Since I have an overwhelming pile of books that I need to review, I’m going to write a bunch of mini-reviews to try to get back into a reviewing routine for the new year. I’ve been struggling to keep up with reviewing lately, and I think part of that struggle is that getting caught up seems like an insurmountable obstacle. I don’t want to just let the books I haven’t reviewed go by without mention so I’ve decided to write some brief thoughts on many of them and then try to get back into reading and reviewing a bit more regularly.
This first installment of mini reviews focuses on some books that are at least the third book in a series I love. I’ve reviewed other books in each of these series before.
There is a major spoiler for the end of the first book in this review since it’s difficult to talk about later books without mentioning it. There are also spoilers for the two books in between the first and this one, but I consider them minor since I would have been surprised if they weren’t the case after reading the first book. If you’re curious about the series starting from book one, here’s my review of the first book, and the series only gets better from there.
The Crimson Crown is the conclusion to the Seven Realms series that began with The Demon King—and what a phenomenal, satisfying final volume it is! It’s my favorite book of the four in the series, and I had a terrible time putting it down. I was swept along by the story and completely invested in the characters, especially Han and Raisa, the two main protagonists in the series.
While some aspects of the story play out predictably, I don’t think this is a bad thing with this particular series since Cinda Williams Chima utilizes tropes well. That is to say, I might have a general idea about what will happen but I still can’t wait to actually read about it happening. It features secret identities (which is very fun since each main character has a secret about their identity kept from the other) and a queendom influenced by events from 1000 years ago that did not happen exactly the way they’ve been remembered and told. Not everything is predictable or safe, though, and characters do die in this series—and this includes characters I liked.
The highlight of the series remains the two main characters, Han and Raisa. Han is a former streetlord and an exceptionally powerful wizard. He’s clever and witty and balances the line between honorable and dishonorable, but he’s far from heartless. In other words, he’s exactly the type of character I like to read about as a likable rogue. I did appreciate that though he became a very powerful character not all problems were solved by him. In this particular installment Fire Dancer got his chance to shine with his own discovery involving combining wizardry and clan knowledge into something greater. And I love Raisa, who has become a wonderful ruler. She cares about all her people and has no fear of getting her hands dirty and fighting right along with them. The chemistry between Han and Raisa and the obstacles they face that keep them from being together add some tension, and I was rooting for both of them the whole time.
All four books in this young adult fantasy series are keepers, and I think it deserves a much wider readership among fantasy fans looking for its strong storytelling and endearing, memorable characters. This final installment was my favorite, and while it is a satisfying conclusion, I’d love to read (and hope for) more books set in the Seven Realms.
My Rating: 9/10
Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.
The long-awaited third book in Gentleman Bastard should need no introduction as one of the more talked-about fantasy releases of the year. While I had some issues with it, I loved it because it was a fun book to read. It kept me speculating on what would happen and turning the pages (and it tricked me at one point since my theory seemed to be confirmed as true and then it wasn’t true AT ALL).
This book quit referencing Sabetha and actually showed her both in the past and present storylines. I enjoyed reading about her and how she could rival Locke himself in wit, but I didn’t feel that the love story between the two felt natural but seemed one-sided and then rushed once it came to fruition. The past storyline detailed how Locke and Sabetha met and Locke’s instant attraction to her, and it ended up being largely about their later adventures focused around performing the play “The Republic of Thieves.” The present storyline dealt with an election, and I can’t say I thought that situation entirely made sense, though it was very entertaining to read about Locke and Sabetha each trying to outwit the other.
This book also marked a turning point for the series since it tied into the previous books, contained some major epiphanies, and set up a lot for the next books. Honestly, I don’t know what to think about the Big Revelation about Locke toward the end. I’m not sure I like it for reasons I won’t discuss to avoid spoilers, but that also depends on what is done with it in future installments so I’ll just have to keep reading! (I am wondering if that was a trick, too, or at least not the whole truth, but I have a feeling it was at least close to the truth.)
Ultimately, I felt that The Republic of Thieves was flawed but a whole lot of fun. The dialogue and witty banter kept me entertained, and despite any issues I had with it, it is one of my favorite books from this year because it was so enjoyable to read.
My Rating: 8.5/10
Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.
Since I’ve reviewed the previous six books in this series and find this one to be about the same quality as the rest, I am finding it difficult to find anything new to say about the seventh installment.
The Mercy Thompson series is consistently good, and I always enjoy reading about Mercy’s adventures. She’s such a great character—brave, practical, loyal to her friends, and funny. In the seventh book, she faces some trouble when Adam is kidnapped and a couple of chapters are told from Adam’s point of view, a first in this series. This book also imparted more knowledge about Mercy’s abilities as a walker that were quite interesting
Frost Burned was a solid installment in the series, and one of my favorite books I read this year so I’m afraid of sounding overly critical in saying this, but I am starting to feel like more risks need to be taken in this series. While I’ve enjoyed the last few volumes, there hasn’t been anything particularly surprising that made the next books better than what came before. I can’t help but compare it to some of my two other favorite urban fantasy series, in which individual installments haven’t been as consistent in quality as the individual Mercy books but which have had books that have stuck with me more because they have torn my heart out or had big overarching storylines full of twists and surprises. My personal preference is for volumes that build and unexpected occurrences that make me say, “Wow, that author had guts to do that!” and I’m starting to wish for more of those moments from this series, despite how much I do enjoy the books.
However, I had a wonderful time reading Frost Burned, thought it had a great ending sequence, and am excited about the next book.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.
The first two Aetherial Tales novels, Elfland and Midsummer Night, stand alone but this third book ties the two together. While it could be read without reading the previously released books, I think it would be better to read the other two books first, particularly since I preferred both of them to this one.
Grail of the Summer Stars had a strong beginning with both the mystery of the art and the one about Stevie herself. Like the previous two books, it has some beautiful writing, yet around the halfway mark I found myself enjoying it less than I had been. In addition to the gorgeous prose, I loved the characters in the first two books: Rosie, Luc, and Sam in Elfland and Dame Juliana from Midsummer Night. The characters is where Grail of the Summer Stars fell short for me when compared to the first two books. I just didn’t care about them as much as in other books, and this includes the characters from the first two books who make reappearances. There isn’t the same focus on the characters and the ones that are in the limelight more are not as interesting to me as those in the two previous books. While I was glad to get some closure and revisit some of the other characters, I didn’t end up enjoying the third Aetherial Tales book as much as I did the first two.
Overall, I’m glad I read Grail of the Summer Stars, but I think every single other book I’ve read by Freda Warrington is superior.
My Rating: 7/10
Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.