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Monday, April 15, 2013

Well Over Due: Book Reviews on "Shadow and Bone" and "Throne of Glass"

I have been wanting to write book reviews for a while now. I have thought about what I wanted to write about and the books I have read recently. Both of these books are worth reviewing and I want to share my thoughts about them both.
Let's start with "Shadow and Bone" by Leigh Bardugo.

I'll be honest, I almost didn't read this book merely because of the author bio at the end of the book. When I choose a book to read, I start by reading about the author. Although it's only a glimpse into the life of the person who wrote the story I'm about to dive into, I like to get an idea of who they are and maybe where they came from.
The author bio for Leigh Bardugo did nothing for me. I seriously thought about not reading the book due to the way it was written. I don't want to go into a lot of detail; I am suppose to be writing a review of her book, not biography at the end. Let's just say that I felt that Leigh Bardugo didn't seem like she understood a "normal," every day life. 'Nough said.
Now, let's get to her book. "Shadow and Bone" caught my attention when I had Googled the best books of 2012 and that one was on the list. It was really the cover that got me curious. With a Russian look and the dramatic red against the gray and black, I wanted to learn more. So I read the back cover. Yep, I was hooked; I wanted to read more.
The world that Leigh creates is a wonderful combination of Russian, fantasy, and darkness (the evil kind). It was drawn in immediately. Some fantasy stories can be hard for me to follow along because of the unfamiliar wording. Words that I can't pronounce or don't understand make it hard for me to keep reading. "Shadow and Bone has some of that. I did have to flip back to the map a few times to make sure I knew what and where the story was but overall, it was an easy read. I really enjoyed learning about the Shadow Fold and trying to figure out what was happening to Alina and how her life would ever be normal again.
Alina is a character that I connected with immediately. It's clear that she is flawed. She feels small and unimportant. She often stands in the shadows of others. She is a quiet map maker, of little importance.
Time comes for her regiment to cross the Shadow Fold (a dark force filled with ravenous creatures called the volcra). This fold is what divides the country of Ravka. Few survive the crossing but it is the only way to reach the true sea.
A group of Grisha come for the crossing. They are powerful & magical people led by the Darkling. As the Grisha and the regiment begin the terrifying journey into the fold, they are attacked immediately by the hungry volcra. Many are swept away and the darkness is filled with screams of terror and the screeching of the incoming threat. 
Alina, is attacked and her best friend, Mal, comes to her aid, only to be mauled himself; seriously wounded. She blocks him with her body as just as she is about to be attacked herself, she sees a bright white light, sending the volcra screeching away. Alina passes out but when she wakes up, finds that she is in more trouble than she realized.
She meets the Darkling and is taken to live with the Grisha because it is believed that she is the long-awaited Sun-Summoner. 
Her adventures continue as she tries to train and control her powers. She tries to live a new life among the Grisha in a palace, wearing fine things. But where is Mal? Will she ever be able to see him again?
I really liked the progression of this book. Alina's character grows immensely and she has to learn who to trust and why. There are twists and turns and I found myself questioning who was truly the "bad guy." 
I recommend this book for teens and adults. If you like fantasy, or dystopian story lines, you will love this book! I look forward to reading more!

Now, "Throne of Glass" by Sarah J. Maas
This book was very different than I thought it would be! I wasn't sure where the author was taking me but in the end, I enjoyed this story very much.
As I understand it, "Throne of Glass" started out as an online publication. Due to the number of followers, Sarah J. Maas ended up revising it and writing the now published book. So some may be familiar with this book already.
It starts with a young woman in prison, Celaena Sardothien. She is in one of the worst prisons and is barely surviving. She is approached by the King's son, Prince Dorian, to be his champion at the King's upcoming competition. To win would mean her freedom after several years of service and lose would mean either returning back to prison or losing her own life. 
Celaena reluctently accepts and is soon at the glass castle to be trained with others to compete for the King's Champion. Celaena is watched over by Chaol Westfall, Captain of the guard. He doesn't let her out of his sight, knowing that she will try to escape or even kill.
Amid the upcoming competition, several of the competitor's begin dying. Killed is a gruesome way, Celaena now has to focus on not just winning the competition but also to stay alive long enough to win. 
I like the action scenes in the book. I was able to keep up and felt they were written well. I also liked the character of Celaena, although at times she's a little too arrogant. She learns a lot as she stays at the castle and is very strong-willed. 
There is a love triangle that forms and it becomes clear that the two men wanting her attention are completely different. The trouble I had with this triangle is that the two men were so vastly different! She was different with each of them and I wasn't sure who she really wanted to be. I wasn't too happy with her choice at the end either. But I think that's more of a personal choice.
One of the things I really liked and want to point out is that even though this is a book about a girl assassin  I felt that it was a clean book. Yes, there are murders in it and Celaena isn't afraid to kill or to think about killing but there were times when the author could have taken the story to a very negative place but didn't. One example being that Chaol asks Celaena if she had ever been raped while in prison (not quite so boldly but you get what he's asking). She tells him no, that she killed a man that tried to touch her, so one ever tried again. So it's implied that Celaena still has her virtue. I really like that! I wouldn't mind my teenage daughter reading this book because it is clean. There are a few (and I mean a few) swear words in it but other than the killing (which sounds weird to even say this), the story is a great read for teens and adults alike.

So these are the words of writer/reader who has her own opinion! I hope that it's at least helpful in deciding whether or not  you want to read these books!

My current book is a brand new book (coming April, 2013) called "Vivatera" by Candace J. Thomas. I was able to get an ARC, so I have been reading it over the last few days. More to come on this review later.

Happy Reading!

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