mythology

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

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Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier
Roc: November 1, 2016
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Free From Publisher

I’d go there again!
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Den of Wolves is the third and what I hope will not be the final book in the Blackthorn and Grimm series. While I loved Dreamer’s Pool and Tower of Thorns, I can’t help but appreciate the fact that Den of Wolves offers a satisfying conclusion, yet still allows for the possibility of more from Blackthorn and Grim.

Since the first book, I have enjoyed how Marillier combines a fantasy tale with elements that I generally associate more with the mystery genre. In each book, the healer Blackthorn and her man-of-few-words companion, Grimm, tackle a new mystery. That is no different in Den of Wolves. This time Blackthorns helps a troubled young princess, Dalriada, who’s father is building a mysterious house in the woods. Why is this house so important? Why must Dalriada be kept away from the house and the man who is instructing it’s builders? Those are both questions that Blackthorn seeks answers to. And Grimm is uniquely positioned to help as he’s been hired on to help finish the building of the home. (more…)

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“Gilded” – Not Quite My Color

Gilded by Christina Farleygilded
Skyscape: March 1st, 2014 (YA Fantasy)

The view was nice, but the food was bad (meh)
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Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Gilded is based in Korean mythology, particularly metamorphosis magic and the story of Haemosu, the sun god who abducted Yuhwa, the daughter of Habaek, a water deity. She escapes, and in this version, he keeps his psychotic dream – of power and possession of a beautiful woman – alive by kidnapping the eldest daughter of each generation of Yuhwa’s descendants. Jae Hwa is that daughter in her generation. When her mom dies of cancer, she and her dad move back to his native Korea, which puts her within reach of Haemosu, whose power is strongest within the borders of Korea.

Her father denies the family legends that tell of the abductions, but her grandfather tries to warn them that Jae Hwa is in danger in Korea. On a family holiday, she goes to an island cave on her grandfather’s property that transports her to the spirit world, where her troubles (and adventures) begin. Haemosu cottons on to the fact that Jae is in Korea, and begins pursuing her. Each time they meet, he steals a little piece of her soul. After the fifth meeting, she will become his eternally.

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“Raven Flight” Doesn’t Really Take Off

17237161Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier
Knopf Books for Young Reader: July 9, 2013 (Young Adult; Fantasy)

My rating: Beach vacation vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

Raven Flight is the second in Juliet Marillier’s Shadowfell trilogy. In book one, Neryn discovered she was a Caller, one who possesses the gifts to call the Good Folk forward to fight on the side of the humans. It was a rough go for Neryn. She didn’t know who to trust or even if she wanted to be the Caller.

In Raven Flight Neryn has come to terms with her role as the Caller and it’s now time for her to hone her gifts. She’s used her ability in the past, but her lack of training makes her a danger to those around her. To learn more about her abilities Neryn will need to go on a journey and learn from the four Guardians. The journey is long and time is running short. (more…)

‘Mortal Danger’ When Wishes Granted

13508415Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre
Feiwel & Friends, August 5, 2014 (Young Adult; Urban Fantasy)*

My rating: Beach vacation (3/5)

Mortal Danger is a new YA series from Ann Aguirre. I loved Aguirre’s Perdition and Grimspace so I was eager to see what this author could do in the YA world. Despite the cool concept, Mortal Danger fell flat for me. It’s not you, Mortal Danger, it’s me. I would have grabbed this book with two hands as a teenager, but unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling the love.

When the novel opens Edie has decided to kill herself. She’s been bullied for years and she just wants a way out. Edie’s a smart girl and she’s thought the process through and she feels that there’s no other option for her. However, when she’s about to go through with her plan, a “hot Samaritan” steps in and offers her a deal:

“In a sense, you’re already gone, Edie. If your fate wasn’t currently in limbo, I wouldn’t be permitted to talk to you. There’s a pivotal moment just before death, when bargains can be made. I’m authorized to offer you three favors now in return for three favors later” (p.12).

Edie, having no better options, decides to take Kian up on his offer. She wants revenge on the classmates that have made her years at school a nightmare and Kian tempts her with the means to make that particular fantasy a reality. Unfortunately, the revenge plot became the point where I lost interest with Mortal Danger. (more…)

Still cursed in ‘The Curse Breakers’

19154146The Curse Breakers by Denise Grover Swank

Amazon Publishing,  April 29, 2014 (Contemporary/Romantic Fantasy)*

My rating: The plane was delayed, the luggage lost, and the museums closed (1/5)

This second installment in the Curse Keepers series disappointed me. For much of the novel, I found myself uninterested and/or skimming. My main impression was one of slow plot lines, minimal action (except during those times when Ellie gets attacked – again – by vengeful spirits), and a rather painful love triangle.

This story continues the upturned life of Ellie Lancaster, who at the end of the first book watched her father die, was betrayed by her partner and lover, Collin Daley, and witnessed the Pandora’s box of Native American spirits opening up into the human world. She’s still struggling with her feelings (attraction, betrayal) for Collin, and still trying to avoid the dangerous spirits and stay alive. Still working partial shifts at the other restaurant while her former restaurant remains closed. (more…)

A Cruel Fairy Tale in ‘Cruel Beauty’

15839984Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodges
January 28, Balzer & Bray (Fantasy, Young Adult)*

My rating: I’d go there again! (4/5)

Cruel Beauty was an interesting read, and it’s one that I’ve put off reviewing as I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. It’s part Beauty and the Beast and part Persephone and Hades retelling. It was the comparisons to Beauty and the Beast that drew me in, and while I was not expecting the allusions to Greek mythology, it somehow worked.

Nyx has been promised to Ignifex since birth, and the day has finally come when she will marry him. This will be no happy marriage, as Nyx has been trained to kill him when she gets the opportunity, ending the curse that enslaves her country, Arcadia.

Naturally, Nyx’s actual meeting of Ignifex changes things considerably. Rather than attacking her once they meet, Ignifex gives Nyx the single rule that she must follow:

Every night I will offer you the chance to guess my name.”

It was so completely unexpected that it took me a moment just to understand the words, and then I tensed, sure that his rules were about to turn into a threat or mockery. But Ignifex went on, as calmly as if all husbands said such things. “If you guess right, you have your freedom. If you guess wrong, you die.” (p. 44-45)

Nyx doesn’t expect to gain her freedom. She never expected to live period. She would kill Ignifex and likely die trying. So when Ignifex gives her another option, Nyx is completely baffled and her plan is thrown off course:

Why wasn’t my hatred simple anymore? (p. 130)

The writing in Cruel Beauty was quite beautiful. The whole book had a fairy tale flavour that I really liked. Even the dark themes reminded me of classic fairy tales. The world building was also lovely and I loved how the world of Arcadia was described. For a world so intricate, it was described perfectly and simply.

While I loved the writing and the use of fairy tales and folklore, what made this novel outstanding was the character of Nyx. She was an unusual young woman. She was selected to be the “hero” for her family and free Arcadia, but she resented this fact. She didn’t want to be the hero, she didn’t like her family much, she bordered on hatred for her sister who would get to live and was showered with their father’s attentions. In a sense, her family’s grooming of Nyx to be the savior, left her vulnerable to Ignifex and his attention to her:

I had been waiting, all my life, for someone undeceived to love me. And now he did. (p. 149)

I liked these qualities in Nyx. I think this contrasted nicely with the more one-dimensional nature of a fairy tale story. Fairy tales tend to be short and sweet, but Nyx was complex. Her choices weren’t right or wrong, and there was no easy answer for her. This conflict was beautifully executed.

Cruel Beauty was a fascinating look at the Beauty and the Beast story. And while I’m not overly familiar with Greek mythology, I thought the inclusion of this with a more traditional fairy tale was surprising in the best possible way. This was a lovely story and I would recommend it to fans of fairy tale retellings and fantasy alike.

*Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.

Similar Reads

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)The Assassin's Curse (The Assassin's Curse, #1)Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)

Howl’s Moving Castle: This seems like a odd choice, but there’s something about Cruel Beauty that immediately brought this book to mind. I guess it’s more of a children’s version, with lots of curses to keep the intrepid heroine on her toes.

The Assassin’s Curse: Like Ignifex, Naji is cursed and only the pirate heroine will be able to break it, but at what cost?

Scarlet: This is book two in Meyer’s sci-fi fairy tale retellings and it’s amazing! If you like the fairy tale aspect of Cruel Beauty you need to check out this series. This one features a re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood, and like Nyx and Ignifex, Scarlet and Wolf do not have an auspicious start.

And the apocalypse comes to private school in ‘Starling’

9248345Starling (Starling, book 1) by Lesley Livingston
HarperTeen, August 28, 2013 (Young Adult, Urban Fantasy)

My rating: Beach vacation

I’ve been meaning to read Starling since it came out, and I’ve heard wonderful things about Lesley Livingston, so at long last I got my copy of Starling and started reading.

Mason Starling is a rising star for her private school’s fencing team and she’s hoping to make the national team. Practicing all that she can and crushing on her fencing partner, Cal, are pretty much her biggest concerns at the moment. She’s had a seemingly charmed life, considering her dad is a millionaire; of course, these rich families always have skeletons in their closets, although Mason doesn’t expect them to jump out and attack her. Or for a naked guy to fall out of a tree in the middle of the storm and fight off zombie creatures. Oh private school; where anything can happen.

It seems that Mason is a descendent and part of an ancient prophecy that spells out the end of the world. It’s part of the Norse mythology for Ragnarok that states:

One tree. A rainbow bird wings among the branches.
Three seeds of the apple tree, grow tall as Odin’s spear is,
gripped in the hand of the Valkyrie.
They shall awaken, Odin Sons, when the Devourer returns.
The hammer will fall down onto the earth to be reborn. (p. 98)

Apparently Mason and her brothers are part of this prophecy, although Mason is left in the dark about her ancestors while both her older brothers have the inside scoop. Instead Mason’s cloistered at Gosforth Academy, where all the other students are descendents of servants for the gods of mythology. Some seem to be aware of this fact, but others, like Mason, don’t have a clue. But, when this prophecy starts to unravel, Mason and others start to see some strange and monstrous characters in New York City.

Overall, I thought Starling was okay. It was entertaining and there was some funny moments, but I felt that the story wasn’t original. This mythology mix has been done before and so has the prep school motif. For me, I didn’t think there was really anything that stood out for me that made Starling markedly different from other stories that I’ve read. So while there wasn’t anything really wrong with the story, I did feel that it fell flat for me because of the unoriginal theme.

I did like the characters and the writing style of the book. In my opinion there are not enough teen books that show multiple points of views. I thought this technique was extremely appropriate for Starling considering that many characters had different levels of understanding of the prophecy and the existence of magic and gods. The focus was definitely on Mason and her romantic lead, The Fennrys Wolf (a.k.a. naked guy), but I thought the inclusion of multiple points of view kept Starling interesting enough for me that I could continuing reading something that I wasn’t completely invested in.

As for the secondary characters that readers get to know, I have to say I really hope we get to see a turn around with Rory Starling, Mason’s middle brother. I’m getting an Edmund from Chronicles of Narnia vibe here, and I’m hoping that Rory’s not all bad, although this may be wishful thinking. As for the rest of the secondary characters, I really liked Roth Starling (the eldest brother), Cal (Mason’s crush), and Heather (the token gossip queen). At this point these characters are not completely fleshed out and are somewhat stereotypical, but I would love to see these characters grow a little in book 2, so fingers crossed. Because of the wide array of characters, I think Starling will have appeal to both guys and girls; however, the feminine cover may turn away some readership.

Ultimately, I liked the book, but I’m not inclined to rave about it, and I think only finishing the trilogy will tell me whether or not I’ll be recommending this trilogy to friends and teen readers.

Similar Reads

Valkyrie RisingThe Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles, #1)The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy, #1)

Valkyrie Rising: If you’re liking the Norse mythology focus of Starling, check this one out.

The Girl with the Steel Corset: More uber-rich teens with magic – but they’re living in steampunk London. it’s such a cool series, and only gets better with each book.

The Nightmare Affair: Private school with magical students, only these students know what’s what. Much more of a mystery focus here.

Book Review: The Woken Gods

16120126The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Date: September 3rd, 2013
Genre: Young Adult / Urban Fantasy
Rating: Vacation by the beach
Source: Net Galley

Five years ago the world changed; the gods woke. And took over Washington, D.C.??? Hearing that description, I was unsurprisingly intrigued. I’m a huge fan of Rick Riordan, so I was expecting this to be similar but geared towards a older teen audience.

Seventeen-year-old Kyra Locke is dealing with the changes to D.C. the best that she can. Her mom’s left her and her dad behind, she’s just broken up with her boyfriend because she doesn’t want to be more than friends, oh and she just discovered her absentee father is actually an agent of an important secret society (he’s not the librarian she always thought he was) and is convicted of treason. Ahh to be a teen again. So much drama…

While struggling to keep up with her parents secrets, Kyra is determined to clear her dad’s name before he’s sentenced to death. Along the way she meets the young (and very cute) Society operative, Oz Spencer, who she’s not sure she can trust. But, honestly, when you find out your parents are part of a secret society, who can you trust?

Overall, I liked this urban fantasy; however, there were a couple of things that I had reservations about. First of all, Kyra herself. I’m not saying every female character has to be strong and Katniss-like; however, I do feel like I need to understand why they act a certain way that could be described as flighty. Kyra’s obviously been through a lot with her mom leaving and her dad not being around; but, I just didn’t really understand how this translated into commitment issues at seventeen. It’s not like you’re expected to be totally committed to a romantic relationship at that age. Even when we did get a rationale for why Kyra was behaving in that way, I felt let down and I was hoping for a bigger reason as to why she pushes people away. I felt that there was a lot of lead up to this particular trait in Kyra, and I expected a more significant reason for it.

The other aspect of the book that I felt fuzzy with was the world building. Gods in present day, I was totally on board with that. However, I still feel unclear about the god’s presence in D.C. Why gods from all cultures? Why D.C.? I feel like my questions have not been answered. Due to the rather open ending, I’m assuming that this is the start of a series, and I really hope that these issues are addressed in subsequent books.

What I loved best about this one was the side characters. Kyra’s friends are great, and I loved the fact that we got to see things from their side of the fence periodically. Both Bree and Tam were extremely loyal to Kyra, and they were just plain entertaining. I also liked Oz’s sidekick, Justin. Justin was a great character. He’s a scholarly nerd, who gets to save the day! He was another loyal friend, and it was interesting to get his take on Kyra, since he was not impressed with her, something that’s unusual considering Kyra is the hero of the novel. I loved these characters and I would come back to this world for them.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. If you’re looking for the humour of Riordan, The Woken Gods is probably not for you. The gods in Bond’s novel are scary and she tackles some pretty dark stuff, considering the ending of the novel. As I said, I would probably come back to the world, if only to get some answers!

Read-Alikes:

The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy, #1)Unraveling IsobelThe Dark UnwindingBrightly Woven