Book Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Book cover of Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: September 2015 by Bloomsbury

Pages: 648

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain…

*This review will be spoiler-free for Queen of Shadows but may include spoilers for the previous books in the series*  

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series and the best instalment I’ve read so far. It brought together all the threads that Maas has been weaving for the previous three books and, well, it was pretty epic.

In Heir of Fire, Celaena was away in Wenlyn learning to use her magic. While I enjoyed the training sequences, I so loved seeing her in Rifthold in Queen of Shadows, back where everything started. This book brings the story full circle, as she finally confronts her past with Arobynn. Our protagonist grew a lot in Heir of Fire, and now she finally seems to have transformed into Aelin. Her character hasn’t changed completely, but I could see she was a different person to the Celaena we saw in Throne of Glass, and we get to see her become the queen she is.

Manon was introduced as a new character in Heir of Fire. I loved her story in the third book, but her storyline didn’t intersect with any of the other characters’ stories, so I was wondering where Maas was going with this one. In Queen of Shadows, however, we get to see more clearly how her storyline relates to the wider plot. This is another character who we see slowly shift over the course of the series. I really appreciate how Maas slowly develops her characters.

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Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes a Book Beautiful

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion.

Ahhh book covers! They say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but often the cover is the first thing we see, and does impact our first impressions of a book. There are so many different styles and attractive covers definitely draw the eye. But aside from the aesthetic of the cover, I think it’s also important that it reflects the content and mood of the book as well.

While simplistic covers can be really effective, I do love a cover that has a really striking illustration. I’m really glad a lot of covers have moved away from photographs of people to illustration-based covers. A lot of the photo-based covers just look so similar, and beautiful artwork is so much more eye-catching to me. I remember when YA covers were dominated by girls in dresses. Almost every book had a fancy dress, which was really pretty, but made almost every book look the same, and often they were wearing a dress on the cover for absolutely no reason at all. I much prefer when covers convey what’s inside the book, and to see characters represented more accurately, and with more action-poses (if relevant of course) than just models lounging around in dresses.

One of my favourite illustrated covers is Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim, which was illustrated by Tran Nguyen. The composition of this artwork is simply stunning. The main character’s pose and the flow of the fabric around them just makes it really dynamic. But it also really captures the book as Maia is a tailor. It incorporates her magic scissors, and the fabric Maia is holding is decorated with the sun, moon and stars, which are the materials she must sew three magic dresses from. The more I look at it, the more amazing details I notice which reference back to the book!

I really like it when a book series has a really satisfying set of covers, where you get to see a different character on each one, or which really conveys the evolution of the story and characters over the course of the series. For example, the new Daughter of Smoke and Bone covers with art by Peter Strain that came out last year work really well together as a set. I also really like them because they’re unique and stand out, as well as being beautiful.

Aside from covers, there are other details that can make a book beautiful, such as the finish of the dust jacket / paperback cover. I also love when I take a dust jacket off a hardback book and find there’s a design stamped into the naked hardcover! Books also sometimes get sprayed edges, which look amazing, especially when the edge colour matches the cover really well. 

And I thought I’d end this post with a selection of some other covers I absolutely love:

What cover styles do you like? What are your favourite covers? Chat with me in the comments!

Graphic showing Shadow Kiss book cover and a 3 star rating

Book Review: Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead   

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal     

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2008 by e-Penguin

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a Dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

Rose knows it is forbidden to love another guardian. Her best friend, Lissa – the last Dragomir princess – must always come first. Unfortunately, when it comes to gorgeous Dimitri Belikov, some rules are meant to be broken…

Then a strange darkness begins to grow in Rose’s mind, and ghostly shadows warn of a terrible evil drawing nearer to the Academy’s iron gates. The immortal undead are closing in, and they want vengeance for the lives Rose has stolen. In a heart-stopping battle to rival her worst nightmares, Rose will have to choose between life, love, and the two people who matter most… but will her choice mean that only one can survive?

Shadow Kiss is the third book in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series. Even though I didn’t love the first two books, I enjoyed them enough to carry on reading. Unfortunately, I found Shadow Kiss quite slow and somehow seemed to be lacking in direction.

After the events of Frostbite, Rose and the other students have returned to school and the dhampirs are undergoing the field experience part of their training. Lissa and Adrian are learning to use spirit. But it didn’t feel like a whole lot was going on. A trip to the royal court could have proved an interesting diversion, but that section fell a bit flat for me, as not much happened to create any kind of tension or suspense. There just wasn’t enough to hold my attention and keep me engaged.

The pacing picks up massively towards the end, but there was once again something missing from the action scenes for me. The style in which they’re written made me feel really disconnected from the action, so I didn’t feel any of the suspense I should have done in those sequences. I love reading action scenes, so this is a big downside of this series for me. There is a lot of potential for suspenseful and exciting sequences, but the writing is just really missing something in this area.    

The ending should have been emotional and impactful, but I didn’t really feel all that much, which is what made me realise I hadn’t really connected with this story and the characters as much as I have for other books I’ve read. I like reading Rose, Lissa and Dimitri’s story, but I’ve never really felt a strong connection to them.

I don’t know if I’ll continue with this series or not. Although I didn’t feel the emotional impact of Shadow Kiss’s ending, it has sent the series in a direction I hadn’t anticipated, which might make for an intriguing storyline going forward.

WWW Wednesday: 10 February 2021

This weekly meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

The three W’s are:

What did you recently finish reading?

What are you currently reading?

What are you going to read next?

RECENTLY FINISHED

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu – This book was so so good! I felt so emotional at the end. It was just such an amazing conclusion to the Young Elites trilogy. You can read my full review here.

Shadow Kiss by Michelle Read –In my last WWW Wednesday I said I’d read a scifi book. And I ended up reading a paranormal book. This is why I don’t set a monthly TBR, I’m very much a mood reader! It didn’t feel like much happened in this book and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous book in the Vampire Academy series.  

NEXT READ – Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas  

So unless I change my mind by later today, I’m planning to continue the Throne of Glass series next.

What are you reading at the moment? What are you looking forward to reading next? Chat with me in the comments!

Book Review: The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: October 2016, Penguin

Pages: 319

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but the darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy everything.

When a new danger appears, Adelina must join the Daggers on a perilous quest in order to save herself and preserve her empire. But this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger . . .

The Midnight Star absolutely destroyed me. The first two books in the Young Elites trilogy were dark and suspenseful, so the concluding chapter had a lot to live up to. And it was even better than its predecessors.

What I love about this series is how we see the darker side of our protagonist – Adelina. We see through the eyes of a character who has suffered a lot, been shunned by society, and who wants to make things better for people like her. Seeing her darkness grow over the course of the series was a refreshing change from the typical hero arc. Many of the other characters are also complex. There aren’t many straightforward heroes here, and I loved that. Despite their flaws, Marie Lu made me really care about these characters, and I didn’t realise quite how much until this final instalment of the series.

The last few chapters were so beautifully and heartbreakingly painted by Marie Lu. I can’t say too much without giving any spoilers, but the setting of the conclusion was so ethereal and I could visualise it so clearly. I very rarely cry at books, but the final chapters of The Midnight Star had me properly crying. How could I not give a book that made me feel so many emotions five stars?

This is a brief review because I don’t want to give away spoilers for the first two books, and I don’t really have any criticisms for The Midnight Star because it was just so good. The only thing I could say is that it was very short, and I kind of wished it had been longer, but I am also glad it wasn’t overly dragged out.

The Midnight Star is a superb conclusion to a brilliant trilogy. It follows a character down a path of darkness, a character who isn’t a typical hero, and I found that so refreshing. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Let’s Talk Bookish: Clichés and Tropes

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s discussion is all about clichés and tropes, and it’s a topic that I suggested, so I’m looking forward to diving in.

A trope is an element that occurs regularly across literature and media, and could be related to plot, character, or setting etc. All books have tropes, but it’s how the author utilises them that makes each book unique. A cliché often occurs when a trope has been overused, or has been used too similarly too often. Clichés can be irritating because we see them so often, they have become something that makes us roll our eyes because it’s become so predictable.

Tropes are the backbone of literature. Identifying tropes can be a great way for readers to find new books they might enjoy, and they are great for marketers too. If a reader knows they enjoyed a trope, they can look for other books that have that trope. Examples of popular tropes include enemies-to-lovers romance, friends-to-lovers romance, the chosen one and the outsider protagonist.

I don’t often enjoy clichés, unless they are done in a tongue-in-cheek way. If I know what tropes I like and dislike, I know which new books to avoid and which to hone in on. Though I think I’m still learning what kind of tropes I enjoy, and some of it can be down to how the author has used the trope. I love it when an author takes a well-known trope and puts a really unique spin on it. But at the same time, the familiarity of tropes can also be very satisfying.

It’s also great to see tropes being told in different ways by diverse authors, whether they are AOC, LGBTQ+ or disabled. Tropes and cliches that we’ve seen told over and over again by straight, white, able-bodied writers can be told a totally different way by other authors who have a different perspective on those stories.  

Another thing I’d like to discuss is another angle to clichés, which lies in clichés/stereotypes around particularly groups of people in society. Some clichés can be harmful for marginalised groups. When clichés about race, sexuality, disability or mental health are used in literature or media, they often present an unrealistic view and can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. It’s important for authors to be mindful about these so they aren’t contributing to misrepresentation and misperceptions, which is just one reason why sensitivity readers are important.

To round off this discussion, tropes aren’t a bad thing. They are a vital part of a book’s makeup. They can be done well, and they can be done badly sometimes, but one thing I’ve learnt is not to dismiss a trope having read one book with it that I didn’t enjoy. Because there are so many ways to write tropes, that even if I didn’t like one book, I might love another author’s take on it.

What tropes do you love? Are there any you avoid? Chat with me in the comments!

WWW Wednesday: 3 February 2021

This weekly meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

The three W’s are:

What did you recently finish reading?

What are you currently reading?

What are you going to read next?

RECENTLY FINISHED – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  

It’s a little while since I read a classic and I really enjoyed this one. I loved the family dynamics and seeing how the girls changed as they grew up over the course of the book.

CURRENTLY READING – The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

I am finally reading the last book in the Young Elites trilogy! I loved the first two books but it’s a while since I read them. I’ve nearly finished The Midnight Star and I have no idea how it’s going to end but I’m afraid it’ll break my heart!

NEXT READ – Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer or Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

I’ve not made my mind up what to read next yet, but it’s been a while since I read a scifi book so I will probably pick one of these two.

What are you reading at the moment? What are you looking forward to reading next? Chat with me in the comments!

Top 10 Tuesday: Books Written Before I Was Born

Today’s top 10 is all about the older books we’ve read, rather than recent releases! This list will have five classics and five sci-fi and fantasy books. So here are some of my favourite books written before I was born, which was in the 90s!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Emma by Jane Austen

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick

Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

The Cygnet duology by Patricia A. McKillip

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien 

What are some of your favourite books from before you were born? Chat with me in the comments!

January 2021 Wrap Up

So my big news this month is that I’ve had the first dose of the covid vaccine! I’m in the clinically extremely vulnerable category because the medication I take suppresses the immune system, so I’m in one of the first groups to get the vaccine. I’ve spent most of the last 10 months stuck at home so this first step to getting back to some kind of normality feels like such a relief! The vaccine won’t be as effective for me as other people as I’m immunosuppressed so I will still need to carry on shielding for a while even when I’ve had both doses, but it’s reassuring to have some protection at least.

Links take you to my reviews!

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – It took me a while to get into this one but by the end I loved it! The world is so detailed and the characters are brilliant.

The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly ⭐⭐⭐ – This political fantasy had plenty of intrigue, and while it seemed like it might be a bit predictable, there were some big twists at the end! Even so, I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped.

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Having loved Serpent & Dove, I was a bit nervous about reading this one, especially considering the mixed response, but I actually really enjoyed it.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This book was recommended to me by a friend and I’m so glad I read it! I found it quite easy to read for a classic, and I was totally absorbed in the story of the four sisters.

My first new book of the year was An Illustrated History of Notable Shadowhunters and Denizens of Downworld by Cassandra Clare with beautiful illustrations by Cassandra Jean. Somehow this managed to pass me by when it came out a few years ago? I didn’t know it existed until a few weeks ago! I’m really not sure how that happened. I preorderd Gut Feelings by C. G. More which is a novel in verse about chronic illness, which I am really looking forward to reading, but I have a feeling may be a bit of an emotional read for me. My preorder of A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer also arrived and I’m excited to see how the series ends!

I spent December and the beginning of January doing some planning and worldbuilding for my Arthurian legend retelling. I needed to redraw my map and add in some places. But now I’ve started work on the second draft and I’ve edited 10 chapters so far (out of 52…).

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

WWW Wednesday: 27 January 2021

I am so glad it is Wednesday, we’re halfway through the week! I’ve been feeling really tired so I’m looking forward to the weekend.

This weekly meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

The three W’s are:

What did you recently finish reading?

What are you currently reading?

What are you going to read next?

RECENTLY FINISHED – Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

A lot of people seemed to not enjoy this one but I actually really liked this sequel! I loved how it delved further into the consequences of using magic and expanded the worldbuilding with the addition of the blood witches and werewolves. You can read my full review here.

CURRENTLY READING – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I’ve read a lot of fantasy lately so I fancied a change. One of my dearest friends sent me a copy of Little Women recently and I felt in the mood for a classic so decided to give it a go. I’m a bit more than halfway through and loving it. Louisa May Alcott brings the four characters to life so wonderfully on the page.  

NEXT READ – ?

I haven’t decided what to read next! I’m generally a mood reader so I will see what takes my fancy when I have finished Little Women, as I expect it will take me a few more days to finish it.

What are you reading at the moment? What are you looking forward to reading next? Chat with me in the comments!