Category Archives: Young Adult Fantasy

Book Review of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

crooked-kingdomTitle:  Crooked Kingdom

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Release Date:  September 27th, 2016

Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

Summary from Goodreads.com

My Review:  Crooked Kingdom.  I am not even sure I can put into words how much I love this duology.  They are just in a league of their own in the YA fantasy world.  The characters are all so well developed, diverse and relatable.  The heists they pull off are clever, planned out and always keep you guessing.  And the world itself is amazing, with its rich detail, Ketterdam becomes another character in the plot because of the significant role it plays in Crooked Kingdom and we also get a map of it at the beginning of the novel which I found myself turning to constantly to see exactly where the characters were.

Crooked Kingdom picks up right where we left off in Six of Crows, with Kaz and crew trying to get Inej and their money back.  It is the same format as well, switching points of view to get a well-rounded story and different aspects of each scheme as it is being pulled off so you can see it from all angles which I loved.  It is very Ocean’s Eleven with almost a steampunk element thrown in which was just fascinating to me.  There were several jobs pulled off throughout the duration of this 500 plus page novel and while I figured out some aspects of the jobs, I was left amazed at Bardugo’s ability to write such excellent twists into each one.  She does an amazing job of having you look one way, when the real action is happening somewhere else.  You would think I would have figured out their tricks by now, but they still had a couple up their sleeves every now and then that I did not see coming at all and I love that about this book!

I also enjoyed how the backstory of the characters continues to expand and the way it was interweaved in to the jobs themselves as they were being pulled off.  Inej might be in the middle of jumping from rooftop to rooftop and we learned about her family and how she learned to start walking on wires.  It was done so brilliantly that I did not feel a lull in the story, I was eager to learn more about the characters and found myself wanting more from each one.  That is what I will miss the most about these books, the people in them.  I loved each person so much, I want to know more about their lives in the future and in the past.  I am hoping that Leigh will come back to this world someday so we can dive even further into their lives once more.

The only element that I did have a small issue with were the references to the Ruin and Rising series.  In Six of Crows, those references are there, but it was very easy to navigate through that book even if you did not understand some of the characters they were referring too.  In Crooked Kingdom, I felt like I was missing things because I had not finished that other series by Leigh.  I read the first book, so I had some understanding of that world, but I have not read books two and three and I felt like if I had I would have been less confused at some moments in the story.  I will eventually go back and read the other books, but I wish I did not feel like I needed to in order to follow along with everything that took place in Crooked Kingdom.

Kaz Brekkar.  Let’s be honest here, he is the biggest draw for me to read these books.  He might just be one of my favorite characters in any book and the best written one.  He is simply amazing.  I loved the way he thinks, his sense of humor, his loyalty (even though he would say he had none) and just everything about him. I wish I could take him out of the book so we could be friends, although I do not think I would be of use to him so he might not care to be my friend, ha!  Either way, I will miss being inside his head and in his world.  This quote is my favorite one from this book describing Kaz’s character:

“Everything is a negotiation with you, Brekker. You probably bartered your way out of the womb.” 

The ending of this book was nothing short of spectacular, it had everything I have come to expect from this world and many twists that kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it would all play out.  I will truly miss being with these characters and the ending was left open enough that Leigh could easily come back and add more to this world, and I sincerely hope she does.  This book may be classified as YA but it could (and should) be read by adults as well.  Very well written, great characters and great heists.  If you don’t like these books I will secretly judge you because they will forever be on my favorite lists.  Leigh Bardugo is an amazing writer and I will definitely be keeping an eye on her to see what she decides to write next.

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Book Review: Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

Unhooked.jpegTitle: Unhooked

Author: Lisa Maxwell

Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: February 2nd, 2016

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.

But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

Summary from Goodreads.com

My Review:  I picked this book up because I am a huge fan of Once Upon a Time and the way that Hook is portrayed on that show, so when I saw a book that also has a “Hook” that has redeeming qualities I was very excited.  The book starts out with Gwyn settling into a new place to live after her mother has uprooted her again.  She is trying to adjust to her nomadic life and not really doing very well with it.  I thought that the first couple of chapters moved very slowly and I found myself putting it down to go do other things quite a bit.  I know there needs to be some set-up for the plot, but this one just seemed to drag a little in the beginning.

One aspect in this book that I found intriguing were the two stories that were going on simultaneously.  At the beginning of every chapter there was a small snippet of a story being told about a boy and his brother.  I actually found myself much more interested in that story in the beginning then the story about Gwyn.  I knew the two would intersect at some point, and I really love how they did, but I did find myself wanting more of the tale of two brothers rather than what was going on with Gwyn at some points.  Following along that same line, the chapters were very short, which can be a good at times, but I felt like sometimes they would break at points in the story that did not make sense.  Many of the chapters could have been combined into larger ones that would have helped the story flow better.

As for the characters, I loved Rowan, he was a perfect Hook and I loved how he was portrayed.  I was picturing a younger Hook from Once Upon a Time most of the time when he would appear on the pages and the mystery that clung to him contributed to his appeal.  I wanted more of him throughout the novel and in the final chapters. I liked Gwyn most of the time, but she did get a little whiny at points and it would grate on my nerves.  I know she was thrust into a new world, but I felt like she needed just a little more backbone at some points and I would have loved her more.  Maxwell portrayed Pan very well, which made for an interesting twist on the whole Peter Pan tale.  I love a good retelling, but this was more a reimagining of the stories we know and love, which appealed to me even more.  So much so that I wanted more from the ending.  The climax was great, but the resolution of the story fell flat for me.  I wanted more pages to wrap up a couple of things, more time spent in Neverland exploring this strange world, or even another book.  I don’t think this tale was quite complete and since Maxwell has no plans as of now for a sequel I was left unsatisfied.

The book is classified as a Young Adult and while that did fit, I wish the boundaries had been pushed a little more to make this a New Adult or even and adult book.  The characters needed more room to push the boundaries and I felt like Maxwell needed to make it just a tad darker in some places to push the book from good to great.  There were also strange descriptors in Unhooked, such as “The green-gold scent of the jungle”.   The scent of green –gold?  Not really sure what that is supposed to smell like.  It was moments like that, that took me out of the story that I wish were more polished.

I know it sounds like I am being really hard on this book, but I did actually like it.  I just did not love it and I wanted to love it so badly!  It had everything I look for in a book, it just needed to be more.  I enjoyed the authors’ style and I will look for more of her work in the future, but I am not itching to get into a new book by her anytime soon.  I will always remain hopefully that there will be a sequel to Unhooked, maybe that will answer some of my questions and satisfy me with how Gwyn’s and Hook’s lives turned out.

 

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Book Review of The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Lost Prince

Author: Julie Kagawa

Release Date: October 23rd, 2012

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

Summary from Goodreads.com

My Review: Julie is own of those authors that I will automatically buy whenever she publishes a book. I fell head over heels in love with her Iron Fey (The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight) series and was ecstatic when I heard she was going to do a spin off series in that world.

In The Lost Prince we follow Ethan, Meghan’s brother, who is trying to get through life without drawing the attention of the Fey. The last time we saw Ethan, he was being rescued by Meghan and was very young. So seeing him now, as a teenager, was quite an adjustment. I think it was a brilliant way for Julie to keep us engaged in this world, because we really did have great resolution with Meghan’s story, but the world Julie created was too magical to not write about more. Ethan was a great character to spin off with considering he had a large role in how this series began. With his traumatic entrance into the world of the Fey, there is no way he would leave it unscathed and The Lost Prince explores that.

While Ethan does share similar characteristics with his sister, his dealings with the Fey and barely there sister, have left him with a harsh outlook on life. His friend Kenzie calls him on it:

“Anyway,” Kenzie continued, “we’re still on for that interview, right? You’re still planning on showing up, I hope. I’m dying to know what goes on in that broody head of yours.”

“I don’t brood.”

She snorted. “Tough guy, if brooding was a sport, you’d have gold medals with scowling faces lining the walls of your room.”

Who can blame the guy though? He has had a hard life and no one to talk to about it or vent out his frustrations. Even though he keeps everyone at arm’s length and feigns the “tough guy” attitude, he is lonely. I loved getting to know Meghan when she was on her journey and I enjoyed getting to know Ethan just as much. His sarcastic nature and quick wit had me laughing numerous times throughout the novel.

While he has been trying his hardest to stay out of Fey affairs, he get sucked back into it when a friend of his goes missing. He tries his hardest to keep a low profile, but cannot ignore all the strange things happening around him. Though he is not happy about it and comments about it to a familiar “friend”:

“Dammit, I don’t know why I’m here. Why am I here? I was hoping I’d never see this place again.”

“Please,” the cat said in that annoyingly superior voice, eyeing me over its leg. “Why are you even surprised, human? Your last name is Chase, after all. I was expecting your arrival any day now.”

As you can see, Julie did have some familiar characters make cameos in The Lost Prince and I was so thankful that we got to catch up on how life in Faery has progressed since we last visited. The book is still focused on Ethan, but the characters we have come to know and love still play a part in that and I appreciated Julie incorporating them into Ethan’s story. I thought I would miss all of them and not like Ethan as much, but the opposite was true. Julie nailed the male point of view and as a result Ethan really grew on me.

One of the secondary characters I was particularly interested in was Kierran. If you have read this series before, his name might look familiar with you. I was happy that he appeared on the page so many times and we got to know his character more. I was a little disappointed with some of his decisions towards the end, but I think those will make the next book very interesting.

As for the plot, something very strange is happening in Faery and there is not too much I can say without ruining the story. Julie has an amazing ability to come up with interesting and engaging stories that keep me glued to the pages and The Lost Prince is no exception.

The Lost Prince has a unique plot with memorable characters that will keep you coming back for more. The world Julie has created is mesmerizing and I enjoy every trip I take to Faery when I read one of her novels. I am looking forward to future books in this series and seeing where Ethan’s life will take him next.

FTC: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.