April Reading List

Hellooo. I’m back with another TBR. March turned out to be a great reading month and I aim to continue the trend in April. I’ve been on a huge fantasy kick lately and I’d like to knockout a bunch of fantasy reads that I own before buying more. Plus, I have a few library books I need to get to. Hence, a mildly ambitious April reading list. Enjoy!

Owned:
The Name of the
Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss | Goodreads
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss | Goodreads
Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes | Goodreads
Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes | Goodreads

Borrowed:
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Goodreads
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard | Goodreads
The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski | Goodreads
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss | Goodreads

I also plan to continue listening to my Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets audiobook.

What do you plan to read this month?

Thanks for reading.

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March Reading Wrap-Up

Hellooo. I’m excited to share my March reading wrap-up because I got a ton of reading done this month, which I wasn’t anticipating. (And, I stuck pretty well to my TBR!) In total, I finished ten books, two novellas, and one audiobook. I’m pretty pleased with myself! Below is a list of the books I read, along with my rating and a (somewhat) brief summary of my thoughts on each. Enjoy!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (re-read)
I love this book; I love Harry Potter. This was my first time reading a British edition of Harry Potter, and I quite enjoyed exploring the subtle deviations from the American version. Goblet of Fire has long been one of my favorite installments in the series. It is such a good transition book, meshing the self-contained, relatively lighthearted plots of the first three books with the heavier, more ominous plot lines of the last three. And the Triwizard Tournament is just so much fun. GAH. On a side note, J.K. Rowling has a habit of inserting commas—or omitting them—in very interesting places in her sentences. Same thing with semicolons.
Goodreads

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (3 stars)
I read Shadow and Bone in one afternoon/evening. I liked it, but was by no means blown away by the story. I found the world-building to be lackluster and I saw bits and pieces of several different YA books/movies in this novel. I feel like not much happened throughout the story, but I also feel like a lot of stuff was rushed and happened way too quickly. I am looking forward to the sequel though, as the second half of the book picked up considerably in comparison to the first half (as did Alina’s likability and narration). Not a whole lot happened in the first half that I thought was unique or really engaging. The second half of the novel, while far from revolutionary, did hook me and keep me reading until nearly 12 am to find out what would happen. I picture the Darkling as a crossover between Kylo Ren and young Tom Riddle. Overall, there is nothing offensive about Shadow and Bone, nothing wrong with it, but it’s just fine in my opinion, whereas Bardugo’s Six of Crows was absolutely flipping fantastic. Some happenings were just a little too convenient and others were easily predictable. But like I said, Shadow and Bone is not a bad book. I enjoyed reading it, and I’m planning to marathon the rest of the trilogy.
Goodreads

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (2 stars)
Don’t let my rating fool you—I didn’t hate this book. However, the reading experience was quite blasé. Like its predecessor, Siege and Storm contains many tropes and unoriginal plot lines (along with major plot holes) while simultaneously suffering from a lack of world-building and second book syndrome. All that being said, I really have no feelings about it, good or bad. I’ve been oddly neutral and unaffected, emotionally or mentally, whilst reading the Grisha trilogy. There were definitely some annoying things in this book that would’ve driven me mad normally, but I just kept chugging through in a somewhat detached way. I’m not connecting with the Grisha trilogy at all, good or bad. But Bardugo’s books, for all their faults, are page-turners. My favorite character was definitely Sturmhond/Nikolai (love that name!); we definitely need more of him. And the first portion of the book aboard the ships was the most exciting and interesting. The banter between characters was a plus in Siege and Storm and I enjoyed some of the dry humor and sarcasm. I disliked the brevity of Alina’s “tough leader” stature, how quickly Nikolai became a side character, the execution of Mal and Alina’s relationship issues, and the choppiness and pacing of the plot. Also, the amount of unanswered questions! In my opinion, the best parts of both Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm are the “Before” and “After” chapters at the beginning and end. These prologues and epilogues are written in a detached style from third person omniscient, and they’re eery, mysterious, and wonderful.
Goodreads

The Tailor by Leigh Bardugo (4 stars)
I really enjoyed this novella. Genya is one of my favorite characters in the series, and it was interesting to see some of her backstory and her perspective on her friendship with and betrayal of Alina.
Goodreads

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo (3.5 stars)
Ruin and Rising surprised me. I connected to the characters and the storyline, and I finally felt something for the first time while reading this series. Individually, I think it’s probably closer to a 4-star book, but I lowered my rating by half a star because of its two predecessors and because it still didn’t blow me away. I totally predicted several of the plot twists, but everything wrapped up nicely in the end. Nicely as in loose ends are tied up, but not everything is happy-go-lucky. It’s a bittersweet, wistful ending that reminds us of what could have been. I still think the Grisha trilogy could have benefited from multiple POVs. The writing and characterization were much improved in Ruin and Rising, although no progress was made with the world-building and fundamental fantasy questions were left unanswered. I wish Nikolai had played a bigger role in the novel; it seemed like Bardugo just took him out to avoid dealing with plot issues and to make her tidy ending more convenient. Overall though, I was pleasantly surprised by the improvements I saw in Ruin and Rising from first two books in the trilogy, and I found it to be a satisfying end to the series. The epilogue was very well done—it is poignant, moving, and very bittersweet, but there’s hope and consolation, too.
Goodreads

The Demon in the Wood by Leigh Bardugo (3 stars)
This novella is a snapshot of the 13-year-old Aleksander (who goes by Eryk in this story). I enjoyed seeing an innocent Darkling and witnessing the event that catapulted his dream for a Grisha safe place, but I wanted more. I would’ve been more interested to see his early evil days, to see his power begin to take hold of him and corrupt him. But that’s just me. The story was all right, but nothing too exciting. I did like observing the early relationship between the young boy and his mother.
Goodreads

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson (4.25 stars)
The Kiss of Deception was one of the best books I read in 2015, and, overall, The Heart of Betrayal was a good sequel. I was never bored while reading it; in fact, I found it quite difficult to put down. However, not much actually happens in this installment and it seemed to me that more questions were raised than explained, which worries me because there’s only one book left in the trilogy and a whole lot that needs answering. That being said, Lia is an AWESOME heroine, and I love the alternating perspectives. Though I didn’t really understand the need for Pauline’s chapters (hers didn’t really add much to the story), Kaden’s really grew on me—I loved his character growth in this novel. The Komizar, too, was a fascinating character. I was torn between liking and disliking him for most of the book, but his beating of Lia sealed the deal with my hate for him. And what an ending! I don’t know where the last book will take us—or Lia.
Goodreads

The Offering by Kimberly Derting (2 stars)
I loved The Pledge and really liked The Essence. However, most of The Offering was boring and pointless. I started it back in 2014, a few months after it was released, and only got 70 pages in before I was bored to tears. Nevertheless, I’ve been on a YA fantasy kick lately, and I picked it back up again this month, determined to finally finish it. I did enjoy the action-packed and satisfying ending, which tied up the multiple perspectives and overarching plot points of the trilogy nicely.
Goodreads

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (3 stars)
I hope and expect the rest of the series to be much better if it’s going to live up to its hype. Falling Kingdoms was neither fantastic nor horrible. It was interesting and enjoyable, and it definitely had its moments. I liked the alternating perspectives a lot. Rhodes manages to get you to sympathize with each character and to understand his or her perspective. For example, my opinion of Magnus changed drastically when viewing him through his POV sections as compared to viewing him through Cleo’s POV sections. The characters are all flawed and multidimensional. Cleo is ignorant and bratty, but also bold and fiercely loyal. Jonas is intuitive and a good leader, though he has a strong temper. And Magnus… Well, Magnus is complicated. His feelings for his sister, Lucia, are disturbing, particularly because he is not aware that she is not his sister by blood when they first develop. Regardless, Magnus and Lucia were raised as brother and sister, blood-related or not. I’m intrigued with the way Rhodes is delving into incest and am curious to see whether Magnus’ unrequited love will abate. I also appreciate how Rhodes doesn’t shy away from putting her characters through hell (and lots of deaths), but I found every major “plot twist” predictable. SPOILERS: I predicted Theon’s death, that Cleo would be left orphaned with no family, that Lucia would reject Magnus, that Magnus is a borderline sociopath, that King Gaius would turn on the Chief, and that Jonas and Cleo will have a romance (this hasn’t actually happened yet, but I’m pretty sure it will). END SPOILERS. Overall, Falling Kingdoms was a decent book, but I just wasn’t hooked and amazed the way some people seem to be by this series. I do have hopes that the series will improve with each installment though, and the ascending ratings on Goodreads serve as confirmation of my expectations. We’ll see!
Goodreads

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (re-read)
Boy oh boy do I love this book. It was one of the best books I read last year and re-reading it was just as great. Lia is most definitely one of my top female protagonists… She is just so dang AWESOME. I loved the male perspectives in The Kiss of Deception, Rafe’s and Kaden’s. I love getting to see Lia not only through her own eyes, but through theirs as well. AH. Read this book ASAP!!!
Goodreads

The Girl Who Fell by S. M. Parker (2.75 stars)
The Girl Who Fell is a really tough book for me to rate. I believe the author had the best intentions when writing it, a belief that is supported by the author’s note in the back of the book. However, it was an uncomfortable and generally un-fun book to read, often because of the topic it deals with. The dialogue (and relationship) between Alec and Zephyr is dramatic, awkward, cheesy, and cringeworthy. He’s such a creep. The writing style left me feeling like I was being told a lot and shown very little, particularly in regards to Zephyr’s family life and her father’s departure. The ending, when Zephyr finally sees Alec for what he really is, was the best part of the book, but even it was rushed and not thorough. I would have preferred to see less of the book dedicated to Zephyr and Alec’s relationship and more to the aftermath of its ending.
Goodreads | My Review

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (4 stars)
I finally got around to reading this classic for an independent reading assignment for my senior English class. I’d been wanting to read it since at least freshman year, and I’m not ashamed to say that my interest was originally piqued by Stephenie Meyer’s EclipseWuthering Heights was perhaps not the most enjoyable book to read, due to its slew of dysfunctional characters and, at times, tedious narration/plot line. However, I so admired the ways in which Brontë connects the stories of two generations of characters (and the influence of the first on the second), and was so gripped by the juxtaposition between Catherine and Heathcliff’s unconventional personalities and fierce, unwavering love, that it has definitely earned a place on my list of favorite classics. For around 200 pages, I was more immersed in Wuthering Heights than I think I’ve ever been whilst reading a classic, so much so that I didn’t feel like I was reading a classic at all.
Goodreads | My Review

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale (5 stars)
I really loved listening to the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I enjoyed Jim Dale’s narration and voices, and the story seemed more magical than ever before. The audiobook truly brings the story, characters, and wizarding world to life in a way I’d never imagined—and for Harry Potter, which is already so real to so many of us, that’s really saying something.
AudibleMy Review

BITS & PIECES
I read 124 pages of Red Rising by Pierce Brown before DNFing it (for now), I started re-reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and I got a few chapters into the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (LOVING IT). We also began Hamlet in my English class and have read/listened to the first three acts. Finally, I read a great portion of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

What was the best book you read this month?

Thanks for reading.

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The Girl Who Fell by S. M. Parker

26806161Novel: The Girl Who Fell by S. M. Parker | Goodreads
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Rating: 2.75 stars

His obsession. Her fall.

Zephyr Doyle is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and attending her dream school, Boston College.

But love has a way of changing things.

Enter the new boy in school: the hockey team’s starting goaltender, Alec. He’s cute, charming, and most important, Alec doesn’t judge Zephyr. He understands her fears and insecurities—he even shares them. Soon, their relationship becomes something bigger than Zephyr, something she can’t control, something she doesn’t want to control.

Zephyr swears it must be love. Because love is powerful, and overwhelming, and…

Terrifying?

But love shouldn’t make you abandon your dreams, or push your friends away. And love shouldn’t make you feel guilty—or worse, ashamed.

So when Zephyr finally begins to see Alec for who he really is, she knows it’s time to take back control of her life.

If she waits any longer, it may be too late.

The Girl Who Fell is a really tough book for me to rate. I believe the author had the best intentions when writing it, a belief that is supported by the author’s note in the back of the book. However, it was an uncomfortable and generally un-fun book to read, often because of the topic it deals with. The dialogue (and relationship) between Alec and Zephyr is dramatic, awkward, cheesy, and cringeworthy. He’s such a creep. The writing style left me feeling like I was being told a lot and shown very little, particularly in regards to Zephyr’s family life and her father’s departure. Zephyr’s issues with her father were used to explain a lot of her illusions in her relationship with Alec, but the daddy issues were dealt with weakly, not head-on. The ending, when Zephyr finally sees Alec for what he really is, was the best part of the book, but even it was rushed and not thorough. I would have preferred to see less of the book dedicated to Zephyr and Alec’s relationship and more to the aftermath of its ending.

What I Liked
Zephyr. A senior in high school who’s been dying to escape her hometown all her life. She’s a perfectionist, she has a life plan, she knows exactly what she wants. She also has flaws, insecurities and trust issues, especially when it comes to men (especially her dad), which in turn affects her perspective in and about romantic relationships. I found her to be so relatable on the surface, and I understood how she got to where she was in her relationship with Alec, even though the execution resulted in a physical insta-love scenario.

Lizzie and Gregg. Lizzie was always there for Zephyr, always supportive, and her unwavering friendship and loyalty was inspiring. We need more Lizzies in YA! Gregg had his moments. Sometimes he was a jerk, even if he was acting from a place of hurt and rejection. But mostly, he was a really caring guy and I wish I had a Gregg in my life.

Hockey. I love, love, LOVE hockey. It’s my favorite sport ever and the fact that it was mentioned a lot, even in passing, in The Girl Who Fell was awesome. Gregg is a star player, and Zephyr and Lizzie attend a lot of his games. Alec is a goalie, but he’s a douchebucket so who cares.

The issue. I appreciate that The Girl Who Fell deals with the prevalent issue of abusive relationships. It’s refreshing to see a darker side of contemporary YA romance.

What I Didn’t Like
The execution of the issue. I do feel that The Girl Who Fell, despite the plethora of sex scenes, was written a little young in dealing with this issue. It doesn’t necessarily tackle the issue, but rather presents it. Which is better than nothing, but I would have liked to see Zephyr wrestle with the realities of her relationship throughout rather than suddenly have an epiphany and end things.

The sex. Why were there so many goddamn sex/groping/makeout scenes?! At times, The Girl Who Fell read like a freaking erotica novel! I ended up skimming some of the book, though not just the sex scenes, because it was boring, repetitive, and, in my mind, unnecessary. I just wanted to reach a climax and resolution.

The pacing. So much of the novel was dedicated to Zephyr’s relationship with Alec. It got a bit dull, especially when there was no resolution with Gregg and no developments or conflict with Lizzie. Zephyr doesn’t even feel conflicted about Alec or the relationship, she just feels guilty for “hurting” him all the time, so most of the book was a shit show of BORING and OMG I HATE ALEC, THAT DICK.

Alec. Speaking of Alec… Yeah, he sucked. And yes, he was supposed to. That was kind of the point. But ugh, I hate him. I also pity him. But mostly hate.

The ending. The ending, for me, was where the book picked up. Zephyr connects the dots and realizes what the reader has known all along: that Alec is a manipulative swine. (The manipulations are very blatant and predictable.) However, the ending also felt very rushed and dramatic, and I didn’t get as much resolution as I would have liked. And I thought that, after all the pain her dad’s leaving caused her, Zephyr’s easy forgiveness of him after they met for dinner was a bit unrealistic. I also would have liked Gregg and Zephyr to really end up together, but it’s kind of just left up in the air. Sigh.

Overall
The Girl Who Fell is a decent book that deals with a complex issue in a simplistic way. As a senior in high school myself, I found parts of it very relatable. I can’t say I enjoyed reading most of it, but I don’t think it’s a bad book and I don’t want to discourage others from reading it. As a reader who has explored other books on the issue of abusive relationships, I found The Girl Who Fell to be predictable and underwhelming, but for those who have not yet read a story like it, it could be eye-opening.

Thanks for reading.

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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.