As always, warning for potential SPOILERS!
Winter by Marissa Meyer
I was so happy with this conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles. Was it perfect? No. But it was fun and I loved so much of it. It felt like there was a lot packed in that could have been cut – maybe less time failing to inspire a rebellion? I don’t know, but it definitely felt a bit draggy. And I get that Winter is supposed to be beautiful – she’s based on Snow White, the fairest in the land, yadda yadda yadda – but did we really need all these guys trying to marry/rape her? (I counted at least two, and that’s not going into the wolf soldiers being unsure if they wanted to rape or eat her and Scarlet) However, let me say with absolute certainty that I loved that not everyone got a perfectly happy ending. Yes, there are implications that all four happy couples will eventually be happily married, but they don’t get that right away because they have responsibilities and things they have to clear up or take care of. On the other hand, while part of me likes Cinder’s solution to the Lunar’s problems, I’m not sure how easy that change in government is going to be, let alone how well it will work – even a democracy/republic is open to abuse, especially considering the Lunars’ powers. On the other hand, this series is meant to be lighter fantasy (in terms of feel and morals, at least), so I’m not going to quibble too much with an overly optimistic ending. Iko was probably my favorite character – she’s too funny, and I love how she dishes back sass to the Lunars who are freaked out by her. Cress remained rather wimpy in my mind, even when she stepped up at the end, and I felt she remained too obsessed with looks and surface, but she’s balanced nicely by the other three main girls (four counting Iko). All of them were different from each other, with different character arcs, and I loved it. Same for the guys, but I’m more used to lots of different male personalities, so that’s not as noteworthy to me. Overall, good, fun series. So glad I finally read it.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
I’m honestly still not sure how I feel about this book. Part of me couldn’t stop flipping pages and part of me hated every page of it. The twists were great and clearly the pacing was pretty good since I was flipping pages, desperate to see what happened next, but… I didn’t connect to any of the characters. I didn’t hate Cassie or Ben, but I also couldn’t emphasize with them. Also, Evan is just… so creepy. *shudders* Also, I have naturally high levels of paranoia – this book didn’t help with that. I was so jumpy during the days I read this book. Heck, I’m still freaked out by it. That’s part of the beauty of it, of course, that Yancey made me so terrified and the world so believable, I can really sympathize with the characters’ inability to trust. But I read books for characters. I can forgive bad plots if there are characters I like easier than I can forgive interesting plots with blah characters. So I can’t say I liked this book. But I’m not sure that I disliked it, either. Honestly, I’m torn about whether to continue the series or not.
(Another minus for me about this book: I feel like Ben is being set up as Cassie’s ‘reward’ or something. I mean, it’s clear – to me – that he likes Ringer, but at the end it’s Cassie he kisses and hugs. And part of that is because they’re both taking care of Sammy, but part of it feels like he’s her ‘reward’ for surviving and saving Sammy and being one of the last humans on Earth, which is weird to me because I’m used to the more typical girl-as-‘reward’ version. And guess what? I hate this gender-flipped version as much as I hate the standard. What a surprise.)
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, especially anything to do with either the Guards or the witches. And this book – the final Discworld book – was a beautiful, touching conclusion to the sprawling universe Pratchett is arguably best known for.
It was so nice to return to Tiffany Aching, to see how she’s grown and changed. That’s one of the nice things about her books, I’d argue – she’s one of the few characters whom we see grow up throughout the course of the Discworld books. Part of that is of course how far apart, internal chronology-wise, her books are set, but part of it is, of course, that Pratchett is taking us on Tiffany’s journey as she goes from farm girl to respected witch and, since we will never see Granny Weatherwax make that trip, it has been very enlightening to see Tiffany make it.
A lot of the themes in this last book are themes that are common to the Tiffany Aching books in particular – making enemies into friends, learning to compromise, understanding what you can do – but some of them seem to me to be more in keeping with where Pratchett was in life when he wrote this – passing the torch, the next generation stepping up, deciding what dreams are worth holding onto and what dreams are preventing you from reaching other dreams.Had Pratchett had more time to edit, I am certain this book would have been more…something. Complete, maybe? It’s not that it is not a whole book, because it is, and it’s not that there are plot threads left dangling, because all of the important ones were answered. But there is still something missing from this book that I found in almost every other Pratchett book I have read. And I’m not sure what that is, but I know that there will be no more books from a great man and, though this is his last book, it is a fitting one to end on.
Requiescat In Pace, Sir Terry Pratchett.
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Wow was this a ride. I loved it from first to last, although some of the sections felt a bit sparse – Angkor and Paris in particular, although that might be only because nothing really seemed to happen in either location and both locations had only a single short chapter.
Bracken’s descriptions are phenomenal, of place and dress alike. She truly made the many vastly different locations and time periods come alive, and I had no trouble whatsoever picturing any of the characters, either.
Speaking of characters, I loved them. So much. Etta and Nicholas are both so complex and believable. And I loved getting to see Alice as both an old woman and a young one – her philosophy about living her life was absolutely touching. Even the antagonists were wonderfully complex, from Sophia to Cyrus Ironwood. In point of fact, I found Cyrus’s motivations to be rather fascinating, especially in light of the choices he’s made over the years of his life.
The one thing that really bothered me was the instant attraction/love between Etta and Nicholas. I’m not really a fan of insta-love. Insta-lust, sure, but their connection was written as a lot stronger than that, almost mystical. Which, well, should I really be complaining about something like that in a fantasy book when I’ve read and enjoyed other novels with soulbonds, lifebonds, and so on? And the answer is YES. Because there’s been no explanation given for it. I appreciate the way their relationship develops, but I can’t help but wonder how much of it relies on that ~mystical bond~ that we’ve been given no explanation for.Still, if that’s my only quibble, that’s pretty good, right? I mean, yes, there are some slow places, but I had a hard time putting this book down, and I really want to know what happens next. Too bad I have to wait until next year. So if you’re looking for some really interesting time travel with great descriptions and some wonderful characters, I highly recommend Passenger.
(Although may I just say, I called several of the later plot twists VERY early on, so if you know certain tropes, this isn’t exactly a surprising read)
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
You would think I’d know by now to not go into new YA books with sky-high expectations. Because while Truthwitch is a fast-paced adventure with lots to love, I emerged from it…disappointed. There was a lot of hype about world-building, awesome characters, good romance and other interesting relationships – and I felt a bit let-down, honestly, when most of those didn’t deliver. Let’s start with the world: it’s different from a lot of other worlds, yes, but we don’t learn a lot about it. Certainly not enough to talk about fantastic world-building. It looks interesting and fun, but I just didn’t get enough of it. Next, the characters: a lot of them felt rather flat. Safi seemed to exist mainly to get into trouble – until near the end, when we finally started getting some character development in the last, oh, hundred pages. Iseult was more interesting, but I felt like we didn’t get to spend as much time with her, so I didn’t get to see as many of her different facets. Merik, Aeduan, Evrane, and the hints we saw of Eron, Mathew, and Habim, on the other hand, felt a lot more faceted to me and I’m looking forward to seeing more from them in the sequels. The romance: I hate insta-love. Hate it. But I’m going back and forth over whether that’s what Merik and Safi are experiencing. At this point, I’m leaning more towards chemistry that’s been developing with an underlying mutual obsession/draw to each other that seems to be related somehow to their Threads. So I’m not calling it insta-love, but I know some people are. The other relationships: these were really good. I loved Safi and Iseult’s dynamic, the way Evrane interacted with people, Merik and Iseult’s strained interactions, Iseult’s interactions with her mother and Alma… So many of the character interactions were fascinating for me. I wish there had been a bit more closure with Iseult’s clan and I really want to know more of what Eron and company are up to, but overall I can’t say I’m walking away unhappy with the plot threads. Other than Safi holding the Idiot Ball seemed to drive a lot of it. Yes, I get that she ‘can’t focus’ without Iseult, but she made some really stupid decisions. At least she seems to finally be growing up, just in time for the book to end.
Long story short, don’t go in expecting amazing. It was enjoyable and the pace meant I found it hard to put it down, but I don’t think it was worth the hype. (I am looking forward to seeing where the story goes with book 2, and I suspect that if you finish the book, you will also be with the series until the end)