ARC Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch by Susan DennardAuthor: Susan Dennard
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
416 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Shout out to the wonderful Clara at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS who let me borrow her ARC. Definitely check them out if you’re ever in the area – everyone who works there is lovely!

Curse the hype monster, man. I went into this one with some – unfairly – HIGH expectations because it seems like everyone and their mother loved Truthwitch. And in the end, I did like it and I enjoyed several things about it. But I also had some issues.

What I loved:

  • The magic – The idea of different “witcheries” was SO cool. People can have different powers – air, water, essentially a lie detector (this is what Safi is – a Truthwitch), or the ability to see people’s “Threads” (their emotions) – which were all really fascinating. I think I was most intrigued by Iseult’s “Threadwitchery”. I also liked the idea of Threadfamilies. You become connected to someone by saving them, etc.
  • Aeduan – The “villain”. I don’t know if you’re really meant to love him as much as I did, but I just loved I always go for the misunderstood villain. All of my favorite scenes had Aeduan in them. He just kicked up the pace a bit. And my heartbeat. Looking forward to learning more about him in the next one.
  • The dialogue – snarky, witty, intelligent, and just fun. Especially the dialogue between Safi/Iseult and Safi/Merick – so. much. sarcasm.

What I didn’t like:

  • Four POVs – A little farther down I talk about Safi and Iseult, which really explains this issue, but I’ll just say that there were times when I struggled to figure out whose POV it was.
  • “The Big Reveal” – I guessed this WAY early on in the book. The narrative surrounding the reveal was way too easy to figure out and not at all subtle. At least for me.
  • Some of the middle section – I feel like the middle section dragged a bit. It’s possibly because I already figured out the reveal and I was just bored while everyone in the story got there. But the last 1/4 of the book really made up for it.

What I was iffy on:

  • Safi & Iseult: Okay, I really LOVED both of them. I liked Safi’s sarcasm and Iseult’s spunk. I loved their friendship and their passion. But sometimes, they seemed like the same character. Their voices aren’t as distinct in the beginning as I’d like, especially when there were scenes of them together. Made for difficult reading.
  • The world: This book starts off rather confusing because you are thrust right into the middle of the world and the middle of some action and you (at least I) felt like you’re scrabbling to gain purchase in the world. The first 1/4 of the book or so is like this. But, on the other hand, the world is absolutely fascinating, and I felt like I was standing in the middle of it gazing around with my mouth open because the world was so vast and just cool. So…confusing AND intriguing.

The bottom line: In the end I still really liked Truthwitch, and I definitely want to read the next one, especially because the world should be more settled by then. There won’t need to be so much time spent on establishing the world. I would still recommend this one to fantasy lovers, but would caution people – it takes a little while to get into the book and understand the world.

Rating: 6 – Good, but not great

ARC Review: Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Beastly Bones by William RitterAuthor:  William Ritter

Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publication Date: September 22, 2015

304 pages, hardcover (291 ARC)

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Shout out to the wonderful Emma aka Miss Print for being so kind and sending me her ARC.

Brilliant, wonderful, charming, witty, fantastic, fun, entertaining. Basically, think of any good word you want, and it can probably be used to describe Beastly Bones, the follow-up to William Ritter’s debut novel, Jackaby (which I read earlier this year and loved).

I think the best part of this book is how many layers there are; there are so many stories all woven together into one incredible book. Not only do we have the theft of the dinosaur bones, but there’s also a group of shapeshifting kittens, a mysterious monster, a murderer who may or may not be a vampire, and so many other delightful things. Honestly, delightful is one of the best words I can think of to describe Beastly Bones.

Abigail is just as witty and wonderful as in the first book. I love reading her narration – she’s clever and charming. I’m also a big fan of Jackaby; he’s just quirky enough and I know it may turn some people off, but he reminds me so much of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, which I totally dig. We also get a few new characters in this one – namely paranormal creature trapper Hudson and nosy but fierce and independent reporter Nellie.

Beastly Bones opens up so many possibilities for future books – YES, THERE’S GOING TO BE MORE – and I loved the little bit of foreshadowing we get for the next book. I will say there were a few instances where I just wanted to yell at the characters because they were taking so long to put it together, but overall, I was completely into the story and I cannot wait for the next one – this is the main problem with reading books that aren’t even out yet. EVEN LONGER TO WAIT.

The bottom line: Three words – GIVE ME MORE! How about four more? Definitely a favorite series.

Rating: 8 – freaking fantastic

ARC Review: Court of Fives by Kate Elliot

Court of Fives by Kate ElliotAuthor:  Kate Elliot
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
448 pages, hardcover (432 ARC)

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for sending me Court of Fives!

I was sucked into Court of Fives from the first page. Jessamy is a Patron woman, the upper class of her society, which requires her to act a certain way at all times. But when she sneaks out of her house at night to train for the Fives, a multi-level, physical competition, she can be whoever she wants. And she is awesome. But Jess is soon torn away from her family by a conniving motherf…excuse me, by a devious lord, and everything she’s ever wanted will be given to her. But at what price?

What immediately drew me into Court of Fives is the world. It’s this Ancient Egyptian/Greek inspired society of patriarchs, lords, oracles, magic, and science, and I loved all of it. Elliot’s world is so well-developed and I could picture everything. The set up of the patriarchal society, while disturbing, rang true. And I loved seeing Jess trying to break away from that while still being very loyal to her family. On that note, I really appreciated the focus on family in Court of Fives. Even when Jess is taken from them and promised that her mother and sisters will “be taken care of”, she hunts for them and makes sure they are okay.

Elliot weaves together so many elements into this story and not once did I feel confused. Her writing is compelling and strong and I was completely taken with it. Her imagination is incredible. The whole Fives competition was super cool and kind of reminded me of American Ninja Warrior, because of how physically demanding it was and how in tune with their body the characters had to be.

All I’m going to say about Kalliarkos is “More, please!”

I think my main complaint is about the ending. I do like that it leaves it open for the sequels, but it felt a little…not necessarily rushed, just not done, if that makes sense? It was very sudden and almost in the middle of action. Though it did leave me ready for more. Plus, there were a few slow moments throughout.

The bottom line: I could go on a lot longer than this, but I’ll stop here. I know I haven’t gone much into the plot, but it’s hard to talk about it without giving anything away. Just know that everything is beautiful and I need the next one right now, please and thank you. To sum up: fierce female characters, villainy, magic, swoony boy, some slow moments, and a super imaginative world.

Rating: 7 – pretty good

I liked this one so much that I’m giving my ARC away to someone on Twitter. All you have to do is follow me (@StefaniSloma) and retweet this tweet: https://twitter.com/StefaniSloma/status/629054893416804352! Ends 8/17/15.

ARC Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Magonia by Maria Dahvana HeadleyAuthor:  Maria Dahvana Headley
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
320 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Can I just give a quick shout out to the super kind Kimberley at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA for giving me this ARC? Everyone who works there is ridiculously friendly, and if you’re ever in the area, you really should drop by.

Aza Ray has never been able to breathe correctly. She’s struggled her whole life, and she even has a disease named after her, though she’d much rather call it Clive. But one day, she sees a ship in the sky and someone calling her name. No one believes her except her best friend Jason, who tells her stories of similar happenings from long ago and a magical place called Magonia. Soon after, Aza is lost to our world but returned to Magonia.

This book, you guys. WOAH. Magonia is so unbelievably unique, creative, and absolutely stunning. I’m still pretty speechless over it and I’m not sure how to write a review that isn’t just READ IT READ IT READ IT. It’s fantasy, but also reminded me quite a bit of magical realism because I sometimes forgot all of the things weren’t actually happening. Maria Dahvana Headley’s writing is gorgeous and poetic and beautiful. Like, she describes the sound of a boat coming: “The sails are made of hum and speed (ARC 252).” How perfect is that?

Aza Ray is a bit of a smartass, but I love her. She’s accepted her disease and lives with it. She’s…strange and sarcastic, which is pretty much exactly what I love in a character. I also loved the dual POVs of Aza and Jason. Jason’s POV was sad, distressing, and so very smart.

Magonia was incredible. I could feel the atmosphere and world all around me as I read. I devoured this world and these pages. This book is just…mad and weird and strange and so very good. I will say that I don’t think this book is for everyone, but it was most definitely for me.

The bottom line: 

Rating: 9 – practically perfect

You can read the first SEVEN chapters of Magonia over on the Epic Reads site.

ARC Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic was my first V.E. (Victoria) Schwab book, but you can bet that I’ll be reading all of her others as soon as humanly possible.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. SchwabAuthor:  V.E. Schwab
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, science fiction
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
400 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Tor Books for letting me read and review this! (I’m pretty sure I was only supposed to get the 30% preview, but THANK GOODNESS I GOT IT ALLLL)

I’ve been sitting on this review for a couple of days now attempting to figure out how to express my love for A Darker Shade of Magic. I haven’t read a fantasy/sci-fi/magic book that I loved this much in a long time. It’s got all things I ever wanted in a book without ever really knowing I wanted those things. “Cross-dressing thieves”? Got it. Wannabe pirates? Yep, there’s that too. More than one London? Of course! And all kinds of magic including unique and wonderful types? YES.

A Darker Shade of Magic is full of unparalleled world-building and fantastical characters, places, and ideas. I honestly can’t think of another book to compare it to, and that is awesome. It’s really dark and complex but with an unexpected bit of humor from its characters that kept it being too much. Like with Lila – I dare you to read this book and not think she’s incredible. She’s a thief and a wannabe pirate, and she’s such a badass. She’s tough but emotional, and she won’t give up until she sees the world. Lila also thinks things like, “Why anyone would ever pretend to be weak was beyond her (ARC Loc. 729)” – and if that doesn’t make you like her, I don’t know what will.

Then there’s Kell. Oh, Kell. He’s a…magician, able to control all of the elements and also able to cross between the worlds, which he does as an ambassador to Red London. He’s exactly the kind of hero I want in a fantasy, you guys. I love a hero who’s not perfect, who’s complex and layered. I love a hero who might be more dark than light, maybe even a little rebellious. That’s Kell. He’s ridiculously charming and incredibly loyal. Kell is “built like an afternoon shadow, tall and slim (ARC Loc. 530), and he’s also got a pretty amazing coat. Yeah, I’M DONE FOR.

Let me talk about the Londons (yep, plural) because it is so intriguing. We’ve got Kell’s Red London, which is so magical that it glows red. Then there’s Holland’s (not necessarily the bad to Kell’s good he comes across as) White London, ruled by twins who are chill-inducing in their scariness. We’ve got Lila’s Grey London, which is basically our world but it does have its own magic – look out for a pretty cool pub in all the Londons. Last, but not least, is Black London, and though we don’t see it, it’s my favorite because it gives us black magic, a character who’s not really a character. It may be (sort of) invisible, but it manipulates the characters and plot. It’s scary, interesting, and so so cool. One other character I loved was a prince described by Victoria Schwab as “A royal who is equal parts Prince Harry and Jack Harkness” and that is the perfect description. He’s magnificent, of course.

The amount of times I had no idea what was going on or I was surprised by a twist or a new development was astounding. ADSOM kept me on my toes and on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t really prepared to love this book as much as I did, but now it’s got a piece of my soul and it isn’t letting go.

The bottom line: A Darker Shade of Magic is a gripping, thrilling, wonderful adventure. The world-building, writing, characters, Londons, and magic are all incredibly done. I can already tell this will be one of my favorite reads of 2015.

Rating: 9 – practically perfect