The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May

“At moments like this, I appreciate how the weather in Scotland is never the same, and how swiftly it changes. How the rain itself seems to breathe, soft and slow.”

The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May
Release Date:  June 13, 2017
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Format: e-ARC
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Ratings: Page Turner Gut Punch badass

Full disclosure: I adore Scotland so that setting alone will attract me to a book. I had downloaded the first of Elizabeth May’s Falconer series to my Kindle some time ago, but then didn’t read it until I was IN Scotland last summer. I thought the first book was fun and moved onto the second one, which was even better. I grew to love the main character, Aileana, a fierce fae-slayer. As it always is with final books in a series, I (electronically) opened the final installment of the trilogy, “The Fallen Kingdom,” with: a little bit of sadness that I’d have to say goodbye to all the characters by the end; a tiny amount of worry I might hate it; and, of course, tons of excitement. The final verdict? My heart is a little shattered in the best kind of way.

My Thoughts
What interested me in this series to start with, aside from the whole Scotland thing, is how it pulls from dark mythology of the fae/fairies. The “girl falls for immortal creature that can kill her, but he’s more complex that” story has been told many times before, usually in a vampire fashion, but May layers her story with a fascinating history that makes it unique. So while tropes I’m bored of were present in the beginning of the series, it didn’t keep me from reading on. The stakes get higher and higher and the line between “good” and “evil” is tremendously blurry. It’s made the journey of the trilogy exciting instead of cliched.

And this last book? PHEW. It’s a rollercoaster. It’s even darker than the first two. Yes, it’s possible for it to get darker. [Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read the first two. You can skip to Positives/Negatives]

At the end of the second book, Aileana is in a bit of a pickle. She was a. tortured and then b. murdered and c. the world is also ending. Three things that are rather difficult to overcome. Plus she’s having a complicated love life. Still. The reader is not spared the ugly details of this all. The result is a story that makes you wish you could read even faster. I also felt like my heart was being stabbed a few times, but it’s fine. I survived better than some of the people in the story.

On a more serious note, something I appreciate about this book is how it shows the damage that Lonnrach’s torture had on Aileana. She didn’t walk out of that room of mirrors mentally unscathed. She is brave and she is strong, but what was done to her isn’t something any human can just “overcome.” As I’m not a psychologist, I hesitate to diagnose even an imaginary person, but what happens to her closely resembles PSTD. I find it extremely important that when a character goes through the type of trauma that often happens in fantasy novels, that the emotional and mental result is shown. Aileana is a testament to the fact that some things are too horrible to completely recover from. When it comes to a book for teenagers, this is an important lessen. No matter how strong you are, you can still hurt. Trauma can cause a mental illness that can make things horrible. But you can still keeping going. You can still fight. You can still be the badass heroine.

Positive/Negatives
+Everything about how Aileana’s internal struggles were handled
+Secondary characters had even more development in this book
+ACTION/horror
+It pulls at your heart strings
-The whole immortal love interest still bothers me a little but to balance it out, May did a tremendous job handling that particular trope
-I felt like maybe there could have been a little bit more

In Summary
“The Fallen Kingdom” is an excellent finale to the trilogy. It’s fast paced and terrifying at moments. The ending is satisfying. And while all the literal fighting is happening, the internal battles are even more riveting. I think most fans of the series will be happy with the conclusion.

Note: An advanced copy of this book was provided free by the publisher for review consideration. This in no way influenced my opinion.

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The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Release Date:  November 1, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: ARC
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Ratings: I Ship It Too Cute fave2

The Basics

The Sun Is Also a Star is told in two perspectives, Natasha’s and Daniel’s. Natasha is a Jamaican immigrant who is set to be deported that night. While making one last attempt to save her family from being sent away from their home, she runs into Daniel. Daniel has an Ivy League interview he doesn’t want to go to set for later that day when he becomes curious about Natasha, who he spots swaying to music from her headphones.

The teenagers’ chance, or fated, meeting inspires poetic Daniel to convince scientific Natasha that falling in love is possible, by using an experiment he read about. This involves a list of personal questions that they both answer throughout the day. The result? You’ll have to read, but neither of them comes out of the experience unchanged.

My Thoughts

This book is massively cute, but also tackles larger issues. So if you want to get emotional, you’re going to get emotional. Adorable romance? Check. Time sensitive dilemma? Check. Contemporary societal problems? That, too.

Of course illegal immigration is one of the major problems this book represents. Natasha is facing having to leave her home and also her future behind, all because of the actions of others. And she’s determined to try to take control of her own life. Another side of immigration is shown through Daniel. His parents were Korean immigrants who left a hard life behind. So a lot of pressure is put on him and his brother. His aspirations are not in line with his parents’.

As a result, Natasha and Daniel are on opposite sides when it comes with how they view their futures. What’s in your control? Does fate exist? Their discussions lead them both to new perspectives. And that’s where this book’s magic is. Their differences are how the dynamic works. Natasha believes in the scientific method. Daniel is a dreamer and hopeless romantic. Reality falls somewhere in the middle. Their separate experiences weave together as they get to know each other and a complex portrait of simply being human comes out of it.

I loved every second of reading it. Yoon creates such vibrant characters and strays away from a generic love story. This simultaneously warmed my heart and tore it apart. It also caused me to think a lot about where I land on the fate vs. conicidence scale.

Positives/Negatives

+ Realistic look at immigration
+ Exploration of racism within communities
+ Depiction of difficulties in family life
+ Cuteness
+++ EVERYTHING

In Summary

This book is cute, but goes beyond just cuteness. Romantic moments will warm your heart, but it goes beyond that. Immigration, racism, fate, and love are all other areas Yoon’s story delves into. It’s a must read. While you’re at it, read Yoon’s debut Everything, Everything if you haven’t already.

Sidenote

Whether coincidence or fate, I decided to clean out my Pocket list and came across an article from January 2015 about the study this book references (and uses.) I have no recollection of saving it, but rediscovered it at the right time. It’s worth reading. Perhaps after you read The Sun Is Also a Star.

Note: An advanced copy of this book was provided free by the publisher for review consideration. This in no way influenced my opinion.

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Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
Release Date:  October 11, 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: e-arc
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Ratings: characters badass 

The Basics
Ada and Corinne are hemopaths, meaning they have the power to create illusions with art. Ada, with a violin, and Corinne, with poetry. In 1919 Boston, it’s of course illegal to create these illusions and the two girls participate in underground shows at Iron Cast where they entertain patrons with their illusions. They also sometimes use their gift to con some of the less deserving members of society out of some money, under the guidance of Iron Cast owner and gangster, Johnny Dervish.

Naturally, things start to go awry. Boston has a force to capture hemopaths to take to an asylum that is supposedly there to help the “afflicted.” While Ada and Corinne try to avoid being locked up, there are deaths and disappearances and a lot more going on that threatens the life they made for themselves.

My Thoughts
First and foremost, I adore the friendship between Ada and Corinne. Which shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve read any of my other reviews talking about female friendships. What I love about Iron Cast in particular is how distinctive their characters are. Because they are both main characters, there’s an exploration of both their backgrounds and their personalities. Soria does perfectly at showing how their friendship works, from its strengths to its faults. Descriptions of how in sync they are and how they work as partners in their craft as well as their lives, build up the power of their relationship.

Their friendship is also an interracial one, Ada is black and Corinne is white. Ada is working to support her family while Corinne is working to escape hers. While friendships found between those from extremely different economical backgrounds is common in stories, the way it is handled is not. Neither girl is a complete stereotype and racism isn’t ignored. It’s weaved throughout the story as it would be in real life. Corinne also isn’t a Good White Girl who has never been guilty of racism. It’s acknowledged that she had to learn. There’s a lot happening throughout the story, so none of this is a huge focus, but it’s there as it should be. Fantastical things are going on, but the reality of race in 1919 isn’t overlooked.

Outside of our reality, is the ability that both friends have to create illusions. I love how it works and the conflict behind people having these powers. I won’t go into detail about how this all comes into play so you can discover that all on your own, but there’s fun and suspense tied into it all. Some of the twists and turns are easily spotted as the plot hits some of the typical markers when it comes to “illegal powers” in stories, but the story still manages to hold its own.

Positives/Negatives
+female friendships being the focus forever
+the uniqueness of the powers
+diversity done well
+layers to the mystery
-takes a little to get into the gut of the story because of the explanation of how the the fantasy functions
-some of the plot falls into the typical cliches (but recovers)

In Summary
Ada and Corinne’s relationship is what shines for me. Their characters are well developed and they are wonderfully devoted friends. Once the book reaches further into the conflict, the story is packed with drama. As the two girls use their abilities to navigate through a dangerous historical Boston, suspense (and a little horror) drive the plot to its conclusion.

Note: An advanced copy of this book was provided free by the publisher for review consideration. This in no way influenced my opinion.

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Release Date:  September 6, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Format: e-arc
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy
Ratings: Page Turner badass I Ship It 

So I told you to put this on your TBR list back in June. Now it’s HERE. And with a kickass trailer.

If you aren’t already convinced this is a book you should read, here are things I loved about it.

  • Alex: Alex is the MC and I love her a lot. She’s witty and determined and when she makes a massive mistake (trying to get rid of her powers which makes her family disappear) she spends the book trying to make it right while she tries to figure herself out. She’s also a bisexual Latina bruja which is not exactly common in YA literature.
  • Love: This book is excellent at exploring love beyond romantic love. The primary focus of the book is Alex finding love for herself. The main conflict is because she rejects an essential part of herself, her magic, so a lot of her growth is learning to care for her own qualities. She also has tremendous love for her family that only expands as she embarks on her rescue mission.
  • Magic: I adored the magical elements in this. Everything from the in-between land Alex has to travel through to the minor spells. Córdova used inspiration from Latin American traditions and added in her own creations. The world she created within our real world (Brooklyn) is enchanting. She talks about developing the world here and it’s well worth the read.
  • The Atmosphere: This book is creepy and funny and serious and light-hearted and everything at once. I became completely immersed in a story that manages to balance so many different moods.

Go forth and read, brujas.

[EDIT]
The publisher sent over a contest to win the book as well as bookmarks so enter!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

They also sent over a coloring page I intend on printing and coloring.

 

Note: An advanced copy of this book was provided free by the publisher for review consideration. This in no way influenced my opinion.

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A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Paperback ARC
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance
Ratings: fave2 Page Turner characters badass I Ship It Wow Factor Gut Punch

I talked a little bit about this book back when I first read it. Now that the release date is upon us, I have some more thoughts about the things I liked. In list form. Because this is my blog and I can do what I want.

  • More action: There’s a lot more going on in this second book. Boy, did I feel a lot of emotions. Sometimes multiple emotions all on one page. The main emotion being STRESS. Which shouldn’t be surprising considering how the first book ended. Elias and Laia and the Empire as a whole have problems and then even more problems and it’s a whirlwind. Brace yourself.
  • More Supernatural Elements: The first book brushes on powers and the supernatural, but Torch explores that more extensively so there’s an extra touch of fantasy to the series (! “series” because there are now going to be 2 more books. HELL YEAH.) There are some answers to a few things that showed up Ember.
  • Pure Evil: Sometimes the exploration of the grey area between good and evil is important. (There’s some of that in this book.) But there’s also a pure evil element that added some horror to the events unfolding. Some things are just completely devoid of goodness, which helps up the stakes for characters. The moral complexity when it comes to Laia and Elias is much more distinct when it’s up against the terribleness that surrounds them.
  • More Helene: I wasn’t sure I wanted more Helene before reading this, but turns out her perspective adds a lot to the story. Through her the reader learns more about how the Empire functions and how brainwashed the Martial soldiers are. While I didn’t feel much for Helene in the first book, I understand her so much better now. As well as the decisions many in the Empire are faced with.
  • Laia: Laia was a refreshing character to me from the start. In the first book she is terrified and somewhat cowardly. She isn’t instantly good at everything. She’s realistic. This gives her so much room to grow. In Torch, she still isn’t perfect and still isn’t magically great at fighting and everything else. Which is good because her character development feels natural. In Ember, I liked that her strengths were much different than Elias’s. That contrast come through even more in this book and is part of the fabric of the story.

The ending to this is satisfying as there wasn’t a promise that anything else would come next. But now we get two more books! Which is great, but now I’m in agony again because I have to wait.

 

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