Favourite Novels of 2015, Uncategorized

15 Books I Loved in 2015 – Second Five

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Here are some more of my favourite books of 2015! Reviewed here are Crow Moon, The Winner’s Crime, Queen of Shadows, Winter and Six of Crows. 

  • Crow Moon, Anna McKerrow 

My rating:  * * * * * 

Series: #1 Crow Moon Series

Publisher: Quercus

Publication date: March 2015

‘Danny is a fun-loving 16-year-old looking for a father figure and falling in love with a different girl every day. He certainly doesn’t want to follow in his mum’s witchy footsteps.

Just as his community is being threatened by gangs intent on finding a lucrative power source to sell to the world, Danny discovers he is stunningly powerful. And when he falls for Saba, a gorgeous but capricious girl sorceress, he thinks maybe the witch thing might not be such a bad idea…

But what cost will Danny pay as, with his community on the brink of war, he finds that love and sorcery are more dangerous than he ever imagined?

Wickedness and passion combine in this coming-of-age adventure.’

Crow Moon is a fantastic and refreshing novel. The premise is that fighting over coal and oil has resulted in two separate communities – the Greenworld, a pagan society in the South West of England and the Redworld, rife with crime and consumerism. Tensions between the two are rising. What I enjoy about this concept is that it’s not to far away to be accessible – with our non-renewable resources rapidly dwindling, it’s a fantasy firmly rooted in reality, and this makes it more convincing. 

I also really like the fact that Danny, the protagonist, has a vivid and clear voice, right from the opening. He’s rash, and bored, ready to risk everything for girls and flirtations. His narration is distinctive. It’s also very humorous at times.

Additionally, I love that there is clear character growth for Danny over the course of the novel. He moves from being headstrong and ignorant about magic and his mother’s powers, to being more reflective, with more important priorities, and aware of the consequences of his actions. It’s always really interesting to be able to look back when finishing a novel at how far a character has come. 

Melz, Saba’s sister, is a very intriguing character, with her hostile personality, her representation by the goddess of destruction, Morrigan, and her drawings of Tom.  I’m glad to see that she is the protagonist of book two, as she was a standout for me.  

The elements of Celtic mythology included in the novel are fascinating – the triskele, Morrigan, the crow goddess, and the rituals described. I also particularly like the fact that the setting includes areas such as Tintagel, as I spend a lot of time in Cornwall. 

Overall, I think that Crow Moon is a unique take on magic, and has a vivid setting and characters. I’m very excited to read the second novel, Red Witch.

  • The Winner’s Crime, Marie Rutkoski

My rating:  * * * * * 

Series: #2 The Winner’s Curse Series

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication date: March 2015

Goodreads synopsis: ‘Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement… if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.’

I loved The Winner’s Curse but this sequel is even better! The stakes are higher, and there are more heartaches, more twists and turns, more political intrigues, and more games where no one truly wins.

My favourite scene is one where Kestrel is walking by the canal in disguise, and Arin is in that area, too. He walks past Kestral, but suddenly turns back, part of him recognising her, and first he is moving slowly, then he’s more sure, and he’s running, and there is a tremendous buildup of tension, and a vivid image of his desperate movements towards her. Hurry, said his feet. Hurry, said his heart.’ It’s absolutely captivating, and because you’re so attached to these characters, you are willing Arin on with all the force you can.

Later on in this scene, there is a heartbreaking misunderstanding between the two of them, one of many in the novel, and it’s so frustrating, as, because the narration moves between Arin and Kestrel, the reader knows the things each of them isn’t revealing, and can see the honesty where they are telling lies. The entire way through this novel and the first, the reader is emotionally invested in the characters, and it’s a testament to the great writing that we are so emotionally involved in the story.

Arin and Kestrel are just two of the many fascinating characters in the novel.The emperor is a sinister figure, one of those where it’s difficult to know which is worse – them being kind or them being cruel. He deliberately misinforms Verex of timings for dinners, and says to Kestrel, ‘I have chosen you, Kestrel, and I will make you everything my son cannot be. Someone fit to take my place.’ 

Not only are the characters and relationships captivating and convincing, the plot is too, with all the politics of empire. It’s tension-filled, unpredictable, and builds to revelations in the final scenes that will have you counting down the days until The Winner’s Kiss. 

  • Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo

My rating:  * * * * * 

Series: #1 Six of Crows Series

Publisher: Indigo

Publication date: September 2015

Goodreads synopsis: ‘Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first’

Having loved The Grisha Trilogy, I had high expectations for Six of Crows…and it exceeded all of them.

The plot is gripping from beginning to end. There are countless twists and turns, and the tension builds perfectly as the heist comes nearer and Kaz and his crew prepare to break into a heavily armed, apparently impenetrable prison. The stakes are rising all the time.

The characters are diverse and each fully fleshed out, with their own quirks. We have an opportunity to engage with each of them through the changing focus of the third person narration, and to learn more about their backgrounds. There’s Nina, the formidable and fashionable Heartrender; Matthias, a convict out to repay his betrayal; Jesper, who’s hilarious, and gels the group together; Wylan, naive but ready to prove himself; Kaz, the leader, a boy who is tormented by his past, has a deadly reputation, and is extremely focused, and unwilling to let anyone get too close; and, Inej, my absolute favourite, resilient, active, discerning, deceptively strong and just all round awesome!

There are so many iconic lines in this book, the kind that have such an impact you just want to quote them right away. I love the fierce mantra of the crew – ‘No mourners. No funerals.’ – as well as Inej’s comment: ‘The heart is an arrow. It demands aim to land true.’ The dialogue is so strong that it bursts from the page.

I also really like that the romance is understated, and does not takeover the plot. But – it’s still there, or at least there are hints of it and hopefully more to come – Kaz and Inez, I’m looking at you.

“‘What do you want, then?” The old answers came easily to mind. Money. Vengeance. Jordie’s voice in my head silenced for ever. But a different reply roared to life inside him, loud, insistent, and unwelcome. You, Inej. You.‘ 

Additionally, there are wonderful friendships, such as the one between Inej and Nina, and between Inej and Jasper, and a great sense of loyalty.

All in all, this is the kind of book that you want to reread as soon as you’ve finished the first read, because you want to live it all again. Highly, highly recommended.

  • Queen of Shadows, Sarah J Maas

My rating:  * * * *

Series: #4 in The Throne of Glass Series

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication date: September 2015

Goodreads synopsis: ‘The queen has returned.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series continues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.’

This series is one of my firm favourites, and getting the next book is always a highlight of the reading year for me. In this fourth novel, Celaena’s back in Rifthold and out for vengeance. She is ready to face Arobynn and the King of Adarlan one last time. This one’s darker and more intense, and is absolutely action-packed, and there are many of the scenes we have been waiting for.

There are so many emotional sections in this novel – the scene at the graveyard, then with the music, as well as the description of Dorian in the beginning, and Asterin’s story of her past. I really like seeing Asterin’s development, as well as that of other characters, such as we have seen previously, like Lysandra. With each book, more and more layers are added to this series, and its epic-nature grows. This, and the action-packed nature of the novel, is why I rated it highly.

However, while I loved the action and emotion in the novel (and that’s what numbered it among my favourites of 2015), I did have some issues with the book, one of which is the addition of Nesryn – I feel like she comes a bit out of nowhere, and I’d have liked to have seen her mentioned in a previous book for her to have the role which she takes in this book. However, Nesryn is a small part of the novel.

My bigger problem was with the fact that a few of the central characters seemed to undergo personality changes. I’d rate the characterisation lower, as it left me a bit disappointed. However, my overall rating is still high because I thought the pacing and the action scenes were first class, and I find the world-building in this series completely enveloping.

  • Winter, Marissa Meyer 

My rating:  * * * * * 

Series: #4 in The Lunar Chronicles

Publisher: Puffin

Publication date: November 2015

Goodreads synopsis: Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?’

The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favourite series, and I was devastated to see it come to an end, but Marissa Meyer did it in style, with the perfect mix of humour, romance, and action.

The book introduces some new characters: Winter, the beautiful princess tormented by her aunt’s actions, and Jacin, her fiercely loyal guard. All of our favourites are there, too – Cinder, Kai, Scarlet, Wolf, Throne and Cress, as well as Iko, who is an awesomely unique character and who always makes me smile.

I love the fact that Meyer, as usual with this series, divides the book into sections, each with a quotation from the original fairy tale. Using that structure allows really effective drawing of parallels.

Cinder’s action in final scene, too, is just so apt for the series, and highlights just how much more comfortable she is in herself. Reading it is a really fulfilling moment, but also a really sad one, as it means coming to the end of the series and saying goodbye to these characters…

…except…Stars Above! We’ll get to return to Cinder’s world shortly, and they’ll be a wedding and I can’t wait! Also, Meyer’s new venture Hearless, the love story of Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts is out this year, and the synopsis sounds epic! There’s so much still to look forward to!

What books are you looking forward to in 2016? Comment! 

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