Empire of Storms

28260587by Sarah J. Maas
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars

Get ready for an unpopular opinion – I did not enjoy this book. I think I have good reasons for this, but I’ll lay them out and you be the judge. I rate this 2 stars for overall experience, an extra star for Manon because she has the only chapters I liked.

I did read the whole thing, so these are the reasons I kept pushing through:

The witches! I love the witch covens. I love Manon.  I love the witch lore and mythology and history. I would read an entire spinoff series with Manon, prequel or sequel, I don’t care! She is all the fun and sass and savvy that Aelin used to be when she was Celaena.

The cameos! We aren’t done with characters from previous books reappearing and without spoilers I’ll just say that I always enjoy this. It really makes the world and the saga feel more well-rounded and complete.

Lysandra! Officially part of Team Aelin, she gets a lot more page time and a lot more agency. Love her! Plus she and Aelin seem to have an actual friendship.

What made this installment drag for me?

It’s just too long (like 200-300 pages too long). There are large swaths of wandering through forests with nothing much happening. Or wandering over the sea with nothing much happening. Or wondering about where to wander next with nothing much happening. This is a slow book. I know the best writers can get caught in the woods of losing the plot (the camping scenes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, anyone?) but these chapters should have been trimmed or cut.

For being a slow-moving plot, the character changes seem to leap out of nowhere constantly! There are sudden romantic pairings that made no sense to me. There are also several characters that come out as gay or bi but those relationships are all in the past–the only relationships given page-time in this tome are very hetero. Within that, I take issue with the sex scenes leaning toward erotica more than YA. I don’t mind sex in YA but there’s a difference in presentation (or there should be) from YA romance and hardcore erotica. And there’s a lot of biting and blood and male-dominance that makes me uncomfortable–but maybe that’s just not my cup of tea…

And not that this is a departure from the series but there are still only cishet white characters. Where are Nehemia’s people, at least??

Finally, almost moreso than in Queen of Shadows, Aelin plays everything so close to the vest that the big reveals almost feel like author ex machina to me. There’s not much sense of buildup–we muddle along on mysterious quests until the last 100 pages or so. And although I recognized the few hints throughout, the payoff just wasn’t there for me.

I’m pretty sure I’ll stick around for one more book to finish the series. I just wish this series could reach its potential.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Empire of Storms is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski – The final book in this trilogy that will give you the emotional roller coaster of your life! Kestrel and Arin are separated once again, as Kestrel works to escape from the labor camp in the north, and Arin struggles to forget everything about the girl he thought he knew. See my review here.
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor – The immensely satisfying end to this trilogy brings the war between seraphim and chimaera to a spell-binding conclusion. The stage and stakes are bigger than ever for Karou and Akiva as they work to dispel darkness and rekindle their relationship. See my review here.
  • Winter by Marissa Meyer – The end of Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress’ stories brings them to Luna and Princess Winter, the forgotten royal slowly losing her mind because she refuses to use her gift against others. They have to work together to defeat Queen Levana’s plans to conquer Earth, and they have little time to do it. See my review here.

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

This series is near and dear to my heart-I fell in love with it from the first book and it has taken many satisfying twists and turns since! Celaena Sardothien is an assassin with a love for pretty clothes and food (especially candy) and she is both fierce and vulnerable as we learn her secrets and dreams. A contest to become the king’s assassin turns into a fight for the world and her own soul, as her past comes back to haunt her. It’s funny and emotional and feminist and romantic and adventurous. (You can read all my reviews if you want: The Assassin’s Blade, Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, Queen of Shadows). Get on board before the 5th installment comes out this September!

28260587

 

What’s new this month

Spring has been crazy this year for amazing books! Here are some I’m looking forward to this month:

ACOMAF5/3 – A Court of Mist and Fury – by Sarah J. Maas

The second in this fantasy series follows the human woman Feyre after she outwits the faery queen to save Tam Lin and his people. She made terrible bargains to get here, but gained some magical power for herself. I enjoyed the first book (a cross between Beauty and the Beast and East of the Sun, West of the Moon), and this one is going to explore more of Rhysand’s Night Court–he’s arguably the most intriguing side character from the first book. I’m sure everything we loved from this new series (faeries, magic, intrigue, romance) will be heightened in this one if the Throne of Glass series is any indication.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


crown game5/17 – The Crown’s Game – by Evelyn Skye

In this version of Russia, the Tsar needs an enchanter by his side, and normally there is only one at at time. But now two enchanters have been discovered, so the Tsar decides on a the Crown’s Game, a contest of magical duels to decide the true winner: the one who survives. I’ve heard great things about this, and I’m hoping for a cross between the Grisha trilogy and The Hunger Games. I can’t wait to see what the magic is like and how the characters deal with this unprecedented competition!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


girl universe5/17 – Girl Against the Universe – by Paula Stokes

For personal reasons the jacket summary greatly interests me, especially since this is a girl with a curse who isn’t in a fantasy world. I don’t fully understand how this is going to go down, but I want to see how Maguire describes her bad luck and how her crush thinks he can break it. I’m not sure how much of a paranormal element will be present and I’m sure a lot of this will depend on voice, but I think this could be a very interesting summer read!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

 

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Wrath and the Dawn

I was a little unsure about because The Arabian Nights is a classic collection of tales that has defeated me several times. I’ve never made it all the way through an edition of it, and setting a YA novel in that world seemed…well it seemed like a short story idea, not a novel. And definitely not two novels. But I was wrong! (Thanks, Erin!)

Shazi and Khalid’s story was spellbinding – I couldn’t put this book down, and although a few things could have been smoother or explored better, this was an amazing interpretation of the legend! (See my review here). The second book comes out next month and you do not want to miss it!

Rose and the Dagger

What else should you revisit?

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

ACOTARI was already hooked on her Throne of Glass series when she announced she was doing a faery trilogy – at the same time! TWO Maas books a year?! YES. I still don’t understand how she’s doing it (the schedule? the work? the revisions? the deadlines? the tours?) but she’s either superwoman or a robot.

Feyre’s story is a wonderful interpretation of two old legends, Tam Lin and East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I love those fairy tales and the elements she wove into her own story are lovely. Feyre’s life is forfeit when she accidentally kills a faery in the forest, but her captivity by the mysterious Tam Lin is not at all what she expected. (See my review here). As with her other series, I imagine details and minor characters could become important at any time, so definitely pick this up before next month’s release of book two!

ACOMAF

Queen of Shadows

18006496by Sarah J. Maas
YA Fantasy
5 of 5 stars

This was a tough book to review. There were so many things I absolutely loved, but also a few things that really bothered me. Like they took me out of the story, bothered me. In the end up I rounded up to 5 stars though, because of the cleverness of the plot and the fact that the powerful women in this story received far more screen time than the guys – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

So what did I love? Aelin is smarter than ever in this book, and her plans for revenge and strengthening her court are so layered and complex, I had several instances of “Damn, girl! Did not see that coming!” Aelin/Celaena has always been clever of course, but there’s a sense of calculated maturity here that wasn’t present in the previous books, and I appreciated how she’s grown up.

What else did I love? MANON. She is my new favorite character – I loved her in Heir of Fire, and her chapters here are even more compelling. She is complicated and always changing, and the more we see her relationships with the Thirteen, the more I rooted for the Witch-clans. I know, even though they aren’t “the good guys.”

What else did I love? ALL THE OTHER WOMEN OF THIS BOOK. This is the first YA fantasy novel I’ve read in some time that devoted the majority of its pages to female characters, and it’s amazing. Six female POVs, and even more women who tell their stories to our main characters. They are all given depth, secrets, emotions, motivations, and their interactions are the heart of this story. This is what bumped up the rating for my review. This is why I’ll return to this book again and again.

With all that, what could possibly bother me? I’ll tell you: Chaol. He was one of my favorite characters in Crown of Midnight. In Heir of Fire he was frustrating as he waffled over his loyalty/honor, but he got there in the end, you know? After this book, I feel like I don’t even know him. Worse, I felt like he didn’t know Celaena/Aelin at all. It didn’t feel true to his character previously, and when it feels like something is forced for dramatic effect, I get annoyed. Luckily, I met Sarah J. Maas at a signing event a few days ago, so I asked her about Chaol!

Sarah explained that Chaol is in a lot of pain during this book with his internal struggles and Dorian’s fate, and that as people do (as Celaena did frequently), he lashes out and becomes an asshole. She wanted to show that sometimes people go back and forth on their personal journeys, that sometimes a step forward is followed by two steps back. “Not everything is solved with a short talk and a training montage!” she said. “That doesn’t fix everything.” Ultimately, at the end of this book Chaol is now in a position to grow as a person and become better, and she said that he needed a healing journey just like Celaena did in Heir of Fire. I’m still not thrilled with how abrupt Chaol’s reactions felt, but I do respect Sarah’s answer and what she was trying to portray. For her part, she’s excited that Chaol has sparked so much debate among fans, and said that it’s rewarding to write something that makes people talk and argue, not just geek out with happiness.

With all that said, the plot twists and unexpected ending were great, and if the next two books hold up, this is what will push the series to the next level. Fantasy is always in danger of succumbing to genre tropes, and this book took the opportunity to thwart some of those expectations, and I like that. Now the agonizing countdown begins for Book 5!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Queen of Shadows is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website, here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – If you can’t stomach a year-long wait between Throne of Glass books, this is the fantasy series she started in May 2015, with the next book due out in the spring of 2016. Feyre accidentally killed a faerie, and trades her life for the safety of her family in this Tam Lin/East of the Sun, West of the Moon retelling. See my review here.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – If you want more fantastic female friendship, look no further. Agnieszka is the unwilling apprentice to her valley’s protective wizard, the Dragon, but she learns there is more at stake than her village. See my review here.
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Katsa is her uncle the king’s Graced assassin, but she longs to leave her life of killing behind. A foreign prince brings this opportunity to her when she joins him on a quest to find his missing uncle. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel is in a game of political chess with everyone she meets, most of all with Arin, her former slave that holds her heart but can’t know her true feelings. See my review here.
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – This installment of the paranormal/YA fantasy series focuses on Ronan, the angry, brash boy of the group who can take things from his dreams. What he soon learns is he isn’t the only one who can. This is a beautifully written quartet that wraps up in February 2016.
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – Book 2 in the series finds Paige back in London’s underworld, struggling to reveal the truth to other clairvoyants, blocked at every turn by her old master’s manipulation. If you enjoyed Celaena and Arobynn’s twisted mind games, there is plenty of that in this book. See my review here.

What’s new this month

First of all, I re-organized some menus, so reviews should be easier to find. Yay, organization!

Second, and more importantly, ’tis finally the season of good books! There is magic happening on bookshelves everywhere for the next two months. Drum roll please, here–after almost a year of waiting–are the books I’m excited about this month:

Queen of Shadows9/1 – Queen of Shadows – by Sarah J. Maas

The fourth Throne of Glass installment came out Tuesday and I could not be more excited! I haven’t loved a series this much since Harry Potter – I cannot wait to see what happens next! Whatever you’ve heard, believe the hype, and jump into this 6-book series before it’s over and you missed it. There’s a giveaway here for the first three books in paperback until 9/11/15!

More info here: Goodreads and Powell’s


A New Hope9/22 – A New Hope: The Princess, The Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy – by Alexandra Bracken

A fully illustrated Star Wars novel for old and new fans alike. This promises some narrative twists to one of the most famous film sagas, and I think it’s an interesting concept. The artwork is done by actual Star Wars concept artist Iain McCaig, and this is going to be a series of books with a fresh voice. The author also wrote The Darkest Minds trilogy. I can’t wait to flip through this and see what it’s really like.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


six of crows9/29 – Six of Crows – by Leigh Bardugo

I thoroughly enjoyed her Grisha trilogy and this duology is set in the same universe but with different characters. Her writing is explosive and cinematic, and I can’t wait to see how her novels about a group of miscreants pulling off a heist play out, especially with the magic system she has created. This is described as a fantasy version of Ocean’s 11 – what could be more fun?

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


The Raven King temp9/29 – The Raven King – by Maggie Stiefvater

Remember, this book’s publication has been delayed until February 2016. We don’t even have cover art yet! I was really bummed about this, but there is plenty to be excited about in October, and then it’s the holidays and the next Sherlock season, and then boom – it will only be a month away! This is the coping mechanism I suggest for all of you.

Queen of Shadows Giveaway!

QueenofShadowsBanner

I am so excited that QUEEN OF SHADOWS by Sarah J. Maas releases today and that I get to share the news, along with an awesome giveaway!

If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful series by Sarah J. Maas, be sure to check out all the details below. This blitz also includes a giveaway for a set of the first 3 books in the series (in paperback format). US only. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Queen of ShadowsAbout the book:

Title: QUEEN OF SHADOWS

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Pub. Date: September 1, 2015

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Pages: 656

Sarah J. Maas’s New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series reaches new heights in this sweeping fourth volume.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.
Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.
 Read Chapters 1-5 of QUEEN OF SHADOWS HERE!

Sarah1Sarah J. Maas is the author of the New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling Throne of Glass series–Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnightand Heir of Fire, and the series’ prequel, The Assassin’s Blade–as well as the New York Times and USA Today bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses. She wrote the first incarnation of the Throne of Glass series when she was just sixteen, and it has now sold in twenty-three languages. Queen of Shadows, the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, will release worldwide on September 1st, 2015. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hamilton College in 2008 with a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Religious Studies.

 Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Pinterest | Instagram| Goodreads
Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive the first 3 books (in paperback) in the THRONE OF GLASS Series. US Only.

Ends on September 11th at Midnight EST!

Rafflecopter Link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/ZTIzODliYTI4ZTEzMGVjODBhNzA2MmFmMTU3YWM3OjMyOA==/?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: