BOOK REVIEW: Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce

Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Series: Book 3 of Quartet (Complete)

Emperor Mage: ★★★★.5/5

Summary: Sent to Carthak as part of the Tortallan peace delegation, Daine finds herself in the middle of a sticky political situation. She doesn’t like the Carthaki practice of keeping slaves, but it’s not her place to say anything — she’s just there to heal the emperor’s birds. It’s extremely frustrating! What’s more, her power has grown in a mysterious way. As the peace talks stall, Daine puzzles over Carthak’s two-faced Emperor Ozorne. How can he be so caring with his birds and so cruel to his people? Daine is sure he’s planning something. Daine must fight the powerful Emperor Mage, knowing that the safety and peace of the realm depend on stopping Ozorne’s power-hungry schemes.

In this third book, I was reminded that Daine is still a young child compared to her company. Though she does hold herself more mature than most children, there did seem to be a separation when peace talks were taking place and the emphasis on her behavior. Necessary, but just a small reminder.

DAINE: She begins to get frustrated with a new power bestowed upon her from one of the gods as she’s used as a vessel for this god’s deed. Daine also becomes closer to Prince Kaddar as she spends most of her time with him during this book. I did wish there was a bigger romance conflict with the both of them and Numair. (There was one little one). You also discover more about Daine’s parents.

NUMAIR: I just love how clever this fellow is. You end up meeting one of Numair’s former lovers, which irks Daine (a little). But even throughout this book, Numair continues to show his feelings for her when he goes to Prince Kaddar and has a little “talk” with him. That part made me smile. heh

PRINCE KADDAR: The prince is an honorable and sweet young teen. He feels open and vulnerable around Daine (as most people/animals tend to feel) and readers will come to enjoy his presence.

KING OZORNE (EMPEROR MAGE): Readers finally meet the villain in person, the Emperor Mage. Daine is torn between his two faces–the animal lover and the evil ruler. He hates Numair and has an ulterior motive against him. He is evil. Hate the guy.

The conflict really gets a kick start in this third book. You find out that the workings in the mortal world are causing a drift even in the immortal realms. And there is a foreshadowing that this problem is bigger than anyone can even imagine. Also, this huge event happens at the end that makes Daine go ballistic, it’s merited of course. I won’t spoil it, BUT I do think that the effect would have been better if Pierce really emphasized it a bit more.

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BOOK REVIEW: Wolf Speaker by Tamora Pierce

Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Series: Book 2 of Quartet (Complete)

Wolf Speaker: ★★★/5

Summary: When humans start cutting down trees and digging holes in peaceful Dunlath Valley, the wolves know that something is wrong. They send a messenger to the only human who will listen — Daine, a fourteen-year-old girl with the unpredictable power of wild magic. Daine and her closest companions heed the wolves’ cry for help. But the challenge they are about to face in the valley is greater than they can possibly imagine…

Now Daine is 14-years-old and has a better handle on her powers. She’s called to Dunlath Valley where the wolf pack she first connected with needs her help. In this book she learns a new facet of her wild magic. I was definitely glad to see Daine growing up. There is a clear difference in Daine’s maturity in this second installment compared to the first, from her actions to her thoughts. She is also making the transition from student to friend with Numair!

I finished the whole quartet, but I decided instead of reviewing it as a whole, I would review each book individually. This book was my least favorite of the four, not to say, I still enjoyed reading it, but you always have a least favorite. I guess it has to do with the fact that I thought it dragged a little bit in the middle while Daine was waiting for Numair to return, though it was necessary to move the plot along with the two different perspectives. However, once the action did pick up, it didn’t stop and I couldn’t stop reading until I finished.

DAINE: Daine is growing more confidence in herself and her power. She continues to venture further to see where her wild magic will lead her. Her thoughts have become more complex as a 14-year-old and she still remains loyal to her beliefs. She has a deep concern and love for all the animals and is still learning the balance between asking for their help and sending them to die. Daine has a tender heart and it is very endearing because of her tough past.

NUMAIR: Numair’s feelings for Daine continue to grow. He cares for her and is constantly making sure she’s safe. However, I do appreciate the fact, despite her age, he trusts her in important situations. He worries for her but believes that she can handle more than the average teen. You can see the small signs that Numair is developing deeper feelings for her.

MAURA: Maura is the runaway princess who wants to warn the king of an uprising. She’s mature for her age and very open-minded as she befriends a Stormwing named Rikash. Even though she is only ten, she has a noble sense of responsibility and right and wrong.

WOLF PACK: These wolves are smart, smarter than the typical animals. It is mainly due to the fact the wolves had a deep connection with Daine, who seems to have that affect on the animals she comes in contact for in long periods. They act more like humans and have developed complex thoughts for their problems. Whether for their own good or not, you’ll have to find out.

The conflict is getting deeper and more complicated. Readers start to find out that Carthak is making a move against Tortall. I love the relationship developing between Numair and Daine and it’s one of the main reasons I continue to read!

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BOOK REVIEW: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

 

Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of Quartet (Complete)

Wild Magic: ★★★/5

Summary: Young Daine’s knack with horses gets her a job helping the royal horsemistress drive a herd of ponies to Tortall. Soon it becomes clear that Daine’s talent, as much as she struggles to hide it, is downright magical. Horses and other animals not only obey, but listen to her words. Daine, though, will have to learn to trust humans before she can come to terms with her powers, her past, and herself.

The Immortals Series has been one of my absolute favorites since I’ve started reading fantasy novels. It was the series that actually got me hooked on fantasy as a genre. I first read it in middle school and for the first time, 12 years later, I started to reread it. I remember loving it, but 12 years is a long time and whole different life stage. Mainly, I bought the series because a new edition with the amazing cover pictured above was released and I had to have it. I remembered the gist of the story and a few of my favorite characters, but I totally forgot the plot, which is exciting because I get to relive one of my favorite books for a second time, and that doesn’t happen very often.

I love this book because it has magic, mystical creatures, and amazing characters. The plot is well-developed and even though I’m 11 years older than the main character, I still found her enjoyable to read about. There were a few times her worries were juvenile, but overall Daine is a great protagonist, constantly looking to become a stronger and better, emotional enough that she’s not a stone, but logical enough to understand what needs to be done. I never found myself once bored with the story because it was always moving. Only what is necessary is included and the descriptions are both realistic and easy to follow. I enjoy a simple read from time to time so my mind doesn’t have to work so hard; it allows me to fall into the story even more.

DAINE: Daine is a 13-year-old girl who discovers she possesses something called “wild magic,” which allows her to connect with animals and immortal creatures in a way others cannot. She suffers a huge loss that you find out later in the book and experiences more than an average teen would. However, her ability to persevere through difficult situations is admirable and you continue to see her grow into the respect of her power. Though she may be young, she is strong at heart. You get a tiny glimpse (literally) of her roots and readers will be flipping through the pages to find out who she is and where she came from.

NUMAIR: Numair is the most powerful mage in all of Tortall and he’s a giant of a man who is also good-looking. I loved Numair when I first read him into my mind in middle school, and I still love him now. His character is humorous but he is a reliable partner and teacher to Daine. You can tell that even though he’s taken Daine under his wing as a student, he still cares for her deeply. He’s my favorite character in this series (minus some of the animals!)

ONUA: Onua hires Daine as an assistant and she’s the older sister Daine never had. I love her powerful presence despite her difficult past. She supports those around her and is one of the most loyal people. No matter how much Daine may retaliate, Onua understands and supports her in the best way possible.

There are a lot of characters I can talk about, but those are the three standout ones. Another unconventional character I do like is Cloud, Daine’s pony. She’s sassy in her actions and words (which only Daine can hear of course). There isn’t a set villain in this book, except maybe the Stormwings. The conflict was only just introduced in this book and will get more in depth through the part of the series. That might be my only warning to relay to other readers. There is some tension, but not as much as typical young adult readers are used to reading. So if you are reading this book, keep in mind that you are reading a MIDDLE GRADE novel. The main conflict in this first book is a battle at the end of the book, which gets resolved, but there’s really no information about what’s to come, only foreshadows suspicions readers may develop during their read. The lack of a deeper conflict to really satiate me as a reader is why I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 stars. (Though 12-year-old me would’ve gave it 5 stars in a heartbeat)

Whether it’s nostalgia or not, I still loved this first book that I finished it in one day, and I’m itching to start the next one after I get some actual work done. I typically only enjoy writing young adult novels because I love a good romance, and one of the defining qualities of a middle grade is that there isn’t an explicit romance, but after re-reading this book I kind of feel like I would be interested in dabbling into the middle grade market!

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BOOK REVIEW: P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han (#2)

Author: Jenny Han
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary Romance
Series: Duology (Complete)

P.S. I Still Love You: ★★★★★/5

Summary: Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

Finished this duology in less than one day because it was ridiculously addicting. I love the love story. The main thing I love about this, is that some part of this book happened to anyone who’s ever been in love. First and foremost, this duology will ring to a lot of girls who’ve dated. (It sure did for me.) The pacing was realistic and the events were all believable and I couldn’t help but be drawn in. It was the type of romance that makes your heart flutter just how a “first love” romance should make it.

I’m kind of bummed though that Josh didn’t really come out in this book so much. He just kind of fell off the face of the earth. There were a few appearances, but nothing of substance, which was lame because he played such a huge role in the first one. I wanted to read more about him. But then again, maybe that’s what Han was going for with Margot and Josh’s relationship, another example of how a love can end or continue. I just didn’t feel as though it was properly resolved.

I appreciate the fact that Han didn’t make love all physical. There are many references to sex in regards to a relationship, and God only knows the high schoolers these days are way more scandalous than a decade ago. So it’s a nice change of pace having of novel about high school love about more than just physical attraction, because there is so much more, more than most people ever really know. Love is an innocent thing, something that deserves to be cherished and protected but doesn’t always turn out the way you expected it to, and that’s what I feel like Han was trying to convey.

LARA JEAN: I was proud of Lara Jean. She stepped out of her comfort zone and really put herself out there. As the main character, she really came out of her shell as her own and took hold of the story through her growth. In the beginning of the series, she started out as a shy, withdrawn young girl who didn’t want to experience real life into a somewhat adventurous girl willing to dive into the crazy parts of it, or at least swim through it as best she could. Throughout her development, Lara Jean stayed true to her own beliefs and desires. The heart wants what the heart wants, even though I don’t think I would have minded so much if it ended the other way. (I’m sure there’s a lot of debate on this).

PETER K.: Peter K. really started to piss me off. Yes, he’s just a nice guy that was misunderstood, but what he did would piss off any girl and if the roles had been switched, he would have acted the exact same way. It could have been resolved had he just been upfront with Lara Jean. In my opinion, he brought it upon himself. But, the little things he did do were sweet and you couldn’t really stay mad at him for long (kind of…)

JOHN AMBROSE MCLAREN: I love John Ambrose McLaren. He’s one of the boys Lara Jean wrote a letter to, and he’s adorable. I feel like it was so meant to be, like FATE! Just hearing the history between the John and Lara Jean from middle school it as if the stars aligned but didn’t quite match up, which really killed me. John is sweet, a gentleman, and was always second place to Peter when they were younger. He’s the guy that would never hurt the girl he loves, and would treat her like her happiness is the one that makes the world turnaround. Even though there were only reference about his timid personality when he was younger, I’m glad he was introduced as a confident and strong guy. But really, I love this kid, maybe even more than Peter K., and I don’t even really know why.

MARGOT/KITTY: Margot doesn’t make much of an appearance in this installment as much. Lara Jean goes to her for support more than for advice compared to the first novel. Kitty is growing up and you can see her character really maturing through her dialogue and thought process. I can definitely see a continuation of this story through Kitty’s POV coming sometime soon. Especially with the letter that Lara Jean writes to her at the end of the book. She’d make a very interesting main character with her all her sass.

Overall, I loved these two contemporary romance novels by Jenny Han. I was in quite a reading slump before I started it and I wasn’t really thinking it was going to bring me out of it. I may be a believer in contemporary romance novels now, it has definitely opened my eyes to an even larger genre than young adult fantasy (still my favorite though). I would definitely recommend this duology to all readers of all ages. It is a story about first love of a high schooler, but whether you’re in high school or you’ve graduated long since, it’ll bring a sense of sweet nostalgia to your first love, and if you haven’t experienced one yet, it’ll give you a taste of what may be soon to come.

Jenny Han, you have changed my view of young adult contemporary romance novels!

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BOOK REVIEW: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (#1)

Author: Jenny Han
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary Romance
Series: Duology (Complete)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: ★★★★★/5

SUMMARY: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

First off, let me tell you something about me as a reader before you read my review. I typically dislike fiction contemporary romance books. I’m a complete addict when it comes to a good fantasy book though, but I usually don’t read contemporary romance books. It’s hard for me to get into a fiction book because I love everything fantastical. That being said, I absolutely LOVED this book! (I may be subjective, and you’ll see why in a moment).

I’m not only a Korean-American, but I’m also the middle child of three sisters! HAH Hi, my name is Lara Jean. Jk. Lara Jean’s and my personality are actually really different, but I still enjoyed reading her POV. However, writing letters to past loves is SO something I would do. Of course, if someone sent said letters out, I would beat the culprit up, unlike Lara Jean. Moving on to my actual review now!

I love romance stories, so typically I look for a good romance in every book I read. The thing that made this book enjoyable was that I felt the romance was very believable. I watch a lot of Korean dramas and this book is somewhere along those lines. (I’m sure Jenny Han binge watches a lot of K-Dramas on her spare time~) I’m glad the “letter sending” scandal started pretty early on. For some reason, I thought it was going to happen at the end, but now that I think about that assumption now, it doesn’t make sense. Han wove each letter into the story perfectly; every time I felt I needed something more, I got it. I couldn’t stop reading and that’s why I ended up having to force myself to sleep at 4AM, only after I finished this book and moved on to the finish a quarter of the next, P.S. I Still Love You.

I’m going to spend most of my review on character analysis. So here goes it!

LARA JEAN: She’s a somewhat timid girl trying to fill the big shoes (literally, HAH) left by her older sister, Margot, who left for college in Scotland. At first, she’s a train wreck, but as the story progresses she begins to step up and become the older sister to Kitty she wants to be. I was glad that Lara Jean wasn’t annoying. I hate when a female protagonist is hopeless and weak, but Lara Jean owned it well. You see glimpses of her “quirky” personality and it’s something you grow to love. She reacts like any normal teenager would in the situations she’s thrown in, and handles it pretty well. She looks up to Margot as her example and has complete loyalty to her family, which is quite endearing.

KATHERINE aka KITTY: Kitty is the sassy youngest sibling. She watches HBO shows and has some lip to her. Nothing gets past Kitty’s eyes; she’s a bit snoopy but also very observant in her respect. Even if she does something bad, you can’t really dislike her because her character is so cute. I love how friendly she is with the boys and seems older than she actually is. I think Han did a great job of making her the little sister who grows up just a bit quicker because she has two older sisters, but still possesses a youthful heart and mind.

MARGOT: Margot is the reliable eldest sibling. She is on top of everything, the responsible big sister you know you can go to when you’re in trouble. She’s strict and at times judgmental, but it’s all from love and not from spite, which is portrayed through the way she says things and comforts her sisters. I do like how you find something out that makes her “not-so-perfect.” She’s the idol to her younger sisters and it was healthy to see how the sisters react once they find out something they never imagined Margot would be capable of. It shows the true essence of sisterhood, and the bond that can never be broken.

PETER K.: KAVINSKY! He’s the hot, everyone-wants-to-date, athlete, high school boy, and one of Lara Jean’s past crushes, her first to be exact. I think I fell in love with Peter the same time Lara Jean did. His character is one that just grows on you the more you read about him. He comes out as an ass in the beginning, but then you realize that’s his charm. I loved the fact he noticed more than Lara Jean gave him credit for. It’s always nice to know when boys see the small things, it shows they actually care about a person. I’m excited to see what the next book has in store for him. I hope he steps up because I have big hopes for him.

JOSH: The boy next door, literally. He’s one of Lara Jean’s past crushes as well as Margot’s first boyfriend and ex-boyfriend. I loved Josh’s character. He’s got that older brother vibe because he cares for the Song sisters and wants what is best for them. He’s not the macho boy at school, and not your typical crush. He’s the nothing-physically-special nerd at school. But then you see his true qualities that draw you in to ride the Josh Train. His character pokes in here and there, and every time it did, I loved what I discovered about him. I’m rooting for him and hope things look up in the latter part of the series.

The plot was great. There wasn’t quite a plot twist, but I feel that’s a bit more difficult to do in a contemporary romance because it has to be believable. I already had my suspicions of who sent Lara Jean’s love letters, so it wasn’t a surprise. I’m not sure if other readers were surprised by it. (If you were, let me know!) Each character had a unique personality that brought them to life on the pages and the writing was simple, yet engaging. Not sure what the expect from P.S. I Still Love You, but I’m glad I gave this book a shot, because even though it’s out of my comfort zone, I loved it.

If I had been left with just this first book and waiting for the second, I think I might have lost my mind a little. The way the first book ends, you literally HAVE to reach for the second one. So make sure you have both books before starting!!

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