He calls me his Queen of the Night. I’d die for him. I’d kill for him, too.
When MacKayla Lane receives a torn page from her dead sister’s journal, she is stunned by Alina’s desperate words. And now MacKaylaknows that her sister’s killer is close. But evil is closer. And suddenly the sidhe-seer is on the hunt: For answers. For revenge. And for an ancient book of dark magic so evil, it corrupts anyone who touches it.
Mac’s quest for the Sinsar Dubh takes her into the mean, shape-shifting streets of Dublin, with a suspicious cop on her tail. Forced into a dangerous triangle of alliance with V’lane, an insatiable Fae prince of lethally erotic tastes, and Jericho Barrons, a man of primal desires and untold secrets, Mac is soon locked in a battle for her body, mind, and soul.
As All Hallows’ Eve approaches and the city descends into chaos, as a shocking truth about the Dark Book is uncovered, not even Mac can prevent a deadly race of immortals from shattering the walls between worlds—with devastating consequences.…
Title : Faefever Author : Karen Marie Moning Series : Fever (book three) Format : paperback Page Count : 393 Genre : urban fantasy Publisher : Delacorte Press Release Date : September 16, 2008
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 3 star review
I can’t tell if this actually deserves to be rounded up or if, after a bit of a reading dry spell, I’m just excited to have finished something — and in one sitting no less. <– oh hey, deja vue, this was the same situation I was in for book two! Though I think I’m in (or was in..) an actual slump this time. It’s rough out here.
It bears repeating that : I think we all know the deal with this series. It is definitely a product of it’s time. But we are already seeings signs of where Moning pushed her characters, and the series, away from their awkward beginnings.
Having said (again) that, this particular instalment slows things all way down. While book two was nonstop action, we had very little action in the third. It really decided to embody the term “slow burn”. And then of course leaves us on that cliffhanger (if you are familiar with the series but, like me, struggle to piece together which came when, here’s a hint : the cover). Once again, I found myself unprepared for how early this particular event happened. It really just was a blur that first time around, huh?
But. This particular event is (if my memory is to be trusted which, spoiler, it is not) does kick off a certain relationship in a certain direction. Otherwise though yeah that final chapter changes everything for everyone in this series. Though it doesn’t change the fact though that this was one big (slow) build to that finale; so it does feel a bit like a transitional/lead-up instalment. Which isn’t a bad thing because I feel like the next one does not pull punches so maybe we needed this calm before the storm.
Either way, I’m excited to dissect this one with my buddy reader (we already cackled about the MacHalo and I mean.. if you know you know) and, more broadly, I’m hoping this read can wiggle me out of the slump.
I used to be your average, everyday girl but all that changed one night in Dublin when I saw my first Fae, and got dragged into a world of deadly immortals and ancient secrets…
In her fight to stay alive, MacKayla must find the Sinsar Dubh—a million-year-old book of the blackest magic imaginable, which holds the key to power over the worlds of both the Fae and Man. Pursued by assassins, surrounded by mysterious figures she knows she can’t trust, Mac finds herself torn between two deadly and powerful men: V’lane, the immortal Fae Prince, and Jericho Barrons, a man as irresistible as he is dangerous.
For centuries the shadowy realm of the Fae has coexisted with that of humans. Now the walls between the two are coming down, and Mac is the only thing that stands between them.
Title : Bloodfever Author : Karen Marie Moning Series : Fever (book two) Format : paperback Page Count : 349 Genre : urban fantasy Publisher : Delacorte Press Release Date : October 16, 2007
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 3 star review
I can’t tell if this actually deserves to be rounded up or if, after a bit of a reading dry spell, I’m just excited to have finished something — and in one sitting no less.
Listen, I think we all know the deal with this series. It is definitely a product of it’s time. But we are already seeings signs of where Moning pushed her characters, and the series, away from their awkward beginnings.
While Mac is definitely a little too keen and bloodthirsty, not to mention fearlessly scrappy, for this stage of things, I’m willing to give her a bit of a pass. She’s already growing up a bit, dropping the eyerolling fake-swears, starting to find herself in amongst who she used to be and who Barrons was forcing her to act like in the beginning, and I respect that. I also really like how the momentum continued from where we left off with book one. Also, the cast is starting to grow (I forgot we met Dani this early, holy shit! not to mention MacKeltar.. even if I have only the vaguest recollection of the role he plays later on..) and we’re starting to get more on the ever mysterious Barrons and who (what?) he really is.
There was almost nonstop action but the pauses we did have were really.. good pauses. I especially loved the little illusionary experience Mac had in Faery because that was cathartic and also really lovely. In fact, amongst some of the ridiculous (like, seriously, some of the “I’m so pretty” behaviour and constant barrage of attractive people or Mac being recognized as attractive is a bit.. much, but we still haven’t fully left the Shallow Era of things, I guess) there were quite a few stunning lines. Whether it was Barrons dropping some wise truthbomb in the middle of a lecture or a temporary fugue of grief or reflection.. they kind of sneak up on you but they are very appreciated.
I’m sorta sad I can’t binge this (my buddy and I are doing one a month) but at the same time maybe I’ll enjoy the ride a little more by having to wait between each bit. Definitely keen to read on.
“My name is MacKayla, Mac for short. I’m a sidhe-seer, one who sees the Fae, a fact I accepted only recently and very reluctantly.
My philosophy is pretty simple – any day nobody’s trying to kill me is a good day in my book. I haven’t had many good days lately. Not since the walls between Man and Fae came down. But then, there’s not a sidhe-seer alive who’s had a good day since then.”
When MacKayla’s sister was murdered, she left a single clue to her death, a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone. Journeying to Ireland in search of answers, Mac is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to master a power she had no idea she possessed – a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae.
As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho…while at the same time, the ruthless V’lane – an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women – closes in on her. As the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: to find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book – because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control both worlds in their hands.
Title : Darkfever Author : Karen Marie Moning Series : Fever (book one) Format : paperback Page Count : 342 Genre : urban fantasy Publisher : Delacorte Press Release Date : October 31, 2006
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★
Hollis’ 2 star review
So, this is a two star I’m not really mad (or surprised!) about. Even when I first read this series, back in (checks notes) 2015, it was only about a three for me. It hadn’t really aged all that well back then and it certainly hasn’t improved in the intervening years. But I think once you move past that (the dated references, the preoccupation with outfits, the occasional dodgy bit, the stereotypes, some of the general cringe.. you know, the usual early aughts PNR/UF issues), it’s still possible to see what Moning was building towards.
This series quickly escalated into a crack-like obsession for me and I remember devouring the first seven (the only ones out at the time) of these books in like five days or something insane. I know there’s a lot of problematic stuff to come but, upon chatting with a buddy, I was (we were) still really keen to see if I (we) would love these books — flaws and all — the same way on a reread; well, it’ll be mostly a reread, I haven’t read the two final books. So that’s what we’re doing! One a month for the rest of the year. So, yes, expect these reviews to keep popping up in your feed, sorry not sorry?
But as for Darkfever itself.. what’s there to say? You’ve either read these books or avoided them. The series kicks off with Mac, a simple southern belle from Georgia, relocating to Ireland upon learning of the murder of her older sister and, eventually, uncovering that there’s a lot more to her world than she ever knew; and also more to herself. In following some of the clues Alina has left her, she stumbles into danger, denial, and darkness. She meets Barrons, who might be a friend but also just as likely to be a foe, who begins to guide her through the world of the Fae, and yet also needs her help to track down the very thing her sister warned her must be found.
Again, as mentioned, this is a very 2006 kind of read. You’ll trip over all the references, you’ll glaze over when Mac once more describes her outfits in detail, you’ll sympathize with Barrons over her preoccupation with pink, you’ll quickly end up drunk playing the “take a shot every time she says ‘bosom’ game”, and don’t even get me started on her southern alternatives for swearwords, but.. at the same time, Mac is uniquely herself. And she is forced to undertake many changes, both to fit in to her new world and survive, and yet she still remains unapologetically herself. She’s a mix of a very simple almost-shallow (but never quite fully crossing that line, I don’t think) person and yet not without some layers and strength. It’s possible Moning leaned into the former to make that transition from Before and After more stark but, I mean, yeah it’s a little annoying and she is a little all over the place. The same could be said for Barrons, though. No one is quite all-around likeable in this series opener because there are too many unknowns, too many actual secrets, and everyone is just settling into themselves.
It’s definitely a book that will either send you in the opposite direction or hook you juuust enough to push on. This two star doesn’t scare me off at all, really. I think, for anyone who loves this world, any reread would inspire a whole lot of “yeah, not great. B U T”, and I have that same vibe. I think this series could still work for me the same way it once did. And I’m excited to find out if that holds true.
Magic is fading… and the ways of Man are driving the Old Ones to the West, beyond the ken of humankind. The ancient groves are being destroyed, and if nothing is done, Ireland will lose its essential mystic core.
The prophecies of long ago have foretold a way to prevent this horror, and it is the Sevenwaters clan that the Spirits of Eire look to for salvation. They are a family bound into the lifeblood of the land, and their promise to preserve the magic has been the cause of great joy to them… as well as great sorrow.
It is up to Fainne, daughter of Niamh, the lost sister of Sevenwaters, to solve the riddles of power. She is the shy child of a reclusive sorcerer, and her way is hard, for her father is the son of the wicked sorceress Oonagh, who has emerged from the shadows and seeks to destroy all that Sevenwaters has striven for. Oonagh will use her granddaughter Fainne most cruelly to accomplish her ends, and stops at nothing to see her will done.
Will Fainne be strong enough to battle this evil and save those she has come to love?
Title : Child of the Prophecy Author : Juliet Marillier Series : Sevenwaters (book three) Format : physical Page Count : 596 Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings Publisher : TorBooks Release Date : March 20, 2002
Well, we did it. The original trilogy complete. What a ride.
“I cannot be part of this. The forest, the family, the — the brotherhood. You must realize that.”
What makes Child of the Prophecy so interesting, but also easily unlikeable, is the shift. After two books featuring brilliant, self-sacrificing, and purely good, heroines, we are faced with something different in Fainne. She’s not the hero. She’s not purely good. She is, simply, an antagonist. A reluctant one but nonetheless it’s true. She is brilliant, she is powerful, she shares her mother’s temperament (making her difficult), and she’s making choices that don’t have good results. Because she’s fighting for those she loves.. even at the cost of others. This disconnect, this unfortunate situation, is made worse because of her otherness. We, as a reader, have a connection to the Sevenwaters clan, the history, the losses and triumphs they have endured. But Fainne is outside of that while at the same time able to trace her own losses back to the choices (well meaning though they were) of those characters we love. We know their struggle, their guilt, and their enduring love. But Fainne doesn’t. And even worse, her otherness, her disconnect, is compounded by her own gifts and her parentage (doubly so); neither of which are acceptable.
Perhaps my own spirit was damaged, my heart cracked into pieces, so that I could never be fine and good.
It makes her journey difficult in so many ways.
“You have the power to make us or break us, I think, and it will not be until the last that you will choose which way to go.”
And honestly I totally understand why my buddy readers had a hard time connecting with this story and the lead. I’m sure, a hundred years ago when I first read this, I had the same issue. It’s always been my least favourite of the trilogy, though still undoubtedly a Marillier and thus excellent (previously rated a four to the otherwise outstanding fives), but now, in hindsight, I can respect and appreciate this a little more — the experience of reading it was also, likely, helped by the benefit of hindsight and knowing where the story would end up. Every character’s journey in this saga has had pitfalls and struggles; Fainne’s are just different and, unfortunately, come with collateral damage.
“The days where the children of Sevenwaters could roam the forest freely, without fear, are gone.“
Then again, I’m so biased it’s beyond comprehension, so there’s that.
What likely also chips away some of the lustre with this final (ish) instalment is the lower romance content. Or, rather, the fact that we don’t get enough time seeing it to really believe in it, maybe. But I think this ties into the fact that, considering the ending, their story isn’t really for us. They are part of the whole but set apart from it. For reasons. Either way, though, I can admit it’s the weakest part of the story but there were still moments I found lovely and moving.
“There will come a time, soon enough, when even that ancient wood will fall to the axe, to grant man his grazing land, his settlements, his towers and his walls. He thinks, in his ignorance, to tame the very earth, to force the very ocean to his will. And so he will lay waste the body of the mother who gave him birth; and will not know what he does. The old ways will be forgotten.”
Equally this might be the least emotionally devastating of the stories. I definitely cried for a few reasons during the big conflict during the end but there were only one or two brief moments during the telling that actually got me choked up. Fainne’s disconnect makes this less of an emotional journey and considering the books that came before that, too, is a change.
This is my favourite series for so many reasons; for the emotions, the folklore, the magic, the heartbreak, the challenges, the strength, the wisdom, the losses, and the whole of it. These three books make up a generational story that, in my mind, is truly untouchable. But, again, biased.
The companions that follow the main Sevenwaters trilogy are the ones I don’t know well at all, having only read them each once upon publication. Though I remember which characters they follow, and have vague memories of the plot, I don’t have any real emotional attachment to them beyond the fact that they exist in this beloved world. I hope, with age and my enduring delight and respect for this saga, and the main trilogy fresh in my mind (though it never truly fades), I come out with some newfound love for them. I can’t wait to read on.
Thank you to the Sevenwaters Squad — Micky, Steph, Amanda, and Cat — for coming on this journey with me. I know it wasn’t always what you expected (in good and bad ways) but I had a great time nonetheless.
Micky’s 3.5 star review
Headlines: Pesky protagonist Oh the sevenwaters family Magic – dark versus light
Child of the Prophecy did not live up to my expectations but lets just frame that with how high the bar has been set by books one and two. The biggest difficulty with this story was Fainne, a protagonist that was hard to like. On the one hand, I admire Juliet Marillier for taking the difficult road on this but we’ve been spoilt with the family of Sevenwaters in the previous books and so it was tough to be away from them at first.
The Sevenwaters family do become a big part of this story but Marillier put readers through the mill somewhat. I am saying nothing of the plot but it had me in knots of loyalty, allegiance and despair.
There was a smattering of romance but nothing as deeply affecting or connecting in this installment, I definitely missed that heart yearning love. There were a bunch of fav characters in this read, hello Liadan (I’m looking at you), Bran, Johnny (give the man his own book) and Ciaran.
How Marillier brought a fitting end about, I don’t know but thank goodness, she did. This was a very up and down read but I feel it was left in a suitable place and I hope for even more from book 4. I remain 100% invested in the series.
Thank you sevenwaters squad for the heated debate along the way.
Son of the Shadows continues the saga of beautiful Sorcha, the courageous young woman who risked all to save her family from a wicked curse and whose love shattered generations of hate and bridged two cultures.
It is from her sacrifice that her brothers were brought home to Sevenwaters and her life has known much joy. But not all the brothers were able to escape the spell that transformed them into swans, and those who did were all more–and less–than they were before the change.
It is left to Sorcha’s daughter Liadan who will take up the tale that the Sevenwaters clan is destined to fulfill. Beloved child, dutiful daughter, she embarks on a journey that opens her eyes to the wonders of the world around her…and shows her just how hard-won was the peace that she has known all her life.
Liadan will need all of her courage to help save her family, for there are forces far darker than anyone should have guessed and ancient powers conspiring to destroy this family’s peace–and their world. And she will need the strength to stand up to those she loves best, for in the finding of her own true love, Liadan’s course may doom them all…or be their salvation.
Title : Son of the Shadows Author : Juliet Marillier Series : Sevenwaters (book two) Format : physical Page Count : 607 Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings Publisher : TorBooks Release Date : May 18, 2001
This series has lived in my heart for twenty years so is there really any surprise this is five stars? Even though it’s a reread and there was nothing new to experience or learn, knowing the course of this story didn’t mean I cried any less. And I cried a lot.
“Don’t you long for something different to happen, something so exciting and new it carries you along with it like a great tide, something that lets your life blaze and burn so the whole world can see it?“
Daughter of the Forest told of Sorcha’s story and Son of the Shadows reunites us with this family and a new generation of characters; ones to love, ones who break your heart, and ones to hate. Liadan knows the horrors her family has endured for peace, for happiness. She wants no more than to stay home, unmarried, and care for her parents, tend to the household. She is much like her mother in stature, in the arts of the stillroom and healing, but though Sorcha had her own bravery, her own strength, Liadan, when forced to rise to challenges she never imagined, is even stronger, fiercer, so much in possession of her mind that she will not be swayed by the forces around her; be they old and ancient, fey, wise, or family.
The greatest tales, well told, awaken the fears and longings of the listeners. Each man hears a different story. Each is touched by it according to his inner self. The words go to the ear, but the true message travels straight to the spirit.
Secrets and betrayal begin to fester amongst a family that cannot risk being left vulnerable to unfriendly forces, to the darkness that nearly overcame them once before. Mistakes are made, truth obfuscated, and thus Liadan is forced to navigate, to unveil, and to rescue her family, her love, and her future.
“You captured a wild creature when you had no place you could keep him.”
An interesting twist to this particular instalment, however, is how we see the unintended consequences of the previous book’s happily ever after. So often we get that ending, everything is great, and life goes on. But reality is never so tidy and events can be twisted and a person can be left hurting. Not in the way you might think, though. And I really loved how Marillier made this connection and created a way to go back without undoing any of the hard-earned events of book one.
“What about his mother? What did she have to say about it?“ “She was a woman. The tale does not concern itself further with her.“
For a story written so long ago, what surprised me was how, sometimes, Marillier’s narrative or dialogue was almost wry in how she, and her characters, navigated the inequalities and double standards of gender. Nothing so overt the way we have these days, where the goal is to make a point, but there are subtle digs, bits of dialogue, observations. So much is careful, considerate, and also very purposeful. Which is probably why so much of this book, this series, is devastating. Because there is so much imbued, so much that resonates, and it comes through.
Much like with book one, I have never tried to review this, and once again I know I haven’t done this book any justice at all. It’s impossible to express my love for this book because it’s honestly so deeply embedded in my soul. I read this as a young human and it’s been with me, and I’ve relived it, over and over throughout the years, and we are irrevocably entwined. Some books you lose the love for other the years, as your taste or perspective or style as a reader changes. This book, this series, isn’t one of those.
(yes, I did steal most of those last paragraph from my review of Daughter of the Forest, and yes, I am calling myself out for it)
“Come, dear heart. Lean on me and let us walk this path together.“
Lastly, I just want to give a huge shoutout to the Sevenwaters Squad with whom I spent a very fun — but emotionally draining — weekend buddy reading this book. Most had never experienced this before, having come only recently to this series, and while I loved having the excuse to revisit, I loved living through it with their eyes, too. Can’t wait for book three, and the rest of the series, with you all!
Micky’s 5 star review
Headlines: Feminist folklore fest Morally grey characters No-one is safe An ocean of tears
I feel pretty incoherent in writing a review for this book, so much happened, so much was felt on my part and despite the emotions I felt, I don’t want to leave this book or this world. If I thought Daughter of the Forest was amazing, Son of the Shadows took that feeling, that world and expanded my love for it even more. This is a spoiler-free review.
Finding myself back in Sevenwaters was rich and colourful but it also carried some lament and sadness. The protagnist of this story was Liadan, a young woman who was single-minded, gifted and real. It was wonderful to be back with characters from book one even if some elements were bittersweet. There were so many character favs: Bran, Johnny, Dog, Evan, Sorcha, Red and Finbar.
The story was totally unpredictable, many plot lines that were sneaky, well thought out and deep but not overly complex. The mystical elements of the story were clever and added to the whole experience. The writing style was simply divine. The prose Juliet Marillier uses just speaks to my book soul.
Tread slowly. Tread light as a wren, that makes barely a rustle in the leaves of the hazel thicket. Tread softly, I told myself, or she would shatter into pieces, and it would be too late.
The book took my emotions on a journey. It was easy to invest in these characters that were new and those of old. I don’t think I’ve felt so connected to characters in this way in such a long time. I cried, I figuratively held my breath and I angsted my way through this, loving and living every minute.
This is swiftly becoming one of my favourite fantasy series of all time. If I could award more than 5 stars, I would. Everything about this reading experience was centred around a brilliant set of buddy readers and we are now on a Sevenwaters quest together.
Picking up just a few months after A Reaper at the Gates left off…
The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.
At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.
Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom.
And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows.
Title : A Sky Beyond the Storm Author : Sabaa Tahir Series : Ember Quartet (book four) Format : eBook (overdrive) Page Count : 516 Genre : YA fantasy Publisher : Razorbill Release Date : December 1, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 2.5 star review
I’m not really going to harp on this much because I’ve finally conquered this series, and it’s over, and we never have to talk or think about it again but.. oof. This was a lot of things.
This is a long book, yes, but the sheer amount of time this took to complete, when I know I’ve crushed books this length, and longer, in a much shorter amount of time.. and, worse, when said book didn’t need to be this long (and that goes for the series, too), it’s just a whole pile of frustration. I would say there’s maybe 20-25% (in this installment, not the whole series, elle oh elle, that would be extra tragic) that was good.
Tahir’s writing has definitely improved over the years but, as always, there was some repetition and the weird lapses in editing were A Choice. Ultimately though this was definitely a case of me not getting on with a series and the direction it went in and how that changed characters I thought I had liked. This did go in some interesting directions as far as challenging the reader to question motivations that lead to bad or evil actions but it also kind of left one out to dry (like, the Keris thing, are you fucking kidding me with that, no, I can’t). I’m just a bit (a lot) baffled by so many things.
But I cried. Oh I’ll admit it. I was pretty caught unawares because a lot of sad and awful shit happens over the course of these four chonky books and I was definitely detached from it all until I wasn’t. So, maybe that’s why I want to round up on this? A little? I won’t, though.
And that’s it, it’s over.
This marks the third unfinished series to be completed from my five series to tackle post so. I’ll take the win for what it is. A sad little checkmark on a list that only I care about it. But in pandemic season we celebrate any little win we can.
Beyond the Martial Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.
Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, is desperate to protect her sister’s life and the lives of everyone in the Empire. Yet danger lurks on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable and violent, while Keris Veturia, the ruthless Commandant, capitalizes on the Emperor’s volatility to grow her own power—regardless of the carnage she leaves in her path.
Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows that the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. During the hunt to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would help her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.
And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. However, in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that demands his complete surrender—even if that means abandoning the woman he loves.
Title : Reaper at the Gates Author : Sabaa Tahir Series : Ember Quartet (book three) Format : eBook (overdrive) Page Count : 458 Genre : YA fantasy Publisher : Razorbill Release Date : June 12, 2018
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 2.5 star review
I don’t know where to begin. I wish I had some positive things to say but they are just overwhelmed by the stuff that annoys me, bores me, or frustrates me. There are glimmers of good, or maybe just fine, but ultimately it’s hard to hold onto them in the face of so much other stuff.
One of those glimmers? The final chapter. That really captured my attention (I didn’t reach for my phone once!). But overall I’m just really perplexed by where we’re going and how we’re getting there. I struggled through three of the four (five?) POVs this time. I’m long since over the romance — since early book two, actually, you’ll notice I didn’t even mention it in my review. And at this point I just want to get to the ending for all the whys. Mostly, why I’m enduring this (haha, completionist pain).
This book did feel a little stronger overall than the last one, occasionally less repetitive (though now we’ve introduced “bleeding” as a curse and boy did we make up for lost time on that..), so clearly that extra time between releases was put to good use. But, yeah, overwhelmingly I’m just kind of sitting back and watching things happen, mostly as a result of character choices, and marveling : why.
Here’s hoping book four offers some satisfaction. Because there hadn’t been much of that yet.
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
Title : An Ember in the Ashes Author : Sabaa Tahir Series : Ember Quartet (book one) Format : hardback Page Count : 446 Genre : YA fantasy Publisher : Razorbill Release Date : April 28, 2015
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
While it might seen like I am hella late to this series.. I am but I’m also not. I read this book a hundred years ago, when life was simpler and less strange, but it’s a series I never continued; thankfully, unlike other series I’ve been trying to tackle this year, I didn’t keep buying these ones only to let them gather dust on my shelves. Because that might mean a few less books to unhaul post-pandemic season. Yes, that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves, isn’t it.. (also I might love them and wish I had bought them; who can say).
Regardless, this was a reread for me, but the rest of the series will be new-to-me. Now that the series is over it’s safe to dive in because it’s binge time, baby. Because ya gurl’s memory can’t handle long drawn series that span years of release dates. We are getting old.
Case in point? I remembered almost nothing about this. For every new chapter it was like a whole new experience. I remembered maybe two aspects of this whole installment and they were the most basic concepts, nothing major, and considering all the directions this went, I’m surprised I didn’t remember more. I also didn’t remember it being so violent and brutal (not adult fantasy levels of brutal but still.. it’s close, and still worth mentioning). And the ending? Complete surprise. Suffice it to say it was like I hadn’t read this at all but only briefly glimpsed the synopsis.
And ultimately? I really enjoyed it. I feel like it stood the test of time and still holds up all these years later. Nostalgia is obviously not a factor as my memory didn’t play into this, elle oh elle. Also, of note, I haven’t picked anything up in over a week and this was basically a one-sitting read, so. It gets extra points for that.
Time to see what book two holds!
(Yes, I realize I spoke nothing of plot or concept or themes or.. anything, really, about this book. There are like three people in the world who have yet to at least read book one in this series so I’m even less inclined than usual to summarize the plot itself or bother with much detail. I’ll try and do better for the next books but no promises.)
Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.
When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited — not in love, but in tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.
But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?
The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as — from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond — humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.
Title : Dreams of Gods & Monsters Author : Laini Taylor Series : Daughter of Smoke & Bone (book three) Format : paperback Page Count : 640 Genre : YA fantasy Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Release Date : April 17, 2014 (original) / December 1, 2020 (new editions!)
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
I have so many feelings.
Also it’s nice to have memories because wow did I have very few of those for this installment! I definitely clung to very few recollections of any events post-book one and honestly it made the whole experience feel like the first time. I kind of love that this is how it went down.
In the legends, chimaera were sprung from tears and seraphim from blood, but in this moment they are, all of them, children of regret.
I can definitely see why this ending made many readers mad and I think I’m somewhere in the middle. There was definitely A Lot jammed in right at the end but it also didn’t feel too rushed. It was just a hard left when you think you’re going right. But also, I kind of love it? Like another series I read recently which took a lot of unexpected and not-so-popular and very risky choices, I feel this was one of those. And I guess in my old age I’m appreciating the unconventional a little more.
It was a new idea for him, that happiness wasn’t a mystical place to be reached or won — some bright terrain beyond the boundary of misery, a paradise waiting for them to find it — but something to carry doggedly with you through everything.
Plus, having read her more recent series, I think I finally understand the tie-in. It’s nothing to the extent that you need to read one to read the other but. Something. I’m not spoiling anything but I had a moment and then my brain tried to remember the ending of MUSE OF NIGHTMARES and I sprained something, so that was a bust, but. I feel another Taylor reread coming on.
Anyway, I just had such a good time, truly. There’s not going to be any kind of insightful breakdown or poetical word weaving in this review. Taylor’s writing is gorgeous. She loves to torment her characters (and us). There is plenty of darkness but always hope. And there are moments of such silliness, such every-day-ness by having certain “normal” persons woven in amongst all the monsters and magic, gods and other worlds, that it just grounds everything. It all just works.
“You are a conniving, deceitful hussy. I stand in awe.” “You’re sitting.“ “I sit in awe.“
I do think, in hindsight of this reread, I might love the Strange the Dreamer duology more. But I would need to reread that one to confirm my five stars are still five stars. Because this series did lose a star from each book during this experience. I still love them, and will likely revisit again in a couple years, but sometimes the bowled over and devastated or delirious feeling doesn’t quite come back. Nonetheless, I had so much fun rereading these, and it was absolutely everything I needed right now.
** I received a finished copy of the new edition from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.
While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.
But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?
Title : Days of Blood & Starlight Author : Laini Taylor Series : Daughter of Smoke & Bone (book two) Format : paperback Page Count : 528 Genre : YA fantasy Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Release Date : November 6, 2012 (original) / December 1, 2020 (new editions!)
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 4.5 star review
“.. absolutely preparing myself to be destroyed and devastated all over again,” was how I wrapped my review of book one. Because I remembered the vibe of this story more than the events themselves. Infact, only a few scenes stood out to me, so it was almost like reading this for the first time. I think maybe I had forgotten most of what happened in this series outside of book one and a few broadstrokes. I have a feeling book three will be the one I recall the least.
What can a soldier do when mercy is treason, and he is alone in it?
I actually don’t think this book was quite the devastation or destruction I remembered it to be, vibe or no. But it’s definitely relentless. Hit after hit is taken, not all of them all-encompassing, but enough that it wears you down. Just like Karou is worn down, worn thin, believing she has no path but the one she’s on. And I think it was that atmosphere that allowed for those few (very few) moments of sweetness, of levity, to feel both out of place but impossible not to cling to. Like the image of Zuzana and Mik, fragile humans, playing amongst creatures of nightmare and imagination and death. Your brain questions it but you can’t look away.
Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy; a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate.
There was a lot of hurt in this book; in the sense of loss, of betrayal, of grief, of a dream that will never be realized, of hope. Because hope, too, hurts.
As always, Taylor’s writing was impeccable, the way she toyed with us every time, making us believe one thing, only to reveal the opposite, was both breathtaking and left the heart pounding and also something of a trap. Because just when you come to rely on that, to expect it to happen each time, it won’t. Sometimes the bad, the sad, is the reality and there’s no surprise waiting to tell you otherwise. But it’s a compelling way to force one’s readers to devour page after page, chapter after chapter. Which is what I did. Not just out of hope but also because I just could not tear myself away.
For all that this was grim, and at times hopeless, I think it’s probably my favourite of the two. The questions posed, the wrong for the right reasons, the push for vengeance which only propels more violence to answer the call, the conflict our characters felt, made me feel so much.
I also feel helpless to do anything other than jump into book three.. right.. now.
** I received a finished copy of the new edition from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **