Like always, warning for SPOILERS, especially since this post deals a lot with sequels.
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
I’m still not happy with this series. It’s not the writing – Bardugo is very evocative and is good at stirring her readers’ emotions, in my opinion. The problem is the characters. Alina is still a pain, she makes trouble for herself by not telling Mal things, and, quite honestly, I don’t especially care for her as a person, although kudos to Bardugo for making her sympathetic at various points in the story. On the other hand, part of why Alina comes across as sympathetic is because Mal gets to hold the Idiot Ball. Or the Jealous Ball, either way. His actions – and, being fair to him, reactions – full a decent amount of Alina’s isolation, which in turn fuels the plot. Which is another problem. This book felt a lot like a siege – you know, sit around and wait for relief or hope the besieging army gets tired and goes away. Either way, it’s a lot of waiting (the beginning and end have action, but the middle…). And whining. And romantic plot tumors. *le sigh* It’s still at least occasionally gripping and a quick read. But here’s hoping Ruin and Rising is quicker-paced throughout the whole plot.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I loved Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle (what’s out, at least). And I love mythology, of all kinds. So when I saw this book, with Stiefvater’s take on kelpies, I was super excited. Unfortunately, I was kind of underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong – I liked the book well enough. I loved what Stiefvater did with the kelpie mythology, I loved the idea of the Scorpio Races, I loved the world-building with the mare goddess and giving bodies to the sea and all of that. But I wasn’t particularly invested in the characters. The pacing felt way too slow considering the amount of time the book took place in (about 1-2 weeks, IIRC) as well as considering the stakes involved for the two main characters. It just dragged. And there wasn’t any of the fun that I expected from Stiefvater after the Raven Cycle. I’m glad I read this book because of what Stiefvater did with kelpie mythology, but the rest of it didn’t work for me, unfortunately.
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
After book one of the Lunar Chronicles, I was expecting a quick read with a fun couple of twists on fairy tales and a cute romance. And that’s exactly what I got. I think I still like Cinder as a character better than Scarlet, but I also think that Meyer’s writing improved with this book. Further, I like that we didn’t really get very many Wolf POV chapters, even after the twist about him. Not only did it help keep his intentions mysterious, but it helped keep the number of narrators/POV characters down, which was a good thing since we had at least four others running around at one point or another (that I counted, at least): Scarlet, of course, but also Cinder, Kai, and Levana (for at least one chapter). Not much else to say on this one, other than that Meyer continues to deliver the fairy tale twists that I’m loving so much. Although Thorne’s name alone (to say nothing of his ship’s name) tells me a lot about what’s coming up for him in the third book with Cress (aka Rapunzel).
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
All right, I know I’ve not been the biggest fan of the Grisha trilogy. But. Props to Bardugo – I think every single (surviving) character got some development at some point in this book. Whether that was good or bad depended on the character, of course, but a lot of characters who were previously flat got some dimension as Alina interacted with them some more. The love plots were still tiresome, of course, but that could also be because pretty much every YA fantasy novel is doing that these days. I liked the twist(s) with Morozova, and I can even say I liked the conclusion to the series, even if a lot of it felt a little too pat. Are there still problems? Oh, yes. But Bardugo’s writing really matured throughout the course of this trilogy, alongside Alina. I’m not about to go running out to recommend this series, but I’m now more excited to read Six of Crows to see how Bardugo’s writing has continued to develop.
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
As promised, this book is indeed better than the first. It’s great to see a writer improve, and Maas managed to address my concerns about continuing with her in this book. The ‘twist’ with Celaena wasn’t one, but really we’ve had way too many clues dangled in front of us for that to not be the case, or so I feel. But watching Chaol learn it made up for that lack of surprise for me because it’s so easy to see how his loyalties are continuing to twist him up. Maas is really good at portraying her characters’ emotions – I believed them, and believed in them. And I liked that hint that maybe Nehemia wasn’t as saintly as she appears. Although I hope that doesn’t keep Celaena from making more friends, since this series so far has a dearth of female figures who get much screen time. Other than Celaena, there was Nehemia, Kaltain, and, in this book, Baba Yellowlegs – and who knows if we’ll see them again in any form. There’s the queen, yes, but she tends to get mentioned more than seen, and same for Philippa. And Elena, who, again, tends to not appear so often. So I’m hoping for some more women, especially considering where the third book takes place. But I’m definitely looking forward to reading it.
And that wraps up this YA Review Blitz. More to come soon.