Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardguo

I’m finally back (for now lol)!!! And this time, with a review!! I finally found time to read and this was one of my most anticipated sequels for this year and let me tell, IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. **No spoilers**


Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crooked Kingdom was everything that I did not know that I wanted. Those subtle hints in the first book where readers shipped some people together…they have sailed. Bardugo knows how to pack a tense, action-filled adventure and I loved how the plot was almost like a mystery where small hints are dropped throughout the story and then a full-blown reveal occurs near the end. Typical, I know, but it is quite alluring and ingenious when it is done right. I’m so enamored by the writing because it has the right amount of detail, wit, and complexity. Half of the battle I have with reading is whether I enjoy the writing style.

And the characters. The book is told from different perspectives and it was easy to distinguish each voice as each character is so unique. We get a lot more background information and there were a few flashbacks that helped me understand the context of the current situation. They felt seamlessly written into the plot and I really enjoyed getting to know each character. I was frequently reminded that the cast were predominantly teenagers and it sort of changed my view on them. They were cynical but not to the point that it was unrealistic. They didn’t act like adults even if they sometimes planned like one. This made them much more tangible to me as genuine people. The antihero theme is now cropping up everywhere in literature and I really liked how the book portrayed its cast. There were delineations of exactly who the bad guys were but the good guys weren’t exactly cookie-cutter perfect. Kaz makes a lot of difficult choices and tries to change for the better, but his scars run deep and he lets no one close. I would love to have a spin-off about Kaz’s future because he has so much potential impact that’s tied with Ketterdam’s fate.

The story line was flawlessly intertwined with subplots and small snippets of anecdotes scattered throughout. The world-building has been impeccable from the start so there was an obvious shift in focus onto character development and Ketterdam. I would categorize the book into scenes of confrontations, conning, and scheming. Even on the downtime when plans were coming into play, I was heavily invested and engrossed by the interactions. The plans were very meticulous that I felt muddled sometimes because I would lose track of which roles each character would take. However, that is something an author must sacrifice in order to accommodate a wide range of characters. Honestly, this book would be so fun to read again just to watch how events unfold.

Shout out to Henry Holt for the pre-order gift! Slice and dicee

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Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

That was a spectacular story packed with so much action, ferocity, and amazing twists.
I’ve noticed over the years how my pet peeves and certain tropes have tended to make me biased. This is a biased review. This book is not perfect and it’s bound to contain a lot of flaws since it’s a whopping 650 pages long. And let me tell you, it will take a while to get through but the time it takes to read will fly by.

Spoilers for previous books ahead:

I’ve always placed the utmost importance on plotting and there was so much going on that I’m awed by how the author still manages to squeeze a lot of character development in. There’s new characters introduced and things have definitely changed while Aelin was away in Wendlyn. One of the first things that stood out to me was how Chaol became so embittered. Right from the beginning of Aelin and Chaol’s interaction, I noticed how he acted as if he had a chip on his shoulder; well, that was new. Of course, he went through many losses, heartbreak, and exile but while it only made Aelin stronger, he did not seem to recover to it. This peeved me because the author wrote such a dynamic character who had a lot to figure out but he was not consistent in Queen of Shadows. He felt like a completely different person molded to fit the author’s purpose. He was no longer a staunch supporter of Aelin as he had been in Crown of Midnight. Is this because Rowan replaced his role? I think so. Basically, he was not needed anymore. He’s still important, of course, but he’s pushed to the sideline since he has no magic whatsoever to boast of so he’s practically useless.

Now on to the juicy, good stuff:
There’s a lot of action, devious planning, and underhanded tactics going on. Whereas I had thought the struggle to be two-way, it turns out there were hidden enemies (King of the Assassins, anyone) that emerged to trouble/help Aelin. Adarlan is plagued with debauched characters and I liked how Aelin showed her dogged determination and cunning when she dealt with them. From what Chaol and the title hinted at, it seems that Aelin is more of an anti-hero than the standard YA heroine. She kills but her methods are orthodox to her upbringing which means it’s super gory, unladylike, and very polarizing. Readers like me drank it up like crazy because we finally have a ‘fire-breathing bitch queen’. The author pulls all the punches and there line between good and evil becomes blurred. In order for Aelin to keep up with her enemies, she has to be more ruthless than them and always one step ahead. Despite the facade she carried, it’s very obvious that she’s tired and heavily burdened. That’s why I’m ecstatic that the supporting characters who join her court are strong and able to take care of her.

I’ve been wondering when Aelin would receive the tight-knit group of rebels that she sorely needed. She lost Sam and then she lost Nehemia. Dorian had bigger things to worry about than her, and Chaol wasn’t able to monitor her well, so thank goodness for her new court! The plot flowed very well because it was driven heavily by the characters and anyone who’s read these books will know how active the characters are. Especially Aelin who is always scheming; she’s still overly protective of her friends so that means there’s so many plans going on right under their nose.

There’s also Manon Blackbeak who had worried me initially due to the moral direction she seemed to take. For those who had anticipated a convergence of these two’s perspective, rest assured because they do meet. Albeit it was a bit delayed than expected since they didn’t meet at all in HoF, the culmination of the wait is well worth it. I enjoyed how diverse these two’s personalities are and yet how similar their upbringings were. I loved the quote “You were made, made into monsters.” It’s like two sides of the same coin because Manon is a witch and Aelin is a fae and yet they are both very fierce and loving in their own right. Manon becomes more fleshed out and readers learn more about her Second and Third-in-Command. It’s a moving story, actually and I enjoyed her point of view much more than I did in Heir of Fire.

Also, bless Kaltain, one of the most underrated characters in the first book! She’s a sort of anomaly because she is one of the people who was truly discarded and forgotten about. I’m glad the author included her in QoS because she wasn’t necessarily a bad character in ToG and I wondered what was happening to her. Let’s just say she’s stronger than anyone anticipated and she knows more than she lets on. There’s a lot of female empowerment especially with Lysandra who is a blast from the past for Aelin. I really liked her because she defied all stereotypes and female norms sanctioned in place for a woman of her ranking. She’s a prostitute and yet she has a free will along with her own motives. When Aelin lost Nehemia, Lysandra was the perfect person to heal the scars in her heart.

I think a lot of people have been holding out hopes for a Rowan cameo. He’s there, alright. I like him more because he’s become more expressive. However, I think it’s a bit unrealistic because he was formally so cold towards Aelin. Now he is like a cinnamon roll but he’s still deadly.

Conclusion:

Magic is very powerful. The plot contained a lot of twists and turns that I myself didn’t even see coming. A lot of mysteries were uncovered and we find out why affairs are the way they were. So there actually was more to the king than I thought. Seriously, I just assumed he was an ambitious young man who simply turned greedy and evil from power.

Spoiler (highlight to see but DON’T LOOK IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK YET):So the talking skull knocker didn’t mention the duke following the king down to explore the tombs! I’m wondering what’s going on because that’s super fishy since that means Elena also withheld that bit of crucial information. ~

Anyways, please comment your thoughts on the book and let me know what you think.
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Review: Half a War by Joe Abercrombie

Half a War (Shattered Sea, #3)Half a War by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This was by far the easiest series to finish reading! There’s just something so compelling about Joe Abercrombie’s stories which immerses me into the characters and the world. It’s one of those rare occasions where I wish for a sequel or more books in the series. In every book, there’s a different protagonist although the previous ones all play a heavy role in the current book. From Yarvi to Thorn Bathu to Skara, these are all complex characters who change drastically throughout the plotlines; I am startled to discover how differently they act over time. It’s interesting to see what war can do to a person when push comes to shove and desperate times call for desperate measures.

The titles have all carried intelligent meanings for the story starting as Half a King for Yarvi, to Half the World for Thorn, and to Half a War for Skara. Where war was foreshadowed in the first book, it was imminent and prevented in the second, but it became inevitable in the third. I loved the gradual progression and great pacing of the whole series. Joe is one fantastic master storyteller and honestly, he deserve all the recognition he gets in the fantasy genre.

This the real fantasy filled with gritty elements of the battle field, ship invasions, and war strategies. Skara gets orphaned within the first few pages and becomes queen immediately. However, she’s queen of a conquered land so she ends up running. She’s made out to be a victim of circumstances and a weakling who has nothing to her name. I loved how much perseverance and spunk she had. She has the gift of words and years of teaching has made her cunning and practical; she’s ambitious, all right. I love that the books all contain strong female characters that can easily rival the male ones. I see a parallel between her situation and Yarvi’s when they both lost everything and had to climb their way back up. However, they are quite different even though they both seek revenge and are willing to go the extra mile to do so. Yarvi is proud and it’s been seen time and again through the series; it’s one of the steady parts of his personality. Skara, on the other hand, does not prioritize pride. I love how they act as two sides of the same coin and sometimes are foils to each other. It’s interesting because they play mind games and there’s a lot of intrigue with both of their underhanded tactics.

There is romance but it’s very realistic romance; it’s not a love story if that’s what readers are looking for. Fantasy and war is always on the forefront so I liked how the author also portrayed how love was being affected by it. People want to seek fame and glory in battle but they also want to keep love; this is the prime dilemma of Koll. I’d say Koll was not a strong character to start out with but he continued to surprise me with some hidden iron depths. Without proper guidance, he’s a lost boy trying to grow into a man. I see a lot of what youths go through in today’s society reflected in his choices and worries. He is very indecisive and he admits himself that he is a coward. In my opinion, he’s braver for admitting what he’s afraid of. Which is why I’m more satisfied when he gets the happy ending that he actually wanted.

Half a War ends on a lighter note despite several major characters dying and soldier casualties. Not everyone gets their happy ending but that’s how the real world works. It’s quite like how The Hunger Games series ended which may piss people off. But not everything is unicorns, rainbows, and cupcakes. As the author said, “Every victory is someone’s defeat.”

I’m excited to read The Blade Itself especially for more of those sarcastic quips and intense battles.

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The Shattered Sea series