A better than expected look at the love of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler

Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must be upfront and declare myself absolutely obsessed with Hamilton the musical, from the first time I heard it I’ve been hooked and it’s helped both me (and my children) learn so much more about the history of the United States and the key figures in its establishment. Coming from the United Kingdom this is something we do not generally cover in our education system and it’s been great to learn through a medium so engaging as the music and lyrics of this wonderful show. Of course, one of my favourite relationships in the show is that of Alexander Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth Schuyler and when I saw this book it immediately caught my attention.

Melissa de la Cruz has been known for writing Young Adult books for a while and previously has penned the novels that accompany the Disney Descendants franchise. For me this nearly put me off this book altogether as I wasn’t quite sure I wanted someone to take the Hamilton romance and simply translate it from stage to page and add a lot of Young Adult sugar coating on top. I didn’t want it to taint my enjoyment of the love story because it was being dumbed down for a younger audience.

You can imagine my surprise therefore when I found this novel to be written in a style that immediately pitches itself as both intelligent and informed. This is not simply someone who has seen the show and decided to further romanticise the story. Instead, there has been significant research into the Schuyler family and the relationships between Eliza and her two sisters Angelica and Peggy. There is not simply an exact copy of the chain of events portrayed in the musical but instead, this story of Alex and Eliza’s love takes us through several years where initially they didn’t find it easy to like one another and events surrounding the war threatened to see Eliza dislike Colonel Alexander Hamilton quite significantly.

In this story, we find that rather than being the meek and somewhat giddy character she can appear in the show Eliza was hugely involved in the war effort, proactive and greatly intelligent. Her two sisters are instead the more vivacious characters who found it easier to mingle in the society their station raised them to

The only disappointment I had with this book was that once we reached the Happy Ever After moment when Eliza marries Alexander the story comes to its close, now fans of the show will know that this was very much only the beginning of their story and that there is much still to tell. I had hoped a little glimpse into this and felt that I could have cheerfully kept reading for another 200 or so pages. I wanted to know about the raising of their family, their changing relationship and the challenges they faced as Alexander grew more involved in the establishment of the new United States of America.

This book was much much better than I had anticipated, I flew through it in only 2 days and I would recommend it to any fans of the musical. It’s not simply a cliched retelling but an intelligent and well-written novel which enhanced my understanding of a romance which took place against the backdrop of huge change and revolution.

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.

An explosive start to the Throne of Glass series

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read and loved the Court of Thorns & Roses novels by Sarah J. Maas and with it being around a year till we can expect the next installment from that series I decided that in the meantime I should try the other series from this wonderful author, Throne of Glass. I’ve heard lots about this series as well and the reviews are very positive so with that in mind I started off the series with this first novel in what is an ongoing and developing story, Book 6 having just been released this week.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the absolute no nonsense delving into the story, right from the first page the story kicks off with Assassin Celeana being taken to meet the Crown Prince who is looking for someone to be his Champion in a contest his father the King is holding to find someone to fulfil the role of Royal Assassin. In this contest, she must compete against a variety of thieves, murderers, professional soldiers and other Assassins to win her freedom from the mines where she is currently a prisoner. This story is Celeana’s fight to win each round of the competition and to ensure that she never has to return to the brutal mines at Endovier again where she knows she will die.

The essence of this story is Celeana’s relationships with the people she meets in the royal palace, the Head of the Kings Guards Chaol who mentors her through the competition and helps her train, her relationship with the Prince, Dorian who she is building a close relationship with which could turn to more than just friendship. The other contestants in the competition, a foreign Princess in the palace who as a political pawn is trying to cope with the wrongs done to the people in her country by the King. Against this backdrop, people are being murdered in vicious circumstances and Celeana is scared she may be next.

I loved this book. I liked the sheer range of characters, there are so many we are introduced to in this novel that I’m sure we are going to learn more about through the series that you feel you can forgive Maas for not exploring all of them in depth at this stage. I like that we have a love triangle setting itself up that you cannot quite decide on which side of to fall. You want to root for both sides. Celeana is a kick ass lead character, she is feisty and strong and intelligent. You want her to succeed and we are sure that there are lots of stories still to explore about her past. I really enjoyed the introduction of paranormal elements to the story, the demons and fight against good and evil during the final duel.

I am excited to see where this story takes us next. Having read Court of Thorns & Roses and its expanding world I know how capable Maas is of building stories that are all encompassing and I can see a great deal of potential in this world and its history and the development of its future. I gave this one a 4 out of 5 stars because I have a feeling the best is yet to come.

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