Thursday, 4 June 2015

Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder

Series: Soulfinders, Book One
Study, Book Four
The Chronicles of Ixia, Book Seven
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Format: Kindle
Published: 12th March 2015
Number of Pages: 416
Book: ARC*
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Paranormal, Magic, Romance, Mystery, Suspense, Action-Adventure, YA, YA-Adult Crossover
Recommended Age: 14+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Alcohol and Sexual References
Author's Site: Maria V. Snyder

Blurb From Goodreads:
Once, only her own life hung in the balance…
When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia.
Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger.
As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked.  And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.

“Dead air surrounded me.
My magic was gone…”
When you miss your days as a poison tester, you know your life is crazy.
Yelena Zaltana, former poison tester for the Commander of Ixia, now Liason between Ixia and Sitia and powerful magician, is just looking forward to some quality time with her heart mate, Valek, when she is shot by a poisoned arrow.  Thinking she expelled all the poison before it had a chance to take effect, she leaves the hunt for her assassin to Valek.  
But she didn't get it all out.  And now her magic is gone, leaving her defenceless against a magical enemy she thought she'd defeated.
Meanwhile, Valek attempts to find Yelena's attempted-assassin, take down a smuggling ring (with the help of Janco and Ari) and also deal with a newcomer who is vying for his job.
Can Yelena save her own life, let alone the ones she loves, when she is deprived of the very thing that makes her strongest?
“Run and hide?  That was so not my style…”
When I found out Yelena's story would continue in a brand new trilogy, I freaked out; I was just so, so excited.  In fact, I did many a happy dance.  But when I got my hands on Shadow Study, I found myself a bit nervous, since I haven't actually read the Glass series yet.  I shouldn’t have worried: it didn't take long for me to figure out what had happened – and I'm sure I'll reread Shadow Study after I read the Glass series, so it doesn't matter much! 
But anyway: I was also worried Shadow Study wouldn't live up to the original series.  But I was, of course, wrong.  From the very start, it was all action and just as magical as ever – and we even had Valek and Janco chapters, two of my other fave Study characters!  Can I hear a HELL YEAH!
Yelena has grown up so much in the time between Fire Study and Shadow Study.  Not surprising, given the time that has passed, but she's matured a lot.  I love her – how badass and brave she is, even without her magic.  We got to see more of the human Yelena, the one who was cunning, Valek's student and who needed her friends – I liked that a lot.
Valek.  I loved learning more about Valek's past, about how he became Valek.  About why he makes animals form the black stone with silver specks.  About why he's so rational.   About how and why he became an assassin.  About how he was told to not feel, how emotions were weakness, but he's embraced them anyway because of his good heart, how he is so so caring.  It has made me love him even more – something I thought impossible.
Janco: oh how I love him!  He's my favourite soldier ever, my favourite comedic release in this suspenseful series.  He's also man after my own heart – not a morning person.  I get it, Janco.  "Bright sunlight, chirping birds and those obnoxious morning people" make my stomach churn too.  Seriously though, I am so in love with this bonkers, hilarious, brave soldier – as-much-as-I-love-Valek kind of love.
Now for our supporting cast.  First up Ari, who sadly we didn’t see as much of, but he was so brilliant when we did!  And Leif has become such a protective big brother!  He killed me at time – the boy has serious snark!  And little Fisk!  Not so little now – and such an entrepreneur!   Oh, and Reema killed me – the lines that kid came out with were amazing!  And then there’s Onora, who just intrigues me – I can’t wait to learn more about her, and I see a future love connection with my favourite little Janco (though does anyone else totally want Janco and Ari to be a couple?  Is that just me?  Just think – they could be Jaari or Arco or Janri: too cute!).
I must say, I loved this triple but linked storyline.  The way we followed Yelena, Valek and Janco made the action and suspense just nonstop and full on.  Of course, I occasionally wished it was easier to skip ahead on my Kindle – sometimes I just wanted to continue with the storyline I read in that chapter, because they were always left on cliffhangers!  Noo!  But seriously: loved it to pieces.  And that ending... Oh. My. Gods.  I need the next book – like right now.  Or, even better, yesterday!
And the writing: OH MY GODS, I love split POVs.  So so much.  I mean, we got to read daring quests from the perspectives of the lovely and kickass Yelena, the gorgeous and badass Valek and  the hilarious and brilliant Janco.  It was just so much awesome to fit into one book – and I loved it so much!  I've always loved Yelena, but it was so great to get to know Valek and Janco better!   And Maria is always so good at writing brilliant action scenes, scenes of comic relief and sparkling dialogue – and Shadow Study had all of these in spades!
I've said so many times and I'll say it again: I love this world!  I love Ixia and I love Sitia and I love the magic and the politics and the spying and the mad adventures.  I want to move here – live in Sitia with the Zaltanas, or live in Ixia and be one of Valek's spies.  I just love Maria's world building so freaking much and I can't get enough of this brilliant world she's created.  
Damn, I love this world, this series and these characters.  It feels so much like home – like one of my favourite places to be – and I'm so glad I get to spend even more time here.  Shadow Study managed to exceed every single one of my expectations and left me shaking for so much more.  I just... God, I loved it so much!  Maria V. Snyder is always amazing, always a true artist, but Shadow Study exceeds all the others in the Study series so far.  Night Study can't come quickly enough!

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Study Series by Maria V. Snyder
Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Happy Reading
* This book was received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Series: A Court Of Thorns And Roses, Book One
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Paperback
Published5th May 2015
Number of Pages: 432
Book: ARC*
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Epic Fantasy, Paranormal, Thriller, Suspense, Fairy Tale Retelling, Mystery, YA, New Adult
Recommended Age: 14+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Sexual and Alcohol References
Author's Site: Sarah J. Maas

Blurb From Goodreads:
The breathtaking start to a seductive high-fantasy from New York Times bestselling author of Throne of Glass series.
Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price.
Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

I feel it’s only fair to warn you in advance.  It’s taken me a whole damn month to finally get my obsessed and adoring feels down.  This review will be fangirly and rambly and quite possible incoherent.  How better to let the whole damn world know about the awesomeness of my favourite fantasy book of 2015?  Read A Court Of Thorns And Roses now people!
“I knew – I knew I was headed down a path that would likely end in my mortal heart being left in pieces, and yet...  And yet I couldn't stop myself…”
Once, humans were ruled by faeries, who used them as they pleased.  But following a vicious and bloody war, the humans broke free from the shackles of their enslavement by proposing a Treaty, outlining acceptable and forbidden behaviour on both sides – and splitting countries into mortal and faerie realms.
Feyre is a human, and ever since her family went broke and were forced to live in a small shack, they've struggled to survive.  Her father cannot work and her older sisters refuse to.  And so it comes down to Feyre to keep them all alive.
When you are a huntress and starving, depended upon, and you find a huge wolf in the woods… even though it might be the very species you fear above all else, a faerie, do you still kill it?  Do you have a choice?
Feyre takes the shot, but she never could have imagined the true price of killing one of the fae – until a faerie beast barges into her home and demands a life for a life…
Dragged to the faerie kingdom Prythian for breaking a rule she didn't know existed, Feyre is left in a large house with Tamlin and what remains of his court.
Something is happening in Prythian, something terrible – something dangerous.  It's spreading more every day, and no one knows how to stop it.  
Feyre doesn't know what to do about Tamlin, her captor, who is so different from the vicious faeries she was told about.  Who she is falling for...
When the beast is the most beautiful thing in a land of magic, death and danger, how can a human girl survive?
I absolutely adore Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series and when I found out that she was doing another fantasy series, chock-full of Fae, I almost screamed the house down in excitement.  When A Court Of Thorns and Roses landed on my doormat, I hugged my copy to my chest and just grinned.  And then, once I'd got my fangirly, excited, hyper, happy-freak out under control, I opened ACoTaR up and began to read.  And I fell even more in love with the book than with the Throne of Glass series, something I did not believe could be possible.  And yet, A Court Of Thorns And Roses.  Man, I loved this book SO MUCH!
Feyre was like an epic fantasy version of Katniss Everdeen – but, to me at least, so much more awesome.  She was brave and hard and soft and kind and caring and badass and compassionate.  She was amazing and I just loved her.  She was easy to relate to, but also a real heroine – a balance that is hard to perfect.  Feyre also wasn't perfect, she wasn't some perfect faerie princess; she was just Feyre, she was real.
And then there was Tamlin: I know Feyre wasn't won over right away, but I really was.  Tam... he was so perfect.  I adored him.  He was kind and funny and protective and brooding and sweet and badass and... just everything you'd want from a Fae High Lord and so much more too.  I love him!
I know it's basically the same cover,
but it's so gorgeous!!
His friend Lucien could be a bit of a git at times, but he was also really funny.  Oh, and when you know his backstory, heart-breaking!  Poor Lucien!
But did anyone else kind of totally like Rhysand?  Sure, he was a total prick, but at times... I don't know.  I sorta really liked him.  It was so very confusing, because I really don’t think I should like him so much, and I'm so very excited to see where he goes next.
And as for Her... she scares the hell out of me.  Seriously freaking terrifying.
In the beginning, Feyre's sisters and father kind of reminded me of Cinderella's stepsisters and mother.  In other words, they treated her like crap.  But they grew on me.  Sarah J. Maas is amazing and perfected everyone’s character development to a tee: it was brilliant, how all of the characters changed, deepened and became more loved the longer you knew them.
Just like in Throne of Glass, the world-building in A Court of Thorns and Roses was sublime.  It was so intricate, so fascinating, so beautiful and so perfect.  I felt transported to this dangerous, violent and beautiful land of Prythian, where the faeries lived in their own little world of bizarre rituals, deadly politics and lavish parties.  It was a world that I simultaneously craved to visit and feared, all at once.  If I was under the protection of Tamlin, though, I'd go in a heartbeat.  But seriously: this world... perfection.
I adore fairy tales and always have.  I love the morals, the darkness, the Disney versions, the brutality... I've read a lot of retellings – a lot – but A Court Of Thorns And Roses was, by far, the most amazing, most magical Beauty and the Beast retelling I've ever read.  The plotline and writing... the original tale was twisted, enhanced, complicated, made more magical, more beautiful, more touching and more believable than the story we know so well.  I mean, when you mix the fae with fairy tales, you know you'll get something amazing.  But what Maas has accomplished in this book.... it blew my mind.  Completely.
The writing was beautiful, enchanting and vivid; I felt transported, entranced and totally hooked.  I loved Feyre's voice, loved the beautiful descriptions and loved the world building.  And, just as much, I adored the plot: it was both fast-paced and slow-burning, addictive and suspenseful.  It made the Beauty and the Beast story so much more plausible, because the chemistry between the two was palpable.  I loved watching the plot unfold, loved how Maas never let up on the suspense.
I try not to judge a book until the very end.  But with A Court of Thorns And Roses, I knew before I was four chapters in that it would be one of my favourite books – and that it would get at least four and a half stars.  By a hundred pages, four and three-quarters.  And by two hundred, it had five stars and my eternal love and devotion.  I am going to go mad waiting for the second book and I will never stop telling everyone to just read this book.  It is... by the Cauldron, it's so good.  Beyond belief.  Beyond description – despite this long, rambly review.  (Hey, I warned you.)
I've found my new addiction, people!  I'm so hooked.  And I shall be counting down the days until I can get my greedy hands on the second book in the series.
Sigh.  I love A Court Of Thorns And Roses so very very much...  Almost as much as I love Tamlin and Lucien and Feyre.  In other words: a whole freaking lot.
I have never wanted a year to just freaking finish already more than I do right now…

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
Gracling by Kristin Cashore
The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review

** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book