Thank you NetGalley and Gallery Books for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Everyone wants new followers…until they follow you home.
Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.
But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private. (Goodreads)
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Rating: 4 stars
I'm one of those people that detests divulging personal information in public to strangers, let alone online. It makes me cringe when people freely give away their addresses, or phone numbers, or home towns, because you really do not know who is on the other side of that screen (am I paranoid? absolutely So, thank you, Kathleen Barber, for proving my point.
Follow Me is, in its most basic form, the story about a self-absorbed young woman (most of the time at the detriment of others) obsessed with portraying the perfect life and the perfect image of herself. Audrey is one of the most unpleasant people that I have come across in fiction. She is so unpleasant as a matter of fact, that despite coming close to not only dying, but to being murdered, I could not feel a single shred of empathy for her. Audrey uses any moment in her life to show off on Instagram so that her million+ followers love and fan over her, and it makes her feel fulfilled, accomplished.
It's so spot on where it concerns these types of platforms and many who use/join them.
Our lead's oversharing attracts a “fan” that has been addicted to her life for years before finding out that she's moving to the same city in which he lives. “Him” (as said fan is referred to for most of the book) made me so vividly reminiscent of You. But I found “Him” more likable than Joe, which is interesting, because the attraction is just as psychopathic. And yet there's something about “Him,” once you realize who he is and witness him in scenes with Audrey, that's warm and sweet and real. Because it is real to him, he loves this woman, as unhealthy as his love for her is.
Except for, you know, that little switch that gets easily flipped and turns “Him” into pure unadulterated malice.
The characters, even the secondary ones like Connor and her creepy upstairs neighbor, were nicely developed even if they did not play a huge role in the story. They were still unique and and their own individuals. They were fun “distractions” from the real culprit, just as obsessed with Audrey as many others.
And that's one thing that did nag at me: this attraction that absolutely everyone seemed to feel toward Audrey, be it male or female. I understand that we are reading about someone who is supposed to have a magnetic persona, which is part of what makes her so popular on Instagram. But it was overly done. No one is so perfect, even if it is faked, that everyone believes in their own myth and hangs on their every word and action, eager for more.
It didn't detract, it was a minor nitpicking point, and things flowed smoothly despite this. While I wouldn't say that novel is fast paced, the nearly teasing way in which the details unfold is extremely satisfying. There are no questions left unanswered, and the sense of impending doom that begin to build up from the moment that Audrey realizes she's being stalked, until the end, come to a very satisfying conclusion.
And how typical of our lead, really, that even after a near-death experience at the hands of her stalker—and her best friend—the first thing that she does, and our last closing scene in the novel is her eagerly sharing something as insignificant in the grand scheme of things as a sunset from the window of her new private home.
Some people just never learn.
Synopsis: When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.
Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one… (Amazon)
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 4 stars
A retelling is one of my favorite tropes. A retelling of a classic novel is an extra boon. A retelling of a classic novel where the lead will be a female—for obvious reasons here—has even more potential. It still worries me, because I cringe at the possibility of said female being the type of bad ass that is completely unbelievable given her past low experience and current high abilities. But Amaya pulls it off nicely—she gives you just enough kick without being overwhelming.
If you've read the original The Count of Monte Cristo or seen any of the film versions, then you know the general story: the lead spends a certain amount of time unjustly jailed by someone who screwed them over and has been benefiting on their behalf all this time, soon to be the source of the lead's revenge once they are freed. The same thing is done here, but with a few fun and entertaining twists.
I loved the setting, first of all, which is familiar enough to be close to the original story, but different enough to be enjoyable to explore. That sense of being in a land owned by the ocean, with its sailors, its bright weather, its vices and virtues is great fun. I do wish that more detail would have been put into the type of people who live there, the architecture, the flora and fauna. You still get the general idea and can easily fill in the blanks from imagination, which is fine; but it just falls slightly short of painting a full picture.
The main set of characters that live and interact are, for the most part, quite nicely fleshed out, made up of Amaya and Cayo. But secondary characters can't be overlooked. Yes, we get a vibe of what motivates Romara, Liesl, Deadshot, even Boon. But sometimes, when you leave so much hidden, waiting for that moment to reveal it but not doing it—at least in the first book—or wanting to keep too many things close to your chest, the story tends to suffer a bit, and those characters feel slightly like props.
I found myself feeling like certain moments in the story moved a little too fast, where more dialogue would've been beneficial, where things that happened did not develop and I was left wanting. I would've loved to actually be there to see Boon train Amaya rather than getting snippets here and there when she reminisced, for one. Yes, it's good to stay in the moment, to move the story along, to not lag too much. But that bit of story helps you connect with the characters even more. And though Boon is not who he appears to be at the beginning, or even after he rescues Amaya—to an extent—that part of him that I missed as developed, might have still grown on me because I would've gained a connection with the character despite eventually knowing what his end goal was.
His role in the scheme of the story was a nice twist, however. I wasn't expecting, at all, the dealings that he, Mercado, and the Slum King all had together. Nor Amaya's father for that matter. That drama was excellently executed, was so fun to read, and I hope that more comes of it in the future book(s). That, to me, was the best part of the book: the simple storytelling, and what made me enjoy it so much. Whenever something else might have been deficient, the story more than made up for it. It's an intriguing and fun tale to follow, with a strong and determined lead who goes after what she wants without losing track of what's important to her.
All in all, this one was a diverting good time.
Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: The room is small and dark. Row upon row of jars line the shelves, each one sealed with blood-red wax. The seal’s mark is a twisted circle of briar with gleaming, gold-tipped thorns. And in each jar a flicker of forbidden magic dances… beautiful, but deadly.
Sold to the Crown in the aftermath of the Last Great War, Grace Marchant has never known her parents. Now, she trains as an elite soldier tracking down mageborn – those born with an ancient and long-outlawed magic – and destroying them if they don’t surrender their power to the Crown.
The mageborn who submit are collared, then handed over to the King’s cousin and heir: the elusive Bastien Larelwynn, Lord of Thorns, locked away in his shadowy workshop deep inside the castle. What becomes of them is hard to say – the Lord of Thorns keeps his secrets close.
Grace has always fought the voice inside her that questions whether the law is truly just – but when her closest friend is next on Bastien’s list, Grace’s loyalties are tested to the limit. Confronting Bastien – searching his strangely compelling obsidian-black eyes for answers – Grace is shocked to feel herself begin to change, to show the first signs of the wild magic she so fears.
Only the Lord of Thorns has the power to save her and the rest of the mageborn – if he doesn’t destroy them all first... (Amazon)
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Rating: 3 stars
There's a hint of danger in hyping up a new book by putting it in the same category as other books with a big fan base. I understand why it's done, but you build up so much of it for the reader before they've even begun, that if the book does not match expectations—and often it does not—it's a swift disappointment.
I won't say that Mageborn disappointed me—and that's in part because I refused to let myself believe it would be anything like Sarah J. Maas' stories—but there were moments of misses, and a few hits.
The characters in this story are not fleshed out fully, and there were times when I did not feel like the author had a full grasp on them and their personality. Yes, it is okay, normal, welcomed even for a brooding character like Bastien to display a facade to the outside world out of necessity and yet be someone else—his real self, even—behind closed doors. What's a bit more difficult to believe is that as someone who has had to portray himself as a dangerous and even evil being for years so that he may gain and hold respect, suddenly drops every single barrier because the love interest in the story appears in his life.
Romance is not only welcomed for me in a novel, but it is delightful as a bonus. And that's how it began in Mageborn. I was on board, I was enjoying the tension-filled attraction that Grace and Bastien felt for one another... And then I started to notice that that plot was being sacrificed for the romance. This happened to such a degree, that there were moments when either Grace or Bastien seemed to be trying to move the story along after an action sequence, but the other would interrupt this to either flirt or initiate a sexual encounter.
It is distracting to force a romantic interaction between characters. This is something that should happen organically.
The writing itself was underdeveloped in sections. It failed to describe things too clearly and made me have to go back and re-read certain scenes. And now and again I would come across a run-in sentence that would read clumsily:
“Grace punched the bag again, imagining it was him, imagining it bore his superior, snide look, his too bloody handsome face, that perfect nose which she was breaking, his freakish black eyes which she was turning into actual black eyes.”
Yet, was I entertained despite these setbacks? Absolutely. Was it worth a read? I believe so.
This is a fun book overall.
Yes, it takes some time for the plot to take hold, but once that happens, it's a good time all around. The secondary characters are a nice addition—Ellyn, Daniel, Asher, even the queen. The antagonists are, interestingly, even more expanded than the leads. Celeste... I wish that we would have had more scenes of Celeste, because she is creepy, wonderfully insane, unpredictable. She has the potential to drive this story in the second book with her dark personality, and these types of roles are oftentimes the ones that grow the overall potential of the novel. At least or me.
The mythology of the Hollow King and the reveal at the end that Bastien discovers in himself was enjoyable and shocking. I was not expecting it, and mostly I think that's because I was focused on the story so strongly that I didn't have time to guess what was about to happen. That's great. Mageborn does hold your interest regardless of setbacks, it sucks you right in, and I devoured the words as fast as I could.
There was action, and plenty of it from the opening sequence. The moments devoted to these scenes were exciting and the way that the magic is used—as well as the way that the source of this magic is described—was very nicely done.
Despite room for growth, the first novel in The Hollow King series brings forth a gratifying read for fantasy-lovers.
Synopsis: Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.
A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea. (Goodreads)
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Rating: 3 stars
I have been meaning to read The Night Circus for years, and when I began to notice release-date news of The Starless Sea I decided to give it a shot first because...a story about books? Yes, please. I've read that Erin Morgenstern is the type of writer you either love or hate, but, I have to say that I don't think fall into either of those two categories.
I didn't love The Starless Sea, I didn't hate it either. But I did like it.
The build up was so good, so exciting, so nicely developed and I was right there for the ride alongside Z every step of the way. The idea of a library—harbor--that houses a world of stories is so beautiful that it is a dream come true for any lover of stories. And the second the lead walks through that door, I couldn't help but feel anything other than excitement and delight.
But the character development is very weak, the mythology of the story gets extremely confusing, and if the reader is not okay with the fact that nothing is clearly explained at any point throughout this story then they are bound to dislike it. You get the gist of it, you have an intuitive sense of things, you almost grasp it... And then the floor falls through at the Heart of the Harbor and the dive into Wonderland goes deeper and more confusing—so to speak.
The second part of the novel, for me, was a huge jumble mashed together that made me feel as if I were on some form of drug-induced state while I read it. It was still enjoyable, because the fairy-tale mood of this story is extremely appealing. But it is, nonetheless, very meandering, and the crossroads of Time and Fate at the end—along with the “happily-ever after” that Dorian and Z have—leave you at an impasse.
I will, say, however, that I do greatly appreciate the fact that this story does not end. Not really, not despite the fact that the novel concludes. And that was probably my favorite part of The Starless Sea: a story is endless even when it isn't.
Synopsis: Be careful who you let in.
Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.
Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.
In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets. (Amazon)
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Rating: 4 stars
I AM PHIN.
While I was reading this book, someone mentioned to me that more so than your typical Thriller, this book read like a family drama. I agree completely. You are not going to get your usual roller-coaster moments; you are not going to get edge-of-your-seat thrills; but you are going to get a fascinating story about a twisted compound of people living together who are, at the core of things, toxic for one another.
The story is told from three perspectives: the lead Libby, the sister of the narrator, Lucy, and the narrator and mysterious third perspective that we later find out to be Henry.
Through Henry we learn what happened years ago at the house where he and Lucy grew up. We learn how police came across a murder scene that read like a cult, why it happened, and what the beginnings of it all were. Through Lucy we read the story of a woman who has had rather ill luck in life, who struggles to keep her family together, and who fights to return to her childhood home to meet the baby that was abandoned when the murders occurred. And Libby is that abandoned baby, someone who has grown up thinking she knows what happened but has no real idea of the details that brought her into existence.
The Family Upstairs begins at a slow but thorough pace and spreads out the mystery for you, slowly knitting the pieces together. I've read another one of Lisa Jewell's books in the past, Watching You, and she did a much better job here of engaging the reader. Even when no action is taking place, you are so enthralled and eager to know what comes next that you can't help but continue reading.
There are some expected twists and turns, some horrible revelations, most of them delivered or executed by Henry. And they are delivered beautifully. The reader is purposefully misled on more than one occasion, and the payoff—finding out the truth—makes you have that AHA! moment we love so much when it comes to books like these.
Henry himself is a conundrum of a character. Libby puts it so well at the end of the story, when she states that she doesn't quite know how to feel about him. He presents a specific picture to everyone of such a charismatic person, who maybe tries a little too hard to be liked, but you forgive that because he's trying and so you want to try as well. But inside he's twisted and weird, creepy even. He delivers the end of the novel in such a chilling way, making us only imagine how he's going to bring his comeuppance to the character that throughout this story drives his ultimate obsession: Phin.
Phin is his drive while everything is falling apart at home when he's a teenage boy, Phin takes up every waking thought once they escape the house after the deaths, and Phin is his ultimate goal. And after everything is said and done, at the bottom of it, The Family Upstairs subtly tells the story of the psychopathic character of Henry Lamb, and that's the beauty of this novel: you don't realize how fooled you've been until the last page, and by then it's too late.
Thank you NetGalley and Tor Books for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: What if you knew how and when you will die?
Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard's loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due. (Amazon)
Publication Date: February 20, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 3 stars
What a fascinating premise to this new fantasy novel. How can anyone who's a fan of the genre resist? Unfortunately, the reality fell short of the premise, which is always a disappointment.
The first part of the book dragged more than it needed to, and then I noticed a pattern throughout the rest of it until I arrived at the fourth and final section of The Unspoken Name. Chapters in novels, usually, end at a specific moment in the storytelling process. There's a sixth sense in the reader that instinctively knows when a break will come and another chapter will start up because that hitch naturally comes to pass. But this novel lacked that, which resulted in chapters going on and on for such long periods of time that it felt as if it were taking me longer than usual to read. And this structural discrepancy distracted me so much from enjoying the whole piece that at times I thought of setting it aside.
The Traitor's Grave, the fourth part of the novel, was excellent. Whatever action lacked throughout the first part of The Unspoken Name was packed into this section. The last five chapters, especially, were delicious to read. There was murder, torture, a fast-paced and heroic liberation of a kidnapped character... It was fantastic, and exciting, and made me wonder why the first part of this story was not like that... Until I recalled the very special and important chapter structure's fissure.
I had a difficult time grasping the full personality of the lead, which was odd, because almost every other character made it really easy for me to see who they were—with the exception of Sethennai, and that's a valid point given who his character really is and what it hide. But Csorwe went through the novel almost listlessly. She would rise to the occasion whenever physical action called for it, but otherwise she seemed content to just go along with the flow. We're told again and again that she's the right hand of Sethennai, she's this tough and dangerous sword-woman, but I never saw that. The only time that I saw her lift her hand with a blade was either in self defense, or in an attempt to help others around her. Whatever reputation was attached to her never came to pass because by the time that she had gained it, the story had fast-forwarded and we never got to see it, which made it impossible to believe.
Others, like Shuthmili, herself, were thankfully a breath of fresh air. She came out of her cocoon little by little, and beautifully at that. She was enjoyable to see evolve, give in to her sense of humor, give into the madness and danger that lives inside of her. Her, Oranna and Tal—who is unapologetically himself, with every tarnish that his personality holds—were the trio that saved this story and made me want to continue reading.
The world is fantastic to see described, the magic system is very interesting—and I always enjoy it when magic is directly derived from the gods in a novel's pantheon—as are the few character races that we meet. Especially Atharaisse, of Echentyr.
There was beauty to The Unspoken Name, and growth that still has time to occur. The first in a series is not always fully realized, so I have high hopes should the second novel be released in the future.
I've been a fan of the Owlcrate subscription boxes on and off for over a year and I have loved every single box. I have, however, not ventured out of that little comfort zone before, despite the many, many many many bookish boxes now available out there. This was my first time subscribing to FaeCrate, and I was pleasantly surprised with the 2019 December box.
The box included a hardcover copy of Elizabeth Tammi's December 2019 release The Weight of a Soul, along with a signed nameplate (which I am always excited to get in a box). Along with this highlight, the goodies that were included were:
A silver collector's coin with the quote “Every story has a story” from Renee Ahdieh's The Wrath and the Dawn (one of my favorite things from the box).
A full 2020 12-month calendar with original work from the amazingly talented Gabriella Bujdoso.
The opportunity and info to download and read the e-book Olympian Challenger by Astrid Arditi.
A “Polaroid” of Zelie and Nailah inspired by Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone series.
A print inspired by Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto.
A ceramic piece with the quote “What an unequaled gift for disaster you have.” inspired by Naomi Novik's Uprooted (also a huge favorite).
An iridescent bookmark with the quote “It takes one word to make the whole world stop and listen. All you need is the right one.” from Jay Kristoff's Endsinger.
A lovely sky blue, white and yellow set of 4 buttons inspired by Adrienne Young's Sky in the Deep.
And a wristband with the inspiring quote “There is greatness in you. It matters little where that power comes from.”.
I did not receive the sweatshirt that would have been included in the box per my own selection (and I might be regretting it a little bit, but I wanted to get a beginner's small taste of my first FaeCrate subscription). Despite this, overall I would say that for the price of the box, the items included are well worth it. They're all top quality, varied, well matched with the December theme of “Of Legends and Lore”.
I will definitely be giving this subscription box another try in the near future.
'Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets (A Botanic Hill Detectives Mystery, #1)' by Sherrill Joseph - Review
Publication Date: February 1, 2020
Genre: Middle Grade / Mystery
Rating: 2.5 stars
Thank you NetGalley and Acorn Publishing for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
As an adult, I've done my best to make up for those pre-teen years when other readers were gorging themselves on stories of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys (or other like-minded mysteries that to this day I am not as well versed in as I wish I were). I've done a fairly good job with the Nancy Drew books, have greatly enjoyed them for the sake of nostalgia, and have even become a huge fan of the PC games based on the series. Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets brought back those same cozy and comfortable feels that I get whenever I pick up a Nancy Drew mystery.
Don't let the rating fool you, overall, I enjoyed the read. It's a cute mystery, with an adorable group of four young friends who go around solving cases on their parents' many travels and in their hometown. But the book was far too much like the Nancy Drew ones I've read, so much alike as a matter of fact that it was as if a template of it had been taken and the specifics altered to make it its own copy.
The story was fun to follow, but it was very simplistic. And the world around the characters is premised as a vibrant and lush setting but we barely get enough detail in it. Books for young readers can be as full and detailed as they are for adults—I think we're at a point in literature where this younger targeted audience is more than happy to become as engrossed in a heavier story as the more mature readers do.
All in all, for an easy and swift read, this is a good one to go with. Not a lot of time is spent dwelling on the culprit of the story and the mystery behind which he does what he does, but that's, again, very similar to past mysteries of of this book's ilk. Pick this one up and you will fly through it, and truly do get to meet an amusing and sweet bunch of kids who will take you on a merry little chase.
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: Thriller / Science Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
I've had a repeating nightmare in the past, where I'm walking down a long hallway, and no matter what door I open, I know there is no way out without even stepping through one of them. I'm sure everyone's had some sort of variation of that dream at some point.
That's how it felt to read The God Game, with all of the anxiety and desperation of that nightmare.
As the story began to unfold at the beginning, the setting and characters and plot felt a bit juvenile. And that might have been on purpose. It's such a silly game at first, almost playful. Because, really, how can something like this be real. It does stretch the limits of not only imagination but reality—far too much at times—but that's also what makes you think “How is no one able to stop this??? How can something like this go so far???” And really, how much of this is even believable? But the more that the story progresses, the more that juvenile quality begins to fade away as things become darker.
The fact that this is all centered around a group of high school students is almost too perfect. High school, where life is not the easiest for many of those who attend, already filled with its lot of cruelty and issues, makes the “game” start off as a salvation—as advertised—only to wrap its claws around the players and sink them deeper to the bottom. It's very predictable, but it does the job very well.
The more I read, the more I started to feel a horrible, creeping dread while events escalated. It's perfect, that sensation. That's the story nicely seeping into us the reader, doing a hell of a job with its craft and the torment of its characters. And despite this, the novel is just plain fun to read. It drags ever so slightly at the beginning, there yet barely noticeable. But once it picks up speed, everything careens toward its inevitable conclusion and you cannot help but want to be along for the ride.
I wouldn't say that finding out the main culprit among the group of friends was surprising. The clues were there all along. The reveal, however, was still satisfactory, even if the character's staged death played a little weakly at the closing. That door left open, letting you see that, oh, you thought it was over but no no no, it will continue. I think a finite conclusion would have played out better, but if anybody wants to imagine how things will keep progressing then imagination now has food for thought.
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 5 stars
Loving fictional characters is bittersweet. You are so full of joy as you devour their stories, then stand devastated if they either die in-story or that story ends. When I finished reading The Raven Cycle, the devastation struck me hard. I impatiently waited to find out if more from these characters would be released, and was both relieved and delighted at the news that Call Down the Hawk would be published. I did my best to keep my reservations, attempted to keep my hopes down, because surely nothing could be as great as The Raven Cycle had been.
It's a good thing that the lies I told myself did not pan out, because not only was I unable to keep that hope from rising, but Call Down the Hawk was just as amazing as I knew it would be.
Maggie Stiefvater is a master at creating people that readers will not only fall in love with, but be desperate to have them be a part of their real lives. And I call them people, not characters, because that is what she is capable of. They drive her stories, make them even bigger than they are, and make the plot explode into action.
Here's the crux of the matter: the story has been done before by other authors. The particulars are her own, but the idea of a group of people going after those who are different and wanting to kill them for X reason? That has been done so many times, in so many ways, and we know this. But the important thing is that it is done differently here. And the genius this specific tale brightly exists, because, again, Stiefvater's characters make it stand out.
Taking in the leads, Ronan, Declan and Matthew are such variations of themselves. They have their own personalities—even lovely dream Matthew—their own triggers, their joys and secrets. You put them together, and they are a pleasure to behold when in action. Remembering them from the previous series, to now, makes their development stand out even more. Ronan is no longer just that angry teen who lets no one in, Matthew has a lot more to offer other than an adorable cheery and seemingly empty disposition, and Declan... Declan surprised me to no end in this novel. Seeing that mask come down and let us begin to glimpse what lies behind it was surprising and delightful, a tease, a need for more.
Jordan/Hennessy is a punch to the face. There's no other way to describe that duo with the burst of their personalities. You can tell from the beginning that out of all the girls, they will be the ones you remember—which is later made very obvious from the actions that take place. They're two sides of the same coin while retaining their own intricate pieces. Which is captivating, and goes to show what Hennessy (and a dreamer) is capable of as the creator of Jordan, another dreamed self made come to life. Their roles into this new series, along with the cameos of Adam (whose romance with Ronan is such a beautiful and intense thing to behold)—and indirectly, Gansey, made my heart full to bursting.
It's not to say that the antagonistic side of this story holds less importance, but I think there's a purpose in making the “good guys” in the story stand out in this first installment. We're given the cast, and made to have a strong connection with the ones that we will obviously be hoping make it out in the end. We're meant to dislike the Moderators coming after the “Zeds,” as they're referred to, destroying their dreams and saving a world that is supposed to die if those dreamers are allowed to survive.
There's something symbolic and very real to that, I think, if you pay close attention past the plot laid out before you. Something that hits rather close to home.
We're in stasis now, taken away by the enigmatic and seemingly powerful Bryde, with so many pieces dangled about and needing to be solved. Beyond the new Fenian and the likeness of Aurora, beyond the dangers awaiting our heroes, beyond the need to destroy driving the “bad guys” while they ironically attempt to save...the end of the world awaits. We still don't know who will be the match that lights that fire, but I cannot wait go on that ride and see it all burn.