Book Review: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: July 2019 by Alfred A. Knopf Books

Pages: 392

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Spin the Dawn is a magical YA fantasy novel that had me thoroughly enchanted. There’s something mystical about this story and Lim’s writing that just drew me in right from the first chapter.

From the description, the contest sounds like a large part of the story, but I was aware from reading other reviews that it actually only takes up a relatively small part of the book. I knew to expect more of a travelling/adventure narrative so wasn’t disappointed that the contest was short. My attention did waver a little in the middle when Maia and Edan are travelling through the desert, but it quickly picks up again and I was hooked in the latter half in particular.

I really enjoyed seeing a YA novel told from a perspective I’ve not seen before – that of a tailor. Protagonists in YA are often princesses, queens, rebels, thieves, assassins etc. Maia’s skill, and her dreams, lie in tailoring. The descriptions of her creations are stunning and it was wonderful to see the world through the eyes of a tailor. I also liked that family is important to her and how that is woven into the story. The relationships she has with her brothers is shown really well.  

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Top 10 Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Fantasy

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is ‘Reason Why I Love…’. Fantasy has been my favourite genre for so long. I think it’s what really got me into reading. So I decided to write about 10 reasons why I love fantasy!

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.

Escape – Fantasy provides an escape from the real world. When I’m reading fantasy, I can really envelope myself in this other place, this other world, and forget about everything going on in my life.

New worlds – One of my favourite things about fantasy is the world building. I love discovering a new world in each book I read and immersing myself in that place.

Magic – Of course, magic is a big part of the fantasy genre. There’s something about magic that just sparks my imagination. I also love seeing all the different magic systems that authors come up with!

Magical creatures – As someone who loves animals, I love it when fantasy worlds are populated by magical creatures as well as people.  

Dragons – Yes you could count dragons as magical creatures but I felt they deserved their own point on this list. They are my favourite magical creature! I have a collection of dragons and always enjoy seeing my favourite creatures in books.

Imagination – There are so many possibilities with fantasy! Endless things authors can do with worlds and magic and everything else that comes with a fantasy story.

Adventures/quests – What drew me to fantasy as a child was the idea of going on an adventure! Setting off on a quest and overcoming obstacles to reach the goal!

Characters – I love the mix of heroes and villains in fantasy and seeing characters grow over the course of a book and a series!

Political intrigue/court intrigue – I do really like when there is a good dose of political intrigue in fantasy. Seeing how different kingdoms and peoples interact with each other, political rivalries, alliances, characters out for their own gain or with their own agendas, all makes for such suspense!

Reflecting on the real world – Fantasy (and science fiction) can be used as a lens through which to explore issues from our own world. I like it when fantasy is used as a way to highlight things that are important in our own societies.

What do you love about fantasy? Or your favourite genre? Chat with me in the comments!

Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: KindleEdition, January 2017 by Hodder and Stoughton

Pages: 416

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

I was very conflicted over how to rate and review this book. I’ve had Caraval on my Kindle for a little while and was excited to finally get round to reading it. So many people love this series and the concept sounded really intriguing. Unfortunately I didn’t love it from the start. I didn’t enjoy the first half all that much, but things picked up in the second half and I found myself a lot more absorbed.

I can’t quite place my finger on why, but for some reason I just wasn’t hooked from the opening few chapters. Even once Scarlett reached Caraval, I didn’t feel engaged. I was expected to be enchanted by this story, but in the first half I was actually a little bored. I found Scarlet to be an irritating protagonist at the start. Her thoughts were very repetitive and I just didn’t connect with her character. She didn’t want to be there. So I didn’t want to be there. I think if Scarlett had been more excited about the magic and wonder of Caraval, I would have been too.

Scarlett’s focus is on finding Tella and there is some jeopardy around that, but we don’t get to know Tella that well at the beginning of the book, so I wasn’t really invested in the goal of finding her. I liked that she isn’t the cliché sweet sister, but I didn’t find her particularly likeable from what little we see of her before she disappears, so I just wasn’t worried about her. Later we do get to see there is more to Tella, but for most of the book I didn’t like her character.

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Film Review: Fantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald

HO00005124-lgFantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald

Release date: 16th November 2018

Director: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Zoë Kravitz

Runtime: 134 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the anticipated sequel 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Following the events of the first film, Credence is looking for his birth family in Paris, and Albus Dumbledore sends Newt Scamander to find him. Meanwhile, dark wizard Grindelwald is also seeking Credence.

Having loved the first film in this spin-off series, I couldn’t wait to see The Crimes of Grindelwald. While I absolutely loved the film and was not disappointed, I can’t help but feel it could have been even better.

This film takes places primarily in Paris, and falls short on the high standard set by the setting of New York in the first film. 20s New York really came to life in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but the sequel took surprisingly little advantage of the potential Paris had to be an equally dynamic setting. There were a couple of moments where I got a sense the characters were in France, but for much of it they could have been just about anywhere. Since the first film set such a high standard, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that the filmmakers didn’t utilise the Parisian setting more.

There are a lot of plot strands in this film, and I feel like I need to watch it again to completely grasp everything that happened. There are many new characters, a lot of new backstory to get your head around, and some surprising twists that throw up more questions than answers. At times the plot felt a little meandering, without an obvious end goal beyond finding Credence. This film, which we must remember is part of a whole being only the second in the series, seemed to set up a lot for the future films.

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Book Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

9781595141743Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2013 books 1-3 set, Penguin (first published 2007)

Pages: 336

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Only a true best friend can protect you from your immortal enemies . . .

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.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger . . . and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever . . .

I watched the film adaptation of this before reading the book. Having seen the film a couple of times, I could remember most of it, so there weren’t really any surprises when it came to reading it. Especially as the film is pretty faithful to the book compared to a lot of adaptations. Even so, I enjoyed reading the book and am glad I picked it up. There weren’t any points where I felt bored; Mead kept my interest all the way through even though I knew the story.

I like the world Mead has created, with the two different kind of vampires – Moroi, who are alive, and the Strigoi, who are dead and more like the kind of vampires readers will be familiar with – and their half-vampire guardians, the dhampir.

Rose’s voice came through in the first person narration strongly right from the start. I had a clear picture of her character early on which showed great characterisation. Lissa was also a good character, along with Dimitri and Christian. Other characters ended up falling into stereotypes and clichés a bit too much, unfortunately.

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Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

20821111The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: 2014 by Penguin (first published 2014)

Pages: 335

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

The Young Elites is the first novel by Marie Lu I have read. I’d heard a lot of good things about her books so I had high hopes. What I loved about it is that it’s much darker than other YA fantasy I have read, and it isn’t about black and white good versus evil. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure who to root for because there didn’t seem to be ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, there were positives and negatives about both ‘sides’. This made the story so much more interesting. I do like a good vs. evil story, but it was nice to read something that blurred the lines for a change. The actions and ideals of many characters was questionable, so none of them really seemed ‘good’, which was far more realistic than having two opposing ends of the spectrum in conflict.

The main character, Adelina, is by no means a ‘hero’. She has a troubled past and is filled with darkness. She feeds off fear and is driven by power and ambition. The novel follows her perspective closely, so I felt I really understood all her feelings and motivations. She’s a really interesting main character and her internal conflict is written very well.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Science Fiction & Fantasy in Other Media

It’s hard to only name five because SFF is my favourite genre! There are so many films I could name. If I was listing all my favourites, this would be a really long list. Such tough decisions, but here are the ones I have picked (in no particular order, because please don’t ask me to rank them too!). T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

collagestarwars

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