Sunday, January 27, 2019

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa is a fascinating story steeping in Japanese folklore about a young half kitsune girl named Yumeko who is charged with the saving of the world. When her home, a temple with many monks, is destroyed and all the monks are killed by demons, Yumeko flees with a piece to a scroll that could either destroy her world. A boy named Kage Tatsumi (his first name is actually the second in order) who wields a blade possessed by a demon is sent to retrieve the scroll piece and he ends up traveling with Yumeko as she follows the last instructions on how to keep the scroll safe. The two of them travel and meet a few others along the way, each of them learning new things about themselves as they do so. They must face a great evil and Tatsumi struggles with the demon inside during each fight. If he lets in any emotion there is the danger that the demon will take over his body and spin out of control.

Oh my gosh, this book was AMAZING. I have read quite a few manga and watched many an anime but it was so much fun reading about Japanese lore in a novel. I need to read more of Julie Kagawa's stuff if she does this with all of them because I found this to be very intriguing and interesting to read. There were lots of new concepts and ideas introduced but it wasn't overwhelming and everything was explained in a nonboring way. The characters were so great in this, I think my favorite was Tatsumi as he was opened to a new way of living with Yumeko. He didn't know anything of kindness or compassion because emotions would basically kill him. I can't wait to read the next book and find out what happens.

The only negative thing is that the sequel doesn't come out until June!! WAI?! No, but seriously I really enjoyed the writing style and the Japanese folklore instilled into this. It was a bit bloody and dark, so that might put some people off.

I give this book a 9 out of 10 and highly recommend it for readers of YA fantasy and manga.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Winter Glass by Lexa Hillyer

Winter Glass by Lexa Hillyer is the sequel to Spindle Fire and continuing this retelling of the classic sleeping beauty. Aurora leaves to confront Malfleur and Isbe is left to try and figure out how to pull the kingdom together as Malfleur continues to call people to her side. Both Isbe and Aurora learn more about themselves, their pasts, and what they want their futures to be as they go through different very difficult experiences. They are reunited and are able to achieve their goal of saving the kingdom, although in a different way than expected.

I enjoyed this book only a little more than the previous one. Aurora's time under Malfleur was very interesting to read about and I liked reading about Gilbert. I wish they had done more with Wren, although we did learn a bit more about her in this book which was very neat as well. I just felt like we could have learned a bit more about her as a person. I did like how another fairy tail was kind of mentioned, although it wasn't really incorporated.

Well, I started on the things I don't like already so I may as well continue on here. I had a hard time not talking about what I didn't care for. I didn't like the end. It's dissatisfying and doesn't wrap up all the ends I wanted to be clarified. Like I mentioned earlier, I wanted to find out more about Wren as a person. And I thought it was disappointing that no one ended up with everyone. It's like Lexa Hillyer couldn't decide if she wanted this to be about romance or the power of sisterly love.

I give this a 6 out of 10 and recommend it for readers of YA retellings of fairy tales.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer is an imaginative retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Aurora is the fairest child but she got her gifts because the fairies required a tithe. Her older illegitimate sister, Isabelle, gets involved as well from a very young age. Aurora can neither feel nor speak, and Isabelle is blind. They become involved in fairies politics and have to figure out how to save both themselves and their kingdom. They meet new people and learn more about their history as they take their separate ways to try and figure out their futures.

I enjoyed this story. The tweaking of the traditional Sleeping Beauty story is great, and I really loved how close the sisters were. They developed their own way of talking, Aurora would tap Isabelle's hand since she couldn't talk and then Isabelle would just reply aloud. Aurora had to be very careful because she couldn't feel when she got hurt, so when Isabelle would get her into scrapes the council would get angry with them which caused them to arrange for Isabelle to be sent to a convent. I liked how the sister's stories really start there, they get separated and that's really what starts the whole thing. They are kept in the dark the whole time and they have to find out what really happened piece by piece. I also enjoyed getting the fairies' perspectives of the whole affair, that was rather fun.

I wanted to love this story, I really did. And it's not that it's bad, it's just that it wasn't as good as I'd hoped. Normally when I read, especially retellings of fairy tales, I get gripped by the story and I have to be careful when reading it work because I could go over my break time. But with this, I could slip in and out of it easily. It didn't take much effort at all to try and go in and out of the book. I also didn't really like the romance part, although I understand that it's key to the story because of the whole true love thing. I was just hoping that true love would have a more open meaning that it seemed to have. I do still plan on reading the sequel and will try to review that next.

I give this book a 6 out of 10 and recommend it for readers of YA retellings of fairy tales.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey

The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey is a wondrous retelling of Swan Lake told from the perspective of the Black Swan obviously. Odile is a student and obedient daughter of her father, Baron Eric von Rothbart who seeks revenge against women who he considers to deserve punishment for their wrongs against men. He takes women from any station in life and turns them into swans. They can only return to their human form at night when the moonlight touches them. Rothbart makes a deal with Odette to release all the swans from their form while also working on another scheme to bring down a corrupt queen. Odile is the key throughout the book, as the reader gets to know the daughter of a cruel man.
Now the other people who get POVs in this story are the prince and the queen. Queen Clothilde likes her power and has encouraged her son's behavior to be anything but suitable for a king. She wants to control him or dispose of him so that she can keep the power she's been accustomed to. Prince Siegfried is a reckless and selfish man who does what he wants with no regard for anyone else's concern or feelings. He has an encounter with a woman in which he wrongs her and after that becomes a better person. He meets Odette as his new self and it is love at first sight for them both.

This book was fascinating. Learning the story from the perspective of Odile was exciting. She is a sorceress and only wants to earn her father's approval and love. She inwardly rebels on occasion but always tries to bring herself back to under his heel. However, as they travel to the kingdom where Rothbart will begin his largest scheme she begins to get to know the swans better, including Odette the Swan Queen. She finds that maybe her father isn't as right as she always thought. Odile begins to discover herself along with the other girls.
I really enjoyed seeing Prince Siegfried change. He is really a jerk in the beginning and he changes but in a believable way. It's not a ridiculous change, he just becomes more tempered and discreet. He doesn't feel the need to always be the best and he listens better. When he finds Odette he decides to be loyal to only her, which I thought was glad about.

There were a few things in this book which I didn't care for. The first was the Siegfried commits a violent act against a woman and while he is punished in his conscience he doesn't receive any other punishment as the prince. Another thing is that in the cover of the book it talks about Odile's mother being the reason that Rothbart hates women but it really doesn't touch on it in the book, just that Rothbart never talks about it and Odile isn't willing to ask. She is going to try and scry it but gets interrupted and nothing ever comes of it. I wish there had been more on that subject in the story.

I give this book an 8 out of 10 and recommend for readers of adult fantasy and retellings of fairy tales.