A strong start to a new fantasy series by author Elly Blake

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1) by Elly Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantasy is quickly becoming my favourite genre to read and I’ve had the opportunity to read some really amazing books this year in this genre. As soon as I saw the cover for Frostblood I was intrigued, the UK cover of the frozen rose is beautiful and drew me in immediately.

This book kicks off with an emotional chapter where we meet Ruby, a fireblood. Ruby can control heat and fire, she can make and manipulate fire. Ruby, however, lives in a world where she is an outlaw, in the kingdom where she resides Frostbloods rule and the most dangerous of all sits on the throne. In this opening chapter, Ruby’s village is ambushed by the king’s soldiers who are searching for her and her mother is killed by them whilst trying to protect her daughter. Ruby is captured and taken to prison where she is taunted and abused by the guards.

Ruby is helped to break out of prison by an unusual monk called Brother Thistle and a mysterious man named Arcus, who agree to help her in return for her help in killing the Frost King and destroying his throne. Ruby, who is still seeking revenge for the death of her mother agrees to help them and so begins her journey to learn more about how to use her Fireblood powers in preparation for her task to kill the king. Along the way she makes friends and finds a place she can feel safe and call home.

This book was all about the characters for me, I really liked Ruby but the people she meets along the way were brilliant. Brother Thistle and Brother Gamut and Sister Pastel were amazing. The way they cared for Ruby and helped her to find peace after the death of her mother was great. Arcus was wonderfully mysterious throughout the book and although my suspicions were proven correct in the big reveal later in the book he was strong and supportive to Ruby and a wonderful hero.

The book is split into two sections, the first is based fully on Ruby’s preparation for her task to kill the Frost King whereas the second takes place in the court of the King where she must fight to the death to gain the respect and admiration of the ruler in order to get close enough to him to carry out her task to destroy his ice throne and remove the darkness which hangs over the kingdom.

I have heard some criticisms of this series that is offers nothing new in contrast to other books in this genre, however, this wasn’t something I had an issue with. I liked the premise of the frostblood versus firebloods, it had a little reminiscence of Frozen with the Frostbloods having similar skills to Elsa. The really outstanding thing for me about this book is the warmth of the characters and the interactions of them together.

I really enjoyed Frostblood, the first part of a trilogy it has set up the storyline for the second book nicely and has left us characters we want to spend more time with. I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

Crown of Midnight raises the bar in the Throne of Glass series to a new high

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now I’ve hit my good reads target for 2017 I needed to have another focus to drive my reading till the end of the year and so I’m now trying to get through as many books in series I’ve started before the end of the year to try and increase my completed sets of series before the year is out. Having just started Throne of Glass a few weeks ago I decided now was the ideal time to delve back in and read Crown of Midnight, the second book in the series, before I forgot too much about it.

I enjoyed Throne of Glass and the story of Celeana Sardothien, the girl assassin who won the competition to become the King’s Champion and his trained killer. Picking up immediately after the end of Throne of Glass we follow Celeana as she begins her new job and the demands the king makes upon her to dispatch his ‘enemies’ on his behalf. All is not as it seems though as Celeana is struggling with the job as she begins to find that those she is sent to kill are not bad people but simply those who are trying their best to stop the power hungry King of Adarlan’s ongoing monopoly of their lands and the death and destruction his power brings.

Struggling with her conscience we follow Celeana as she continues to build her friendships back in the Glass Castle. She is growing closer to the Head of the King’s Guard, Chaol, and their feelings are moving towards something more than just friendship. Her best friend, Princess Nehemia, is helping her to understand the terror’s that face her people now the King of Adarlan has taken over their lands and finally she is trying to stay away from the Crown Prince Dorian who she doesn’t want to lead into danger through a close relationship with her.

This book was absolutely non-stop action. From the very first chapters it had me gripped. I liked Throne of Glass but Crown of Midnight really raised the bar on this series for me. I hadn’t grasped what the hype around this series was really all about till I read this second instalment. Whereas book one spent quite a bit of time world building and had lots of characters who came in and then left again as part of the competition to find the King’s Champion in Crown of Midnight we have a more tight knit cast, most of whom we have met before and we are all about expanding their stories and knitting them all together more.

This book was a reasonable read, at about 440 something pages but I read it in just over a day, sitting up to the small hours of the morning finishing it because I literally could not put it down. Every time I thought I’d caught my breath and it was calming down it would be off again in another direction full speed ahead. It has magic and mystery from the first book and we continue to explore the mysterious Wyrdmarks and how they link to the world of the past and present. We have a kick-ass heroine who is amazing to read about because you almost never quite know what she is going to do, you just know that it will be awesome. There is backstabbing and intrigue in the court of Adarlan, questions over who can be trusted and who cannot and that is one of my favourite aspects of the books. Finally there is a wonderful romantic element with the ongoing relationships Celeana has with both Chaol and Dorian.

The book ends with a really stunning revelation which sets up book 3 wonderfully and raises the excitement levels for what will happen next. It gives us a glimpse that the next instalment will expand the world even further and introduce even more aspects and characters than we’ve had before, including some Fae!

This book was really good, I liked it so much more than book 1, it hit all the points I needed it to and reassured me that this series does have the potential to live up to A Court of Thorns & Roses. It is a thoroughly deserved 5 out of 5 stars for this one.

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I loved this book so much more than I expected…even if I did know what was going to happen next


A Game of Thrones
 (A Song of Ice & Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been doing really well with my good reads challenge this year, having read 49 of the 52 books I hoped to achieve over the course of 2017 and so I decided to invest some time and read one of those really big books that I’ve been putting off for a while and one that I’ve always thought of as somewhat of a challenge, Game of Thrones, the first of George R. R. Martins’ A Song of Ice And Fire series.

I have been a viewer of the HBO show for the past few years and so I wasn’t coming to the story fresh, I had a full and open awareness of exactly the story I’d be reading and so I was waiting for all the big plot points throughout and there were no surprises in store. The only surprise I found was that whilst I’d expected quite a wordy and highly overwritten book I found instead one that was much more accessible than I’d expected and written in a style that would lend itself to a variety of readers and not just those who enjoy high fantasy tales alone.

I had anticipated that I might struggle to find the characters I’d loved within the pages, lost among long and complex descriptions of their houses allegiances and lots of background that the show had chosen to discard and instead I found that this book had some serious pace. The chapters were long but really very engaging and the action moved along at a pace that surprised me. Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective and so we hear the voices of the characters we love in turn from Eddard, Tyrion, Jon, Daenerys and Arya along with others we hold such affection for. Often when authors attempt to write from multiple points of view we sometimes lose the essence of the characters but Martin does a wonderful job and each holds their own voice and individuality and make it an exciting and gripping book to read.

There is no secret that Game of Thrones has become one of the most read books of all time since the release of HBO’s groundbreaking series and often we will find that huge fans of the show, such as myself, will never choose to delve into the written version preferring instead to follow the action on screen but it would seem that millions of fans have found joy in the written versions too and it is with that in mind that I decided to explore the books. I sought to find more than I had in the screen version, to expand my understanding of the world and background of the Seven Kingdoms and the families therein. It didn’t let me down, I loved every second of reading this book. It is a hefty book at nearly 800 pages and yet it didn’t once feel like a chore to get through. I flew through it, when I wasn’t reading it I wanted to be, not because I needed to know what happened next but just for the sheer joy of the character’s narration and the world Martin has built that I longed to be back in.

It seemed strange to be back at the start of the story again, many of the characters within have been on so many journeys since then that you almost forget where they started out. You have differing opinions about so many of them now and some have been long departed due to gruesome ends and it’s been nice to go back and relive their stories again. I for one had forgotten how much I adored Lord Eddard Stark, what a magnificent character he is and how important a part he played in starting the Game of Thrones. All the clues for what will follow are there, especially regards the huge plot reveal that was made at the end of Season 7 of the show regards Jon Snow. It makes you view him somewhat with more respect and sympathy when you understand the secret he held of his sisters.

I am quite sorry to have finished this book, thrilled to know I have so many more to go in the series and keen now to go back and review the first season of the show again. It’s been a wonderful read and this may very well be one of my favourite reads this year.

Marissa Meyer gives a sci-fi twist to the world’s most beloved fairy tale in the first of her Lunar Chronicles series

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My final book for June was one that I have tried to begin reading a couple of times before. Cinder has been on my To Be Read shelf for some time and I have read the first few pages in the past and immediately thought “What on earth” then found something else to read. The Lunar Chronicles series though, of which this book is a part, has received such glowing praise that it has made me think that it’s worth a second look and as I have been challenging myself over the past few months by exploring different genre’s and types of books I decided now would be the perfect time to try again.

I am a huge huge fan of fairy tale retellings, the joy of taking characters I’ve loved since childhood and developing them further or placing them into new settings is something I find fascinating and they have become increasingly popular over the past few years along with shows like Once Upon A Time. Cinder though has taken the concept to a slightly new level and in a direction that is completely unique.

Set in a futuristic New Beijing we find that the world in hugely overpopulated and that a plague is affecting the population killing people and spreading not just to the lower classes but to the highest levels of society, including the Emperor of New Beijing. Scientists are trying to find a cure but they have had no success and people are scared. Living in New Beijing is a young mechanic called Cinder whose reputation proceeds her, she runs a small stall in a street market where she tries to make enough money to support her guardian and her two ‘sisters’. Cinder though is no ordinary girl as she is part human, part robotic – a cyborg. The result of a car accident when she was a child Cinder has no recollection of her life before the accident only that she is now classed as a lower level of being now and that people look down on her and so she tries to hide her condition.

In the true vein of Cinderella’s story Cinder meets Prince Kai, the son of the Emperor when he comes to her for mechanical help for his android robot. There is an immediate spark and talk of a Royal Ball to which Kai wants her to attend. Cinder though is scared that the closer she gets to Kai the more likely he is to discover the truth of what she truly is and so we have all the essential essences of the original story. This though is only scratching the surface of this book.

Woven among the original elements of the fairy tale story we have the other aspects of this book, the battle to find a cure for the disease that is spreading fear through its people, the far off Lunar world whose Queen is determined to make a marriage alliance with Prince Kai in order to give her unprecedented power in the human world. The stories of the history of the Lunar world, the missing princess who may or may not have died in a fire years before. Kai is searching for her as a way to dethrone the evil Lunar Queen and save him from a marriage he knows will place his people in danger but the Lunar Queen holds a solution to the plague that is devastating his land and he feels trapped.

I really enjoyed this book once I managed to get into the world of New Beijing. I must be honest and say for the first few chapters I had to really force myself to suspend all my criticisms and just go with the story. Once I had built enough of a picture of the world in my head I found I flew through this book very quickly, I began to really enjoy the story and the characters and enjoyed it immensely. I think one of the things you need to bear in mind going into the story is that it is the first in a series and as a result along with telling the basic story of Cinder, Meyer is also setting out the playing field for the books that are to follow. It means we do not get a complete story in this book but an introduction to characters who will feature as the series progresses, there is no resolution to their story here but a cliff hanger that will follow into the next.

When you explain this book to other people some look at you like you are crazy, a Cyborg Cinderella sounds a little off the wall and a futuristic setting takes it so far away from the original fairy tale that people find it difficult to see how it could work but Meyer really makes it all come together. It is not a plot by plot recreation of the original story but instead it uses aspects of Cinderella to then shape the initial characters and the world we will follow. It gives us a structure to guide us through the rest of the story she weaves and she does so in a very clever way.

I would say that in honesty I’d give this about 3.5 stars out of 5 and I am now looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Scarlet.

A mystical tale of a magical carnival filled with intrigue and adventure

Caraval (Caraval #1)by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a debut novel and the first book in what is rumoured to be a new series of novels. Written by Stephanie Garber, Caraval is a magical novel with a mysterious and fantastical setting which has set the Young Adult world alight this year. I had to, therefore, give it a try and see if all the hype around this book lived up to the reality.

SSet on the fantasy Isle of Trisda, we meet sisters Scarlett and Donatella. Brought up by their father the governor of the Isle of Trisda we become aware that is is a calculating and cruel man who controls his daughters by punishing them physically when they disobey him, but adds his own twist to this by punishing Donatella when Scarlett steps out of line and vice versa, meaning the sisters know that if they disobey their father their sibling will feel the physical pain of his displeasure. Scarlett has had a marriage arranged by her father to a mysterious Count whom she has never met and her marriage is due to take place within a few weeks but she has never met her future husband.

Scarlett has been writing her whole life to a magical and mysterious figure called Master Legend who runs a magical game called Caraval. Caraval is a festival to which you have to be invited and if invited you are allowed to participate or simply watch the game in progress. The game takes place over 5 nights and you follow a series of clues, almost like a scavenger hunt, which will lead you to a prize beyond your wildest dreams. Scarlet and Donatella have been dreaming of going to Caraval since they were children and suddenly a few weeks before her wedding, they receive invitations from Master Legend himself to attend as his special guests.

With the help of a young sailor called Julian, Scarlett and Donatella run away to Caraval which is being held on Master Legend’s private island. When they get there, however, Tella is kidnapped and Scarlett quickly learns that the item everyone participating in the game needs to find that year is her sister. All the clues will lead them to Tella. The prize at the end will the granting of one wish by Master Legend. Scarlett and Julian must, therefore, work together to try and reach Tella first but the mystery of Caraval is that whilst you must take it seriously you must never be so swept away that you forget it is just a game.

Garber has created a really fantastical world in Caraval, it is magical but has a certain darkness to it. Things are mysterious but you never know whether you can quite trust them to be real. The characters themselves are often hiding secrets and you are never sure which of the people are actors within the show and which are genuine participants. Behind it all, we learn that whilst Caraval is just a game a young girl died there a few years before when she became too swept away and people warn that Caraval can drive you mad. Master Legend himself is said to wear a different face each game and finds it fun to make girls fall madly in love with him.

I loved the writing within this book, Garber uses really good descriptions to set her world of Caraval, using lots of food related descriptions of the world around her such as the sand looking like spun sugar or the sky appearing a buttery texture. She makes it feel full of mystique and her characters are described really well and she focuses a great deal on the elaborate costumes and places that Scarlett visits. You lose yourself in the wonderful world you are reading about.

I found the first half of the book to be a little slow as it took a time to build up the actual setting for the book and therefore most of the action was packed into the second half. I also found myself getting frustrated with the lead character as she became too bogged down in the romantic entanglements she found herself in and lost focus on the game of Caraval itself and the actual goal she had, which was to find her sister. I would have preferred less romantic focus and more action and twists and turns in the game of Caraval instead.

The ending of the book frustrated me a little as well as we build up lots and lots of tension and emotion in events at the end of the book which are then negated a few chapters later as just being “part of the game”. It felt like the toils and turmoil Scarlett endured were suddenly worth less than we had invested in them as a reader. It was nice to have resolution but a little of it felt too easy.

The ending is clearly setting up for the next book in the series but it’s unclear as yet whether this will be one book, making this a Duology or whether we can expect several more books to take this to a full blown series. I will absolutely read the second book as we have too many unanswered questions and relationships that I would like to spend more time immersed within and we still have much to learn about Master Legend himself which I feel is going to be an ongoing theme to a climax later in the writers story. In fact on reflection this book appeared to be a great deal about creating the setting and the stage for the books that will follow and it has certainly done that and created many many fans along the way.

 

I eventually read the first book in one of the most beloved Childrens series ever


The Lightning Thief
 (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes, it’s true, please don’t throw anything at me….I know. I cannot believe I have gotten this far in my book reading life without having read a Rick Riordan novel, not even one of his most famous hero one’s Percy Jackson. It is such a confession and having heard so many people raving about his writing and how all of her series are so eminently enjoyable and such fun I decided that at the grand old age of 40 I really did need to try reading one.

So, in true Sound of Music style, I decided I’d start at the very beginning with the first in The Percy Jackson series, The Lightning Thief. And yes, I am well aware that this book is absolutely not aimed at people of my mature years however if everyone had said that about the Harry Potter novels then I am sure there would be a number of very disappointed adults out there who would feel they’d missed a wonderful experience and why can that not be true of other authors novels too. Yes this is a children’s book but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be read and loved and enjoyed by anyone.

From the very outset, this book is pretty action packed. We meet Percy Jackson, who is on a school field trip with the other kids from his school, they are a school of delinquents and they are visiting the museum of natural history when Percy has a strange run in with his maths teacher Mrs Dodds. He could swear she turned into a monster and tried to kill him but he somehow ended up killing her but when he comes round no one knows who Mrs Dodds is, their maths teacher is someone totally different and she’s been teaching them for months. From there stranger and stranger things begin happening to Percy.

This book is a really fun adventure from start to finish, we quickly learn that Percy is a son of one of the Gods, yes that’s right in Riordan’s world the Greek Gods are very much real and living right here in the Western World. Percy has a target on his back on account of the fact he may be the son of one of the big 3, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon but which one? He finds himself at Camp Half-Blood, a special summer camp for children of the gods where he learns more about his special powers and just what it means to be a demi-god.

He, just like Harry Potter, has his trusty sidekicks, Annabeth and Grover and in the vein of Ron and Hermione, they are there to help our hero on his adventures. This book has a fair bit of back story building in it but not so much that Riordan hasn’t managed to pack in lots of enemies for our trusty trio to face and lots of colourful places for them to visit. I mean who would have imagined that Mount Olympus could be accessed from floor 600th floor of The Empire State Building? Who even knew it had a 600th floor?

I loved this book, it was fun and full of wonderful escapism and great characters. I cannot believe I waited this long to read it. It definitely won’t be so long till I pick up the second in the series and spend more time finding out what adventures await Percy and his friends next summer at Camp Half-Blood as this book is left with somewhat of a cliff hanger with gives us plenty anticipation for the story ahead.