Archangel’s Viper (Guild Hunter #10) by Nalini Singh Review

This was relatively enjoyable. I liked Honor and while Venom has never been on my list of characters I like from this series, he was surprisingly likeable. Overall, I liked the relationship and I liked that they were more evenly matched than some of the other couples in this series.

My gripe is with the plot, the main plot was fine. A little bit of Uram which is threatening to overtake Honor was a good idea especially since I didn’t see it coming. I think a lot of readers expected the powers to be overtaking her since her body was not ready but that couldn’t be further from what ended up happening. My problem was the secondary plot, the fact that it turned out to be Charisemnon who was behind her kidnapping attempt or that it was linked to him felt too far fetched. All I could think of when I read the reveal was “really?” It felt off and contrived.

Archangel’s Viper, like its predecessor doesn’t really pull the larger plot further. In fact, the events in the two books take place simultaneously with each other. So now that’s two books with self-contained plots. Are we waiting for Lijuan to wake up? It would be a little unrealistic for her to wake up so soon after going to Sleep. And coming up with a new villain doesn’t make sense since Singh spent so much time building her up as the big bad, a new villain at this point will just feel half baked. I hope the next book is different in that regard. As it was Archangel’s Viper felt more like paranormal romance with a more heavy emphasis on romance.

I did like that Michaela continues to be a complicated and layered character and each passing book, adds a little bit more to her. It is the same for Neha who is not simply cruel the way Charisemnon is. She continues to be a warrior. If only she hadn’t been so blinded where own daughter was concerned. It was good to see Illium coming back to himself and seeing that he wasn’t very reasonable where Aodhan is concerned.

My one problem with Singh’s books continues to be the use of the Hindi words. It’s my mother tongue so one could say that I’m familiar with it. Her use of the words sounds really weird, like someone not used to speaking the language. And words like ‘jaanu’ made me cringe. Words like that are only ever used in the cheesiest of cheesy films. As for ‘bhai’ which means brother in Hindi, it would have been better to use to ‘bhaiya’ which is more commonly used for elder brother. It’s the little things like this that immediately pull me out of the story because it’s so jarring.

Archangel’s Viper is a fun addition to the series if not particularly memorable.

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Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicle #2) by Jay Kristoff Review

Where do I even begin with Godsgrave? To say that Jay Kristoff revels in the misery of his readers would be an understatement (and I mean that in the best sense possible). If Nevernight took me time to get used to the writing style and the world, I jumped right into Godsgrave and didn’t come up for air till I finished it. I tried pacing myself but it was virtually impossible.

I literally just finished the book and I’m reeling from it. The world is as rich as ever and the cast of characters keeps growing and most are people that you can’t help but root for and it’s a pity because, it’s a given that most will not survive the end. The pace in Godsgrave felt faster than the previous book’s and the scope of the book is also broader. While in Nevernight, the world was largely limited to the Ashkahi wastelands and the Red Church, Godsgrave goes beyond to the world outside, the rich cities of the Itreyan empire.

The world of The Nevernight Chronicles is heavily influenced by the Roman empire, towards the beginning of its downfall. There are riches to be found, both in terms of wealth as well as the beauty of the grand structures that are highlighted in the book. But there is also a deep rot in the system. A corruption that has gone long unnoticed and even thrived under the rulers. When Kristoff describes a beautiful structure, he undercuts its beauty by revealing who actually built it, the countless slaves with no alternative but to do as they’re told. It is one of the aspects I really enjoyed while reading Godsgrave.

In the previous book, Mia had to compete with other people her age to be accepted as an assassin for the Red Church. Godsgrave picks up a little after the events of Nevernight. Mia is an assassin and is being sent out to kill people and she’s really good at it. But as it happens, her life is headed in another direction. Just when she thinks that she has what she wants and can soon set her sights to those who wronged her and her family, she receives a setback. She learns that the Red Church isn’t what she thought it was leaving her disillusioned and with no idea what to do or who to trust. Her quest to handle things her own way with two surprising allies leads her to the gladiator matches. During much of Godsgrave, Mia spends her time training with the other gladiators and planning how to take down Duomo and Scaeva.

Like The Lotus Wars Trilogy, The Nevernight Chronicles also has a large number of characters and the list just keeps on growing. The gladiators were a fun bunch and I liked most of them so I knew immediately that things would not end well (I have learnt my lesson from the previous Kristoff books) Of the lot, I really liked Maggot, Bryn, Byern, Sidonius and Bladesinger. They were such an eclectic bunch and so much fun to read about. And yet, even the other gladiators weren’t just mindless fighters. They had hopes and dreams of winning their freedom. Even here, the rot of the empire was plainly evident. Many of the gladiators had been bought because their families had been unable to pay their debtors and the rest had been kidnapped by slavers, while a small percentage had been criminals who were good fighters. The person I liked least in Godsgrave was Furian, the undefeated gladiator from the same collegium. An idiot with a head full of superstition and false notions of honour. He was by far the most annoying character in the book, way more than the actual bad guys, Scaeva and Duomo. I even liked Leona, trying so hard to make her father pay for what he did to her and her mother, wanting to succeed in a field where women didn’t have a place and the odds rigged against them.

 

SPOILERS BEWARE!
One of the best moments of the book was when Ashlinn came back. She had been my favourite character in the previous book and it was the same in Godsgrave. I love her relationship with Mia and the fact that they came close enough to be their true selves with each other. Ashlinn was brave and single-minded in her quest to help Mia achieve her objective. And Ashlinn didn’t try to hide her feelings for Mia and never lied about them, always facing them head-on knowing that Mia might never forgive her for what happened to Tric. Her personality was sunny as always and it was fun to see her brand of lightness in an otherwise bleak and dark world. She always spoke her mind and didn’t let anyone brow-beat her. I love Ashlinn.

Mia, what can I say about her? She’s a strange mix of bloodthirsty and a fighter for those who can’t fight for themselves. We see these two sides of her warring with each other more and more as the series progresses. She wants to kill those who took her family from her but she also wants to help protect the weak and defenseless and the people who are important to her. I loved that she finally trusted Ash enough to open up to her.

I loved the way their relationship grew in Godsgrave. It was clear to anyone who had eyes that Ash liked Mia as more than a friend, even tried to protect her, seemingly at the cost of her own revenge against the Red Church. But at the time Mia was with Tric and didn’t pay much attention to Ash’s deeper feelings. But here, they wouldn’t be dismissed. And it was pleasant to see that it was a slow awakening for Mia, discovering her own sexuality. It was done well and Kristoff didn’t cut any corners here. Their relationship was one of the high-points of the book.  A note for book 3: there is a trope in media called bury your gays because more often than not, the gay/lesbian character dies and only serves to drive the protagonist back into the arms of the heterosexual love interest and I hope that doesn’t happen to Mia and Ash. They’ve both had such crappy lives that I want them to be happy in the end, happy together.

Now, for some theories. In the end, Ash sees Tric but I don’t think it’s Tric. It’s just a Shadow that’s taken his appearance. We know from that chapter about Mister Kindly and Eclipse, that the shapes they carry now are not what they had always carried and also that Mister Kindly was considered taking Mia’s father’s shape but decided against it because the shape of the kitten had been simpler to assume. I think this is the same Shadow that helped Mia when she was trying to escape after killing Gaius Aurelius. I think it’s the same thing but at the time it didn’t have a shape that would be familiar to Mia. Also, I think it heard Mia when she killed Furian and their shadows merged together, making her stronger. If this ShadowTric wants Mia to indeed to “seek the crown of the moon” then killing Ash doesn’t help forward that plan. If however it saves Ash from the Red Church, well then, that’s a different story.
END SPOILERS!

 

Godsgrave was every bit as thrilling as Nevernight and worse, it ends on a cliffhanger and I have no idea how to survive knowing that the third book is not even close to being finished? The wait will be agonising!

P.S. – the artwork in the B&N copies were beautiful and I was fortunate to get a copy with Jay Kristoff’s autograph on it! 😁

IT by Stephen King Review

I read this after I saw the film and I don’t often read horror books but decided to give this a shot. IT is a fairly long book which I wasn’t expecting and I started this when what I actually wanted to read was something light.. But I’m glad I chose this because it was exactly what I was looking for.

This is my first Stephen King book, though I’ve seen a number of adaptations based on his books (one of the most memorable being Misery) and had no idea what to expect from the book. It is worth noting that King goes into great detail in terms of the plot. For instance, if a character is narrating an incident, then King will go into great detail, writing about everything from the weather to the conversations and often a little bit of a backstory within the backstory. Which makes for a very vivid reading experience. He really allows the reader to visualise what’s happening. The atmosphere here was stifling more often than not and there was always an air of doom hanging about the characters.

I read a number of reviews that stated that the book was very scary and to be honest I wasn’t scared. It’s more creepy than scary and it was oppressive. The book is also non-linear which I wasn’t expecting. I thought it would be probably be broken into parts 1 and 2, instead it weaves back and forth between the past and the present. This works in the book’s favour because it allows the reader to see how the main characters have changed from when they were children. The main characters are remarkably well defined and Pennywise’s character is suitably creepy and unsettling and gives off a strong sense of malice.

There are a number of antagonists in the book besides Pennywise. People that inadvertently fall prey to IT’s malignant influence. Truthfully, it’s these people who are more scary than IT itself. Also, the adults in the book are such disappointments, from abusive to negligent.

My one big problem with the book however is the sexualization of Beverly, the lone girl in the group. It’s blatant and it’s there pretty much across the book. That was unnecessary. There is also a sex-scene which was also absolutely unnecessary and left a bad taste in the mouth. Her portrayal is extremely problematic and I am glad that the film-makers decided to change that.

It is not a perfect book and there are parts that are pretty problematic but it is a decent read.