As always, warning for SPOILERS!
Cress by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles just keeps getting better and better. The action and pacing really picked up in this installment, which I think is a good improvement from the first two books, both of which seemed to drag a bit. That might be because our cast of characters and viewpoint narrators is expanding, and flipping between at least four different plots means there’s not much time to wait around. The characters are developing nicely, with anyone who seemed flat rounding out. And may I say, I’m so glad Dr. Erland came back in this novel. I was starting to wonder if he was just going to be a hanging thread, but no, Meyer had so much planned out for him. In fact, I think my main issue with this book is that I don’t like Cress as much as the other female leads. She grew by leaps and bounds throughout the course of the book, which I appreciate immensely, but, on the other hand, I can’t really sympathize with her. I feel bad about her isolation, but her ideas of a whirlwind romance… And choosing to center them on a man with Thorne’ reputation… I have to say, she seems unbelievably naive, especially since she has access to so much thanks to her hacking capabilities. Yes, she was isolated with limited human interaction, but considering her life on Luna before her isolation, I would think she’d be a bit more credulous. Is that just me? Still, now I can’t wait to get my hands on Winter – which will probably be in three months or more, considering the hold list at my library.
Fairest by Marissa Meyer
I’m not really sure what to say about this book. Mostly because I go back and forth about whether I think Meyer wanted us to sympathize with Levana or not. Because this book did not make me sympathize with her at all. Yes, she had a horribly traumatic event happen to her, courtesy of her older sister of all people (and as an older sister who’s best friend is her younger sister, that was the most horrifying part of the book to me), and yes that sister continued to torment her in every possible way since then. But. She had a chance – she had multiple chances to do the right thing, to at least stop and listen or consider. But she didn’t. She was just as horrible a person as her older sister. I loved seeing where she came from, but I think this just made me hate her more. Which is why I go back and forth about how I feel about Fairest. Also, considering the length, I find it a bit odd that Meyer didn’t use chapters. Yes, it’s a lot shorter than her other novels, but it was still pretty close to novel length, at least in page numbers. And it wasn’t quite as fast-paced as Cress was, although it takes place over a much longer period of time, so that’s understandable. In all, I liked it as a way to see into Levana’s head since we don’t get to do that too often in the main series. But it really did make me hate her just a little bit more.
The Rose Society by Marie Lu
Holy shit. Just. Wow. Okay, SPOILERS AHEAD!
Okay, so, writing a villain protagonist is really hard. But Lu is managing it in a way that is completely breaking my heart. Especially with that bombshell at the end of the book about what the Young Elite’s powers are doing to them and what that means for Adelina considering her power (and the way it’s so obviously driving her crazy, with the hallucinations and the whispers in the back of her mind). And that excerpt at the beginning of the last chapter, about what Adelina does with Kenettra. I’m getting some seriously bad vibes about the third book and I don’t know how I’m going to survive the wait for The Midnight Star. On the other hand, Adelina still doesn’t feel particularly sympathetic to me. Yes, she’s listening to the voices in her head and they’re the ones sending her down the wrong path to some extent, but she’s still got some agency of her own. And so it’s her choice to reject Magiano, Violetta, even Sergio to some extent. That’s all on her. And so while yes, some of her choices are being made for her by circumstances, she’s still choosing to reject all of the lighter paths being offered. On the other hand, I’m not finding the Daggers and Maeve sympathetic, either. Ditto Teren. I think the only sympathetic characters are Violetta and Magiano, in my opinion. And that’s okay, honestly. Because I’m still hooked on this series without particularly liking or sympathizing with Adelina. So well done, Ms. Lu. Well done.
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
I’m still enjoying the Throne of Glass series, but this book had some major issues for me – and crystallized one of the ones that I’ve had since the beginning. So, let’s start with the worst: since the beginning, I have not bought the supposed bromance between Chaol and Dorian. They don’t read like really good friends at all – until the end of this book. I’ve been gritting my teeth and ignoring it, but it made Dorian’s actions in the final chapters of this book particularly jarring because I didn’t buy his rationalization for the actions he took. It would’ve made more sense if he’d gone into a rage over *redacted for spoilers*. If you’ve read the book, you know what I mean. Instead, it’s over Chaol. And that’s another thing – Chaol was incredibly wishy-washy in this book. He keeps going back and forth over pretty much everything, and that, combined with learning in the first book that he’s never killed anyone before, makes me wonder just what this guy is doing as the captain of the King’s Guard. The next problem: Celaena’s breakdown/Point of Despair at the end of part one. It got resolved way too quickly. Yes, yes, she doesn’t fully recover until the end of the book, but she forgave Rowan way too easily, gave him too much too quickly after that in terms of their relationship, and so on and so forth. It just felt too quick, too pat, and I wish there had been more consequences for Rowan from Celaena, such as it being harder for him to win her trust/liking again. Now for the good: the characters mostly still draw me in. I still feel incredibly sympathetic towards Celaena, and I’m loving the sections with Manon – I’m really curious to see where her plot line goes, especially after the scene with the Crochan. And I liked getting to see more people’s perspectives. That’s been one of the main strengths of this series, I think: when we’re in different povs, they feel like different povs. Not as completely as I’d like, but enough so that I’m not saying ‘wait Manon sounds like Celaena’ and so on. And it was nice to see that the unnamed but important rebel from book two wasn’t just a throwaway character. That’s another thing I like to see authors do. So while certain issues crystallized in this book, I’m still looking forward to getting my hands on book four, and I anticipate enjoying the rest of this series.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I wasn’t especially impressed by the Grisha Trilogy – mostly because of the main character and the Romance Plot Tumor (I say nothing about the cultural inaccuracies because all writers, myself included, take artistic license with cultures that inspire our works). If I hadn’t been stuck in Alina’s head, maybe I would have liked it better, who knows. But Six of Crows was so much better. For one thing, rotating third person POVs helped keep the action flowing and made me feel like I really got to know the characters. I loved that Bardugo doled out bits of backstory throughout the book, letting us see the relationships before she showed us why they were what they were. The things that went wrong during the heist felt real, and the choices the characters made felt right – yes, even Kaz at the end, on the island, because we saw who he was fighting with who he had become, so his choices and actions actually made sense considering how he had evolved – or devolved, depending on your view point – throughout the course of the heist. I am very excited to see where this goes next when the sequel comes out later this year. My one semi-major complaint is that all six characters had their designated love interest within the group of six. It just made things feel a bit too pat, even though I enjoyed and believed the development of all the romantic relationships – the other relationships, too. All six main characters felt real, even Wylan, whose POV we didn’t get, and I liked and disliked parts of all of them. In short, a most enjoyable book, although with a bit more romance than I had anticipated going in.
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Maas continues to impress me with the fourth book in her Throne of Glass series. One of the things I love most is how so many characters grow, not just Aelin. I mean, yes, she grows and changes the most, she is the main character, but we also see Chaol and Dorian and Manon, especially, develop as people, among others. I said after reading Heir of Fire that I finally bought Chaol and Dorian being good friends. Well, I continued to buy it here, which is good. But I also liked the deconstruction of and conversation(s) around Chaol and Aelin’s relationship. In fact, I liked a lot of the relationships portrayed in this book, from the platonic to the familial to the romantic. Asterin and Manon, Elide and Manon, Aelin and Aedion, and Aelin and Lysandra are the ones that stick out to me as being especially developed and especially intricate. I loved watching the different dynamics play out between everyone, especially with Chaol’s questions about magic-users after we’ve seen how Maeve rules. And some of the reveals at the end were truly shocking, although one of them wasn’t particularly surprising. And now I have to wait until September to see more? And not even the finale, since there’s apparently a sixth book coming? Patience is a virtue, I guess.
(Late realization: the one thing bothering me about Aelin and Rowan’s relationship is that Rowan’s mate – who is supposed to be his greatest love ever or something like that, right? – doesn’t mean as much to him as Aelin apparently does? I mean, he says, towards the end, that he thinks he’s lived this long and done everything he’s done so that he could be Aelin’s lover – so what does that mean about Lyria (I think that was her name)? Yeah, delayed reaction of wait, what happened to the rules of your universe, what is internal consistency?)
Soundless by Richelle Mead
This was such a cool concept – a village of people who can’t hear, only now they’re going blind, too, and an interesting caste system with artists as the most valued, plus the whole village is mostly cut off from the outside world. It sounded right up my alley, so I ignored the first person and tried to dive in. And I just couldn’t. First of all, why would artists get more food than miners when the ores and metals are the only things that they have to trade for food that for some reason they can’t grow? Secondly, the world wasn’t especially vivid for me. It’s supposed to be Chinese, but the only thing Chinese about it is the names and the descriptions of the people. Further, nothing really gets sketched out or filled in. Third, I couldn’t get attached to any of the characters. Yes, I sympathized with Fei’s desire to save her sister, but Fei felt really flat, like her emotions weren’t fully engaged, and since we’re in her head, that made it hard for me to engage. And, finally, I was bored. I probably would’ve DNF’d it for all those sins, but it was short enough that I was able to get it through it relatively quick. And, well, it was readable.