Tag Archives: YA

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.

zmaj-desno

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.

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?

zmaj-desno

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.

zmaj-levo

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.

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.

zmaj-desno

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.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Published in October 2016 by Thomas Dunne.

Links: Goodreads.

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

Genre: YA magical realism.

My rating:

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

srcek

When the Moon Was Ours is Anna-Marie’s second novel – I also reviewed her debut, The Weight of Feathers, which I enjoyed a lot. I can say without a doubt that I’ll be reading whatever she writes next because frankly, her writing is beautiful.

When the Moon Was Ours is a book that made me think. It stayed with me for weeks after I’d finished it and it got me to consider questions and topics I’ve never really thought about before, so even if everything else was shit, I’d cherish it for that alone.

Of course, everything else wasn’t shit – I really liked her style. I guess it might be too flowery and full of comparisons for some people, but I mentioned liking Anna-Marie’s writing in my review of The Weight of Feathers already. The fact that she writes magical realism, where the main character, Miel, has roses growing from her wrist, combines perfectly with the unusual metaphors and an almost too-rich language. Her writing is what I imagine synesthesia to be like: a burst of colours, sounds, and flavours.

I loved the characters as well. They were wonderfully diverse and while the outlandish elements of the genre might have made them seem weird (there are four sisters, for example, who basically function as one four-bodied organism – it’s strange), they are surprisingly relatable.

Miel, who lives with her relative Aracely, is an orphan with some bad, repressed memories. She came to live in the town after she was found in the old abandoned water tower (I know, it sounds weird) and her wrist-roses change colour depending on her mood. Super cool.

Sam, the other half of the main couple, is a transgender boy. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with transgender characters before and I really have no way of judging if the representation is accurate – but I think it might be. Very much so, in fact, because the author’s husband is a transgender man and it seems like this topic is incredibly personal to her. The book deals with the topic in this gentle way, but it’s pretty damn eye-opening, too.

All things considered, When the Moon Was Ours is a strong story with important issues and loveable characters. It’s a standalone, which is another plus, and I think it’s well worth reading.

srcek

Have you read When the Moon Was Ours? What did you think?

Do you have any magical realism recommendations for me?

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.

srcek

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.

srcek

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! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh
Published in 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: YA fairytale retelling.

My rating:

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

srcek

Lovely people, please be aware that this review will contain SPOILERS (like major spoilers, not just tiny unimportant ones), so if you haven’t read this book, you should probably stay away. Just sayin’. I wanted to write a normal review but then I decided that I wanted to rant a bit and I can’t do that without discussing some plot points that happen later in the book. Also, if you’re feeling very protective about this novel, you should probably skip this as well. I won’t be posting this to any of the usual sites like Goodreads, I don’t want to spread misery around, but this is my place and I think I can safely express my opinion here.

This was actually the first book I read after my son was born earlier this month, so I was a hormonal mess at the time, which – if you think about it – should make me more lenient in my criticism. But I just didn’t like this story that much. I know I’m a black sheep in this case, the majority of the reviews I’ve seen around the blogosphere were very favourable, so I’m guessing I had the misfortune of encountering a huge number of my pet peeves in a single book. Eh.

I tend to dislike a novel when I dislike the characters. And I just didn’t connect with Shahrzad like I was supposed to. The girl was forever crumbling to the floor, worrying about her dresses and makeup while in mortal danger, and making silly decisions. Let me just ask you something: if you found out you had a latent magical ability, would you calmly go about your business like nothing had happened? NO. You’d demand someone teach you how to use it, for fuck’s sake. Ditto with the magic carpet. How can you own a flying carpet and not give it a spin? The fact that she volunteered to become Khalid’s next wife and went in with the half-assed plan of telling him a story and killing him without a weapon also made me roll my eyes. As did the teensy problem that she fell in love with her would-be killer (Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?). See, it pushes my buttons, this story.

Then there’s the love triangle. The boys of this story, the Caliph (= king) Khalid and Tariq, Shazi’s childhood fancy/fiancé, were… bland. I was rooting for Tariq up until the moment when he decided that Shazi certainly couldn’t know her own damn mind and decided to remove her from the palace against her will. Khalid was so unsure about his decision to keep her alive that she nearly got choked to death before he changed his mind yet again and beat the guard who was charged with killing her – even though the guy was just doing his job. *sigh* Add the sexy girl from Khalid’s past and a heavy dose of jealousy on Shazi’s part and you get a nice picture of the romantic situation in that palace. Ugh.

I didn’t even like the writing. I’m sure it’s accomplished and all but it just seemed like too much. Okay, so I enjoyed reading about the food, especially since I was eating hospital food at the time (as I said, this was just after my kid was born), but the flowery language just didn’t do it for me.

Nevertheless, I’m still debating reading the sequel. First of all, it’s a duology, so I’m in no danger of tackling a six-part series, which is good. I also want to see if Shazi will step up and own her power – she might redeem herself yet. I don’t know. I wanted to like this story so badly, it has everything I usually want in a book, but the execution was just not for me. I’m in no rush to go and buy The Rose and the Dagger but I might pick it up at some point.

srcek

Have you read The Wrath and the Dawn? What did you think?

Will I have to defend myself against a hail of stones for my crappy review? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.