2019 has been a pretty good reading year for me. Although I’m glad I studied English Literature at uni, it did for a while dampen my love of reading. I didn’t have much time to read for pleasure, and when I finished the degree, I still couldn’t get back into loving reading in the same way I had before. In the last few months though I’ve really started loving reading again and I’m excited (having been two years since I finished my degree) to finally be really back into enjoying it again.
I reached my Goodreads reading goal of reading 20 books this year which I’m really happy with. Now that I’m enjoying reading more I’m probably going to up my target a bit for 2020. Most of my favourite books I’ve read this year happen to be fantasy. I’ve read a couple of disappointing contemporary books and haven’t read any amazing sci-fi either.
The best book I read in 2019 has to be Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. It’s the only book I’ve given 5 stars this year. I can’t even put my finger on why exactly, for some reason this book had a certain spark and I completely fell in love with it. When I finished reading it, all I could think was ‘wow’, because it was just so imaginative, vivid and brilliant.
I’m so glad I discovered Sarah J. Maas a couple of years ago because I’ve loved all her books I’ve read so far. A Court of Thorns and Roses really surprised me as it was slow to start but got really intense and suspenseful in about the last quarter. That ending section Under the Mountain was just so good that it made up for the slowness at the start. I’m currently reading the second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, and loving that too.
After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.
Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.
Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.
The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.
The Devouring Gray really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. Christine Lynn Herman does an amazing job of creating a spooky and suspenseful atmosphere throughout the book. The opening drew me in and the book held my attention the whole way through. The writing has a good balance of description and I found her writing to be very evocative and engaging. I’ve seen The Devouring Gray repeatedly compared to Stranger Things, but I haven’t watched that show so can’t say if that’s an accurate comparison.
The book switches between the perspectives of several different characters, but I found it easy to follow and didn’t get any characters mixed up. Violet’s grief for her lost sister and the difficult relationship she has with her mother is really well portrayed. She has been brought up away from Four Paths and doesn’t know anything about the Gray or her family’s role as founders. In books there is often a main character who is brought unknowingly into a magical world of some sort, but what I liked about this book is that we also see the perspectives of characters who already live in that ‘world’. This made a change from solely seeing the perspective of the ‘newcomer’. It was interesting to see how Violet learned about Four Paths, but also to see through the eyes of characters seeing a ‘newcomer’ arriving to their town and how that shifted things for them.
Each of the characters has their own story, conflict and secrets. I loved Harper’s character and her determination to overcome what’s happened to her in the past and the prejudice she now faces. Justin, despite from the outside appearing to be the perfect founder, is actually struggling with his own problems and secrets too. I felt a connection to all the central characters and enjoyed seeing how their individual plot strands came together.