Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns #1)

Action, alternating narration, families, Fantasy, Female Leads, Series

The first of the series with the same title, the story begins with three queen sister (triplets) each facing the ceremony on their 16th birthday in which will not only validate their power, but will begin the time period where they should – and are expected to – kill the other sisters so she may be the true queen.

Each generation produces triplet sisters, all holding different magical abilities.   Mirabella can control the elements, Kat (Katherine) is a poisoner and can ingest any poisons and survive, and Arsinoe is a naturalist who can control all things in nature.  Each sister remembers a time before separated from her sisters, a time in which sister’s love was strong.  Only now, each has advisers who not only prepare their queen  for the fight ahead, but encourage murder for their queen’s survival.

As for the sisters, their ambition is only challenged with the memory of sisterhood.  With suitors approaching all three girls as if the prize is marriage, they learn power is both isolating and, at times, unwanted.  Each sister wants to be Queen, but the only way to become Queen is to eventually kill the other two sisters during the Ascension year.  Each sister also has her strengths and weaknesses whether it is confidence, skill, or beauty. As suitors and servants provide allies and comfort (and many bears play a part), Mirabella, Kat, and Arsinoe also learn that they can be enemies too.

This story has lots of fantasy elements and some action, but at times I found it difficult to remember which sister was friends with other side characters and even how to balance the lives of the side characters when learning of their parentage.  One great aspect is the growth they face by the end of this installment: one who was weak is strong, one who was confident is shaken, and one who felt powerless has a newfound power.  Once I could follow who was supporting which sister, the night of the reunion was soon and the Quickening to begin the year of ‘try to kill your sisters so that you can be Queen’ was happening.  So a bit confusing at first, but with some solid action at the end – and a cliffhanger of course!


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September 2017

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The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3) – Marie Lu

Action, alternating narration, death, diversity in YA, Fantasy, Favorites, Female Leads, gay characters, Series

Three different groups of people continue to fight for power and their desire to be the one ruler in the final installment following  The Young Elites and The Rose Society.

Adelina is where she wants to be after the first two installments of this trilogy and that is as the White Wolf ruler.  She has reversed all prejudice and killings of the marked (those with powers) and has reversed the hatred she and her people faced and now in pure revenge fashion, aims it towards her former perpetrators.  She, along with her Rose Society of warriors, ensures that all marked (those formerly dubbed the ‘malfettos’) are respected in society. Her anger, and the voices in her head, make her self-conscious, paranoid, and cruel.

A few countries away her sister Violetta’s health is failing and a  prediction given earlier that the Elites will lose their powers and die seems to be coming true.  Violetta is protected by a powerful group of Elites – the same group that used to work with Adelina.  The Daggers know Adelina has gone off the deep end with her quest for revenge. They are another group vying for power.

Then there is Queen Maeve, one of the best female characters since Lady Macbeth, who harbors the two men that she brought back from death – and not with their former humanity.  Enzo, the former Malfetto Prince is still as powerful, but will kill more easily and Maeve must realize that her youngest brother, the one she always protected, is now more harmful than she realized.  Better think twice before bringing people back from the Underworld.  So Maeve, her soldiers, and her half-dead violent men are the third group.

Soon all sides collide in a battle of skill, power, and death.  People are captured by the other side and no one seems safe from each other or from the new threat they all face as marked malfettos, but a larger issue faces the powerful marked leaders: they are losing their powers.  A prophecy that was shared in the second book of the series seems to be coming true and now these strong leaders and enemies must come together for their own survival.  As battles continue, more people die (seriously – it’s like a Game of Thrones season), we wonder who will survive, who will retain power, and who will be the last leader standing. As the Elites travel to find the Gods and into the Underworld in order to learn why their powers lessen, more die on their journey.  This is a conclusion to the series that was focused on power and ruling an empire, but resolves in characters finding forgiveness, peace, love, and loyalty.

All in all after a violent, power hungry series, the Elites all finish mostly happily – if they were lucky enough to survive – and it’s a sweet ending, full circle all the way.

Nightfall – Jake Halpernhe & Peter Kujawinski

Action, Award Nominee, Fantasy, Series

A crazy science-fiction where on an island, the sun doesn’t rise and fall each day, but the sun is present for 14 years, then disappears for 14 years.  As the sun will soon leave the island our teenage twins, Marin and Kana, help the family clean the house and prepare it “as it was” when they arrived.  The teens are confused why the town has bizarre traditions of removing locks from doors and rearranging furniture before they leave the island for the long night.  They don’t receive any answers from parents or the town’s leaders, but are told to pack and prepare for the voyage.

On the day the tide rolls out (think the beginning of a tsunami, but it never returns), everyone gathers what luggage or food they can carry and head to the boats which have arrived to take the villager’s to the dessert.  [This whole plot is weird at first.]  Marin and Kana realize their friend Line is missing and knowing where he probably is, they set out to find him….. of course missing the loading of boats and being forgotten and left on the island, as the sun sets for the last time.

As the friends cope with their new abandonment, something they never imagined begins to happen.  They find a note that reads, “HIDE” and the first night alone on the island brings a terror they never imagined.  With nightfall becoming 24/7 they face far worst dangers than finding food.  What are the creatures that roam the island during this long darkness and without the water and tide, will the friends even be able to get off the island or survive the creatures of the island?  And how will they get off the island to the feet of boats without a boat or the tide?  I’m still trying to wrap my head around some of the details of the creatures and the land dwellers having this arrangement to share an island, but alternating each decade.  And where are the desert lands that the villagers go to?

This is an older plot for our YA readers


A sequel is in the works…..

The Rose Society – Marie Lu

Action, Fantasy, Favorites, Female Leads, gay characters, Read-a-Likes, Series, Young Readers

So. Excited. For. This. Sequel!!!!  There are some awesome females in this series:  “Right now, what I want is the throne.  Enzo’s power.  A perfect revenge.  And all the Inquisitors, queens, and Daggers in the world won’t be able to stop me.” (196)   —— Boom ———

Adelina is strong and she and her sister immediately begin their search for other Elites.  In hiding their powers, they sneak among society, but ever fearful of being caught by the Inquisitors ruled by Teren and Queen Giulietta – those who fear the malfettos (aka: gifted people after the fever left them with powers.  Those with the strongest powers are the Elites).  This sequel immediately keeps the plot moving and character’s personalities grow.  I may just prefer the sequel to the debut, something that I haven’t done since Catching Fire from the The Hunger Games series.

Raffaele Laurent Bessette is a new leader of the Dagger Society and a former consort, and former confidant to Prince Enzo – an Elite himself who was killed by Teren, (the self hating Elite who works and loves Queen Giulietta, the sister of Enzo) —- a very connected group of characters for sure.  While Raffaele is taken under a new Queen’s charge he struggles with the loss of Enzo.  Maeve, the Malfetto Queen and ally to Enzo with her vengeance and violent tendencies, has recently risen to power and has no problems using Raffaele as a tool, even if it means his death.  She fights and has a ferocious white tiger and I keep thinking of Lady MacBeth, yep – she’s sort of that frightening as a newly crowned young Queen.  Her power is one of the darkest.

Lots of secrets and trickery, but a fast moving plot and unlike Six of Crows, which has similarities, this one is easier to follow.  Maybe it’s just that  we’re following 3 groups instead of 6 backstories, but it flows better.  And as far as sequels go, it keeps you reading and I almost want to reread it.

Another side of the plot’s maturity deals with love, the disappointment with it (not in a teenage sappy love story).  It covers the gut wrenching loss of a confidant, the cruelty given by a parent, and true abandonment.  Not to mention our characters have to choose between friends, choose who suffers pain (even death), and who to let go.  Adelina certainly comes to understand how her ideal of love has changed.

“I’m suddenly angry.  Why must I lose everything that I care for? Why is love such a weakness? I wish, for an instant, that I didn’t need such a thing.  I can win the same things in my life with fear, with power.  What is the point of searching for love, when love is nothing but an illusion?”

I think what really makes this book stand out is the darkness that comes through for many of the characters, Adelina mostly who struggles with a desire of revenge and power, but also of the prejudice towards the malfettos.  Eventually her drive for power, and the whispers in her head overtake her initial goal of justice and it’s a glorious spiral out of control.  One that is very Shakespearean or Game of Thrones like.  Not a typical depth found in Young Adult Literature and one Marie Lu covers so well.  You will not put this book down for the last half, I promise.

Sadly, I must now wait for the third book, but at least we’re already into 2016 right?   I love this series and recommend it to male and female students and also to adults.  It does not disappoint in action, plot, creativity, and characters.

Stitching Snow – R.C. Lewis

Uncategorized

A runaway Princess who is tech savvy, lives among miners, and who is an awesome computer coder….whose best friends are drones.  Definitely points for creativity on a popular royalty plot, which I somehow seems to be reading a lot of quiet accidentally.  And there’s also spaceships.

Essie is happy to live nearly to herself in a miner’s community where she programs the drones who work in the mines.  With the crash of a ship and introduction to a stranger, Dane, Essie is soon taken back to her Royal past.  Eight years have passed since Essie – real name of Snow – went missing, not all of the kingdom is happy to see her return, especially not the Queen.  In a time of “haves” and “have-nots” with misguided citizens and rebels fighting an eight-year war where the truth lies more with corruption than a cause, Essie and Dane not only must find the truth, but must survive each of the Queen’s attempts on their lives.

lunar

Older readers who are fans of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer will enjoy the allusion to Snow White.

As they return to Essie’s home, and hiding their plan to help end the war, Essie and Dane reunite with the King whose war imprisoned Dane’s father and the Queen who, stereo-typically, is the evil Stepmother.  By the end of this book I thought it tried a bit too far to be shocking young adult literature.  Essie certainly was a strong female character and a survivor before we learned the background of a sexually abusive father, but after she realizes what he’s done, we see she is even stronger. [She’s nearly raped by her King father (not the first time), unnecessarily in my eyes since it only gave obvious reasoning for Dane to kill him yet it didn’t lead to any truth seeking, revelation, or even mention later by Essie.]

My complaint with that realization being added is that it wasn’t needed for the plot and once the almost rape scene was over, it was never mentioned again.  Unlike a true victim of sexual assault, Essie had no processing or coming to terms with it.  It simply was forgotten.

It read more as an obvious reason for readers not to think Dane did wrong by killing him, but that murder was justified.  However, it had an opposite affect on me – I won’t buy or suggest this book, which is a shame since the whole computer savvy female was a character I was excited to root for.  If something came from Essie remembering the truth, or it added to the plot, I could overlook that scene and I would recommend this book carefully to my students; however, it adding to a plot with other holes, an unrealistic progression of events, and weak writing I don’t think I’ll continue with the series.  Shame really, the drones (one suitably named ‘Cusser’) were funny.


spinning-starlight-book

This companion, not sequel, actually sounds like a better book….. maybe I’m not finished with this story line of a tech savvy teenage girl in another galaxy trying to help others.  I always enjoy a plot that alludes to fairy tales.

For an interview with the author and more about Spinning Starlight click here.

Frozen (Heart of Dread #1) – Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston

Uncategorized

frozen

In the future, the Earth is a frozen wasteland.  New Vegas still runs on casinos and crime, but is covered in ice.  Power is no longer held by politicians and government, but by criminals and underground markets.  Natasha (Nat) hides her power for fear of persecution like all the others who are marked with special abilities.  She must rely on others to flee New Vegas she comes across a team, the Runners, willing to smuggle her out – at a cost.

Wes, the team’s leader, doesn’t know that Nat is stronger and smarter than just a basic blackjack dealer when he agrees to take this job.  He is out of heat credits and running low on food and has his team to think of so once again he takes the job of as a Runner and tries to find the mysterious Blue.  Nat was given a necklace that seems to be the key to the Blue – both an oasis for those with special powers and also an environmental oasis away from the frozen land.  As the crew begins their journey, Nat’s secret is exposed causing division among Wes’ group.  Soon old members are gone and new ones join the ship.  With the addition of a woman with supernatural powers and a homosexual little person couple the crew is a bunch of misfits unlike the trained soldiers Wes is used to dealing with.

Wes’ past continues to haunt him both with internal guilt he can never let go and in everyday life as he runs into military officials and other seamen breaking laws.  Nat’s search for an oasis and Wes’ struggle with survival soon brings them together when Nat realizes their pasts are intertwined. Soon the slavers get a hold of the newly formed crew and though they are separated, our characters remain strong.

As the climax begins we learn Nat is much more powerful than even she knew.  We learn the answer to what the voice is in her head and how she has been able to survive extreme circumstances.  Though she finds answers to why she was used as a weapon in her past, the realization brings more questions about her future.


I think the authors set up a good premise for the second book, but I’m doubtful I will continue with this series.  The action did increase with the battles against the slave ships and the realization of Nat’s powers, but it’s not enough to keep me reading the second installment….. maybe.  Some quotes I find are building up Nat’s strength ….and I always like a Kick-Awesome YA female character.

Heart of Dread on Tumbler

Still, for readers who like fantasy and those especially who like adventures at sea it could be a good series.  Not a lot of romance in this one even though it’s a plot point so it’s (so far) safe for the younger YA readers – though the types of torture are a bit intense and the Flesh Markets are dark. I also give props for sneaking in the homosexual couple to a YA book.


Series continuation with Stolen and Golden.