The Winter King (Weathermages of Mystral #1) by C.L. Wilson Review

thewinterkingWow, this turned out to be such a gem, I didn’t expect to enjoy half as much as I did. I dropped another book before I picked this up because it was so slow that it felt like it was going nowhere, very slowly. I guess it helped that I had little to no expectations from The Winter King, but that’s not to say that it’s not a really fun read, far from it in fact.

The Winter King is a fairly predictable fantasy romance but it was done exceedingly well with amazing world-building and characters. The writing was straightforward which I appreciated, it was also in keeping with the two main characters since one was a warrior and the other was a wild-spirit at heart. It was also thoroughly engrossing and I found myself reading it well into the night. The best part about it was that it was just a really fun read coupled with a strong plot. My only complaint is that the end felt a little rushed especially the main fight at the climax. That would be my only grouse, well that and the fact that most of the men (even the good ones) seemed way too dense.

I especially liked the characters and the fact that even the protagonists were far from perfect.  Khamsim (Kham), the youngest princess of Summerlea, was headstrong, stubborn with a fierce temper but those qualities were tempered by intelligence and resilience. She was not easily intimidated. She was also loyal, once she decided where her loyalties lay, she was unmoved by threats and bribes. Having had a very difficult childhood, it would have been easy for her to be bitter, but she was far from that, even when faced with a choice most would have been horrified by, she went through it determined to look at the positive side.

Wynter (Wyn) was much the same. Having lost his parents to monsters and then his younger brother to one man’s blind ambition, as king of Wintercraig, the crown sat heavy on his head. He was just as stubborn and headstrong as Kham. He too had a wild temper but he was never cruel and he treated his men just as he would treat a courtier. He was also kind and thoughtful.

I actually liked the relationship between Kham and Wyn, it was as if they were two halves of a whole. Even when they barely knew each other, Wyn was considerate of Kham’s needs. He stood up for her and protected her. They got to know each other slowly and it was nice to see their relationship grow. Although, when it came to emotional involvement, Wyn was a whole lot more frustrating than Kham. His decision to keep his distance had me wanting to box his ears. For quite some time, he was blind to Kham’s loneliness and isolation. He failed to see that his courtiers took their cue from him and ignored her. As much as I liked Wyn, there were times when he drove me up the wall with his bad attitude. Add to that, neither of them spoke plainly with each other which certainly didn’t help matters. Having said that, there were little things that made the difference in their relationship. The small kindnesses and consideration they showed each other was what brought them closer.

Of the other characters, I loved Lady Galacia, the High Priestess of Wyrn, the primary deity for the people of Wintercraig. She was straightforward and one of the very few people to tell Wyn when he was being an ass. She wasn’t scared or intimidated by him. She was also one of the very few people who made an attempt at getting to know Kham and being civil to her. Then there was Tildy, the nursemaid who had brought up Kham since she was a child. Tildy was scared of no one and she loved Kham like her own daughter. The Seasons, Kham’s sisters were fine I suppose, I wish they had been more vocal of their love and support of Kham when she was still with them. They loved her but kept silent thus complicit in Kham’s abuse and isolation at the hands of their father, King Verdan. I also adored Krysti.

Now, onto the people I hated. First off, Valik. Never have I hated a character more than Valik especially considering that he was supposed to be one of the good guys. But his blind prejudice towards Kham and his refusal to even give her a chance grated on my nerves. He was responsible for Wyn keeping his distance because he kept telling him how untrustworthy Kham was and that she had probably put a spell on him. Ugh!!! I don’t words to describe just how much I hated him. Reika was another detestable character, she was like a snake and should have been gotten rid early on.

King Verdan the king of Summerlea and Kham’s father, he was also her tormentor and abused her unchecked. He was truly vile and I still can’t understand why Kham’s sisters didn’t do more to protect their sister from their father’s vicious temper. Then there was that one character who, for the longest time seemed like the epitome of an honourable man, but turned to be nothing more than a power-hungry maniac.

The Winter King was a fun read with an interesting world and well-written and layered characters. I loved every minute of it and now, I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series, though that probably won’t be out till sometime this year (2017) I didn’t just like The Winter King, it sucked me in right away and I could not stand to put it aside for even a little while. I loved it and can’t recommend it enough.

Advertisements

Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1) by Ilona Andrews Review

CSIt’s more like a 2 stars out of 5. Clean Sweep was a bit of a strange read for me. It wasn’t bad per se, but it seemed to lack something that I can’t quite put my finger on.

The world-building was excellent and I really liked some of the stuff Andrews did with regard to the Inn especially. Those bits were very interesting and I wanted to learn more about the Inns and the Inn Keepers. The writing was fast-paced and consistent if a little lacklustre. Even though things were happening at a an accelerated pace, there seemed to be a sense of suspense and tension that was missing. We knew who the chief antagonist was and we also knew that he was wily and a dangerous opponent and still there was a sense of apathy where I was concerned. I thought it was fine while I was in the thick of it, but having finished it, it didn’t really make much of an impression.

The characters were fine. I liked Dina, she was no-nonsense and did not take kindly to people ordering her around. She was also self-sufficient, independent and competent. She knew her powers, their limitations and her strengths and weaknesses.

Sean was fine too. Though I didn’t like him too much. I liked that he was an “alpha” and yet had no idea where he came from or what his powers meant. He was entirely clueless and it was a refreshing change.

Arland was fine too I guess (wow, can you sense my excitement?) I liked him a wee-bit more than Sean. As for the love-triangle, I don’t think there will be one. Sean is clearly the intended romantic lead. I also liked that the romance was on the back-burner in this, and instead let the characters develop independent of possible future romantic relationships. What little romance there was, also felt half-baked.

I did like Caldenia and her exceedingly dry sense of humour. I liked that she viewed everything as equally unimportant unless she was bored and chose to involve herself with whatever was going on. I wish we had seen more of her.

The writers said that the story developed as they posted each chapter on their website and people could comment and critique and the book does feel like it was written for the heck-of-it. Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh, but it just felt, meh.

Cast in Flight (Chronicles of Elantra #12) by Michelle Sagara Review

cifThe Chronicles of Elantra series is one of the few on-going series that I still greatly enjoy. I found Cast in Flight to be better than the previous instalment. While all the books in the series are somewhat dense, this time, I found the book to be more easily accessible.

Cast In Flight, like all the other books before it, focused on one character and its race. This time it was Moran and the Aerians. So far, Kaylin has had a very good opinion of the Aerians, almost idolizing them, which perhaps wasn’t fair to the Aerians themselves. Moran, on the other hand, was every bit as fascinating as I expected her to be. But more on that later.

This time we explored the world of the Aerians and learned a little bit more about the Outcast dragon. The Aerian Caste Court is just as muddled as the other Caste Courts and just as brutal, if not more so. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and the Caste Court was no exception. They were willing to kill a child in cold blood, because the position of her birth was inconvenient. With each passing book, the world of Elantra, becomes a little more rich and detailed. There were a few new characters as well and one of them is a very welcome addition to the ever-growing list.

The writing, like the previous books, is much the same, somewhat dense and long-winded. And while it can feel taxing and frustrating initially it doesn’t take long to get used to. And while the book may feel long, a lot of what’s on the page are Kaylin’s thoughts and her inner monologues which are always entertaining. She’s one of the few characters, who can have entire conversations with herself. But those glimpses into her thoughts are essential because the book is from her point of view.
Cast in Flight was also very eventful with something from the very beginning which is unusual for a Sagara book, since they usually take time to get going. This book was a thrilling ride and its end took me by surprise because I turned the page expecting another chapter and instead found myself looking at the credits page. I like all of the Chronicles of Elantra books but Cast in Flight was exceptional.

Kaylin is a lot like she was before. She is still routinely late to the Halls of Law, she still has to deal with an angry Leontine and her understanding of her familiar hasn’t become any clearer. Does that stop her from jumping into danger to protect those she cares about? No. At her core, Kaylin is a do-gooder and a protector. With every book, she is forced to confront her world-view, biases and prejudices and she always does. That’s what makes her so admirable. She is incredibly flawed but she recognises that as do the people closest to her. In fact, her flaws are what make her so important to those who care about her. They realise that her need to help is a deep-seated need and one that she can’t override. If it comes to saving the life of a person/character that she cares about, she does so without hesitation and often with little regard to her own life. Which is not to say that she is reckless. In fact, she tries very hard to stay away from trouble, it just always manages to find her.

Moran was the other main character in Cast in Flight. She is the sargeant at the Halls of Law. We have met her before a few times but those instances were short and she was never at the centre of those interactions. She is supposed to be a very important to her race, but since she has suffered nothing but pain and loss due to that position, she shuns it. But the events of Cast in Flight force her confront her position and Aerian Caste Court. I like her and her no-nonsense style and the fact that she remains fazed by most of Kaylin’s actions. She is someone who immediately sizes up a situation and addresses it as she sees fit. She can’t be bothered by politics and beating around the bush. She is direct and not cowed down. And for those who thought, they could intimidate her through threats and attempts on her life, they had another thing coming. The end with regard to Moran was so bittersweet and I did not expect that.

Some of my most favourite characters are present like Teela and Bellusdeo and they are just as entertaining as ever. I love that Kaylin is surrounded by so many strong and dynamic women and that these women are supportive and protective of each other even if they belong to different races. Both Teela and Bellusdeo hold important positions in their respective courts while also exercising their own agency. They are both fiercely independent and don’t really bother listening to or entertaining over-protective males.

As for Mandoran and Annarion, they were being their usual troublesome selves, or at least Mandoran was, Annarion was far better behaved. Mandoran is probably the most un-Barrani character there is while Annarion might not be Barrani anymore, but he is close to them in his behaviour. They are both extremely entertaining in their own way, although Mandoran is more fun.. Annarion is more prone to sulk.

Cast in Flight also gave an insight into Nightshade in his youth and I think that Kaylin would have liked this Nightshade. He was also very different from the other Barrani, someone who fought to get his brother back and never stopped looking. Nightshade will never be a ‘nice guy’ but I still can’t help but like him. He is an incredibly magnetic and fascinating character. Severn was his usual steadfast self. He is the one person who Kaylin can always depend on to understand her since they come from the same place and had much of the same experiences growing up.

Of the other characters making an appearance, there was the Hawklord or Lord Grammayre, Clint and Tanner. There was Evanton, who was grouchy as ever and Grethan. Margot got a quite a few pages and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was more to her as well.. Of the Dragons, the Arkon and the Emperor were also prominently present and we got a deeper look at the Emperor as well.

Cast in Flight was a lot of fun and it felt like it ended far too soon. It was fast-paced, thrilling and thoroughly engrossing. I was hooked to the book right from the start and Sagara did not disappoint in the slightest. This is one of the most consistent series I’ve read recently. Cast in Flight is a very welcome addition to this amazing series.

The Curse Giver by Dora Machado Review

1e875030a09856388db99708cd2ac1ebThe Curse Giver was an all-around surprise. I started reading it with no real expectations and I ended up thoroughly enjoying it.

The story itself is quite simple, the line of the House of Uras is under a deadly curse and to break the curse the heir must kill the woman bearing the Mark of the Goddess. But with time running out and another kingdom plotting an invasion, the stakes keep getting higher. As far as the main plot is concerned, it doesn’t sound too exciting. But what makes this book stand out from others like it are Dora Machado’s treatment of the story and the characters.

The Curse Giver is slightly long book (or at least it felt long) but it was never dull. There was constant progress where the plot was concerned and never a dull moment. The world-building was excellent made it easy for the reader to inhabit the world right alongside the characters. The pace of the narrative was consistent and while there were parts that were more exciting than others, the more peaceful parts also served as a respite from said excitement. The book was also narrated from multiple points-of-view, which I didn’t mind. The multiple POVs served to give a more complete picture of what was going on.

I especially loved the characters in The Curse Giver. All of them were complex and flawed which made them more compelling. Bren was the last remaining heir to the house of Uras and the Lord of Laonia. He had lost his father and all of his brothers to the curse and he knew that if he did not beat the curse, it would not only mean the end of his House but would also doom his people. While he was prone to brooding early on in the book, he slowly came to life with Lusielle. I liked his character because he wasn’t afraid of making tough choices and he was honourable. Treating his men and those around him with respect. He was also a fair man who kept his word. He protected Lusielle when everyone around him urged him to kill her.

Lusielle could not have had a more painful life. She had lost her parents and her house to a raging fire, been married to an abusive brute who betrayed her, she was tortured and then was almost burned at the stake. All of this however did not break her spirit. She is probably the most resilient female character I’ve come across in a while. Even after she meets Bren, she is far from safe. She gets in so much trouble that I often wondered if she were the who was cursed and not Bren. And the most frustrating part of it was that she didn’t get in trouble because she was careless. I actually loved how resilient she was. She never gave up even when it seemed that there was no way out. She was intelligent, sharp, brave and bold, coming up with plans that didn’t even occur to the those around her and then executing them. She was decisive did not let anyone bully or intimidate her. She was also fiercely independent and excellent at what she did, Bren needed her more than she needed him.

The relationship between Lusielle and Bren was born out of necessity and then developed into love. It was a long road and a bumpy ride. But with Bren vowing to keep her safe and Lusielle’s own refusal to give up on him, they were tied together. They were also more alike than they initially realised. They had both had incredibly hard lives and they were both resilient. I loved that Lusielle did not let Bren keep her from what she wanted to do. More often than not, she was the one who saved Bren and kept him safe which was an interesting role reversal.

There was also a somewhat wide net of secondary characters and I liked most of them. Severo, Carfu and Elfu were among those I liked almost immediately. Hato, on the other hand, I didn’t like initially, he seemed too hell-bent on killing Lusielle and refused to believe that she wanted to help Bren.

The women in The Curse Giver were especially well-written. All of them were flawed but also so well realised. They were intelligent, complex and capable women and it was rare so many of them in one book. From Lusielle herself to Eleanor, Tatyane, Khalia and Ernilda, they were all amazing women. They were none of them what they appeared to be.

The antagonists were also especially vile from King Riva to Orell and especially that sorry excuse of a man, Aponte Rummins. They were awful and I was not sorry to see them get what they deserved.

The Curse Giver was an excellent read, full of twists and turns and some truly incredible characters. I was hooked from the very beginning and could hardly bring myself to stop reading. It was thoroughly engrossing from start to finish. If you like well-written characters and especially amazing female characters, this is a must-read.

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst Review

cb3_rh5ueaa6hhbOf Fire and Stars was a bit of a hit and miss. There were parts of it that I really enjoyed and then there were some that had me looking for an alternative to read, which is not to say that it was a bad book, but that it could have been better. Having said that, for a debut novel, it was a decent read, I am curious enough that I want to read other books by Audrey Coulthurst.

Of Fire and Stars follows two girls, Denna and Mare. Denna is betrothed to the prince of the Mynaria, Prince Thandimillion (Thandi) and Mare is his sister. Mare is disparaged at court because she refuses to play by the rules set by those in power. When Mare is ordered to give Denna lessons in horse-riding, these two very different girls are stuck together. Meanwhile, there is unrest brewing in the kingdom of Mynaria and things are at a tipping point with an unseen foe who seems to be targeting the royal family.

In terms of plot, there was quite of bit that was happening and the plot itself was pretty well written. My primary complaint was that the book itself could have been shorter because there were parts in the book where nothing seemed to be happening to the extent that the plot progression ground to a halt. Which was frustrating. On the other hand, I did like the way the romance was handled here, it was a slow burn and developed organically. You could see the attitude of the two girls changing slowly as they went from reluctant acquaintances to people who genuinely trusted and loved one another. The world-building was also fairly good and I would have liked to see more of this world.

Denna was the younger princess of Havemont, betrothed to the prince of Mynaria since she was a child, someone she had never met. In a new kingdom, surrounded by people she did not know, Denna was truly alone. It was easy to see why she would have gravitated towards someone like Mare who seemed so in-control of her own life. Denna was someone who was taught to do her duty above everything else and that was a hard lesson to shake and it almost cost her own happiness. She had a core of strength, she was brave and intelligent. I liked that she was an avid reader and more often than not, she had the right idea or a more probably theory that the others had missed

Then there was Mare, I loved her instantly. Mare and Denna could not have been more different. Where Denna was quiet and restrained, Mare was brash and loud. Since she would never wear the mantle of queen, she was more or less free to do as she pleased. I loved that she refused to be controlled by her father and the directorate that she wanted to live her life on her terms. She did not care what others thought of her, she had given up looking for praise from her father and brother since all they could do was dismiss her or insult her. She was strong, capable, intelligent and brave. She was also secure enough to realise when she needed help and she asked for it.

I suppose the best part of the book was the relationship between Denna and Mare. It was so well done. Their relationship changed over the course of time and it did take time, there was no insta-love here which was such a pleasant change. They bloomed when they were with each other becoming who they really were because they could be honest and upfront, trusting the other person to understand them. And best of all, they communicated which is so exceedingly rare especially in YA heterosexual romances. And it was not all smooth sailing, there were hurdles, the fact that Denna was promised to Thandi, Mare’s brother. And that the sense of duty was so strongly ingrained in Denna, that it was frustrating for both the reader and Mare to see that she truly loved Mare and yet still on track to marry Thandi. I could see why that would be hard for Denna. But it was also easy to understand her actions, the treaty between their kingdoms was bigger than both Denna and Mare and she could not jeopardise that.

There were a a few other characters that I really liked like Casmiel, Nils and Elleani (I have the spelling is wrong) Casmiel saw Mare as capable and intelligent and was the only other person (apart from Nils) who understood her. Nils was Mare’s best friend and it was such a rewarding relationship to see, the fact that Nils trusted Mare and while he did care for her and wanted to protect her, he never tried to stop her from doing anything. He knew when she needed him and when she needed space. I loved Nils! Then there was Ellaeni (pretty sure I’m getting the spelling wrong) who became one of the only friends Denna had in Mynaria. She was quiet and yet different from the other young women at court because she did not have an agenda. She was just as lonely as Denna. I liked that even at the end, when everyone had turned away from Denna, she stood by her and gave her support.

Honourable mentions for Thandi and Lord Kriantz. Thandi was the most annoying character in the entire book. He was entitled and self-obsessed and refused to see anything that did not align with his own ideas and beliefs. I never trusted Lord Kriantz, even in the beginning when he struck up a conversation with Mare, there was something fishy about him. He said the right things but for some reason they rang false. He was too good to be true.

Of Fire and Stars was a decent read but a tad too long. Had it been slightly shorter, it would have been better with a tighter plot. But as a debut novel, it was pretty good. If you’re looking for a romance done well, I would strongly recommend this.