Category Archives: Romance

Tuesday Review Day: Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

So I FINALLY got around to reading Silver Shadows, book 5 in Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series (you can see my review for books 1-4 here) and am feeling very conflicted. I loved the Vampire Academy series and have really enjoyed this one up until this point, as well, but I’m starting to feel as though Richelle Mead is grasping at straws with some of the twists she adds in.

This one gets a bit spoilery!

Silver Shadows
Series: Bloodlines
Author: Richelle Mead
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Pages: 416
Rating:3.5 stars

Book 4, The Fiery Heart, left off with Sydney Sage being sold out by her sister and carted off to an Alchemist re-education center to have who-knows-what done to her in the hopes of re-brainwashing her into towing the Alchemist line. Silver Shadows picks up not long after she gets taken into the initial stage of re-education, in which prisoners are denied anything relating to comfort – they’re kept in the dark, food is bland, there is no bed, there is only a sink with cold water for bathing, etc.

Once Sydney earns her way out of this area she is deposited onto a floor with others who are being re-educated/brainwashed. Re-education turns out to be everything Sydney feared it was and more. The brainwashing is not only psychological and physical but also chemical. Nausea is induced as images of moroi flash across a screen, burns are inflicted to force confessions, and “re-inkings” occur when a prisoner gets especially out of hand. But Sydney’s main goal is to escape and find her way back to her boyfriend Adrian.

Unfortuantely Adrian has slipped back into his party boy ways. Once he realizes he is unable to reach Sydney via spirit dreams (in which he visits her in her dreams), he lets spirit drag him down into a deep depression. He drinks his sorrows away and spends all of his time partying. Only once he is finally able to reach her does he realize just how far he has fallen and how much he risked in ignoring his need for help. But it also gives  him the kick in the butt that he needs in order to get back on track to finding her. Once he does, their escape begins to take on a very Rose and Dimitri feel and leads to a major plot twist and a huge (albeit somewhat predictable) cliffhanger ending.

Minor spoilers ahead!

What I Liked:

1. Richelle Mead is really good at using alternating voices between chapters. Sydney is very precise and methodical, Adrian is very whiney, dreamy, and broody. Normally I’m not crazy about alternating perspectives but she makes it work.

2. Maybe this should’ve been obvious when I read the VA series, but they finally clarified exactly why a moroi royal needs one living family member in order to qualify as a candidate for king or queen. It’s because if that person dies, there needs to be a family member to succeed them. I feel like this should’ve had “duh” written all over it, but it was never explained that the monarchy was at one time hereditary, not the product of a council vote.

3. Sydney wasn’t spared “just in time.” She went through months of torture before being rescued. It may sound weird to have this on the “what I liked” section, but I think it was necessary for a few reasons. First, it caused doubt. It left the question as to how Sydney would handle it wide open. Yes, we’d all like to assume a happy ending. But there’s still another book coming, so things could’ve easily gone much differently. Second, it shows Sydney’s strength of character both before and after her ordeal. Third, it emphacized just how detrimental Adrian’s spirit use and alcohol abuse is to those around him. And lastly, it finally showed just how bad the “Reeducation” we’ve been hearing about all along really is.

What I Didn’t Like (Spoilers ahead!):

1. As I mentioned in my review of books 1-4, things always fall into place too neatly. Without getting too spoilery, Sydney just happens to stumble across the right prisoners to help in her plans, she almost never runs into any hitches with her crazy plans, and for a super-secret compound that supposedly doesn’t exist, it’s awfully easy to break into and out of.

2. Fleeing to the nearest town after a daring escape probably isn’t the best idea.

3. The big twist. This knocked off at least one star from my review. I won’t give it away, but it’s definitely Adrian’s most insane idea to date and I don’t really think it works with the story. Paranormal aspects aside, logically it just doesn’t make sense and makes Adrian look like an idiot once again because he’s caused significantly larger problems for the moroi than there were before.

While this one wasn’t my favorite by far, the entire series as a whole is still really good. But while I’m hoping the final book is better than this one and is able to take the big twist and spin it so it works better, I’m  unfortunately not optimistic.

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Tuesday Review Day: The Bloodlines series 1-4 by Richelle Mead

I’m currently in the process of re-reading the first 4 books of Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series (Bloodlines, The Golden Lily, The Indigo Spell, and The Fiery Heart), the Vampire Academy spinoff featuring several key characters from that series. The 5th book in the series, Silver Shadows, was released this summer and I’ve been itching to read it. But, like other book series in which I read each one as it’s published, I forgot most of what I read in the previous book once the newest one came out. So I decided to do a reread so I could give a review on the first 4 books before doing a review on Silver Shadows.

bloodlines 1-4

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one member of a large and very powerful group of humans tasked with keeping the human race ignorant to the existence of moroi, the living and peaceful vampires, strigoi, the dead vampires who almost always kill their victims, and dhampirs, the moroi and human hybrids who live to serve and protect the moroi from strigoi.

After a long stint with the infamous Rose Hathaway in the last few books of the VA series, Sydney gains a somewhat unfavorable reputation due to her seeming ability and willingness to sympathize with moroi and dhampirs. However, due to her ability to tolerate living in such close proximity to these “evil creatures of the night,” she lands a post in Palm Springs helping to protect Jill Mostrano, the only living relative of the moroi queen. Together with Jill, dhampir Eddie Castile, and moroi playboy Adrian Ivashkov, they move to Palm Springs to pose as the Melbourne family, and, with the exception of Adrian, enroll at Amberwood Academy to pose as students.

Throughout the first four books Sydney goes through several dramatic transformations. She must battle her deeply engrained beliefs that moroi and dhampirs are disgusting creatures that violate nature and her ideas that all magic – human or vampire – is bad. She discovers that the Alchemists did very little to actually prepare her to survive in a world that is centered around social interactions and interpersonal relations. And most importantly, she is forced to learn that the group she has so long revered as the light battling the dark may have its own forms of darkness and that their beliefs may not necessarily be the right ones for her.

What I Like So Far:

1. I rooted for Adrian big time in the Vampire Academy series, so I was excited to be able to get more of his story. The same goes for Sydney and Jill – they clearly played very important roles in the VA series and I felt they deserved extended storylines.

2. It’s really fast paced. These were the kind of books that kept me up all night because I couldn’t find a good stopping point.

3. This is a true spinoff. The stories of multiple characters from the VA series were continued thoroughly in Bloodlines. It wasn’t just Sydney’s story; it was Eddie’s, Jill’s, Adrian’s, Angeline’s, and there was good tie in with the original cast of characters with several trips back to court for weddings and work studying spirit.

My major gripes with the series thus far:

1. Everything that happens is way too convenient. It just so happens that there is a restored strigoi near Palm Springs, her teacher is a witch who knows all about Sydney’s world, her classmate is a vampire hunter, and many of the Amberwood students get magic tattoos that for some reason are considered perfectly normal and are supplied by a rogue Alchemist she has close ties to.

2. This series was really hard to binge-read like many others, which may or may not be a problem for some. Each book is a continuation of the previous one, and the theme of Sydney coming into her own continues throughout the series, but whatever major obstacle they face in one book is done and over with by the end and doesn’t carry over. The bad guy gets caught, there is some mention in the next book, and that’s that. The only one that I’ve been super bummed to see end was Fiery Heart because there was such a cliffhanger at the end.

If you were a fan of the Vampire Academy series, you need to read the Bloodlines series. The final book, The Ruby Circle, will be out in February, so if you’re like me and want to read all the books back to back it might be worth waiting for. In the meantime, brush up on the background story to this series and check out Vampire Academy, which focuses on the exploits of dhampir Rose Hathaway and her best friend Vasilisa Dragomir. That’s another fast-paced series, but each book fades nicely into the next so it’s easier to read back-to-back if that’s what you’re into.

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Tuesday Review Day: Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn

Susan Kaye Quinn’s Open Minds is another one that was on my 2014 Goals list that I’ve finally been able to cross off. I actually bought it quite some time ago because it was free for Kindle, but it, along with all of the other books I grab just because they’re free, sat in my Kindle library gathering theoretical dust. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading it, but I’m thrilled I did because it was a really great book.

Open Minds

Series: Mindjack
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Pages: 326
Rating: 4 stars

In 16 year-old Kira’s world, not being able to read minds makes you a freak. She has been waiting for her mind-reading powers to kick in so she can finally be a functioning part of society, but being 16 with no powers pretty much means they aren’t going to appear – she’s destined to be a “zero” forever. However, she soon discovers that while she doesn’t have the power to read minds, she does have the power to control, or “jack” them. With her fellow jacker Simon, she enters into a new world full of things she could have only dreamed of had she gotten the same powers as everyone else. But while at first her jacking abilities seem awesome, it quickly becomes apparent that there are those out there who would like to use the jackers for purposes much more sinister than just trying to fit in. Finding a fellow jacker to show her the ropes seems like a great idea at first, but that friendship ultimately lands her in places she thought could only exist in science fiction, places she must fight her way out of in order to keep her life and the lives of her loved ones in tact.

What I Liked:

1. That the mind-reading aspect was done well.  It was creepy, no doubt about that, but Ms. Quinn did a great job of making it seem like a perfectly normal aspect of every day life.

2.  Romance isn’t a big thing in this one, although it was still a functional part of the plot. Kira’s relationship with Simon was certainly flawed, but it gave her the opportunity to discover more about herself than she would have otherwise.

3. The reason she was different was very basic, no supernatural force necessary. Genetics were the driving force behind her differences, not some magic potion or monster bite.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The physical descriptions of characters was somewhat lacking. We knew about hair color for a few, and some characters had some defining traits, like Raf’s Latino hotness, but for the most part there wasn’t really much to go on, nothing to really fuel the imagination and draw up pictures of the characters.

2. Minor thing: it was way too easy to get away with the whole Kestril confrontation. He knew exactly how powerful Kira was and how much control she could exert, so you’d think he’d be more on his guard.

3. The words the author created for the story – “demens,” “mesh,” “scrit,” etc. – were an ok touch but also kind of annoying. She described everything else about the world, so the language could have been explained, too.

I recommend this book to anyone who is into a more sci-fi young adult theme than paranormal. It doesn’t focus on a person who has super powers because they’ve been cursed/bitten/whathaveyou.  Kira, like everyone else in her world, was born with her powers. They just happen to be a bit different than the norm. It made for a really entertaining and quick read, so if you’re looking for something you can get through in a few days, this is a great option. It’s still free for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and on Google Play, so if you’re curious it’s a great time to grab it.

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Tuesday Review Day: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was one  I really wanted to knock off my 2014 Goals list (which I really need to get cracking on), so when it lowered quite a bit in price (only $1.99), I snagged it. The concept of it was a bit unclear based on the description, but it sounded interesting enough to try it out.

Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Pages: 466
Rating: 4 stars

Mara Dyer is a 17 year old girl who wakes up in a hospital to discover she is the only survivor of a building collapse that took the lives of her two closest friends and boyfriend. She has no memory of the events leading up to the collapse, including how she came to be there. She experiences severe PTSD after her release from the hospital due to her feelings of survivor’s guilt, prompting her and her family to pack up and move to Florida for a fresh start. Once there, she begins to see that she has what appear to be some very disturbing abilities. After she meets Noah, the popular British classmate with a reputation for breaking hearts, she realizes that he may be the only one who can help her understand her new powers. With him, she sets out to discover what she can do, and whether she can use those powers for good or if they have a more sinister purpose.

What I Liked:

1. The different twist on paranormal was done really well. There was no way (for me) to really guess what was fueling Mara’s powers and how Noah was connected to them, and once more came to light it indicated a really great story would be continued in the next two books.

2. The love between Noah and Mara wasn’t immediate. It took a little while for them to actually get together, although he pushed it from the start. Mara, while definitely attracted to Noah, held him off because of his reputation and her past, which at least indicated some level of common sense on her part. She didn’t automatically assume he was “different” with her.

3. The minor things. I liked that the books Mara was into weren’t the old-school classics, like in so many other books. She’s caught reading Lolita, which, while not exactly a new release, it’s also not centuries old. Also, Hodkin pulls off the sibling aspect well. Usually protagonists are only children, or have siblings that are relatively absent. Daniel and Joseph were very present in the book and were integral to the story, giving Mara a home life that consisted more than absent or clueless parents. The sporadic references to Harry Potter and LOTR were also a plus.

4. The language was pretty typical for teenagers. Sexual innuendoes, raunchy jokes, etc. were included in the dialogue, which made the characters a bit more believable. I know not all teenagers have potty-mouths, and foul language does not a good book make, but when you walk down the hall in a high school, you’ll hear plenty of things that could hardly be considered intellectual conversation.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The typical YA romance formula was followed. Mara shows up on her first day of school dressed like a bum, gets into it with the prettiest girl in school, becomes BFFs with a friendly nice guy, embarrassed herself, and makes googly eyes with the hottest guy in school. Who also happens to be British. Not to mention the “warm current” she feels when their hands brush. Come on now.

2. Ok, Mom, super smart lady that you are. Your daughter has been prescribed antipsychotics and you feel the best time for her to take her first pill is as she’s walking out the door for a date? With a boy you just met? I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s probably not the best idea.

3. The whole missing-brother thing was really random. I’m still not entirely sure of the purpose of it. I thought it would be the climax to the book, and even that would’ve been odd because there was still so much unknown about Mara. I get that the author was trying to reveal something about Mara and Noah (kind of), but there wasn’t really enough foreshadowing to indicate that something big would be revealed.

4. Once Mara discovered what her powers allowed her to do, she didn’t really attempt to control them. She knew that she could if she really wanted to, but she let her emotions get in the way of learning to use or control them to keep herself from falling apart. That cast her in a pretty negative light in my eyes.

All in all this was an enjoyable book. The surprising cliffhanger at the end has me really itching to read the second book, so I’ll likely have that one up for review soon, too.

Now, on to check a few more books off of my goals list!

 

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Tuesday Review Day: Crossed by Ally Condie

When I reviewed Ally Condie’s Matched a while back, I mentioned that it had taken me a few tries to get through it. Once I got past the first few chapters I really enjoyed it and was excited to read the sequel, Crossed.

In Matched, Society citizen Cassia and aberration Ky fall in love and hope to defy the laws of their world be together. That plan is foiled when the Society officials send Ky to fight in the outer provinces, leaving Cassia heartbroken but determined to find him. With the help of  her official Match, Xander, she is able to sneak away from the Society to search for him. Crossed picks up not too long after Cassia sets out on her search for Ky in the outer provinces of her world, which seemed to be a promising and hopefully exciting storyline. Unfortunately,  it sadly fell completely flat.

crossed

 

Author: Ally Condie
Series: Matched
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Pages: 367
Rating: 2.5 stars

(Minor spoilers)

What I Liked:

1. Although my major complaint is that not much of any significance happened, the things that did were pretty interesting. Discovering the truth about the blue tablets, Xander’s secret, and the extent to which the Society will go to collect data made for really great plot points.

2. Cassia seems to be going through a very gradual change from Citizen to rebel. In a lot of books, one event sparks an almost immediate change in the protagonist, but that’s not the case with Cassia. She still has a lot of growing and evolving to do, which isn’t something that is spread out evenly over several books.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The walking. OMG, the WALKING. I felt like I was reading about Sam and Frodo on their quest for Mordor.

2. Cassia destroys everything that could be important. She keeps illegal artifacts hidden, but papers giving her background information for the thing she’s looking for get destroyed. Her grandfather’s poems, destroyed. Things that could easily be stuffed in the bottom of her sock, destroyed.

3. Nothing of significance, aside from escaping the aberration camps, happened until they all met up with each other halfway through the book. Then Ky and Indie discovered their similarities, they met Hunter, found the Society’s stash, and finally found the Rising.

4. And as for the writing itself. The author chose to use alternating perspectives for the chapters, so they were split between Ky and Cassia, but there was no real difference in their voices.

5. There’s no major obstacle, aside from their trek through the Carving. They encounter interesting things during their travels, but not much really happens.

Unfortunately, upon finishing Crossed I realized that the false starts I experienced with Matched might actually be indicative of the rest of the series. When I finished Matched I was excited and anxious to continue the series, but Crossed just left me feeling as though I’d wasted time reading an entire book when the story could’ve been told in a few chapters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday Review Day: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

So this is my first Tuesday Review Day after a brief hiatus to finish up my English degree (Woohoo!!). Now that it’s all over and done with, I’m excited to get back to posting more regularly. For this week’s review I’ve chosen Julie Kagawa’s The Iron KingNormally I don’t go for fairies, but I figured, what the heck, and dove in.

Iron King

Author: Julie Kagawa
Series: The Iron Fey
Publication Date: February 1, 2010
Pages: 363
Rating: 3.5 stars

I’ve never been a fan of the whole fairy/faery thing. I read Carrie Jones’ Need a few years ago and just couldn’t get Past book 1. Now, after reading The Iron King, my opinion has changed slightly. I almost want to say I loved it, but then I think of the things about it that kind of made me cringe and that “love” drops down to a “really liked.”

After 16 years of being a loser, “swamp girl” Meghan Chase’s world is turned upside down when she discovers that  her life-long friend Robbie is none other than Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and that she is the half-faery daughter of King Oberon. After her little brother Ethan is kidnapped by evil fey and replaced with a changeling, she is forced to enter into the world known as Faeryland, or the Nevernever, to rescue him. There she discovers a world broken into kingdoms of Winter Fey and Summer Fey, led by Titania and Oberon respectively, and a land called the Iron Kingdom, which is unknown and therefore unimportant to the Winter and Summer fey. Because of this, Meghan’s mission to save her little brother turns into a much more dangerous mission than she expected, forcing her to face and attempt to defeat a very powerful king all on her own.

What I Liked:

1. The imagery was great. All of the descriptions of characters were very clear. I especially loved the way the Iron King was depicted – Bluetooth earpiece, robotic yet not. Also, the pictures painted of the different lands in the Nevernever were very detailed, and you could tell that the land of the Iron King had a lot of thought and imagination put into it. Although she probably could’ve avoided phrases like “the color of drowned infants” when describing her little brother’s changeling.

2. Her wording and use of literary devices was interesting. “As subtle as a thunderstorm” was one metaphor I liked, and icicles commiting suicide was another good one. Puck sometimes pulled off great quips, such as “Shall we have tea first? Brew up a nice pot of kiss-my-ass?” I also found “mountains of forgotten technology” a great visual for the piles of antiquated technology Meghan found in the land of the Iron King.

3. At first I thought it was crazy that Meghan would even consider staying with the Iron King and becoming his wife. Insane. But as I thought about it a bit more, I found it very interesting. Meghan was a victim of bullying in her school. She was poor, not very pretty, and lived in the bad part of town. As she hashed things out in her mind, it made sense that she would consider one awful fate instead of another if it meant she’d actually mean something.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The whole Midsummer Night’s Dream theme wasn’t used enough. A few of the same characters were used, and the strife between Oberon and Titania was definitely there, but it ended at that. It’s possible that the love triangle between Ash, Puck, and Meghan could be a nod to the triangle/square in the play, but it’s tough to tell. For all we know, Ms. Kagawa could’ve written a Master’s thesis on Shakespeare’s famous comedy, but that didn’t show through in this story. Because there was such little reference to the play, it almost seemed pointless to be referencing at all.

2. A lot of the book seemed unoriginal. References to Shakespeare aside, certain names – Nevernever, Faeryland, etc., just seemed like placeholders for something better than just never came to mind. Also, many aspects of the story were much like those in previously written works (think Narnia, The Labyrinth, The Hobbit, and Alice in Wonderland), making it come off less as an original adaptation and more of a cut and paste job. I do not think she stole other writers’ ideas, I just think ideas she had came off as unoriginal.

3. The foreshadowing wasn’t really foreshadowing, it was basically telling you, very loudly, that “THIS IS IMPORTANT! YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION!” Robbie/Puck’s incessant use of the nickname “Princess” for Meghan and her ridiculous obsession with her backpack and busted iPod were fine at first, but they got past the point of simple foreshadowing when they were repeated constantly.

My overall impression of this book was that it has a lot of potential. It ended with a great cliffhanger, so I’ll certainly be reading the second book in the series, The Iron Daughter, just to see where it goes from here. I only hope that some of the slight sloppiness of the first book in this series gets cleaned up a bit now that the story has picked up speed. It gets 3. 5 stars because there was a lot about it that I thought was great, but also quite a bit that made me facepalm a bit.

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Tuesday Review Day: Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins

More recently, I’ve been reading books that stray a bit from what normally appeals to me. Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian (review here) is one example. Another one is Wendy Higgins’  Sweet Reckoning. A good friend had been recommending Sweet Trilogy for about 2 years, but the concept of it never really grabbed me. After awhile I decided to give it a look, and was definitely not disappointed. I was disappointed, however, that after reading the first two books I had to wait several months before reading the finale. So I waited patiently, and finally on April 29, the conclusion to the Sweet trilogy, Sweet Reckoning, was released.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Author: Wendy Higgins
Series: Sweet Trilogy
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Pages: 379
Rating: 4 stars

You can read my review for book 1, Sweet Evil, on Goodreads.

In the first two books of the series, Anna Whitt discovers that she is the daughter of Belial, Duke of Substance Abuse. She is the hybrid daughter of his marriage to an angel, making her a very unique member of the Nephilim race (a race of demon-human hybrids). Her angelic side makes her want to do good by the Nephilim race and her mother’s memory, so she bands together with several other Nephilim to start a revolution against their fathers, the Dukes. In book 2, she is given the Sword of Righteousness to be used as a weapon in the fight between the Nephilim and the Dukes.

In book 3, that fight comes to a head. After losing one of their own in Sweet Peril, the Nephilim must regroup and figure out how to move forward. Their battle with the Dukes is nearing, and while Anna awaits word from her father about when to make her next move, she also ends up on the run from Kaiden’s father, the Duke of Lust, who continues to question her virtue, supposedly taken by Kaiden earlier on. Anna and Kaidan must now come to terms with the after-effects of their decision to become monogamous and decide what to do with their future as it stands in the Neph revolution. Major life decisions stem from this choice, and not just those involving whether or not they should sleep together. Anna and her friends experience significant loss in this final installment, but grows more than she could’ve imagined.

What I Liked:

1. Anna’s ability to take on some crazy situations flawlessly really shows in this one. She’s smart, matter-of-fact, and self-sacrificing in a good way, all while doing her best to maintain some bit of normalcy in her life.

2. There was no real sugar-coating. The author was not afraid to take the whole Sin aspect to disturbing levels, which helped keep the series from turning into something that’s been used up and is boring.

3. It was unpredictable, more than the first two. There were times that I thought Ms. Higgins was seriously going to go “there” with a few of the plot lines, like when Kaiden and Anna are forced to put on a show for one of the whisperers. Also, there were plenty of “Happily ever afters,” but not everyone was saved. It was sad, but made the book less predictable.

4. Anna’s dad, Belial. He appeared to be a complete bad ass, but was a loving father who delivered the truth, even when it hurt worst. His costume change into a dead rapper was pretty comical, too.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The whole idea of the Sword of Righteousness. It was a great weapon, sure, but it almost seemed like an underhanded way to preach no sex before marriage. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just prefer lessons in morality to be a bit less veiled.

2. Anna and Kaiden were basically forced into having sex. Yes, they wanted to very much. But the circumstances surrounding Anna’s first time were just unfortunate to say the least. It was happy for them, but it wasn’t on their own terms.

3. The final battle scene was a little odd. There were times when everyone was going nuts killing each other, then all of a sudden it was like time stopped so one Duke or Neph could die while everyone stopped and looked on. It just didn’t seem like the kind of situation where you took a time out to notice someone you were trying to kill was dying.

This was a fantastic series, one that I’ll likely be rereading again now that I’ve got all three books. If you’re looking for a deviation from the typical supernatural beings, this one is definitely worthwhile. This one will definitely fall into my “different in a good way” category.

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