Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

BLOGI am the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground,’ he said, mismatched eyes glinting. ‘I am wildness and madness made flesh. You’re just a girl’—he smiled, and the tips of his teeth were sharp—’and I am the wolf in the woods.”

Liesl has grown up hearing stories about the Goblin King, the Ruler Underground. While it all seemed so real to her as a child, the older she got the more it became a fantasy; things of myth and legend. However, odd sightings and strange occurrences raise many questions for Liesl, leading her to wonder how much of the stories are real. When her sister, Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl ventures into the world of the Underground on a mission to save her sister. But there is a price to be paid, and for the Goblin King, that price is a life for a life.

“What’s the use of running, if we are on the wrong road.”

Wintersong provided an interesting reading experience for me. Some things worked, others not so much, and overall I was left with mixed feelings. The writing is absolutely lovely, and the story itself does not follow the typical route of novels in its genre. This on its own fascinated me and kept me guessing as to how everything would develop and conclude. While marketed as a YA fantasy novel, it does feel more like an adult novel, which ads to what feels like a departure from the typical stories of the genre. The pacing of the novel is quite slow, which made it difficult to really get into the story and connect with the characters. Another thing that didn’t completely work for me was the romance aspect of the story that felt at times confusing and slightly annoying. However, certain parts of the plot did keep me engaged and I really liked the author’s writing style. She is a very talented writer and I look forward to seeing what she releases next.

*ARC provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

BLOG“There is a point when a man may swim back to shore, but he was past it. There was nothing left but to be swallowed by the enormity of the sea.”

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of one of my favourite books of 2015, Signal to Noise. This novel is quite different in genre, that being a paranormal thriller that tells the story of a clash between vampires in alternating points of view. We meet, Domingo, a homeless teen; Ana, a tough cop; and Atl, a young vampire who has entered a vampire-free zone in Mexico City. Atl is smart, dangerous, and on the run from a rival vampire clan. Atl walks into Domingo’s life and an interesting rapport develops, while Ana’s investigation leads her right in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.

Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…

This is not a genre that I generally gravitate towards and not a book I would normally read, but as a fan of Moreno-Garcia’s writing I had to give this one a try. What is very clear is that she is a truly talented storyteller. The world-building is well crafted and it is easy to be drawn into this reality that the author has crafted. What really stands out is the characters, who are compelling and make you care about their stories and overall journey. The alternating viewpoints are well done, and I enjoyed them all, particularly that of Atl who is just such a badass. If you are a fan of this genre, then this book is definitely for you. However, if it is not something you generally read or if vampires don’t really appeal to you, I do recommend checking out Signal to Noise, which is a fantastic novel.

*ARC provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

IMG_4357“Inside a dream.
Within a lost city.
In the shadow of an angel.
At the brink of calamity.”

Lazlo Strange has spent most of his life dreaming of the lost city of Weep; a city that has turned into myth. As the years pass, his dream of finding the city that has become an obsession, gradually begins to feel like an impossibility. He is no one of importance after all, but a junior librarian and orphan who found his home among books. One day, a man known as the Godslayer and a group of legendary warriors provide a once in a lifetime opportunity, one that will answer all of Lazlo’s questions and uncover a long lost mystery.

Strange the Dreamer is a wonderfully crafted, page-turning read. From the opening paragraph to the very last sentence, the beautiful writing is downright captivating, as the story and characters are brought to life. There is a dreamy quality to Laini Taylor’s storytelling that transports the reader to the fantastical world she has created. The characters are interesting, each consisting of great depth and complexity, which brings up thought-provoking issues of morality and justice. It also explores complex emotions given the circumstances and situations the characters have encountered.

IMG_4359

“And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.”

“So they layered cynicism atop their longing, and it was something like layering laughter over the darkness — self-preservation of an uglier stripe. And thus did they harden themselves, by choosing to meet hate with hate.”

There are a number of layers to this novel, all of which work wonderfully: the story of Lazlo’s life growing up, the mystery surrounding the mythical city of Weep, the story of gods and goddesses, the intriguing characters, the magic, and of course the dreams of a dreamer. This is the first book in what is to be a duology, with the second book expected to be released in 2018. Now I wait. 🙂

“It was impossible, of course. But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming?”

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

IMG_4062“… a ferryman for the dead finds his existence unraveling after making either the best decision or the biggest mistake of his immortal life.”

Charlie Dawson is a ferryman whose job is to usher the dead to their afterlife. Those chosen to be a part of The Ferryman Institute are tasked with this important duty, and in the case that they should fail, the ghosts of the dead that do not cross over stay listlessly in the world until they slowly disappear into nothingness. Charlie himself has grown into a legend, having served as ferryman for two-hundred-and-fifty years and having a perfect record of completing every assignment successfully. However, the job itself takes a toll on him and he wants out, which turns out to not be easily accomplished. The Institute wants to hold on to their most successful ferryman and is not keen on letting him go. When a top secret assignment is given to Charlie, he is given a choice: “Be a Ferryman or save the girl. Your choice.” His decision sets him on a path that leads to many questions and ultimately some interesting answers.

The premise of this novel really sparked my interest, and as soon as I started reading I was drawn into this fascinating world and its amusing characters. The world-building is very well done and it had all the ingredients of an excellent story. Unfortunately, I feel it lost its way about halfway through and never really recovered. The voice of the main female character is incredibly immature and difficult to get along with, and throughout most of the latter part of the book she comes across as a whiny teenager rather than an adult woman. There is a romantic aspect to the story that felt awkward, not believable, and not really necessary. These two factors slowly took me out of the story and it became difficult to feel engaged to the events that were unfolding. I love the world the author created and did very much enjoy the first portion of the novel, unfortunately there were aspects that really took away from the story and it ultimately did not come together for me.

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

img_3887Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

The spirits that inhabit the land of Renthia and bring it to life, are a danger to humans. Only one woman has the power to control the spirits and protect the land and its people; the chosen queen. However, the danger always looms. In order to ensure there is always a suitable candidate to take the position of queen should anything happen to the one that reigns, young women who choose to be candidates are trained to become heirs. Young Daleina, whose childhood brush with these malevolent spirits sets her on a path towards becoming heir, has the goal of doing right by the land and helping people. Along with Ven, a disgraced champion, she embarks on a quest to right the wrongs that have befallen Renthia and those she cares most about.

Don’t trust the fire, for it will burn you.
Don’t trust the ice, for it will freeze you.
Don’t trust the water, for it will drown you.
Don’t trust the air, for it will choke you.
Don’t trust the earth, for it will bury you.
Don’t trust the trees, for they will rip you,
rend you, tear you, kill you dead.

The premise intrigued me, the writing drew me in, the story captured my attention, and the characters made me care. The Queen of Blood is one of my favourite fantasy novels that I have read in quite some time. It works on so many different levels with charismatic, compelling characters, and a plot that kept me eagerly turning the pages. It strays away from the typical fantasy storyline which usually consist of one hero that is special in skill and talent, that rises above the rest to save/conquer. Instead, we have a protagonist that is a regular girl with a desire to help people, in a way she was unable to as a child when she experienced first-hand the power of the spirits. It’s about determination, strength, and wanting to do the right thing. A wonderfully written and captivating novel.

The Queen of Blood is the first in what is set to be a trilogy, with the second novel, The Reluctant Queen expected to be released in July of 2017. I very much look forward to this next instalment. 🙂

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

img_3620‘For us, the places we went were home. We didn’t care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.’

Under the right conditions, secret doorways and hidden entrances open up to different worlds. When fairy realms appear to children, they step into a place that best fits them, a place that feels more like home than any other they have ever known. However, when circumstances deem that they must be expelled back to an ordinary reality, coping with the loss of their magical home is very difficult indeed. Most end up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, where they are among others who have shared their experience, those forever seeking a way back. Nancy has recently stumbled back from her magical world and not too long after her arrival at Eleanor’s, the unthinkable happens. And it is up to Nancy and a crew of interesting characters to figure out the reason, and person, behind it all.

“You want to go back, and so you hold on to the habits you learned while you were traveling, because it’s better than admitting the journey’s over.”

Every Heart a Doorway is a novella with an intriguing premise that may or may not hit the right note with readers. It is strange, creepy, dark, and at times a bit gruesome. So it may be your thing depending on your preferred level of weird. For me, the overall story worked quite well and I found myself enjoying the characters, the writing style, and the discussions and thoughts regarding human behaviour. The only drawback was the fact that it is a novella rather than a lengthy novel. There are so many aspects of the story that can be explored in much greater detail and I wanted to delve even more into this world (and all the fairy realms). However, this is the first in what will be a series of novellas, so there will be more to explore in the near future. The second book in the Wayward Children Series, Down Among the Sticks and Bones is set to be released in June 2017.

“Now I know that if you open the right door at the right time, you might finally find a place where you belong.”

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

IMG_2693Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.
Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all!

First in what is set to be a duology, This Savage Song is the new YA fantasy from the very talented Victoria Schwab. August Flynn and Kate Harker are on opposite sides of a divided city during a time when violence creates actual monsters. Kate’s father leads by allowing monsters to roam free and protects those who are able to pay for it. Kate is intent on proving herself to her father and showing him that she can lead and follow in his footsteps. August is one of the Sunai, a monster who looks human but is able to steal souls through music, which is part of his nature that he greatly struggles with, wanting nothing more than to be human. When Kate is sent back home to attend the local school, August is assigned to enrol in order to keep an eye on her as the tensions between the two sides of the city are rising.

A fun read with a great concept, This Savage Song is thoroughly enjoyable. It is well written and very easy to sink into, with descriptions and dialogue that flow with ease. I especially appreciate that it is not a story that relies on typical tropes found in YA novels with romantic entanglements and complications. In fact, there is no romantic component, which is a refreshing change. I did find that the novel lacked a certain depth, particularly when it came to exploring this world and questions of good vs. evil and right vs. wrong. As a result I wasn’t as invested in the story as much as I would have liked. However, it is a fun and easy read that provides a nice little escape, and perfectly sets up the next part of the story that is to come in the second and final instalment.