by Elle Katharine White
, Lev Grossman
, Mary E. Pearson
, Philippa Gregory Publisher: Harper Voyager
, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Returned to the Library is a (new!) feature where I sum up the latest books I’ve returned to the library or put down unfinished.
Heartstone by Elle Katharine White
Publisher: Harper Voyager, January 2017
A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms
They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.
Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.
Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.
It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.
Elle Katharine White infuses elements of Austen’s beloved novel with her own brand of magic, crafting a modern epic fantasy that conjures a familiar yet wondrously unique new world.
Oh, how desperately I wanted to love this book. A Pride and Prejudice retelling in a fantasy world? Yes, please!
But I couldn’t get into the characters or their story. Once I realized that a majority of the characters shared similar names (or at least names starting with the same letter), I felt disillusioned and lost interest in the story.
The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson
Series: The Remnant Chronicles,
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), July 2015
Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia's life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.
Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There's Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country... and her own destiny.
I loved Pearson’s first book, but The Heart of Betrayal didn’t hold the same allure for me. Pearson starts the narrative off just as she left it at the end of The Kiss of Deception, but without a little background, I felt lost. The dynamics and motives of the Kozimar were interesting, but not enough to keep me hooked.
The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory
Publisher: Touchstone, August 2017
The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen. Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days, dying on the scaffold for her faith. But few people know about her two sisters, cousins to Elizabeth I who also faced imprisonment and death sentences for treason. Katherine Grey was the beauty of the family who earned the lifelong hatred of her cousin Elizabeth I when she married for love. Mary Grey was an extraordinary little person known as a dwarf in Tudor times, who defied convention to marry the tallest man at court in her own secret love match. The fascinating story of three idiosyncratic Tudor girls and their challenges to the most powerful Tudor woman of all is the subject of the next novel from the author who defines what it means to be a writer of historical fiction (RT Book Reviews)."
Gregory’s work is typically one of my favorites (one of her books was in my 10 Books I’m Grateful For list), but The Last Tudor and I started off on the wrong foot instantly. Why? The narrator. She was whiny, selfish, and narcissistic. Granted, she was a pre-teen girl, and most pre-teen girls have at least one of those unfortunate characteristics. I would have stuck with her longer, but without the immediate historical context, The Last Tudor felt more like work than fun.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Publisher: Viking, August 2009
A thrilling and original coming-of-age novel for adults about a young man practicing magic in the real world.
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.
He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.
At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.
The Magicians was, honestly, built up in my mind. I knew they had started a Netflix series about the show, but I wanted to read the book beforehand. I expected a lot more from this wildly popular book, but the only winning element was the beautiful atmospheres Grossman created. I liked the magical school entry exams, but the main character was so uncomfortable in his own skin that I felt just as awkward. Not a winning combination for me.