Saturday, July 28, 2018

A Court of Frost and Starlight - Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight (4th book in the Court of Thorns and Roses series)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2018 (Hardcover)
Length: 229 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Adult; Fantasy
Started: July 19, 2018
Finished: July 27, 2018

From the inside cover:

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and, with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can't keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated - scars that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of their court.

Narrated by Feyre and Rhysand, this wondrous tale of hope and promise picks up after A Court of Wings and Ruin and sets the stage for the thrilling events in the future books.

The Court of Thorns and Roses series is one of my favourites in recent years. After thoroughly enjoying A Court of Thorns and Roses for its nods to Beauty and the Beast, falling absolutely in love with A Court of Mist and Fury (because it's just awesome, go read it if you haven't already), and appreciating A Court of Wings and Ruin for tying up loose ends, I honestly thought the series was done, but thankfully one of my students clued me in to this lovely surprise. This is more of a novella than a full-on instalment, it's a bridge from the first three books into however many more are coming in this series (which, according to Goodreads, is another three books and one more novella).

In the aftermath of the events of A Court of Wings and Ruin, A Court of Frost and Starlight is a fluffy little piece meant to make you smile. Winter Solstice has arrived, and all our favourite characters are trying to enjoy their brief reprieve while still suffering from the various traumas they've incurred. And what better event to bring about the warm and fuzzies than the Fae version of Christmas! Again, most of this is fluff (characters shopping for Solstice presents, lots of sex involved), but we do get a brief nod to potential plot lines in future books such as the unrest brewing in the mountain camp.

More of interest to me is the character development, and we do get some of that here. Feyre is trying to adjust to her new role and struggling with self-care, Cassian doesn't know what to do regarding Nesta, Elain and Nesta are coming to terms with being made Fae, and Lucien is torn between the Spring Court and Elain. There's not nearly enough character development for the characters I wanted to see more of, like Nesta, Elain, and Cassian, but I'm hoping future books will have more to offer for them.

This is the Hallmark Christmas Movie for this series. It's meant to be fluffy and cute, which it delivers in spades, but not a necessary read if you're expecting it to be the same as the previous books.

Thoughts on the cover:
Again, I like the continuity with previous covers. Feyre is looking quite winter-y and festive, which fits the feel of the book.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Ash Princess - Laura Sebastian

Title: Ash Princess
Author: Laura Sebastian
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2018 (Hardcover)
Length: 433 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: July 5, 2018
Finished: July 19, 2018

From the inside cover:

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day the Kaiser took Theodosia's family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess - a title of shame to wear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years, Theo has been a captive in her own palace.She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hopes of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

From the start I was intrigued by this book, but wary at the same time. The cover screams Red Queen, seriously what is it with the recent trend of putting just crowns on YA fantasy books, it's almost as bad as the headless girl trend a few years back. Not only the cover, but the story seems familiar as well: girl who's lost everything is aided by boy, manipulates her way in and out of trouble, etc. But thankfully this book is saved by a few things: decent world building and a likeable heroine.

I give the author credit for the world building here, the Astrean gods and goddess stories interspersed throughout are entertaining and engaging, and the magic system is well executed. I like how the characters even get into philosophical discussions regarding this. Most Astreans believe that one needs to be chosen by the gods to wield the powers of the spirit gems, but most people enslaved in the mines by the Kalovaxians can wield the power simply because it has leeched into their blood by over exposure. Plus, there's the lovely little allegory about the very Germanic, fair Kalovaxians invading and enslaving the dark-haired, olive-skinned Astreans that definitely does not go unnoticed.

Theo is also an intriguing narrator. She doesn't delude herself about anything: her strength or lack of it, her feelings regarding anyone, how dismal her situation really the very least she is honest. So  even though there is a sort-of love triangle, it isn't annoying because Theo doesn't lie to herself thinking she actually loves either boy, at least at this stage. She's smart and brave, yet vulnerable enough to root for since no one is quite sure whether her crazy schemes will actually come to fruition.

Though many elements here have been done before, the world building and Theo herself make this worth the read. This is the first book of a planned trilogy, so I will definitely be picking up the next book in 2019.

Thoughts on the cover:
Again, it screams Red Queen. It's pretty, but not very original.