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

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Ruin and Rising (Shadow and Bone #3): by Leigh Bardugo

Publish Date: June 17th, 2014

Number of Pages: 420 Pages

Publisher: Henry Holt

Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers for this title and the previous titles in this trilogy, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***

To see my review of book #1 – Shadow and Bone – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Siege and Storm – Click HERE

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

Total Star Rating: 2.75 Stars

Well…. I’ve completed this trilogy finally, and I’ve gotta admit how how down in the dumps I am feeling now. Not because it’s over, but more so that for me it was such a drag through such a large chunk of the story, and how bittersweet that whole ending was! For the first 60% approx, it was once again such a drag much like most of the second book, and it’s not that the ending was horrible and should’ve been changed, but it just leaves you with such a feeling of depression and hopelessness.

I’d read the second book, Siege and Storm, back in late March/early April of 2020 when the Coronavirus Pandemic was in full effect and I’d been put on furlough on work until further notice. The unknown of what was going to happen along with all the craziness that this year alone had filled me with relentless anxiety and a vast array of emotions. I’d noticed my ability to sit down and read a book had become a major challenge. I just couldn’t sit down and concentrate! I was partially wondering if maybe it was a mix of that versus what I was reading at the time—I even couldn’t care enough to read on in V.E. Schwab’s Vengeful—either way, I’d noticed I was in a reading rut. If books by Leigh Bardugo and V.E. Schwab couldn’t hold my attention, certainly there’s something way out of whack going on there…

After reading this third and final installment to her Shadow and Bone Trilogy, I can with much less doubt say it wasn’t me. I struggled to keep my interest all through Siege and Storm and now Ruin and Rising, and part of it was because I’d read her Six of Crows books first, which were much more action-packed, there was many more memorable characters, they had a more original plot, and the author had much more experience under her belt by the time she wrote them. For me, I’ve noticed that it’s not a good idea for me as a reader to go backwards with any author’s books; I have to start with the beginning or I can’t enjoy the earlier work. It’s usually just not as strong of material, and you especially notice that with this trilogy. Compared to her more recent titles, these books just felt so much more “safe” and were with clichés and tropes many YA Fantasy fans are very familiar with because I’m sure Publishers want to play it safe as well by selecting stories filled with criteria that has worked so well in the past. I get it, doesn’t mean I’m entirely happy about it.

I can, however, say that despite this trilogies lack of keeping my interest, Leigh Bardugo did showcase some incredible character work with her main cast of characters, which in this case was Alina Starkov, Mal Oretsev, Nikolai Lantsov, and of course The Darkling. One of the biggest draws of these books was the love pyramid that pertained to these four characters. Each male was presented as a potential love interest to our protagonist, and it’s been one of the biggest debate topics of the whole Grishaverse fandom: which guy should Alina have ended up with?

For Mal, he’s the childhood friend whom Alina has\d been hopelessly in love with for as long as they’ve been together since their days at the orphanage. They both grew up together, and he became more handsome and popular with other cadets of the first army while she more or less stayed the same and felt like she was being pushed further and further into the background, but that all changes when she discovers that she has remarkable abilities and is the first Grisha “Sun Summoner” anyone has seen in a very long time; she may possibly even be the first one ever in existence. Anyways, as the plot thickens and both Nikolai and The Darkling makes their presence and interest known, Mal begins to feel inferior and left behind, which is so ironic how the tables turned there. He begins to be short-tempered with Alina, pushes her away and just wishes everything could go back to “normal” or the way it was before she become a holy saint-like figure to the people of Ravka….

…Well honey, maybe we’d feel sorry for you if you’d actually noticed her before! I personallu didn’t mind Mal throughout, but it’s funny how he’s the character in all the Grishaverse that gets the most criticism and hate from the fandom. Poor Mal… at least he got better in this book, in my opinion that is.

Next there’s Nikolai Lantsov: privateer, Sturmhond, and even Crown Prince to the royal throne. Charming, Daring, and even slightly obnoxious in his abundance of self-confidence; Nikolai is literally like a “golden boy” who any woman would kill to be with, right? WRONG! Alina didn’t fall for his charm, even when he admitted to having actual feelings for her, but she just couldn’t see past the fact that with him came a marriage proposal that may or may not have been purely just as a power-play to secure his spot on the throne and the adoration of his people as well.

The Darkling is a bit more of wild card compared to the other two, plus there’s the nice twist that he’s the villain of the trilogy. I still couldn’t ever really tell if his potential romantic feelings for Alina were 100% genuine, but one thing for certain was that they would’ve made an incredible power couple. Two of the most powerful Grisha to ever exist side by side, either as enemies or lovers or both, and I was definitely behind all the fellow fans shipping them to get together. It added so much to his character to see the scenes between just him and Alina and when he slipped some vulnerability into his demeanor that only she ever saw, those tiny moments said so much! Plus, it was obvious he still loved his mother despite everything, but unfortunately whatever his actual feelings were had to also be twisted and tainted by his dark greed for power, plus his need to control and manipulate everyone including Alina so it all worked out on his terms.

The Darkling and Alina for sure had the most depth to their characters out of everyone in these books. The Darkling is one of those villains that you feel are incredibly justified in his journey for power and all that he’s willing to do in order to get there. I only wish he was showcased even more in the books; it felt like he was hardly there in Siege and Storm and maybe that’s what made it such a slow read for me… I think Leigh Bardugo would’ve had this series be even more successful if she showcased The Darkling more and went even further with the darkness surrounding him. Alina had spectacular growth as the protagonist throughout; she started off as this timid orphan but really came into her own and gained a powerful voice as time went on. She second-guessed herself a lot, she focused on the boys when she maybe shouldn’t have been, she made mistakes; all of which made her such a realistic character in my eyes! She definitely held her own amongst all the other powerful male characters. She faced the constant battle of whether she needed to harden her heart in order to defeat the darkling, but is that the right idea? It was a wonderful theme and inner conflict she faced of whether she needed to lower herself to his level in order to defeat him, but maybe will ultimately discover that’s not the case.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

What I Liked:

  1. The Darkling! I’ve been saying this ever since I started this trilogy, but the Darkling is easily my favorite character besides Nikolai Lantsov taking second place. It’s funny because he’s the villain of the whole dang story, but I’m starting to enjoy those kinds of characters more, especially if they’re incredibly complex and you can actually see where they’re coming from in terms of malicious intentions; those are the best crafted villains in my humble opinion. He started off as just another carbon copy of the “park prince,” broody, bad-boy character trope that is basically another Prince Cardan Greenbriar, Kylo Ren, Jericho Barrons, Rhysand, etc… but as the story developed, even in the first book, The Darkling began to stand apart from them all as more and more was slowly revealed about his background along with his evil plans to take over his world. I only wish we saw more of him or even got to hear from his perspective in these books. I was incredibly heartbroken with the conclusion for how things ended with him, even though it had to be done, but man oh man… my heart aches for him!
  2. Alina’s Development! Alina was a phenomenal protagonist who really grew as this story developed over the three books. I wasn’t really behind her at first because she was simply another cliché orphan-turned-“chosen one” character trope who was demure, shy, timid, and pathetically, secretly in love with her golden boy BFF. As she came into her abilities and has had to make some tough decisions, she’s really become a big contender of the game with her constant inner struggle of how far will she go in order to gain power. Should she become cold and detached like the Darkling, or is it really weakness to show compassion and love for those she cares about? That, along with dealing with quite a few misogynistic older men AND three possible love interests (one of which is her enemy), the girl really becomes a memorable character that anyone can route for! Unfortunately, similar to the Darkling, I was not a fan of how her storyline turned out…
  3. Nikolai’s Transformation! So, anyone who’s a fan of Leigh Bardugo may know by now that Nikolai was originally supposed to die in earlier drafts of these books, but she ended up loving his character so much that she changed her mind, which was a smart decision since he’s one of her best characters of all in all her books, not that I’m biased or anything… anyways, this book was rough on him, and it was certainly an interesting development for him that leaves him with many scars, both external and beneath the surface… funny thing I say that considering he gets his own spin-off duology with the first book titled “King of Scars.” It makes perfect sense considering how things are left with him in this trilogy: totally bittersweet, but at least this character’s storyline was left more open-ended than others in order for there to be further explored!
  4. A Lot More Twists & Gruesome Deaths! Shadow and Bone was littered with cliché YA Fantasy tropes, Siege & Storm was just boring for me, but Ruin & Rising was filled with more plot twists and absolutely disturbing scenes of torture and death that actually made me happy to read, because it’s THIS stuff is what makes Leigh Bardugo stand out from other authors! She’s got a dark and twisty mind—I’m obsessed with it—and you get to see more of it in this book than the others. The deaths are absolutely brutalistic and somewhat disturbing, and it was great to start to see what I know the author excels at when the previous two books felt too “safe” to what I’m used to from her. Remember; I’ve read the Six of Crows books, and even Ninth House before I started reading this trilogy.
  5. Mal Gets Better In This Book! I will continue until the day I am no longer on this planet to say that I am a part of the fandom that actually likes Mal. He gets so much hate from the Grishaverse fandom, even more so than any villain she’s crafted, and I get where it comes from, I do… But I also see the growth he goes through and find it incredibly endearing about him too. He had to kind of hit his own sort of rock bottom in order to rise back up, and I believe his rock bottom was him in the later scenes of Siege and Storm. He was stuck in the past and wanted things to go back to the way they were with how the dynamic worked with him and Alina in his favor, and he somewhat had a temper tantrum at how that wouldn’t happen, plus I will admit that the pedestal Alina put him on absolutely crumbled when compared to The Darkling and Nikolai Lantsov becoming potential love interests and major competition. He couldn’t handle it, but I still think he redeemed himself a little bit in this book with how he handled everything, and you further see how all major decisions he makes is because of his devotion to Alina. There’s no denying he cared about her, whether you believe he really had romantic feelings since the beginning and just didn’t do anything about it until now.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. I Was So Bored…Similar to what was the entirety of Siege and Storm, the first half of this book was so incredibly hard to get through because I just had such low interest in most of what was happening. There were too many characters by this point that I just didn’t really care about, the storyline was just too methodically slow for me, and it was just a huge drag. Once more plot twists occured and there were some brutal deaths that made the book feel more like what I expect from the author, then it got a little better at least!
  2. I Wish The Darkling Showed Up More…I’m only really saying this because I may be biased, but I think these books would’ve been much more successful if The Darkling was a more central character, or at least showed up more than he a;ready did. Maybe that was part of the allure of him, but he’s such a marvelous, complex character and there was so much potential for these books to get darker and more sinister like I know Leigh Bardugo is able to do, but I get that these were her first published books so she wasn’t able to be as artistically free as she is now.
  3. The Surprise Twist with Mal…After its reveal and thinking back about certain scenes that are pointed out, this wasn’t something entirely out of left field that the author slipped in for pure shock value, but was so subtle in how the clues were placed throughout that only a select bunch of readers would’ve caught the foreshadowing. Plus, with the backstory of how Morozova brought his daughter back to life with his merzost power, he never ended up finding the firebird because his power was used up by then. Without giving too much else away, it certainly was explained well enough to make sense, I was still just….mehh about it either way. I found the backstory with Morozova the much more interesting aspect about it.
  4. That Bittersweet Ending…I can say that with how everything concluded certainly made sense, I guess… I don’t know, I was just kind of disappointed with most of it even though the harsh reality is that there’s really nothing that would’ve made a better ending for everyone. My heart breaks for The Darkling, and of course I wish things could’ve ended up differently, but as we’ve seen with him with all that he’s done and how he operates, he’d reached the point of no return/redemption. Alina and Mal also had a fitting ending for them, I guess… I’m not personally a fan, but I guess it works for them and what they wanted in the end. Nikolai probably had the best conclusion even though his was more open-ended, but it helps that I know he has his own set of books that take place later on past Six of Crows.

Conclusion:

Overall, it was an okay-on the verge of liking it for me with how this trilogy ended up. I didn’t enjoy these books as much as Six of Crows, but part of me knew that’d be the case because I know what kind of reader I am, and I’m just someone that will hardly ever enjoy an author’s earlier work when I’ve read something that was published later on in their career first. I just notice more smaller things, like their writing maybe isn’t as captivating and/or less experienced, plus it feels more “safe” when I know their later work has much more creative freedom and is much more complex. I just can’t go backwards with author’s work, you know?

Like I said, I knew this going in that I was potentially not going to enjoy this trilogy as much, but I was so disappointed in how it was so hard to read a set of books by Leigh Bardugo—who with the Six of Crows books alone had her become one of my favorite authors—and NOT love it. By SoC, she’s a much more established author and is allowed to go further with her storylines, her characters, and the overall mood of her content. Shadow and Bone was just filled with too many familiar tropes we’ve seen everywhere in YA Fantasy, while Six of Crows has a much more diverse cast, and went so much further in terms of the mental health and inner turmoil the characters all faced; it’s just so weird how a spin-off might be better than the original series!

I still recommend these books for anyone who loves YA Fantasy with a strong female lead. I know my review may seem like I’m less than thrilled about them than I’d hoped, but when compared to the many other titles that are out there within the genre, Leigh’s stories are much stronger and more memorable than, say… The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard. Not to knock that series, but in my opinion, Bardugo just creates a better/deeper/richer story. At least with the many clichés that fill up the first book, she does veer away in big ways as the story develops.

Now that I have this trilogy under my belt, I can now move forward with the other Grishaverse stories that I still haven’t touched, plus be more prepared for the eventual, much anticipated release of the upcoming Netflix show premiering in fall/winter of 2020! Alina’s storyline is going to be a central storyline, so I had to read the Shadow and Bone trilogy before for context. I may even reread the Six of Crows duology too and maybe catch a lot more references and details that went over my head the first time I read them, and there’s even King of Scars, the next installment of the Grishaverse, and the first book in the Nikolai duology! I love that Leigh is continuing more stories within this rich and detailed world she’s created for us, and I always look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Crystal Storm (Falling Kingdoms #5): by Morgan Rhodes

Publish Date: December 13th, 2016

Number of Pages: 379 Pages

Publisher: Razorbill

Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

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

To see my review of book #1 – Falling Kingdoms – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Rebel Spring – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – Gathering Darkness – Click HERE

To see my review of book #4 – Frozen Tides – Click HERE

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

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

When on the very edge of death, matters such as fortune and legacy are meaningless in the face of knowing that someone who cares for you will hold your hand as you slip away.”

– Morgan Rhodes, “Crystal Storm”

Power and what people are willing to do to gain it is a theme in the Fantasy genre that we’re all familiar with, it’s nothing new, but somehow it’s a concept that never seems to not help create an entertaining and twisty story that leaves us readers filled with intrigue and anticipated pleasure. Whether it’s kingdoms at war, supernatural beings threatening to take over, or the evil overlord is trying to destroy life as we know it; it always creates and allows the opportunity for us readers to have a widely encapsulating story.

Gathering Darkness is the fifth book in the fast-paced and unpredictable Falling Kingdoms series, and so much has changed with the development of the story so far with our characters like Cleo, Magnus, Lucia, Jonas, and even King Gaius as they’ve stolen, plotted, and enacted out certain actions that have caused so many evocation of emotions: anger, confusion, excitement, and grief. A total YA version of Game of Thrones, there’s been dueling kingdoms, backstabbing, magical orbs, forbidden love, manipulation, gruesome deaths, gods and immortals, alliances formed and lost, vengeful acts of revenge and retribution, and now even resurrections!

I’m going to be honest: I did enjoy this book and I absolutely devoured it when I got my hands on it, but at the same time, it felt like filler/complete setup for the next book which also happens to be the final book in the whole series. It felt shorter than every other book, and it felt like not as much got resolved with everything that happens. I get it… the author is trying to make that final book all that much more sought after to go out with a bang, so I can’t exactly knock her for that. It just makes the torturous year long wait for that final book all that much more worse.

One of the greatest aspects of this whole series are how all the characters are so morally grey. No one’s completely innocent, and no one hasn’t done at least one heinous act in order to get ahead in the game. They’re all flawed, and they all have proper justification for all their actions, which just makes for such a fun reading experience.

Cleo continues to be my favorite character; she’s not some badass assassin or thief, but that doesn’t make her any more of a damsel in distress. She’s not able to physically do much, but I like her spunk, her heart, and her courage in order to (hopefully) one day reclaim her home of Auranos. She’s feminine, and despite her physical shortcomings, she’s such a strong character. I also love her romantic storyline with Magnus, that has become a real treat to enjoy. It’s gone through so much ever since the second book, and they’ve come so far; it’s one of the best enemies-to-lovers storylines I’ve ever read and think people should read these books for that alone. I admit though, she has really learned how to play the game, and is really spiteful and greedy and isn’t the greatest with handling their relationship. At one point, she’s enjoying the sexy appeal of sneaking around, but it’s all because she’s actually ashamed to be seen with him. Plenty of angst to add to the plot!

Magnus is also such a treat to read. I mean, his character arc is nothing new or highly original: he’s basically the messy haired, broody, dark prince who has the sassy comebacks, but is a total softy when it comes to the woman he loves. He’s really gone through some major growth throughout the books, and he’s far away from the moody prince and is really starting to become a true leader and future king of Limeros–Or Auranos if and Cleo make it all the way!

Jonas is such an endearing character and is so easy to want to root for, he’s been through so much that he’s evoked the most emotional investment besides Cleo for readers to get behind. However, he’s not the greatest at making sure his plans follow through… I don’t think of his plans have been successful, nor has achieved any of his goals for himself–in fact, I’m pretty sure other people have been the ones to make any sort of his goals/plans actually follow through. He also seems to have totally gotten the short end of the stick when compared to the other main characters when it comes to storylines and overall success.

Lucia Damora is easily my least favorite character in the whole series. She was alright at the beginning, but after a few books, she has turned into such an annoying brat who doesn’t have any meaning of the word genuine in her soul. My final straw was her alliance with Kyan in all of Frozen Tides. Sure, she sort of saw the error of her ways, but she’s also such an indecisive brat who was fine with all the death and destruction going on, and while she tries to make amends for that in this book, part of me wonders if she can redeem herself at all by this point, at least for myself.

Amara has also become a real gem of a character! She’s more deceptive and dangerous than King Gaius, and the fact that she’d even kill her own brother shows how far she’s willing to go in order to get what she wants. She’s despicable and heartless, but she makes for a much more interesting story. Plus, she’s not just bad for the sake of being bad. As we saw in the previous book, she’s been looked down on all her life for being a woman and she is no longer allowing men to decide her fate for her. I thought she’s had a believable arc throughout and has some depth that makes her drive actually pretty relatable. Characters like her are the absolute best in these kinds of stories where there are multiple people vying for the throne; you never know what they’ll do next.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

The ruthless Empress Amara of Kraeshia has taken the Mytican throne, and now uncertainty looms over the three kingdoms. Since Lucia unleashed the fire Kindred, wreaking havoc throughout the land, Myticans have been looking for someone—anyone—they can trust. They believe in Amara, not knowing her grand promises are built on lies.

In Paelsia, Magnus and Cleo reluctantly follow King Gaius to the home of his exiled mother, Selia. Selia is a powerful witch and claims she can help unlock the magic of the Kindred—if the visitors agree to her terms. When Jonas arrives from Kraeshia, he is shocked to find that his rebel army now includes his sworn enemies. Along with Nic, Felix, and the mysteriously resurrected Ashur, the contentious group agrees to cast aside old grudges—for now—and united against their common enemy: Amara.

Meanwhile, bearing the child of a Watcher and feared by all, Princess Lucia travels across Mytica to find her family. But time is running out. The impending storm signals the dark prophecy Timotheus warned her about. Her fate is written, and it includes none other than the rebel Jonas. When their paths collied, Jonas and Lucia must decide between blindly following their destiny or fighting for their own free will.

The battle for power culminates at the Paelsian palace, where Amara resides. Rain pours. Blood spills. And soon all will discover that the darkest magic comes at an even darker price

What I Liked:

  1. Enemies become Allies! One thing about this series that makes it so much fun is how unpredictable some characters truly are and how all the alliances and rivalries have changed so much within the series if not even just within one book. It keeps you on your toes and keeps you guessing, and I would’ve never guessed at Magnus teaming up with Cleo based off just the first book back when I first read it, nor how they become the OTP of the series, and now they’re teaming up with Gaius! Like, WHUUUUUUUUT??
  2. Magnus and Cleo Romance Development! These two continue to drive up the romance I love in this whole series, and things aren’t all “happily-ever-after” after the two of them were getting it on in that cabin in the climax of the previous book, Frozen Tides. It’s back to the real world, and of course, everyone is maybe starting to see that something is going on between them. Not everyone is thrilled about them, and they make sure to remind Cleo of all the shady things Magnus has done in the past, and part of her starts to wonder if whether they’re right for each other or not. I for one am a huge stan for them, but even I remember how I was hoping for more to happen between Jonas and Cleo at the very beginning of the series.
  3. King Gaius Gains Depth! One thing that’s usually lacking in Fantasy-genre books/series, both adult and YA, is how the villain is incredibly underdeveloped. They’re bad just for the sake of being bad, and not a whole lot is revealed about why they got this way, and even of the King of Blood in the Falling Kingdoms series starts off this way, but after his death in Frozen Tides, he seemed to have changed his ways a little bit: he’s working with Magnus and Cleo to take down Empress Amara, and even the opening scene is of him and his mother when he’s a child and talking about what’s to happen in present time reveals more depth to his character. Maybe he’s seen the errors of his ways, or maybe he’s got some diabolical plan going on in his head? Who knows!
  4. Nerissa! She has been a side character that has actually been around since the beginning of the series; she’s just been under the radar, but she’s been a valuable role with her being a spy and reporting back to Jonas and the others. Since she’s made it this far, is still alive and even has a small romantic subplot developing, I thought she deserved a shout out!

The fire that hollows us out is what allows us to be filled with strength and power where before there was none.”

– Morgan Rhodes, “Crystal Storm”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Jonas Has Magic?…This was just a random plot twist that I was torn about. Since Jonas has now been saved by two Watchers, it’s not exactly hard to believe that maybe there would be some weird consequences because of that. Jonas seems to have snagged some magical abilities, but he has absolutely no control over them at all. I guess what I really didn’t like about this development was how it was tied up in the end of this book.
  2. Jonas Joining Up With Lucia, and Becoming Part of Prophecy…I love Jonas even though everything he’s sought after doing in this series was either a failure or was accomplished by someone else, but I continue to be disappointed as he joins up with my least favorite character in all these books. Even worse, he ends up randomly becoming a huge factor in the whole prophecy with Lucia and how she’s the sorceress reincarnated, and I just wasn’t for it with this whole development… Jonas once again gets the short end with these books.
  3. The Kindred End Up Being Boss Villains?…So with the appearance of Kyan being revealed as the spirit of the Fire Orb of the Kindred, it’s soon discovered that each orb actually has a trapped spirit within, and they want out. Imagine it like the Titans vs. the Gods of Olympus with the Kindred and the Watchers. While this was an interesting development, what I didn’t like was how we had no idea this was going to happen up until this point. I don’t know, I feel like all great series have the boss villain rather early on in the story. Gaius was the first big villain, but we had no idea there were these vengeful spirits within the orbs and that they’d end up being the big boss villain–like Voldemort or Sauron.
  4. That Cliffhanger Ending…Okay Morgan Rhodes……..that ending was just cruel! Sure, I’m kind of used to it with this series with literally every book having a big cliffhanger, but I’d read these books all the way back when they were being published, so waiting a full year to get any new updates and seeing what happened next was torture!

Conclusion:

Crystal Storm is yet another thrilling addition to the exhilarating Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes, but feels a little less complete than the other books at the same time. It felt like the fifth book here was just pure setup for the the next book that also happens to be the final book to end it all. Whenever a series is wrapping up, it reminds me of myself and all my excitement back when I’d first read the first book and how I was filled with excitement amazing story and the wonder of where it was going to possibly go and what may happen when I get to the current point I’m at right now. There’s just something so magical about that whole experience for me!

With this book feeling more like setup for the sixth and final book, it certainly raised my expectations and makes me not only even more excited for the next title, but the fingers crossed that it’s the best possible ending that it deserves!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Legendary (Caraval #2): by Stephanie Garber

Publish Date: May 29th, 2018

Number of Pages: 451 Pages

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

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

Too see my review of book #1 – Caraval – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

This was why love was so dangerous. Love turned the world into a garden, so beguiling it was easy to forget that rose petals were as ephemeral as feelings, eventually they would wilt and die, leaving nothing but the thorns.

— Stephanie Garber, “Legendary”

A much lighter and whimsical tale amongst the many that fall under the YA Fantasy genre, Legendary utterly sweeps you away, takes you on an enchanting quest, much like the previous book in this trilogy, Caraval. Both are filled with exotic locations, mysterious twists and turns at every street corner, gorgeous men with devilish smirks full of secrets, magical gowns that can transform based off the emotions of whomever is wearing them, and dazzling lights of the stars and streets as those who play the game and enter a hunt for the hope of something more.

Caraval was a fun summer read that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, but there were definitely some things I had to say that I think could’ve made it better. I wanted more danger, more mischief and dark aesthetics; the stakes needed to be raised in order to add even more the excitement of this annual game. For me, Legendary seemed to have added all that to enhance the whole reading experience of these books! It was obvious that Stephanie Garber, the author, had decided to focus more on the storytelling aspect and less on the imagery and how it was described.

I’m sure it’s an added bonus for many readers that this time around, there’s less focus on Scarlett and more on her younger sister, Tella. Scarlett was our protagonist in Caraval, and the goal of the game was for her to find and rescue her sister, who’d been kidnapped as soon as she’d stepped foot on the island town where the game of Caraval was played. Not too many readers seemed to have liked Scarlett as the protagonist; she made some not-so-smart decisions, was cautious and sheltered, and was constantly the damsel in distress who needed the mysterious Julian to come and rescue her…It’s hard to get behind a character like that when there are so many stories out there now that have strong, fierce females who don’t need no man to help them out whenever things get rough. Tella is the complete opposite of Scarlett; she’s much more impulsive and daring, she’s more charismatic, and seems much more adventurous and courageous. I have to say she did make for a much more interesting story this second time around.

There was a much larger sense of worldbuilding in this book too that has to do with a larger story involving much mythology and lore that the author hadn’t included in the previous book. It involves the sister’s long lost mother, a deck of cards, and these ancient & immortal beings called “The Fates” that used to rule the world long ago, but have disappeared until recently. This had such a huge impact on the story and added so much to the overall depth of much more intricately crafted plot, and helped raise the stakes a large amount that the previous book needed.

I’m very curious if the author had all this planned out before she wrote the first book, or if all these new features were thought up afterwards as a way to keep the story going somehow. How much did she truly know before the first book?

Much like the last book, there were also a vast array of riddles and twists that I’m sure quite a bit of readers didn’t see coming, but there was also a fair amount of foreshadowing that I also think more seasoned readers would be able to catch so long as they’re paying attention. Some are more surprising than others, of course, but they get seriously much more juicy around the climax of the story. It all leads to a very cliffhanger-like ending that will make you want to get your hands on the third and final book ASAP!

I also love the theme that these books have become so consistent with; the whole play on what’s reality and what’s all just a part of the game. Everyone has secrets, everyone has their own motives behind their actions, and some are so much easier to read than others, and it’s actually so much fun to see how things play out, like, who are really allies? Who’s really an enemy? What are their true feelings for that character? Who the EFF is Legend already? The author asks so many questions about so many aspects of the story, it almost drives you completely insane at how much is going on behind the scenes and the rate in which they reveal themselves to Tella and you, the reader. I saw a comparison to HBO’s Sci-Fi thriller, “Westworld”, and it’s actually so true how the show and these books have such a similar theme driving the story. The whole idea of a park that draws people in, the cast of “actors” that enhance the experience, the story the audience experiences is entirely based on their choices, and there’s the scavenger hunt to find the ultimate prize at the end of the maze. It all raises some interesting points on the mysteries of the world and the human condition.

One thing I didn’t particularly like was how the romance building between Tella and Dante felt too similar to how it was built up between Scarlett and Julian in the second book. It was still enticing and a well drawn out slow-burn, but it lacked originality and just felt repetitive. I’m not sure if it’s the only setup the author is able to do in the romance department, but I hope for future stories that she can switch it up a lot better.

I’m happy to say these books are becoming a perfect choice for anyone who’s looking for a circus/theatre/performing arts-like story. Like Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles, these books have the unpredictability and angst of “The Phantom of the Opera,” mixed with the over-the-top campiness of “Moulin Rouge.”

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

A heart to protect.

A debt to repay.

A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever…

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . the games have only just begun...

She loved the feeling of doing something bold enough to make her future hold its breath while she closed her eyes and reveled in the sensation that she’d made a choice with the power to alter the course of her life.”

— Stephanie Garber, “Legendary”

What I Liked:

  1. Donatella Is Now The Protagonist! The most consistent complaint anyone had about Caraval was how a lot of fellow readers found they didn’t like Scarlett Dragna. She made bad decisions, she constantly got into trouble and needed a man to get her out of it, I’m sure the list goes on for more readers, but you get the point. Tella is the exact opposite of Scarlett, and she is much more courageous and impulsive, and it seems like a lot more readers prefer her over her older protective sister. Personally, I liked them both and didn’t mind as much, but I have to agree I did love seeing more of Tella this time around.
  2. The Stakes Have Been Raised! There was definitely a higher dose of danger this time around that the books really needed, and it was nice to see how the lines between performance and reality continued to become even more murky, the plots became more sinister, and even more mystery shrouded the carnival event with people’s lives and the fate of the world on the line this time around. The question “Is this really still just a game?” was asked a lot throughout the story, and I love how the author crafted so much mystery and left so much up in the air. It also helps that there’s a for sure villain this time around too: You’ll meet Jacks, who has some seriously twisted thoughts inside his blond, bleeding silvery-blue eyed head. I’m not going to give too much away, but read the book and see for yourself!
  3. The Theme: What Is Reality? With the added danger I mentioned before, it also goes into what I also mentioned of whether this is all still just a game, or if now it’s real. You’re constantly questioning the motives of so many characters and all that’s going on behind the scenes, I liked the comparison I saw somewhere with someone comparing this story to “Westworld.” Now, some may think that’s a reach, but let’s think about it: the theme of “what is reality?” There’s the idea of a park where people go and become someone else, they let the game take them over, there’s actors surrounding you playing roles to only enliven the atmosphere, and then there’s the hunt to win the heightened scavenger hunt to find the prize at the end of the game or the maze.
  4. More Mythology/Lore: The Fates! Another aspect of the story that made this so much more impressive of a story was how the author added these ominous figures known as “The Fates.” Spoiler Alert as I explain who they were:…………. ………………… …………….. Centuries ago, they were these immortal beings who ruled the world and were agents of chaos, but were banished into a deck of cards by a powerful witch. There’s much more to it, like who each one is and a list of magical objects too, but that’s the main gist of it, and I don’t want to ruin the full experience of you reading it for yourself. It all does nothing but add to the story and continue to heighten the drama of how the story develops.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. I’ve Seen This Before…I do love Dante; he was in Caraval but was a minor character. He was the pompous, hot, mean guy, so I was happy to see him receive much more attention this time around. I also thought he was a great love interest for Tella, but I noticed with him and Tella that it basically just felt like a total repeat of the whole dynamic between Julian and Scarlett in the previous book. It seems like Stephanie may only be able to write YA versions of alphaholes with a Mr. Darcy kind of vibe in her dashing male love interests, and I was hoping for maybe something with more original between Dante and Tella.

Conclusion:

Everything that I said needed to be added to Caraval happened in this book; Legendary was like a new and improved version on it with so a much more intricately drawn plot filled with much more sinister plots, daring twists, enchanting magic, and of course scorching romance!

If you enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, you’ll definitely love this sequel too. It’s not grimmdark, epically high fantasy, or anything too serious. These books are just a more fun. light-hearted, whimsical tale that can still entertain and enthrall all the same! I’d say just about everything about Legendary was bigger and better, all except for whether I can’t decide whether Dante or Julian is the better love interest.

Like I said earlier, I wonder if Stephanie Garber had everything all planned out in advance before she wrote the first book, or if she came up with it all later on or as she was working. I must say, she really does know how to expertly weave an intriguing story together with just about everything I love in a story: mystery and lore, unexpected twists, mysteries galore, second guessing everyone and everything, and of course scorching romance. You can bet I am going to for sure be reading what is sure to be an epic conclusion with Finale being the next title.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA Sci Fi

My Review: Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle #1): by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publish Date: May 7th, 2019
Number of Pages: 473 Pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA Sci-Fi, YA Fantasy

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of this series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Do moons choose the planets they orbit? Do planets choose their stars? Who am I to deny gravity, Aurora? When you shine brighter than an constellation in the sky?”

— Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff, “Aurora Rising”

Think “Guardians of the Galaxy” + “The Breakfast Club” + “Ocean’s Eleven” + a single character who’s no longer in Kansas, and you’ve got a basic idea of the vibes of this YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel thats by the dynamic duo who’ve also written the popular Illuminae Files series. I personally have not read them myself, but the hardcover designs are simply gorgeous, and I’ve heard only great things from those who have read them!

I think not having read the previous series actually allowed me to enjoy this book more, as from what I’ve read from other reviewers on Goodreads, a lot of them who’ve read the Illuminae Files were actually pretty disappointed with this book. The most complaints I saw were about how the characters didn’t feel fully developed, how they were too cliché, or how the plot and conflict wasn’t exciting enough. What I can argue with all that is how we need to remember that this is only the first book in a new trilogy, and like the curse that a lot of other more well known Sci-Fi/Fantasy trilogies/series have is how the first book is like the tip of the iceberg: you glimpse the top of it that’s above the surface, but underneath is SOOOO much more waiting to be found! Can we all agree that we shouldn’t judge a series based off just the first book? I can name several books/series off the top of my head that suffer the first book being the weakest, but then it massively improves: The Hunger Games trilogy, the Harry Potter series, the Throne of Glass series, A Court of Thorns and Roses series, The Folk of the Air trilogy, and even the Captive Prince Trilogy.

I will say this book had a magnificent beginning and end, but the middle was slower than I’d hoped for. I feel like maybe there weren’t a whole lot of twists after the call to action with the main character joining the rest of the crew, and then not really until the last small chunk of the book as well. Sure, you get to know the characters a little more and get to hear from all their point of views—some more than others—but you do start to enjoy them and their dynamic like any other “found family” aesthetic that was what drew me into the story in the first place.

I’d say the main highlight for me was the main characters and their group dynamic. Sure, they’re all kind of cliché and nothing too original, but that was what both the authors intended for in the story, and it’s not like they don’t develop and start to veer away from their original stereotypical character arcs. They all had some sort of development throughout the story, and learn that just because they’re a group of misfits and outcasts, doesn’t mean they aren’t a ride or die crew that would fight for each other until the very end! There also wasn’t as much background info/backstory on all of them revealed, but let’s be honest… if the authors did include all that right away, I’m sure people would’ve complained and said it was all info-dumps. I say, there’s two more books that are supposed to follow for this series, let’s space out this information because we don’t need all this revealed to us at once, and it’s not like the characters won’t continue to grow and change as these books go on.

Overall, this book was definitely one of the more fun books to read in the genre; the two authors obviously work well together to create a captivating story, and I really wish I knew what their process was like. Who wrote what exactly, or what part did either of them play in the development of this story? If anyone knows the answers, or has a link to help, please feel free to send it my way! I’m always curious to see what prominent authors’s writing processes are like.

What It’s About:

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

Image courtesy of Instagram artist: @kiranight_art

A cocky diplomat named Scarlett with a black belt in sarcasm…
A sociopath scientist named Zila with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates…
A smart-ass techwiz named Fin with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder…
An alien warrior named Kal with anger management issues…
A tomboy pilot named Cat who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering…

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve, they’re just the ones we could find… Nobody panic.

Believe me, handsome, one of me is way more than you can handle.

‘I think… I’m gonna be sick,’ Lachlan declares.

‘I know the feeling,’ Cat sighs.

‘No, seriously,’ he burps. ‘Where’s the… bathroom?

Inside said bathroom, the five of us exchange a brief, horrified glance.”

— Amie Kaufman, “Aurora Rising”

What I Liked:

  1. The Found Family Trope! Like many other books/series I’ve reviewed on my blog, this is a fiction trope that I never get tired of! I still love the stories with outcasts who’ve all had society overlook them, toss them together and they all develop a deep bond and form a chosen family aesthetic. I live for these stories.
  2. The Banter & Humor! It was a little immature at certain times, but the overall humor and banter that occurs in Aurora Rising does make it a more light and fun story amongst the many within the genre that try to take themselves too seriously. Fin is the biggest character that surrounds this, and he’s a fan favorite for sure!
  3. It’s Just Fun! Kind of going off the previous point made, I just liked the lighter tone and humor this book had to offer. There were just a few instances and one-liners that I couldn’t help but chuckle at, which honestly doesn’t happen as often as I’d like when reading. The book doesn’t take itself so seriously, and that’s totally fine! Not everything needs to be Grimmdark in order for it to be an affective story.
  4. Tyler Jones! The Captain of the crew who was so obviously inspired off of Steve Rogers—just try and convince me otherwise—and the main reason I’m including him on here is because I liked his development from doing everything by the books to ordering his crew to shoot at the officers sharp on their tails, and of course because of that one scene with our broody, muscle-bound tank, Kal. I honestly didn’t see it coming, but loved it all the same!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Many POV’s?…So, part of the reason I was drawn to this book was because I’m planning out my own Fantasy genre tale with a found family aesthetic told through multiple perspectives, and with how this book was more highly rated than a ton of other titles and for research purposes, I wanted to see how those aspects were executed. All I can really say is that while having seven POV’s in this story may have worked alright for the plot, it didn’t really allow the characters to develop as much as a lot of readers would’ve hoped for. Personally, I think 3 or 4 characters got a lot more attention in terms of the POV’s rotating around, while the others didn’t really get as much to make them stand out. Maybe that’ll change for the next books in the trilogy? I’ll admit, not all the characters need massive development all at the same time; space it out and give the weaker characters more attention in the later books!
  2. First Book Only Sets the Scene…Like I’d mentioned above, but this book suffers the “first book curse” as I’d like to call it. What I mean is how the plot seems too simple, not large enough, and the characters aren’t as developed, and all we get in the end is a mere hint of how big things will become. Essentially, the first book merely sets the scene for the whole rest of the series. This was especially apparent in the Throne of Glass series and The Hunger Games, where the plot really doesn’t thicken until at least the second book in, but not a whole lot a lot actually happens in the first. With that in mind, if this is going to be the weakest book of the set, that means the others could be absolutely amazing!

Conclusion:

Aurora Rising is a fun, adventurous, entertaining start to a new series in the YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre that infuses “The Breakfast Club” and “Guardians of The Galaxy” into its main frame. The characters are stereotypical arcs that we’re all familiar with, but there’s hope that they’ll continue to grow and veer away from the familiarity that was initially placed upon them. The plot was fast-paced, yet simple, but again there’s the hope that so much more is going to happen! We glimpsed the tip of this iceberg, but there’s so much more below the surface.

I recommend this title to anyone else who loves the found family trope I keep talking about, who enjoy humorous & immature banter with awkward situations, and those who especially enjoy “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

As I share this review, I know the second book, Aurora Burning, has just been released recently and features our favorite moody, broody space elf, Kal (who’s totally a carbon copy of Rowan Whitethorn from the Throne of Glass series, not that that’s a bad thing)! I can definitely say I will be seeking out a copy for myself soon enough to place it next to this book on my personal library shelf.

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell