Fantasy

All posts in the Fantasy category

Heir Of Fire (Throne Of Glass #3) – Sarah J. Maas

Published March 20, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Celaena has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak―but at an unspeakable cost. Now, she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth . . . a truth about her heritage that could change her life―and her future―forever. Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. Will Celaena find the strength to not only fight her inner demons, but to take on the evil that is about to be unleashed?

The bestselling series that has captured readers all over the world reaches new heights in this sequel to the New York Times best-selling Crown of Midnight. Packed with heart-pounding action, fierce new characters, and swoon-worthy romance, this third book will enthrall readers from start to finish.

What did I think?:

This is the third novel in the epic and utterly amazing Throne Of Glass series and yet again, Sarah J. Maas has me completely under her spell. I love this series so much but I definitely recommend reading it from the first book, Throne Of Glass as the characters and plot undergoes so many twists and turns that it could seem a bit overwhelming to those of you who haven’t come across our fantastic (and kick-ass) assassin and heroine, Celaena Sardothien. I’m still a bit surprised that I haven’t heard anything about this series being commissioned for film or television – its comparable to Game Of Thrones in its world building and could bring a lot more new people to a story that I love with every breath in my body.

As always, it’s terribly difficult to review the third book in a series and I’m wary of giving any spoilers for the previous books. So, if you haven’t read them I highly recommend doing that and then maybe coming back. However, I will try to be very vague about certain aspects of the narrative. Celaena goes on one of the biggest personal journeys in Heir Of Fire. Due to events that occurred in Crown Of Midnight, she is a broken, self-doubting, regretful and guilty as hell individual and constantly beats herself up for decisions she has made in the past. Travelling to the land of the Fae outside Adarlan, she meets a host of new people who are very similar to herself and uses her sharp tongue and wit to have a duel of words with Queen Maeve of the Fae to try and get some information about the dreaded Wyrdkeys and the secrets behind their power.

Not only this but Celaena begins to train with one of Maeve’s most fearsome and respected warriors, Rowan Whitethorn to develop her gifts and skills way beyond that of a mere assassin. He’s a tough boss to be around and pushes Celaena to her physical and emotional limits but she comes out a stronger and much more powerful individual because of it. Their relationship was one of my high points of the book and I loved how their interactions changed from sneering disgust to grudging respect as they both see what the other is capable of. It’s not all about Celaena and Rowan though. There are a host of new characters to savour, my favourite of which was Manon Blackbeak, heir to the Blackbeak coven and Wing Leader of the Ironteeth Thirteen. The King Of Adarlan (*boo hiss*) has requested their assistance and the wyverns they fly on to carry out his dastardly plans. Meanwhile, Prince Dorian must decide whether he has the strength to stand up to his father and fight for what he truly believes in.

That’s all I want to say about plot but believe me, there’s so much more going on in this novel than what I’ve chosen to focus on. Scene by scene and from character to character, Sarah J. Maas compels the reader to fall in love with this world and the people she has created. Just when you think she couldn’t possibly introduce someone else that has the same level of excitement that Celaena brings to the novel, enter Manon Blackbeak who at the moment is jostling with her in my head for the title of favourite character, that’s how much of an impact she has had on me. The secondary characters are also wonderful in their own right and should not be forgotten and I must admit to having a special spot in my heart for Abraxos, Manon’s loyal but temperamental wyvern. The relationship between these two was so beautiful and I found myself smiling inanely whenever they appeared on the pages. With another tense yet brilliant ending, I cannot help but eagerly anticipate the fourth novel, Queen Of Shadows and urge everyone who hasn’t already to begin reading this series as soon as possible. If you’re already a die-hard fan (like myself) let’s talk in the comments! Who is your favourite character and why?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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In Darkling Wood – Emma Carroll

Published March 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘You’re telling me there are fairies in this wood?’

When Alice’s brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother’s house. There’s nothing good about staying with Nell, except for the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of her garden – but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace, and even finds a friend, Flo. But Flo doesn’t seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to wonder, what is real? And can she find out in time to save the wood from destruction?

What did I think?:

I’m a huge fan of Emma Carroll’s writing which is aimed at middle grade readers but can easily be read by children and adults alike. In fact, I like to think it brings out my inner child which I did think was permanently dormant until I get lost in one of her stories. Everything about this story is just beautiful. From the stunning cover art and inviting title to the story and characters within, the author has managed to write an inspiring tale that had me enraptured until I had finished it.

Once again, our main protagonist is female and just as charming and delightful as the author’s previous female leads in Frost Hollow Hall and The Girl Who Walked On Air. Her name is Alice and she has already been through the emotional mill and dealt with much more than a young teenager should have to. Her parents are (quite acrimoniously) separated and she has quite a difficult and distant relationship with her father and her father’s family. To top it all off, her little brother Theo is seriously ill and at the beginning of the novel, gets a long awaited call to have a heart transplant which will undoubtedly save his life. Alice is packed off to live with her grandmother on her father’s side, Nell while the upheaval with Theo is going on.

Nell lives right alongside Darkling Wood, a magical place where Alice manages to make her first friend – Flo, who dresses strangely and only meets her within the wood. Flo tells Alice all about the fairies who call Darkling Wood their home and that they are desperately worried. You see, some of the trees are causing a bit of damage to Nell’s house and Nell has become determined to get rid of the entire wood, despite the pleas of the other people in the town to desist. If this happens, the fairies will lose their home. Alongside this story, we also see wonderful letters from 1918 that a young girl who used to live there wrote to her brother, fighting in the war. Alice has a multitude of things to deal with – worries about her brother, her relationship with her grandmother and father, learning about the past and trying to change the present, all the paranoia that comes with starting a new school and being an outsider, learning to believe in fairies and magic again, healing rifts and building bridges that have been broken for so long.

I was always going to be excited about another Emma Carroll book, let’s be honest. An Emma Carroll book about fairies? Well, knock everything else off the TBR pile, I had to read this one ASAP. Of course, I was in no way disappointed. This wonderful story had everything I wanted and so much more. I loved the fairies, granted but this novel is so much more than that. It’s bittersweet, occasionally dark and sometimes heart-breaking and explores beautifully the complexity of human relationships in such a gentle, intelligent way. I especially loved the nod to actual events, where Arthur Conan Doyle visits girls who have reported that they have seen fairies. The author reminds me with every books that she writes of the old magic and strong characters that I used to live for in children’s literature. She deserves every bit of praise that is written about her and while I eagerly anticipate her next novel, I just want to wholeheartedly thank her for making me believe in fairies again.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Etta And Otto and Russell And James – Emma Hooper

Published March 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. I will try to remember to come back.

Etta’s greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. And so, at the age of eighty-two she gets up very early one morning, takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles to water.

Meanwhile her husband Otto waits patiently at home, left only with his memories. Their neighbour Russell remembers too, but differently – and he still loves Etta as much as he did more than fifty years ago, before she married Otto.

What did I think?:

There were quite a few things that immediately drew me to Emma Hooper’s debut novel. First of all, the lovely cover with the cheeky little animal on the front (which I now know to be a coyote). Secondly, the title – I mean, four names in a title, what’s that all about? I simply had to find out! Finally, there had been a lot of comparisons of this book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce which happens to be one of my all time favourite novels. I normally don’t like it when books are compared to others but I loved Harold Fry so much I needed to give Etta & Co a chance to stand as a story on its own merits.

So where this book is similar to Harold Fry is that it involves an adult in their eighties undergoing a long walk to get to a destination, meeting different people and well-wishers along the way. In this novel, our protagonist is Etta, 83 and slowly losing her memory. She wakes up one day and decides to walk to the ocean as she has never seen it, leaving her husband Otto a note explaining this and that she would “try to remember to come back.” The story follows Etta’s journey but is in no way chronological and dips back into the past and present as memories surface for Etta during her journey. We learn about her life as a teacher when she first met Otto. We also learn about Otto’s early life, part of a family fifteen-strong with the addition of his best friend (and current neighbour) Russell who becomes the honorary sixteenth member.

Most of Etta and Otto’s relationship is told in the form of letters, particularly when Otto has to go away to fight in World War II. Russell is Etta’s main support system when Otto is gone, unable to join up himself because of a childhood accident that left him with a lame leg. Russell is also deeply in love with Etta and when he hears about her pilgrimage later in life, immediately sets out to find her. Otto, her husband, stays at home making paper mache animals for Etta’s return and learning to bake from the recipes Etta has left him, deliberately so he can manage without her. Meanwhile on her journey, Etta meets many well-wishers and makes new friends, particularly a wily talking coyote called James who has quite the gift of the gab but encourages Etta through harder times on the road. The ending is somewhat bitter-sweet and very much left open to the readers own interpretation – it’s something I was slightly surprised by but thoroughly enjoyed at the same time.

I guess if you’ve read Harold Fry before you can see the similarities between them but I think this novel deserves to be talked about as a story all of its own. There are many differences between the stories also, particularly the magical realism part with the talking coyote, James, the dementia that Etta is sliding into and the hardships that Etta and Otto have suffered as a couple. I really fell in love with Etta as a character and the pure whimsical nature of this book (yes a talking coyote was always going to be a bonus for me, even if he was just in Etta’s mind?). It was also nice to hear from the spouse left behind, in this case Otto whose little paper mache animals and determination to learn to cook warmed the cockles of my heart. Initially, I was a bit wary of the ending of this novel and I have to admit, slightly disappointed but on closer reflection, I realise it was a perfect way for the reader to make up their own mind as to what happens. I’ll certainly be reading anything else Emma Hooper releases, this is one debut author with a bucket load of talent and beautiful writing to boot.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Published February 22, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Wishing Tree all about?:

The Wishing Tree focuses on the relationship between a mother and a daughter as they struggle through a traumatic time and make an important journey that begins to build bridges between them.

What did I think?:

I’ve waxed on previously about stories in this beautiful collection that have been written so lyrically and have really touched something deep within myself. However, there are always going to be those stories that don’t quite hit the spot, so as to speak and unfortunately The Wishing Tree was one of those. On reading the title, I admit I was stupidly excited, expecting a story with a bit of a fairy tale element. Of course, the Cornish folklore that the author draws upon is present and the landscape she writes about is breathtaking and captured my attention in that way but for some reason, I just didn’t feel connected with the two main characters which left what happened between them at the end feeling like a bit of a “damp squib,” than a moving, tear-jerking incident which I think the author intended.

The story follows Tessa and her mother June who are on their way to visit an old friend, a trip they have made previously. The reader immediately senses that all is not right with June from the scar on her neck and the way her daughter refers to her. They have made this trip previously and on the first trip came across a wishing tree which they happen upon once more, filled with offerings that previous wishers have left on its branches. Tessa recalls how she was struggling to think of a wish the first time they visited and now regrets it. We get the feeling that there is a very clear thing that she should have wished for – her mother’s health.

Throughout the story, we get the impression that the two have quite a fractured and fragile relationship with June taking the typical role of “strong mother,” and Tessa being that child that always needed help (and indeed does still as an adult). Now that June is ill, the roles are having to be reversed even though June is fighting it with every fibre of her being. The story ends with Tessa finally being able to help her mother in the best way she can and June learning to accept her help.

There were a multitude of brilliant things about this story. First, the way it was written as with all of Lucy Wood’s stories – it was beautiful, descriptive and poetic, I could almost imagine every character and scene vividly. I did also love how she explored the relationship between Tessa and June and how we left them, albeit abruptly, with more hope for their future. Personally though, I felt quite distant from the two throughout the narrative and didn’t really feel like I knew them so the ending when it came, as a result did not touch me as much as it might have done if I had cared deeply about the characters. Strangely enough I also wanted the wishing tree to form a bigger part of the story and was perhaps a little disappointed when it didn’t! 😀

Saying that, I do think that this story will touch others, especially if they are struggling with an ill parent or have parental relationship issues of their own. For me, there are much better stories in this collection which had a greater impact and lasting effect.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

 

 

Everbound (Everneath #2) – Brodi Ashton

Published February 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.

Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.

Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.

In this enthralling sequel to Everneath, Brodi Ashton tests the bonds of destiny and explores the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love.

What did I think?:

It’s always tricky reviewing the second book in a series so I’m going to try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible! For anybody who hasn’t come across the Everneath series before it’s heavily based on Greek mythology (one of my favourite things) but set in contemporary times. The Everneath itself is the equivalent of the Greek Hades and is ruled over by a Queen (who is slightly more tyrannical than the Greek Persephone). It’s definitely become one of my favourite YA series and not just because of the mythological nod. I love the characters, the plot and the world building – basically, it’s just a darn good read if you like your fiction a little fantastical.

Our main character is Nikki Beckett whom in the first book, experienced all the horrors of the Everneath through Cole, a resident of the area. At the time, her mother had died, she was having problems with her boyfriend Jack and generally wasn’t in a good place. However, visiting the Everneath with Cole came at a price. After coming back to her normal life, she was compelled to return to the Everneath after a period of six months for good and is desperately trying to figure a way around it after she was happily reconciled with Jack. The first book ends with a bit of a bang leaving both Nikki and Jack’s lives in danger. With the help of Cole, she must return once more to the Everneath to save both her and her boyfriend’s lives. Entering the Everneath with the hope of escaping is not going to be an easy task in any way, shape or form. Nikki must penetrate the three barriers of wind, fire and water, avoid zombie-like creatures that wander aimlessly around and the furious Queen if she can possibly help it and manage to escape out the other side, back to the real world with both her and Jack’s lives intact.

This is a brilliant and very strong second book in the Everneath series. I love Nikki as a character, she’s independent and determined and although she has been through multiple traumatic experiences she seems to come out of it relatively scar free with more motive than ever before. I’m not usually a fan of love triangles (cue eye rolling) in YA fiction but I really rate the characters of both Jack and Cole, the latter of which just fascinates me. For Jack fans, there is less of him to savour in this outing but we do get a few flashbacks of the early stages of his relationship with Nikki which was lovely to read. Finally, the world building which I mentioned earlier is just phenomenal and so imaginative. I could really picture the Everneath in my mind’s eye and whilst Nikki is there, the action is full throttle and incredibly thrilling. I’m definitely looking forward to the final book in the trilogy now and will feel a bit sad when it all comes to an end!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – JANUARY READ – Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

Published January 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Pevensie siblings are back to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

What did I think?:

Welcome to the first book of Kid Lit 2017! Chrissi and I have chosen to continue with the Chronicles of Narnia series as we’ve been reading it from when we first started blogging four years ago and I especially really wanted to read right until the very end. We are also reading in chronological order rather than publication order, so Prince Caspian is the fourth book in the Narnia adventures and one I don’t really remember from when I read the series as a child so I was keen to re-discover it.

I was delighted to find that our favourite siblings from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe are back in the magical land of Narnia, called back from Susan’s magical horn, given to her from the great Aslan himself. The horn summons help when the user is in need and the user, Prince Caspian is in dire straits indeed. He is the rightful heir to the throne of Narnia but the kingship has been taken over by the wicked King Miraz and his band of soldiers, the Telmarines. They reject all the “old Narnian” ways, even by punishing people talking about the old days and the talking creatures that are left have fled into hiding to escape persecution/certain death.

Prince Caspian, the true king, is now a threat to King Miraz and is helped to flee by his tutor, a half-dwarf who puts him in touch with the Old Narnians, two dwarfs and a kindly badger called Trufflehunter. They in turn round up all the other talking creatures to form a war council (with some of the most wonderful characters I have ever read about!) and summon the ancient rulers of Narnia – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy back from England. The siblings find Narnia completely changed from when they were last Kings and Queens. Cair Paravel has gone to ruin, the creatures in the trees have all gone to sleep and all the other talking creatures daren’t show their faces for fear of what would happen under King Miraz. However, Lucy swears that she keeps seeing Aslan through the trees and perhaps with his help, they can put Prince Caspian in his rightful place and return Narnia to how it used to be.

I’m always going to love going back into the world of Narnia I think, no matter how long it has been. Prince Caspian started very promisingly and took me straight back to that magical place, especially when we got to the talking creatures (which made me do a silent fist pump, I have to admit). Like Mr Tumnus and Mr and Mrs Beaver in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe we have a whole host of loveable animals to coo over but the absolute best and I’m sure Chrissi would agree was the delightful head of the mouse army – Reepicheep who also has the honour of having the cover of the book. He was completely adorable, I loved his attitude, his bravery and his determination and was definitely one of my highlights of the book.

Apart from that, it was lovely to catch up with the Pevensie siblings and even if Susan irritated me slightly in this outing it was quite sobering to realise that the next book in the series may feature just two of the original foursome. The only slight issues I have with the book is the ending which unfortunately I feel was just too rushed and perhaps slightly confusing for younger readers. As for the religious references, to be honest, I don’t really read it like that. I’m aware of it as an adult but it doesn’t seem terribly overt and obvious and I just appreciate it for the fantasy and great adventure story that it is.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review check out her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017: The Cuckoo Sister by Vivian Alcock

 

 

Checkmate (Noughts & Crosses #3) – Malorie Blackman

Published January 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Can the future ever erase the past? Rose has a Cross mother and a nought father in a society where the pale-skinned noughts are treated as inferiors and those with dual heritage face a life-long battle against deep-rooted prejudices. Sephy, her mother, has told Rose virtually nothing about her father, but as Rose grows into a young adult, she unexpectedly discovers the truth about her parentage and becomes determined to find out more. But her father’s family has a complicated history – one tied up with the fight for equality for the nought population. And as Rose takes her first steps away from Sephy and into this world, she finds herself drawn inexorably into more and more danger. Suddenly it’s a game of very high stakes that can only have one winner . . .

What did I think?:

Checkmate is the third book in the fabulous Noughts & Crosses series by a woman I’ve come to think of as a YA genius – Malorie Blackman. I am going to try and write this review as spoiler free as I can for anybody who hasn’t started the series yet but it gets harder with each successive book in the series. I heartily recommend anyone who is interested in dystopian fiction, prejudice and racial tension to read these books and discover the magic of them for yourself.

Our main character from the first book, Sephy is back and she has had a daughter, Callie Rose whom she is raising by herself with the help of her mother and Callie’s father’s mother. Callie is growing up in tough times where black people (known as Crosses) are the “superior” race and whites (known as Noughts) are treated with scorn and derision. Callie’s problem is that she has a Cross mother and a Nought father, so in effect is mixed race and suffers terrible prejudice from both sides of the divide. Checkmate is Callie’s coming of age story as she grows up in a hostile world, tries to connect with her often emotionally distant mother and finds out things about her family that may have been better left hidden and may have dangerous consequences.

To be perfectly honest, this book did not have as much of an effect on me as the previous two books in the series, Noughts & Crosses and Knife Edge, Apart from the ending that is, which is quite literally explosive and incredibly tense, paving the way for a potentially devastating final book in the series. I loved Callie Rose as a character and could see a lot of her mother in her young self but found myself becoming quite frustrated with Sephy at times as her wariness around her daughter was truly heart-breaking to read. I loved the way that this novel was told from the perspective of multiple characters once again, this is one of my favourite ways to read as I feel it gives you a much deeper insight into the mind of certain characters, especially ones where you can’t quite accept their motives. Say no more….apart from please start this series if you haven’t already and let me know what you think!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0