Publisher: HarperTeen

January 2, 2017

Review | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Review | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Publisher: HarperTeen, September 2016
Pages: 398
Format: Hardcover
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When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown. 

In Fennbirn, the island kingdom set apart from the rest of the world, the battle for the crown is a dangerous ritual. Every generation, a three sisters are born, destined to fight each other to the death for the honor of wearing the crown. But this year, with these sisters, things just aren’t going as planned.

The premise of Three Dark Crowns drew me in instantly. Hunger Games meets female Game of Thrones? Yes, please!

While the novel had all the necessary elements to create a YA fantasy battle of the royals, it dropped the ball. Why? The narration. Simply, it took too long for something to happen, and I found myself running out of both patience and sympathy for the three young women thrust into this destiny.

Despite each girl having her own unique brand of magic (nature, poison, and elements), their lives were remarkably similar. Each had friends who thought they were the absolute best, someone who hated them, and some twisted romance. Creating such similar plot lines did each character a major disservice: they quickly became hard to tell apart, and I started to not even try.

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Three Dark Crowns picked up in the last quarter of the book as each magical faction brought the sisters together at Beltane to showcase their talents. With tempers starting to run high, the pace of the narration finally began to turn. I loved the showcase sections, the love affairs brought to light or destroyed, and the way the sisters found unity with each other.

However, I didn’t realize Three Dark Crowns was a series. I had hoped for a stand alone novel and was looking forward to a neat tie-off in the end. Instead, the story concludes with a cliffhanger, one that I’m not entirely sure I want to read on to the finish.

3 Stars

Posted January 2, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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May 9, 2016

Review | The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

Review | The Great Hunt by Wendy HigginsThe Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins
Series: Eurona Duology, #1
Publisher: HarperTeen, March 2016
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
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“Aerity…” Her father paused as if the words he was forming pained him. “I must ask you to sacrifice the promise of love for the sake of our kingdom.”
She could only stare back, frozen.

When a strange beast terrorizes the kingdom of Lochlanach, fear stirs revolt. In an act of desperation, a proclamation is sent to all of Eurona—kill the creature and win the ultimate prize: the daughter of King Lochson’s hand in marriage.
Princess Aerity knows her duty to the kingdom but cannot bear the idea of marrying a stranger…until a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention. There’s no denying the unspoken lure between them…or his mysterious resentment.
Paxton is not the marrying type. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He’s determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast—but the princess continues to surprise him, and the perilous secrets he’s buried begin to surface.
Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ tale “The Singing Bone,” New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins delivers a dark fantasy filled with rugged hunters, romantic tension, and a princess willing to risk all to save her kingdom.

There’s a terrible monster terrorizing the people of Lochlanach, and the king is at his wits’ end. In a last-ditch effort to find someone to finally kill the beast and save the kingdom, he offers the hand of his daughter, Aerity, to whoever kills the beast.

Princess Aerity knows that she must do what is right for the kingdom, but watching all of the strangers stream into the castle grounds for a chance at her hand is overwhelming, and just a little weird. There is one hunter though – Paxton Seabolt – that she can’t keep her eyes off of.

From the blurb, reputation, and first pages, my expectations for The Great Hunt were skyhigh – I loved the idea of a Grimm retelling (especially of a story I don’t know well), and the class clash of a princess and a hunter appealed to me. But… I just couldn’t get into the story.

The sister relationship was beyond weird. Although Aerity and her sister  are technically young adults, they constantly treated her younger sister as if she were stupid/insane/not all there. I didn’t understand the weird touchy/feely nature of their relationship – it made me vaguely uncomfortable the whole time.

The women in Aerity’s family do some weird sort of gymnastics with scarves that hang from the ceiling. Cool, right? Yet it felt as if it existed to just show off how flexible/talented they were. It took away from the pace of the story in the beginning and slowed down already slow chapters.

My biggest irritation came with the romance. Neither Aerity or her cousin (who loses the love of her life in the first chapter of the book to the monster) appear to have any backbone when it comes to boys. I loved the pack of elite women hunters who come to join the hunt for the beast, but, unless Aerity dumped her crown and joined them, it wasn’t enough to offset the silliness.

After losing respect for Aerity, I just didn’t care what happened in the rest of The Great Hunt. The characters felt one-dimensional, and without full character development, the plot fell flat.

Posted May 9, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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May 5, 2016

Review | Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Review | Red Queen by Victoria AveyardRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen, #1
Publisher: HarperTeen, February 2015
Pages: 383
Format: Hardcover
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This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.
The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.
That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.
Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.
But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

In a world ruled by intrigue, class matters most…at least, when it comes to the color of your blood. The low class Reds, like Mare Barrow, must find work by the time they reach seventeen, or they are conscripted into the army, where they are essentially used as shields for the Silver soldiers. Yet there are little to no jobs to be found, so when Mare is offered a place in the palace serving the Silver royal family, she jumps at the chance. Little does she know that the first day on the job will forever change her life.

Mare’s life is a hard one. One by one, her brothers have disappeared into army uniforms on their seventeenth birthdays as she, her sister, and her parents struggle to survive. Shaped by her world, Mare is rough around the edges, but determined to do what she can to protect her family. It’s a character many of us recognize on the surface and identify with. The moment she finds her powers (unheard of in a Red, but standard in Silvers) is justification, is that glorious moment of vindication.

While it took me a while to get used to the idea that Mare was the second Silver prince’s fiancee, it fit the royal family’s characters well: the king and queen wanted to research and control her, and the biddable younger prince was available.

The themes of loyalty were fascinating in Red Queen. Mare should be loyal to her family and her class, but as she gets to know the Silvers, she sees the good in many of them and finds herself battling her own prejudices and emotions. I loved the push and pull of the relationships among the younger characters, especially Mare and the royal brothers.

The major problem with Red Queen? It felt familiar. Don’t get me wrong, I fell madly in love with Aveyard’s stunning settings, her plot, and the tensions in the relationships, but…the ending. The ending made me think over and over again of Hunger Games. When I thought back on the book later, all I could do was draw comparison to other popular YA dystropians.

The good? It’s a great book. The story and characters are well-developed, the plot twists fascinating, and the writing beautiful. The bad? It’s ever-so-slightly familiar. If you loved Hunger Games and other popular YA dystopia, Red Queen is right up your alley. If not, I suggest giving it a try anyway. Aveyard may surprise you.

4 Stars

Posted May 5, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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