Tag Archives: urban fantasy

In Which I Flail Over The Raven Cycle

It’s been a long time, people, but I finally found a series that broke my reading slump for good (fingers crossed). The last time I binge-read an entire four-part series in less than 10 days was when I first read Twilight (don’t judge, okay?).

So I’m beyond happy to have finally caved to peer pressure – because Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle is great. Let me tell you why (also this is a non-spoilery sort-of review of the entire series):

  • The characters are fantastic. Okay, I know people are saying that they’re really over-privileged white spoiled boys (and girl), but I couldn’t help but feel that the over-privileged part was more of a hindrance in their case. And I know readers are especially partial to Ronan (or Adam), but I have to say Gansey stole my heart. He’s such a good guy and you know how much I love good guys. I was also afraid that Blue would be your typical manic pixie girl, but she’s just so relatable and down to earth and kind. She’s a wonderful heroine.
  • The adults aren’t complete morons. So often in YA, adults either act as antagonists or are completely absent from the plot, leaving teenagers to save the world (which is…fine, but gets old pretty fast). Here, I loved Blue’s relationship with her mother, the psychic ladies, and Mr. Gray. They never stole the spotlight from the main characters but they also didn’t let them flail around on their own.
  • The writing is addictive. I’ve read the Mercy Falls series before and I liked Stiefvater’s world a lot, though it didn’t blow me away. With The Raven Cycle, however, I couldn’t stop reading. When my local bookstore didn’t have Blue Lily, Lily Blue in stock, it was the worst (they got it for me from another town so I didn’t have to order through The Book Depository and wait for two weeks, whew).
  • The worldbuilding is detailed but not overpowering. As always, I’m super glad when I find a series where the author doesn’t beat me over the head with their world. Like, the mythical king Gansey is looking for (the drive for the entire series) was completely unknown to me, and though I didn’t particularly care about the king (and didn’t even check if he’s an actual historical persona), I could still follow and enjoy the plot.

All in all, this series is a treat. If paranormal YA is your thing, you need this in your life. And then we can chat about who your favorite raven boy (or girl?) is, alright?
Have you read The Raven Cycle? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you! :)

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.

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
Published on October 11, 2016 by Amulet Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Amulet Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA historical urban fantasy.

My rating:

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

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Iron Cast was one of those impulse requests on NetGalley that usually turn out to be horrible – but I am very, very glad I let myself be pulled in by this gorgeous cover.

This is the story of two best friends, Corrine and Ada. I’ve recently talked about friends and cited this novel as a good example of a bookish friendship – and I stand by this. These two young women are an unlikely pair but I think their relationship is what made the book for me. I loved their loyalty, their willingness to sacrifice their own safety for the other, their acceptance of the other’s flaws (but not blind acceptance, mind you). This is what true friendship is about and I loved how Soria portrayed them.

As characters, Corrine and Ada are very interesting. They are both hemopaths – their “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to manipulate people’s emotions and create illusions through words and music – but their gifts are very different. Corrine, a daughter of an important and wealthy family, is headstrong, impulsive, and often too brash; Ada, a girl shunned not just for her ability but for her dark skin, is calm, thoughtful, and steadfast. I liked the contrast between their personalities, I think they worked very well together.

The supporting characters were well-fleshed out, too – I enjoyed their stories and the fact that I never knew who to trust, who to like. I’m not entirely sure whether this is meant to be the first part of a series but the story, while featuring a perfectly good ending, definitely made me wish for more. I hope Soria will continue Corrine and Ada’s story.

loved the world and the worldbuilding. The pre-Prohibition era isn’t a historical period I know well – it certainly isn’t very common in literature, at least I haven’t read a lot of books in set in that time period (I can only think of The Great Gatsby, which I hated). It wasn’t just about the dresses and the illegal clubs, though, Soria did her homework well and created a rich environment where the glitzy high society meets the underbelly of the city. The asylum brings a note of horror to the story (but not too much, it was fine for me and I’m a huge chicken when it comes to horror).

The magical system was very interesting as well – art as magic is a fantastic idea, especially since we have different types of hemopaths that use words, music, painting for their illusions and manipulations. The ethical implications of such abilities were very intriguing, too, and I liked that Soria took the time to explore them.

All in all, this is a really good novel. As far as I can tell, this is Soria’s debut – and you can be sure I’ll be on the lookout for her next novel, whether it’s a sequel to this one or something else entirely.

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Have you read Iron Cast? What did you think?

Do you have any recs for books set in the same time period?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished (Heartstrikers #3) by Rachel Aaron
Published on August 5, 2016 by Aaron/Bach LLC (self published).

Links: Goodreads.

Source: ARC via author. Thank you Aaron/Bach LLC (self published) for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: urban fantasy.

My rating:

When Julius overthrew his mother and took control of his clan, he thought he was doing right by everyone. But sharing power isn’t part of any proper dragon’s vocabulary, and with one seat still open on the new ruling Council, all of Heartstriker is ready to do whatever it takes to get their claws on it, including killing the Nice Dragon who got them into this mess in the first place.

To keep his clan together and his skin intact, Julius is going to have to find a way to make his bloodthirsty siblings play fair. But there’s more going on in Heartstriker Mountain than politics. Every family has its secrets, but the skeletons in Bethesda’s closet are dragon sized, and with Algonquin’s war looming over them all, breaking his clan wide open might just be the only hope Julius has of saving it.

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Again, my dragon page dividers are just the most appropriate ever. I love dragons. *happy sigh*

This is the review for the third part of the series, so there are surely some serious spoilers for the first two books. You can read my reviews of those here: Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another. And you should really just give in, listen to my advice, and give this series a try.

I was lucky enough to be contacted about this advance copy by the author (or rather her husband), and you can bet it made my day! This was one of my most-anticipated reads of 2016 – mostly because Julius is one of the best characters I’ve ever read (he is such a good guy. I recently read The Goblin Emperor, which has a similarly kind-hearted protagonist and I can tell you again I am firmly in the good guy camp – as opposed to the bad boy camp).

Anyway, the review!

This was a really good sequel to what Marci and Julius’s story has been so far. As usual, I want to deal with the “bad” stuff first, so here’s a list for you:

  • I wished the book was shorter. Sometimes, a long book can seem short but here, some scenes just seemed dragged out. And I found some details to be unnecessary, especially with the world-building, which is as impressive as always (this was my complaint with the first two books as well).
  • There are so many subplots! I’m not sure how many parts this series is supposed to have but it’s difficult to see how everything will tie together in the end.
  • Marci and Julius spent most of the book apart. Okay, this is only a problem because I love these two together and wanted more of the romance (you know I love romance). Theirs is as slow-burn as they come and it’s getting to a point where I’m shuffling in my seat, thinking: “Just get ON with it!”
  • So many magical things! Yeah. We have the Mortal Spirits, the spirits of the land, and then there are things like the Leviathan that I just can’t wrap my head around – and I know we’ll be hearing more about them in the future and I’m wondering if they’re absolutely necessary. But hey, the magical-flying-monster-squid-thingy is pretty impressive, so yeah.

And I think that’s it. As I said, the book was really good and I enjoyed the hell out of it for the most part.

I have to say that I adore Aaron’s characters. Julius is absolutely the best, he’s a bit naïve at times but also smart and determined to make the world better for all Heartstrikers. Marci is the best mage out there but still has flaws and makes serious mistakes that cost her dearly. What I love most about them is the fact that they’re just so consistent, they do nothing out of character and yet they manage to surprise me – they are complex and layered but very, very “tight” characters (am I making sense here?).

And don’t even get me started on the other dragons. Aaron just writes the best dragons I’ve ever read (and considering my blog’s name, you can bet I’ve read a lot of dragon books). She’s also one of the rare authors who writes male and female characters equally well – I found Bob, Ian, and Justin just as compelling as Bethesda, Amelia, and Svena, for example (There’s this one scene where Svena and Amelia are discussing Svena’s future babies and I laughed out loud because they were just so draconic). But Chelsie, oh, Chelsie. She’s the best. Such a fierce warrior with a slightly charred marshmallow core.

As for the plot, well, apart from the fact that I thought it meandered a bit, I really like where things are going so far. I figured most of the stuff out before we got to the big reveals, but I think we were meant to – I won’t go into details because of my obvious hate of spoilers. Let’s just say that this part is just as action-packed as the first two. There’s a bit of a lull where we get to see the politics of the largest dragon clan on Earth, but even that’s interesting, especially if you’re into political intrigue. The book goes out with a bang, which is Aaron’s style, I think (based on these three books I’ve read), and I can’t wait to read what comes next.

All in all, this book was a joy to read and I’ll definitely be following Julius and his crew when the next book comes out (Goodreads currently has it listed as “untitled” with the expected publication date in 2017. I’m hoping more details will follow soon). If you like dragons at all and if urban fantasy is your cup of tea, do yourself a favor and read this series.

Also, make sure to follow Aaron on Twitter because she writes good writing advice posts + has a great online presence! (You know I usually don’t point out author Twitter accounts…)

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Have you read any of the Heartstrikers books? What did you think? How about Aaron’s other books?

Do you have any recs for books with such loveable protagonists? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song (Mosters of Verity #1) by Victoria (V. E.) Schwab
Published June 7 by Titan Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: paperback via publisher. Thank you Titan Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA urban fantasy.

My rating:

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But secrets are fragile and Kate and August might have a common enemy after all.

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First of all, if you hate spoilers, don’t read the Goodreads synopsis. It’s not huge or anything (and I edited some of it out of the text up there) but I went into this book completely blind (my favourite lately) and I’m really glad I did.

I was extremely lucky and received a finished paperback copy from Titan Books, which is the edition I would order in any case as I usually order UK editions whenever possible. It’s gorgeous – and it comes out a full month earlier than its US counterpart. So if you live in the US, you’ll have to wait a bit longer, sorry. Also, indicate if you comments contain spoilers if you’ve read it already! :)

Victoria Schwab has now firmly rooted herself as one of my all-time favourite authors. Not just fantasy authors, either. Her books are auto-buy for me and if I have complaints (which you know I invariably do), they’re always superficial. Her writing, her imagination, her characters – they shine, people. I always have crazy high expectations, too, which is really unfair, but she delivers every single time. And as much as I love light-hearted books with happy endings, she makes me crave more of the heavy stuff because I can tell you, the dark side is looking pretty damn fine when she’s waving from over there.

This Savage Song is the first part of a duology, which I like a lot since the story will be much tighter this way. It’s action-packed and very intriguing, but Schwab also takes a moment to ponder the questions of good and evil, of monsters and humans, which seem to be present in most of her work (if you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend Vicious). As I said earlier, the writing is beautiful and the inclusion of music as a magical component is brilliant. I’m not much of a musician myself (*cough* understatement) but I do appreciate it as an art form.

The world she builds is a very interesting one. It’s a sort of a post-apocalyptic society based in North America, with super-cities and strange zones where no sensible human ever ventures unless enclosed in an armoured vehicle. The monsters are created in a unique fashion: they are the products of violent acts that humans commit. I enjoyed her world-building immensely, especially as there seem to be no large info dumps which can often be a problem when an entirely new society is being introduced.

Kate and August are great characters. I liked them a lot but perhaps felt more of a connection with August than with Kate. The only complaint I have about this book would be about Kate, actually, since Schwab seems to be veering towards writing a type of a girl character: Kate reminded me of both Lila and Mac at times. They are all fiercely independent – so fiercely, in fact, that they wear their self-sufficiency like armor and refuse to let anyone in. Kate does make some decisions that give me hope, though, and I can’t wait to see how she’ll develop in the sequel. August, however, is one of those “I want to hug you and feed you cake” characters, I love them when they’re a bit damaged – what that says about me is a discussion for another time.

Even the villains of the story are fantastic. Can they be called villains, really? Yeah, some of them, definitely, but others are so, so different. I’m not going to name any names because I want you to have an unspoiled experience of this book. You really should just buy/borrow/get your hands on it any way you can and then we’ll chat, okay? 

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Have you read This Savage Song? What did you think?

Do you prefer your villains to be all bad or are you all for morally grey characters?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron

One Good Dragon Deserves Another (Heartstrikers #2) by Rachel Aaron
Published in 2015 by Aaron/Bach, LLC.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: urban fantasy.

My rating:

After barely escaping the machinations of his terrifying mother, two all knowing seers, and countless bloodthirsty siblings, the last thing Julius wants to see is another dragon. Unfortunately for him, the only thing more dangerous than being a useless Heartstriker is being a useful one, and now that he’s got an in with the Three Sisters, Julius has become a key pawn in Bethesda the Heartstriker’s gamble to put her clan on top.

Refusal to play along with his mother’s plans means death, but there’s more going on than even Bethesda knows, and with Estella back in the game with a vengeance, Heartstriker futures disappearing, and Algonquin’s dragon hunter closing in, the stakes are higher than even a seer can calculate. But when his most powerful family members start dropping like flies, it falls to Julius to defend the clan that never respected him and prove that, sometimes, the world’s worst dragon is the best one to have on your side.

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This is the review for the second part of the series which inevitably means that there will be spoilers for book one. You can read my review of Nice Dragons Finish Last here.

I enjoyed the first book of the series very much and I’m glad to say that the second one did not disappoint. I wanted to see more character development, more Julius and Marci, more dragon politics – and I got it all. One of the only complaints about book one was that I didn’t get to see enough dragons (as in, dragons in their dragon form, not in their human bodies) and this part definitely takes care of that.

Julius and Marci are working as a removal team for curses and unwanted magical creatures in post-apocalyptic Detroit where Algonquin, the lake spirit who flooded the entire area after the wave of magic hit some sixty years previously, rules with an iron fist. Julius isn’t even supposed to be in Detroit because dragons are hated and hunted there but he’s still sealed in his human form (courtesy of his “loving” mama). 

And then he’s plucked from Detroit by said mama because he’s to attend a party with a number of his older (more ambitious, more dangerous) siblings – and several immensely old dragons from a rival clan. What could possibly go wrong?

Without going into too much detail, let me say that the plot really thickens in this sequel, the hints that we got in the previous book come to bloom, and we see the dragons as they truly are: a highly intelligent, manipulative, invasive species. I liked the fact that while Julius is said to be different from the rest of his family, he’s also a cunning individual in his own right. And Marci, always impressed by dragons, makes it hard to root for dragons only – humans can be seriously badass, too. Oh, and while I’m always happy to see my favourite characters fall in love and pair up, I was glad that the romance between these two is still pretty slow! (I never thought I’d say this…)

I really liked the fact that we got to see more of Julius’s favourite siblings. Justin is as hot-headed as always, but his heart is in the right place. Chelsie is bound by duty but surprised me at every turn. And Bob, the all-knowing seer, found himself stumped (or did he?). They were great. And we got to meet Amelia, the eldest daughter of Bethesda, the heir to the Heartstriker clan. Woot! She’s great.

There was more worldbuilding here, too: I complained in my first review that the novel is quite description-heavy sometimes and this didn’t change here (this is mostly the reason for my 4-heart rating). There was a lot of explanation of the magical system that left me feeling confused sometimes but I can’t say that it really lessened my enjoyment by much. I’m just saying this because if you really hate this sort of thing, consider yourself warned.

All in all, this was a great read. I was afraid of it falling prey to the second book syndrome, but I’m impatient to read the final instalment of the trilogy (at least I think it’s supposed to be a trilogy?). I’m curious about how the story will continue – there were hints at the end, of course, but this second book also had a very final tone to it, a lot of troubles were solved, etc – but this is good, too, because a lot of middle books in trilogies open up too many questions and then the author has to bring everything to a close in the last book and it ends up being a mess. I don’t think this will happen to Rachel Aaron, she seems to have her story well in hand and I can’t wait to see what Julius and Marci will do next.

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Did you read Nice Dragons Finish Last or One Good Dragon Deserves Another? What did you think?

Do you like your magic systems and world-building complex and detailed or do you prefer the story to focus on the plot and characters?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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