Flame in the Mist

flame in the mist

Flame in the Mist (#1)

by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Published May 16, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb

Review

Mariko is betrothed to the Emperor’s son, the spare, and although she doesn’t want to she  agrees for the sake of family (remember this important detail-sake of family).  On her way, Mariko’s convoy is set ablaze killing everyone except Mariko and as she barely escapes she hears the murderer’s but doesn’t see them. HELL bent on finding the murderers, Mariko suspects the infamous Black Clan and she infiltrates the Clan to see if they are the culprits.

Kershnin, Mariko’s twin brother, investigates the crime scene and concludes that Mariko is not dead and sets on a journey to find her and the murderers.  While everyone suspects the Black Clan, Kershnin knows the Clan does not attack women so he’s keeping an open mind thus setting up doubt for the reader.

Meanwhile, Mariko cuts off her hair and poses as a boy while she “interns” with the Clan.  She eats eggs, learns how to fight with a sword for a couple of weeks, and waxes poetic as she rides to the tea house with her new compadres.  She meets some good guys and some bad guys and alas, she meets what I called and what Ahdieh LOVES to do; a villain with a heart of gold.  In true Ahdieh form, she waffles between her love for the man and her duty to her family.  She constantly reminds herself to be strong and brave yet she continues to make the wrong choice until an unlikely person sets her straight (that I saw coming a MILE away).

Another meanwhile, the emperor is a bastard and also has a consort whom he fathered his first son (the son Mariko is betrothed to) and the consort and the empress do not like each other.  The consort has some pretty cool magical powers but it’s buried in the plot and not explained.  The two ladies have agendas of their own but once again they are not explained leaving the reader like WTF?

I can’t talk about the end because it’s a spoiler but I’ll just say this.  The main plot of the story, Mariko’s motive which she reminds us constantly is to find out who the murderers are and why, is not only unresolved but the plot shifts in the last act of the novel.  I understand cliffhangers but I think the main plot should have some resolution and not just a set up for the next book.  If you want to read my spoiler edition, click here.

Overall, I was VERY generous with this book as it met many of the things I hate about YA fantasy. (You can listen to the podcast below). I gave it 3 bombs instead of 2 because I was kind of enjoying it until the last 80 pages when Mariko’s actions were UNBELIEVABLE.  Up until then I was overlooking the many small details that I found troublesome.

I like Renee. I’ve met her and she’s a lovely person but this is the second book of hers that I’ve read and I do not like her writing style.  I don’t like the 3rd person alternative POV because her main character is often a waffler who lives in her head and unfortunately she’s usually to most non dynamic in the entire novel.  Ahdieh has no confidence in the reader and instead of inferring actions, she tells the reader everything.  She also does too much telling and not enough showing.  I liked the setting and the history lesson but the writing just isn’t strong enough for me.

Below you can listen to Roulette Reader and my podcast of Flame in the Mist.

Podcast of 10 Things We Hate About YA Fantasy

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Jane Unlimited

jane unlimited

Jane Unlimited

By Kristin Cashore

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: DNF at page 121

Overview

Jane is alone and aimless after her aunt died on an Antarctica Expedition when an old friend visits her at work and invites her to stay with her family for the Spring gala.  On the promise of her aunt to accept any invite from the Thrash family to their estate, the Tu Reviens, Jane packs her bags to visit the peculiar cast of characters including the family dog.  After one evening, Jane discovers a mysterious bank heist, forged art, and the disappearance of the mistress of the house.

The first 90 pages sets up the extensive cast of characters and the mysteries surrounding them.  The subsequent pages shows Jane tackling the aforementioned issues.  This novel is similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books; you can literally choose which topic Jane decides to investigate.

Although I think Cashore is a wonderful writer and Jane Unlimited had intriguing characters, I could not get into the novel.  I made it though the set up and I started to lose interest especially in the art forgery portion.  I don’t know anything about art nor do I care so I decided to skip this adventure and choose the bank heist.  The second adventure, however, also included the art forgery story and I just couldn’t feign interest.  I also thought there were too many characters (15) and many of them were unbelievably eccentric and they all had their own story-it was just too much.

Finally, I don’t think this is YA.  All of the characters are college aged or older.  I don’t know who to give this book to.

I LOVED the Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a kid so therefore I thought the premise was good.  Although the writing was pretty great, I just couldn’t get into the plot.

Face Like Glass

face like glass

Face Like Glass

By Frances Hardinge

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 10, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

Seven years ago Neverfell was discovered hiding in the cheese tunnels of Master Cheesemaker Grandible.  Grandible knew she was different simply by looking at her face and he decides to keep her hidden from the rest of the citizens in Caverna but one day, Neverfell gets out.

While wandering through the underground city in her mask Grandible makes her wear, Neverfell meets Zouelle and decides that Zouelle is her best friend.  Zouelle sees a gullible little girl and uses Neverfell to infiltrate the house of the Facesmith only be caught without her mask–OH NO, WHAT DOES SHE LOOK LIKE? IS SHE AS UGLY AS SHE THINKS? Nope, Neverfell just has a face like you and me-she has a variety of expressions while Cavernans have to learn different facial expressions.

Neverfell is immediately arrested and becomes the subject of suspicion because her face is like glass or you can see true feeling by looking at her.  Neverfell doesn’t remember where she came from but someone does and they are trying to kill her.  A master winesmith adopts Neverfell to save her and gives her wine to hopefully job her memory but it doesn’t work.

Meanwhile, there’s the Klemptomancer who steals important items thus pissing off the Grand Stewart-the king.  Neverfell gets herself into another jam, she has to survive a series of tests, and she ultimately becomes the Grand Stewarts taste tester because everyone is trying to kill everyone in Caverna.  As Neverfell works for the Grand Stewart, she become curious about her background and begins to do research which often lands her into some sticky situations.

Face Like Glass is all about world building and the underground world of Caverna is fascinating. Babies are born without facial expressions; the Court will do anything to gain favor of the Grand Stewart; there are Cartographers who will make anyone insane if you talk to them longer than five minutes; and on and on.  All of the characters were great in their own way, it had moments of humor, and I really craved cheese and wine while reading it. There were no tropes or silly romances. The world building is by far the best thing about the book and the reason for the rating.  The plot on the other hand…

 This book jumps all over the place. I thought I had it figured out at least five times and every time I was wrong.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it was frustrating.  The reason for the low rating is Neverfell and the length.  Neverfell was a good character but she lived in isolation in a cave for seven years yet she’s smart enough to beat everyone at their own game? She does spend her time reading and she’s quite the engineer but COME ON! My biggest problem was the 488 page number.  Hardinge tends to take pages to make one simple point thus making this book 100 pages too long.

The Lie Tree was by far Hardinge’s best book and I realize it’s because it’s her latest book meaning that she’s either grown or has hired a better editor.  If it’s the latter, for the love of rainbows please keep this editor because A Face Like Glass needed someone to tighten it up.

If you like an acid-trippy fantasy with a lot of colorful characters and a vivid world building, then pick this up today.

Traitor’s Kiss

traitor's kiss

Traitor’s Kiss (Traitor’s Trilogy #1)

By Erin Beaty

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

Sage is close to the marrying age but she doesn’t want to be married off to a man she’s never met just for politics.  She expects her uncle to return with news of an apprenticeship  but of course that doesn’t happen and she learns she must visit the matchmaker to see if she’s marriage material. At first she relents, but good old Sage tells the matchmaker to suck it and she’s thrown out.  Seeing Sage’s potential, the matchmaker asks Sage to be her apprentice and she gladly accepts since no man will ever marry a skinny plain girl.

The cotillion season is coming up and all the young ladies in the land are made up; sucked and tucked; and suited and booted and Sage’s job is to get to know the guys and gals to make the perfect matches.  Meanwhile there’s a potential plot to over throw the king and Captain Quinn and his band of hot ass soldiers must use the cotillion season to get close and to eliminate the threat.  Did that transition in story give you whiplash? Well grab your neck brace because this is how to book is organized.

Captain Quinn sends his hottest soldier, Ash, to do some super spy work and quickly realizes that Sage is kind of a good spy? So he enlists Sage to babysit his younger brother. Sage is an orphan whose deceased father was a jack of all trades so of course Sage knows everything from water contamination to behaviors of birds and of course this 16-year-old who’s been a tutor for the past four years helps them foil the plan to over throw the king.  I forgot to mention that Sage conveniently received one day of combat training just in time to use it.

Everything about Traitor’s Kiss was oddly paced. The romance was comical in several situations and the villain and his plot was an afterthought to the romance.  This novel started off well but it began to fall apart a third of the way in.  If you want an AMAZING romance with deceit, I HIGHLY suggest The Kiss of Deception Series by Mary E. Pearson, The Winners Curse Series by Marie Rutkoski or Wolf by Wolf Series by Ryan Graudin.

Podcast Review

Hunted

hunted

Hunted

By: Meagan Spooner

Genre: Fantasy/Beauty and the Beast Retelling

Expected Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2

I received this ARC from Harper Collins at ALAMW

Yeva, or Beauty as her father calls her, is the youngest of three daughters of a merchant. Yeva is tired of sitting around with the baroness circle of ladies and would rather be hunting and when her father loses his fortune and must return to the woods, Yeva is ready to help the family. When her father doesn’t return from a hunting trip, Yeva searches the snow clad forest only to be captured by a beast.

I know the basic story of Beauty and the Beast but I’ve never seen the Disney movie (don’t judge me) so I did have to Wikipedia the story to familiarize myself with the plot.

This is the first book I’ve read by Spooner.  I didn’t finish These Broken Stars because something else came along and I didn’t go back.  I think Spooner is a very vivid writer and she captures loss and grief quite well. But I had some issues.

Hunted moves quite fast as far as story development.  Yeva’s family is quite wealthy with servants in one chapter and in the next they are destitute.  I know Yeva is bored with the social scene but she’s totally fine with being suddenly poor and in fact she favors it.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with this but many people would have some sort of selfish opinions and none of Yeva’s family does, including her father.

Hunted is only 374 pages and it was both too long and not long enough.  The middle bits were consumed with Yeva’s hatred/non-hatred of the beast because he killed her father and she constantly waffles.  I know Spooner was setting up a romance and Yeva should suffer this internal conflict, I just wish Spooner had have found a way to convey that without repetition.

There was a lack of character development.  The father loves his family and he seems to have it together but he quickly becomes obsessed with hunting the beast and turns mental.  This happens too quickly to be believable.  The sisters, the love interest, and the servant, Albe, were underdeveloped.  I honestly don’t know the purpose of Albe and Solmir, the love interest, was a basic plot device-Yeva would rather be a hunter than a wife.  With the exception of Beauty and the Beast, none of the other characters drove the plot and if they weren’t in the book it wouldn’t have impacted the story.

The beast has an agenda and you nor Yeva knows what it is until the last 20 pages.  Meanwhile, the forest was magical which was very interesting but once again it was underdeveloped. The ending was too quick-Yeva found the answer in two pages.

I liked the weaving of Vasalisa the Beautiful and how Yeva questioned the traditional fairy tale.  I also liked that Yeva didn’t question a talking beast and a magic forest because she’s obviously in a fairy tale-duh.  Spooner has potential to write an epic fantasy but the story was too rushed and too predictable.

Strange the Dreamer

strange-the-dreamer

Strange the Dreamer

By: Laini Taylor

Expected Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Genre: Fantasy

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Review

Lazlo Strange is a dreamer and he has been ever since he was found parentless and raised by monks.  Fueled by stories from a cantankerous monk, Lazlo pretends he’s a warrior from a fairy tale city named Weep.  Determined to find this city, Lazlo becomes a librarian apprentice and studies hard until he gets his chance to visit the doomed Weep.

If you are looking for a light fun filled fantasy, Strange the Dreamer is NOT for you.  This book is not only dense with LOTS of information, it is dark and is quite metaphorical and jam packed with vivid imagery and beautiful prose.  Taylor has written a new world complete with many characters, myths and beasts so get your pencils ready to keep up.

Strange the Dreamer is told in 3rd person and centers mostly around Lazlo Strange and Sarai.  I won’t say who Sarai is because it is a spoiler and the exciting part is discovering who she is as the story progresses.  Taylor plays mind games with the reader because I am used to a clear villain and a clear hero but in Strange the Dreamer, these lines are blurred.  This is story about war and revenge and the greater good.

It’s very difficult to review this book in detail because I don’t want to spoil anything.  What I liked about this book is that Taylor took her time to develop the world and to explain the conflict. If you read the Smoke and Bone series, you know that Taylor likes to through curveballs.  Strange the Dreamer is multi-themed, has strong characters, and is often sad.

My only issue is the length-560 pages.  I have read longer books but every scene had a purpose to the plot and I felt 90% of this book was purposeful to the plot.  Taylor has the gift of conveying a message in a paragraph but I felt there were instances when she took several chapters to say something that could have been done in two pages.  The length was the reason this book wasn’t a 5/5.

Spoiler Edition of Strange The Dreamer

Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

wintersong

Wintersong

By: S. Jae Jones

Genre: Fantasy/Reimagination

Expected Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

You can listen to our podcast or read the review.

Review

Wintersong is a loose reimagination of the 1986 film Labyrinth starring David Bowie.  I have not seen the movie so I cannot comment any further.

Liesl, the plain sister, is our main heroine who permanently lives in the shadow of her attractive younger sister and a musically gifted even younger brother and she constantly reminds you just in case you forgot.  Liesl’s father is a drunk leaving the mother to be the bread winner and Liesl to basically raise her siblings so when her sister Kathe gets taken by The Goblin King, Liesl stops at nothing to get her back.  Pretty simple plot, yes? Well, hold on to your pants because it’s about to get bonkers.

Everyone around Liesl is either incredibly beautiful or immensely talented leaving Liesl to have some series self esteem issues.  As a child, she made friends and composed music for the Goblin King thinking he’s just a fairy tale made up by her eccentric grandmother but Liesl SLOWLY realizes that The Goblin King has been in love with her since childhood for her internal beauty.  Liesl sees the thin austere young man in the market and although she’s seriously insecure, her body is on fire for the King.  Lot’s of things happen but most of the time the Goblin King is testing Liesl all the while falling in love.

Jones is a debut and I think she is a wonderful world builder  with quite an imagination but  I wish she had put more effort into her character development.  All of the characters are toeing the stereotype line. Liesl is the dowdy sister who’s over looked because she a girl; Kathe is the desired one but not that bright, the brother is doted upon because he’s a boy, the father is a sexist drunk, the mom works hard and ignores the kids, and the grandma is an eccentric.  There are some small nuances among all the characters which make them somewhat special but they aren’t archetypes. Jones used too much repetition to develop characters rather than expanding on their foundation.  The Goblin King was also a missed opportunity to develop a great new villain.  He had secrets which was great but once again, his character development was repetitious.  I liken him to The Darkling but The Darkling was a well developed misunderstood manipulative villain while he Goblin King was sort of a manipulator and sort of misunderstood.

I also felt Wintersong could have used a better editor.  There was way too much going on and it took away from the romance between Liesl and The Goblin King.  I know it’s a labyrinth and there are supposed to be layers of weird and there were with Wintersong but the layers seemed to be detached and not cohesive. There was a lot of explaining and not enough opportunities for the reader to figure out the clues.  The pacing also could have been better.

As I began reading, I was picturing Asian characters but slowly realized that this was 19th century Germany (?).  Not that the characters had to be minorities but I come to expect the characters to resemble the author and I should probably stop doing that.

Overall I think Jones has potential and I will probably read subsequent books by her.  Cruel Beauty is quite similar to Wintersong but what sets it apart is the strong character development in Nyx, Ignifex, and Shade.  But if you like a strong theme that focuses on love and music, you’ll enjoy Wintersong.