The Kiss of Deception, by Mary E. Pearson

This post originally appeared on The Prattle of Hastings on 02 April 2015. It is being re-shared now in anticipation of our Coven Chat on The Beauty of Darkness and The Remnant Chronicles.

The Kiss of DeceptionFleeing an arranged marriage to a stranger, Lia, youngest child and only daughter of the king and queen of Morrighan, runs away with her friend and settles in a village at the other end of the country. There she develops a new identity, living in a cottage and working in a tavern. Soon two men show up in town: the prince to whom she was betrothed, and an assassin sent to kill her to prevent the marriage from ever happening. Their identities are secret from Lia – and, indeed, from us.

The way Pearson deals with this is probably the cleverest part of the novel. The vast majority of it is told from Lia’s perspective, but we get a few short chapters from the points of view of The Prince, The Assassin, Rafe and Kaden. Rafe and Kaden are the names the two men give Lia, but, while we know that one is the prince and one is the assassin, we don’t know which man holds which role, and Pearson keeps it that way for more than half the novel, until the assassin makes his move and reveals his identity.

Lia’s voice is lyrical and contemplative; she reminds me quite vividly of Phèdre no Delaunay de Montrève from Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series. Her voice befits not only her character, but the world she inhabits. That being said, it probably contributed to what I found to be the greatest weakness of the book: the pacing. At times it felt like the book dragged, particularly when Lia’s settling into her new life. Even so, I think that may have been a deliberate choice, much as it takes Tolkien absolutely forever to get his hobbits out of The Shire in The Lord of the Rings. In both cases, by showing the minor facets of life, we see just how much that life means to the characters, in a way we wouldn’t if it were rushed.

Pacing aside, this book sucked me into the world and the characters. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Nicola is drowning in books and tea, just the way she likes it.


Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle

The Raven Boys

This post originally appeared a year ago but as we are having our Coven Chat about the series on Friday, we are re-posting it now. -CBC

A few weeks ago, Allison, Alyssa and I talked about the liminal space between YA and adult fantasy, particularly highlighting books we thought were more adult-oriented that had been classed by publishers, bookstores, or other bookish organisations as YA. Today I’m recommending a series that fits into that liminal space. It’s a firmly YA series, about a group of teenagers struggling with the demands of school (including finding the funds for university), troubles with parents (ranging from healthy rebellion to abuse and bereavement), and other themes that place it solidly in the young adult category.

In Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle, Blue Sargent is the only woman in a house full of psychics with no supernatural ability. She’s distressingly normal, except for one thing: everyone who has ever read her fortune has told her that if she kisses her true love, he will die. When she meets a group of boys from a nearby prep school, she doesn’t consider herself at particular risk of falling in love with any of them – but she adheres to her strict no-kissing-just-in-case policy, regardless. Over time, however, she becomes wrapped up in their quest to find the tomb of the Welsh prince Glendower, befriending and coming to care for them and, just possibly, falling in love with one of them.

The Dream ThievesAlthough many of the themes are quintessentially YA, it’s also a series that I think would appeal to a lot of adult readers who have either been hesitant about trying YA or who have read a few YA books and found them not to their tastes. For one thing, the adult characters are given as much care and attention as the teens. Rather than being relegated to the periphery or antagonistic roles, as they so often are in YA fiction, the adults in this series are not only fully-developed characters, but also people who affect and are affected by the plot. They even get their own POV scenes at times, a rarity in YA books.

The use of multiple POVs is another way in which this series has a more adult feel than a lot of YA, which is so often told from a close first-person perspective. Though most scenes are told solidly from a particular character’s perspective, there are times when the narrative veers into third-person omniscient, as well as relating events from the perspective of a minor character, such as the wife of one of the teachers at the boys’ school. It’s a narrative choice many readers of adult fiction will be more familiar with than those who stick to the YA section, though I think it serves this story well.

Blue Lily, Lily BlueThe pacing, too, is more adult than YA, particularly the first book. It crossed my mind at one point around halfway through that, if pressed, I’d struggle to summarise what had actually happened so far, and yet I was utterly absorbed in the story. The small interactions between the characters, the magical quality to their pursuit of the Glendower myth, all these subtle elements create an overall atmosphere that draws the reader in.

The series’ strengths aren’t only in the ways it appeals to adult readers, of course. As I said before, it is a solidly YA series, and a wonderful one at that. It features rich, mythical world-building whose magic is enhanced by the real-world setting. It’s also the first YA book I’ve read since The Princess Diaries where the protagonist is not only an outspoken feminist, but one identified as such by herself and other characters.

Nicola lives and reads in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she’s eagerly awaiting the release of The Raven King. If you want to get in touch, your best bet is Twitter.


What’s Ahead: Coven Chat

Most of what I’ll be reading over the next few months is for our Coven Chat discussion posts, so I figured now’s a good time to announce what we’ll be talking about as a group in August through October.

The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater:  I’ve been reading (and re-reading) this series for five years now, so Gansey, Ronan, Adam, Noah, Blue, and the women of 300 Fox Way are some of my most beloved characters. I’ve just started The Raven King (#4), after revisiting The Raven Boys (#1), The Dream Thieves (#2) and Blue Lily, Lily Blue (#3), and I can’t wait to find out how this series ends.

The Remnant Chronicles, by Mary E Pearson: Read The Kiss of Deception (#1) and The Heart of Betrayal (#2) if you haven’t already because The Beauty of Darkness (#3) is out now.

 

 

A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2), by Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes (#1) was one of our favorite 2015 releases and we’re so excited for its sequel.

We’re only a month away from perhaps our most-anticipated release: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5), by Sarah J Maas. You must know by now that Sarah’s books (Throne of Glass (#1), Crown of Midnight (#2), Assassin’s Blade (#.5), Heir of Fire (#3), Queen of Shadows (#4), and Empire of Storms (#5), as well as A Court of Thorns and Roses (#1) and A Court of Mist and Fury (#2)), are our favorites to discuss! We’ve chatted about them here and here and here.

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #1), by Leigh Bardugo: Last year we had a blast discussing Six of Crows and we’re really looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Snow Like Ashes series, by Sara Raasch: Another fabulous fantasy series is coming to an end with the release of Frost Like Night (#3) next month.

The Young Elites series, by Marie Lu: Adelina is my favorite villainous protagonist (see my post) and I can’t wait to find out how her story ends in The Midnight Star (#3).

 

Have you read these series? Which books are you looking forward to the most? 

 


What I’m Reading: Three Dark Crowns

23207027A couple of months ago, I included Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake, as one of my most-anticipated September releases. Even though I haven’t finished it yet, I can confidently recommend this novel. Especially if you like YA fantasy with multiple characters, worlds, and narrative perspectives.

Three Dark Crowns is told in the alternating points of view of three queens, Katherine, Arsinoe and Mirabella. Every generation, on the island of Fennbirn, queen triplets are born and raised by foster families as “daughters of the Goddess.” Katherine is with the Arrons, a strong poisoner family in Greavesdrake Manor; the naturalist queen, Arsinoe, is with the Milones, the most powerful naturalists in Wolf Spring; and Mirabella, the elemental queen, lives with the priestesses in Rolanth Temple.

The novel opens on the eve of their sixteenth birthday, the beginning of the Ascension Year, when the queen triplets must use their gifts to fight to the death because only one of them can become queen of Fennbirn. “The people of Fennbirn Island grow in strength with the ruling queen. Naturalists become stronger under a naturalist. Elementals stronger under an elemental. After three poisoner queens, the poisoners are strong to the last, and the Arrons most of all.”

Each sister is being trained by her foster family to use her magic against her sisters. But so far only one of the triplets, Mirabella, possesses her gift; the others have been faking their powers. Rumored to be immune to the deadliest poisons,  Katherine cannot ingest even the weakest poisons without getting sick. And Arsinoe, who “ought to be able to bloom entire bushes[,] ripen whole fields” and control the fiercest lions, cannot even “bloom a rose from a rosebud” or call forth her familiar; while her best friend Jules Milone is “the strongest naturalist in sixty years.”

Only Mirabella is truly powerful, able to unleash fierce storms. “Every ship that sails to the northeast of the island returns telling tales of the fierce Shannon Storms besieging the city of Rolanth, where the elementals make their home.” But does this mean that she will be the Crowned Queen?

Alyssa thanks the Boulder Book Store, HarperCollins and Edelweiss for a digital review copy for review purposes only. Please note that the material quoted is from a review copy; therefore, it is subject to changes prior to publication and may not reflect the final edition. These quotes will be checked against the final published edition once that’s available.

 


Fall 2016 YA Preview: October Books

Hi! I know it seems premature to preview October releases in June, but I’ll be reading and recommending many of these books over the summer. (Summaries are from Goodreads.)

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Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2), by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands. But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for Illuminae.

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When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore:  To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for The Weight of Feathers.

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A Darkly Beating Heart, by Lindsay Smith: A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.

No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

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Beast, by Brie Spangler: Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.

Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality. As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends. But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?

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Bound by Blood and Sand, by Becky Allen: Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.

Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

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Holding Up the Universe, by Jennifer Niven: Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. Until he meets Libby.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for All the Bright Places.

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Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2), by Ryan Graudin: For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for Wolf by Wolf.

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The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3), by Marie Lu: There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all that she’s achieved.

Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds when a new danger appears, putting not only Adelina at risk, but every Elite and the very world they live in. In order to save herself and preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for The Rose Society.

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Frost Like Night (Snow Like Ashes #3), by Sara Raasch:
Meira will do anything to save her world. With Angra trying to break through her mental defenses, she desperately needs to learn to control her own magic—so when the leader of a mysterious Order from Paisly offers to teach her, she jumps at the chance. But the true solution to stopping the Decay lies in a labyrinth deep beneath the Season Kingdoms. To defeat Angra, Meira will have to enter the labyrinth, destroy the very magic she’s learning to control—and make the biggest sacrifice of all.

Mather will do anything to save his queen. He needs to rally the Children of the Thaw, find Meira—and finally tell her how he really feels. But with a plan of attack that leaves no kingdom unscathed and a major betrayal within their ranks, winning the war—and protecting Meira—slips farther and farther out of reach.

Ceridwen will do anything to save her people. Angra had her brother killed, stole her kingdom, and made her a prisoner. But when she’s freed by an unexpected ally who reveals a shocking truth behind Summer’s slave trade, Ceridwen must take action to save her true love and her kingdom, even if it costs her what little she has left.

As Angra unleashes the Decay on the world, Meira, Mather, and Ceridwen must bring the kingdoms of Primoria together…or lose everything.

Alyssa wants to start reading these books now! She thanks the Boulder Book Store, the publishers, Edelweiss, and NetGalley for digital review copies, for review purposes only.