Tag Archives: witches

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5) by J. K. Rowling
Published 2003 by Bloomsbury.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased.

Genre: children's/YA fantasy.

My rating:

Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

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I’m continuing my re-read of the Harry Potter books (you can see the previous reviews here: StoneChamberPrisonerGoblet) with my least favourite of the series, The Order of the Phoenix. I skipped this part on my previous re-reads so this is the first time in years that I’ve read it. And I’m glad I did! Mostly because I forgot half of what happened – I did remember the important parts, of course, but some of the details were starting to get a bit hazy.

Look, I know, fans really love Order because of the way it’s emotional and powerful and stuff happens and Umbridge is the type of a teacher that many unfortunate pupils have had the displeasure to meet in real life. And I get that. And I did give the book a solid rating.

It’s just that it takes SO LONG for things to get moving, I bet there are 200 pages before we even get to Hogwarts and Harry is so tense and grumpy for that entire long beginning and honestly, he’s being a bit of a brat (I knooow, he’s a teenager but still). And then there’s Dumbledore, keeping Harry in the dark for god knows what reason, effectively fucking up everything good that’s happened to Harry since book 3.

And maybe it’s just my preference for action but compared to Goblet of Fire, reading Order of the Phoenix felt like dragging my feet through honey, slow and sticky.

Now I’ll just go hide under my table with a protective helmet, waiting for the hail of your scorn to pass, shall I?

Ahh, no, we can agree to disagree, can’t we, lovely readers? I have to give Rowling points for some things, though, and those were the ones that I’d forgotten and was pleasantly surprised to read this time around. I really liked how Fred and George finished their time at Hogwarts, I appreciated the extremely twisted Dolores Umbridge, I liked how clueless Harry was about Cho and I loved how Luna and Neville got their share of friendship and action.

But I was also rather glad the book was over and I could go on to read The Half-Blood Prince, which is my favourite of the series. I’ll be reviewing that one soon as I’ve already finished it.

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So, what’s your take on Order of the Phoenix

Do you prefer action-packed books or do you like to take things at a slower pace?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

Hidden Huntress (Malediction Trilogy #2) by Danielle L. Jensen
Published June 2nd, 2015 by Angry Robot.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: Publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Angry Robot for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

Sometimes, one must accomplish the impossible. 

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation. 

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high. 

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

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This is the review for a second book in the series so it probably contains spoilers for Stolen Songbird.

I wanted to like Hidden Huntress so much… I read Stolen Songbird but never reviewed it – and I thought it was a very decent beginning of a YA fantasy series, I liked Cécile and Tristan (especially because they were both reluctant to fall in love, it’s a nice twist on the kidnapper-turned-lover trope) and was eager to find out what would happen, though I was a bit sad they were separated right at the end of the book. So for a series that focuses so strongly on romance – and it does, though the main theme’s really this struggle to find humanity in both human and troll race and all – Tristan and Cécile spent a terribly small amount of time together in this book.

I’m sad to say the plot of Hidden Huntress seems to suffer from the second book syndrome, meaning that it drags a bit and nothing really exciting happens until the end – which is, admittedly, full of surprises. Cécile is forced to obey the rules set out by her unfeeling mother, all the while trying to fulfill the promise she made to Tristan’s father, the king of Trollus. Trying to kill the witch Anushka is eating up her thoughts and consuming her, which makes sense but it changed her in ways I didn’t particularly like. I also missed Tristan – he does have his own chapters but he was somehow pushed into second place.

But it was the setting that kept nagging me and I experienced, for the first time in a long while, the feeling of being “thrown out” of a book – which is pretty bad when you’re reading secondary-world fantasy, no? While most of the happenings in Stolen Songbird take place in the country and then in Trollus, a kingdom under the Mountain, Cécile’s part of Hidden Huntress, at least, is set in Trianon, the capital of this island country. And Trianon is remarkably similar to Paris, at least for me, there’s the opera house and the dancers, the seedy Pigalle quarter where the witch called “La Voisin” lives (OK this may have been an ARC problem but the French word for a female “neighbor” is “la voisine”). Anyway, it’s like Paris but not Paris and while I’m all for fantasy cities inspired by real-life places (hello, Camorr!), this one didn’t convince me at all.

Sigh. You see, I’m a mood reader. And this book failed to catch my interest, so I dragged it out and read about four other books in between, which is probably unfair, but then if it was interesting enough, I wouldn’t have had this problem… It’s a vicious circle. I’m probably going to read Warrior Witch so I can finish the series – and I really would like to know how some of the things that happened towards the end of Hidden Huntress play out. I just hope the series ends with a bang, instead of slowly sizzling out.

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Have you read Stolen Songbird or Hidden Huntress? What did you think?

Do you also dislike second books in trilogies? (For me, they’re the worst.)

I’d love to hear from you! :)

 

The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Published July 2nd/August 18th, 2015 by Corgi Children's.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: Publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Corgi Children's for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA paranormal fantasy/magical realism.

My rating:

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

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Ahh, this book… Where do I start?

I suspect I liked it so much because I read it at a perfect time. I was searching for something new and fresh, a standalone (you know how terrible I am at finishing series) and something with a story I hadn’t read a hundred times before. Reading the second half of the novel while we were spending a day out in the woods, right by a small river that cooled us on an impossibly hot day, probably had something to do with it, too. Sometimes, you read a book and the timing is exactly right and everything just falls into place (it happened with this book as well).

Whatever happened, I would probably like The Accident Season in any case. It has terrific rhythm, the writing is poetic and haunting without being pretentious and Fowley-Doyle smoothly weaves old Irish folk elements into a story of a family that is quite ordinary for most of the year and extremely unlucky for one month every autumn. Unfortunately, if you’ve read the summary, you’ve pretty much read everything that can be said about The Accident Season without spoilers.

So let’s raise our glasses to the accident season,/ To the river beneath us where we sink our souls./ To the bruises and the secrets./To the ghosts in the ceiling./One more drink for the watery road.

I get shivers whenever I remember this poem.

I wish I could have read this novel when I was 17. Not that I didn’t relate to the characters as a 28-year-old but Cara is exactly the sort of heroine I missed (without really knowing it) when I was in high school. Well, if teenagers smoking and drinking offends you, you’ll probably find the main characters to be an unlikeable bunch. I, however, found Cara, Bea, Sam and Alice to be real and tragic and loveable and unique.

I’ve been thinking about the ending a lot. If you check my “genre” description, you’ll see I was a tad confused by it – but I think that we’re meant to be confused by it, by the dreams and apparitions and everything. Look, I know it sounds weird and I’ve said I dislike being left in the dark before but Fowley-Doyle was one author I didn’t mind following blindly through the story.

I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more work from Moïra Fowley-Doyle – I believe The Accident Season is her debut novel and if it’s any indication of what’s to come, I think I may have found another favourite author.

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Are you a mood reader? Or do you always enjoy similar books?

Do you like to know where the author’s leading you? Are you afraid of being left in the dark?

Ooh – if you answer one question, answer this one: what were you like in high school? :)

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Published May 21, 2015 by Macmillan.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: Publisher. Thank you Macmillan for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

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Ahhh this was one of the best books I’ve read this year. I actually won a copy from Mel in a great giveaway, but it hasn’t arrived yet, but I also got an e-arc from the publisher.

I’ve been thinking about Uprooted a lot since I finished it last week and I have to say it’s probably the best fairytale retelling I’ve ever read. This is why I’ve been putting off writing this review until the very last moment. What can I say that will make you read this book? It’s unique, innovative and surprising, which are all qualities I’ve been missing from my reads lately, and it’s left me with this massive book hungover I’m only beginning to get past. Also: the UK cover is gorgeous, is it not?

Uprooted is a Beauty and the Beast retelling only in the most basic sense: the Dragon (a wizard that goes by this name, not an actual dragon) takes a girl from his valley every ten years and though everyone thought he would pick Kasia, Agnieszka’s best friend, he grumpily decides on Agnieszka herself.

This is where the fun starts. Agnieszka’s time at the Dragon’s tower is exhausting at first because she can’t figure out why he keeps making her do weird things like magically changing her clothes (she’s the most untidy person ever and while lots of YA heroines claim to be “ordinary” or “not pretty in the conventional sense”, Agnieszka usually looks like she was dragged through the bushes and then rolled around on the kitchen floor for a while. This irritates the Dragon to no end, which was really interesting.). I can’t go into details of the story because of spoilers but let’s just say that it seems like Novik took the B&B story and said: “Well, my heroine isn’t just going to wait around to be rescued, she’s going to DO things, even if she can’t escape. She also won’t moon over this wizard guy, she’s got other stuff to worry about.”

Agnieszka is one great heroine. But while she’s perfectly fine on her own, it’s her relationships with others that make her so special. She’s mortally afraid of the Dragon at first but does she wilt like a flower and stop trying to figure him out? Nope. Her relationship with her parents is cool and she’s not above weeping herself to sleep while her mom strokes her hair. Everyone does that sometimes. But I loved her friendship with Kasia the most. For years, they lived with the knowledge (even though it was false) that Kasia would be taken by the Dragon, which created this wonderful dynamic between them. I actually asked myself whether they were more than friends, perhaps, but their love – unconditional and yet so very real – was perfect in any case.

Then there’s the Wood. It’s funny how much of a chicken I am (not really funny for me but I guess people would laugh at me if they ever knew): I was walking in the forest with the kiddo the other day (after reading Uprooted) and I kept squinting into the forest, checking that it wasn’t out to get me. Seriously. I dislike going deep into the woods on my own (hello, have you read ALL THE FAIRYTALES?), especially at night, which made camping with the scouts a special kind of adventure for me! So you’ll understand my horror at reading about a Wood that’s sentient and very, very malicious. Novik created a place of nightmares – and made it worse because it’s spreading. So creepy! And yet beautiful, somehow.

Ok this review is getting out of hand…

My only, teeny-tiny negative comment would be on the length of the novel: towards the end, I felt like it could have been a tad shorter. I read it on my Kindle but Goodreads says it has 450 pages, which isn’t that much for a fantasy novel.

I love that Uprooted is a standalone. I definitely wouldn’t mind reading more stories set in the same world (a quick note on that: the names all sounded vaguely Polish to me and I liked it!) but standalone YA fantasies are so rare nowadays that I cherish this one even more.

The ending was absolutely wonderful and I can’t tell you how happy I am that Novik decided to conclude her book in this manner. I know, this is terribly vague, but I REALLY don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of reading this story. Which you will, right? You will read it? :)

In case you want to read more, here are some other reviews by: Becky. Mogsy. Anya.

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Have you read Uprooted? Are you planning to?

What YA standalone would you recommend?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Dark Child (Covens Rising) by Adina West

dark-child-covens-risingDark Child (Covens Rising(Dark Child Series #2, Omnibus Edition) by Adina Westpublished on October 6, 2014 by Momentum Books.

AuthorGoodreads. Amazon. Barnes & Noble.

Genre: paranormal fantasy.

Source: publisher via Netgalley (thank you, Momentum Books, for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!)

Kat Chanter isn’t your ordinary girl. And she isn’t your ordinary vampire, either. The ruthless Directorate would go to any lengths to have her power – including murder. And when that leads to a war between races, Kat’s fate becomes the ultimate prize … 

Kat is done with being on the run, or so she hopes. A new pathology job in Paris is her big chance to start afresh, far from the Tabérin Directorate who want her dead. Sure, adjusting to life as a half-vampire, half-human hybrid poses its own challenges, but it’s nothing Kat can’t handle … until the past starts to catch up with her. 

Teenage loner Ben is also hiding his hybrid bloodlines and a troubled history with the Directorate. His growing involvement with Yara, the most popular girl in the senior class at his school, exposes secrets that place them both in mortal danger. 

Because the Vodas, the all-powerful leader of the Directorate, has made eradicating hybrids like Kat and Ben his obsession. And as his methods grow more extreme, it’s not just his own people, the vampiric Tabérin, who plot to overthrow him. Another ancient and arcane power stirs. One that could threaten them all … (Goodreads)

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My rating: 3/5.

This might be slightly spoilery if you haven’t read the first part of the series. You can read my review of that novel here.

This second part of the Dark Child series starts with Kat’s story in Paris, but we also get another POV, that of a half-blood vampire-human teenager, Ben, who is crushing on a girl that’s off limits for him. This ensures a faster pace for the story as we jump from the US to Europe from chapter to chapter, but it left me a bit confused as to the target audience of this novel. I’d classify Kat’s story as adult paranormal fantasy but Ben’s parts clearly deal with issues otherwise found in YA (and are also less graphic, not that there are many graphic scenes in Kat’s part, but still).

I liked that the story took a more nefarious turnwhat with the Directorate moving in on the hybrids and their families and the ominously powerful witches making their stand. Kat is put smack in the middle of the conflict due to her heritage – and she wants nothing to do with it. I liked Kat’s parts better – probably because I already knew her story from the previous book, which made it easier to connect with her.

But there’s a part of Kat’s story that bothered me a lot: she’s one of those “chosen” characters, a reincarnation of a goddess, heir to an all-powerful witchy family, has THIRTEEN strong, sexy men pledging their undying allegiance to her, can influence others with her will, and more. The only thing that saves this problem from overwhelming the story is the fact that Kat is remarkably unimpressed by all these people trying to stash her into their pre-determined roles and fights her “destiny” on every turn. She’s uncomfortable with the responsibility and power that is thrust her way.

And a word on her grandmother: I know not everyone’s grandma bakes cookies and offers warm hugs, but Kat’s grandmother is one scary, manipulative lady. Again, I really like that Kat doesn’t just roll over and let her have her way.

All in all, this was a slightly-too-long second instalment of a series that is actually published in smaller parts. I’m not too sure how this works. But I’ll be looking forward to the next collection of those parts because I like Kat and I really want to know how the things will turn out now.

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Would you read a series-within-a-series like this? It reminds me of those novels from the 19th century which were published in the newspapers first and only later as a whole.

 

The Witch of Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper

salt-and-storm2The Witch of Salt and Storm (also known as Salt & Storm) by Kendall Kulper, to be published on September 4, 2014 by Orchard Books (Hachette) and September 23, 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young readers.

Author. Book page. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: Netgalley e-arc (thank you, Orchard books, for providing me a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review).

Genre: YA historical fantasy.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for. (Goodreads)

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My rating: 4/5.

How do I start writing a review about this one? I liked it quite a lot. I started reading it thinking it will be another YA fantasy/romance thingy, pleasant but nothing surprising. I was wrong, of course, because this book might be a fantasy and it might be a romance, but it is surprising.

Avery Roe is a witch, the youngest in a long line of witches of Prince George Island, but she cannot access her full powers. Her mother has taken her away from her grandmother, who had raised her, and is forcing her to live in the town, dressing her in pretty dresses and making her stay with the help of a powerful curse. Avery hates her mother for it and fights tooth and nail to get back to her grandmother who will surely help her unlock her magic. In the meantime, she practices the art of dream-telling, explaining dreams to the villagers and sailors.

Then, one day, she dreams she will be murdered – and knows she has to become a witch now, because no-one can kill a Roe witch. That’s when Tane, a foreigner harpooner boy, comes into her life, asking her to tell his dreams in exchange for trying to help her break her mother’s curse.

This is how the story begins, very slowly despite the ominous dreams and rumours and the weather and the oppressive feeling that doom is near. If I hade one problem with this book it was this slow, measured coiling of tension that brought no real answers until the second half of the novel.

But then, then I found out just why Kulper decided to take things slow. What do we do when everything we’ve wanted falls out of reach? Avery asks at one point. Salt & Storm is a tale of strong women who’ve made tragic choices, it’s a story of victims who decide to be victims no more, it’s about love found an lost and found again. It’s lyrical and beutiful and quiet and ugly and harsh and desperate and though I struggled through the beginning, I enjoyed it very, very much.

I’m not sure whether it takes a particular state of mind to enjoy this book properly. Maybe some of you will hate it and never bother to fight your way through the slow beginning. Maybe you’ll be disappointed with the ending, quite different from what you’d expect at the start. But maybe, just maybe, it will speak to something you’ve felt, known or wished for and you’ll like it as much as I did.

Whew, this is one fanciful review, isn’t it? I finished this book (and written the review) on the due date of this kid that’s been kicking around my belly for nine whole months now and I feel like this might have had something to do with my opinion. But maybe not. I really recommend you read the book and see for yourselves. It just might be worth it.

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Have you read Salt & Storm? I’d love to hear your thoughts (or read your review if you’ve written about it)!

Do you think that you read books differently in different circumstances? Does your current state of mind influence your opinion of the story?