The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Inside cover blurb:

“Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

What. Just. Happened.

I seriously thought for the first 250 pages that maybe Holly Black had written a dud. Maybe she wasn’t the Queen I had thought…

BUT THEN SHE BLEW ME OUT OF THE WATER, GEORGE R.R. MARTIN STYLE.

Did not see that one coming, I must say.

So this is a heavily political intrigue plot and that’s the part that had me snoozing. And I wasn’t sure about the whole Jude-Cardan rivalry either, it seemed a like an awkward premise to me… but by the end Ms. Black had me convinced. I should have known better.

Jude was a very compelling main character- her revulsion toward the place that was simultaneously the cause of her parents’ death and her new home, a place where she wishes to be accepted but can never truly belong due to her very nature of being.

 The Folk of the Air #2- I am in, I am all in.

Plus: Beautiful, dangerous creatures. Deceitful magic. Cool spy scenes. A super badass main character. Amazing plot twists. I really liked this book if you couldn’t tell…

Minus: It was definitely slow in the beginning, but don’t let that turn you away! It’s totally worth it in the end.

If you like this book, try:

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas- While I think this series has gone on a little too long, the first one was fantastic.  Feyre, like Jude, is a mortal struggling to survive in a hostile Faerie realm.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

Inside cover blurb:

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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An evil queen origin story of epic proportions!!!!!

It has everything- feminism, dark magic, warring gods, court politics, Eastern culture… I could go on and on!

Xifeng has to be one of the most complex and well-written characters I have read in a long time. Her inner dialogue is rife with moral conundrums, the iniquity of court life, the oppression of female stereotyping…and even while Xifeng acknowledges every single one of these issues, she still goes in for the kill every time and plays everyone to her advantage.

Ugh I loved it! She is a woman with a cause and she will let nothing get in her way.

I’m not usually one for political intrigue stories, but this one is just plain amazing. I was rooting for Xifeng every step of the way.

And this is Dao’s first novel! Snaps for Ms. Dao because she knocked it out of the park on her very first try. Well done.

I CANNOT WAIT for the sequel!

Plus: Feminist AF, plus such great characters- you don’t know whether you love them or hate them!

Minus: The cover really does not do this book justice. Read it now!

If you like this book, try:

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And I Darken by Kiersten White- A gender swapped re-imagining of Vlad the Impaler’s origin story. I feel like Xifeng and Lada Dragwlya would be good buddies.

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Inside cover blurb:

“Time flies when you’re plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

It didn’t quite live up to Doctor Who status for me, but it was a pretty good ride.

I love history, but I often stay away from books involving time travel because they tend to include pseudo-sciencey concepts that just don’t appeal to me.

Invictus does employ some of those, but overall the story is fantastic.

The cast of characters Graudin has created is superb. The book flips perspective quite often and each time you get to know just a little bit more about each person on board their time traveling ship.

Things started to get even more wibbly, wobbly toward the end of the book and there were some plot choices that I didn’t exactly love.

But it all wraps up in a conclusion I found very satisfying. I would certainly love to read more of Graudin’s books!

Plus: Time travel! Moral conundrums! Structure of time and space conundrums!

Minus: If you don’t like complex plots (think Inception or Orphan Black), then this might not be the book for you.

If you like this book, try:

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Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin- When I first picked up Invictus, I didn’t even realize these books were by the same author! Wolf by Wolf has been on my TBR for a while. It’s an alternate history of WWII in which the Axis powers have won and a young girl sets out on a mission to kill Hitler.

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Inside cover blurb:

If you could change your story, would you?

Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: ‘If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.’

What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.”

-from publisher

Thoughts:

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I loved this book…until I found out I had only read the first ending. That’s right, this book has multiple endings.

But not in a choose your own adventure way. No, each ending is just placed one after another. I guess you could even read them out of order if you wanted to.

Each one is more outlandish than the last, however. By the end, I barely associated the storyline with what I had read at the beginning of the book.

And yet, something about this book remains so powerful to me; something that is hard to put my finger on. Jane is a great main character, very likeable and very relatable. All of the Tu Reviens characters are vivid and full of life. But I think it’s got to do with the writing. Some of the storylines are so profoundly moving. And there’s something so poetic about the idea of a house stolen from bits of other buildings.

Overall, it’s a really cool concept and some of the endings were really great. So I guess we just pick our favorite and move on with our day.

Plus: Magical realism, always a plus in my book. Beautiful, moving writing.

Minus: Some kind of distracting bits about interdimensional travel and talking dogs…

If you like this book, try:

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Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett- This is a middle grade throwback, I know, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this book while reading Jane, Unlimited. There’s a lot of talk of Vermeer and art forgery.