Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Friday 29 May 2015

The Darkest Part of the Forest
Holly Black
Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, Young adult
Published: January 13th 2015
Pages: 324
Rating: 2 stars

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

The Darkest Part of the Forest doesn't waste any time in jumping in to the story of the sleeping faerie prince. I thought he would be a secret only the main characters knew about, but no, the whole town knows about him and has seen him. Just from this, I was disappointed by the story, and I wasn't even one chapter in.

There is a whole cast of characters introduced in the first 10 pages, which left me a little overwhelmed. The first chapter also talks about a changeling and other things related to the Folk - as they are referred to in this book - and how they are normal in the town of Fairfold. It wasn't quite what I was expecting and I'll admit that it did put me off and lower my expectations for the rest of the story.

I found that I didn't really like Hazel or Ben, either. I don't know what it was about them but I just didn't really connect or have feelings one way or another about them. To me, they came across as very cookie-cutter young adult characters, who were just rather mediocre all around. I think I was looking for something very wild and different going into this book, and ended up being let down on all counts.

However, things did improve after the horned boy - Severin - was woken. While the plot did pick up and things actually started to happen, I didn't feel like the pace did. It still took me while to get through, and I wasn't entirely sure - or sold - on where things were going. 

It's a shame, really. I consider myself a fan of Holly Black's work, but this fell short and left me fairly disappointed. If you're new to her work, or to fey fantasy in general, I'd say don't start with this.

Creative Blogger Award

Friday 22 May 2015

Thanks to the lovely Freya over at The Sound of a Voice, I've been nominated to the Creative Blogger Award. The rules of this award are as follows:

Nominate 15-20 blogs and notify them via their social media
Thank and link back to the blog that nominated you
Share 5 facts about yourself
Pass the rules on to the nominees

Recommendations: Contemporary

Friday 15 May 2015

Shift by Em Bailey
Laced with paranormal aspects, this story touches on friendship, music, and illness in a tactful and interesting way. Thoroughly unputdownable, it's a must read for those transitioning from fantasy to contemporary.

Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Perhaps better suited to dedicated followers of ballet, Flack weaves a tale of one girl's dedication and sacrifice for her hobby. With interesting and appealing characters, you'll enjoy it even if you don't understand all of the terminology.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
More of a standard contemporary, this focuses on romance more heavily, as well as love for hobby like Bunheads. However, there are strong lessons on the value of friendship, family, and being true to oneself. 

Book Review: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Friday 8 May 2015

The Kiss of Deception
Mary E. Pearson
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, Young adult
Published: July 8th 2014
Pages: 489
Rating: 3 stars

A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

I couldn't help but feel that things started off a bit too... convenient for all the characters in The Kiss of Deception. Lia and Pauline quickly make it to Berdi's inn and aren't questioned or turned in or anything of the sort. The assassin and the prince also met extremely early on in the novel and only a few chapters after they'd each been introduced... And they meet at the same inn Lia and Pauline are now working at. Just... what are the chances of that actually happening?

However, the mystery surrounding who was the assassin and who was the prince was excellent. I really enjoyed it, and felt that every time the reader thought they had it figured out something would change. It was a nice touch and made me feel a bit closer to Lia as a character, as she didn't know who was who either. That being said, I did figure it out quite quickly.

Two slight problems I had though, were the vague mentions of the 'gift' First Daughters are supposed to have, and how heavy the romance was. I was not expecting romance going in to this, more of a mystery set in a fantasy setting. I also wanted clarification as to what the 'gift' was (as well as several other things, such as why wedding kavahs were a tradition) as I felt it was mentioned a lot but nothing ever came of it. Whether that's just setting up for the next book where all will be explained, I don't know.

Overall, I did like The Kiss of Deception. It was a light young adult fantasy, perfect for those new to the genre and who enjoy romance. Will I continue on with the series? Maybe. For me, it wasn't quite what I anticipated.

Book Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Friday 1 May 2015

Heir of Fire
Sarah J.Maas
Genre(s): Fantasy, Supernatural, Young adult
Published: September 11th 2014
Pages: 562
Rating: 4.5 stars

Consumed by guilt and rage, Celaena can't bring herself to spill blood for the King of Adarlan. She must fight back...

The Immortal Queen will help her destroy the king - for a price. But as Celaena battles with her darkest memories and her heart breaks for a love that could never last, can she fulfil the bargain and head the almighty court of Terrasen? And who will stand with her?

I'll admit, I was nervous about Heir of Fire even before I picked it up. I'd heard loads of reviews raving and praising it, but then I'd also heard some that felt a bit let down by it. Considering how much I loved Crown of Midnight I was hesitant to start this for fear of it making me fall out of love with the series.

The very first chapter did confuse me a bit. Celaena's behaviour and the way she interacted with Rowan when she first met him did mean I had to read the scene several times over in order to fully appreciate it. Whether this was because I'd left quite a while between reading this and the previous book (I know, I know: I do this all the time and I need to stop) or whether it was because she was in a new place with new people, I don't know. However, things definitely started to pick up and peak my interest a few chapters later, with the introduction of Manon. 

I enjoyed the introduction of new characters and settings, I felt that it really set the way for the second half of the series and made me really interested in what could happen. I also think that it really changed the tone of the series as a hole, making it sound more mature and more like epic fantasy. While the first two books were very fun and light, Heir of Fire was decidedly heavier and more serious.

That being said, it didn't hinder the enjoyment for me. Meeting Rowan and Manon and Aedion made me excited and further proved to me that Sarah J. Maas knows what she's doing. I found original characters more developed and found myself liking Celaena more now that she wasn't acting so spoilt. 

The thing that I did have problems with, however, were how sometimes Maas' writing felt a bit choppy and disjointed and the scenes with Dorian and Choal. There were a few times where I had to re-read sentences or scenes because I couldn't make sense of where a character had gone, who had said what, or what was going on. Despite that, I did enjoy the writing style overall. I also found Dorian and Chaol's friendship to be more strained - which was understandable, but I really enjoyed that in the first two books, so in this I didn't really like how they seemed separate. Their scenes were also boring compared to Manon and Celaena's. Chaol's I understood as they gave information and more political plot, but Dorian's I found to be more filler material.

Nevertheless, I did really enjoy Heir of Fire, and it was only those little picky things that pulled my rating own from a full five stars.
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