Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

*This review will contain some spoilers, if you haven’t read Six of Crows.*

“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsKaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

Feelings: I love Bardugo’s writing and the way she weaves in characters’ back stories with the present action. We’re constantly learning new things about them as the story moves along and it adds so much dimension. Emotionally, this ride was up and down – the drama, the laughs, the tears. This book took me longer to get through for some reason than the first one. I think it just didn’t move in the same way that the first one did. But I read the last 200 pages or so in one sitting, partly because I was determined to finish and partly because I was so IN.

Issues: The only issue I had was that it lost my interest at times. I’m not sure if that’s because I was comparing it to Six of Crows for a while or if it was the actual plot that did me in. There were certain parts of this ride where I was gripped and on the edge of my seat and others where we were just filling in before the next exciting bit.

Characters: I needed more Kaz and Inej. And Nina and Matthias. And Wylan and Jesper. Just a little more of everyone. I understood the limits that they had and it made sense with the world and the story up to that point. Just personally, I need another book to see how those pairings play out, or don’t. (No spoilers. No mourners. No funerals.) It was especially interesting to get more of Wylan’s history and relationship with his father. With all the new back story information, we also saw even more character growth. They found themselves and banded together as a crew and a family.

I really value the diversity of this cast of characters. Not just diverse in skin color or gender, but in their diverse upbringings and experiences. They’re all so different but each member of the crew is equally important. Their differences are what makes them valuable and each has a story to share. This type of storytelling is really beautiful and I feel like everyone can find something or someone to connect to. 

Just like in Six of Crows, there wasn’t a clear hero or even a set villain. No one was perfectly fit for either label and I kind of enjoyed that. It made me question who I could trust, which kept me engaged and wondering. I really respect Bardugo’s choice for Kaz to not develop into some hero who overcomes his past. He remains an anti-hero from beginning to end and while he finds pieces of humanity along the way, he’s still Kaz. 

Some characters from Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy show up in this book, too! I recognized their names, but I couldn’t remember exactly who they were. So I Googled them. Ha! It was cool to see those characters pop up again. Like I said in my review of Six of Crows, you don’t have to have read the Grisha trilogy to understand what’s going on in this book. But it does help a little.

 

Final thoughts: In the end, I did enjoy this book and I’m glad I read it. Some of my predications came true, while others were way off, but that’s what makes reading fun! I recently found out that Bardugo will be releasing short stories that will be from this same Grisha world. These stories will be like old wives tales told and passed down through generations. I can’t wait to see the depth these add to this world!

Pick this up if you liked:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Goodreads rating: 4.64/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Books I Read Because of Hype

I’m one of those readers who runs on recommendations. I’m always looking for the latest craze or hype-inducing storyline. I want to know what I’m talking about when I join the conversation, so I always fall prey to hype. These are 5 books that I read because of all the conversations they started amongst the blogosphere and Goodreads threads.

anna and the french kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

SO MANY people told me to read this book. I was skeptical because I hadn’t really gotten into the contemporary scene at that point. But I finally decided to dive in on a sick day and I’m so glad that I did. Since I finished reading about Anna and Etienne, I’ve read the next two books in this companion story trio and I loved them. This book is the reason I reach for a contemporary romance. Plus that cover art. *Swoon*

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I love high fantasy. I’m always interested in new worlds and innovative magic systems. I’d heard a lot of people talk about this series after the sequel came out, but the cover threw me off. It seemed weird, I’ll be honest. But I watched a spoiler-free review of the first book and the vlogger was SO into it. I love fangirling, so I wanted what she was having. And now? I freaking love this series. I always pre-order the new books long in advance and anxiously await their arrival, even clearing my schedule for them. These stories consume me. There are so many characters and so much world building that I’m too invested to stop now.

outlander

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Everyone and their cat’s mom has talked about this series. I’m all about historical fiction and time travel, plus romance and Scotland…hubba hubba. But then, the romance also made me hesitated. I’m not one of those people who just LOVES blush inducing love scenes, call me crazy. Once the TV show started airing, I wanted to be part of the conversation, so I picked up the first book. I actually read it as I watched the episodes, which was pretty interesting. Then I watched the second season of the show and haven’t read the book. I AM glad that I read it. I thought the writing was powerful and the world was engaging. I would like to continue the series, but I haven’t settled on whether it’ll be print or TV, or both.

wrath

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

I read a few blog posts and watched some booktube videos of readers raving about this story, so I picked it up. I sat down and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Not necessarily because it was a work of genius, but because it hooked me in and I had the time. Since then, the sequel has been released and I have yet to read it. I don’t really remember what happened in the first book, probably because I read it TOO quickly. I don’t know that I’ll pick up the second book any time soon. I already have it on my Kindle, staring at me, longing to be given a chance. Maybe the hype sucked me in TOO much the first time around.

all the light

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Again I say, I love me some historical fiction. Last year, I was on a major WWII kick and read book after book about that time period. I was also teaching The Diary of Anne Frank along with a WWII unit, so I was thirsty for more information. Everyone kept telling me that I should read this book, but the page count was daunting. Once I finally decided to give it a chance, I flew through it. The characters lept off the page and I was so emotionally invested in their fictional little lives. I love this book. It’ll forever be one of my favorites.

What books has hype made you read? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

This was the LAST book I read in 2016!

“Three dark queens/Are born in a glen,
Sweet little triplets/Will never be friends

Three dark sisters/All fair to be seen,
Two to devour/And one to be Queen”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsEvery generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Feelings: I read this book in one sitting. I found myself with some “me” time (AKA while everyone else was out partying on New Year’s Eve), started this book, and shortly realized I was almost done with it. I was quickly hooked into the world and desperate to understand how it all worked. Sometimes authors give us a giant information dump in the first few chapters to where it reads more like a history lesson. Blake, however, slowly weaves information in and out of the characters’ lives. I wrote down many questions I had while reading and by the last page, they were almost all answered.

The politics! The intrigue! The family drama! The danger! Oh my! There was so much going on that kept me wanting more and more. So many possibilities for the second book and I have zero predictions and guesses. Everything I thought would happen in this first book got spun on its head, so I’m just going to wait and see how it all plays out!

Issues: Each place we went to was different and for me, it was easy to figure out where I was and who was there when the POV changed with the chapters. However, sometimes the world building became confusing and we didn’t find out important information until the second half of the book. Sometimes it was done well, filling us in at the best time. At other points, it made me more confused and have more questions. Most of the things I was stumped on included the world itself, like the government system, the process of finding king consorts or suitors, and the history of this queen ritual.

The other kind-of issue I had was with the romances. Part of me didn’t care about the romances because I was so invested in who was going to become THE queen and learning about their powers. The other part of me loves a good romance story and was disappointed that each individual love story had some sharp turns and side steps. None of them really ended well…which was kind of let down.

Characters: One thing I really enjoyed about this book were how the main characters are triplets, but they’re totally different. Each one had their own unique personality, struggles, and hopes. I found myself being totally invested in each one equally. I wasn’t speeding through certain chapters to get back to a beloved character. I loved all of them!

Katharine’s storyline was the darkest of the three…probably because of all that poison. I really wanted everything to work out for her, but I kept getting conflicted because I just knew that two of the sisters would have to die. Kat was probably the weakest of the three girls in the beginning. By the end, I wasn’t so sure anymore. I think she’ll find power in other ways, rather than some inherent gift.

Mirabella was expected to be the most powerful and the queen to fear. I think her particular story arc showed just how much of a teenage girl that she is and I liked that the author did that. She needed some kind of weakness in order for her to be relatable and worthy of our cheers.

Arsinoe was probably the most underwhelming of the sisters to me at first. She seemed rough and tumble, then she was sweet and caring. Then we questioned her gift and she showed us just how cunning she could be. I’m really excited to see where her story arc goes in the next book. She probably had the biggest plot twist by the end of the book!

Final thoughts: This is one of those books that I’d recommend you have some knowledge of before reading. It’s not the kind you just dive into. I mean, you could, but for me it would have taken longer to figure out the world that way. I’d highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a girl powered fantasy ride!

Pick this up if you liked: (How about some other QUEEN books?)

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Goodreads rating: 3.85/5

Amazon.com rating: 4/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

*This review does contain some spoilers.*

“I didn’t know what was worse: to have your shot and screw it up, or to never have had a shot in the first place.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsWhen your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, and I’ve been given a mission:

REMOVE
The Tin Woodman’s heart,

STEAL
The Scarecrow’s brain,

TAKE
The Lion’s courage,

And then—

DOROTHY MUST DIE.


Feelings: This story had a lot going for it. Spunky main character (whose name doesn’t seem to really fit her), plot twists, and some added zest to a story we thought we knew. However, a lot of that potential hit the fan early on. What was really weird, though, is that the questions I had and the plot elements that were throwing me off got somehow rationalized by the characters in the end. It’s like the author was writing and she started to see plot holes and decided that it’s easier to explain them away, rather than go back and fill them.

For a while, I wasn’t really sure what we were building up to. New realm and making new friends along the road. Scratch that. Recruited into a secret Order and learning about all of Oz’s drama. Moving on. Secretly living in the palace and waiting for a chance to strike. End of book. Mixed in with all of that were issues with her mother and the bully from her school. The pacing of the story was kind of up and down, making it hard to track what the point was. I think each piece was interesting and added value, I just wish it had been pieced together better.

Issues: My first issue is actually with the synopsis above. We don’t find out that Amy has to steal the heart, brain, and courage until the last few pages of the book. Why is that part of the synopsis for this first book??

That common YA thing where characters instantly accept change happens here in spades. New world? Cool. Learning magic? Whatever. Being forced to murder a stranger? Rolling with it. No one telling her the master plan? *shrugs*

Ugh. Instalove. Not only was it a cool learning magic and training scene that was ended by a pretty gown and a cute boy, but the cute boy is super shady. Kiss me. Don’t kiss me. Be angry at me. Now be concerned about me. I have zero interest in Nox. And the fact that Gert thought Amy would need a love connection in order to fight for them is stupid. Why couldn’t she want to fight because SHE wanted to?

The author dumbed things down for the reader sometimes. She’d make a reference, then add in its definition or explain it. It became annoying and threw off the flow of the story.

Finally, the title is Dorothy Must Die. The synopsis tells us that she has to die. Twice the story builds up to Amy being told that Dorothy needed to die. And multiple chapters end with this same “revelation” that she would have to die. We get it already.

Characters: Amy is SO not an Amy. I don’t know what that means, but all I DO know is that I’ve never read a character that seemed so disconnected from their name before. She fit the name Astrid more than Amy. At some points, she seemed to fit back about what was mysteriously expected of her and follow her own instincts, then other times she was just what the Order wanted her to be. By the end of the book, I wasn’t completely sure I knew who Amy was. Then again, I think she was struggling with her own identity.

Nox is confusing. I really didn’t care for him at all. He was too hot and cold for me. (See issues above.) And Pete? First of all…Pete?? What’s with the names in a magical realm? I was really interested in who Pete would turn out to be and honestly had no guesses, which is rare for me. Talk about a plot twist. Like a weird, confusing plot twist that’s making me reexamine my feelings.

The Order was a strange cast of characters. We had these older, more experienced witches with their own specific abilities, then these younger magical ones who we knew very little about and seemed to pop up out of nowhere. The whole ground just felt disjointed. I wish the author had explained how the magic worked a little more. That might have helped to understand this group dynamic.

 

Final thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. I’d previously almost picked it up multiple times, but decided against it for some reason. It could have been far more interesting than it was, but it wasn’t awful. I think if you’re a fan of the original story, this twist may be interesting to you. I probably won’t continue on in this series, though.

 

Goodreads rating: 3.85/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.2/5

My rating: 3/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Top Books of 2016

I’ve been putting off writing this post because I’m in some serious DEFCON 1 denial. 2016 was the year of the reread for me. I read a total of 19 books for a second time. NINETEEN of the books I picked up this year, I’d already read once before! I never do that! A lot of those were because another book in a series was coming out and I wanted to review what’d previously happened. My long term memory is borderline useless, friends.

HOWEVER, I did happen to read some new books, too. Some of them were new in 2016 and some were just new to ME this year. This is a list of my favorite new books that I read this year! I gave all of them 5 star ratings!

salt to the sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

This book is stunning. I”m always wary of books that are told from multiple points of view because sometimes it can feel disjointed, but Sepetys made me a believer. She’s teaching us history while also conveying a poignant story about people. The characters are so different and have very distinct voices when you read. I was hooked from the very beginning! It’s also worth mentioning that this book won the Goodreads Choice Award for YA Fiction!

winners kiss

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

I love a good trilogy. There’s something about a story that’s told in 3 parts; there’s a clear beginning, middle, and end. Rutkoski took my idea of fantasy trilogies and shot it to the moon with this final installment. Everything I thought the previous 2 books were lacking (which really wasn’t that much) were brought to life in this story. She even deals a major blow to the main character and wraps it all up in a way that’s surprising and yet…makes sense.

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America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

I read this book at the height of my Hamilton craze, which let’s be honest is 100% of the time always and forever. I tend to steer myself away from American history books because it’s just not necessarily my favorite, but the way the authors handle it in this book is beautifully done. They tell what feels to be a really true story without glazing over or sugarcoating the messy stuff. Plus, who doesn’t love reading from a woman’s POV in a historically man’s world?

lady midnight

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

If you’re new to my blog, then you’re probably not aware of how much I’m invested in Clare’s Shadowhunter world. I’ve read it all, everything. This is the first book in a new trilogy that involves a new cast of characters, while also bringing in the occasional familiar face. I really enjoyed the direction that this story went, as well as the new voices. I was worried that it would be a same old Will-type character mixed with a girl like Clary and a third wheel best friend, but NO. Yes, but also majorly NO. So many twists and surprises, so much fun. Thrilling!

my lady jane

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

This is the kind of book that you want to hand out to strangers like they’re just flyers about the new pizza place downtown. I want to skip down the street and make it rain My Lady Jane. This story is so fresh and interesting. I was hooked right off the bat! I love historical fiction, but I also enjoyed the way history was rewritten for this narrative. It made it so that I really had no idea what would happen next and the humor!…so much fun.


illuminae

Honorable Mention: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I first read this book in January…then I read it AGAIN in December! I wanted to reread it before I picked up the sequel Gemina (which I reviewed just 2 days ago). These books are so much fun! Fun and also really intense. Illuminae is even borderline creepy at times. These books are genre game changers. The formatting is so interesting and engaging; it’s all so relevant to our current world. I love the lingo and culture these writers have created and the way they communicate bit by bit to the reader.

What were your favorite books of 2016? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Clockwork Angel (audiobook) by Cassandra Clare, narrated by Jennifer Ehle

*This review contains spoilers if you haven’t read The Mortal Instruments series!

“In a way, we are not here just because we have nowhere else; we need nowhere else, because we have the Institute, and those who are in it are our family.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsIn a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Timesbestselling Mortal Instruments series. The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters; including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them.

Feelings: It’s been a couple of years since I read the Infernal Devices trilogy. I’m all up in this Shadowhunter world! I’ve read everything that Cassandra Clare has published and will continue to do so. I wanted to listen to the audiobooks this time around just to shake it up a little. I saw who the narrators were and was instantly excited. This first book is read by Jennifer Ehle, who played Elizabeth Bennet in the classic Pride and Prejudice BBC Drama.

One of the main reasons I love this book is because of the Victorian time period. The rules and social norms are so different from not only the Mortal Instruments series, but other urban fantasy stories as well. We see Tessa struggling with the way Shadowhunters interact with each other and diving into this whole new culture and it’s really fascinating to see it through her eyes.

Issues: Once again in YA, we have that whole “character is instantly accepting of change” trope. Tessa finds out she’s a shapeshifter and that all of the Shadowhunter world exists and she’s cool with it. She’s got a million questions, sure. But she’s accepting very quickly. I get it…she can’t go back so she might as well move forward. And she has the Codex to help her get situated. But still.

Will confuses the crap out of me. Can I say that? It’s like HE doesn’t even know what kind of character he’s going to be. Is he going to be the guy that changes because of a girl? Is he going to be the kind of douche bag guy who refuses to budge at ALL because of a girl? Is he an arrogant jerk? Is he just pretending? There’s zero predictability and no chance of connecting to him.

Characters: I love seeing favorite characters in this new time context. When Magnus says he has a thing for black hair and blue eyes…I got so excited. Alec is coming, Magnus! Just you wait! It’s fun to see him before he meets up with the gang in The Mortal Instruments series. In this book, we also see different familiar families: Lightwoods, Herondales, Penhallows, Carstairs, and more.

It didn’t take long for me to be reminded of how much I dislike Will Herondale. I know a lot of people think he’s the ultimate literary dream boat, but I totally disagree. He’s incredibly arrogant and proud. Yes, he’s exactly the same as Jace. Later on, after some serious character development, I can start to see how he could be somewhat likable – once his somewhat caring nature comes out – but ultimately…no. Not a fan. See “Issues” above.

Jem is totally different. Yes, he’s Will’s best friend, but I enjoy his scenes so much more than Will’s. He’s a truly kind soul and he’s probably one of my favorite characters in the Shadowhunter world. I’m excited to read about him more in the new Dark Artifices series. He’s a lot like Alec, in my opinion. Not that their personalities are the same, but they’re the best friend to the Herondale hero and are underestimated by those around them. And I end up liking them far more than said hero.

I really like Tessa. She’s strong and self assured. I like the way she acclimates to the other cast of characters and we see her fitting in. She really sees people. (Not to be confused with the previous “Issue” I mentioned.) She had a place to belong and feel special, which I loved seeing for her, as you get the feeling she’s not used to that. Tessa isn’t a damsel in distress, even considering the context of her time period.

Narrator: Jennifer Ehle’s narrating was ok…then she got to the exciting stuff. The way she called out and yelled…bothered me. I didn’t buy it, you know? She tried out a few different accents for the many characters, but it lacked consistency. She’d float in and out of accents and voices, which was a bit confusing. It ultimately made it so that I would then go back and forth between listening to the audiobook and reading it on my Kindle. (I’d give the audiobook narrator 3 stars, separate from rating the book and storyline itself.)

Final thoughts: This book wasn’t as good the second time around because I knew there were plot twists coming, even if I couldn’t remember exactly what they were. I am looking forward to continuing on with the audiobooks to see if I can remember what’s ahead! Ultimately, though, I love the Shadowhunter world. Always will. And I really do love this setting and this different cast of characters. If you like historical fiction and paranormal fantasy, I’d recommend giving this world a try (even if you didn’t love The Mortal Instruments series).

Pick this up if you liked:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Goodreads rating: 4.33/5

Audible.com rating: 4.3/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

“It is a dangerous thing to unbelieve something only because it frightens you.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsCatherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship. Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Feelings: The thing about prequels and retellings is that you know where they’re going to end up. You kind of like Cath until you remember that she’s going to end up as the bad guy in Alice’s story. I thought Meyer did a great job of weaving in some references to Alice’s world here and there. We met some familiar characters, as well as some magical items with a twist.

Issues: I didn’t understand Jack’s role in the story. He was a super childish dude who clearly (but maybe not?) hated Cath. Was it love-hate? Or just straight up hate? I don’t know and he really doesn’t serve a purpose. It seemed like he would a couple of times, but then nothing would come of it. Not a big issue for me, since he’s a nobody character…but I just felt like something was important about him and I was wrong.

The dream magic wasn’t ever explained. Cath would wake up from dreams with lemon trees and roses growing around her bed…why? Was it because the Sisters were speaking to her about her fate in her dreams? Not really sure.

Finally, the pacing was a bit slow. I read it really quickly and it was easy to follow, but it was just a slow moving story from time to time. But then the ending felt rushed and one scene in particular felt like it came out of nowhere. It made me feel a little disjointed.

Characters: Catherine is an imperfect character. We knew where she was headed since this story serves as a prequel. We knew that she wouldn’t be a Cinderella kind of character, always cheerful and full of optimism. She’s even a bit judgmental and selfish from time to time, which makes it so that her turn towards evil isn’t completely out of left field. If she was Snow White-y or Cinderella-y, it wouldn’t make sense and it’d be hard to buy in to. But that’s just not the case here. She was actually pretty relatable for a while, big dreams and a drive to see them through, yet there was a series of obstacles in her way. I think Meyer made a strong creative choice with the story’s ending. It all makes sense and we can see how she got from Point A to Queen of Hearts.

Oh, Jest. What a love interest. Was this classic YA insta love? Meh. Sort of. It wasn’t like the “I just met him and his eyes are amazing and I want to marry him” kind of insta love, more like insta strong feelings. They did go back and forth one too many times for my taste, but then again…it was a pretty complicated situation.

The minor characters in this story were an interesting cast. You have Mary Ann, Cath’s partner in crime. They seem like sisters for the majority of the book, even though one serves the other. Then you have Cath’s parents, with the classic pushy gentry mom and the generic laid back pushover dad. There’s the king; the kind but stupid king. Where are everyone’s back bones? Where’s the courage and the guts? This book has an entire kingdom of people with their blinders on, in need of a leader. Enter the Queen of Hearts, ready or not, I guess.

Comparisons: I know a lot of people want to know how this book compares to The Lunar Chronicles, but really…there’s no comparison. Cinder and her friends get a lot more page time, a lot more room for character development and possibility. This book is a standalone, so what’s done is done. If you’re a fan of TLC, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like this story, especially if what you enjoyed most was the science fiction element. That’s just not a thing in this book. Meyer’s writing shines through, though, just like it did in TLC. Plus, the tones of the two stories are totally different. So that’s my two cents when it comes to comparing.

Final thoughts: If you’re not a huge fan of Wonderland like me, don’t be put off by this story. I really enjoyed it, even though I never could connect with Alice or Through the Looking Glass. Too much whimsy loses me, but Meyer does a great job of balancing the story that already exists and taking creative license. Overall, I liked this book. I wasn’t just super crazy about it, but I generally enjoyed it. My advice: don’t read it on an empty stomach. There’s talk of baked goods on every page.

Pick this up if you liked:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Goodreads rating: 4.14/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.3/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn