Here’s part two of my speed reading through YA books review blitz. For part one and an explanation of why I’m doing this, go here.
Like last time, warning for SPOILERS.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
There’s a lot of hype about this series, and also a lot of dislike. I tried going in with an open mind, but, I’m going to be honest: I had my bar set fairly low because the dislike was about cliches that tend to annoy me. I freely admit that I was wrong to be worried. This was a very enjoyable book, I found Celaena’s actions very understandable, and some of the concerns other people raised felt unfounded to me. The one issue that did stick with me was, predictably, the love triangle. I hate those kinds of plots, and I hate that this one wasn’t completely wrapped up but seems ready to continue on into book two. Despite that, I have a decent amount of sympathy for the three main characters, I think a lot of the side characters have believable motivations (maybe I didn’t think that at all times, but by the end of the book I understood why certain people acted the way they did), and there were certain other aspects of the book that really just came together for me at the end. Are there a lot of cliches? Yes. Is it still an enjoyable read? Very. And, since I’ve heard later books just get better, I’m genuinely looking forward to continuing it.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Yes, another third person narrative! That was my first thought upon opening this book. Unfortunately, the joy was not to last at such heights. Don’t get me wrong: the political intrigue, the characters, the world – those are all great. On the other hand, the author’s views on religion, economy, and, to some extent, governing systems are shoved down your throat with everything the main character does. The problem isn’t the presence of the author’s views; I have read and enjoyed plenty of books where the author’s philosophy or economic beliefs were touched on. But they weren’t the main point of the story. The message could be picked up or it could be ignored. In this case, I felt I couldn’t because of how pervasive it was, how often the main character – Kelsea – thought about how she was going to change her country by doing this, this, and this. I wish there had been less focus on the social justice/social change aspect and more focus on the characters. I think my other main problem with the book is that Kelsea doesn’t really seem to change. She goes through things but the core of her remains the same. Right from the start you see her temper, her opinions, and her core of steel. At the end, all three of these things remain intact. Perhaps a bit more visible to the reader and to other characters, but essentially the same. The summary of the second book doesn’t give me a lot of hope for a change, but I will be giving it a try. Partially because I don’t like leaving a series unfinished and partially because I still like the characters, the world, and the plot.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
And we’re back to first person. On the other hand, I love fairy tale retellings. And this was a monster of fairy tale retellings. Mostly Eros and Psyche, but with a few other recognizable twists from other tales thrown in. Plus, fae. And not friendly fae, either, but fae out of old tales. And the main couple falling in love didn’t feel fast or forced. It felt like a natural progression. The main issue I had was the usual power dynamics you see in a lot of paranormal romances: the male has greater power than the female. In this case, he’s a fae, she’s a powerless human without access to the only thing fae are weak against. But I’ve gotten so used to that dynamic that I know I tend to ignore it cropping up when I read.
For me, the mark of a good book is that when it’s over, part of me goes ‘wait that’s it’ while another part of me goes ‘that’s a satisfying ending.’ The best part about series books is that I do get more, eventually, but often there is no satisfying ending. CoTaR gave me both. It left enough dangling that I want to see where it goes while completely wrapping up the main plot threads of this first book. Unfortunately, the sequel doesn’t come out until sometime next year.
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
I loved the first book in this series – and the second one was no disappointment. It might even have been better than the first, although I read with enough of a gap in between them that I can’t say for sure one way or the other. One of my favorite things about this series remains the way Stiefvater makes every third person pov unique. The atmosphere of the book remains the same, tying everything together, but the variety of third person narratives is phenomenal. And may I just say, I loved that we got into Ronan’s head in this one. I don’t recall him being one of the narrators in The Raven Boys, and I was so happy to get some idea of what goes on in his head. The one ‘complaint’ I have about this series is that while both books wrapped up a main plot, too much of me was going ‘but that can’t be all where’s the rest of it’. And in this case, the ending felt a little rushed. As if everything was happening too fast compared to how spread out the rest of the book was. I can’t remember if I felt that way after the first book or not, but I’m keeping an eye out for it in the third.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
This is one of those series that just keeps getting better as far as I’m concerned. I love mythology in general and Arthurian legend especially, and, yes, I realize the Raven Cycle isn’t exactly Arthurian legend, but it’s pretty close in theme. Plus, the relationships between characters, you guys! They’re amazing. And it’s nice to see how they develop and change – or don’t. There are so many good relationships in this series, it really isn’t all – or even mostly – about the romantic bonds, despite what you might assume from the basic summary of the series. And I love how the characters are developing and changing, too. Noah’s arc in particular is fascinating because of what it means in regards to Cabeswater, the leylines, and his ultimate fate. Seriously, if you haven’t given this series a try, I highly recommend it.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Well that was a very interesting start to the Lunar Chronicles. Let me say straight off the bat that I loved the fairy tale twists. I’ve read a lot of fairy tale adaptations – they’re not my favorite sub-genre but I do enjoy them – and this is definitely one of the more interesting takes. I also liked how Meyer included excerpts from the actual tale in between parts of the book. On the negative side, Kai doesn’t feel like a believable prince/emperor-to-be. He shows his disdain for the more powerful Lunar Kingdom far too quickly, especially to representatives of the Lunar Kingdom. Yes, they know nobody on Earth likes them, but that’s even more reason to not rub your dislike of them in their collective faces. Finally, this book felt really fast-paced, which was good: that really emphasized how little time they all have, how quickly the disease progresses, and really ratcheted up tension levels. Although if the book took as little time as I think it did, letumosis really doesn’t take all that long to go from ‘infected’ to ‘dead’. I’m curious to see where this series goes, especially thanks to the very unique twists on classic fairy tales that I can see happening just in this one book alone, but I do hope the second book is ‘better’ – meaning that I like more of the characters and that the characters’ actions feel more believable to who they are. Kai wasn’t the only one who had me occasionally going ‘huh?’, after all.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
I was so excited to hear about this book. Mostly because of how much I loved Fangirl, I’ll admit. I loved getting to see Simon Snow and his world through Cath’s eyes, seeing how important the books were to her and Wren. Speaking of, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK BEFORE FANGIRL. Okay? Seriously, this is a great book, but I definitely think you should read Fangirl first. Having said that, this didn’t feel like Cath’s Carry On. I think this was Rainbow’s Carry On, her idea of what it should’ve been. I can’t say that for sure, of course, but it felt like there was too much going on in it that a reader like Cath wouldn’t have known (the whole Lucy subplot, for one), although that could just be me. But I’m more than okay with that. Rainbow’s view of Simon and his world is amazing. The characters felt so real and all of them made such unique and believable decisions. I’m not sure how much people are going to yell at me for this, but I actually found Agatha to be one of the more sympathetic characters in the story, at least in terms of what she wanted. Overall, the story was everything I’ve come to expect from Rainbow, and I couldn’t be happier with finally reading Carry On.
And that’s a wrap for now. Seven books this time? That feels like a lot to me, for some reason. For anyone keeping score at home, that’s twelve YA books total so far. I’ll have part three up sometime in the new year.