Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

18053135Novel: Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi | Goodreads
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5 stars
Originally Published On: A Charming Reverie

The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love.”

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Tahereh Mafi has created a captivating and original story that combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and satisfying end.

This is the third (and sadly the final) book in the Shatter Me trilogy. THIS BOOK WAS *ALMOST* PERFECT. I loved it- it was everything I hoped for it to be without even realizing it. As far as dystopian trilogy conclusions go, this was by far one of the best. Everything happened the way I wanted it to without being dragged out unnecessarily and annoyingly. WARNER, sigh. Juliette was so incredibly, surprisingly strong in this book. She completely redeemed herself in my eyes and I found myself really admiring her strength as a protagonist. Tahereh Mafi’s writing was beautiful as always, and possibly even more poetic than in the previous two books. No strike-throughs, which showed Juliette’s internal development.

*SPOILERS*

Wuliette. Jarner. Warniette. Jaaron. I give up. Tahereh Mafi has made it impossible to ship Juliette and Warner with a cool name but it doesn’t matter because they’re going to be together forever, HALLELUJAH. I love Warner. Aaron. Whatever his name is. So. Freaking. Much. I’d like a Warner in my life, please. It was agony when they were cordially distant in the middle of this book. I think I squealed when Juliette finallydeclared her love for him.

I was so thankful that Juliette wasn’t wishy-washy with Adam; I appreciated that she made her decision and stuck to it unwaveringly. Speaking of Adam, what a jerk. I understood where he was coming from completely, I really did. But the way he lashed out at Juliette was very surprising to me, and at times in this book he reminded me of his father (much more so than Warner). I feel *slightly* bad for Adam, and I wish we got more of an ending for him, but I know that this needed to happen for my sanity and Juliette’s character development. But mostly for my sanity. Adam changed a lot throughout this installment. He behaved quite appallingly for most of the book. By the end, he was tolerable. I knew after Unravel Me that I wanted Juliette to be with Warner, but I still cared about Adam a lot as a love interest and a character. I think Mafi did a good job of smoothly transitioning the romantic plot from Adam’s favor to Warner’s. She explained and proved why Warner was a better match for Juliette very well, showing that the choice represents more than just romance- Juliette is stronger as an individual with Warner.

If Adam hadn’t been so hurtful in Ignite Me, I would’ve felt more torn- I still would’ve shipped Warniette, but would’ve wanted a super happy ending for Adam and probably would’ve resented Juliette for hurting him. But Mafi did an excellent job of changing readers’ opinions realistically and gradually so that everyone can logically (and emotionally) accept the ending to this fantastic love triangle.

I also thought it was awesome that Juliette learned to project and control her power so that she could be invincible or turn it off. Now she can touch Kenji (who is one of my favorite characters in this series). I loved all of the Warner scenes, especially the ones that occurred in Adam’s house. Laughed. Out. Loud. Warner is a boss. I also loved learning about Warner’s true motives in the early chapters of the book, when he revealed to Juliette why he had first studied her journal that he retrieved from the asylum. We learned a bit in his novella, Destroy Me, but having it all pieced together changed both Juliette’s and my impression of him. He is a truly unique, fascinating, and wonderful character to read about.

*END OF SPOILERS*

My single qualm with this book (other than the continuation of lackluster world-building that was present in the previous two installments) is the rather abrupt ending. The rebellion was a bit rushed, but I honestly didn’t mind that. After the final chapter, I was expecting either another chapter, an epilogue, SOMETHING. It left off almost as if there would be a fourth book, but then there was an author’s note that made it very clear that the series was finished. *SLIGHT SPOILER* After all these characters have worked so hard to bring down The Reestablishment, I feel like we deserve to see how their lives have changed and how they have changed the world. I would have liked a “One Year Later” or “Five Years Later” or a novella to show us the aftermath of this revolution. The last page in this book didn’t feel like the last page in a series- it felt like a cliffhanger that would be followed by another book. I want some closure! How are Juliette and Warner doing? How is the new government? What is the world like now? How’s Adam? Is he with Alia now? Have Warner and Adam bonded? Does James know Warner is his brother? ETC., ETC., ETC. Also, I was hoping for a really cute, sweet, sentimental Juliette-Warner scene at the end, kind of like Bella and Edward’s “forever” scene at the end of Breaking Dawn. *OKAY SLIGHT SPOILER IS OVER*

So up until the final page, when I said “Seriously? That’s it?” I loved the book wholeheartedly. I still do for the most part. I just think it could’ve really, really used something in addition to the original ending to give readers closure for the future and a chance to contentedly say goodbye to the characters we’ve grown to love, knowing that they are thriving. The non-ending is rather frustrating. Okay, extremely frustrating the more I think about it… I feel like I haven’t said goodbye to these characters yet because I keep expecting something more that is never coming. And the more I think about it, the more I think that everything was almost too easy. Everything worked out exactly the way I wanted it to, which was awesome when I was reading the book because that hardly ever (okay never) happens.

But now, two days later, I don’t find myself still thinking about this book. Because I didn’t encounter any struggles while reading in getting what I wanted, I can blissfully forget the book. I think of it positively and with happy thoughts, but I don’t think “Yeah, everything almost went wrong, but then I ended up being satisfied.” This wasn’t a Champion or a Mockingjay where I felt like I’d lost some and won some. I won everything with this book. So why am I strangely disappointed? Because when I am too satisfied with a book, it tends to be less memorable after awhile in my mind. I’ll remember liking it and being happy at the end, but not much else. Whereas other dystopian trilogy conclusions I may not have liked or enjoyed reading as much, but I remember more. This all made more sense in my head. (Pulls hair out in frustration at not being able to properly express nonsensical feelings.)

Overall, I found Ignite Me to be a very beautiful, well-written book and conclusion to this wonderful trilogy. I also think this would’ve been a great book to have dual POVs or a second POV sprinkled in occasionally, but Juliette’s POV was very interesting and much more than bearable. I hope this review doesn’t come across as negative- I thought the book was phenomenal so I can only pick apart the things I didn’t like (otherwise this would be ten pages of absolute gushing). The ending was more like a non-ending, but otherwise I loved this book and don’t think anyone who has loved this trilogy will be (very) disappointed!

Thanks for reading.

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

20560137 Novel: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir | Goodreads
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Also Published On: Lit Up Review

I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.

THE RESISTANCE HAS TRIED TO PENETRATE THIS SCHOOL COUNTLESS TIMES. I HAVE DISCOVERED IT EVERY TIME.

IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH THE RESISTANCE, IF YOU CONTACT THEM, IF YOU THINK OF CONTACTING THEM, I WILL KNOW

AND I WILL DESTROY YOU.

Laia is a slave. 
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

This is a great beginning to what I anticipate will be a fantastic and thrilling series. An Ember in the Ashes provides readers with a “slow burn” reading experience (haha, get it?). The development of this Rome-like world was fantastic, and the novel reads a bit like a dystopian fantasy. But be forewarned: fantasy elements play a very minor role in this debut, though the stage is set for them to have the spotlight in future installments. Despite originally being marketed as a standalone, Penguin picked up the sequel recently so we will be getting more Laia and Elias! Speaking of which, we’ve got some pretty cool characters here. Laia goes through a TON of character development that is a joy to read, while Elias is strong from the start, but has a bunch of deep stuff to figure out as the book progresses. Connections can be drawn between this book and the Legend series by Marie Lu for sure, but An Ember in the Ashes is not nearly as fast-paced.

The writing style is raw in that Sabaa Tahir doesn’t try to hide anything from the reader. There are no euphemisms, no gawking at bloodshed, no reprieve from the cruel and calculating world she has built. And it is incredible. I give Tahir a lot of credit because she really exposes the darkness of the Empire and its subjects to the reader. Brothels, sexism, raping and abuse of slaves, and cold-blooded murder are not shied away from and, while gruesome to read at times, I have so much respect for Tahir for allowing us to see it all. In addition, there’s not much glamorization of either the Empire (run by Martials) or the Scholars (brutally subjected by the Martials). We get to see the good and bad of both, and the history behind why these peoples are what they are. The novel is very political, very militarily based, while showing us two sides of a convoluted story. That being said, this style lends itself to a darker, heavier reading experience. But it’s a brilliant one.

However, I have to give this debut a 4/5 stars because the first half and a bit (I estimate 5/8 of the book) was very slow and not much happened in terms of a climax. This book was a very slow build and it is well worth it in the end, but I could’ve set the book down for quite awhile and not felt a burning need to know what happened. The entire book, from start to finish, is good. I enjoyed the first half and it was well written, but I was confused about all the hype surrounding this novel until reaching the halfway point. The second half or so definitely lives up to the crazy hype this book is getting. (I also want to add that I picked this book up immediately after finishing Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses, so my judgement on “excitement” might have been a little skewed early on in An Ember in the Ashes.)

I couldn’t really get into the alternating POVs until close to the end. For me, they were a bit disruptive to the overall reading experience. Each chapter would end on a cliffhanger and because the two protagonists’ tales were not always intertwined, it was a juggling act keeping track of timing and events. That being said, overall, I preferred Elias to Laia, despite the latter’s exponential character growth throughout the novel. I was surprised that the two characters had such little interaction as I was expecting them to work together like Day and June from Legend pretty much the whole novel. But in hindsight, I like how Laia’s and Elias’s interactions ended up being limited because they both got to share their stories almost separately. I think that’s what this novel called for. And next novel, they’ll be together alllllll the time. 😉

The weird love square (actually, two love triangles really) seemed fake/artificial/forced. Keenan is irrelevant. There was no attempt to develop the relationship between him and Laia and so I couldn’t take them seriously. I understood the confusion and struggle in Elias’s and Helene’s relationship, and I liked the budding friendship/chemistry between Elias and Laia. Unfortunately, Keenan will probably emerge somewhere down the line to create some romantic drama and tension. I’m not looking forward to it.

Let’s talk Helene. This girl is Hermione Granger on steroids. She takes rule-following to the EXTREME. I actually really liked Helene overall. I respected her, she was an awesome female warrior, but sometimes her callousness and inability to care about Scholars, slaves – basically anything unrelated to being a Mask for the Empire – drove me mad. She had such little compassion for those beneath her while Elias had an overwhelming abundance of compassion for the very same people. But Helene’s saving grace is that she is a great friend; she’s loyal to Elias above everything but the Empire. I’m hoping we’ll get to see more character growth from her in the future, because I want to love this girl, I really do. JUST DO THE RIGHT THING, HELENE. HAVE SOME POST-CONVENTIONAL MORALITY (thanks, AP Psychology).

Now time for the Commandant. Oh, Lord. The Commandant is Elias’s mom and the head of Blackcliff military academy. And she’s absolutely crazy. Never in all of my life have I read a character as horrifyingly cruel as her. She terrifies me. I am TERRIFIED. At the end, we get a glimpse into her past and why she despises her son (and wants him dead, I might add), and I’m desperately hoping that we will uncover the layers of her character as the series goes on.

Other characters I really enjoyed were Gens Veturius (Elias’s grandfather and personal cheerleader), Spiro Teluman (blacksmith who’s full of kindness and mystery), Izzi (slave who befriends Laia), Cook (stern slave who turns out to be a butterball at heart), Sana (faction leader of the Resistance) and Cain (Augur who aids Elias). I’m curious to learn more about the mysterious female who appears at the end, Cook (who has a hidden past with the Resistance and with Laia’s parents), Lord Nightbringer (the dethroned Jinni king), and Teluman and Darin, Laia’s brother (who we see nothing of past the first few pages, but who unconsciously guides the plot of the book). Characters I hated: Marcus (probably my least favorite character, incredibly vile and cruel), Zak (not too bad except he’s a wimpy bystander to Marcus’s antics), Mazen (the leader of the Resistance) and the Commandant (she’s really interesting and a great antagonist, but absolutely unlikeable). Oh, and I despised the Mask that murders Laia’s innocent grandparents in the opening scene and then tries to rape Laia. (It’s an exciting first chapter.)

I found it fascinating that the masks the Masks wear bind to the skin on their necks and faces so that eventually they cannot be removed. Creepy much? I’m excited to find out more about the old Jinni world of magic and also to experience more of the Empire than just Blackcliff and the city it’s located in (which I’m not even sure we ever got a name for?). Also, the cover is gorgeous. It is hands down one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen and it fits perfectly with the story. Sorry for all the rambles! I am all over the place with thoughts and tidbits on An Ember in the Ashes.

I recommend reading this dystopian fantasy set in a technologically-advanced, Roman-Empire-like world. You’ll enjoy the entire ride, but get through the first half and you’re golden.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

81JbgVO-5sLNovel: The Young Elites by Marie Lu | Goodreads
Release Date: October 7th, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Also Published On: Lit Up Review

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

I fell in love with Marie Lu’s fast-paced and thrilling writing style in the Legend trilogy. So when I heard she was writing a new series from the point of view of a VILLAIN I was beyond excited. And when I finally got my hands on this novel, I was not disappointed.

The Young Elites is told mainly from our main character Adelina’s perspective, with chapters from Enzo and Teren inserted sporadically throughout. Adelina is a teenage girl with special powers due to the disease that sweeped her nation when she was a child. Because she is considered “damaged goods,” her dad agrees to sell her to a creepy married man who wants to use her as his whore. Having no desire to become an enslaved prostitute (surprising right?), Adelina runs away from home. Unfortunately, she is almost immediately captured by the royal Inquisition and sentenced to death. She is timely rescued by the Dagger Society, an elite sect of Young Elites (everyone with powers) that is actively trying to dismantle the corrupt monarchy. That’s where the story takes off and I don’t want to say anymore for fear of spoiling you!

I really liked this book. Really, really, really liked it. It was very unpredictable for me because I’ve read few to no books written from the POV of a villain. And what made this book even more intriguing and complex is that I didn’t always think Adelina was a villain. In fact, I wasn’t convinced until the very end. She’s suffered immense pain and abuse, and deep down she is incredibly wounded. She aspires to be good, despite her deficiencies. Like all humans, she has good and bad in her and her choices are what make her good or evil. It was absolutely fantastic to watch her character development (or should I say downward spiral) and she was like no other character I’d read before. I found her relatable and refreshing, and I really enjoyed her narration. Plus, she has an awesome name!

The other two POVs, Teren and Enzo, were excellent additions to the novel’s storyline because the reader gets to see each of their true motives that otherwise may have remained hidden. There are subplots, there’s mystery, there’s corruption and these male perspectives allow the reader to dig deeper into this world. Speaking of el mundo, the world-building in this novel was effective and well done. Another tidbit I’d like to throw in is that WHILE THE PREMISE MAY LEAD SOME READERS TO THINK THERE IS A LOVE TRIANGLE, THERE. IS. NOT. I REPEAT: THERE IS NOT. There is hardly any romance in this novel; it is mostly kick-ass and wonderfully evil. Adelina and Enzo do share some angst for each other but it is short-lived and I respected that. Also, there are several expected and several unexpected plot twists in this novel that will result in the following scenario: your book will be across the room because you threw it in shock, your tear ducts will kick into action, and you will have to bend over to pick your jaw up off the floor. Not that any of that happened to me…

Marie Lu really didn’t do anything by the books here. A young adult novel told from a rising female villain’s POV and two non-love interest male POVs with barely any romance and a storyline that deals with real life issues set in a dystopian fantasy world that contains TONS AND TONS OF PLOT TWISTS? I want more! In each character, Marie Lu shows us that every human has a mix of good and bad within them, no matter how they appear to be externally. Character development- or perhaps character “uncovering” is a more appropriate term- was huge. The characters are like onions and as you read, you peel them layer by layer. The plot of the book was also interesting; I’d say the story is led by individual characters but is also, to an extent, plot-driven.

I truly loved and admired The Young Elites. It was one of my favorite 2014 books and I anxiously await the release of its sequel! Hop on this bandwagon now… You’ll never look back!