zmaj-levo

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 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!

zmaj-levo

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! :)

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.

zmaj-levo

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.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Companz.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from a friend.

Genre: YA high fantasy.

My rating:

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

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I have a love-hate relationship with hyped-up books. I am always afraid to read them because they so often disappoint, yet I have the feeling that I should be reading them because I’m missing out on all the fun the cool kids are having. This is why I went into Six of Crows with no small amount of anxiety. I’d already read one Bardugo book (Shadow and Bone) and while I liked it, I didn’t love it, and I never finished the Grisha series. Well, I’ve never been happier that I decided to give an author a second chance!

Six of Crows simply has everything I love in a good fantasy. A diverse, interesting cast of morally gray characters? Check. A heist? Check. A well-developed world without info dumps? Check. A dash of romance that doesn’t overwhelm the plot? Check and check.

I loved the crew Kaz put together to take on a nearly impossible job. Each individual is important, well-rounded, and flawed, but also good. I don’t know how to explain this. The multiple POVs could have been too scattered or too similar if the characters weren’t well thought out, but their voices were distinct and I enjoyed them all.

But Kaz Brekker absolutely stole the show. I probably mentioned that I have a soft spot for thieves (Hello, Locke Lamora!) and orphans, but Kaz is a special breed of both – a cold, brilliant crime lord who elevated his crew of misfits from common pickpockets to great con artists. BUT he also has a weak spot, which makes him human in the best way possible. *happy sigh*

cannot resist a good heist plot and this one delivered beautifully. The story was just convoluted enough that it kept me on my toes and yet straightforward, without unnecessary subplots. Bardugo wrote a thing of beauty and I can’t wait to read Crooked Kingdom. Six of Crows undoubtedly made it into my top 10 of 2016!

zmaj-levo

Have you read Six of Crows? What did you think?

Any other thief stories I should check out (maybe with an all-woman crew or a female band leader)?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas
Published on September 6, 2016 by Bloomsbury Children's.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA high fantasy.

My rating:

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

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This is the review for the fifth part of the series so you can be sure there will be spoilers for the first four books. You can read my reviews for the previous parts here: 1+2, 3, 4. If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ll know that my relationship with Maas’s books goes up and down. I wasn’t too impressed by Queen of Shadows, so I was curious about Empire of Storms and the direction Maas will take with her story.

After much deliberation, I decided that there will also be SPOILERS FOR THIS BOOK. So if you haven’t read it and hate SERIOUS spoilers, you should quit reading this now. I warned you.

So. Here we are, one book away from finishing this series. We’ve been with Celaena/Aelin for a while now and I know I should be invested in her story and rooting for her but you guys, I don’t like her. She’s obnoxious. She makes me want to slap her face (even if she’d cut my hand of as a result). So her storyline was the one I was least excited to read about. Her inability to share her plans with her closest friends and supporters just came off as incredibly arrogant. And now we’ll spend half the last book trying to save her silly ass.

The fact that she and Rowan finally had sex did nothing to improve this book. I’ve said this before but it has to be said again: Empire of Storms is NOT a young adult novel. The series might have started off as young adult but this just isn’t it anymore. I think I complained about this in my review of Queen of Shadows already but this time, it’s even more obvious. Even if it makes me sound like a prude, my complaint is mostly about the sex, which, by the way, was really awkward. On one hand, you have these spectacular orgasms that defy the elements and shake the world and whatnot, and on the other, the obviously “adult” content is censored so there’s no actual naming of body parts and Aelin is forever “grasping him” in her hands and so on. Also, there was one instance that kind of made me want to throw the book against the wall: “Rowan had healed the bruise on the back of her knuckles from the blow she’d dealt the witch – and she’d thanked him by locking the door to their room and getting on her knees before him. She could still feel his fingers fisted in her hair, still hear his groan-” Yeah. I don’t really like a YA character thanking anyone for anything with a BJ.

I was much happier when the story switched to other characters. I love Manon Blackbeak and her coven, I think their friendships, while based on a strict hierarchy, are pretty great. I still think wyverns would make great pets and I want one. I also enjoyed reading about Elide, I liked how resourceful she was and how stubborn. I think we can expect great things from her. I was surprised, however, that Chaol was not present at all in this book. He’s mentioned, sure, but all we know is that he’s recovering from his injuries and might – at a later point – help Aelin and Dorian. That’s it. He has been successfully erased.

What I didn’t like was the fact that everyone gets paired off in this book. We have Aelin and Rowan (but we knew about that one), Aedion likes the shifter Lysandra, Manon hooks up with Dorian (oh yeah, that was awkward, their half-assed attempt at BDSM, lol), and Elide gets Lorcan, one of Rowan’s fae friends. There’s a very brief mention that Aedion is bisexual, which feels like a poor attempt at having more diverse relationships – but I really missed more info on Manon’s Thirteen, some of whom could have much more interesting sex lives than most of the other characters. There’s this overabundance of alpha males in this series – and there’s a lot said about their past relationships, I think the expression used is that they “gorged on women” at some point, which is just gross. Eh.

You might be wondering at this point why I gave the book three stars/hearts if I disliked it so much. Well, I’d be a liar if I didn’t tell you that I flew through it. It’s nearly 700 pages long and I read it in three days, which is super fast for me these days. Maas writes very readable books, there’s no denying that. I’m also invested enough in her other characters that I want to finish the series to see how their stories end.

I also kind of liked the last twist, Aelin’s backup plan wasn’t half bad (even if she really could have shared it with Rowan and Aedion at least), though I didn’t like all the gods and weird ancestors butting in – it just felt like choices were taken away from characters for no apparent reason. It’s kind of simplistic to say a thing happened “because the gods willed it”, so I hope Maas manages to wrap things up in a more satisfactory manner in the last book.

Oof. Yeah. If you made it this far, kudos to you! :)

zmaj-levo

Have you read Empire of Storms? What did you think?

Do you like the path the series is taking?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Published in 2014 by Tor Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: high fantasy.

My rating:

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

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I’ve had The Goblin Emperor on my to-be-read list for a while now and I finally decided to give it a go, partly because I included it on my Summer TBR list and I like crossing things off lists. It makes me very, very happy that it is a standalone novel and that reading it doesn’t mean I’m in for six more 500-page books. (I’m slightly disillusioned by series these days, *sigh*.)

I usually start with the good things in a book because it’s just more optimistic, but here I’ll go with the bad first because the good definitely wins (which I totally mistyped weens right now) over the bad. So. The bad things.

I pity the poor audiobook narrator. Look, I know it’s a fantasy world so the author has the right to do anything she wants, but the names (both character and place names) were so hard to keep track of. I have to say that my paperback version included a pronunciation guide and a list of weird expressions at the end, but I didn’t find it until I had already finished the book because I have this irrational fear of paging through to the end of the book (*whispers* I hate spoilers). So I never check if there’s a guide like that at the end.

It’s not just that the names were difficult to pronounce – each character is called about four different names, depending on the social situation, their place in a family, function at court, and also gender. It was very confusing but I kind of got used to it by the end.

The other thing that I have to say is that if you dislike courtly/political intrigue, this might not be the book for you. It took me a while to really get into the story because all the relations were so bewildering and convoluted, but then that’s exactly the point: Maia, the main character, is thrown into this horrible situation where he’s expected to run a nation with zero experience. So the confusion I felt was probably nothing compared to what he felt at being thrust into this role.

And that’s it. Everything else was really, really well done. You can see that these two points didn’t bother me all that much – I only removed half a heart/star. :)

The main reason I loved this book so much is Maia. He is the best leading character I have read in a long time. He is such a good guy! I can only compare him to Julius, who is also adorable. Maia is just so inherently good despite the unhappy childhood he’s had, he is trusting and smart – and I wasn’t even bothered by his occasional naïveté, because it definitely made sense for a country-bred half-goblin to be naïve sometimes. His self-doubt was heartbreaking at times, especially because I just felt how he must have suffered as a kid to have gained such a poor opinion of himself.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters. There are a lot of them and while Maia was hated by some for the simple fact that he became emperor, he really insipired loyalty in others. The secondary characters were well written and fleshed-out, so I liked them despite having trouble with their names.

The pace of the story really picks up in the second half of the book. The first half encompasses the events of a week or so – the death of Maia’s father and his older half-brothers, Maia’s arrival at court, coronation, etc – so it’s very detailed and there’s a lot of world-building and explaining (though I never felt bored, there aren’t any massive info dumps if that’s what you’re worried about). But the schemes and plots really come into play in the second part of the book, so I got sucked into the story. I read the last 150 pages in a single evening, unable to put the book down.

I think this is one of those books that benefits from being read in a short amount of time, instead of being stretched over several weeks, for example. I think it would be even harder to keep track of all the names and relationships. So I’m glad I took the time to read it in a relatively short period of time, I think it made me like it even better! I’ll definitely be looking out for Addison’s next book (I know she writes under another name as well, so I might even check those out).

zmaj-levo

Have you read The Goblin Emperor? What did you think?

Do you like courtly intrigue or do you prefer quest-oriented fantasy?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.