Warrior Cats Wednesday!

Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 13.13.27.pngRecently, I’ve both been rereading old novels in the Warrior Cats series and reading some of the new novels that came out this year. If you haven’t heard of Warrior Cats, essentially it is a series about feral cats who live in Clans. They forge friendships and occasional alliances, but also must defend their territory from the other Clans. They follow a series of rules known as the Warrior Code, worship their warrior ancestors who guide their pawsteps with prophecies, and some cats are trained to use herbs as Medicine Cats.

There are now many Warrior Cats novels, as well as novellas, guidebooks and manga books, but the first series, the one which started it all, begins with Into the Wild, in which a young pet cat named Rusty joins one of the four Clans, ThunderClan. ThunderClan’s leader, Bluestar, has received a peculiar prophecy which states that ‘Fire alone can save our Clan’. She’s naturally confused as to what this means, considering the fact that forest fires are very dangerous to animals. However, she later spots Rusty and in the light his ginger fur shines like a flame. Could this stranger, this household cat, save ThunderClan from destruction? Rusty is scorned by some members of ThunderClan for the fact that he has kittypet roots and is not forest born. He must struggle to prove them wrong, to develop the battle and hunting skills necessary for a Warrior’s survival, to find and stop the evils that threaten ThunderClan, and to fulfil the prophecy.

I first read Into the Wild when I was about eight, and I found it exciting, enveloping and enchanting. I found the Warrior Code and the life of the Clan cats fascinating, and I loved all the characters. Each character was well-developed and striking, there was lots of drama, and the world-building was original and fun. The novel was like nothing I had read before, and I finished it desperate to read more. Luckily, the authors wrote six books of that first series, then six books of another, then another, then another… meaning lots of  Warrior Cats novels for me to read and enjoy. I have now been reading the Warrior Cats books for a decade, which actually means that I have spent more of mScreen Shot 2016-11-09 at 13.14.35.pngy life reading Warriors books than I have not reading them!

Although Warrior Cats is targeted at eight-to-twelve year olds, there is something in the series for everyone, and getting older hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the books. It still gives me great joy to read them. This series has been a big part of my life and is connected to many of my memories. I love reading new Warrior Cats books – and this blog post
is going to contain a review for the most recent one, which came out on Kindle last week and publishes soon in Hardback – but I also love rereading the old books. Some of my books in the series are starting to fall apart because I have reread them so much. The most wonderful thing of all is that each time I reread the Warriors books, I get something new out of them or I see a character or storyline in a different way. I have just as much fun rereading them as I did reading them for the first time. Revisiting all the characters feels like being reunited with old friends.

The Warrior Cats novels are truly epic. Over the years, there have been massive twists in the storylines, moving scenes, fulfilled prophecies and great journeys. We have followed the growth and character development of specific cats, as well as of whole Clans, and we have followed multiple generations. I have both laughed and cried with the books.

If you haven’t yet read the Warrior Cats books, I would definitely recommend that you do so. There’s so much to enjoy in the series, and I think that if I had to go and live on a desert island and take only one novel series with me, I’d take the Warriors (Although it is sort of cheating as there are so many books!).

Warrior Cats is written by multiple authors and I am sincerely grateful to each of them for giving me so many fantastic books to read and bringing me so much joy over the past ten years.

 

Read on for a review (spoiler free) of the latest Warriors novel, Hawkwing’s Journey….

 

Hawkwing’s Journey by Erin Hunter

Rating: * * * * *

Series: Warrior Cats Super Edition (can be read as a standalone but is best read after The Apprentice’s Quest and Thunder and Shadow, before Shattered Sky)

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: Nov 1st 2016 for Kindle edition; Dec 1st for Hardback

An epic stand-alone adventure in Erin Hunter’s #1 nationally bestselling Warriors series! Set just before the events of the books in A Vision of Shadows, this Super Edition follows Hawkwing, deputy of SkyClan, on a journey that will change the fate of all five warrior Clans.

The cats of SkyClan are facing a darkness unlike any they have seen before—and their only hope is to seek out the kin of Firestar, the cat who once brought their Clan back from obscurity. But even if they find the other four warrior Clans, SkyClan’s time in the gorge territory may truly be at an end….

Join the legion of fans who have discovered the epic adventures, fierce warrior cats, and the thrilling fantasy world of the mega-bestselling Warriors series. This stand-alone entry is perfect for new readers and dedicated fans alike.

Hawkwing’s Journey also includes an exclusive ten-page Warriors manga adventure!

Having really enjoyed the first two novels in the new Warriors series, which is set after the events of the battle with the Dark Forest, I was very excited to read this new adventure about what happened to SkyClan. I am thrilled to say that I wasn’t at all disappointed: Hawkwing’s Journey proved to be one of my very favourite Warrior Cats books to date!

I always particularly enjoy the Super Edition novels as they provide an opportunity to see a specific character grow, develop and learn. We see them discover their path and we get very attached to them. The Super Editions are also usually slightly longer than the novels of the main series, which means getting to spend more time in the Warriors world – that’s also a bonus!

This Super Edition, as the title makes clear, focuses on Hawkwing. Hawkwing makes an excellent main character – he’s brave, smart and very likeable, but he also is not above making mistakes or being flawed, which makes him identifiable. His courage, survival instincts and leadership skills mean that he is up there in the ranks of Firestar, Bluestar, Squirrelflight, Graystripe and Brambleclaw, who are some of my favourite Warrior cats. Hawkwing suffers much in this Super Edition and his suffering really moved me, which demonstrated how attached I had grown to him and how much I liked him as a protagonist. I’m very much looking forward to hopefully seeing more of him soon.

Hawkwing is joined by many other wonderful characters. Even though the cast of characters is large, each character is well-developed and I got a clear sense of all of their individual personalities, which made them very vivid for me.

As well as having great characters, Hawkwing’s Journey has a fantastic plot. The opening is immediately gripping, as we learn about the mysterious new prophecy and a fire occurs. The exciting storyline continues all the way from the beginning to the end of the novel: there are many twists and turns, and I could not predict what was going to happen. There are romances, friendships, battles, emotional scenes, humorous scenes, and bucket-loads of action…what more could you want? Additionally, I love the way that the storyline links to The Apprentice’s Quest – it’s made me even more eager for the next book, which comes out next year!

 

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October Book Events

This month I have been to numerous book events and I really enjoyed attending all of them.

The first was an event called ‘The Brontes: Life at the Parsonage’, part of the Cheltenham Literature Festival. The event was chaired by Libby Purves and it featured Bronte biographer Juliet Barker and Lauren Livesey, who works at The Parsonage Museum. Their discussion gave a fascinating insight into the private and public lives of Branwell, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, and I enjoyed discovering little anecdotes about the famous siblings, such as the fact that Branwell could apparently write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other, while continuing a conversation in English!

I have read several of the Brontes’ novels, including Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Agnes Grey. This means that actually I only have three books left, and then I have read all of their novels. The ones I have left are Charlotte’s other three novels: The Professor, Villette, and Shirley. I’ve started reading The Professor on my Kindle and so far it is really good. I love the way that Charlotte immediately establishes the character of the protagonist William Crimsworth’s brother, Edward. I’m particularly intrigued to read Villette, as I’ve seen some newspaper reviews of it that claim that it is by far the best of Charlotte’s novels, better than the much more famous Jane Eyre and deserving of more fame than it has received. But actually, it is Shirley that I predict I will enjoy the most, Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 12.08.09.pnghaving read a brief synopsis of it.

I read this synopsis in ‘The Brontes: their complete novels in one sitting’. This is one of a series of books that introduce a reader to all the works of a famous author – others include ones on Shakespeare, Hardy, Austen and Dickens. These are really useful little books, with a mini biography of the author, famous quotes from them and synopses for their books and stories. I definitely recommend collecting them!

Of course, once I finish reading the novels of the Bronte sisters there will still be plenty to enjoy, including all their poems and short stories. I recently saw one of Anne’s poems on Twitter and I think it’s beautiful and poignant. It’s called ‘The Captive Dove’ and the link is here:

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bronte/poems/pba-dove.html

 

The next three events I attended were all YA events. I went to the Bath stop of Sarah J. Maas’ ‘Empire of Storms’ tour, which was in the most beautiful venue with glittering chandeliers. It was chaired by Lucy Saxon and she asked great questions, and the event was hilarious and really enjoyable. It was the third time that I had met Sarah J. Maas, and meeting her never gets old. She was actually the first YA author I ever met.

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I then went to Laini Taylor’s event in Cheltenham. I have wanted to meet her for so long, so it was wonderful to be able to. She spoke about her upcoming novel, ‘Strange the Dreamer’, which publishes in March, as well as about her award-winning story collection, ‘Lips Touch’, and her mesmerising ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ series. She also spoke about her experiences as a writer and her writing process, which left me feeling very inspired. I loved attending her event and I am really looking forward to her return to the UK next year.

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The most recent book event I attended was actually this past Tuesday. It was the Worlds Collide London event featuring Leigh Bardugo and Rainbow Rowell. The event was great fun: Leigh and Rainbow did a hilarious reading from each of their books, told us more about their characters and writing processes, and answered lots of questions from their fans. ‘Crooked Kingdom’ is one of the very best books I’ve read this year, so it was fascinating to find out more about it – especially the fact that Kaz Brekker’s name was originally supposed to be Baz!

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This year I have been able to meet almost all of my favourite authors, whether it’s been at large events like YALC or at specific tour stops. So many YA authors have come on tour this year to the UK from the US, including, aside from the ones listed above, Rachel Caine, Jennifer L. Armentrout, V. E. Schwab. It’s been so enthusing and inspiring to meet them all, and I’m so glad that they came to the UK! I hope they’ll be back again soon!

 

 

 

Five Reasons You Should Read…The Road to Ever After by Moira Young

Part Benjamin Button, part Harold and Maud, part Brian Selznick and part Neil Gaiman, this is a unique, magical story that will draw readers in and make them fall in love with both characters.

Davy David is a thirteen-year-old orphan, who lives in the bushes in a town ruled by a strict minister, Reverend Fall. A talented artist, Davy loves to draw pictures of angels in the dirt, in the early hours of the morning before the townspeople are awake. He spends his days on his own, except for a small dog, who has attached himself to Davy, often going to the library to find inspiration for his pictures of angels. One day, after chasing after a ball for some of the town’s boys, he finds himself in the yard of the old boarded-up museum, now rumoured to be the home of a witch. The witch is Miss Elizabeth Flint, an elderly woman who has a proposition for Davy: drive her to her childhood home, where, it turns out, she has made the decision to die.Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 22.28.05.png

‘The Road to Ever After’ by Moira Young publishes in the UK tomorrow, and I highly recommend that you pick it up. Here are five reasons why!

  • THE WRITING STYLE

‘The Road to Ever After’ is beautifully written. It’s captivating from start to finish, and it’s full of moving and memorable sections of narration and of dialogue. It’s very different from Moira Young’s previous novels – the Dustlands trilogy, which is a fast-paced, action-packed YA series with Western and dystopian themes – but it’s equally gripping. I am always in awe of authors like Moira Young who can write equally strong novels in a range of genres.

  • THE CHARACTERS

All the characters in the novel are vivid and distinctive, from the mean and corrupt Parson Falls (who reminds me of the mayor in Joanne Harris’ ‘Chocolat’) and the brash van driver Mr Webb, to the kind and generous Mr Timm and the sweet Miss Shasta. I could visualise each of them wholly.

Davy is a fantastic main character. I immediately sympathised with him and felt an attachment to him, which meant that I was very emotionally involved in the story. I loved his friendship with Miss Flint, especially the way she could be quite sharp but she gradually softened towards him. Miss Flint reminded me of Maggie Smith’s character in the recent film, The Lady in the Van. 

  • UNIVERSAL

‘The Road to Ever After’ is classified as a middle-grade novel. However, it has a universal, timeless quality that makes it appeal to a much wider audience. The story has many layers to it. Additionally, one of the main characters is young, while the other is old. It truly is a story for everyone to read and enjoy.

  • MOVING

‘The Road to Ever After’ really touched me. The ending brought tears to my eyes because I was so involved and invested in the story and the characters. There is such warmth and poignancy to the story of Davy David and Miss Flint’s unexpected but deep and affectionate friendship. It’s a wonderfully moving novel that will warm your heart as the cold winter days approach.

  • SEASONAL

The novel is set during the winter season and finishes after Christmas day, so it’s the perfect read as days begin to grow colder, nights begin to grow longer, and stores begin to fill with Christmas products. It’s a magical, unique and unforgettable book which truly captures the spirit of Christmas, not least in the scene in which Davy spends the little money he has on gifts for others. It actually made me feel very nostalgic for stories and picture books I remember reading at Christmas when I was much younger. I think ‘The Road to Ever After’ deserves to become a seasonal classic. It has a beautiful cover and is just as beautiful inside.

 

 

 

The Graces by Laure Eve

  • The Graces by Laure Eve

Rating: * * * (3/5)

Series: #1 The Graces

Publisher: Faber and Faber

Publication Date: September 2016

Everyone said the Graces were witches.

They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.
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They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.

All I had to do was show them that person was me.

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?

This beautifully-written thriller will grip you from its very first page.

I gave ‘The Graces’ a neutral rating because I am in two minds about it: I thought the second half was much stronger than the first half.

I thought that in the first half of the novel the pace needed to pick up, and I found myself skim-reading certain sections to develop a faster pace. The first part was not as exciting or magical as the blurb made it seem, and indeed it was not as exciting as many other books that I have read this year. Additionally, none of the characters really stood out for me – not even the alluring, glamorous Graces. (Also – the name Thalia Grace kept making me think of Percy Jackson!)  I didn’t particularly like nor feel particularly attached to any of the characters in the novel, which made the reading experience less enjoyable than I was expecting.

However, despite this, there was something in the first half that made me want to keep reading. The writing style had a really mysterious and creepy quality to it, and this did make me want to read on and find out what would ultimately happen.

I much preferred the second half of the novel to the first. Part Two was much more exciting and much darker, and it was where the book really came into its own. There were lots of twists and revelations. I did see part of the main twist coming, but certainly not the whole of it, and it did still shock me. I thought that the twist was very clever and skilful. It did explain some of the aspects of Part One that I was not sure about, too. It certainly made the novel very memorable.

Overall, I didn’t love ‘The Graces’ but I did think it was cleverly written and the ending has made me intrigued to find out what will happen next. It was thrilling in a quiet, slowly mysterious way (until the very end when it really picked up), rather than a fast-paced, constantly exciting way.

 

This Week’s Reading and #Victober!

Here are some updates on what I have been reading recently and what I am planning on reading next!

  • This week I started reading ‘How I Found You’ by Gabriella Lepore. A couple of weeks ago I purchased this novel for just 99p on Kindle because it was the publisher Of Tomes’ first birthday – Happy Anniversary Of Tomes! Unfortunately I started reading ‘How I Found You’ and the writing style just did not gel with me so I stopped at about 25%. The first few chapters were essentially about a teenage girl moving to live with relatives and these two secretive and apparently magical guys turning up. The storyline felt very generic to me – it seemed like lots of books that came out a few years ago, such as ‘Fallen’. To be fair, it might have become more original as it went on but I did not feel intrigued or invested in the story enough to read on and find out. The style of writing was just too cheesy and simplistic for me: there was ‘instalove’ and both the main female character and the main male character irritated and frustrated me continually. I’ve read many books recently with wonderful characters but this one did not continue the trend for me. I try very hard to finish books but I had to ‘Did Not Finish’ this one. I had so many other books on my TBR pile that I would prefer to read.

 

  • On a more positive note, I was delighted to find out today on Twitter that I have won a copy of ‘RoseBlood’ by A. G. Howard from Maximum Pop! I am so excited to read this novel, having recently read ‘The Architect of Song’ by A. G. Howard and absolutely loved it! I think she has a beautiful and addictive writing style and I love The Phantom of the Opera so I cannot wait to read this retelling. I’ve posted the synopsis below:

 

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In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.
At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

A. G. Howard brings the romantic storytelling that Splintered fans adore to France—and an entirely new world filled with lavish romance and intrigue—in a retelling inspired by a story that has captivated generations. Fans of both the Phantom of the Opera musical and novel, as well as YA retellings such as Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, will devour RoseBlood.

 

#VICTOBER 

This month I am joining in with the #Victober readathon, which is essentially a challenge to read as many novels written in the Victorian period as you can in a month. I am very excited about this challenge! There are so many wonderful novels to choose from and it is really easy and cheap to take part: most Victorian ‘classic’ novels are free on Kindle, and libraries are always well-stocked in the ‘classics’, as are charity shops.

I’ve read quite a few Victorian novels in the past few years and really enjoyed them, including ‘The Trumpet Major’, ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ and ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ – all of which are by Thomas Hardy – ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ and ‘Great Expectations’. Because I’ve read several Hardy novels in the past, I’ve decided not to read any more of his for this challenge, as I would like some of my #Victober books to be written by authors whose books I have never read before.

I’ve just finished reading my first #Victober read, which was Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’. I really enjoyed her other novel, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’, but I think ‘Agnes Grey’ surpassed it for me. The eponymous protagonist was exceptionally relatable – probably because the novel is largely autobiographical – and I felt very attached to her and very moved by her story. The novel provides a fascinating insight into the lives of Victorian governesses and the way that they are treated by some as though they are invisible and irrelevant. I would definitely recommend Anne Bronte’s novels to anyone else partaking in #Victober and would even go so far as to say that she is my favourite Bronte sister!

These are the other books I plan to read for #Victober:

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot 

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 19.28.49.pngI’ve never read one of George Eliot’s (Mary Ann Evans’) novels and #Victober seems like a great opportunity to read one! I’ve chosen ‘Middlemarch’ because the synopsis sounds very intriguing, and Hermione Lee’s quote about it in this synopsis is very persuasive.

Goodreads Synopsis:

‘People are almost always better than their neighbours think they are’

George Eliot’s most ambitious novel is a masterly evocation of diverse lives and changing fortunes in a provincial community. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfilment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; the charming but tactless Dr Lydgate, whose pioneering medical methods, combined with an imprudent marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamond, threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past. As their stories entwine, George Eliot creates a richly nuanced and moving drama, hailed by Virginia Woolf as ‘one of the few English novels written for grown-up people’.

This edition uses the text of the second edition of 1874. In her introduction, Rosemary Ashton, biographer of George Eliot, discusses themes of change in Middlemarch, and examines the novel as an imaginative embodiment of Eliot’s humanist beliefs.

‘The most profound, wise and absorbing of English novels…and, above all, truthful and forgiving about human behaviour’ HERMIONE LEE

  • Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 19.34.52.pngA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle 

I remember reading ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ some years ago and thinking that it was fantastic, so this month I would really like to read another Sherlock Holmes novel. ‘A Study in Scarlet’ is the first one. I don’t read many mystery novels but I have chosen a couple to read this month and I am very excited to start them.

In the debut of literature’s most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begin
s the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes.

  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

This is the second of the mystery novels I am planning on reading for #Victober. Someone recommended ‘The Moonstone’ to me a few weeks ago, so I immediately put it on my #Victober list. It’s one of the first ever mystery/detective novels (in fact I think it is hailed as the first) and apparently it is very unpredictable. I can’t wait to start it!

‘When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep thatScreen Shot 2016-10-03 at 19.42.24.png drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else’

The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night the priceless stone is stolen again and when Sergeant Cuff is brought in to investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachel’s household is above suspicion. Hailed by T. S. Eliot as ‘the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels’, The Moonstone is a marvellously taut and intricate tale of mystery, in which facts and memory can prove treacherous and not everyone is as they first appear

  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray 

Thackeray is an author whom I have heard a lot about but whose books I have never read but always wanted to. I’m particularly intrigued by ‘Vanity Fair”s subtitle which is ‘A novel without a hero’; I’m interested to see just what the main characters are like and to judge them for myself. Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 20.00.20.png

Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero is a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, first published in 1847–48, satirizing society in early 19th-century Britain. The book’s title comes from John Bunyan’s allegorical story The Pilgrim’s Progress, first published in 1678 and still widely read at the time of Thackeray’s novel. Vanity fair refers to a stop along the pilgrim’s progress: a never-ending fair held in a town called Vanity, which is meant to represent man’s sinful attachment to worldly things. The novel is now considered a classic, and has inspired several film adaptations.

 

Hopefully I will have time this month to read all of these Victorian novels and maybe I will have time to read a few more! However it does sometimes take me a lot longer to read a ‘classic’ than it would take me to read a YA novel. On top of these novels, I have lots of YA novels to read this month – my shelves are bursting – as well as some MG ones. I’ve still got lots of proof copies from YALC which I really need to read!

 

 

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Happy publication day to Leigh Bardugo’s ‘Crooked Kingdom’, the sequel to the stunning ‘Six of Crows’! I’ve just finished this book and it was phenomenal! It was such a joy to spend more time with Kaz and his crew. I would definitely rate it five out of five stars.

Here’s an alphabet of reasons why you should be reading ‘Crooked Kingdom’ right now if you aren’t already!

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ACTION

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is action-packed. It’s ceaselessly exciting and a complete thrill ride from start to finish.

 

BACKSTORIES

 

In ‘Crooked Kingdom’ we learn more about each of the six main characters and we see their backstories, particularly Inej’s, Wylan’s and Jesper’s. These develop the characters further and make them even more 3D.

 

CLIFF-HANGERS

 

The novel is divided into numerous sections with different titles and between these sections, and between many of the chapters, there are tense cliff-hangers. These make the book impossible to put down as you are desperately eager and impatient to find out what will happen next.

 

DIALOGUE

 

The dialogue in ‘Crooked Kingdom’ is snappy and realistic – it never feels staged. Leigh Bardugo is a master at showing us what characters are doing through dialogue as well as through narration – for example, when Kaz tells Matthias to ‘stop gawking’. She gets the perfect balance between dialogue and narration through the novel. I also love the fact that each character has a distinctive personality and voice, to the extent that if the ‘said ….’ bits that inform you who is speaking were taken out, I would still know who was talking.

 

EMOTIONAL

 

Several sections of the novel are very moving – particularly chapters 14 and 39. I cried a couple of times while reading. I always think it’s amazing when a book makes you cry because it shows just how powerful the writing is. In fact, I felt very emotional when reading the whole book because it is the final novel in the duology and I did not want to have to say goodbye to the characters.

 

FUNNY

 

While some parts of ‘Crooked Kingdom’ are very touching, some are very funny. Nina and Jesper in particular bring lots of humour to the novel. When things get particularly dark, they lighten the mood. I loved this amusing bit of dialogue:

 

‘Do you know what Van Eck’s problem is?’

‘No honour?’ said Matthias.

‘Rotten parenting skills?’ said Nina.

‘Receding hairline?’ offered Jesper.

 

I also loved the scene where Nina tells Matthias the ‘Princess and Barbarian’ story – it was hilarious and they have great chemistry together.

 

GRIPPING

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ hooks you from the first line and does not let go until the end. Actually, it doesn’t even let go then – you’ll still be thinking about it after you have turned the final page. It’s such a compelling and enveloping story. I found it impossible to put down.

 

HUSTLE

 

A few years ago, there was a TV programme in the UK named ‘Hustle’ about a group of grifters, and I absolutely loved it. Kaz and his crew remind me of the main characters from that programme, especially in the opening scenes of ‘Crooked Kingdom’ when they are all working together to pull off a con.

 

INEJ

 

To my delight, a few months ago I took a ‘Which Six of Crows Character Are You?’ quiz and Inej was the character that I got. Inej is my favourite character from this series, and indeed one of my all time favourite characters. She’s a quick-thinker and can get herself out of many scrapes. She’s resilient and strong in a manner which is quiet and understated but very palpable and admirable. She’s brave and loyal and I could read about her all day long.

 

JESPER

 

I liked Jesper in ‘Six of Crows’ but I didn’t love him. He definitely grew on me in this sequel. I loved the way that on the one hand he was fun, flirty and light-hearted, but there was another more serious side to him that was determined to make amends for his mistake in the first book.

 

KAZ

 

Kaz is one of the best characters I have ever read about. I have an incredibly vivid picture of him as I read – of the way he talks, the way he moves, the way he looks. He is such a striking and original creation, and he feels really believable because he has clear flaws as well as strengths. I felt very emotionally attached to him during both books, especially because of his back-story.

 

LONG

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is considerably thick, which is wonderful both because it gives time for a detailed and exciting plot and because I love spending time with these characters. What’s really impressive is that, despite its length, the novel never drags or feels slow. It’s perfectly paced.

 

MAP

 

I don’t know who designed the maps at the front of the novel, but they are stunning. I love fantasy books with maps. It’s great to be able to track where Kaz and his crew are on the map and to see where each character is from.

 

NINA

 

Nina is another striking character from this book and this series. I love her confidence and her ‘banter’ with Jesper, as well as her friendship with Inej and their mutual support. I really like the fact that this series has two very different but equally strong and brave female protagonists and a great female friendship.

 

OPENING

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ will grab you right from the start. The opening, which is from the point of view of a character called Retvenko, is hugely tense and dramatic. I loved it!

 

PACE

 

As I said before, ‘Crooked Kingdom’ never drags. The pacing is superb – it’s fast paced enough that you will be turning the pages as fast as you can, but there is also time for reflection and character development as well as plot advancement. It’s not so fast-paced that it gets at all confusing, overwhelming or difficult to keep up.

 

QUOTABLE

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is beautifully written and there are so many striking and memorable lines in it, both in narration and in dialogue, from Kaz’s explanation of why he likes crows to Nina’s comment about fear being like a phoenix.

I loved the quote below:

 

‘He didn’t have to look to know she was beside him – silent, sure-footed. She could have outpaced him in an instant, but they ran in tandem, matching each other step for step.’

 

My favourite line of the whole book is the final line from the last chapter from Inej’s point of view – I think it’s a beautiful metaphor.

 

ROMANCE

 

The romances in this series are slow-burn. The romance never takes over – the plot comes first and the friendships are equally as important and enjoyable as the romances. That said, the romantic scenes that are in the novel are brilliantly written. Sometimes there’s sizzling chemistry; sometimes your heartstrings are being tugged at. My One True Pairing comes from this series.

 

SETTING

 

Leigh Bardugo has written five fantasy books set in the world of the Grisha now and I have adored them all. She has a wonderful imagination and her world-building is fantastic – very detailed, original and enveloping. I can always visualise all of the settings.

 

TENSE

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ had me right on the edge of my seat throughout. There’s almost constant tension: the stakes are very high and the characters are always in dangerous situations. There’s a particularly tense set of scenes between Inej and a character called Dunyasha.

 

UNPREDICTABLE

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is full of twists and turns and you can never guess what is going to happen next. That makes it really exciting and addictive. There’s a particularly fantastic twist concerning an action that Kaz claims to have taken.

 

VAN ECK

 

The protagonists of the novel are very vivid and striking and so are the antagonists – in particular, Van Eck. In some of the novels I have read this year, the villainous character has not been very scary or alarming at all, but Van Eck is truly threatening and petty, particularly in the way he continually mocks Wylan’s illiteracy. I think it is really important for the antagonists to be just as developed as the protagonists, and ‘Crooked Kingdom’ certainly achieves this.

 

WRITING STYLE

 

I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing. It’s absolutely captivating and compelling, whether she is writing an action scene, an emotional scene or a romantic scene – or all three rolled into one. Her writing just keeps getting better and better with every book.

 

I’ve talked about how much I love the characters in ‘Crooked Kingdom’ and I have to say that Leigh Bardugo is, in my opinion, the best YA writer there is when it comes to characters. She has a real knack for creating striking, vivid and original characters that you grow very attached to. When someone asks me my favourite characters, her characters are always the first that come to mind.

 

XENOS

 

I must admit I really struggled to think of words that began with ‘x’ so I had to resort to my knowledge of Ancient Greek for this one! ‘Xenos’ means ‘stranger’ and I chose it because ‘Crooked Kingdom’ introduces some fabulous new characters. We also get to see some old friends, and it is wonderful to be reunited with them!

 

YEAR

 

I waited a year for this sequel and the wait was completely worth it! I did not disappoint me in anyway – in fact I am delighted to say that it exceeded my expectations!

 

ZERO

 

There were zero things I did not like about ‘Crooked Kingdom’. I loved every page of it and I know I will reread it countless times. It’s one of the best books I have ever read and I think that it is the best book Leigh Bardugo has written to date (although that’s a very hard call as all her books are amazing!)!

Waiting on Wednesday

There are so many yet-to-be-released books that I cannot wait for, from books which come out next month and have only a short wait left, to books that are still months away and come out next year. All of the release dates for these books are in my calendar and I am bursting with excitement for them.

I posted some of the books a couple of weeks ago, but I am joining in with the meme again today. Here are some more of the upcoming books I am most excited about!

Several of this week’s ones are the final books in series, so I have mixed emotions about them – on the one hand I cannot wait for them to come out because I know they are going to be amazing, but on the other hand I am not, and will never be, ready to say goodbye to these characters and for the series to be over!

 

  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (September 2016)

Goodreads synopsis: Every 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.

Ever since I saw the synopsis for ‘Three Dark Crowns’, I have been very excited for it to come out. It sounds really intriguing, with the ruthless and competitive natures of the three sisters, and the stakes are really high. I think it is going to be a tense, unpredictable and gripping story rich in betrayal and scandal.

I also really like the fact that three different covers for the novel are being published in the UK, with each one representing one of the three sisters. I think the green cover with the snake is my favourite, but if I read the book and love it I will probably end up buying them all as they all look amazing!
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  • Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle (January 2017)

A blood war rages on the streets of Chicago.

Protected by an infamous mafia family, Sophie is living a dangerous lie, pretending to lead a normal life. But the deceit can’t last for ever. Her heart belongs to a killer and Sophie’s the prime target of a rival clan. She’s determined to seek revenge on her mother’s murderers, but can she pay the price – can she be a mafiosa?

The third and final instalment in the explosive YA Blood for Blood series which started with Vendetta and Inferno.

The Blood For Blood trilogy is one of my very favourite series. I raced through the first two books and absolutely loved both of them. In particular I loved the unpredictable and gripping nature of the novels, the snappy dialogue, the romance, and the friendship between Sophie, the main character, and her best friend Millie – there is such loyalty in their friendship and Millie is hilarious. However, what I love best of all about Catherine Doyle’s writing is the fact that reading her novels is like watching a thriller – you can imagine everything and it all plays out like a film in front of your eyes. ‘Mafiosa’ is sure to be a blockbuster finale!

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  • Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder (January 2017)

New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder brings her Poison Study series to its exhilarating conclusion.

Despite the odds, Yelena and Valek have forged an irrevocable bond and a family that transcends borders. Now, when their two homelands stand on the brink of war, they must fight with magic and cunning to thwart an Ixian plot to invade Sitia.

Yelena seeks to break the hold of the insidious Theobroma that destroys a person’s resistance to magical persuasion. But the Cartel is determined to keep influential citizens and Sitian diplomats in thrall and Yelena at bay. With every bounty hunter after her, Yelena is forced to make a dangerous deal.

With might and magic, Valek peels back the layers of betrayal surrounding the Commander. At its rotten core lies a powerful magician and his latest discovery. The fate of all rests upon two unlikely weapons. One may turn the tide. The other could spell the end of everything.

I’m so glad that Maria V. Snyder decided to write a continuation trilogy to the original Chronicles of Ixia novels. It has been a joy to be reunited with some of my favourite fictional characters. ‘Shadow Study’ and ‘Night Study’ were both gripping and brilliantly written and ‘Dawn Study’, the third and final novel of this continuation series, is sure to be no different. The ending of ‘Night Study’ set things up for an action-packed and emotional final novel, and I cannot wait to read it. Snyder’s Soulfinder novels always have the perfect mix of romance, action and humour, and there are always mini cliffhangers at the end of chapters that keep you ceaselessly turning the pages. Roll on January and ‘Dawn Study’!

Below is the US cover as the UK one is yet to be revealed.

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  • The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury (March 2017)

The final battle is coming . . .

As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated, and running out of time. The final battle is coming, and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever . . .

The first thing I have to say is that the cover of ‘The Scarecrow Queen’, the third and final novel in The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy, is absolutely stunning. The covers for the other two books were also beautiful, but this one is my favourite yet, and I am sure that the inside of ‘The Scarecrow Queen’ is going to be just as stunning and brilliant as the outside.

‘The Sin Eater’s Daughter’ was fantastic, but the sequel, ‘The Sleeping Prince’, was even better – full of twists and turns, amazing characters and thrilling scenes. I think that this third novel will be the best one yet. The Sleeping Prince is on the rampage and everything is going to come to a head. It’s going to be an explosive and breathtaking final book.

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  • Long Way Home by Katie McGarry (January 2017)

Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving.

It’s the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it’s up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she’s known and loved her whole life.

But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she’s forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror, and what she thinks she wants. Which means re-evaluating everything: love, family, friends . . . and forgiveness.

Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she’s strong enough to be the one person to save them all.

I am beyond excited for ‘Long Way Home’, the next instalment in Katie McGarry’s wonderful Thunder Road series, having loved both of the previous books. Chevy and Violet are my favourite characters, so I cannot wait to hear their story. Katie McGarry has a truly addictive writing style and I always race through her books. I have a feeling that ‘Long Way Home’ is going to be my favourite book of hers.

I am also really hoping that we will get to see both more of the Thunder Road characters from the other two books – Oz, Emily, Breanna and Razor – and more of the characters from Katie McGarry’s other series, ‘Pushing the Limits’, in this novel, as I love them all and would really enjoy seeing them again!

(Below is the US cover; the UK one is yet to be released)

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  • Traitor To The Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

The sizzling, un-put-downable sequel to the bestselling Rebel of the Sands!

Mere months ago, gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. 

When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about djinni and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

I absolutely loved ‘Rebel of the Sands’, the first novel in this series. I really enjoyed the fact the it was full of adventure and that there were lots of magical legends. It was a sandstorm of a story: it was fast-paced and action-packed, and it pulled me in from the very beginning and gripped me until the very end. I am sure that the sequel, ‘Traitor To The Throne’ will be no different. The cover is gorgeous, and the tagline ‘Beware the enemy within…’ is very suspenseful and has me bursting to know what will happen next for Amani. I can’t wait to read the next part of her story and to be reunited with all the characters.

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