New Adult, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

My Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.5): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: May 1st, 2018

Number of Pages: 229 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Genre(s): YA Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers from the previous books in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***

To see my review for book #1 – A Court of Thorns and Roses – Click HERE

To see my review for book #2 – A Court of Mist and Fury – Click HERE

To see my review for book #3 – A Court of Wings and Ruin – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

I am so torn on this novella (a shorter version of a regular, full length novel); part of me loved to once again read about this amazing cast of characters and see that their stories are not actually over and are still going on, but not nearly enough happens in this story to make it feel all that satisfying of a read.

It’s Prythian’s winter solstice after the war against the King of Hybern and this story is all about the after effects of war: the PTSD, the grief over losing loved ones, and just the struggle some have more than others to go back to having a “normal” life in Velaris…well, as normal as someone’s life can actually be in a Sarah J. Maas novel. Like before, some characters get more attention that others, but this novella does one thing in particular for the first time in the series: having someone other than Feyre’s perspective. Sure it’s Rhysand, but with this small gateway, it provides us the the opportunity to see the story begin to focus on other characters…

…but I just wish this book went further with it, so it would’ve been beneficial to make it a full length novel. However, there are several more books being added to this series, so maybe us SJM fans just need to be patient and savor what we are given at the time!

Stars flickered around us, sweet darkness sweeping in. As if we were the only souls in a galaxy.”

– Sarah J. Maas, “A Court of Frost and Starlight”

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

What I Liked:

  1. The Themes of Dealing with Grief and Recovery! While this novella isn’t the most exciting or action packed out of SJM’s books, it does address these complex emotions with how her characters are dealing with the fallout from all that happened with the war against the King of Hybern. Everyone deals with grief in different ways, and I think SJM does a great job of showing different ways in which her characters are dealing with everything; it’s not an easy path to go down, but it felt so real to look into their heads and see the different methods of recovery they chose, plus it helps lead me into my next point!
  2. The Potential for More! With the themes of what I just pointed out, also in this short story is that there are some potential easter eggs discovered to bridge the trilogy to the next phase of these books! While the King of Hybern is defeated and there’s no big threat like him (at the moment at least), there’s still a lot that has to be addressed within the cast of characters!
  3. Rhysand and Feyre’s Romance! These two and their relationship are still the forefront of these books, and this book is the first where the storyline doesn’t focus solely on Feyre’s POV; Rhysand takes center stage for a few chapters too! While some readers are sick of it by now, I personally didn’t mind at how these two seem to only have sex on the mind whenever they’re around each other! I mean think about it, they’re still kind of newlyweds who don’t have war or the safety of their world to worry about finally; they can just be a normal couple and slow down and breathe a little easier with their everyday lives. I think it still made sense, but I do agree that the word “mate” could’ve been said a lot less! We get it….they’re mated, but husband and wife can still refer to each other by their actual names and not have them simply be referred to as “my mate.” they’re too big of characters to be reduced to that! There’s lots of fluff between them for the hopeless romantics out there!
  4. Nesta’s Development! Nesta is an incredibly complex character, and the fandom is really torn on her character. Some despise and call her the “stone-cold bitch,” others think she’s a total badass who’s going to unleash a whirlwind of hell with her fae abilities. I’m not the biggest fan of her, but I can get where she comes from, especially with her reluctance to remain close to the “inner circle” that she’s obviously not a part of. She gets a really interested exploration of her character because she’s not handling the death of her father a well as she’d like the others to believe. She’s going down a dark path, and making some questionable choices, plus there’s the whole thing with Cassian too! She may piss off a lot of you when you read this story, but I can appreciate how SJM sheds so much light on a minor character and reveals so many complex things going on beneath the surface!
  5. “The Wall Scene!” Small victory for those who enjoy the smuttier side of this series, but we finally get the scene that Rhysand brought to our attention all the way back in Mist and Fury! Hey, I say take a victory like that whenever you can!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. It’s Only a Novella…With how the “trilogy” ended with us having so many more questions, plus leaving certain story aspects up in the air, this book hardly gives us any answers, and that’s simply because it’s a shortened version of a novel: a novella. It was simply supposed to be a bridge/teaser into the next phase of the whole Court of Thorns and Roses series, and while it certainly gives us easter eggs for some conflicts to come later on, it wasn’t really enough to fully consider it a satisfying read. Maybe if it was longer and just had more going on, it would be much more successful, but even with it being two years later as this review is being published in 2020, with this long of a gap between the books, it would’ve been nice to get more! Not trying to knock SJM for that, because I know she’s had a lot going on in her personal life since this book released, so I don’t want to sound whiny/bratty about all of this!
  2. Mor’s Situation Isn’t Explored…I guess you could say this kind of continues off the last point made, but Mor gave us a big confession of being queer in Wings and Ruin! She confessed that she doesn’t know how to break it to Azriel, who’s been following her around like a broody, lovestruck puppy for 500+ years, and I was really hoping this whole storyline would’ve been addressed, and it was…but it didn’t develop any further than Mor admitting she’s waiting for the right time to tell others….okay, I’m already not exactly thrilled at how this is how to break in a queer character, but Mor holding off like this is making me like her less and less, and I can say I’m justified in this reasoning considering I’m queer myself…I know it’s hard to come out and that everyone should have the freedom to do it when they choose, but c’mon….he’s one of your best friends who you’ve been stringing along for 500+ years and you still can’t just break it to him? It just doesn’t sit right with me…
  3. Redemption Arc for Tamlin?…So the scene with Rhysand and Tamlin was probably the most interesting scene in the whole book for me! I got the impression that Tamlin is going to potentially get a redemption arc of some sort, and to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that. Some redemption arcs are absolutely amazing–Prince Zuko, anyone?–but the thing about them is all about how it develops! If it’s done the right way, it can be amazing, but that also means it depends on the character themselves too. While Tamlin showed he’s not completely on the dark side with how he helped Feyre escape the King’s camp in Wings and Ruin, I’m still skeptical if he can truly redeem himself at this point unless he makes some major life sacrifice, which is usually the way these storylines end. I don’t know, I guess we’ll have to see how this is addressed in the future books!

Conclusion:

Overall, this novella is merely a tease that hits at more, but doesn’t really give enough to make it fully satisfying. There are some good things to come out of it: mainly at the hints of what’s to come later on in the later books and how well SJM deals with grief and characters with poor mental health and the choices they make to either save themselves or further dig themselves deeper down the dark hole of depression and further alienation.

It’s just such a brief bridge from the original trilogy and into the next phase of this series, which all I can for sure say is A Court of Silver Flames, coming out February 16th, 2021 and it will star Cassian and Nesta, who had the most development within this novella and had the most potential for an interesting story moving forward based off Frost and Starlight alone! I seriously can’t wait for the next installment; SJM has confirmed it will be her smuttiest book yet and my body is READY for it!!

I want you out of Velaris,’ Feyre breathed, her voice shaking.

Nesta tried—tried and failed—not to feel the blow, the sting of the words. Though she didn’t know why she was surprised by it. There were no paintings of her in this house, they did not invite her to parties or dinners anymore, they certainly didn’t visit—

‘And where,’ Nesta asked, her voice mercifully icy, ‘am I supposed to go?’

Feyre only looked to Cassian. And for once, the Illyrian warrior wasn’t grinning as he said, ‘You’re coming with me to the Illyrian Mountains.‘”

– Sarah J. Maas, “A Court of Frost and Starlight”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal, Romance

My Review: Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1): by Laura Thalassa

Publish Date: November 15th, 2016

Number of Pages: 326 Pages

Publisher: Lavabrook Publishing Group

Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

Having the Bargainer’s full attention is like catching a tiger’s eye. All you wanted to do was pet the creature, but as soon as it turns its gaze on you, you realize it’s simply going to tear you apart.”

– Laura Thalassa, “Rhapsodic”

If you’re someone who really enjoys the whole romantic dynamic of stories based on the classical Greek Mythology tale of Hades and Persephone, this is a series you may want to look into! It’s the story of a sweet, bright, innocent, pure young woman who finds herself in an unorthodox romantic story with the Lord/Ruler of a Dark Underworld. Opposites attract, and passions ignite when the lines are tested between what is right and wrong and the big questions are usually “Is the love for real? Will she allow this love to corrupt her and taint her?” It’s a romantic concept that I’ve seen in several other works of fiction:

  • Feyre Archeron & Rhysand in Sarah J Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series
  • Jenny & Julian in L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game series
  • Alina Starkov & The Darkling in Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow & Bone trilogy
  • Bella Swan & Edward Cullen in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series
  • Isobel & Prince Rook in Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens (standalone)
  • Poppy Balfour & Casteel Da’Neer in Jennifer Armentrout’s From Blood and Ash series

Heck, you could even say Beauty and the Beast is a retelling of Hades and Persephone! It’s a dynamic a lot of readers like myself never get tired of; it may be done quite a bit, but I will never ever really consider it an annoying cliché.

This book was kind of a highly anticipated read for me after plowing through Jennifer Armentrout’s first two books in her From Blood and Ash series (seriously recommend it if you haven’t read it yet!), and this book was constantly being mentioned across the Facebook groups I’m a part of for JLA’s books, and also for a Sarah J. Maas group too. If two groups are telling me to read this book, odds are I better do it!

After completing this book, I can say I enjoyed it for the most part; it wasn’t as spectacular as I was hoping it’d be, but it was still quite enjoyable to say the least! The writing wasn’t the greatest, it felt very amateurish at times to be completely honest, but that didn’t detract from the story too much. I do wish the author gave other plot aspects other than just the romance more attention, like the world-building and the mystery that’s supposed to drive the plot. However, the romance has to be my favorite part of all, and I’d say Desmond Flynn, a.k.a. “The Bargainer,” is a great choice for you to add to your “Book Boyfriend” list.

The romance that built up between the Desmond and our other main character, Callypso Lillis (Callie for short), developed through two timelines that ran parallel most of the first half of the story, one being in present time while the other took place in the past and shows you key moments between them and their developing relationship. Callie isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind when she’s older, and isn’t afraid to use her sexuality to get what she wants. Desmond starts off arrogant, crude, cheeky and sarcastic, but as he reveals more and more to Callie as you read further on, you will definitely fall for him like any other tortured dark ruler character; his admission to Callie was by far the strongest scene in the whole book!

And the mountains may rise and fall, and the sun might wither away, and the sea may claim the land and swallow the sky. But you will always be mine. And the stars might fall from the heavens, and night might cloak the earth, but until darkness dies, I will always be yours.”

– Laura Thalassa, “Rhapsodic”

(Yes, slight spoiler, but it makes an even bigger impact when it’s read in full context in the story!)

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Callypso Lillis is a siren with a very big problem, one that stretches up her arm and far into her past. For the last seven years she’s been collecting a bracelet of black beads up her wrist, magical IOUs for favors she’s received. Only death or repayment will fulfill the obligations. Only then will the beads disappear.

Everyone knows that if you need a favor, you go to the Bargainer to make it happen. He’s a man who can get you anything you want… at a price. And everyone knows that sooner or later he always collects.

But for one of his clients, he’s never asked for repayment. Not until now. When Callie finds the fae king of the night in her room, a grin on his lips and a twinkle in his eye, she knows things are about to change. At first it’s just a chaste kiss—a single bead’s worth—and a promise for more.

For the Bargainer, it’s more than just a matter of rekindling an old romance. Something is happening in the Otherworld. Fae warriors are going missing one by one. Only the women are returned, each in a glass casket, a child clutched to their breast. And then there are the whispers among the slaves, whispers of an evil that’s been awoken.

If the Bargainer has any hope to save his people, he’ll need the help of the siren he spurned long ago. Only, his foe has a taste for exotic creatures, and Callie just happens to be one.

What I Liked:

  1. Callie and Des’s Dynamic! Throughout this story, the two main characters/love interests have a really well done relationship that goes through much development in both the scenes in the past and in present time, and it’s very similar to the dynamics of other relationships in literature like Feyre and Rhysand through most of A Court of Mist and Fury and even Poppy and Cas in A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire. There’s some initial distrust because the male has done wrong to the girl, but as they work together and travel together, they grow closer and eventually give into their feelings for each other, but (yay), there’s plenty of snappy and sexy banter along the way too!
  2. The Whole “Bargain” Concept! I did find this whole concept to be more interesting than a lot of the rest of it. Over time, Callie has an arm long bracelet that has over 300 beads of all the deals she owes The Bargainer at some point. The author could’ve played with the idea more and had more wicked fun with Des teasing her or making her do some pretty risque actions or even confess some more juicy secrets, but I feel like that would also reach into him compelling her against her will, which I bet wouldn’t sit well with a lot of readers, so there’s that…I’m not sure this concept will really carry over as much into the next books based on how this one developed, but we’ll see!
  3. The Romance Development! It’s what got the most attention from the author, so at least it’s safe to say that it was probably the best part of the whole book! It developed with The Bargainer being summoned by her when she’s a teenager, to when she’s a young woman in college, and to now when she’s a PI in Los Angeles. He sees her in all the biggest parts of her life: the young/naive victim, the angsty young woman, and the brash and courageous siren she becomes later on. As they grow closer, the chemistry boils over and they can’t help but act upon their hidden fantasies, and without spoiling it, the scene where they confess their true feelings will definitely tug at your heartstrings!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Writing Style…I’m not gonna lie, the writing felt quite amateurish throughout this book. A lot of adverbs were used that bothered even me, and that was the main thing that stuck out, but it felt like I was reading someone’s ACOTAR fanfic off AO3 that somehow got published.
  2. The Mystery Felt Underdeveloped…The big inciting incident is Callie discovering that in Des’s world, bodies of women are being returned in glass coffins and in comas with a child cuddled up next to them, and that there’s a mysterious, shadowy figure who may or may not be on the hunt for her, but I feel like this whole mystery was really not given all that much attention to the actual plot. The author made it way too easy to figure out and didn’t really excite me all that much or keep me guessing, too much focus was on the romance.
  3. The Worldbuilding Is Also Lacking…During one of Des’s and Callie’s conversations, he talks in detail about the world of the Fae, which to give the author credit, sounds actually pretty intriguing with some more original sounding courts! Unfortunately, That’s about it as far as how much you actually see of it. Take this with a grain of salt though, A Court of Thorns and Roses was the exact same way where there was a LOT more world-building in the second book!
  4. Where Did The Sidekick Go?…Callie has a BFF/business partner named Temper, who’s an incredibly powerful witch. First, she’s the typical POC sidekick we’ve seen so many times before. Second, she’s only in the book, like, twice it feels like and shows up more often in the form of a phone call whenever Callie needs advice or just to vent to someone. Third, the author constantly mentions how powerful and how dangerous she is, but we never actually see her doing anything! Wasted opportunity there, I seriously hope she becomes more prominent in the next books.

Conclusion:

Overall, I by no means think this is a perfect book, but it’s definitely a great addition for anyone to consider adding it to their “To Read” shelf if they love the concept of what I recognize as the Hades/Persephone love story dynamic. It’s seen in a lot of Fantasy and Paranormal Romance stories: my examples once again are Feyre and Rhysand from Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series, Casteel and Poppy from Jennifer L. Armentrout’s newest series, From Blood and Ash, and even a little similar to Mac and Barrons from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. If you’re a fan of any of those titles, this book will definitely appeal to you!

The romance is purely the only thing keeping me interested in going on with these books, so my fingers are crossed that the author gives more attention to OTHER aspects of her story that she didn’t this first time around: the world-building, her minor characters, and even adding more to the main conflict.

I for sure plan on reading the next books down the line, but I wouldn’t say I’m salivating over how soon I can get my hands on the next title either, I’d say I’m lukewarm-on-the-verge of being curious. There wasn’t too much of a cliffhanger ending—thank god—so I’ll probably be exploring other stories before I choose to get into the second book of The Bargainer series, but be on the lookout for my review of that to pop up on here soon!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

My Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: May 2nd, 2017
Number of Pages: 699 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance

***This review contains major spoilers from the previous books, so continue reading at your own risk. You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – A Court of Thorns and Roses – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – A Court of Mist and Fury – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars

When I first read the book back in 2017 when it was first released, I was once again blown away and majorly entertained by yet another book title released by Sarah J. Maas—if you’d read A Court of Mist and Fury, you were probably just as excited—but looking back into it all these years later leaves a bitter taste in my mouth…

You guys, this book was pretty disappointing…

I think what happened was that I was so excited, so anxious to see what happened next after ACoMaF; to see Feyre and Rhysand reunited once again now that they’re officially mated and she’s now the first ever High Lady in the history of Prythian. That, along with wanting to see the how the final battle played out, and to see if all the couples that fellow fans shipped would finally get together or not. We all wanted to see what would happen in those regards, that maybe some of us skimmed over everything else that was actually wrong with this book. Once we had time to soak it all in and get what we wanted, we could go back and see for ourselves more and more things that weren’t handled well, and we were left disappointed in the outcome. Some people were able to catch them right away, but not me…consider me initially fooled.

Part of me feels guilty that I didn’t catch a lot of the issues right off the bat, even if some of them are issues that only a specific group of people were offended by, but the fact that I first saw nothing wrong with the story aspects that were called out, but then again, is anyone the same person they were three years ago? I’ve read so many books since then, broadened my horizons, grown as a young man since graduating college, and have developed a stronger critical eye for writing and the books I choose to read. Plus, my world views have changed and have seen the real world and how it works, so case in point…I’ve changed. There’s no use beating myself up over not being informed enough then, but accept what I know now moving forward and being able to recognize it in future stories.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

What I Liked:

  1. Feyre’s Antics Back in the Spring Court! Going off the perfect ending to A Court of Mist and Fury, Feyre has been brought back to the Spring Court with a delusional Tamlin, and everyone there expects things to go back to the way they were, except for one major change: Feyre’s now secretly the freakin’ High Lady of the Night Court. Like a Trojan Horse, she’s going to infiltrate enemy territory and cause a little—or a lot—of chaos. Some of her acts are pretty great, like in Lucien’s bedroom…but I wish SJM had some more fun with this part of the book.
  2. Supernatural Battles! ***Spoiler Alert***……………………In the final battle for the fate of the realm, Feyre and the other courts get a little help from some supernatural baddies: The Bone Carver, The Weaver of the Woods, and a shadow known as Bryaxis. I don’t know if they’re just otherworldly monsters or if they’re considered “old world gods,” but their addition was a really cool touch. I wish they wouldn’t have died so easily, when Nesta and Elaine seemed to be able to kill the King almost too easily….but for what it was, I enjoyed their addition to the battle.
  3. Bryaxis! What a fun monster he turned out to be! I love the fact that we never actually see his true form, and the mystery surrounding the monster in general, but even Cassian was afraid of this…thing that lurks in the shadows at the bottom of the library, and the way he was introduced was fun too! Really creepy.
  4. The Worldbuilding (Again)! For this book in particular, I may mean that with the supernatural aspect of it it all. With creatures like Bryaxis, The Suriel, The Weaver of the Woods, The Bone Carver, the Ouroboros, and even Amren, gave SJM’s book a darker and creepier vibe that I really got into. Now, what she didn’t need to do was backup, chicken out on it, and try to humanize them. She should’ve just kept them as sadistic and ominous monsters, to be honest, and let their chaotic evilness reign supreme.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Back to the Beginning…While I enjoyed some of Feyre’s antics and schemes while she was back in the Spring Court, not a whole lot else happens. Actually, not a whole lot happens in the first major chunk of the book except for all the major planning and strategizing for the major war ahead. While that can sometimes be an interesting driver of the story itself, it wasn’t the case here.
  2. Major Plot Inconsistencies…***Okay, so major spoilers in this one, so seriously consider skipping over if you haven’t read it yet*** ………..but I’m talking about when Rhysand dies and is resurrected by Feyre and the other High Lords (much like she was in the first book). It’s been said how the power of the High Lords is passed down through generation to generation, and Rhysand is supposed to be the most powerful out of all of them…so how is that possible, exactly? Each High Lord has their own specific power, and it manifests into their heir, so how is he more powerful than the others? Also, if he was resurrected like Feyre, how come he didn’t inherit their powers like she did? Also, what exactly is Nesta’s power? Death? Among other things, I did start to notice that maybe the magic system could’ve used some fine tuning, because it became a plot convenience.
  3. Random Coming Out of the Closet…***Another spoiler ahead***…….so yeah, a character reveals that they are actually queer, and it’s handled just so poorly. It was treated like an afterthought, purely for cheap shock value. Yes….I do mean Mor and Azriel. Not that I’m upset that a possible hetero couple didn’t work out for once, inaction and avoidance of the confrontation that needed to happen has led to casting Mor into a less than stellar light. Stringing Azriel along and giving him a false sense of hope isn’t cool, and he deserved more than that. I get the fear of showing vulnerability, and accepting/revealing this part of yourself as identifying as queer is a big thing, but for how long she’d known him (500 years?), maybe their relationship wasn’t as strong as we’d like to believe it was if she felt she could never confide in him or let the guy off easy. I recognize that SJM has obviously listened to her fans included more LGBT characters, and she did make it so that homophobia—for the most part—wasn’t a thing to worry about. Unfortunately, a character who turned out to be bi/pansexual (it’s never fully clarified) was handled rather poorly too. Basically, they’re the horny individual who wants to have sex with everyone of both genders, and usually at the same time. It’s kind of a stereotype, and I thought it was hot at first, but hearing from others that this was poor representation made me change my mind.
  4. The Underdeveloped Villain…Who even is the King of Hybern outside of his scheme to take over the realm? Hardly any personality, hardly anything is revealed, or even told through reputation…I would’ve rather had Ianthe, Tamlin, or even the Bone Carver ending up being the big boss villain in the end.
  5. The Romance/Sex Scenes…Yes, a lot of us can agree that SJM isn’t the greatest at writing a sex scene, but I feel like that’s not entirely her fault, so let me explain. I feel like she can go further with this aspect of her writing ability, but it was more how limited based off the fact that she’s trying to include smut in a YA novel, and words like cock, fuck, vagina, clit, etc. can’t really be used for the younger reading level. She was threading a delicate line with this is in her book, and obviously wanted to write it more through the actions of a full grown adult rather than through the eyes of a teenager, which is the main fanbase that this book was marketed towards. I don’t need to go into the other words/phrases she used instead: the devouring and feasting that occurred, even after a treacherous battle and witnessing many others die before their eyes…I feel like that’s been poked to death by plenty of other readers. Think back to The Hunger Games movies, and how a lot of people said they would’ve been better if they were rated R, but were PG-13 instead to make more money? It kind of reminds me of that, so maybe she has the ability to write these scenes well, it was more how she did what she could with the materials she was limited to use.
  6. The Under-usage of Amren as a Character…I was disappointed with how little we saw of Amren, and how she became more of background character who stayed behind and simply read books to give the group answers while she sips on blood in a wine glass. Also, was anyone disappointed when it’s finally revealed what she is? I was expecting more there…
  7. Not Everyone Needed to End Up with Someone…It’s becoming a similar theme in all of SJM’s books, but almost all major players have to end up with someone, or there’s major hints at two people getting together later on. While I’m a hopeless romantic at heart and love seeing people finding their soulmate, but….there’s also nothing wrong with being single. It’s beginning to feel like in SJM’s worlds, you need to end up with someone in order to matter or be happy. This can go into the acephobia criticism the book has gotten, but I feel like others can explain that better than I can, so I’ll leave it to them.
  8. More People Needed to Die For Higher Impact…***Major Spoilers***…………This sounds unsettling I know…but I think more major characters should’ve died in the final battle. It feels too safe that they all made it out in the end…not completely unscathed, of course, but the book would’ve had so much more emotional impact if say… Mor died before she could’ve had that conversation with Azriel, Amren died after her true form saved them for the moment, Tamlin got killed for his one little spec of a moment when he wasn’t a total piece of trash, or if Rhysand had stayed dead. Make things feel dangerous and unpredictable, that literally ANYONE could wind up dead at any moment! It’s part of what made Game of Thrones such a blatant success when it was running during it’s first few seasons: so many character deaths, including major players like almost every Stark Royal, Joffrey, Tywin, The Direwolves, Khal Drogo, the Direwolves, plus many more…some of these I’m still not over.

Conclusion:

A shiny new toy that I absolutely adored when I first got my hands on it back in 2017, going back into it all this time later leaves a bitter taste in my mouth as I’ve noticed more and more things about this book that I’d either ignored, or hadn’t even realized I didn’t like it at the time. I feel like I’ve become a much different reader and overall human being since the time I first read this, and I can take note more things to call out on in whatever books I choose to read.

I’m torn on how SJM and Bloomsbury have decided to rebrand this series and rerelease it as an Adult level Fantasy Genre series. While It’s been one of the most popular series in recent memory amongst YA readers, there’s no doubt that there’s been some major controversy over some of the more mature themes it presents. I’ve always known it be more New Adult than Young Adult, although I’m conflicted about the new cover designs…I wasn’t crazy about the original covers, but I don’t necessarily fangirl shriek in anticipation of these new ones either…Here’s a comparison below for those that don’t know what I’m talking about:

The original Young Adult Covers:

The rebranded Adult Covers:

Don’t let my many criticism’s fool you, I do still enjoy the book, and will continue to read on as the stories get released. I was just disappointed with its execution and the direction SJM decided to go in on certain aspects of the story. I really enjoy the characters and look forward to reading more into others now that I feel like Feyre and Rhysand’s story is pretty much done. My impression is that the other books being released will be more like a spinoff, and other characters will get their own books, but I am nervous about continuing if my main reason for holding on rests solely with them. The next book, A Court of Frost and Starlight, is a novella instead of a full length novel, and will act as more of a bridge between the two era’s of this world created by SJM.

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: The Shadows Between Us: by Tricia Levenseller

Publish Date: February 25th, 2020
Number of Pages: 326 Pages
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

This is definitely a title to check out for those lovers of villains out there! There are many things to this 2020 release that makes it a story that many can enjoy:

  1. A female MC who doesn’t apologize for who she is.
  2. It’s a standalone
  3. Both the main LI’s are villains
  4. It’s been advertised as a Slytherin romance – which is actually almost a perfect way to describe it!
  5. The MC is incredibly complex in her ability to be both malicious and cunning, but kind and thoughtful all the same
  6. I suppose theres a “fake dating” trope
  7. A murder mystery
  8. A devilishly swoon-worthy male love interest
  9. it’s just overall fun!

Now I will be honest…this story wasn’t perfect—they hardly ever are—and this title didn’t necessarily live up to the expectations I’d given it. It had a few components I hadn’t expected to be included in the plot, and I won’t say they were bad, I’ll just say it wasn’t the direction I wanted it to go. It just felt like this book went the safe route after its initial set up, and I’d hoped it’d go down a much darker and twisted path. BUT…this title is still immensely enjoyable in the fact that as its a Slytherin romance, and it’s also a drawn out, slow-burn romance at that, and it still has quite a few enjoyable minor characters to add to the cast.

The cover you see above is the original cover design, but this boy decided to try out Fairyloot, a YA Fantasy subscription box stationed over in the UK, and while it didn’t straight out tell me this was the book I’d be receiving, a little research had made me 99% sure this was the book I’d receive. Below is the Fairyloot exclusive edition:

There’s not too big a difference based off just the initial glance at it besides the color choice of the background, but usually these subscription editions of books there’s more to it: there is exclusive artwork of the two main characters on the opposite side of the dust jacket, exclusive embossing on the hardcover, it’s signed by the author, and has a letter from her with a beautiful commission of the devious couple who star in this story, and that’s not even including all the other bookish items you get inside with your new book! What I’m trying to point out is, if you enjoy reading YA fantasy and enjoy receiving mail, I say check out their website and try it out!

What It’s About:

Allesandra Stathos is a young woman in a higher class noble family, but depending on who you ask, she’s very far from the lady that’s to be expected of her. Empowered to make men kneel at her feet, she’s not above taking a lover or two into the bedroom, and has even killed the very first boy with whom she’s given her heart to out of sheer revenge. Needless to say, she’s definitely not your average protagonist of the story.

In an effort to distance herself from her family and gain even more power, she devises a wicked plan: the woo the young Shadow King, manipulate him into falling for her and asking her to marry him, then to kill him and take the kingdom for herself. It’s a mystery surrounding him as to what his shadow capabilities can do exactly: are they controlling him? He can control them to do his bidding? Perhaps they insidiously whisper people’s secrets into his ear and warning him of who is actually his enemies. Either way, Allesandra has a plan, and she intends to go through with it.

Unfortunately for her, she’s not the only one with a similar plan, and she soon finds herself going out of her way to protect the Shadow King as invisible enemies also attempt to take his life. She’s not the only one who can come up with a villainous plan, but she also needs to watch out to not fall for the king herself in order to be seated on that throne by the end of it all…

What I Liked:

  1. Allesandra is the Main Character We Needed! She’s not the chosen one who’s to save the world, she’s not the long lost queen who’s come to reclaim what is rightfully hers, and thank effing god she’s not the shy, awkward girl who doesn’t think she’s pretty when she’s got, like, four different guys fighting for her affections…She’s unapologetically herself. I loved how she can go from planning out someone’s murder to gushing over a puppy in a single moment. She’s incredibly self-aware, ambitious, sexually confident, cunning, smart, conniving, and honestly acts the way I’m sure a lot of us wish we could on most days. Who wouldn’t be pissed at someone who broke their heart, and of course only after they’d had their virginity taken, and want to stab them repeatedly in retaliation? The only difference is: Allesandra Stathos actually goes through with it.
  2. It’s A Villain Love Story! I’m totally into the idea of authors exploring the villain MC prompt more often. I feel like it’d make for a much more compelling story, plus lets be honest, we all like to explore our dark side every now and then, right? I’d love to see how far authors can go into the dark and twisted minds of a villain, and have that be the main perspective of the story. Some great examples of that off the top of my head would be The Young Elites trilogy by Marie Lu, or You (The Netflix show and novel by Caroline Kepnes). It’s a love story between two people who definitely appear as villains, and I appreciated the fact at how it was a more original idea than most of the stories that are published.
  3. The Slow-Burn Romance! Ahh yes, every great romance has that drawn out slow burn…it moves every so slowly, infuriating you until you just want to squeeze something in your hands and feel it shatter! This book does a great job of that, and actually has a unique way of making it happen too; you too feel the burning inside along with the characters until it feels like a mere single touch will cause them both to erupt with passion. I will say though, it’s pretty tame in terms of love scenes, and feels like it has the same sexual tension of a victorian era romance where most of it is drawn from stolen looks and gazing into each other’s eyes…at least until the very end!
  4. Its Commentary on Feminism and Gender Roles! What was not expected from this book was it’s take on women and the role they play and how they measure up to their male counterparts. Allesandra goes against the idea of how a high class lady should act, and even risks her reputation by taking men into bed, and you know…even secretly murdering one too. Throughout the story, she challenges the set ways of sexism and wants a much more forward way of life, and makes a great point of how women should not be judged by what they do or don’t do in the bedroom. Men aren’t judged nearly as harshly, so why should they be? If men can go and sleep around, yet women have to wait until marriage, the math just doesn’t add up there. There was also a strong representation of female friendship. Our MC meets too ladies while staying in court, and she’s never had a pair of girlfriends before; other women have more been competition for her growing up. She develops great relationships with them as the story moves on, and even finds herself helping them in order to find happiness and love.
  5. It’s Standalone Novel! Based on how this story is set up, it’s really great that the author kept this as a single novel and isn’t going to try and make this into a series, or even a duology which is supposed to be the big thing right now for the genre/reading level. It’s not necessary to be honest, and not enough of the world is really explored outside the tightly woven plot. If the opposite were true, then maybe a duology would work, but a single novel is just perfect for this premise (plus there aren’t a whole lot of standalone YA Fantasy novels anyways).

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Have We Met Before?…As the story progresses, Allesandra gets to know the King more and find herself falling in love with him a little more every day, and that part of it is fine…I’m more talking about the pure aesthetic that is the Shadow King. He’s a great character, I enjoyed him, but he just seems too similar to other characters I’ve seen before in other Fantasy Titles: He’s pretty much another copy of Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses, The Darkling from The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, or even Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows. They all share that same aesthetic of a ruthless dark prince-like figure who’s definitely an anti-hero if not a full on villain.
  2. Absolutely No Worldbuilding…While the romance and the plot were the main focus of this book, the setting takes a definite back seat–so much that it might as well be strapped to a car seat with a pacifier–so anyone who’s a fan of fantasy novels that are rich in detailed and well thought out lands and worlds to explore…you may want to sit this one out.
  3. It Could’ve Gone Further with the Villainous Main Characters…Allesandra starts off on a high note with her evil intentions, and even the Shadow King shows dark ambitious moments, but after awhile it’d felt like they’d lost their edge when it was becoming more and more obvious about their mutual growing attraction. I remember I had similar feelings with how Suicide Squad turned out, and wished there could’ve been more chaos with their wickedness.
  4. What About The Mystery?…I felt like the author could’ve gone further with the whole mystery aspect of the plot as to who else was trying to assassinate the king. I feel like the other villains/antagonists were way too obvious and wished their actually could’ve been more sneakiness behind the scenes amongst the court with more secrets revealed, and I would’ve loved to see scenes or moments with Allesandra trying to figure out who the killer is with her thoughts racing into paranoia. I wanted more courtly intrigue with emphasis on the members of the council and have them be even more scheming than just one character.

Conclusion:

Overall, a fun and entertaining story starring two villains as the main characters and love interests as the story; something you don’t see too often in any sort of work of fiction. Those who appreciate the darker themed stories or the anti-hero characters with obvious morally gray personalities like the characters from both The Young Elites by Marie Lu and You by Caroline Kepnes I think will really enjoy this title!

It didn’t entirely live up to the hype for me, and didn’t put as much focus into certain story components that I’d wished it had, but like I said, entertaining and binge-worthy all the same!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: A Court of Thorns and Roses Series by Sarah J. Maas

Image courtesy of Instagram profile: @courtofmaas

In Sarah J. Maas’s second bestselling series, a mortal young woman named Feyre Archeron is thrust into the world of the High Fae: a world full of mystique, beauty, political intrigue, and danger. the shadow of War is brewing upon the horizon, and with her newly found allies and inner circle, she must defeat a powerful enemy in order to save the world she already knows comes to love…

This has been such a popular series amongst SJM fans, it seems to be more popular than even her first series, Throne of Glass! I personally prefer TOG, but that doesn’t detract from ACOTAR; I still consider A Court of Mist and Fury to be the author’s best book to date!

Below, I’ve included an image of the main cast created by the extraordinary artist, Charlie Bowater! Her work is simply breathtaking and she is some of my all time favorite digital artists!

To see my book review for book #1 – A Court of Thorns and Roses – Click HERE!

To see my book review for book #2 – A Court of Mist and Fury – Click HERE!

To see my book review for book #3 – A Court of Wings and Ruin – Click HERE!

To see my review of book #3.5 – A Court of Frost and Starlight – Click HERE!

To see my review of book #4 – A Court of Silver Flames – Click HERE!

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Here is my official Fancast/Dreamcast:

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Feyre Archeron: Barbara Palvin, or Josephine Skriver

One thing that grinds my gears with a lot of the other fancasts/fanart I’ve seen is that they make Feyre out to be blonde….um nope, that’s cancelled because she’s brunette! Both of these models have delicate & feminine features, gorgeous smiles, and have a particular look that I believe is the essence of our heroine of this whole series!

Elaine Archeron: Minka Kelly

Minka Kelly has such a soft voice, similar to Vanessa Hudgens’ but much less annoying. You may remember her from Friday Night Lights, the TV Show and the college thriller flick, The Roommate.

Nesta Archeron: Bar Refaeli

Nesta was a hard character to cast, but I believe this supermodel has a look that’s very similar to the cold, intimidating, and oldest Archeron sister. She’s not an actress, but has been on the cover of the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated magazine, and dated Leo DiCaprio!

High Lord Tamlin: Kellan Lutz, or Luke Bracey

Anyone remember Kellan from, like, nine years ago? It felt like he was everywhere thanks to his fame found with being involved in the Twilight movies as Emmett Cullen, but he’s been on the down low ever since he got married. Luke Bracey is another name to add; he was in the Nicholas Sparks movie, The Best of Me.

Lucien Vanserra: Tom Busson

A lot of other fans say that Outlander male lead, Sam Heughan, is their choice for Lucien. I had him too for quite some time too, but now I believe he’d be just too old to play the part. Maybe he’d be better suited for Eris or his father Lord Beron, but I believe this Instagram model has a look much more suited to our beloved Lucien Vanserra!

Alis: Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer is just so adorable! She’s cute as a button, but can also go into a serious mom mode in her characters, and I thought she’d be perfect to play the part of Alis, the attendant who looks after Feyre when she’s brought to the Spring Court. It also makes sense considering Alis is from the Summer Court, and if we’re going to talk about Representation, the people from there are typically of African descent!

High Lord Rhysand: Ian Somerhalder, or Sahib Faber

One’s an actor while the other is a model, but both could so easily play the coveted role of the High Lord of the Night Court. If anyone has watched The Vampire Diaries, Ian portraying Damon Salvatore is a dead ringer for Rhysand: same personality, same swagger, same inner turmoil hidden by smirks and wisecracks, and of course the same devilish good looks. Sahib is a more unknown choice, but why not have some more choices? Plus…just look at him! Would you just look at him? Just look at him!

Amarantha: Eva Green, or Deborah Ann Woll

I admit both actresses have such different looks when compared to each other, so as for who might be a better choice? I guess it depends on who you ask…Eva has such a nefarious, villainess look to her, but Deborah matches a lot of the fanart I’ve seen of Amarantha, so either choice works for me!

Morrigan: Maryse Ouellet-Mizanin

Mor was another hard choice! Everyone seems to be going for Margot Robbie for some reason, but there’s two things wrong with that casting: she’s too old for the part, and she doesn’t even have brown eyes. That may sound picky, but whatevs…it’s my fancast, so get over it. I personally envisioned this former WWE Women’s competitor who is undeniably gorgeous and physically fits the description of Mor much more effectively!

Azriel: Nick Bateman, or Shiloh Fernandez

Both of these male actors are tall, lanky and can pull off the moody, brooding look: so for me, both of them could be excellent choices for our Lord of Shadows, Azriel! Nick does small acting jobs but is mostly an Instagram model, but Shiloh starred alongside Amanda Seyfried in Red Riding Hood.

Amren: Jamie Chung

Jamie is a fan favorite among others who’ve shared their fancast for this series, and I agree with it! She’s given her voice acting chops for Big Hero 6, and was also a wonderful Mulan in the show, Once Upon A Time, and if I don’t have you convinced yet, check out this image of her below with total Amren eyes:

Cassian: Santiago Loker

This guy is probably unknown to a lot of you, but oh my goodness, is he easy on the eyes! He’s an Instagram model, and looks great with a manbun which was a must to play our favorite charming, cocky general for the Night Court’s army.

High Lord Tarquin: Michael Ealy

I loved this man in Think Like A Man, and seriously…look at those eyes! They’re so hypnotic and I could so easily get lost in them for days! He never does anything even remotely close to Fantasy-genre, so it’d be cool to see him broaden his horizons and play the High Lord of the Summer Court!

Ianthe: Laura Vandervoort

Ianthe needs to be played by an actress who’s obviously attractive, but also looks like she could have a stick up her ass the entire time, and Laura looks the part 😂…She was in the show Bitten and was even Supergirl back when Smallville was still a thing!

King of Hybern: Jason Isaacs

I mean…Do I really need to justify casting the man who magnificently played the evil and elitist Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies? Nope, I didn’t think so either!

High Lord Beron: Mads Mikkelsen

He’s so great at playing villains! I’ve known this ever since he starred opposite Daniel Craig in 007: Casino Royale, and the guy played Hannibal Lector too! He’d also be another great choice to play the part of Big Boss Villain, the King of Hybern…It’s funny how Maas literally has her villainous kings just named “King of _______” from her books.

High Lord Helion: @rathekendoll

Another harder one to cast; most of the actors that would be eligible—or were fancasted by many others—were either too old or too young. Someone posted a video of this gorgeous specimen speaking on a Facebook group page for the ToG books, and “Holy Mufasa, Batman!” His voice is so deep and full of bass, I instantly thought of him playing the High Lord of the Day Court. Don’t know what his actual name is, just going off his Instagram profile username, FYI!

High Lord Kallias: Heath Hutchins

Kallias, High Lord of the Winter Court, is a character I liked but him and and his mate, Vivianne, were barely in the dang books! I wished we got to see more of the other high lords, but maybe that’ll happen in later books; according to Goodreads, there are supposed to be, like, three more titles for the series!

High Lord Thesan: Hamid Fadaei

He’s an actor and model, even if I haven’t seen him in anything. He’s a pretty gorgeous Persian man, so I thought he was an excellent choice for playing the role of the High Lord of the Dawn Court!

Eris Vanserra: Ryan Cooper

He’s an actor who’s actually played a corpse in Rough Night, starring Scarlett Johansson, but also starred in a Colleen Hoover novel-turned-movie Confess. Dye his hair red, and with that wicked gleam in his eye, he could definitely be an option to play Lucien’s devious older brother!

Prince Varian: Jesse Williams

This man is in Grey’s Anatomy while it goes into its 15000th season, and I like casting him in Fantasy roles, so I’d like it if he played Lord Tarquin’s younger brother and subtle love-interest to Amren.

Princess Cresseida: Logan Browning

She has the similar features of other actors I’ve casted for the Summer Court’s royal family. She’s got gorgeous darker skin and mesmerizing eyes, so she’d look great playing the young princess!

Jurian: Taylor Kitsch

I’ve been a fan of his since he played Tim Riggins on the TV Show, Friday Night Lights, and he was decent in Vince Flynn’s movie adaptation of American Assassin, so he’d be my pick to play the interesting role of Jurian!

Priestess Gwyn: Emma Stone

Image courtesy of the actress’s IMDB profile

Now some people may think of someone younger like…Lily Collins to play this character (even though they’re both close in age but whatevs…), but this is my fancast and as soon as I read that Gwyn had red hair, for some reason I just really pictured Emma Stone! She’s an amazing actress and would portray Gwyn amazingly

Emerie: Lindsey Morgan

Image courtesy of superstarsbio.com

I don’t know much about this actress, but she’s in the CW show “The 100” and that seems really popular, so her face popped up and I thought she looked like what I imagined the Illyrian shop-owner turned Valkyrie!

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HERES THE LINK TO MY FANCAST OF THRONE OF GLASS, SJMAAS’S FIRST YA FANTASY SERIES

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell