Book Review: The Fate of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

Title: The Fate of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
ISBN: 9780062290427
Pages: 496
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher

The summary may contain spoilers for the previous novels in the Queen of the Tearling series. However, the review is of the entire series and contains no spoilers for the books.

Summary

It’s finally happened: the dreaded Red Queen has sent her armies to invade the Tearling. Queen Kelsea knows that her people don’t have a chance of defending themselves militarily; that’s why she gave herself up to the Red Queen’s forces, sacrificing herself to save her people. But things don’t go quite as Kelsea expects; she doesn’t expect her rival to be so human, so tormented, and the things she discovers disturb her. Will Kelsea be able to save the Tearling, once and for all, or will she succumb to the power of the Red Queen?

Review

I have a lot of feelings about the Tearling series. That’s not the most professional or objective way to begin a review, for sure, but it’s difficult for me to separate how I feel about the series from what I think about it; they’re intertwined. For example, in my head, I know that this series has serious flaws. It has plot holes, character issues, and storytelling problems, just to start. And yet, I don’t really care. I won’t hesitate to wholeheartedly recommend this series to everyone. My reaction to it is emotional, rather than what’s in my head, and I’m okay with that.

The main reason I love this series so much is because of Kelsea herself. Specifically, she is angry, and for good reason. She’s been deceived and lied to her entire life. She’s expected to save her people without knowing her history, with incomplete information, which is virtually impossible. Indeed, the bulk of this novel focuses on how our pasts influence our present. The evils we face today often have their roots in the actions of those who came before us.

The Fate of the Tearling focuses more on The Red Queen of Mortmesne than I expected, to its credit. It fleshed out the villain that has loomed over the entire trilogy. She becomes more than just an evil and malicious presence. Johansen never lets the reader forget that she has done horrible things in her quest for power, and is irredeemable as a queen, but a person? Who was she before she was the Mort queen, before her thirst for power because insatiable? It’s a very interesting character exploration.

I reread the first two novels in the Tearling trilogy before diving into The Fate of the Tearling, and it was a good decision. This book ties back so much to what came before, especially in The Invasion of the Tearling, and it’s worth refreshing your memory before delving into this novel. I’m not going to say a lot about how Johansen wraps up the series, except to say that while I’m not sure I loved her decisions, I do appreciate how daring, creative, and brave it was. Indeed, that’s a great summation of the entire trilogy—it’s not perfect, but in the end, it was great.

Other books by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling
The Invasion of the Tearling

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Book Review: Alias Hook – Lisa Jensen

alias-hookTitle: Alias Hook
Author: Lisa Jensen
ISBN: 9781250067791
Pages: 368
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher

Summary

Captain Hook is tired of Neverland. He’s tired of losing men to Peter and the Lost Boys. He’s tired of being subject to the whims of a child. More than anything, he longs to leave Neverland, but he knows that won’t happen because Neverland responds to the will of Peter Pan, and Peter wants him to stay. So instead, he wishes for death, something to end the monotony of his everyday existence. That is, until he finds a grown woman, Stella Parish, walking around the woods of Neverland. Peter doesn’t allow adult women into the land of fairy tales—how did she get there? Could she be the key to Hook’s escape, once and for all?

Review

I’ve always been captivated by the Peter Pan story. Not the idea of never growing up or being a child forever, but by the story of Hook. That’s why when I first heard about Alias Hook, a fairy tale for grown-ups starring a character I’ve been fascinated by for a long time, I was instantly intrigued.

It took me a long time to actually sit down and read Alias Hook, but once I did, I found myself completely immersed in the story. Lisa Jensen brings the world of Neverland to life for the reader, and it’s a gorgeous, cruel place. You can see the toll it’s taken on Hook and understand his frustration with his existence. I absolutely loved the characterization of Hook in this novel. He’s such a powerful, resourceful figure, but he’s also petulant. He’s been subject to the whims of a child for so long that he’s forgotten in some ways what it is to be an adult. He’s an incredibly convincing character and a wonderful anti-hero to center the novel on.

This is truly a fairy tale for adults, and I absolutely reveled in reading Alias Hook. From the setting to the character descriptions to the twists and turns of the story, I couldn’t get enough of this novel. I’m not sure I can adequately describe how much I sunk my teeth into this book; I read it in one sitting, desperate to understand what would happen in Neverland and eager to see the ending Hook created for himself. I think that even if you aren’t a fan of the Peter Pan story like I am, if you enjoy antiheroes (or you’re just a fan of Hook on Once Upon a Time, you need to give this incredible, gripping, gorgeous novel a chance. You won’t regret it.

A note about this book: The author chose to stay true to J.M. Barrie’s use of language and use specific terms that are derogatory by today’s standards to refer to Neverland’s indigenous population. I wish she hadn’t made that choice because it pulled me out of the narrative and filled me with distaste. I can anticipate the arguments for making that choice (the time period, the source material), but it doesn’t change the fact it was unnecessary. It would have been just as easy and convincing to omit or change those terms. It’s a flaw in an otherwise incredible book, and one I didn’t wish I had to address.

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Book Review: Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

three-dark-crownsTitle: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
ISBN: 9780062385437
Pages: 416
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Source: Publisher

Summary

As long as anyone can remember, the Queen of Fennbirn has been one of three sisters, triplets born to the reigning queen. To prevent them from bonding to one another, the sisters are separated at a young age and each is trained to be powerful in a certain type of magic…so she can kill her two sisters and claim the throne. The time is coming when the three sisters must battle one another—but only one of them, Mirabella, shows any aptitude for the magic she represents. Her sisters Katharine and Arsinoe must discover ways to protect their own lives and still claim the crown. But only one of the three can survive. Who will it be?

Review

The summary of Three Dark Crowns might sound complicated, and indeed, Kendare Blake has built a complicated fantasy world with its own rules and norms. But that doesn’t mean this book is difficult to read. Blake starts the novel off with a simple story—that of Katharine—and as the novel jumps narration between the sisters, the intricacies of the world are built in the reader’s head. It’s incredibly well done, providing connections to each of the three girls (and making sure the reader is emotionally invested in all of them) while also gradually building the world around them.

Who will you root for in Three Dark Crowns? It’s clear from the beginning that only one—Katharine, Mirabella, or Arsinoe—can survive. More than that, and perhaps worse than that, though, the victor will only survive by becoming a murderer and dispatching her two sisters. This has been instilled in each girl since she was a child, but that doesn’t mean the reader has to find it palatable—I found myself hoping, somehow, that they would find another way out. It’s such a wild premise, yet it works so well for the novel.

I’ve been so impressed with YA fantasy novels lately, and Three Dark Crowns is no exception. It drew me in completely and I raced through the novel in one sitting. This is the first in a series, so if you’re the type who waits until all books are out before diving into series, then keep that in mind. But I thought this novel stood on its own two feet well; it asked a lot of provocative questions, and answered many of them, but still left readers open and eager for the sequel(s). I absolutely will be ready to read the sequel as soon as it’s available!

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Book Review: Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho

sorcerer-to-the-crownTitle: Sorcerer to the Crown
Author: Zen Cho
ISBN: 9780425283370
Pages: 384
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher

Summary

Zacharias Smythe, a former freed slave, has ascended to the highest position in the realm for sorcerers: the Sorcerer Royal. It’s huge for a black man to hold such a position in England, but all is not well: not everyone is happy at what Zacharias has achieved. What’s more, the flow of magic has stopped to the country from Fairyland, and Zacharias must figure out why and how to turn it on again.

Review

I’ve been trying to read more science fiction and fantasy lately. Both are genres I adore in film and TV, but I haven’t really explored either much when it comes to books. That’s been changing quickly, especially as some really great inclusive sci fi and fantasy has been releasing lately, with all kinds of great representation. Such is the case with Zen Cho’s Sorceror to the Crown, set in a Victorian-esque Britain and featuring a black Sorcerer Royal and a young woman who performs magic against her country’s laws.

Let me just say this right now: Sorcerer to the Crown is so incredibly good. It takes a world that is based on our own, but adds magic to it. The same prejudices, the same social constraints, exist as they did 100–200 years ago: racism is firmly in place, and women aren’t allowed to perform magic. The two main characters in this book, Zacharias and Prunella, refuse to be defined by stereotypes and refuse to conform to what society expects of them. It’s fresh and new; these characters are simultaneously very sympathetic and easy to relate to but also incredibly inspiring.

Sorcerer to the Crown takes its sweet time with the story. That’s not to say it’s slow, because I was intrigued the entire time, but you don’t quite know where the novel is going until you’re well into it. Cho takes her time building the world, establishing its fundamentals, before we really know what’s going to happen. This is not a novel that plunges the reader straight into action, nor is it one where you’re thrust into a world you don’t understand, floundering and desperate to glean hints about what’s going on from textual clues. Sometimes that can be fun; more often, it’s quite frustrating, and as a result, I appreciate the care Cho took with her fantasy setting.

I’m not going to go any further into plot with Sorcerer to the Crown because so much of the delight of this novel is not knowing what’s around every corner. Let’s just say that Prunella and Zacharias are both absolutely wonderful characters, and I’m so glad this is the first in a series. Cho left me satisfied with the ending, yet very much wanting to know what comes next for both of these characters. If, like me, you’re looking at picking up more fantasy novels in 2016, this is one you shouldn’t miss.

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Book Review: Nightfall – Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

Title: Nightfall Author: Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski ISBN: 9780399175800 Pages: 368 Release Date: September 22, 2015 Publisher: GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers Genre: Teen/YA, Fantasy Source: Publisher Summary: On the island, Marin has never experienced night. But now the dark is coming, as it does every twenty-eight years, and it will remain dark […]

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Book Review: Invasion of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

Title: Invasion of the Tearling Author: Erika Johansen ISBN: 9780062290397 Pages: 528 Release Date: June 9, 2015 Publisher: Harper Genre: Fantasy Source: Publisher Summary: Despite the events of Queen of the Tearling, the Mort Queen has decided to invade the Tearling, and Kelsea must find a way to protect her people. As she grapples with the […]

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Book Review: Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

Title: Nimona Author: Noelle Stevenson ISBN: 9780062278227 Pages: 272 Release Date: May 12, 2015 Publisher: HarperTeen Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy Source: Publisher Rating: 5 out of 5 Summary: On the surface, Nimona is just a little girl. A little girl who happens to have teamed up with Lord Ballister Blackheart, the most evil supervillain that their […]

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Book Review: The Immortals of Meluha – Amish Tripathi

Title: The Immortals of Meluha Author: Amish Tripathi ISBN: 9781623651435 Pages: 448 Release Date: December 2, 2014 Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books Genre: Historical Fantasy Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: The year is 1900 BC and the idyllic empire of Meluha, located in India, is under siege. The Suryavanshis, the rulers of the land, aren’t sure […]

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