Deep Blue

Deep Blue (Waterfire Saga, #1)Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic, Disney Press
Series: Book 1 of the Waterfire Saga

This review contains no spoilers.

Serafina, daughter of Isabella, Queen of Miromara, has been raised with the expectation – and burden – that she will someday become ruler of the oldest civilization of the merfolk. On the eve of the Dokimí ceremony, which will determine if she is worthy of the crown, Sera is haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil. But her nightmare is forgotten the next day as she diligently practices her songspell; eagerly anticipates a reunion with her best friend, Neela; and anxiously worries about Mahdi, the crown prince of Matali, and whether his feelings toward her and their future betrothal have changed. Most of all, she worries about not living up to her mother’s hopes.

The Dokimí proceeds, a dazzling display of majesty and might, until a shocking turn of events interrupts it: an assassin’s arrow wounds Isabella. The realm falls into chaos, and Serafina’s darkest premonitions are confirmed. Now she and Neela must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the mer nations. Their search will lead them to other mermaid heriones scattered across the six seas. Together they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.

I didn’t even connect this to being by the same woman who wrote A Northern Light, when I first read through it. Its such a big step away from the historical aspects of that book that I was amazed that the same woman was able to write both. Looking back however, I see that her style, heavy on the details, still shines through. Some people don’t like the almost info-dump like style of the book, but I didn’t mind it. Thats the kind of book that I like, with rich imagery, history, and setting. The more I know about the background the happier I am. Thats just how I read.

I really liked the plot and most of the characters – there was, of course, a love story, and what seems to be a set up for a love triangle (but since other reviews on Goodreads didn’t mention it, I won’t risk spoiling it) – but other than that it was pretty good and mostly romance-free. There was a lot of action and a lot of girl power, as well as plenty of diversity and history/culture thrown in.

Words

If you don’t like puns, don’t read this book.

  • An all-night wave is what we would call a rave (a party with drugs)
  • Wrasse means ass (and there are also badwrasses and jackwrasses)
  • Curentsea is money
  • Gobies and Gupies are insults
  • Transparensea is an invisibility spell
  • Merl is a girl, and a merlfriend is, you guessed it, a girlfriend.
  • Instead of family trees we have family corals
  • RaySay is the language of Manta Rays
  • Pesca is the language of anchovies
  • Dolpheen is, you guessed it, the dolphin language

I’m sure I missed plenty of the absurd word plays that are in this book, which may or may not be a good thing. Some people thought that the words and the jokes made the books less believable and too childish, but for me, personally, they only served to enhance my enjoyment of it.

Characters

Sera: I really liked Sera. She’s a well balanced character who wants desperately to be immature, but forces herself to grow up and be a leader for her people’s sake. She understands that, even though she might want to do other things, she accepts that she has a responsibility.

Neela: Sera’s best friend, Neela wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up. Did I mention she’s Indian? She and her people all live off the coast of India, and have therefore picked up a lot of the culture.

Matali: Sera’s betrothed who is nothing like the boy that she remembers. He’s grown into a punk since she last saw him, and no longer the romantic that she remembers.

Overall

I liked it quite a bit. Some people, as I briefly mentioned earlier, thought that it was too childish for their tastes (mostly citing the puns) and thought that it should be marketed to younger readers. While I think middle grade readers would love this book, I also see no reason that YA readers shouldn’t check it out as well. Its a funny, well written book about Mermaids, what else is there to ask for?

The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm (Katerina, #1)The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, YA
Series: Katerina Trilioy
Purchase: Book Depository

There are no spoilers in this book review.

St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.

An evil presence is growing within Europe’s royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina’s strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar’s standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina’s help to safeguard Russia, even if he’s repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.

The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?

This is really an alternate history or historical fantasy. The author simply took Russian legends, myths, and fairytales and said “wait, what if all of these were real? And what if it was set during the Industrial period?” Its the time of Faberge and Tchaikowsky and Tostoy, where Russia is becoming a player on the European scene, and culture flows freely between Moscow and the west.

It was a breath of fresh air, Russian folk lore is so different than the England centric mindset that most books are written in, and it played so well into the changes that were happening. It wasn’t very much earlier that Russia was completely isolated from the outside world.

I think my one complaint is how confusing things could get. I kept forgetting who was related to whom, and what girl went with which family, and how many kinds of “creatures” there were, and who had what power. It was written by someone who seemed to know a lot about what she was writing about, but unfortunately I think sometimes she also forgot that her readers are not as knowledgeable.

There were a couple of cringe worthy moments, some things that just could not have happened that way, and a lot of dumb luck on the characters part, but overall its good. Even the love triangle wasn’t that bad, although, it was a bit predictable (aren’t they all?) and played on the “bad boys as sexy” stereotype.

Characters

Katerina: I’ve seen complaints that she was ‘boring’ and, for the most part, I disagree. She had her moments, and she’s not the strongest main character that was ever written (but she’s a whole lot better than most!)

Pyotr: I’m gonna be real, the only reason I remembered Katerina’s brother’s name was because its one letter away from the name of my favorite X-Man (Piotr Rasputin). He wasn’t very memorable, but he care deeply about his sister.

Alix: There’s a plot twist with her that I won’t spoil, but I’m not suer what I think about it. She didn’t show up as a character after we heard about the twist, so I can’t wait to see where its taken in book two.

Prince Danilo: My opinion of him is that he reminds me of a beetle and not in a good way. I would certainly not describe him as “dashing,” perhaps “slimy” would be more apt.

George Alexandrovich: I have a bit of a love hate relationship with this character. He’s stubborn (in his defense, he cares about his country) and rude to Katerina at times, but then again, he does help her (and then do a complete personality flop and fall madly in love with her).

Overall

Its a good book, and I really did love it. As soon as I finished it, at about 1am mind, I put the next book in the series on hold at the library (thankfully there’s no waiting list).

If you like historical fiction or fantasy – or the animated Anastasia film – I think you’ll really love The Gathering Storm.

Untamed

Author: A.G. Howard (website) (blogtag)
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Retelling
Rating: 3 Stars
Splintered Series Reviews: Book One,  Book Two,

There are no spoilers in this review.

Summary Per Goodreads: A post-Ensnared collection of three stories—available in both print and e-versions. Alyssa Gardner went down the rabbit hole and took control of her destiny. She survived the battle for Wonderland and the battle for her heart. In this collection of three novellas, join Alyssa and her family as they look back at their memories of Wonderland.

This review has mild spoilers for the first three books in the Splintered Series, but not for anything from Untamed.

I don’t usually read novellas and the like, but when I heard that this was coming out – just after I finished the books – I couldn’t wait. I even went to the book store almost immediately after the release to pick it up. Then I went home, sat it on my shelf, and forgot about it. So I finally got around to reading it almost two months after the release date.

The whole book retains the odd, whimsical style that we’ve become accustomed to with the Splintered Series and it’s just as good. All too often sequels to popular books or movies – looking at you Aladdin 2 & 3 – aren’t as good as the first, and you go into them expecting the beauty you’ve become accustomed to, and you leave wanting to cry. Unhinged is not like that. Unhinged is every bit as good as the others.

The only odd thing is, that as much as I did love it, I could put it down. While I was reading the series I could barely wait to start the next book, even if it meant running to the bookstore. But with Unhinged I was able to put it down, several times in fact. It might be that my reading interests have changed or that the other options – like Harry Potter and Carry On – were just too tempting. In fact it took me several months to read it.

The Boy in the Web

Alyssa’s mother reminisces about her own time in Wonderland and rescuing the man who would become her husband in The Boy in the Web.

The first short story is The Boy in the Web, told from the POV of Alyssa’s mom as she views her husband’s memories of his childhood. I found it a bit trying, but I won’t deduct points for that because the writing and story telling was great, but it was just that I didn’t get into the characters. I never liked Alyssa’s mom and dad in the other three books (I also never disliked them), and I didn’t find them that interesting now.

The Moth and the Mirror

And Morpheus delves into Jeb’s memories of the events of Splintered in The Moth in the Mirror, available in print for the first time.

This one was interesting, except that I kept forgetting whose POV it was meant to be. Most of it was Jeb’s POV with little to no mention of Morpheus, but then Morpheus would jump in and confuse me.

Six Impossible Things

In Six Impossible Things, Alyssa recalls the most precious moments of her life after Ensnared, and the role magic plays in preserving the happiness of those she loves.

I think this was my favorite of the short stories. It seemed to be the one that kept the most inline with the rest of the series, perhaps because it was originally intended to come at the end of book three (and I’m glad it wasn’t put there, it didn’t seem as though it would belong).

Reading Updates

  • 10/02 marked as: to-read
  • 02/18 marked as: currently-reading
    • page 24
      • 8.0%
      • “Courage paired with folly becomes abandon, which is an honorable trait where I’m from, and should always be rewarded.”
      • Gosh I had missed Morpheus.
    • page 24
      • 8.0%
      • “It doesn’t matter if I’m crazy, as long as the madness helps me survive.”
  • 05/15
    • page 94
      • 32.0%
      • “You’re not too far from the truth, Jeb.”
    • page 120
      • 41.0%
      • Beginning of story three: Six Impossible Things
    • marked as: read

Overall

If you’ve read the rest of the series, then this is a good book for you. If not, then don’t bother, it will just cause more questions than it will solve.

A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two Castles (A Tale of Two Castles, #1)A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: Book One of A Tale of Two Castles

This review contains no spoilers.

This was published as a part of my Alphabetical Books Goal.

Disclaimer: I am very biased toward anything that Gail Carson Levine writes. She is my absolute favorite author and her books are some of what inspired my love of reading.

Mysteries abound, especially in Two Castles.

A handsome cat trainer, black-and-white cats, thieves on four legs and two, suspicious townsfolk, a greedy king, a giddy princess, a shape-shifting ogre, a brilliant dragon. Which is the villainous whited sepulcher?

Elodie journeys to the town of Two Castles to become a mansioner—an actress—but luck is against her. She is saved from starvation by the dragon Meenore, who sends her on a dangerous mission inside the ogre’s castle. There, disguised as a kitchen maid at an ogre’s feast, she finds herself cast in the role of a lifetime and pitted against a foe intent on murder.

I unashamedly love anything by Gail Carson Levine. This book is no exception. There are parts of it which are absolutely hilarious (like all of her books) and then parts which are much more serious (there is a murderer on the loose).

The Imagery: I think one of GCL’s strong points as a writer is being able to pull her readers into the world she’s created. I can very vividly remember Elodie’s world and particularly a scene where she acts the part of someone who wants an apple. I know it sounds absurd, but it has really stuck with me as one of the best written and most immersive scenes in the book.

I’m not always a fan of mysteries in fantasy – I love mysteries and I love fantasy but I don’t always love when they’re put together – but in this book it’s really well done. Of course, there are some parts that I thought were a bit predictable, but that’s just because I’m so familiar with her style. Some things still caught me off guard though, and there are enough twists to keep it interesting for any reader.

I have to boast a little because my copy is signed.

Overall

This book is for any lover of fantasy or mystery. Mrs. Levine’s work isn’t just for kids, I think even teens and young adults can get into it too.

Before Midnight

Before Midnight: A Retelling of Before Midnight: A Retelling of “Cinderella” by Cameron Dokey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Series: Once Upon A Time
Genre: Fantasy, Fairytales, Young Adult
Purchase: Book Depository

This review contains no spoilers.

Etienne de Brabant is brokenhearted. His wife has died in childbirth, leaving him alone with an infant daughter he cannot bear to name. But before he abandons her for king and court, he brings a second child to be raised alongside her, a boy whose identity he does not reveal.

The girl, La Cendrillon, and the boy, Raoul, pass sixteen years in the servants’ care until one day a very fine lady arrives with her two daughters. The lady has married La Cendrillon’s father, and her arrival changes their lives.

When an invitation to a great ball reaches the family, La Cendrillon’s new stepmother will make a decision with far-reaching effects. Her choice will lead La Cendrillon and Raoul toward their destiny — a choice that will challenge their understanding of family, test their loyalty and courage, and, ultimately, teach them who they are.

Can I just say that this Cinderella is the first I’ve ever read that doesn’t feature an evil stepmother? She certainly has her moments, but she’s not the villain at all!! This is based on a french version in which the Step Mother is not the villain, rather, Centrillion (read: Cinderella)’s father (and several other assorted characters) are.

Even though its been a while since I read it, this sticks in my mind because I remember loving how all the characters interacted.

Series

I have to say that I love the idea of this series. There are a ton of fairytales and folktales explored in this series (you can find all of them here), most are written by Cameron Dokey who wrote this one, but there are also some by Nancy Holder, Suzanne Weyn and Debbie Viguié. You can now get some of them as story collections. Some of the ones I’m most excited for are:

  • The Story Teller’s Daughter 
    • Arabian Nights
    • I love this story and I can’t wait to see this spin on the tale.
  • The Wild Orchid 
    • Mulan
    • I love anything and everything Mulan. I’ve had this on my Kindle for a while, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it.
  • The Rose Bride
    • The White Bride and the Black Bride
    • I’ve never heard of this so I’d love to read it just to experience the new fairytale.

Overall

I think any fan of fairytales would love this. It’s a very different Cinderella story, but I think you’ll love it.

Featured Image

That’s Cinderella and I at Disney World two years ago.

Once Upon A Dream

Once Upon a Dream (A Twisted Tale, #2)Once Upon a Dream by Liz Braswell

Star Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Fairytale Retelling
Publisher: Disney Press
Series: Twisted Tales
Purchase:

This review contains no spoilers.

This review is published as a part of the Bout Of Books Read-A-Thon.

What if the sleeping beauty never woke up? Once Upon a Dream marks the second book in a new YA line that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways.

It should be simple–a dragon defeated, a slumbering maiden, a prince poised to wake her. But when said prince falls asleep as soon as his lips meet the princess’s, it is clear that this fairy tale is far from over.

With a desperate fairy’s last curse infiltrating her mind, Princess Aurora will have to navigate a dangerous and magical landscape deep in the depths of her dreams. Soon she stumbles upon Phillip, a charming prince eager to join her quest. But with Maleficent’s agents following her every move, Aurora struggles to discover who her true allies are, and moreover, who she truly is. Time is running out. Will the sleeping beauty be able to wake herself up?

Note: Even though this is from a series, you don’t have to read the series in order as they are unconnected tales.

I can’t tell you how conflicted I was over this book. Not only does Aurora herself believe in the dream world, but it’s so well written that at times I started too, even though I knew (because of the summary) that it was a dream!! I wanted to believe in the dream, but I knew I couldn’t and that’s saying something.

One of the problems I had while reading this book, was that I was constantly comparing it to Maleficent and seeing parallels to that story. Ms. Braswell is clearly a good author, but it really just felt a bit forced. Disney is still sticking to their new stance of “it doesn’t have to be love at first sight” which is a nice change, but caused parts of the book to feel forced as Aurora kept complaining about it.

There’s some fight scenes and they are well written (a bit predictable), but a good balance of showing and telling the audience. There are plot twists and yes, there is a happy ending, but maybe not the one you’re expecting.

Characters

Aurora: She was very well written. I was afraid she would be too much like the one in the Sleeping Beauty movie its based on, or too much like the one in the recent Maleficent movie, but she had very little in common with either.

Prince Phillip: He was hilarious at times but there were also times that I wanted to hit him. He believes in love at first sight, and Aurora has to be the one to remind him thats not how it ought to work.

Maleficent: They made you really want to like her and really want to believe her. But of course, you knew from the beginning it wasn’t meant to be.

Aurora’s Parents: King Stephan and Queen Leah aren’t in the book much, but you have to feel pretty sorry for them. There’s also a lot of exploration of the ethics of sending your only child off into the woods with fairies and having a daughter when you really want a son.

The Fairies: There wasn’t much about them in here, but – similar to the Queen and King – there was a lot of exploration over whether they did a good job of raising Aurora and how their lying to her affects her.

Featured Image

I took this photo for my bookstagram account. Its the front cover of the hardcover book (the back is also beautiful, by the way (it features Maleficent)) with a glass peacock I’ve had for quite some time.

Overall

This is a very good book and I highly, highly reccomend it to anyone who likes fairytales, fantasy, and retellings.

Even if Sleeping Beauty isn’t your favorite Disney Princess, personally I can’t tell you when the last time I watched that movie was, I think you’ll be really pleased by this.

The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: Harper
Series: The Queen of the Tearling
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopian
Purchase: Book Depository

This review contains no spoilers.

An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

This is a very interesting book because it’s a combination of dystopian and classic fantasy. The settlers in Tear and the surrounding countries are descended from a group of people who sailed away from the world we know America and England, to a ‘new world’ that would be founded on socialism and atheism and lack all modern technologies (except medicine). Obviously all of these plans failed: there’s a serfdom, a slave trade, a “Church” with the same power as the Catholic Church had over Medieval Europe, and the boat carrying all the doctors and medical equipment sunk before they arrived.

My biggest gripe with this series is a simple question: what land mass is this supposed to be happening on? The settlers (three centuries before the book takes place) supposedly sailed to the Tear region from America and Europe, but it never tells us which landmass they went to. There’s no island large enough for this to be happening on, and everywhere else is inhabited (which it apparently wasn’t when they arrived). Hopefully that will be explained later in the series.

I loved the world, the characters, and everything about this. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a while (and I’ve been reading some good stuff recently!).

Characters

Kelsea: The main character (and title character) is Kelsea Raleigh. She quickly establishes herself as an idealist, who is only starting to realize the consequences of her actions. Kelsea is also a huge book lover, which actually ends up a pretty large part of her character. She was a bit vain, and spent quite a bit of time complaining about her looks for someone who was obsessed with “not being vain” like a certain other character (no spoilers!).

Mace: The head of The Queens Guard, Mace is an old pro who always seems to be five or six steps ahead of everyone else in terms of planning and plotting. Unlike Kelsea, Mace is

Fetch: The leader of a band of outlaws – rather like Robin Hood in their notoriety – who ends up saving Kelsea’s life (by deciding not to murder her) and plays a very important part in her decisions.

The Regent: Kelsea’s Uncle and regent is completely unlikeable from the moment he is introduced (because he is trying to kill her in whatever way possible).

The Queen of Mort: Otherwise known as the Red Queen, but I’d hate for you to confuse this with the book of the same name by Victoria Aveyard. She’s called by these titles because no one knows what her real name is. She’s pretty awesome in a very evil way, in her scenes you can expect witchcraft, intrigue, and good, old fashioned evil.

Triggers

The new ‘thing’ in YA seems to be a brutal realism, like I complained about in The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal (read my review), there was a lot of talk of sex and rape. However, it was no where near as graphic and detailed (or common) in this book. I still feel as though I should warn you before telling you to go read it. There is mention of sex and rape, however, nothing too graphic. The worst is during the scenes in The Mort Queen’s POV.

Overall

Overall, I’d reccomend this book for fans of the Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson. It had a spark to it that was similar to parts of that series, the same style of adventure tinged with politics. Like that series the main character was likable up until her looks were brought into play. Yes Kelsea, I get it, you’re ‘plain’ and yes, Elisa (of Girl of Fire and Thorns), I get it, you’re fat. Shut up and move on with the story.

The reason this didn’t rank five stars was pretty simple: the “what landmass are we on” question and “Kelsea stop whining about your looks.” Other than that it was really great, and neither of those are too pressing so you should be able to ignore it completely!!