Fierce, and Powerful, and Terrifying: Reviewing A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I am back at it with another book review. I am back in school next week and I am hoping to post some reviews of the novels I’ll be reading in the near future, among my personal TBR stack. Before I begin talking about this novel, I encourage you to go read my previous reviews of this series. It’s time to talk about A Conjuring of Light.

The connections of the four Londons are beginning to fray as the shadow king Osaron seeks to take over all of the worlds. Kell must protect his brother Rhy and his kingdom against this ancient evil. Lila Bard must learn to control her powers before they control her. With the help of disgraced pirate captain Alucard Emery and other unlikely allies, they must race to find a way to save the four Londons and be ready to make any sacrifices necessary.

I am going to be a little honest: this novel was a bit of a letdown. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed 90% of it but there was a lot that left me wanting at the end. There was still a lot to these worlds that Schwab doesn’t dig into and parts that I honestly didn’t care to know about. I still loved how fully fleshed out the characters were. Their interactions felt natural and honest within this magical world. Everything was believable in its own way. Schwab does an excellent job creating perilous situations with very high stakes. I was certainly upset in some parts. While there were still parts of this novel that I didn’t particularly like, I still enjoyed this series overall and thought that the ending was thoughtful and sweet without being cloying. I would definitely recommend this for fans of fantasy that have officially moved out of the YA genre. I really did enjoy this trilogy and wish I could have more.

To Seeking and To Finding: Reviewing The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Hey everybody! I’m here with my first book review of 2020! I already mentioned I had gotten Morgenstern’s sophomore novel over Christmas and I just became so sucked into it. I reviewed her first novel, The Night Circus, already so feel free to go check out that review. Now, I am incredibly excited to bring you this review as I stayed up way too late finishing this novel. Anyways, here’s my thoughts on The Starless Sea.

When he was a child, Zachary Ezra Rawlins saw a door with a bee, a key, and a sword painted on it. The door called to him, to something unknown. Years later, he find a book in his college library. The book contains fantastical stories of pirates, magical cities, mute acolytes, and…his childhood. The book also has the familiar symbols he saw on the door all of those years ago. Shocked, Zachary goes on a mission to find why he is in this book. He ends up at a masquerade party where he meets two enigmatic strangers, a pink-haired and intense painter named Mirabel, and a handsome and adventurous man named Dorian. The two lead Zachary into a mysterious and wondrous world full of books, parties, and magic. But the fate of this underground world hangs in the balance and it is up to Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian to learn the mysteries of the Starless Sea and figure out what they are willing to sacrifice in order to save this refuge.

When I read The Night Circus, I definitely fell in love with Morgenstern’s combination of whimsical, fairy tale-eque writing and solid, adult centric themes. The Starless Sea delivered that and more. I absolutely loved the very structure of this book. The chapters alternate between the main story and fairy tale side stories that all tie together in the end. She mixes descriptive, classic prose and the stylistic writing one would expect in fables. It is initially a little confusing to read but it ties together in such a satisfying way. The mechanics or “magic” of the world is just specific and just vague enough at the same time. Morgenstern sets it up so you don’t find yourself wanting to question the magic of the Starless Sea and the Harbor. The characters, in the main plot and side plot, all feel fleshed out even in their magical worlds. I loved Zachary as a main character. This book came to me at a perfect time as he is a struggling grad student who just wants to find a new world to explore. I feel as though I’ve gushed about this book enough. I’ve discovered my new favorite genre is “novels about novels.” I am also loving “new adult” fantasy. Honestly, I liked this better than The Night Circus, but I would still recommend it. The Starless Sea was a wonderful read with beautiful writing and fantastic characters. I had a very difficult time putting down this book and will definitely be revisiting it in the future. I actually really enjoyed how the romances in this novel were handled, as someone who does not typically like romance. I loved the world-building and unique narrative structure of the novel. It is all so involved in the best way. Also, bonus points for including LGBTQ+ characters. I am so glad this is my first official book review of 2020 and I cannot recommend this one enough.

Whatever I am, Let it be enough: Reviewing A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I’m coming at you with (probably) my last book review of the year. I’m planning on doing my annual favorites list after Christmas. I have a stack of books that has grown considerably over the past couple of months. At the university I go to, we have a table where people can put books they want to give away. Obviously, I checked it every day and will continue to do so. All the while, I am hooked on V.E. Schwab’s series, Shades of Magic. Now, let’s talk about the second book, A Gathering of Shadows.

It’s been four months since Kell, Delilah Bard, and Rhy faced off against the Danes in White London. Since then, Delilah had run off with the handsome sea captain, Alucard Emery. Now, Kell and Rhy prepare for the Essen Tasch, a magical tournament created to unite the kingdoms. All the while, something dark stirs in White London and can only return to life by destroying another London.

I absolutely adored the first book in this series and this second one was still enjoyable. The pacing was a little slow in the beginning, as it went back and forth between Delilah and Kell. There was some great world building, along with plenty of action when it was needed. Schwab does an excellent job fleshing out the other cultures without just making them “others.” The plot is still very grounded in Kell’s story, which is endlessly enjoyable. Like I said, the novel was slow for a bit but once it got going, I couldn’t put it down. I am incredibly excited to keep reading this series. I still recommend Shades of Magic if you want a “new adult” series that keeps the balance between entertaining magic and an intriguing storyline.

To Travel, To Dispel, To Heal: Reviewing A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I’m coming back at you with another book review sooner than I anticipated. In truth, it is because I had a really hard time putting this book down. I have reviewed two other novels by Schwab, so feel free to check out those. Now, we are starting a new series and I’m going to tell you all about A Darker Shade of Magic.

Four Londons exist along side each other and only few can travel between them. Kell is an Antari, one of the few who possess the magic needed to travel between these Londons. Officially, he works as a royal ambassador between the kingdoms. On the side, he smuggles magical artifacts across the worlds. When an item from Black London, the fallen London, comes into his possession, he finds himself in much more trouble than he anticipated. While trying to hide this item, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a professional thief and pirate, who forces him to take her to his London. The two must return the artifact to Black London and keep it out of the hands of those who mean to use it to destroy the boundaries between the Londons.

It has been a minute since I have gotten so invested in a novel from the very first chapter. Schwab excels at world building and this novel is no exception. The action and pacing are steady and suspenseful. The characters are charmingly imperfect. The magic rules in the world are well thought out. This book certainly is violent but not in a gratuitous way. It has the kind of exciting magical duels I’ve only really seen in the likes of Harry Potter. This novel is for the more mature fantasy seeker who is ready to move beyond the magic of YA novels. I highly (highly!) recommend this novel if you are looking for an awesome fantasy and adventure novel with a nice dose of magic. A Darker Shade of Magic delivered on all fronts for me.

At Night, We Shine: Reviewing Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Hi everyone! I’m glad to be back and to have finally finished another book. Along with all of my important adult jobs, I’ve also been busy in the world of ebooks. I have finally caved and started using my Kindle. I’ve been one of “those” stubborn people who have adamantly refused to use any sort of electronic book, but I have a hard time saying no to cheap books. Let’s get on to reviewing yet another book by one of my all time favorite authors.

Tristran Thorn is a young man who will do anything for the love of his life, Victoria Forester. When they see a star fall to Earth, he promises her to retrieve the star in exchange for her love. Tristran then embarks on a perilous journey through lands far beyond the Wall. He must race against unknown dangers to save the star and learn that his world was not what he once thought it was.

I can best describe this novel as a fairy tale for adults. Gaiman combines the classic language and structure of a childhood fairy tale and his signature fantastical writing. It is a more upbeat story with a nice, romantic ending. The story definitely reminds me quite a lot of The Princess Bride, with its quirky characters and how it embraces many fairy tale tropes. The story is nicely paced, as well as straightforward. It has some “adult” moments, but nothing extreme or overly graphic. The novel is a fun mix of romance, magic, and adventure. I would definitely recommend it if you are feeling nostalgic. I am biased when I say this but, I love Gaiman’s Stardust.

On another note, if any of you think that this novel sounds familiar, it is because a movie of the same name based on the novel came out a while ago. I saw it in the theaters as a kid and loved it then. It’s available on Netflix, if you are interested. It’s not a great movie, but it is a fun movie. It has a great cast that includes: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer. I hope some of you remember this because I’ll be disappointed if no one else remembers this movie.

To Be, Rather than to Seem: Reviewing The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Hi everyone! This review took a while because I’m easily distracted. I had actually read this book a while back, but had since forgotten the details of the novel. In fact, most of the books I review for this blog are books that I have read previously, but I wanted to share them with you all. With that being said, here is my review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

The circus arrives without warning. It is a magical experience for all those who enter through its gates. They call it Le Cirque des Reves and it appears at random and opens only at night. Little do the guests know of the fierce competition behind the scenes. Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair have been training their whole lives for a mysterious game of magic with only one winner. When the two young illusionists fall in love with each other, it leads to dangerous consequences that leave the circus and its performers in peril.

Morgentern’s novel is an elaborate and magical read. The writing is layered and atmospheric. It is certainly an immersive read as it alternates between perspectives, even sometimes shifting the writing style a little to accommodate the characters in the scene. The story can be a bit vague at times, but it is part of the experience. It does pay off at the end of the novel. I particularly enjoyed how the rich details and symbolism tie into the themes of the story, such as the elaborate clocks or the various circus tents that Morgenstern puts great care into describing. The novel has an overall romantic feel, and I don’t just mean that in the sense of there is a love story. I remembered why I enjoyed this novel in the first place. If you want something with magic, romance, and danger, then I would go ahead and recommend picking up The Night Circus.

I saw Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and I have some thoughts

Hi everyone! Originally, I was going to make this post about my favorites of 2018 but I ended up seeing the newest movie in the Fantastic Beasts franchise tonight. In my previous post about having “too much story,” I admitted that I was hesitant about this movie and if it was messing with the original lore too much. You all know that I am a die hard Harry Potter fan, who also enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts movie. Let me tell you what I thought. Spoilers Ahead!

I wanted to start by talking about the thing I liked about this movie. First, I loved seeing Newt again. I really enjoy his atypical characteristics. Eddie Redmayne is charming as anything and it comes through again. In addition to Newt, I also enjoyed seeing him and Jacob back together for adventures. I can’t go any further without mentioning how I loved seeing Newt and Tina together. (I really ship it.) As for the story, I did enjoy seeing the lore of Grindelwald come to life as that was a very important part of what led to Voldemort’s rise to power. Along with that, seeing Dumbledore before in his teacher days was one of the best parts of the movies. There was some really good world building and great character development. I can’t completely say the movie didn’t have some great elements. 

Let’s get to what I didn’t like. First, I’m still not happy about Johnny Depp being casted. He did a fine job in the movie but they should have replaced him with someone less controversial. I shouldn’t feel guilty supporting this movie. There was definitely some muddling of the lore that seemed to appear out of nowhere and with no preface. With the reveal of Credence possibly being a Dumbledore and not a Lestrange, I found myself a bit baffled. I know it’s mostly for sequel bait but it’s still a weird reveal. Along with the whole familial confusion, there was also infanticide! I was not expecting to see babies being murdered and I was disturbed as any other person should be. My biggest gripe, beyond all of that, is that there were not enough beasts in the movie. I wanted to know if Newt had made any progress in helping people learn to understand magical beasts but that was completely thrown away for the Grindelwald plot. The actual beasts are what drove the first movie and I really enjoyed seeing all of that. The charm of the first movie just got lost in this one. Only Newt, Tina, and Jacob were the driving forces of what made the first movie so enjoyable. 

In conclusion, I don’t think this movie gave “too much” story. Instead, I thought it told the wrong story. It wasn’t a badly written story by any means. It was just too much of a turn from what the first movie delivered. The plot twists felt as though they were mostly there for shock and sequel bait as opposed to story building. Now, I am aware that this is JK Rowling’s world and she can do whatever she wants with it. There, however, has to be some consistency. I understand we can’t know everything about the Wizarding World. I am just saying, though, that the world building felt lost in the epic-ness of the movie. I’m not hating on this movie by any means. I would definitely watch it again. I’m just intrigued as to where the story is going to go from here. 

Where the World Ends is Where You Must Begin: Reviewing The Gunslinger (Book One of The Dark Tower Series) by Stephen King

Hi everyone! It’s time for me to stop padding this blog with random posts and start giving you some actual book reviews. I was grateful to receive the entire Dark Tower series from my aunt not too long ago. I have mentioned in the past that it has been awhile since I have read a series. I’m also a Stephen King fan so this was all very serendipitous. Now, here are my thoughts on The Gunslinger. 

The mysterious man called the Gunslinger is on the hunt for the equally enigmatic Man in Black. As he travels across the desert, the Gunslinger must survive many magical obstacles in his path as well as protect Jake, a kid from Earth in order to reach his arch nemesis. King’s mix of epic fantasy and classical Western tales provides a surreal backdrop for the thrilling and dark tale of the Gunslinger and his quest.

As you have probably seen, I have reviewed King’s horror novels in the past but I have not read one of his non-horror novels yet. The Gunslinger had a surreal and gritty atmosphere that brings together all of the classic elements of a Western story with the kind of fantasy I’ve read in Lord of the Rings. The story is certainly not structured in any traditional way. It took me a bit to realize that as the story simply flows together and isn’t broken up by so many chapters. The Gunslinger is actually a quick read but the story makes you pay attention to detail as King certainly follows the “show don’t tell” rule of story telling. I finished this book feeling intrigued. King does inject his usual gory form of story telling into this novel, so you have been warned if you are sensitive to violence. At times, the writing did carry a certain sexual overtone that made me a little uncomfortable. It wasn’t enough to deter me but, again, you may not enjoy this if you are sensitive to this kind of content. In the end, I found myself very intrigued by The Gunslinger. I love the mashup of two very different genres and will definitely be reading the rest of the series. I’ll go ahead and recommend this novel to fans of fantasy novels. The Gunslinger is an epic exercise in pushing the limits of action and fantasy.

Note: I know the movie adaptation came out a year ago or so. I haven’t seen it but let me know if you think it is worth watching. I would like to know.

We Fought. We Persevered. We Rose.: Reviewing Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Hello everyone! It’s been way too long since I’ve posted anything. I wanted to wait to completely finish this novel before talking about it but, I’m just going to go ahead and tell you my thoughts about it. I’ve had to put this book on hold more than once due to graduation and now work. Anyways, I am incredibly excited to tell you all about Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Zelie Adebola was just a child when the king targeted the maji and wiped out all of the magic in Orisha. Zelie lost her mother and was forced to hide her powers from the world. Now, years later, Zelie has the chance to bring back magic with the help of the rebellious Princess Amari. With her brother and Amari at her side, Zelie must race against the bloodthirsty king and ruthless prince in order to bring back magic to Orisha.

There has been a lot of hype about this novel and it has even been promoted by Jimmy Fallon. I am pleased to say that Adeyemi’s debut book lives up to the hype. It has a wonderful balance of world building and character building. It has a very Game of Thrones vibe as the narrative is a similar style with the chapters alternating the characters’ points of view. It also carries the same adventurous spirit as Harry Potter. This book is a journey in every sense and it is a great YA novel as it deviates from so many of the tropes in YA fantasy/adventure novels. Fans of mythology will also enjoy this as it is based in African folklore and mythology. I haven’t read many (if any) fantasy novels that weren’t told from a Western perspective so this novel is particularly unique in that sense. I highly recommend Children of Blood and Bone to anyone looking to an exciting YA novel that you don’t want to put down.

Note: I know that Adeyemi had released that title for the next novel in this series and that she is in talks for a movie adaptation.

Be Strong, Saith My Heart: Reviewing Circe by Madeline Miller

Hello everyone! I am beyond excited to talk to you about Madeline Miller’s sophomore novel. I have reviewed her debut novel, The Song of Achilles. You can check that out on my blog. Anyways, I do absolutely love mythology, in particular Greek mythology. I also enjoy these particular stories that are classic tales retold with a new angle. Novels likes Wicked have shown how popular this trope is and how it is really great when done well. I shall continue on and tell you all about Circe by Madeline Miller. (Quick note: Circe is pronounced as Sir-See.)

During the fall of the Titans, Circe was born to Helios, a god of the sun and a powerful force. From her birth, Circe realized she was different that the other immortals and turns to mortals for comfort. Circe then discovers her true talent: witchcraft. She is banished by Zeus and Helios to a remote island for eternity. There she hones her powers and crosses paths with many icons of mythology, with the most notable being the cunning Odysseus. Circe, however, soon finds herself in danger after angering the gods and Titans alike. Circe must prove her true powers or else lose everything that she loves in this thrilling and vivid story.

I was absolutely hooked on this book from the first page. Circe herself is a relatively lesser known figure in Greek mythology who is only really known for having an affair with Odysseus. Miller, however, saw this character and turned her into a force to be reckoned with. The first thing I wanted to talk about was the mythology backdrop and the godly characters. They felt equally as human as they did divine. The competition between the Olympians and the Titans felt very much like Game of Thrones, which I enjoyed. With that being said, the novel did present a certain harsh reality within the mythical world. Circe herself embodied what it meant to be a survivor, in my opinion. Despite her familial history, she still goes through many struggles with little to no help. The novel certainly carries a feminist message throughout, which I found very empowering. Her voice, thoughts, and feelings are all very strong and honest. Miller certainly proves that even gods struggle but that there is hope through survival and perseverance. You probably know I’m going to highly recommend this novel to you. Circe was an exciting and emotional reading experience that is impossible to put down.

Note: I got the title of this review from The Odyssey. I do actually really enjoy that epic.