Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Release Date: March 4, 2014
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Publisher
IBSN:9780374384685)
Blurb:

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

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2013 marked the end of a lot of my favorite series. That meant lots of holes in my heart, but thankfully Marie Rutkoski has written a new series to add to my favorites list. I hadn’t heard much about The Winner’s Curse when I received it, but after seeing all the advance buzz I quickly moved it to the top of my TBR pile. I’m so happy I did. This book was my first read of the year but I will wager that it will make my favorites list at the end of the year.

The Winner’s Curse is a sweeping fantasy novel with a heart wrenching romance. There were so many unexpected layers to the story. Marie Rutkoski really explores right and wrong and the gray area between. I loved seeing how far the characters would go for love and loyalty. The push and pull between Kestrel and Arin was remarkable.

There were no easy answers in The Winner’s Curse. Nothing was simple for these characters. I never knew how things were going to work out and I loved that. I was on the edge of my seat from the very beginning.

I love a good high fantasy with intricate world building, but this world is beautiful in its simplicity. It’s very well fleshed out but not overly detailed. I look forward to learning more about it but I was very pleased with my first look.

I hope I’ve conveyed just how much I enjoyed The Winner’s Curse. It was a captivating a gorgeous story. I highly recommend it.

pi5You Might Also Like

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Review: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

 

Release Date: August 27, 2013
Series: Fire and Thorns #3
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Edelweiss
IBSN: 9780062026545
Blurb:

“Rae Carson has proved she’s a master and has shaken up the YA genre.”-USAToday.com

The epic and deeply satisfying conclusion to Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

“Carson joins the ranks of writers like Kristin Cashore, Megan Whalen Turner, and Tamora Pierce as one of YA’s best writers of high fantasy.”-Locus magazine

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she’s never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most. Riveting, surprising, and achingly romantic, Rae Carson has spun a bold and powerful conclusion to her extraordinary trilogy.

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I’m always sad to see one of my favorite series come to an end. I’m also usually scared they won’t end the way I want. That seems to happen often. The Bitter Kingdom was nothing short of an incredible ending to an incredible series.

The Crown of Embers left us all with our hearts in our throats. I didn’t know if I could survive the wait for The Bitter Kingdom! But survive I did, thankfully, because I had to see how Elisa and Hector’s story ended.

It was action packed from page one. It’s a testament to Rae Carson’s writing that I had a baby about 30% into the book and I was able to pick it back up about 2.5 weeks later and never lose an ounce of interest. I probably never would have picked any other book back up.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot since this is the 3rd and final installment in the series. I was just as swept away and in awe of Carson’s skills as I was with the other books, if not more. The whole book was just incredible. I know that’s not a very original statement, but that’s all I’ve got. There were so many story lines entwined. Just when I thought things couldn’t get more exciting they did.

To sum it up, The Bitter Kingdom was everything I wanted. This series is intelligent and utterly unique. Even if you aren’t a fan of fantasy you would find something to love on this trilogy. I’m sad to see its end, but I’m beyond thrill with how things turned out.

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Be sure to check out my reviews for The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Crown of Embers.

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

 

Release Date: June 4, 2013
Series: The Grisha #2
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Publisher
IBSN:9780805094602
Blurb:

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

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I raved about Shadow and Bone last year.  It was definitely one of the best YA  fantasy novels I’ve came across. Siege and Storm was an incredible follow-up to a hard to follow book. Just like its predecessor this one starts off quick and doesn’t let you go until the end…if then. I was somewhat rusty on the details of the first book, but Bardugo does a wonderful job of catching you up without an annoying information dump.

In the first book I loved seeing Alina overcome so much. Her character growth was extraordinary. She’s so capable and strong, but in Siege and Storm she has an edge. She’s walking a very fine line between good and bad. I loved that her character didn’t stop developing after book one. She still has so much to reveal to us. I think we’ve only scratched the surface on her character and I’ve very anxious to find out more.

There’s some new characters introduced in this edition. My favorite was definitely Strumhond. I just might be a little in love with him. He can’t replace The Darkling in my heart, but The Darkling is kinda…evil and I suppose that’s a negative on his part. Mal is very present as well, but I just don’t love Mal like I should. Strumhond definitely overshadowed him. Leigh Bardugo certainly has a knack for writing impossibly swoon-worthy boys.

That’s really all I’m going to say. I don’t have a extensive enough vocabulary to express my love adequately. Just read these if you haven’t. You don’t have to be a fantasy nerd like me. If you’re a fan of extremely well written books then you should like these.

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Here’s my review of book one, Shadow and Bone.

Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Dark Triump by Robin LaFeversRelease Date: April 2, 2013
Series: His Fair Assassin #2
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Amazon Vine
IBSN: 9780547628387
Blurb:

Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella as one of their most dangerous weapons.

But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

This heart-pounding sequel to Grave Mercy serves betrayal, treachery, and danger in equal measure, bringing readers back to fifteenth century Brittany and will keep them on the edge of their seats.

reviewtagGrave Mercy was an unexpected gem for me last year. I went into it with some hesitation, but promptly devoured it and then added it to my favorites of 2012 list. I was so blown away by the world that took fantastical elements and added them into a historical setting. The idea is genius and so readable. I’m not the biggest historical fan, so I was just absolutely thrilled with the execution of Grave Mercy and I’ve been anxiously awaiting Dark Triumph ever since.

Dark Triumph is a companion novel that takes place right after the first book, but with a different main character. I was the tiniest bit sad when I found that out. I adored Ismae and Duval. Their romance was sooo swoonworthy and Ismae’s growth was fabulous. I guess that leaves little room for another story from her point of view, right? I was excited to get to know Sybella better and to learn more about her mysterious past.

Sybella wasn’t as easily likable as Ismae for me. She is very rough around the edges and harsh. She has an excellent reason to be. With her upbringing and family it’s a wonder she was even half as well adjusted and nice as she was. She does kick a lot of ass and has less qualms about it than Ismae, which I really liked.

There were just a few things that kept me from OMGLOVING this one like I did the first book. The biggest thing was the romance. It doesn’t show up until you’re well into the story and then it shows up suddenly and without much warning. One minute they were disdainfully helping each other and the next Sybella was utterly in love. It moved way too quickly for me and without much logic behind it. After the warm and fuzzy swoon fest in Grave Mercy I was pretty disappointed with this romantic story line.  There’s also a lot of angsting about things that obviously aren’t going to matter on Sybella’s part. I definitely think that some of her emo worrying could have been removed from the story and it wold have been better.

All of that being said I still really enjoyed Dark Triumph. It has all of the same political intrigue and incredible fantasy elements as the first book. I was pulled right into the story from the very first chapter. These are sweeping epic fantasies and I really can’t recommend them enough.

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Review: Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

 

Release Date: April 23, 2013
Series: Lumatere Chronicles #3
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Friend
IBSN:9780763658359
Blurb:

The climactic conclusion of Printz Award winner Melina Marchetta’s epic fantasy trilogy!

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi and his companions travel through Charyn searching for Quintana and building an army that will secure her unborn child’s right to rule. While in the valley between two kingdoms, Quintana of Charyn and Isaboe of Lumatere come face-to-face in a showdown that will result in heartbreak for one and power for the other. The complex tangle of bloodlines, politics, and love introduced in Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles coalesce into an engrossing climax in this final volume.

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Oh guys, where do I even start? You know I looove Melina Marchetta, right? You know that Finnikin and Froi were two of my favorite books from 2012, right? Well, if you didn’t you do now.  Quintana of Charyn has been a very anticipated read for me. I picked it up right away and although it’s been a year since I finished the last book I had no problem finding the rhythm of the story again.

Quintana starts almost right where Froi of the Exiles left off. There’s tons of action and suspense right from the start. All my favorite characters have big roles once again. You get to see plenty of Finnikin, Isaboe, Froi, and of course Quintana. I think I grew to love Lucian and Phaedra even more in this one.

One of the things I love most about fantasy novels is the epic journeys that are usually taken. There was lots of traveling in Finnikin of the Rock, but Froi took place mostly in one area. I’m pleased to report that there’s lots of traveling about in Quintana of Charyn. We get to explore Charyn and learn new things about it right alongside Froi.

Since this is the third and final installment of this amazing series, I don’t want to say too much about the plot.  It was just and sweeping and incredible as the first two. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I had no idea how things were going to work out. Melina Marchetta makes you ache for these flawed, but extraordinary characters. I urge you to read these books. Even if you aren’t the biggest high fantasy fan. There’s something for everyone in this trilogy. It’s one of my favorites.

pi5My gushing reviews of Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles can be found here.

Top Ten Favorite Characters In X Genre

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the awesome people at The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s topic is: Top Ten Favorite Characters In X Genre

I’m picking the fantasy genre!

Favorite Fantasy Characters

1. Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore
She kicks major ass. What’s not to love.

2. Elisa from The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Elisa might just be the best all around character ever. She’s funny and soooo intelligent.

3. Finnikin from Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Oh, I love Finn. It’s hard not to love all the characters from this series.

4. Bitterblue from Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Bitterblue has had it so rough, but she turns into such an amazing character.

5. Ismae by Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
A nun assassin? Once again, what’s not to love?

6. The Darkling from Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The Darkling….sigh.

7. Fire from Fire by Kristin Cashore
Fire might be my favorite of Cashore’s characters. She was incredible.

8. Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Karou is also incredible. She’s completely unique and I adore her sense of humor.

9. Briony from Chime by Franny Billingsley
Briony was such a fascinating character. You should definitely read the book and find out what I mean.

10. Taggle from Plain Kate by Erin Bow
The best talking cat ever!

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Release Date: August 7, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: NetGalley
IBSN: 9781599906959
Blurb:
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

This year seems to be the year of the fantasy novels, huh? I can’t complain, because there’s nothing I love more. Throne of Glass was a very anticipated read for me after hearing all the gushing from other bloggers. I’m happy to say it lived up to most of that gushing.

Usually my favorite part of any high fantasy is the world or the magic. But I can say without any hesitation that my favorite part of Throne of Glass was Celaena Sardothien. She was such a refreshing and fascinating character. She had a long back story that I feel like we didn’t even scratch the surface on. Her life has been very difficult but she’s not scarred by that or at least not in any brooding or depressing ways. She’s an assassin and I love that she had no qualms doing what needed to be done. I get a little tired of the characters that have so many morals. Sometimes I just want ruthless, and Celaena was ruthless. She was also fun. I loved her banter with everyone. She was a smart ass that kicked ass. I loved every second of it.

There was honestly less romance than I was expecting but I didn’t mind. I also didn’t mind that there are hints at a love triangle because it works. I loved Dorian and Chaol both, but Dorian might have made me swoon a little more.

Throne of Glass is more character driven than most young adult fantasy novels. I felt like there wasn’t a ton of world building. The world is pretty basic but there’s hints of some more magical aspects for future books.

I didn’t love Throne of Glass quite as much as I was expecting to, but I did really enjoy it. I think it’s a great start to a new series and it has one of the most fun characters I’ve ever read. It’s certainly recommended.