ARC Review: Enchantée

This ARC was sent to me by the publisher at my request. The decision to review the book was my own. All thoughts and opinions in the following review are my own.

Enchantée
Author: Gita Trelease
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron/Macmillan
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians…

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.

But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she’s playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns…


Enchantée is an alluring debut novel from Gita Trelease that weaves its spell around the reader and transports them to the richly imagined magical Paris of 1792. From the small, run down family apartment on the poverty-stricken rue Charlot to the dangerously decadent parties and treacherous gambling tables at Versailles, we follow Camille Durbonne as she struggles to shed the weight of her misfortunes and create a better life for her sister and herself…at any cost.

Camille works la magie ordinaire to turn simple metal pieces into coins to support herself, her sister, and her drunkard brother. When her situation deteriorates, as tends to happen when you have a wasteral brother, Camille decides to work the darker magic of glamoire to transform herself into the Baroness de la Fontaine, thus gaining access to the gambling parties at Versailles. The more time Camille spends with the nobles at Versailles the harder it becomes to keep her two lives separate.

Some have said this book is predictable, and I will agree that at times it is. But this book reads so beautifully that it did not matter to me. I felt like I was walking through this novel with rose tinted glasses, everything was so deliciously described and exquisitely laid out that I didn’t notice any cracks in my path as I went along. One thing I’ve come to realize now that I’m done with the book is that there wasn’t a lot of character development in the side characters. Though I liked all the sides, they all lacked depth. Even the villain was pretty easy to spot and lacked the depth to make him truly villainous. But again, rose tinted glasses kept this from being bothersome to me.

I will say that the short chapters were the perfect fix for the pacing in this one. If the chapters had been 20 – 30 pages long like some books, I feel this novel would have felt like a slog. When I stepped back from the book after finishing it I realized that there was not much action in this book. But the quick chapter turnover gave the sense of urgency that kept me intrigued. There is also the slow build of revolution in the background of this story that pops in every now and then. And while I think it was well researched (I can’t say for sure how accurate the historical points were. I was stealthily reading paranormal romance books during my history classes in high school), the revolution honestly felt anticlimactic.

I think what surprised me most about Enchantée was the underlying current of addiction that ran throughout the story. Camille constantly has a running internal monologue about how much the glamoire takes from her and how she will stop once she has enough money. But as is usually the case with addiction, there is always another excuse to use again. (FYI: I have personal experience with addictions in various forms. I am not making this generalization lightly or without a base of knowledge.) Though there wasn’t a lesson learned about addiction and the resolution to the addiction in this novel was far too easy, it was still interesting to read Camille’s descent into the addiction of magic. I do wish that addiction could have been explored a little more in the story, but at the same time this is not the book to tackle the stark depths of addiction.

Enchantée is, at its core, a story about how hope and love can survive even through the darkest points in our lives. People make mistakes and hide truths and find themselves slowly draining away their souls to addictions, but there is still hope and love to be found.

I personally find Enchantée to be a strong debut novel from a promising author. Trelease weaves her words in such a way that one feels they are surrounded by the world they are reading. I thoroughly look forward to reading more from her in the future.

January Wrap Up and February TBR

Well, bookish peoples, we have completed the first month of 2019. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HECK? HOW IS TIME DOING THIS? *cough* Okay, I’m good now.

I’ve always been bad at keeping track of my book reading and buying, so I’ve never been one for monthly wrap ups, hauls, and TBRs. But this year I am trying to be more mindful of my consumption of books. So, welcome to my first attempt at a wrap up/haul/TBR on this little blog of mine.

January Wrap Up
Books Acquired: 11

Books Bought:

ARCs Recieved:

  • Enchantée by Gita Trelease
  • The Fever King by Victoria Lee
  • To Best the Boys by Mary Weber
  • The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen
  • Smoke and Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg (I got this through the Amazon First Reads program)
  • Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao (I just found out last night that this book is being pulled from publication at the current time so I won’t be counting it towards my stats for the month)

Books Read: 6 + 3 in progress

  • Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty | ALL THE STARS! Read my review here
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner | 3 Stars! Read my review here
  • Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa | 4.25 Stars! Read my review here
  • Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller | 1.5 Stars! Read my review here
  • The Armored Saint by Myke Cole | 4.5 Stars! Read my review here
  • (Audio Reread) Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff | 4.5 stars for the story, 5 stars for the audiobook performance (review for book is here, I’m actually working on a separate review of the audiobooks because holy hell are they good!)
  • In ProgressEnchantée by Gita Trelease | I am enjoying this book so damn much. Good chance this will be a 4.5 or 5 star read for me. As I said to Sabreena over at Books and Prosecco: The writing is so decadent, and it literally makes me want to drink champagne while I read.  
  • In Progress – (Audio Reread) Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Since this is a reread I can still hold true to my 4 star rating of the book. I am confident in saying that I’ll be giving the audiobook performance a 5 star for this one as well.
  • In Progress – (Audio Reread) The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson. I’m doing this as a buddy read with my Sanderson Sisters. Two of them haven’t read this one before and one has. Really, I can consider myself as having not read it either because with the exception of a few random moments (and one BIG MOMENT from the end), I don’t remember much at all.

So, I’ve read six books and am in the process of finishing 3 more. Darn, I was hoping to read more than I acquired this month. Oh well, at least it’s not a huge gap in numbers. I wonder how I’ll do next month since it is a short one…


February TBR

My original plan for February was to read only books with tragic love stories. But then ARCs happened and I have a few that I need to get read and review ASAP. So, I have some heart breakers and some ARCs (which may also be heartbreakers *crosses fingers*)…and some books to finish from last month…

So, that’s the plan. I am pretty notorious for never sticking to a strict TBR, but I think I might be able to do it this month. GO TEAM TBR!

How did y’all do this month?

Book Review: The Armored Saint

The Armored Saint
Author:
Myke Cole
Release Date: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Tor.com
Rating: 4.5 stars
Synopsis: In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror. After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.

How does such a big story come in such a small book? The Armored Saint clocks in at just over 200 pages, but Myke Cole proves that you don’t need an epic length novel to pack a serious emotional punch and some stellar world building.

The Armored Saint is what I consider to be my first real foray into the grimdark realm. I didn’t much know what to expect. I certainly didn’t think I’d be crying over a mouse or gasping quite so loudly when a certain plot twist occured or having a sudden distaste for the word “knitting”. This little book dragged me through hell and I kinda liked it all the more for that. To steal a quote from the great Captain Hammer, “Not my usual, but nice.” (side note: if you do not know what Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog is go look it up NOW!)

Heloise is the heroine we need in books these days. She is isn’t perfect, but she, like so many of us, is trying to find their place in this crazy, messed up world. The world Heloise lives in is brutal in every sense of the word, but she has hope, even through all she suffers. She finds her strength to fight in the most badass yet tragic way. I’ve read books twice the length of The Armored Saint that didn’t have half as much character development for the main character.

Some may argue that the world building and characterization of the secondary cast was lacking. But I feel there was not a word wasted in this book. I called the world building stellar at the beginning of this review because in it’s simplicity, it is damn near perfect. Sure, I don’t know what the currency is in this world, but I can tell you that you certainly do not want to be a wizard and that the religion is super twisted. My imagination was able to weave quite the mind movie with the material it was given and that’s what matters to me.

My final thoughts are that this book is certainly not for the faint of heart, but I definitely recommend it to YA readers that are looking to maybe branch into something a little darker. I’ll definitely need a couple of fluffy books where there aren’t any horrific deaths before I start the second book in this series, Queen of Crows.

ARC Review: Warrior of the Wild

This book was sent to me by the publisher per my request. I chose to review it on my own and all views and opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced.

Warrior of the Wild
Author:
Tricia Levenseller
Release Date: February 26th, 2019
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Rating: 1.5 stars
Synopsis: How do you kill a god? As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying.

Warrior of the Wild really missed the mark for me and a lot of it had to do with the main character. And the world building. And the side characters. And the romance. I guess I just need to say it: I really did not like this book very much.

Let’s start with Rasmira, the main character. I was expecting a fierce, feminist female main character because that’s what the hype around this book was saying. What I got was a girl who by page two of this book was obsessing about a boy kissing her. And sure, fierce warriors can want romance, but it grated on me because there was nothing about Rasmira that seemed fierce to me at all. Rasmira, to me, is the equivalent of a rich white girl who excels at a school sport and receives nothing but praise because her parents are donors to her private school. I got so annoyed whenever she was thinking her “poor me” thoughts. I never connected with her and found her to be whiny, immature, and unlikable.

And then there was the world building. The whole premise of this book is how Rasmira is banished to *The Wild* and must survive to win back her honor. The Wild…isn’t that scary. It’s basically a forest with some wild creatures in it (creatures that never attack unless it is important to the plot, which is basically never). Color me unimpressed. Like, how have so many of the “warriors” from villages been banished to the Wild and then died? Sure, if you go poking around the dwelling of the Peruxolo, the “villain” of the book, you might find yourself at the wrong end of a knife, but by and large the Wild seems like a place where you could take your family camping as long as you have some mild campsite fortifications. And outside of the very not scary Wild, there wasn’t much to be learned about this world. There are a couple villages, we get their names…and that’s about it.

I’m going to mash my issues of side characters and romance into the next paragraph but first a spoiler warning because the next paragraph definitely has some spoilers:

Okay, I will admit that I like romance in my books. At bare minimum I need one longing glance between two characters to enjoy a book. But never, in all my reading, have I been more annoyed and put off by a romance than I was in this book. When Rasmira is banished to the wild she find two boys who have been living in the wild for the last year. Which I thought was cool at first. And then I got to know the boys. Iric and Soren are from the same village and were basically brothers (by choice, not blood). But Soren is basically a selfish pretty boy and manipulated Iric to go out for the warrior trial, which he failed and was subsequently banished, and Soren decided to get himself banished as well because he felt guilty. The friendship and animosity between the two boys felt wooden at the best of times. Then we come to one of my big issues: the “romance” between Rasmira and Soren. The whole basis of their relationship is the fact that they are the only two hetero characters in the wild and the author even writes this observation into the story. It kinda disgusts me that Rasmira learned to trust again by falling in love with another dumb boy, but I guess we can’t all learn our personal strength outside of relationships with men [insert sarcastic eye roll here].

End spoilers.

So all that being said, I did like certain parts of this book. I thought the revelations about Peruxolo were interesting. I liked that this book went in a direction I was not anticipating. While the writing style wasn’t perfect, I was a least consistently drawn into the story, even though I never connected with it. And…I think that’s about it. This book just missed the mark so hard for me. For a book that has been so hyped as a fierce, feminist story, I felt incredibly let down.

Book Review: Shadow of the Fox

Shadow of the Fox
Author: Julie Kagawa
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Rating: 4.25 stars
Synopsis: One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.
Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.
Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.
There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.
With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.


Shadow of the Fox is one of those books that I could never quite pin down my feelings on. From the time I started it to right now as I write this review, my rating has fluctuated from 3 stars, to 5 stars, to finally landing on 4.25 stars. I went into this book with fairly high expectations because I have been a fan of Julie Kagawa since I devoured her Iron Fey and Blood of Eden series many years ago. I am happy to say that my exceptions were met.

I think the issue most people will have with Shadow of the Fox is the pacing. And so did I…until I had an epiphany. This book reads like an anime series. I think it was at the scene with the bear and the cave that something just clicked in my head and screamed “This is like an anime!!” From there, I loved the journey we were being taken on. I’m not even a huge anime fan (with the exception of Cowboy Bebop and Shokugeki No Soma), so it wasn’t the fact that it’s like an anime that made me like it. My epiphany just made me understand the pacing more. I think if people who aren’t familiar with anime go into this book with the knowledge that it isn’t paced like your average YA fantasy novel, they will enjoy it more.

Yumeko, who I consider the main character, is sixteen-year-old half human and half kitsune who has been raised by the monks at the Silent Winds Temple. After her home is destroyed, she sets out on the journey the head monk of the Silent Winds Temple gave her before he died: take the temple’s portion of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers to safety. On her journey she meets Kage Tatsumi, demon slayer of the Shadow Clan, and strikes a precarious bargain for him to travel with her as protection. Both are keeping secrets from the other and any slip of truth could destroy the tenuous alliance they have. Both Yumeko and Tatsumi have POV chapters and my BIGGEST issue with this book is the lack of indication that a POV has changed from chapter to chapter. Because the book is written in the first person it can take a minute to figure out whose POV we are reading at the beginning of each chapter. I got more used to it by the book’s end, but in the beginning, it really bothered me. I read this book with a book club and the POV switches were a problem for a lot of people in the group. Beyond Yumeko and Tatsumi, we are introduced to a host of secondary characters that bring mystery, danger, and whimsy to this story. My favorite of the secondary characters is definitely Okame and if any harm befalls this lovable ronin I WILL RIOT!

The thing that initially kicked my rating up to 5 stars for a while was the ending. It was SO GOOD! A certain part of it was predictable but the way it played out was not. There was action and betrayal and the promise for more story. AND THAT EPILOGUE OMG! I’m not sure how I’m expected to live while I wait for the next book, Soul of the Sword. All I can say, is I definitely have a pre-order already in.

At the end of the day, I settled into a 4.25 star rating because the POV issue and weird pacing. Even though I came to appreciate the pacing after a time, it still was rough in the beginning and can be a real make or break situation for a lot of people (there were a few people in my book club who DNFed this book because of pacing). I think this book would be good for fantasy lovers who are looking for a story that is structured a little differently from the typical YA fantasy.

ARC Review: The Kingdom of Copper

A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher per my request. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Any quotes included in this review come from an advance reader copy
and are subject to change in the final release.

The Kingdom of Copper
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Release Date: January 22, 2019
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: 5 Stars (I’d give it more if it was possible)
Synopsis and Pre-Order links can be found at the
Publisher’s webiste: [here]

Chakraborty has done it again! I’m not gonna lie, I’ve tried for the last two days to think of something more eloquent to write besides “I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH!” But, the fact of the matter is I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH!

If you’ve read The City of Brass (and if you haven’t, GO READ IT RIGHT NOW! And then check out my review of it here) you know that Chakraborty excels in rich world building and creating characters that you love (even if you should hate them). The Kingdom of Copper takes everything that happens in The City of Brass, plus Chakraborty’s growing talent, and ratchets up the tension and mystery and action so much that I could barely put the book down.

One of the great things about Chakraborty’s writing is the realness she brings to her characters. They are all strong, weak, flawed, and perfect in their own ways. Just like real people. There were characters whose deaths I was wishing for at the beginning of the book, but by the end I was screaming when I thought they had been cut down. The abject cruelty of Ghassan is a frightening thing to read, especially in our current political situation. Nahri is so much stronger in this book and to see her growth is a wonderful thing to behold. By far, the best quote in the book is from Nahri: “I’ve had enough of men hurting me because they were upset.” If that isn’t a mood for 2019, I don’t know what is.

There truly is not a single thing I would change about this book. From a purely entertainment side of things, this book gives us adventure, drama, intrigue, and lushly described settings. But there is so much more to take from this story. The violent tensions between the shafit and djinn reflect many things happening in our society these days. Reading the ways in which Daevabad tears itself apart over prejudices is disheartening but it makes you think about our world. I want people to read this book to see the world through different eyes. We don’t have enough books like this and that needs to change.

I basically said this in my review for The City of Brass, but it rings even more true now that I’ve finished The Kingdom of Copper: When people ask me for fantasy book recommendations, The Daevabad Trilogy is what I’ll be telling them to read for years to come.

Book Review: The Thief

The Thief
Author:
Megan Whalen Turner
Release Date: October 1, 1996
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Rating: 3 stars
Synopsis: The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities. What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.


Have you ever read a book that you just don’t know how you really feel about when you finish it? Welcome to my problem with reviewing the The Thief. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it just felt…less than I expected somehow. I guess I’m going to start with the good and work my way down.

I loved the ending! Like, hot damn, those were some plot twists. In a book that honestly had me kinda bored most of the way through, the ending saved this one for me. Of all the revelations, I only guessed 1.5 of them. I felt the author was pretty good at keeping us in the dark. Though, as my reading buddy and I learned, if you have a copy of this book with the character index in the back DON’T READ IT! It contains spoilers for this book and the rest in the series.

The writing was very straight forward. No flowery prose here. Even so, the world building was pretty decent and the story flowed. I loved the interludes where we get stories of the gods. My problem fell in the fact that there was horrifically little dialogue. And one thing I hate even more than a lack of dialogue is when the dialogue is described in a paragraph. JUST BREAK IT OUT INTO DIALOGUE DAMNIT! Reading paragraph after paragraph of description and exposition starts to feel like reading an essay and I certainly don’t like doing that.

My other problem was the very slow progress to what I’d consider the action of the book. The first half of the book, literally down to the page, is spent journeying. That’s 140 pages of walking about and getting to know each other (again, with very little dialogue). And while I mostly enjoyed getting to know the characters, I got kinda of bored with it after a while. What drove me on was the knowledge that something good would happen, because many of my friends have said they love this book so I knew action had to be on the horizon.

Going back and reading this review, it sounds like I don’t like the book. But that’s not really the case. I felt like this was just part one of a larger story and I am very intrigued by this larger story. I’m hoping that maybe as the story goes on we get some good female characters because The Thief was sorely lacking in that. I got just a hint of what seems like a good set up of political/court intrigue and I do love me some good intrigue. I guess what I’m trying to say is I will definitely be continuing with this series because I see the path of where it is going and I want to take that journey. Assuming I get some damn dialogue.


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

The Backlist: Six of Crows Duology

Before I get into the meat of this backlist review, I want to get something off my chest: Six of Crows is the ONLY reason I ever finished reading the Grisha Trilogy. I read Shadow and Bone a while back and it never did anything for me and I decided the trilogy wasn’t for me. Then Six of Crows came out and based on the synopsis I KNEW I had to read it. I loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom so much that I decided to finish the Grisha Trilogy. This is my long way of saying, you don’t HAVE to read the Grisha trilogy before Six of Crows. In fact, I am stalwart in my convictions that Six of Crows should be the introduction to Leigh Bardugo. Yes, there are spoilers for the Grisha Trilogy in SoC/CK, but…well, it’s complicated and I can’t explain without spoiling things and honestly the “spoilers” didn’t ruin anything for me when I finally finished the Grisha trilogy. I guess what I’m trying to get to in this long rambling opener is that Six of Crows is a god damned triumph and I hate to think of others like me who almost missed out on the beauty of Bardugo’s writing because the Grisha Trilogy didn’t work for them. Okay, getting off my soap box and starting what I came here to do: review Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Read: May 13 – May 20, 2016
Rating: 5 stars

Where do I even start with this one? I love this book. Every single word was beautifully woven into a dark heist story that consistently surprised me with its character depth and whiplash plot twists. Considering my “meh” feelings on the first Bardugo book I read, Shadow and Bone, I went into this one with trepidation. However, Bardugo’s writing had evolved into so much more than it was for the Grisha Trilogy and I found myself devouring this book at every possible moment (Please see my favorite Instagram photo ever because Bardugo called me a goof for reading Six of Crows while in a Starbucks drive through line). Some complain that the pacing is off in this book and I completely disagree. Yes, the background stories of characters are slower, but damn are they important and interesting and they add such depth. I feel like I know the characters in Six of Crows better than any other book characters I have ever read.

When people ask for a YA fantasy recommendation, this is the book I give them. This is a book I wish I had written. This book, as stated earlier, is a god damned triumph.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Read: September 27 – October 4, 2016
Rating: 5 stars

Dear Crooked Kingdom, I’d like my heart back, thank you very much.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to love my Dregs any more than I already did, but Crooked Kingdom stormed through and not only stole my heart but broke it into a thousand icy shards. Bardugo dives even deeper into her characters, giving us some truly heart wrenching backstories and introducing us to new characters that bring more complexity to Ketterdam and the Dregs. I cannot express enough how much I love the introduction of Colm (I’m only giving first name to avoid any potential spoilers). Straight up, my favorite character.

At the end of the day, this was such a good ending to this duology (potential trilogy if what Bardugo’s has said is true). It gave me satisfying, and sometimes emotionally traumatic, endings for each of the characters. I often have issues with endings to series but this one worked for me in so many ways.

So there we have it. My short little love letters to Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. If you want a book that is full of snark, high stakes, beautifully built worlds, broken and brilliant characters, and some of the most wonderfully woven words ever written, then I highly recommend you pick up Six of Crows immediately.

Book Review: Slayer

Slayer
Author: Kiersten White
Release Date: January 8, 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Rating: 1.5 stars
Synopsis: Into every generation a Slayer is born…
Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic. Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.
Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.
As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…
But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next. One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

I want to start out by saying writing this review pains me. I have been a Buffy fan since it premiered (yes, I’m that old) and have been a stalwart fan throughout the decades. When I heard there was going to be a book within the Slayerverse that had a new slayer (*cue dramatic music* who is also the last slayer EVER), I may have freaked out just a little bit. I had a friend grab me a copy of the ARC at NYCC and then buddy read it with a fellow Buffy fan. And that’s where all the fun stops.

Slayer promised to be a new voice in the Slayerverse, one that could be understood without any previous knowledge of Buffy the Vampire Slayer history (movie, TV Show, and comics). Nothing could be further from the truth. The author tried to bring the delightful campiness of the TV show to the book and it just felt forced and off putting (the only joke with a good pay off was the Coldplay joke). Now, some of this could be a personal thing for me because I have recently found that “campy” books are just not for me (*looks forlornly at Kill the Farm Boy and The Princess Bride*). There was no reason to try and bring that same camp though. Let this new slayer and her group be unique. I wanted a new slayer story, not a poor facsimile of the Scoobies.

Then there is the proclamation that you could understand this book without previous Slayerverse knowledge. And while that mostly holds true, I guess, you have to wade through pages of clunky info dumping. I actually gave up trying to figure it out from the book and went online to find a recap of the season 8 and 9 comic books. Which bugs me because that means two things: I completely spoiled myself for a comic series that I wanted to read AND a recapper online did a better job than the author of this book.

I’m going to save my discussion of the main character, Nina, until later because it will involve spoilers and I’m sectioning off the spoilers below. As for the rest of the characters, I can’t think of a single one I really liked. Except maybe Doug, and that is a stretch. Artemis was a terrible sister, the mother was awful (and her arc was predictable), the love interest was boring, and all the side characters were one dimensional. I couldn’t find it in me to care about a single one of them. Because of the poor character writing, the plot was predictable and not very interesting. I kept hoping it get pulled in by something, but it never happened. There was loads of potential (no pun intended), but it all fell flat to me.

And don’t even get me started on the ending.

Now for the one tiny part I loved and the BIG THING I hated, but first, a friendly spoiler warning. It’s not really a huge spoiler but just in case…

Okay, Nina. Our main character, the one on which my hopes and dreams floated. She hated Buffy. And didn’t just hate; she absolutely loathed Buffy and thought about it constantly (meaning we had to read about it all the damn time). Yes, she had a pretty good reason: Nina is the daughter of Merrick, Buffy’s first watcher, that died while working with Buffy. That was the one thing I really liked in this book. I LOVED that call back to the original movie. But Nina’s never-ending Buffy hate grated on me to the point where I ended up hating Nina just as much as she hated Buffy. Look, I get that Buffy isn’t perfect, but who the heck thought a steady stream of Buffy hate was good for a Slayerverse book, one that would be read by people who grew up loving Buffy? And because predictable plot is predictable, Nina ends up understanding Buffy and why she did the things she did. Ugggggghhhhhhh…

/end spoilers

At the end of the day, this book was a huge let down. The Hufflepuff in me wants to say maybe it was just me, maybe I’m the problem, but I don’t think that’d be 100% true. Yes, I hyped this book a lot in my head and yes, this book had some big 90s platform shoes to fill, but at the end of the day I really think the writing let this story down.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pretend I never had to write this negative review about a book I wanted to love by continuing my Buffy rewatch (I’m on Season 3 and Faith is about to make her grand entrance).

The Backlist: Red Rising Trilogy

Before I jump into this backlist review, I have to apologize for how many times I’ll be using the word “brutal”. Because, damn these books are brutal and Pierce Brown is cruel and capricious and I love him.

Red Rising (Read December 28, 2015 – January 7, 2016)
This is the kind of book that’ll remind people that the science fiction genre is not to be trifled with. For lack of a better term, this book will fuck you up. Brown’s visceral prose digs into you and brutally burrows into your soul. Every sentence is crafted with such care, you can’t help but fall in love with the terrible world Brown has created.

We follow Darrow as he goes from a naive Red (the lowest, or slave, class in the Society) to a vengeful infiltrator of the Golds (the highest class in the Society) and their Institute, where the next generation of Golds compete for the power and prestige that will carry them through their lives in the Society. Darrow must navigate the brutal world of the Institute, gaining the trust of those he intends to destroy and keeping himself alive through the twisted war games the Golds.

Nothing prepared me for this book. I went in with the thought that it’d be a little like Hunger Games but on Mars. And while it had some similar elements (kids killing kids for a messed up society), it was so much more. The world building rivals that of Brandon Sanderson and the cast ranges from delightfully sarcastic to disturbingly psychotic.

Red Rising sets up what promises to be a wonderful and brutal trilogy. Once you finish this one you’ll want to jump straight into the next book.

Golden Son (Read January 8 – 13, 2016)

Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising trilogy, but the brutality and intensity does not lessen as time goes on. Darrow finds himself deep into the Society and begins to start his work of dismantling it from within.

Brown’s writing style continues to be beautiful and brutal. He brings us deeper into the Society and introduces us to a host of new characters. Brown is so good at building solid characters without drowning you in their backstory. The politics are very heavy in this book, but they are interesting so it never bothered me.

But really, what Golden Son boils down to is the ending. And while I will not spoil anything that happens, I will say that it is one of the most beautiful and painfully crafted endings I have ever read.

Morning Star (Read February 12 – 24, 2016)

So, I could have sworn that I had to wait like a year after reading Golden Son before Morning Star was published. Maybe it just felt that way considering the whiplash insanity of the ending of Golden Son. I’ll be brief with this review because I have endeavored to not spoil anything throughout these reviews.

Brown finishes his epic trilogy with many of the things we expect from him: brutality, betrayal, insane plot twists, enough snark to sink a ship, and some damn beautiful writing. Everything in this book drips with intensity, sometimes to the point where you feel as though you are drowning. Some people have complained about the pacing in this series, but honestly, sometimes you need a break. I’m not sure I’d survive non-stop Pierce Brown chaos.

Even though Brown eventually continued the series with Iron Gold, Morning Star is as close to a perfect ending as I could have asked for. The Red Rising Trilogy is still one of my favorite Sci-Fi trilogies to this day.