Book Review: Throne of Glass

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Yes, I’m just now reading this book. 😛 I was very late to the Sarah J. Maas train, only discovering her books after the publication of A Court of Mist and Fury. I was intrigued by reviews I saw of THAT book, and on the strength of those alone I read A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first in that series (which I wasn’t entirely on board with but then there was a horribly cliffhanger ending sooooo) quickly followed by ACOMAF, and I’ve been obsessed with the series ever since. Naturally I wanted to read her original series as well, but to be honest I’ve been a little scared. What if I don’t like it as much? What if I just think it’s crap compared to ACOTAR? Such high expectations. Honestly though, I was kind of braced to not like it, as everyone kept saying (as with ACOTAR) not to judge the entire series off the first book. So, SJM, I love you, but something about your first book game isn’t quite meshing with me…or maybe I just take a long time to fully commit to characters. Hrm. Anywho.

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This is my Treat choice for the Halloween Read-A-Thon!

I have done my best to avoid spoilers and there are definitely no plot spoilers! However if you don’t want to know ANYTHING about the characters you might not want to read.

Throne of Glass launches us into what promises to be an epic fantasy adventure. I love the way we’re immediately thrown in with Celaena in a dangerous, scary situation because I, naturally, want to know HOW THE FUCK she ended up there. Also how she can seem to be so young and yet so skilled, so brutal…and yet so obsessed with frilly dresses.

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Both of these are totally Celaena. I’m still not sure how she does it or why, especially as she even notes that all the layers of skirts hamper her fighting skills. Only somehow she doesn’t seem to get caught in particularly bad situations while all dolled up. Hmm.

The forest was different here. The leaves dangled like jewels – tiny droplets of ruby, pearl, topaz, amethyst, emerald, and garnet; and a carpet of such riches coated the forest floor around them. Despite the ravages of conquest, this part of Oakwald Forest remained untouched. It still echoed with the remnants of the power that had once given these trees such unnatural beauty.

Maas has created a beautiful world that is by turns thrilling, intriguing, and terrifying. I would like to visit, but retain the option to return to my own world with the push of a button. 😛 Because Cain and those demon things were scary AF, and the king gives me nasty chills. I want to know all about it though, and I feel like there is SO MUCH that still needs explaining. Where did the current King of Adarlan come from? What happened to Celaena’s family and why? Why is Dorian so very unlike his father? Who is Chaol, really? How did the magic of Adarlan just…die? Where did the Faery people go?

The plot really moves along at a good clip. I loved the constant suspense of waiting for each new test of the Champions, and seeing who would be eliminated or die trying. I also really enjoyed the continuous building of tension in the court, as Celaena tries over and over to piece things together as she gains new information.  It all flows smoothly leading up to the final duel…except that Kaltain’s part seemed rather forced and contrived, to me…of course there is someone like her in EVERY court (usually several), but it was just very convenient and felt a bit out of place.  Maybe part of that was due to the influences on her, I’m not sure.

There are a couple of tropes here, and I spotted them almost as soon as the book started. I took notes as I rolled my eyes around page 47. Verbatim: “Celaena is naturally the most gorgeous woman at court, both the captain and prince will fall in love with her, and the prince is possibly/probably not the prince at all.” I was slightly annoyed.

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Not this AGAIN.

HOWEVER. The love triangle was handled much better than a lot that I’ve seen, and the special snowflake turned out to be a special snowflake through much hard work, not just being born to it. Why does she have to be so gorgeous that practically every man falls at her feet? With the exception of the other Champions, thank the gods that be. But the constant references to her beauty in the first part of the book were really annoying. Blah. The love triangle was slow in the build-up, and if I hadn’t already seen so many memes and fangirl sites over ToG I might not have been so sure about it early on (thanks, interwebz), but I still feel like it was pretty obvious.

As I’ve said many times, characters are what really make a book for me. This one is STUFFED FULL of wonderful amazing people that I want to go live with. They are flawed – each and every one of them. They do annoying things that make me want to choke them. (Chaol, anyone?) They also have pasts that I am DYING to find out about because they are such strong people but they have scars and tender spots that show through now and again and yet NO. Apparently I must wait for the next book (which, not to worry, has already been requested from the library).

“Second place is a nice title for the first loser.”

Ah, Celaena, our heroine. Despite her annoyingly perfect body and face (even with her time in the mines and the abuse to the rest of her body, her face was somehow left alone), she’s definitely someone I’d want in my corner. She’s got a backbone of steel, a quick mind, and…well, she’s The Assassin. She’s been hurt, and horribly. But she hasn’t entirely hardened herself again the entire world yet. She is, however, a badass with a flair for the dramatic, and she likes attention.

“My name is Celaena Sardothien. But it makes no difference if my name’s Celaena or Lillian or Bitch, because I’d still beat you, no matter what you call me.”

Also, she loves books and good food. Seriously, the descriptions of the library in Rifthold made me feel lightheaded and all delicious food she was forever gobbling down kept me feeling hungry. Thankyounotreally.

 “I can survive well enough on my own— if given the proper reading material.”

Girl after my own heart, I’m telling you. Such a fighting and adventurous spirit – and yet she loves books.

She had often wished for adventure, for old spells and wicked kings. But she hadn’t realized it would be like this – a fight for her freedom. And she’d always imagined that there’d be someone to help her – a loyal friend or a one-armed soldier or something. She hadn’t imagined she would be so…alone.

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No, they’re not brothers, but they might as well be.

Dorian and Chaol – best friends consisting of the crown princeling and captain of the guard – are…well, they’re just sweethearts and good guys. Dorian more openly so. Chaol is, to be honest, something of an ass, but underneath it is a soft heart that shows through from time to time and I just want him to be able to open up and trust SOMEBODY. Geez Louise, but the man seems to wear his tough guy armor 24/7 . Dorian, on the other hand, needs to grow a pair (he’s working on it, I know I know but come ON). I am solidly team Chaol, at the moment. Also, not going to spoil for anyone that hasn’t read it but…Celaena NAILED IT towards the end of the book, when dealing with these two. HATS OFF. YOU GO GIRLFRIEND. Now that, took guts.

Oh, but back to other characters. There is of course Princess Nehemiah, who is very intriguing indeed and has me dying of curiosity about her country and magic and all the sparkly creepy things she seems to know about. I’m sure we will see more of her. There’s also Nox, who I’m NOT sure we will see more of but I hope we do. The most intriguing side character by FAR though, is Elena…who I can’t really discuss without giving stuffs away. Mph.

“You could be great. You could rattle the stars. You could do anything if only you dared.”

SO MUCH POTENTIAL IN THIS BOOK. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Now that the competition is over but ALL the dastardly schemes are just getting started.

That said, I’m giving 3.5/5 stars. It definitely got better as the story progressed, but I did a lot of eye-rolling during the set-up, and still feel like the love triangle itself was/is unnecessary, even if the characters are definitely not. Also I’m still not sure on the prince thing, nothing else ever happens to make us think that Dorian isn’t the prince, but for some reason it’s still in the back of my mind.

 

 

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Book Review: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

This cover is horrible. Seriously, when I saw it, I thought the book was published in the 80s. WHAT WAS YOUR GRAPHIC ARTIST THINKING, YO.

This cover is horrible. Seriously, when I saw it, I thought the book was published in the 80s. WHAT WAS YOUR GRAPHIC ARTIST THINKING, YO.

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.

This book was recommended to me by one of my oh-so-awesome penpals (no, WordPress, I do NOT mean pencils…as I’ve spent 5 minutes trying to give a cease and desist letter to your autocorrect)! I’ve been on a real fantasy kick lately and she provided some spot-on recs…like Sabriel.

I was instantly doubtful of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic. However, I am happy to report that the actual reading improved the impression I had drawn based on the cover (gag) and title (odd). Overall I’m giving it 3.5 stars…I am leaning towards 4, but…the sheer length of it is taking a half star off for me. I don’t mind longer books, as I read faster than average…but honestly this one could have been edited a little better, starting with less scenes of boring medieval castle chores. The writing itself is of excellent quality, I have no complaints whatsoever! Emily Barker has created a colorful world peopled with interesting characters. I finished it in about 3 days, despite the staggering 570 pages!

 

I’m a sucker for any books that have to do with books or bookish people, and Nora’s grad school/literary critic/teacher occupation intrigued me. Her personal life woes in the beginning are oh-so-very first world, but thankfully we don’t spend much time with that before she goes wandering and plunges headlong into the other world. The first, oh, about 60 pages…I felt like I was drunk and wandering around trying to figure out what was going on. At first I was extremely annoyed and though I wouldn’t be able to finish the book, but then as I kept going I realized that the feeling was intentional, to make us feel how Nora feels when she first enters the alternate world. Well done indeed. Maybe keep it to 40 pages next time though. 😉

The world she enters has a deep history and so many interesting characters – most of which are MUCH more interesting than Nora herself. There are stories within stories – both in the form of sub-plots, and actual stories characters are telling. I loved that part. I absolutely despised Aruendiel until the last 100 pages or so, but his story was just so DAMN INTERESTING I had to keep reading. So much intrigue – and so much innuendo and crimes hinted at but not fully explained. Which, I suppose, is quite in keeping with the medieval type society depicted. Oh…don’t even get me STARTED on all the patriarchal nonsense that Nora has to put up with. I did really like that she was constantly resisting all that malarky, even when it was shoved on her day in and day out.

The overarching conflict was very long in coming to its conclusion (see comments on editing). I could have done with a few more fight scenes. If the tempo of the last 200 pages had been over the majority of the book, it would have definitely been 4 solid stars. Emily Barker has, thankfully, avoided the dreaded tropes of either a love triangle or a special snowflake. Nora is underwhelmingly average, as she is frequently reminded. I can really appreciate that after so many books lately just chock-full of ALL THE SPECIALNESS.

Just when I thought the ending was resolving itself…oh, haha, nope just kidding! We’re left hanging by a thread and while part of the conflict was resolved we never find out what happens to some of the main characters. *flail* This is so unfair! Especially since there is no hard and fast date for a sequel. *cries* I. Must. Know. I actually checked my book to make sure no one had torn out the last chapter (I had a library copy). Nope. Just a massive cliffhanger. I will definitely be looking at for the next one, even if from the sounds of the author comments on GoodReads, it might be a long time in coming.

Mini Review: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

This is the first of my Halloween/October reads! Stay tuned for more. 😀

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is such an iconic piece of literature, I was really surprised to recall that I hadn’t read the actual story (Cliffnotes…ahem)! It’s talked about so much, and everyone knows about the Headless Horseman. Since it’s almost Halloween, it seemed like the perfect time to go through some classics that have escaped me.

Obviously, this is an older work, and as such the style is very different from what modern readers now expect. I was prepared for that (and for the derogatory terms used). However, I was still expecting a creepy, hair-raising tale…and honestly, was a bit disappointed. The lead up was great! Ichabod is SO ripe to be scared out of his wits, whether by normal or supernatural means…but nothing really happens.

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It seems that nothing too horrible went on, that maybe it was after all just a joke. The best part of course is the slight feeling of “what if…” we are left with, and the locale that Irving has built up. His descriptions of the place, the stories of hauntings, and the general feelings of creepiness for the place that he gives us are worth far more than the actual main incident (which is astonishingly short, even given the short story form). Yawn.

3/5 stars. It was okay, but I was expecting better. Was this really THAT creepy when it was first published? I wonder.

Mini Book Review: Sabriel

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Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this book knowing pretty much nothing at all about it. It was recommended by a good friend who generally has good (i.e., similar to mine :D) tastes, so I felt good about picking it up! Funny enough, outside of Lord of the Rings, it’s the oldest fantasy I’ve read. Which, I know I know, is hilarious, because it’s only 20 years old. Haha. Fantasy isn’t typically my gig, okay? Though lately I’m enjoying it more and more. Anyway!

My favorite part of this novel was the collision of old world and new – the archaic, medieval world “across the Wall,” and the more modern, WWII type world on the other side. The world (or worlds, I guess, even though they are definitely interconnected) is very layered and complex. Color me intrigued. Intrigued enough to keep reading, even when I felt the characters were kind of flat. Sabriel, god love her, was just…eh. Touchstone was slightly more interesting but also…eh. Mogget was definitely the most interesting character of the entire book. I…well, I’m not sure what I feel about Mogget! I want to love Mogget, but I’m kind of afraid to because…what is Mogget? As it is, the chain of events, piling sinister and weird on top of each other, was enough to keep me reading. Characters are, honestly, the biggest draw of a book for me. To not be totally in love with these was kind of a downer. They’re sympathetic, don’t get me wrong! Just kind of two-dimensional. Also, the romance? Better left out entirely than the way it was just thrown on top like too-stiff frosting. It could have been written so much better. That’s really the only complaint I had about the writing though. The world descriptions were fabulous. I could see the gown Sabriel wore, could hear the winds behind the Paperwing and see its yellow eyes. I’ll definitely be continuing with the series.

Posting will probably be rather sporadic this week and next. I had to work part of the weekend, hence the lack of a Something Else Sunday post. And, I’ll have weird hours all the next two weeks. However! Next up reviews are (covers link to GoodReads):

Aiming for at least 2 of these this week.