BOOK REVIEW : House Of Earth And Blood

Author: Sarah J. Mass
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Fantasy; Romance; New Adult
Release Date: March 3rd 2020.


synopsis

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.


review

This is a not an easy book to review. For one, it’s 800+ pages long. Add to that, the four parts of the book read like separate books with their different flows and pacing and also styling. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it also makes it hard for me to judge the book on its entirety. But I’ll still make an attempt.

Here is what I liked :

  • The protagonist Bryce is flawed, independent and living a carefree life at the beginning.
  • The friendship between Bryce and Dannika. In fact, all the female friendships that Bryce has.
  • The equation between Bryce and her half brother.
  • The pet chimera that Bryce has.
  • The theme of slavery and its impacts.

 

Now, time for an essay on what I disliked. Brace yourselves!

The world-building

In the first part, information about the world is thrown randomly at us. It’s like Mass name-dropped a new term in every other line with little to no explanation. My head was going all “Vanir? Seven gates? Hel? Pack of devils?Under King?…Just wait!”

In her defense, Mass, at the start, does provide a map and a short rundown about the four houses of Midgar. But that still did not help me digest the blizzard of information thrown my way at the beginning.

The fluctuation of the pacing

The first part while not boring, did feel overwhelming and failed to engage me. But the climax of that part, and the beginning of the second part not only was impactful but it compelled me to be invested in the story. But that was probably the peak because by 40%, the book again lost me. I kept zoning out while reading. The pace did pick up at certain places, and definitely at the last quarter. But I was out of patience by then.

The Murder Investigation

Murder mysteries are not Mass’s forte. The plot dragged. While I was very much still engaged when Bryce started investigating the case with Hunt, angel extraordinaire and our hero, but my interest started to slowly falter. It was unnecessarily drawn out with no end in sight. Bryce and Hunt seemed to meet up with a new person every day. A new character after every few pages, and yet no progress. After a point, I kept internally willing the investigation to just wrap up!

Unconvincing character development of the protagonist

I found Bryce to be a breath of fresh air at first. She is simply living and enjoying her life. Very unlike the author’s other heroines who I always felt were too self-righteous and slightly passive-aggressive (here’s looking at you, Feyre). I really liked that she is a genuine badass and not a martyr or self-righteous or out to save the world.

But guess what? By the end, she was all these things. The transformation, however was unconvincing.  I got backlash seeing her do and say things at the end that were a complete reversal of her character. Her evolution was simply unsatisfying.

Hunt is no Rhys

I found Hunt the most exciting when he is introduced to us in a chapter with POV of his investigation partner Isiah. I had high expectations. But they all died just a couple of chapters later, when we get the his POV. Where was this ruthless, unpredictable, steely man that we were promised?

It had taken a book and a half for us to slowly grasp the character that was Rhys. But only a couple of chapters did that for Hunt. I think it would have been better for us to get his POV a little later on. The mystery of what made him tick went away too soon.

The unimpressive romance

The synopsis claims that the romance is sizzling. I guess by their definition, sizzling romance means the main couple getting interrupted every time they are about to have sex. It’s a 800+ page novel for god’s sake! That’s not to say I did not like the early equation between the two. There are misunderstandings about each other. But the moment they are cleared, these two start bonding and sharing life stories. The progression of the romance also could have been better.

The feeling of dejavu

There were just too many similarities with Mass’s other books and characters for me to ignore them. There are four cities here instead of courts. There was some rebellion and war that the hero took part in. The hero has lost the woman he loved. There is an oracle. Even certain scenes, and the ending itself had stark echoes from A course of Thorns and Roses.

It’s officially my least favorite work by Mass. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read her previous works. But so many of the myths and plot devices felt borrowed from her other works that it screamed for originality! I was also underwhelmed by the epilogue. I doubt I’ll read the sequel.


ratings

★★☆☆☆

ARC REVIEW : A JEWEL BRIGHT SEA

A whirlwind of intrigue, lies, politics, and adventure swirls around one woman—and the prize she’s been sent to reclaim …
 
It was her talent for tracking magic that got Anna Zhdanov sent to catch a thief. A scholar’s daughter sold as a bond servant, she has no desire to recover the Emperor’s jewel for herself. But a chance to earn her freedom has driven her to the untamed Eddalyon province, awash with warm breezes, lapping waves, and more danger than she could possibly guess.

Within days her cover as an indolent noblewoman is in question, and it’s clear there’s more to Anna’s task than she knows. Soon she’s the captive of the unpredictable pirate captain Andreas Koszenmarc, hunted by the Emperor’s guard, besieged by a brigand queen, and at odds with her only friend. She must trust someone if she is to survive. But when all that’s certain is that everyone is hiding something, it’s no simple thing to choose 


review

This book has two of my favorite things combined together – magic and pirates! Who doesn’t like that?

Anna is on her way to find an important gem that was stolen from the emperor, before falling into the clutches of pirates, who also happen to be looking for the gem. She is forced to join hands with the pirate captain Andreas. She doesn’t trust him but she has no other option. What follows is a journey filled with magic and mayhem.

It took me some time to get into the story. Because we’re dropped into this strange world without any warning. The world building throughout the book left me wanting for more. I wanted to know more about the world, its history, the system, culture, everything. But the author doesn’t really go into the details.

We get introduced to a lot of characters at first and so much is happening right off the bat that I felt like a fish out of the water for the first quarter of the story. I wish the author took some time to absorb us into the world. I had to take a break from the reading because I found it all too much. But thankfully, after a point, I could find myself getting into engrossed.

I love Anna. She’s a fierce and brave protagonist. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. I also liked the secondary characters. Andreas is another interesting character. He’s got this quiet, unpredictable vibe that I enjoyed. But he remains a mysterious character even in the end. Having said that, I’d have liked a little more backstory to more of the characters.

Another qualm I have with this story is the romance. It had this almost slow-burn quality, but didn’t get enough breathing space amidst all the action and adventure, to build upon. And that’s just such a waste.

This was the first book in a series. So we can’t be too disappointed with all our unanswered questions. But at the moment, I’m feeling slightly indifferent about the next book.


ratings

★★★☆☆

Publication Date: 3rd September, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher -Kensington Books (via Netgalley)

Links –  AmazonGoodreads Book Depository

BOOK REVIEW : SPIN THE DAWN

 

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.



review

Normally, the word ‘Mulan’ is enough to tempt me to start a book. But then you add ‘Project Runway’ to it? Color me intrigued. Besides Mulan, I could also find elements from stories of ‘Aladdin’ to ‘Spirited Away’. There are other myths explored in this novel, mainly from Chinese origins. I particularly liked the re-imagination of the silk road.

The beginning was promising. I found myself invested in Maia and her family very fast. Her family slowly descends towards its ruins, after she loses her mother, and her brothers to the war. It’s the same war that forces the emperor to marry the enemy’s daughter as a truce. And to please his bride, he arranges a competition for her to choose her master tailor.

Maia’s father is also summoned to participate in the competition or send his son to represent him. But her father is a mere shadow of his former self from a series of emotional loss, and her brother unskilled in the family business. It had long before fallen upon Maia to take on the reins as the main tailor in the family business.

We move to the castle when Maia goes to the castle disguised as her brother, a capital crime. I enjoyed the competition with all the mysteries, the competitors, the politics, and the details of all the dressmaking. I was also torn between feeling sympathy and suspicion towards the princess who’s forced to wed her enemy and does everything in her capacity to delay the wedding. The best part of the book came at the end of the first part where the author totally subverted my expectations by doing the unexpected.

The pace slowed down a lot in the second part, with Maia going on an unimaginable journey in order to collect the materials to make an impossible wedding gown for the future empress. I found my attention wavering from here on. I also could not find myself invested in the romance between Maia and Edan. It’s probably because I just could not find Edan’s whole character arc to be unconvincing from the start. But my loyalty towards Maia remained constant throughout the book. I loved her courage, vulnerabilities and mostly the conviction of following her heart.

Although the pace picked up in the third and final part, and there were some very unpredictable twists, my interest could not be restored to what it was at the beginning.  I also have qualms about how someof the plot unfolded. Some resolutions felt unearned. I’d really like to vent about them but can’t because of the spoilers. But I’m hoping that the second book will give us better explanations to, though. And I’m certainly interested in reading the sequel because of how the book ended.

It’s interesting if you look at my breakdown of rating for the three parts of the book –
5- stars for the first part, 3-stars for the second part, and 4 stars for the third part. Heh.


ratings

★★★★☆

 

ARC REVIEW : THE FIRST GIRL CHILD

From the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.

Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.

review

I love Amy Harmon. When I saw a new title from her, I was excited. After I read the blurb, I couldn’t wait to read the book! So you can’t imagine my happiness when I got the ARC thanks to Netgalley!

It’s a difficult book to review. It takes place in a span of many years. If I have to keep it simple – it all starts with a curse of no girl child on a land by a scorned woman dying after childbirth. It’s a world that follows the Norse mythology. So there are ancient runes, warrior clans, temples, and what not.

I’ll attempt to break down the plot by talking about the main characters. And there are plenty of them. So keep patience!

Desdemona – After her lover rejects her unborn son, in greed of marrying a princess and becoming future king, this warrior woman leaves a dying curse on her land, with her brother as her witness.

Dagmar – A keeper of the temple, Dagmar is the only one who knows about the curse that has caused his land to be daughter-less. He raises his nephew in the temple. It is his love and protectiveness for his nephew, that compels him to hide the secrets behind the curse.

Ghost – Ghost is the slave who gives birth to a daughter for the first time in 7 years. But the king steals her daughter and claims her as his own. Resigned to the fact that her daughter is better off as the princess, Ghost is forced to see from afar her daughter growing up.

Bayr – Bayr does not know that he is the bastard son of the king he serves. Due to the curse, Bayr is also inhumanely strong and stutters when speaking. When a 7 year old Bayr meets the newborn princess for the first time, he’s dazzled. After he is assigned the princess’s bodyguard due to his physical strength, he doesn’t let her out of his sight for a moment.

Alba – Alba is the slave’s daughter but raised as a princess. Only the king and Ghost knows about her true identity. She is seen as a symbol of hope for the land. She is exceptionally attached to Bayr who dotes on her.

It’s an intricate plot where, every character has a part to play. No character is flawless. Every one of them have their weaknesses and selfish desires which affect not only the individuals but everyone else too. I also love how there is a unique dynamic between every character. It’s a complex web of lies and secrets that makes the plot all the more intriguing.

Also, after a long time I found such an impactful book villain. I can’t count the number of times I felt like killing that evil king. Even his name (Banruud) got on my nerves.

The world building was brilliant here. It’s a huge book. But I can’t think of one page or scene that felt unnecessary. I am hoping that Amy Harmon will write more stories in this universe. I would love more fantasy books like this!


review

★★★★★


Publication Date: 20th August, 2018.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)

Links – Amazon | Goodreads | Book Depository

Book Review : THE WICKED KING (The Folk Of The Air #2)


You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.


reviewYay! A sequel that I love even more than its predecessor!

 

The start was a little slow for my taste. But what kept me going was the anticipation of nothing good. The stakes are higher than ever before! Jude is between a rock and a hard place here. I wouldn’t fancy myself in her shoes. Still, some of her decisions continued to annoy and frustrate me to no end.

My favorite characters were Cardan and Madoc. I actually felt for Cardan more than any other characters during most of the book. It also helped that we get more insight into his upbringing. What wouldn’t I do to get inside his head!  Another character whose head I would love to get inside is Madoc. His ambition for power and affection for Jude are so conflicting and complexly entwined that makes me eager to see what’s in store for him!

Jude’s relationship with both Madoc and Cardan are what I enjoyed the most. Madoc and Jude keep betraying each other and yet it’s obvious that the so-called father and daughter both have a soft spot for each other. I know we’ll see more of their relationship in the next book and I can’t wait for it.  On the other hand, I have no idea where we are headed with Cardan and Jude. The tension between them was on point! The power play and trust issues, the self-contradictory feelings, the mutual betrayals – it’s definitely not a healthy relationship, but it’s certainly the most irresistible part of the series for me!

The reversals in this book were just so good! They kept me hooked till the end. I admit that the title of the third book kinda gave away one twist for me but my expectations were thwarted even with that! The characterization, the conflicts, the twists are all spot on! Now I’m left with bitter feelings toward Holly Black for making me wait two years for the next!


review
★★★☆


 

Links –  AmazonGoodreads Barnes & Noble

ARC Review : The Binding By Bridget Collins


 Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine y
ou could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.
Forever.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.


The Binding is the imagining of a world where one’s memories can be erased by binding them to a book. It’s always great to find something original and inventive in the Fantasy genre which has become too formulaic in the recent times. And this book had that in spades!

I went into this book blind. At the beginning, we are thrust into this Victorian era-style world with no introduction or warning. I felt almost as confused as Emmett who is unwillingly sent to be an apprentice to a book binder at the very beginning. I like having an idea about what direction a book is headed to. With this book, there was none of that. I was unsure throughout the first half. But the second act had me immersed in this world. By the third act, I was utterly mesmerized.

I love how the whole plot unfolded. This is a world where people can stoop to any level to forget or make people forget memories they are not proud of. And then there are people who make money out of selling these memories. I admire the author for delving deep into the themes she explores without shying away from the dark side of it all.

The characterization was as brilliant as the world-building. Every character has a part to play in the story.

Above everything, this is Emmett’s story – his struggle, love and guilt. At the center of it all is a forbidden love between Emmett and Lucian Darnay – who narrates the third act of the book – in a world where homosexuality is not only frowned upon but actually illegal much like the Victorian era. The splendid story of these two made me feel things like nothing else.

A shout-out to whoever designed this absolutely marvelous cover! Look at that detailing! Even if I hadn’t liked the book, I would probably still buy it for the cover. But I loved it and feel it in my gut that everyone else will too.

All in all, this was an amazing story with beautiful writing and fresh themes and a heartbreaking plot. I am going to take one star away from it because it took some time for me to be gripped by the storyline. The opening could be better.

This book is set to take 2019 by storm. Take my word for it.


My Rating: ★★★★☆

Publication Date: 23rd November, 2018.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Edelweiss)
Links – Amazon | Goodreads |Book Depository |  

Book Review : Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

Part Wonder Woman, part Vikings—and all heart.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.


Sky In The Deep is a deep fantasy YA that didn’t necessary feel like a YA. And I think that’s a good thing. Young Adult books these days seem to all follow a similar pattern such that at one point they all start to mesh into one anther. Even YAs that I like or enjoy follow the structure that seems to be the established norm for books of this genre. So, it’s always commendable when an author takes an entirely new direction with her take on YA.

The thing that hooked me about this book from the very first was the protagonist Evelyn. I was right with her from the start when she finds her brother alive and then is captured as a slave where her whole belief system is tested. I could feel her betrayal like it was my own. I felt bitterness towards her brother Iri and his adoptive family just as she felt it. A big part of me didn’t want Evelyn to forgive them which I knew she would. Now, creating such empathy for the protagonist in the reader is a credit all owed the writing.

Where the writer succeeds with her protagonist, she fails to create that same momentum with the love interest. I know that the author wanted Fiske to come across as mysterious. But I found him a little bland. I wanted more of his perspective. I wanted to know when his feelings for Evelyn started. I did like the romance aspect when it does emerge but the transition left a lot to be desired for. I think I had a problem with how Fiske treats Evelyn at the start. He knows that she’s Eri’s sister and yet his attitude with her felt unacceptable to me. Even Eri’s decision was to have decided to stick to his new life and family did not feel very well-explored to me.

I did appreciate the running themes of family and forgiveness. Although I wasn’t impressed with how easily Evelyn seemed to forgive her captors, I could understand the process. The way Evelyn slowly and surely discovers that people who she thought her enemies were actually quite similar to her own people was beautiful to see. But even here, I did not like that what united the two tribes was the threat of another tribe. So, these two tribes are supposed to be the good ones and the third tribe is the real evil? Why? What separates them? That they raid and kill or capture the other tribes? But Evelyn and Fiske’s tribes did the same too. Why exactly are the third tribe the only evil at the end? I would’ve liked a little more history and back-story about the enmity between the tribes. I didn’t even go into the book with any prior knowledge of the book and for the first few pages I was confused about the Riki actually were. Were they some magical creatures or animals? I found myself feeling a little stupid for thinking that when I realized they were all humans.

I think I’ve been very critical of this book so far. The truth is, I genuinely really enjoyed the book – the slow-building of the plot, the pace and all the action. The details of the rituals and lifestyle of the characters had depth in them. I enjoyed the story so much that I could ignore all the issues I had with it. It was only after I finished it and got to write this review that I let myself think about what exactly about this book did not leave me completely content. I’ll take that as a plus because this proves it was an engaging story above everything else.


My Rating: ★★★★☆


Vengeful (Villains #2) by V. E. Schwab

The sequel to VICIOUS, V.E. Schwab’s first adult novel.

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.


Such an emotionally taxing read. I read read both the books in the duology back-to-back. And I regret nothing. NOTHING. There’s no fun in doing anything half-ass anyways. Heh.

After finishing Vicious, I didn’t think Schwab could possibly outdo herself with Vengeful. But she did. The intensity and rawness she delivers with her storytelling is simply incredible.

The stakes are higher this time with even more players in the game. We get introduced to a number of new characters in this book. All of them dangerous and unpredictable. And it is commendable that we get to see the depth of each of these characters. No wonder this was such a long read. But the length was worth it as Schwab explores the complex arcs of the diverse cast of characters.

We also see a lot of growth for our old cast of characters. Sydney, especially, is no longer the sweet and acquiescent girl we knew her as. But her bonding with Vic, Dom and Mitch is still as endearing. They’re a family that shares no blood but are loyal to the bones. A big shout-out to Mitch for having no super-power and yet having the strength to stand out.

Schwab humanizes Victor and Eli in Vengeful. They’re no longer as invincible as they were before. It was great to see Eli’s back-story. I could appreciate him a lot more now that I could see his origins. These two are one of the most complexly written characters I’ve read in contemporary fiction.

The standout of the book was still Victor for me. His tenacity and determination to never give up made me fall even more in love with him.

Victor Vale has carved his name as one of the best-written fictional characters I’ve read.

I have the feeling that more’s to come from this universe. And I’m equally nervous and excited for it.


My Rating: ★★★★★


Have any of you read the book yet? What did you think? Were you as mindblown by it as I was? Or was it underwhelming (I doubt it but still…)? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review : Vicious (Villains #1) by V. E. Schwab

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.


Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?


I finally did it! Vicious is no longer on my TBR list and it feels so much lighter already!

There’s a reason it took me this long to start Vicious, even before the sequel was announced, despite seeing all the raving reviews about the book. The reason was my experience with The Monsters of Verity duology. It was an amazing series, no doubt. And it made me discover what a brilliant writer Schwab is. But that ending? It had brought me over the fence about reading anything else by her. I didn’t doubt Schwab’s masterful storytelling but I was wary of its impact on me. But I’m glad I finally took the jump and finished Vicious!



Vicious
was a roller-coaster ride and I enjoyed every moment of it. At the beginning, I was almost scared to proceed with the book when I was reading the Before parts. I knew that it was the calm before the storm. But I kinda wanted these two friends to not change despite feeling the undercurrents of more beneath the seemingly normalcy of their lives.

Having constant flash-forwards and flash-backwards can be a tricky thing to execute. It doesn’t always make for an effective method of story-telling. But Schwab makes it work. I don’t think the story would have been as intriguing if it was told in a linear timeline. It’s the anticipation of the cause and aftermath that makes Vicious so gripping right from the start.

The first half of the book has a simmering feel to it. I was engrossed but at the same time, kept wanting more. It was not until the dive into Serena’s psyche that I felt utterly captivated. Serena, to me, was the most chilling character, even among an ensemble of a crazy bunch of characters.

Almost all the characters in this book are substantial in not only the power they wield, but also in the way they are fleshed out. It is easy for some characters to lose their significance when you have so many things happening at once. But Schwab fleshed out each and every character with an unique voice that ensures none of them are dwarfed by another.

Victor, despite his eerie line of thinking, was endearing. The way he collects his strays, and cares for them without showing it, is just adorable. Even at the beginning, he seems to be the one giving more value to his friendship with Eli than the latter. Their enmity also feels to hold more magnitude for Vic than Eli.

I think, at the end, what differentiates Victor and Eli is Vic’s self-awareness. His awareness of his own faults and the darkness inside him makes him a much more logical character than Eli who lets his delusions rule him.

I don’t know who I wanted to hug more throughout the story – Vic or Sydney. The best part of the book for me was their bonding. And let’s not forget Mitch. He was the perfect addition to the duo of candy and spice that’s Sydney and Vic. Heh…

Do I regret waiting this long to start Vicious? No. I get to devour the sequel immediately now. How lucky is that? But I kinda almost wish there was no sequel? After the experience with that first series by Schwab, I’m feeling very nervous about what direction the sequel will take.

Whatever it be, Vicious was a piece of masterful storytelling with beautiful character development that everyone needs to read!



My Rating: ★★★★★

 

ARC Review: Unwritten by Tara Gilboy

*I’d like to thank the Publisher for providing an ARC of this book through Netgalley*


Twelve-year-old Gracie Freeman is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she’s never read. When she was a baby, her parents learned that she was supposed to die in the story, and with the help of a magic book, took her out of the story, and into the outside world, where she could be safe.

But Gracie longs to know what the story says about her. Despite her mother’s warnings, Gracie seeks out the story’s author, setting in motion a chain of events that draws herself, her mother, and other former storybook characters back into the forgotten tale. Inside the story, Gracie struggles to navigate the blurred boundary between who she really is and the surprising things the author wrote about her. As the story moves toward its deadly climax, Gracie realizes she’ll have to face a dark truth and figure out her own fairy tale ending.



This was such a different foray from my usual reading choices

Unwritten is a children’s book. More specifically, middle grade. But I was really fascinated by the synopsis and ended up requesting for an ARC.

It sort of follows the idea of “Enchanted”, a movie I adore.

12 year old Gracie gets vision or what her mother calls glimmers of a different world. She dreams of fires. It turns out that she was a part of  a fictional world, an unpublished novel by a writer who’s real. That book even has an evil queen. Her mother with a group of accomplices escaped from the world of those fictional pages when Gracie was just one year old. According to her mother, the writer of Gracie’s book had written her to die as a child. That is why, her mother escaped that world to escape that cruel fate.

If it sounds vague to you, that’s because it is. Gracie’s mother is not very forthcoming about the details. She has told Gracie only the bare minimum – that she was destined to die and that’s why she had to be brought to the real world – to keep her safe. But Gracie has a lot of questions which her mother doesn’t want her asking. Her mother wants to let go of the past. But Gracie’s glimmers and nightmares won’t let her move on. That’s why when she gets the opportunity to meet Gertrude Winters, the writer who wrote her story and whom her mother despises, she leaps at the chance. But because of her desperation to find out the answers to her story, she sets things in motion that could put her future in jeopardy.

There is something very fascinating about the concept of characters from books crossing over  into the real world. There were enough twists and unexpected reveals to make the idea work too.

I liked how the book made us question the idea of villains, fate and parallel worlds. This story seemed to be a take on one of my very favorite quotes by Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter –

‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’

I liked the character of Walter and how he wanted to find the scientific rationale behind everything. Characters that are science nerds are always a welcome addition to any book.

Of course, it wasn’t all perfect. I think, the execution could’ve been better. There was lack of proper character development and world-building. Maybe, because it was for children, this book felt too short to me. I felt like more time could’ve been spent on building the world and establishing the plot. But a shorter length meant a tighter story line and fast pace, which I can’t really complain about.

I’m just pleasantly surprised that I ended up liking the book as much as I did. Goes to show that trying something different every once in a while isn’t always a bad thing.


My Rating: ★★★★☆


Publication Date: 16th October, 2018.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)
You can find this book on – Goodreads | Amazon