My box set of the Remnant Chronicles was thrust enthusiastically to the top of my TBR list after I read Pearson's enchanting Dance of Thieves duology. In this first installment, the resentful Princess Lia flees her arranged marriage to a neighboring kingdom's heir and escapes to a sleepy fishing village with her best friend and handmaid. There, she settles in to the ordinary life she has always dreamed of, away from the press of duty and decorum. Little does she know, two men are hunting her: the prince she was promised to marry and an assassin tasked with slitting her throat.
There's a bit of plot convenience at the start when Rafe and Kaden show up in town at the same time and bump into one another outside the tavern where Lia works, but it was easy to overlook. There was plenty more about this book to like than not. I was grateful that the love triangle wasn't drawn out to excruciating lengths. Lia settles on one of her dashing stalkers fairly quickly and the stiff romance that follows is sweet and understated.
What got me with this book was the twist!!! Not that one, the other one. Oh man, Pearson got me good. I won't spoil it for you, but damn. Serves me right for making assumptions. I was giddy with it for days. I'm not often surprised by twists. I can usually puzzle them out by small details and foreshadowing. I think the best part about this book's twist is that Pearson doesn't really do it to you so much as she lets you set yourself up for it. Absolutely delightful.
Aside from the bait-and-switch, I really enjoyed the last quarter of this book. Lia's transition from naive dreamer to bitter realist is heartfelt and thoroughly convincing. Her rebellious spirit endures throughout, coming to a razor-sharp point at the conclusion when the brutal truth of her place in the world can no longer be ignored. I can't wait to read the second book and see what comes next!
Kazi's grief and Jase's worry are palpable, neither one knowing if the other yet lives. Their heartache and fear pulses on every page, and I loved the steady back-and-forth of POV, watching them slowly spiral back toward one another. Allies (and enemies) are found in unexpected places, and one in particular really made me happy. I always love when a previously-assumed antagonist has a bit of backstory reveal and ends up being a good guy. I also really enjoyed the side-relationships in this one. Especially a certain bubbly rahtan and her surly Ballenger counterpart. (Ugh, that ending got me right in the feels!)
This duo of lovely novels has a lot to offer: strong, diverse characters, concise yet powerful action scenes, emotional conflict, a complex world, a bit of dubious magic, sweet, realistic romance...the list goes ON, people. But apart from all these things, and setting Pearson's economical-yet-elegant prose aside, there is one thing that really sets this story apart for me: family.
The theme of family lies at the heart of this tale, and it is threaded through both books with such gravity and subtlety that I closed Vow with an aching heart. You can feel Jase's devotion to it, his every breath dedicated to the endurance of his kin. You can feel Kazi's fear of it, her hunger for it after a lifetime of loneliness. This concept that she is barely beginning to grasp at the start of Vow becomes a double-edged sword that nearly costs the fearless Rahtan her life more than once. But it also saves her, and Jase, multiple times. Without it, they are so much less than they are with all of the Ballenger siblings and Kazi's comrades thrown in. There is a warmth in it, a strength, a depth, in that cumulative relationship that I find myself unable to adequately describe. For that alone, I would set this duology firmly on my permanent shelf and happily recommend it to others.
This highly-recommended duology in my favorite sub-genre (romantic high fantasy) jumped its way to the top of my TBR pile, and I was not disappointed.
Kazi is an elite warrior, a member of the Queen's personal guard. Along with her two comrades Wren and Synove, they embark on a mission to the remote city of Hell's Mouth to root out an escaped war criminal and bring him home to face justice.
Hell's Mouth is ruled by the Ballenger family, a ruthless clan with ancient roots in the region. Jase has only just assumed his father's mantle as Patrei, a transition of power that brings the wolves to the door searching for any signs of weakness, when Kazi and her crew arrive on his doorstep. A twist of fate finds them bound together in a struggle to survive, and the rest is history.
And that history? Fan-freaking-tastic. This was the best read I've had all year. Dance of Thieves is a winding, heart-wrenching, character-driven story about family, trust, and love. Featuring two exceptionally-written protagonists and a gritty, authentic world, Pearson's crown jewel duology kept me turning pages long into the night.
One thing I admire about this book is that it throws the reader right into the thick of the story, without it feeling disorienting. Kazi's relationship with her Rhatan comrades is established early and with conviction, so even though they quickly take a backseat to her adventure with Jase, the emotional connection lingers and they pick back up with just as much impact later as they had in the beginning. I also enjoyed the focus on personal conflicts that help shape the characters and gradually flesh out their sordid backstories throughout the course of the book. Kazi's dark childhood and the weight of Jase's responsibilities as the head of his family provide steady undercurrents of emotion tension, and their enemies-to-lovers romance hit all the right chords for me. I can't wait to dive into the second half of this duology!
Oh, wow, guys. This book blew me away. It's a rare standalone (yay!) and a surprisingly quick read. I think I read the first 1/4 of it in one sitting. Rogerson's prose is beyond phenomenal. Even though, due to the book's length, we only get a glimpse into this world, she paints it with such beautiful brushstrokes that it sucks you in and holds on tight.
Isobel and Rook make for a fantastically unlikely pair, with clashing qualities that provide a constant mix of charm and hilarity as they fight their way through the fairy lands. The fae's flawless, endless lives are filled with magic, but much of what you see is merely a glamour concealing a poisoned, rotting world beneath. Nearly incapable of human emotion, they live a hollow existence that, despite its longevity, is utterly empty of anything worth living for. As Rook and Isobel grow close, the vicious society and brutal laws of the fae threaten to tear them apart.
With a number of vibrant, unique characters and a friends-to-enemies-to-lovers romance that had me swooning, this one has earned a permanent place on my shelf. I'd reread it just to experience Rogerson's exceptional prose again. Highly recommend this one.
When the Dark One's malicious agents fumble an attempt to kidnap the famous Maiden, an irresistibly handsome and shamelessly charming young soldier named Hawke is assigned to her detail. You can guess where the story goes from here.
From Blood and Ash starts out with a definitively erotic tone and then immediately falls into 150 pages of redundant slog. Once you soldier past that, the pace picks up again and Hawke enters the picture. Looking back, not a whole lot actually happened in this book until the last few chapters, but you get a good bit of romance in between. This is a pretty steamy book. Though the smut is top-notch, a lot of other aspects fell too far short for me to want to continue this series. My main complaint was that I closed the final chapter feeling... confused. Poppy's emotional whiplash made my neck hurt. "Remember this," he said. "Remember this was real." But does she? Nope.
While that may sound contrived, it's actually really well done. This special set of tarot cards was one of their mother's most notable possessions, secretly hidden away until a young Donatella accidentally discovered them during an innocent childhood game. By the simple act of turning over a few of the cards, she feels she is doomed to a life of loss and unrequited love, the former of which is quickly confirmed when her mother disappears. The latter becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, with Tella treating her male suitors as disposable forms of entertainment and keeping everyone, even her sister, unwaveringly at arm's length. That is, until she meets Dante. The bit-part rogue from Scarlett's adventure in Caraval quickly becomes a charmingly unwelcome staple in Tella's world as she finds herself squarely in the midst of a power-struggle between Legend and the mythical Fates. To save her mother, Tella must win the game, but the cost may be more than she can bear.
Garber's prose continues to keep the pages turning, even though her incessant use of character names (Every. Goddamn. Sentence.) does grate on my nerves. Accessible and engaging, her storytelling blends mystery and action with an albeit less impressive display of magic when compared to the first book. The effort she previously put into painting wondrous, whimsical details is instead put toward exhaustive descriptions of clothing. Appropriate, maybe, give Tella is the main focus of this story and she does love fashion. Romance is the icing on the cake, with our protagonist doing her utmost to resist Dante's charms, convinced she is incapable of lasting love. Little by little, we get to watch her shift and change as the story goes on, and by the end I found myself genuinely rooting for Tella - something I would have claimed to be impossible only a week ago.
In a lot of ways, Tella is a breath of fresh air after Caraval. Scarlett's waffling, self-conscious, hyper-cautious nature grew tiresome. Even though the romance is better in the first book, Tella's personality places this one superior in my mind. Fiesty and cocksure, clever and jaded, the younger Dragna sister makes for a far more interesting protagonist. Not one to give up without a vigorous round of fisticuffs (literally), her depth and spirit make Legendary a step up from it's predecessor. And the best part? We finally learn Legend's true identity! (I'm really glad Garber didn't try to hold that card until the third book.)
Overall, an entertaining series. My copy of Finale got delayed in shipping so I'm putting a filler book in between, but I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion.
When a chance to escape presents itself, Tella bribes a handsome sailor named Julian to help her kidnap Scarlett and whisk them both away to the mysterious isle of the mage known only as Legend. Legend's annual week-long carnival/competition, Caraval, offers a select few participants the opportunity to experience magic, wonder, mystery, and a bit of danger, all in the pursuit of a coveted grand prize: a wish. All the reluctant Scarlett cares about is getting back home in time for her arranged marriage to a nameless count, but when Tella disappears and becomes the goal of this year's game, all Scarlett's carefully-laid plans start to fall apart.
This was a quick read, full of whimsy and magic, but it was much darker than I had anticipated. The mystery of Caraval is a sinister one, its ringleader Legend more a malevolent entity than a charming illusionist. Scarlett's constant fear of discovery and her blind dedication to her mysterious fiance grows tiresome, but she does eventually shed it and find her courage. The gradual development of her relationship with Julian was really well done, full of humorous banter and just the right speed of enemies-to-lovers, though the romance is extremely PG. Tella was just flat-out obnoxious. I'm hoping her character gets developed in the next book.
Garber's prose is accessible, but far from bland, filled with luxurious details of the magic inside Caraval. Her descriptions pull you into the enchantment surrounding Julian and Scarlett's adventure, but always with the hint of something darker, as though danger lurks around every corner. Bright dress shops and rose-covered carousels are juxtaposed against blood magic and underground tunnels that can drive you mad. At the end, themes of death and suicide take center stage. Abuse, of course, is a central theme throughout.
Like many of the "junk food books" I enjoy, this story reaches only skin-deep, but it is definitely a magical ride.
But then, just when our reluctant, retired hero ventures out into the wilderness to deal with the threat and secretly save the town (and a traveling scribe, to boot!), the book switches gears rather abruptly. All of the built-up tension and excitement over this taste of the bigger danger to come is slowly extinguished. Chapter after chapter bleeds by. A promising call-to-action is all but forgotten, replaced with a memoir-like retelling of our hero's entire life as he dictates to the rescued scribe who, as it turns out, is actually there to find Kvothe and record his story.
I didn't expect this to be a slice-of-life book, and I think that's the main reason I didn't enjoy it. I've never picked up an epic fantasy novel and expected to read a memoir. Many say that The Name of the Wind is more a work of literary fiction. That the point is that Kvothe is an unreliable narrator. That he's exaggerating, editing, or flat-out just lying about his past. Perhaps that's an interesting way to experience this book, but that was not at all the sense I got as a reader.
Many people love this book, but it wasn't for me. I spent the whole first half thinking, "Okay, maybe just a few more chapters of backstory and then we'll get to the good stuff." By the time I was 2/3rds of the way through, all hope had been thoroughly snuffed. The protagonist had turned from a gruff old adventurer I could admire to a pompous know-it-all who never seemed to fail because he was just so good at everything. My eyes hurt from rolling them so often. An attempt is made at humbling our hero via a mild social awkwardness around a pretty girl he likes, but this check to his universal proficiency arrives far too late to be at all effective. By this point, I just wanted to finish it.
At the very end, Rothfuss throws us a bone and Kvothe actually does go do something mildly interesting, but by that time I'd been so soured against him that it fell flat. The phenomenal musician, effortless theater performer, genius academic, gifted mage, pickpocket, lockpick, and in some future book, a master swordsman as well... he is easily three or four protagonists crammed into one, and the result is a remarkably unlikable Mary-Sue. With the strange and somewhat random dragon-slayer arc at the very end, I ended the book feeling...tolerant...of Kvothe, but I won't be continuing this series.
But this book (at least to me) wasn't about Laia or Elias. Reaper is about Helene. And I fucking love Helene. Okay, okay, unprofessional to swear in a review, but guys. Her arc is so good. I could read this whole series just from her POV, especially since Harper showed up and added a new level of depth to her internal conflict. The Blood Shrike shows an immense amount of growth in this volume, learning from her mistakes and outwitting her enemies, not to mention unleashing a god-level beat-down on the battlefield. Still, the odds are so stacked against her that it keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout. I can't wait to see what happens to her in the final installment.
As for the rest, I enjoyed finally learning the backstories of the Soul Catcher, the Nightbringer, and the jinn. Cook's big reveal was kind of obvious ever since book 2 and the Aquilla warhammer felt a little like a 'sword of destiny' but I didn't honestly mind either one too much. As always, Tahir's prose is economical without being boring, colorful without needing translation. The plot moves along at a nice pace throughout. Reaper is definitely better than Torch in that aspect, and I look forward to reading the finale when it comes out at the end of 2020.