BOOK REVIEW: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

The next three weeks are going to be devoted to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor.

Never has a trilogy left me so conflicted. Overall, I truly did love this series, and I had a really bad case of the mourning’s when I turned the final page of book 3. But for as many things that I absolutely loved about these books, there were also things that had me second-guessing whether or not I would finish the series.

This trilogy is definitely a in-it-for-the-long-haul read. If you’re looking for something that will give you a quick resolution, this probably isn’t for you. You do get your resolutions, but Taylor makes you work for them.

BUT if you want an epically unique world to get lost in and explore, you need to pick up this trilogy. It is expansive and expertly developed and each character has his or her own needs/agenda.

So without further ado: My thoughts on Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone

NON-SPOILER-Y REVIEW

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a YA Fantasy that takes place in Prague. The MC, Karou, already leads a spectacular life, having been raised by chimaera and traveling the world. But when angels start burning handprints into doors, Karou’s life gets a whole lot more complicated.

There are so many reasons to pick up this first book, but my top has to be the magnificent prose with which Taylor delivers the story. From page one, Taylor’s skills with imagery trap you in the story, and her characters are so vibrant that you feel like you’ve known them forever.

Taylor manages to write an epic-fantasy-level story while straddling the hum-drum human world, but even her human characters are far from stereotypes. She does a brilliant job at giving us fully developed characters from their first introduction as well as laying layer upon layer of mysteries and secrets for us to unravel throughout the series.

And that’s it for this non-spoiler-y section. Don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled.


SPOILER-Y FANGIRLING

Okay, so I said it above, but I’ll say it again. OH MY GOD, THE WRITING! NO, SERIOUSLY, THE WRITING!

One of the main reasons I absolutely adored this trilogy was Taylor’s incredible talent and skill with prose. Every metaphor, every visual, every description, everything was just ON POINT!

I loved how fearless and curious Karou was. Overall an incredibly compelling character. Actually, all of Taylor’s characters were compelling. Karou, Akiva, Brimstone, Zuzana.

Also, the world that Taylor creates is fully-realized from the get-go. So even though we have a BAGILLION questions, those questions are due to necessary built-in mystery rather than a lack of world-building.

And before I move on, did anyone else laugh hysterically at Brimstone’s “non-essential penis” line for days on end like I did? No? Just me? Mkay…

Alright, now for the not-so-fangirling bit.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVED this trilogy and will sing Taylor’s praises as a writer all day long, BUT I had a really big issue with the chapters of flashback post mid-point. It felt like I was moving along at a swift pace with Karou and Akiva, then suddenly, “We’re going to interrupt your current story for a massive interlude of backstory.”

That may have been a little harsh.

I do agree that we needed that information for the rest of the series. I just wish it would have been incorporated in a way that didn’t totally press pause on our girl Karou. Even though Karou is Madrigal. But still.

Like I said, I truly do love this story and the characters and the world and the writing. But for whatever reason, I am hung up on that silly flashback. *throws toddler tantrum*

What about y’all? What did you think about the flashback? Did you expect Brimstone to be using teeth to conjure chimaera?

Next Friday, I’ll be reviewing Days of Blood and Starlight, book 2 in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor.

BOOK REVIEW: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

THIS BOOK! Seriously guys, you need to read this series, if only so you can enjoy the epic awesomeness that is Queen of Shadows, book 4 in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas.

You can see my review for book 1, Throne of Glass, here; book 2, Crown of Midnight, here; and book 3, Heir of Fire, here.

Now for my thoughts on Queen of Shadows

NON-SPOILER-Y REVIEW

So much happens in Queen of Shadows that it felt both like a conclusion and a beginning, which I think speaks to Maas’s talent as a storyteller. She ties up a lot of loose ends, but also introduces some crazy new plotlines to press forward into books 5 and 6. We finally get to see Celaena unleashed in all her strategic glory, which you think you see what’s happening, but you’re just as blown away by it as her friends in the book.

Again, the world expands in this book, as does character development. You learn more about the stakes for each camp, and you also empathize with characters you didn’t think you could.

Lastly (because otherwise I’ll spoil all the things) THE PACING! Seriously. This book is crazy thick, but it NEVER lulls. EVER!

STOP HERE! STAHP!

DON’T SPOIL YOURSELF!

TURN AWAY!

GO READ IT! THEN COME BACK!


SPOILER-Y FANGIRLING

Like I said up top, SO MUCH HAPPENED in this book! I was curious what I was going to see from the characters back in Adarlan, but I have to admit, this book is my No. 1 for the year so far.

So let’s just jump in.

First off, we finally meet the infamous Arobynn Hamel, and he is just as sleazy and conniving as I imagined him to be. Though I anticipate we’ll see more the effects of his actions and deceit in future books, I loved seeing Aelin out-play him. This was one of those plot lines in the book that was so subtle but so gods-damned brilliant that when we finally learn the scope of Aelin’s manipulation, I was just in awe of her mastery. As was Aedion and Rowan.

Which brings me to the magnificent Lysandra. None of Aelin’s plan would have been possible without Lysandra’s help and connections. This new character (WHO I LOVE) was pivotal in the rescue of Aedion, retrieving the third Wyrdkey, deceiving Lorcan, destroying Arobynn, and saving EVERYONE’S ass in the final battle. She’s a strong, intelligent, compassionate woman who holds her own and is an incredible addition to team. Also, she turned into a snow leopard and puked guts on Lorcan… that in and of itself is fantastic.

**Let’s take a quick moment to discuss the phenomenal female cast in their series. None of these women need a man, or anyone, to save them. They survive on their own wits and strength, and are unrelenting in what they believe in. From Aelin, Lysandra, Nehemia, and Manon to Elide, Nesryn, Kaltain, and yes, even Maeve. Way to go, Maas, for creating the most intimidating, fierce cast of female characters EVER!**

Next up, Aedion. I know I gushed about him in my Heir of Fire review, but this poor kids went through a lot in this book. When it begins, he’s ready to die, then we have the epic heist-style rescue, followed by the adorable softness and affection he has toward his cousin. Granted this may just be my love for Rowan talking, but I think my favorite part of his role in this book was the evolution of his relationship with Rowan. He totally fangirls over Aelin’s relationship with Rowan in the beginning, but when he finds out Rowan took the blood oath, he goes the other direction entirely. But the two males come together and fight alongside each other in the end.

I’m really excited for how Aedion’s character continues to evolve throughout the story. I can’t wait to see how his paternity plays out in the grand scheme of things with Maeve and Gavriel. Plus, I really ship Aedion and Lysandra. The groundwork has been laid. It needs to happen.

Okay. Moving on to lesser than happy things.

So many feels for poor Dorian. He finally takes a stance against his father only to be enslaved by a demon, where he doesn’t even remember his own name. Absolutely heartbreaking. But I think he definitely needed this. He needed to reach a breaking point in order to grow as a character, so I’m not mad at what happened to him (I may be soulless… woops). I’m excited to see what comes of Dorian in the upcoming books as he tries to heal his country. There are so many ways Maas could go with this, especially since Chaol will be in another country and paralyzed. It’s the one plotline I can’t make a prediction for. Well, I do have one prediction… Manon. She’s already been his saving grace once. And with her going back to check on him at the end of book, I think their lines are going to intertwine some more.

*ANNOUNCER VOICE: AND NOW FOR THE MAIN EVENT, AELIN VS. MANON!*
This showdown was everything that I wanted it to be AND MORE! From the shade throwing (“Swords are boring.” “I couldn’t agree more.”) to the mutual respect (“You’re too good a fighter to kill.”), I was sitting on the edge of my seat, freaking out throughout this entire fight. All of the build-up in Manon’s POV in Heir of Fire was SO WORTH it. Side note: Chaol, you’re an idiot. Really? You’re going to go the wrong way? You’re supposed to know these woods! **Shakes head**

Before I begin on the epicness that was that final battle, I have to gush about Rowan. It’s not like you didn’t know this was coming. I’ve already announced that Rowan+Aelin=My OTP.

I may have already re-read the Rowan scenes… twice… From the moment Aelin runs to him in the alley to Arobynn’s dinner (17-yr-old Rowan wouldn’t know what to do with 17-yr-old Aelin. You’d probably scandalize him with your nightclothes. LOL) to him refusing to sleep with her because she’s needs to heal to “keep up,” I just had so much love for their relationship. I just really, REALLY pray that Maas doesn’t take him away from us. I need Rowan to not die. Please. Pretty please! The fact that there are still two books left in the series makes me really worried. *curls up in corner and rocks back and forth*

Okay. The battle to end all battles. Anyone else think that was the most epic final battle they’ve read in YA F? 1. It lasted FOREVER, 2. The constantly shifting POV’s ensured I never put the book down, 3. No one’s fate was certain.

Maas already proved in books 1, 2, and 3 that she had a talent for exciting, tension-filled fight scenes, but the ending battle in Queen of Shadows was on a different level. She never gave us a moment to relax because she would write from one character’s POV until they could very well die, then shift on us before we knew for sure. I’m pretty sure I was having a panic attack during the pages where Rowan thought Aelin was dying and Aelin thought Rowan was dying.

What about ya’ll? What was your favorite moment of QoS?

The Best Writing Advice Anyone’s Ever Given Me

So I got this idea from the Confessions Of A Writer Tag I did last week. The tag was created by my dear friend and fellow blogger, Nicolette Elzie, where you answer 20 questions about your writing and reading habits/preferences.

One of the questions was “What was the best writing advice you’ve ever received?”

My answer: Write the story you want to read.

I’ve mentioned this tidbit a few times in previous posts, but I want to expand on it because it affects more than one aspect of the writing game…

Here’s the long and hard truth of it: your novel, the thing you’ve been slaving over, may very well not get traditionally published. It sucks and that’s awful, but if you started writing for the monetary benefit or the “prestige,” this may not be a good venture for you to jump into.

AND even if you do get traditionally published, rest assured you will still spend more time with your manuscript than anyone else on this globe. So you might as well enjoy it.

Reason No. 1 – Fads are fickle beasts
So this first one applies more to YA than most audiences because the age group itself is in a constant state of flux. It’s that brilliant time in one’s life where you get to decide what kind of person you’re going to be, along with finding out what appeals to you on both superficial and deep-rooted levels. Granted, I wasn’t following the industry prior to Twilight (was in high school at the time), but since then, there are clear cut “fads” that have run through the YA SFF genre.

In a nutshell: Vampires >> Angels & Demons >> Dystopian

Of course there were sprinkles of mermaids and zombies in there, but the above ripped through the industry in a way that left some agents and editors “done” with the topic. But the important note here is that it commonly (there are outliers based on cultural prevalence) takes a minimum of two years to get from acquisition to bookshelves in traditional publishing. Basically, the books being acquired now [will be] published late 2017(ish).

So by the time you realize a “Fad” and decide to write to fit what’s “popular,” odds are you’ve already missed the boat.

Reason No. 2 – You’re going to be rereading the MS again and again and again.
I’ve said it before: your first draft is not you final draft. You’ll be rewriting and revising that thing a few times before you’re even ready to query, let alone go on submission, so don’t write a story you hate. Create a story and a world that you want to get lost in for hours. Create characters you want to spend days/weeks/months/years getting to know. That passion will shine through in the work and those who read it will pick up on it. 🙂

Reason No. 3 – You can’t please everyone.
Whether we like it or not, everyone has their biases. Because I write YA F, I’ve dealt with my fair share of up-turned noses by people in and outside the writing community. LitFic people scoff at genre. Adult genre scoff at the audience. Civilians (non-writers in this context) ask “oh, like Harry Potter and Twilight?”

hulk smash

^^How I feel when confronted with these situations…

Point is, prior to submission, the only person you need to worry about pleasing is yourself. Any advice/criticism you receive should be filtered through your wants for the story. No one knows the story better than you. No one knows the world better than you. No one knows the characters better than you.

No one can write your story but YOU.

So write the story you want to read and enjoy the project you’re working on.

Happy Writing!

BOOK REVIEW: Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas

Heir of Fire is book 3 of the YA epic fantasy series, Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll go to the nearest bookstore and pick up book 4.

If you haven’t picked up this series, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Jk. J But you can see my review for book 1, Throne of Glass, here. And for book 2, Crown of Midnight, here.

Now for my thoughts on Heir of Fire

NON-SPOILER-Y REVIEW

In book 3, Maas expands both the world and the plot, adding layer upon layer of brilliant world building and character development. She introduces new characters, new villains, and really sets you up for what to expect from upcoming books.

I loved this book. It was unlike the first two in a lot of ways, but I thought it was an awesome gear-change from the first two in the series. We left Crown of Midnight shortly after Celaena experiences a tremendous loss that leaves her broken and alone. So while we got to see the depths of Celaena’s darkness in COM, we get to see the depths of her grief and pain in HOF.

Again, Maas gives us an incredible narrative wrapped around friendship and love of all kinds, and what that means to different people. In this third installment, she really challenges each and every character to their breaking point, and you as the reader, have no choice but to break with them.

And that’s it for the non-spoiler-y section, come back once you’ve read the book and we’ll discuss!


SPOILER-Y FANGIRLING

So I connect with Celaena on several levels (No, I’m not an assassin), but especially with the never-ending need to be seen and accepted. Basically, I cried throughout a good portion of this book. Like choking on sobs for a half-hour, tears streaming down my face, UGLY CRYING. But I’ll get to that later.

First off, we have the opening, seeing Celaena beat down, hungry, filthy, drunk on the streets of Wendolyn. This really sets us up for the growth Celaena experiences throughout the course of the book. And when she realizes the vagrant woman mistook her for another vagrant, we all understood that our girl had hit an all time low. Of course that didn’t last long before ROWAN (mmm, Rowan) walks in and drags her sorry ass to Mistwood, where we meet Queen Maeve of the Fae for the first time.

Maeve is dark and manipulative and you don’t trust her for a moment, but I love how her plan to manipulate Celaena backfires on her when Celaena and Rowan visit her in Doranelle. “You wanted to see how powerful I am…” YAS!!!! Basically, cue the rock star music and pyrotechnics because Aelin Galathynius gives ZERO shits. ZERO. NONE.

Which brings me to the second of our new cast of characters, the lovely hard ass that is ROWAN WHITETHORNE. Guys. Guys. This fae prince. I can’t. But no, honestly, I can’t express how much love I have for this character. He’s exactly what Aelin needed to shed the prison that was her Celaena persona. He’s a friend, a confidant, caretaker and warrior. He’s legitimately Aelin’s other half, her Carranam. BUT as much as I SHIP THEM (Seriously my OTP), I appreciated that their relationship was strictly platonic in this book. Not to mention he’s loyal and compassionate and doesn’t shrink away from Aelin when she goes off the edge. LOVE HIM! Can I have one? Please?

Okay, okay. I’ll stop with the Rowan love…

So we’ll move on to Aedion Ashryver, Aelin’s cousin. Have I mentioned how much I love the characters in Maas’s books? Because I do! Aedion is such a curious character for me because he straddles the line of “Super-macho-general” and “wounded-immature-boy,” which I think is a perfect characterization for Aelin’s cousin. His love and loyalty for Aelin is so endearing, and when he puts Chaol’s life before his own for Aelin’s sake, I really wanted to throw something through the pages at him. Because for as much love as I have Chaol, Aedion is so much more useful to Aelin.

Speaking of that last scene, was I the only one who didn’t like Sorscha? I appreciated what she did for Dorian’s character (CONGRATS, KID! You made a decision for yourself!), I was relieved she wasn’t going to join us into book 4.

And our final new character, Manon Badass Blackbeak. Okay, so “Badass” isn’t her middle name, but it should be. At first, her POV made me feel the way Sorscha’s did: Can we get back to Aelin please? BUT the moment she claimed Abraxos, she won me over. 1. Because Abraxos is ADORABLE! “I can’t eat right now, I’m smelling the flowers.” Gaawww, it’s a puppy-dragon. 2. Because I’m anticipating some epic awesomeness from the witches in the upcoming books. One thing we can always count on from Maas is that no POV is wasted space, each is important to the final puzzle, so I’m excited to see how the witches fit in with Aelin’s plot.

So much happened in this book, and I’m trying not to make this super long. But one final thing: the moment when Aelin goes emotionally numb and lashes out at the other demi-fae. I mentioned before that there were parts of this book that had me just sobbing, and this was one of them. Living with PTSD, you spend every day battling triggers that could break you apart at any given moment. When you do break, at least for me personally, you hide away in a state of numb suspension. Maas captured this beautifully and reading it was such an incredibly cathartic experience for me. So as Aelin began to heal after that, I kind of did too.

And that’ll be it for this review of Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. Check out my review of Queen of Shadows, here.