More YA Fantasy Series Reviews: Part II

Even more YA fantasy series!  Continued from Part I.


The Woodcutter Sisters #3

17155793This is going to be an extremely unfair review, because this book was not what I was expecting, and that inherently biases me against it.

After reading Hero, the previous book, I was excited for the story to keep going.  For some reason I thought this would be a trilogy, and Dearest would wrap everything up from Friday’s point of view.

In real life, the author is planning a book for each sister (7 total), and at least one spin-off for their brother Trix.  Phew.  This story, Dearest, actually takes place mostly concurrently with Hero, and doesn’t touch on, let alone resolve, the threads from that book.  So that was a bummer.

As with the previous books, I enjoyed the fairy tale mash-ups in the story.  Some prominent ones were the Wild Swans, the Swan Princess, Goose Girl, and Peter Pan.  The book opens with Conrad (a character from Goose Girl, hence dear to my hear), gives him an interesting backstory and important plot function…and then wastes him for the rest of the book.  Friday “loving and giving” Woodcutter is not as good of a protagonist as Saturday, but I liked her because I have a similar personality in some ways (strong empathy).

These books always have an element of insta-love, but I felt it was particularly prominent (and problematic) here.  Tristan, one of the Wild Swans, was not all that interesting (in fact, pretty much any one of his brothers was more interesting).  After the book opened with Conrad, I was hoping he’d actually turn out to be the male lead.  Can you tell I’m on Team Conrad?

Last, I want to point out that this book has a major subplot about refugees and the author herself has some really interesting things to say about that.

Anyways, I didn’t like this book as much as Hero, but I suspect I will like it more upon re-reading, when I have no preconceptions.  And I will definitely be looking for more adventures of the Woodcutter sisters.

3.5/5 stars


Snow Like Ashes series

Snow like ashes1. Snow Like Ashes—(3/5 stars)

2. Ice Like Fire—(2/5 stars)

3. Coming out this year?—(Not reading it)

Now we’ve reached the “meh” portion of the reviews.  Remember the “special girl protagonist saving the world while in a love triangle?”  Well, she’s back, in the form of Meira, a refugee from the conquered land of Winter (their capital was named Jannuari, no joke).  She even has her own unique weapon, the chakram, but I’ve never seen Xena: Warrior Princess, so this didn’t strike me as any more than vaguely interesting.

After the first book, I had no strong feelings about Meira either way, and the love triangle aspect wasn’t terrible.  The antagonist, though–the evil king of Spring–I found to be totally flat and boring.  I did think the ideas and concepts of the way the magic worked in this world were cool, and the book did have some interesting twists.

Ice like fireSo I moved onto the sequel, where I found one interesting character introduced (Ceridwen of Summer) and a lot of eye rolling by me.  The author attempted to introduce some politics into the story, and it did not work for me.  Game of Thrones, this is not.  Frequently, Meira would have some kind of strategical revelation, and I would be totally confused, like “Wait, what?  That’s what you got out of this?”  The concepts of the various countries in the world seemed cute at first, but I didn’t find substance under the style.

And the love triangle gets more obnoxious.  I like Mather fine, but we get some of his viewpoint in this book, and I think it’s specifically to up the romantic tension.  Please, no.

In any case, this series just wasn’t for me, and I won’t be continuing with it.

4 Recent YA SciFi/Fantasy Books

After A Dance with Dragons I wanted something lighter to read, so I’ve been catching up with some great YA novels that came out (fairly) recently.  No spoilers here, just brief reviews.  A general guide to ratings:

5/5–I would buy this
4/5–I will re-read this
3/5–I might read this again
2/5–I have no interest in reading this again
1/5–I couldn’t finish this

House of Hades (Rick Riordan) 5/5—  The 4th book in the Heroes of Olympus series featuring the wildly popular Percy Jackson and friends.  This was a great read, though maybe not my favorite book of the series.  Percy and Annabeth’s journey through Tartarus was pretty bleak and uninspiring; it had a lot of descriptions of them being tired and dirty and in pain, but able to carry on because the other is there.  It sounds sweet at first, but gets a little old after the fifth repetition.  However, the character development for Leo, Frank, and in particular Nico is really incredible.  The book does re-introduce a lot of characters from previous books that I didn’t remember all that well.  Just another reason for me to buy the series, so I can read the all again!


Hero (Alethea Kontis) 4/5— The 2nd book about the Woodcutter family, following Enchanted.  I actually liked this slightly better than the first one–less complex and more focused.  It stars Saturday “Works-hard-for-a-living” Woodcutter, with only minor appearances from Monday and Thursday among the sisters; the streamlined cast is much less confusing.  It’s a fun adventure with some gender-bending motifs along the way.  The ending opens up an overarching plot to lead into the next forthcoming book.


Fall of Five (Pittacus Lore) 3/5–The 4th book in the Lorien Legacies series.  After their defeat by Setrákus Ra at the end of The Rise of Nine, the Garde survivors have regrouped in Chicago, and are heartened by contact with their last member, Number Five.  But do the Garde know who they can trust?  They discover they may have allies on the other side, as well as traitors in their midst.  As with the previous books, it’s fairly light on characterization and heavy on action; it switches between 3 narrators, who can be difficult to distinguish.  There are some good plot twists, and although you’ll see some coming, it’s generally a good ride (however I preferred Rise of Nine).  There’s also a whole mass of short stories that go with this series which could be fun to read.


Divergent (Veronica Roth) 3/5–I wanted to read this before the movie comes out later this month.  There are some issues with the premise of this dystopian society, but if you can get past that, the book has some really nice ideas about human nature, the nature of fear, and the intersection of attributes such as honesty, selflessness, and courage.  The prose is average and the characters were not super compelling for me: Tris is a nice narrator, but so unlike me I couldn’t really relate, and Four is definitely not my type.  Where the book really shines is the emotional core; if this book doesn’t make you feel something, I think you might be dead inside.  Bonus: no love triangle!!

Fairy Tale Mashups

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I love a good fairy tale retelling.  This week I read two new(er) releases, both mainly based on Cinderella-style tales, but with many others thrown in for good measure.

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis came out in May, and it is jam-packed with fairytale characters and nursery rhymes, plus some good old-fashioned magic.  Sunday (“bonny and blithe and good and gay”) Woodcutter goes to the ball to meet her prince–only it’s three balls, and she’s already met the prince (as a frog).  Making appearances are elements of the Frog Prince, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, the Red Shoes, Rapunzel, the Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe, the Princess and the Pea, and Rumplestiltskin (Enchanted is supposed to be the first in a trilogy, so I can only imagine how many more we’ll be able to add to this list when it’s done).  On top of this we also have various changelings and fairy godmothers and MANY branches of magic, so that sometimes it feels like TOO MUCH.

Also adding to the confusion are the prince’s year of missing memories and Sunday’s oldest brother Jack who was turned into a dog, but may have turned human again, or may be dead.  I like some ambiguity for dramatic purposes, but the attempts to clarify these threads at the end of the book are not successful.

Overall this was a fun book to read, with good amounts of romance, action and suspense.  Several supporting characters (Sunday’s brother Trix, Rumbold’s friends Erik and Velius) were particularly enjoyable.  Kontis also has some very clever themes worked in, like “words have power” and “third time’s the charm,” that add a nice complexity to the story without bogging it down (mostly).   I enjoyed the development of Sunday and Rumbold’s relationship, but the beginning scenes (with the frog) seemed a bit rushed.  For a book that otherwise got relationships pretty well, three days is too short a time for two people to fall in love.
3.5/5 stars

Bewitching by Alex Flinn returns to our favorite witch Kendra; we get some of her backstory (an interesting combo of the Black Death and Hansel and Gretel), as well as the stories of several other people she’s “helped,” which include nice twists on Cinderella (from the stepsister’s perspective), the Princess and the Pea (in Versailles), and The Little Mermaid (after the Titanic, probably my favorite of the lot).  Flinn manages to keep us guessing despite the derivations–none of the stories has the happy ending we all know and expect.  Sure, the witch gets pushed in the oven, but Kendra never sees her brother again.  And she gets hanged.  Bummer.

I would recommend all Alex Flinn’s books to all who love fairy tales, but this one seems to have a little less substance than some others.  There are some cute references to Beastly, and the magic mirror features prominently (the mermaid is not the same one from Beastly, though).  But as much as I like Kendra, this book kills the mystique around her a little.  And while I liked the idea behind ending of Emma and Lisette’s tale (Cinderella), it seemed a little sudden and overly simplified, not as fulfilling as the rest of the (shorter) tales in the book.  Also, I hated the cover art, as well as the other “new” cover art for all of Alex Flinn’s books.  Seriously, the flowers were better.  Don’t give in to the “girl in pretty dress” trend!!
3.5/5 stars