Category Archives: High Fantasy

REVIEW {47} SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch *Spoiler Free*

Snow Like Ashes
AUTHOR: Sara Raasch
SERIES: Snow Like Ashes [Book #1] | Ice Like Fire [Book #2] Release Date: October 13, 2015
PUBLICATION INFO: Harper Teen | RELEASE DATE: October 14, 2014
CATEGORY: Young Adult, Four Star Rating, Fantasy, Romance, Kick Ass Heroine
ACQUISITION: Library | EDITION: Hardcover; First Edition, 416 pages
RATING: 3 STARS | GOODREADS RATING: 4.05/5.00
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

MY THOUGHTS: Snow Like Ashes was one of my most anticipated reads for 2014. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to it last year, and I also didn’t get it for Christmas – even though it was on my Wishlist. So, when I was recently at the library and saw a copy sitting there on the shelf, my greedy little hand grabbed it so fast I swear there were flames!

World Building
Snow Like Ashes follows the story of Meira, a sixteen-year-old girl who is one of only a handful of refugees from the kingdom of Winter. In this world, there are eight kingdoms – 4 Season Kingdoms (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn) and 4 Rhythm Kingdoms (Cordell is the one that plays a major part in this book). Spring is ruled by Angra, the major villain in this series. He has taken over Winter and enslaved all of the Winterians in slave labor camps within the kingdom.
A majority of the first few chapters is spent on world-building and back story. We know that deep in the Klaryn Mountains is the source of the magic that exists in this world; however, the entry into the caverns has been lost over the centuries. Each of the rulers of the kingdoms has a conduit (be it jewelry, a weapon, etc.) that contains the magic, and they can only use it for the good of their kingdom. It also passes down by bloodline, and gender. The conduit for Winter – a locket – has been confiscated by Angra, and the sixteen years since Winter fell have been spent trying to recover the locket, which of course, Angra has split into two.
So the book begins with a mission to steal back the first half of the locket, and sets into motion events that will carry us through the rest of the book.
Plot & Pacing
We are thrown immediately into action, and for the most part there really isn’t much lag in this book – it’s pretty must fast paced until the end. I can’t remember many slow parts, or parts where I was bored. I also found Raasch’s writing to be enjoyable. Unfortunately, though, I did have trouble connecting with Meira in the beginning. I have to admit first though, that I was distracted at the start and may have not given the book the full attention it deserved. I found myself having to reread some paragraphs. Such is life with a one year old *insert ‘wah-wah’ face*.

Characters & Development
The major characters of this book are:
Meira – the main character; Winterian Refugee
Mather – the heir to Winter; son of Queen Hannah and future King of Winter.
Sir – Winterian General; leader of the refugees
Theron – Prince of Cordell
Angra – King of Spring
Herod – Angra’s Second in Command
Noam – King of Cordell
The Refugees – Alyson (Sir’s Wife), Finn, Greer, Henn, Dendera
Queen Hannah – Queen of Winter when Winter fell
Nessa, Conall, and Garrigan – Winterian slaves in Spring labor camp
I think each character had their own personalities and desires that were conveyed well; however, I felt as though the main character, Meira, was lacking. I was able to connect more with Theron, whom I dare say is my newest fictional crush! Together, I believe Meira and Theron can become a force to reckon with. They each have characteristics that the other lacks, so as one they will be unstoppable. Nessa, a winterian currently enslaved in Spring’s labor camp with her two older brothers was also one of my favorite characters. Her hope is what keeps her going, that someone will free them and lead them back to a free Winter. I also feel as though a “good” character at some point may turn “evil”. I can’t explain it, just a hunch. It is also interesting to see how the alliance between Winter and Cordell holds up. Not in the aspects of Meira and Theron, but King Noam.
Writing
I found myself enjoying Raasch’s writing style, and I found her ability to tell Winter’s story pleasing. However I did have trouble connecting with Meira’s character in that I couldn’t “read” her. I knew what she wanted and how she felt, but I was having a lot of trouble getting inside of her head. I truly felt that Winter’s story was being told, not necessarily Meira’s. I believe this will change in the second book – at least I’m hoping for it. I truly want to know more of Meira.
I also felt that when it came to the world-building, Raasch did a little too much telling, and not enough letting my mind “show” me what the world looked like. It caused me too much confusion, and feel that it was rehashed too many times what the world was like. Especially since the major kingdoms are season kingdoms and reflect the characteristics of their said season. Regardless, I really enjoy the world she has created and I definitely look forward to spending more time here once the second book in the series is released. 
It doesn’t happen very often, but I found myself very intrigued by the villain in this story. Angra has been able to take in dark matter/magic “decay” and make himself a sort of “conduit” and that is how he carries out his evil deeds. He is a dark, evil character that I’m so interested in that I cannot WAIT to see what happens in the rest of the series. If Meira can become this amazing, kick-ass heroine that I think she has the potential to be, it could make for an interesting fight between the two.

Review Summary
A less than impressive introduction to this fantasy series, but enough excitement, action, intrigue and potential to make me excited for book two.
Would I Recommend This Book? Yes. If you love YA Fantasy with magical themes and evil villains with a heroine who has tons of potential. There is lots of action and adventure; magic and romance mingled in to keep anyone fully engaged.
SIMILAR READS: The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas |  Winterspell by Claire Legrand | Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White | Lark Rising by Sandra Waugh | Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburn

Happy Reading!
Laura

REVIEW {33} Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

CROWN OF MIDNIGHT
SERIES: Throne of Glass #2 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Throne of Glass #1;  The Assassin and the Pirate Lord #0.1; The Assassin and the Desert #0.2; The Assassin and the Underworld #0.3; The Assassin and the Empire #0.4
AUTHOR: Sarah J. Maas
PUBLICATION INFORMATION: August 27th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
EDITION: Hardcover, 432 pages
ACQUISITION: ARC from publisher/BEA
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Magic, Mystery, Romance, Adventures, Fairies, 5 Star Rating, Bloomsbury USA, ARC, Review
RATING: 5.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 4.61/5.00 (pre-release)

WHAT IT’S ABOUTAn assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.

But her heart never wavers.

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice. 

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

MY THOUGHTS: I am still completely awestruck after finishing this book. Being the second book in the series, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be just as good as Throne of Glass, but I have to say it was, if not better! There was so much action and suspense and mystery and romance in this one that every single page turbo-charged my emotions and left me with a wicked book hangover!
When I finished Throne of Glass I had marked Celaena down as my #1 Favorite Heroine of All Time. When I finished Crown of Midnight, that statement was confirmed ten times over. Everything that Celaena goes through would break any other person, but she is able to navigate it all with calm and grace. She is one of the strongest, most selfless people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about.
Crown of Midnight really puts Celaena to the test. She is now the King’s Assassin, and is sent out on routine missions to take out any of the people he suspects are starting a rebellion against him. But, Celaena of course has secrets of her own – ones she keeps even from Chaol, her maybe-more-than-just-a-crush, and her first true, best friend Nehemiah. She’s still in an awkward spot with Prince Dorian, but luckily we see their friendship resurrected, and become even stronger.

All of the characters in this series are wonderful! They are so well developed that they feel truly 3D and real. Maas has no problem putting her characters in completely crazy scenarios and letting them live, die, figure out secrets, solve mysteries, you name it. This series has a little bit of everything (including a talking door knocker named Mort!) so no matter what your usual genre is, you’ll definitely be able to find something you love in this series.

One of my favorite things about this series, is that it goes places you are not expecting, and introduces characters you’ll be thinking about long after you finish the book. I cannot think of anything that I would change that happened plot-wise in the second installment of this series. Everything is so unique and different but ties together in the end. I cannot wait to see where book three takes us, because I know that it is going to be different from the first two books, but I think Celaena’s adventures are just getting started.  

This is one series that I already find myself recommending to people, whether they read high fantasy or not. It’s one that I do find myself thinking about weeks after I’ve finished the book. Maas is an absolutely incredible storyteller, one that I’ll happily read without a second thought.

SIMILAR READS: Deception by C.J. Redwine | Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo | Shadowscale by Rachel Hartman | Toxic City by Theo Lawrence | Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Happy Reading!

REVIEW {32} RETRO REVIEW {6} The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS
SERIES: Fire and Thorns #1 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: The Shadow Cats #0.5; The Shattered Mountain #0.6; Crown of Embers #2; Bitter Kingdom #3
AUTHOR: Rae Carson
EDITION: Hardcover, 423 pages
PUBLISHED: September 20th 2011 by Greenwillow
ACQUISITION: Own; ebook
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Adventure, High Fantasy, Paranormal, War, Review, 4 Star Rating, Book 1 In Series, Greenwillow Publishing, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson, Fire and Thorns Series
RATING: 4.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.86/5.00
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. 

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

MY THOUGHTS: This was my first foray into fantasy, and I was very hesitant to even give it a try. But when I stumbled upon it at the library, I decided, what the heck, let’s get it. And I am so glad that I did, because I was not disappointed!
In one word, I found this book to be very unique. I can’t think of any other book that I would compare it too; but again, at this point I hadn’t read very much fantasy. I felt that the book started out a bit slow, and was slightly difficult for me to visualize Elisa’s world; but once I finished Part 1 of the book, I realized that Part 2 really throws you into the meat of the book – and I was hooked!
One lovely thing about this book, is that it takes place in several different settings – all of which are unique in all aspects – landscape, inhabitants, purpose, and beliefs. Carson marvels at creating one unified world with these individual microcosms within it. When I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about it. There really weren’t any times where I knew what was going to happen – save for maybe one or two scenes. Otherwise, Carson kept you guessing until the end.
I really didn’t like Elisa when the book first began. She was this helpless, almost dumb fat girl who at all the freaking time and never did anything worth mentioning in her life. Cut to Part 2 and I love Elisa. Love her to bits! She is the perfect heroine! She’s smart, sassy, and steps up to the plate and fights for what is right. She’s very selfless, never thinking about herself, and puts others ahead of herself.
King Alejandro also bothered me. He’s pitiful and pathetic, but gains my respect by the end of the book. He likes to sit back and let others do his fighting and dirty work, and doesn’t take an active role in his son, Prince Rosario’s life. He also is in love with his mistress, Arina, and keeps his marriage to Elisa a secret.
Another amazingly wonderful character is Cosme. Cosme, who begins as a treacherous maid for Arina – doing her spying for her – despises Elisa. And in the end, it’s safe to say that they are probably as close to best friends as two girls can become. She’s smart and she’s been hurt and betrayed so she puts on a frigid, icy front but it’s to protect herself.
The issue that I had with the world building was that it had a very Spanish feel to it with the names and place names, but the description of the land being desert-like yet very hilly was making it a little difficult at first to connect everything together. I also thought that being a fantasy, the spiritual being would have a different name than “God”, but this does use “God” as the spiritual being and every century he chooses one person to be a “bearer” meaning that they have a “Godstone” in their navel. They then are supposed to do something amazing, maybe even miraculous. So there was a pretty heavy religious tone to the story, which typically is not my cup of tea, but it was done in a unique way that didn’t bother me at all. I think Carson handled the themes and tones of the book perfectly.
I also have to commend Carson on her ability to kill off characters. Holy heck is that a breath of fresh air! I haven’t been so ticked off at an author for killing off characters since J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series! Yes, I said Ticked Off, but what I mean is, thank you! Thank you for not creating a picture-perfect book with the ‘happily ever after’. Carson cares what her fans think and feel and want, but she also doesn’t herself or her story in the meantime.
Carson did exactly what I love with the ending too – gave a lot of closure, but left enough open to make me want, need, crave more! It ended absolutely perfectly, and sets up the main theme (at least what I think the main theme is… ) for the rest of the series.
SIMILAR READS: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke | Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta | Witchlanders by Lena Coakley | The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton | The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab 

Happy Reading!

Review {21} Throne of Glass

AUTHOR: Sarah J. Maas
SERIES: Throne of Glass #1 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord #0.1, The Assassin and the Desert #0.2, The Assassin and the Underworld #0.3, The Assassin and the Empire #0.4, Crown of Midnight #2 (Releases 8/27/13)
PUBLISHED: August 7th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s
ACQUIRED: Own 
EDITION: Hardcover, 404 pages
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Adventure, Mystery, Paranormal, First Book in Series, 5 Star Rating, Kick-Ass Heroine, Love Triangle, Suspense.
RATING: 5.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 4.14/5.00
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:  After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she is bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigares, her search leads her to discover a greater desitny than she could possibly have imagined.
MY THOUGHTS: I loved this book from page one, and have given it the coveted Five Star rating… so you know not only did I absolutely LOVE it – but it’s also on my ‘Re-Read Shelf’ and my ‘Must Recommend to Everyone I Know Shelf’ as well!
I’ve only recently gotten into reading high fantasy, which if you follow my blog you’re probably well aware of. It’s also the disclaimer I usually start off any reviews for a fantasy novel with. An important part of a good fantasy novel for me, is the world-building. Maas has created an absolutely realistic, visual world that Celaena lives in and that the novel takes place in. She seamlessly weaves magic into the mix to create a world where it is forbidden to use. 
Too many factors bound up into one story can also create a sense of chaos, but Maas is able to combine themes of magic, fantasy, assassins, fairies, and duels into a story that is action-packed and completely unputdownable (even if that is technically not a word!)! 
I found myself thrilled at the mystery in who was killing the competitors, and was very happy to find it wasn’t predictable at all! Each turn of the page kept me guessing and guessing, and in the end I was quite happy with the way the story closed. It left enough loose ends while managing to also give enough closure to the first book in the series.
The characters in the book also make it a joy to lose a few hours within it’s pages. Celaena is one of the strongest, bravest heroines that I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with. Celaena’s definitely met her match in Captain Chaol Westfall; who isn’t immune to fleeting moments of jealousies when Prince Dorian begins spending lots of time with Celaena. And a friendship is formed when Nehemia, the Princess of Eyllwe meets her and prefers Celaena’s honest company to that of the girls of the court – as in Lady Kaltain. 
There are many sub-stories interwoven into the plot, including Celaena learning that she is much more than she ever thought she was, or would be! I have a very big spot in my heart for fairies, so when it’s learned that the first Queen of Adarlan was of fairy descent, I was so excited, and hoping to find out even more in future books about Queen and her connection to Celaena.
SIMILAR READS: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke | The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson | Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes | Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo | False Memory by Dan Krokos
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah J. Maas lives in Southern California, and over the years she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much coffee, and watches absolutely rubbish TV shows. When she’s not busy writing YA fantasy novels, she can be found exploring the California coastline.
Happy Reading!
Laura