BOOK REVIEW: Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

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Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Series: Song of the Lioness (Complete)

Alanna the First Adventure: ★★★/5
In the Hand of the Goddess: ★★★/5
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man: ★★★.5/5
Lioness Rampant: ★★★/5

Summary Alanna the First Adventure: The first volume tells the story of Alanna’s page years. The book describes how she switches places with her brother and first comes to the palace—disguised as the boy “Alan”–, finds friends and makes enemies. She also learns most of the things she needs to know as a knight. Even though she is only a page, Alanna already has to fight the Sweating Sickness and the powerful Ysandir.

Summary In the Hand of the Goddess: Alanna, the squire of the Crown Prince Jonathan IV of Conté and still disguised as a boy, meets the Great Mother Goddess. From her she learns that she has to face her three greatest fears: the fear of the Chamber of the Ordeal, that of Duke Roger of Conté and the fear of love. But she also has to face another problem: Tusaine is declaring war on Tortall.

Summary The Woman Who Rides Like a Man: Finally Alanna has become a knight and removed a great threat to the Tortallan Crown from the land. But the revelation that “Squire Alan” is now indeed “Sir Alanna” isn’t accepted easily by the court. To get away from all the gossip and to find herself again, Alanna and her manservant Coram Smythesson left Corus and traveled through the Great Southern Desert, where they encounter the Bazhir tribe of the Bloody Hawk. There Alanna has to deal with the Bazhir’s customs while teaching three young people the way of a Bazhir shaman.

Summary Lioness Rampant: On trying to save an old friend of Halef Seif’s, Alanna retrieved a map promising the Dominion Jewel which could help Tortall to prosper. Thus, she sets out to find this jewel. On her way she meets the Shang Dragon Liam Ironarm as well as the Sarain Princess Thayet jian Wilima, who both return back to Tortall with her after her quest is complete. But even after she brings the Dominion Jewel home there is still danger for Tortall. Duke Roger of Conté is back from the dead and trying to destroy Tortall.

Review: I decided to do a comprehensive book review of Tamora Pierce’s quartet, The Song of the Lioness, because as she mentions, this quartet started out as a standalone book before she separated it into four separate ones. However, the series itself still reads as one continuous adventure. There is an underlying conflict that hovers over Alanna’s head as the series continues, with each book allowing a smaller conflict to be resolved. Since it felt as though the series was one long book, some books were less interesting than others. Reviewed as a whole, the series is definitely a 4 out of 5 stars for me, but individually some books stood out more than others. My least favorite being The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. The high point of book three was how Alanna truly maintained her independence from the confines of the traditional role of woman. She was shattering the gender norms with grace and confidence. However, the story arch of this book fell a bit flat for me as I continued to anticipate more action, but was greeted with a slow build up.

Comparatively, while I love the world and story that Pierce has the ability to weave through her words, I much prefer her quartet, The Immortals. Set in the same world and years later, it really delves into a much more magical world that I always look for in fantasy books. However, one thing that always remains, is the fantastic growth and character development of the strong female leads as they truly discover their purpose and potential in an unlikely setting. Not only Alanna, but her supporting characters grow alongside her which really pulls you into the world as though it truly exists.

Alanna of Trebond: A strong and determined female lead who is a great role model to any little girl. While she understands her weaknesses, her humbleness keeps her grounded in her successes. She continually shatters expectations and follows the path that is true to her own beliefs. Alanna maintains her honor throughout the entire series and the growth her character makes is one to be awed.

George Cooper: The King of Thieves, despite his title possesses an honor equaling Alanna. I loved their relationship and how George truly accepted Alanna with an unconditional love. He embraced her strong personality and never tried to limit her while providing the support she needed when she felt struggled. This was a respected relationship of equals.

Myles of Olau: I truly loved the father figure Myles became to Alanna. He recognized how special Alanna was and his patience and support was constant. Without a truly compassionate relationship with her birth father, Alanna was able to experience it with Myles.

Jonathan of Conte: I loved Jonathan’s character through the first two books. He was an unlikely humble crown prince. He got down and dirty and never really expected special treatment. However, during book three, the heaviness of the crown began to change him. I struggled alongside him because he backtracked from the person he began as and I hoped for so much more for him. Though he lost his way, he always truly cared for Alanna, though it was apparent that they were in different places and would never truly be able to provide what the other needed.

I think the main thing to take away from The Song of Lioness is the relationships and growth between the characters. There is a little bit of something for everyone–love, passion, greed, friendships, heartbreak, sadness. This fantasy book truly touches upon the different relationships currently and in the future.

BOOK REVIEW: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series: Trilogy (Ongoing)

Three Dark Crowns: ★★★/5

SUMMARY: When kingdom come, there will be one. In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

There are a lot of mixed reviews for this book. First off, it took me FOREVER to finish it. I ended up taking a LONGGGG break halfway through before buckling down and forcing myself to finish. I only gave this book a 3 out of 5 stars because of three reasons:

  1. The premise was interesting and fresh
  2. The writing was easy to follow and visually descriptive
  3. It was unpredictable and surprising

Overall, I only enjoyed around 20% of the book, which were the last 100 pages or so. The beginning dragged on and I’m guessing the author was taking her time to really get readers to buy into each of the queens’ characters/personalities, but at times I found it really long and uninteresting. There were parts in each queen’s story that I thought were repetitive and unnecessary. Also, for most of the book, I didn’t really enjoy any one character and couldn’t find myself attached to any. However, that could have been the author’s intentions to keep readers from cheering on any one of the queens throughout the book.

Character Development: There really wasn’t any present throughout the book, but from the few reviews I read about the second installment, it seems most of the growth will happen in the next book. I’ll talk about a few of my favorite to least favorite characters.

Arsinoe: The Naturalist queen. Her personality was the most dynamic and interesting. I found her refreshing and honest. She accepted the fact that she was “giftless” yet she was doing everything she could to make some sort of gift arise from inside her. Her efforts were admirable despite the fact her methods may not have been. I enjoyed reading her chapters as I found myself curious as to what she would do next. Her relationship with Jules and Camden were heartwarming. I love them both.

Jules & Camden: Jules is one of my most favorite characters. She’s true to herself and Arsinoe. Her loyalty and honest to goodness towards her friends is to die for her. She never waivers and her strong personality always shines in whatever she does. I’m sure the next book has a lot in store for her.

Mirabella: The Elemental queen. Known to be the strongest with the backing of the High Priestess, she’s destined to be the reigning queen. However, her powerful exterior conflicts with her delicate heart. Though she was the strongest of her sisters, she was the most empathetic and hesitant. She was misunderstood because of the image the priestesses painted of her. She was frustrating to read about at times, because if she took a little bit more of an initiative a lot of the problems would have been solved. I hate when miscommunication is a factor of a problem remaining unsolved.

Katherine: The Poison queen. She’s my least favorite. Her character is just unlikable in my opinion. If I were to guess, I would say she is only going to get worse in the next book. I didn’t like her in the first and I’m pretty sure I’ll dislike her even more in the next book if she stays on the same path.

Joseph: I hate this guy. I’m not going to spoil the book, but in the beginning I really enjoyed reading about him with Jules. But by the end of the book I wanted to strangle him. He’s so worthless and his words never support his actions. Weak-minded guys are the worst.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you’ve got nothing on your list to read. It’s not an immediate go out and buy type of book, but maybe more of a library check out kind. The cover is beautiful though. It was well written and though some people might find the shifting perspectives jarring, I thought it was organized enough to follow without getting confused. Just be prepared to have to trudge through at least 75-80% of the book before you can really get into it. The ending was very interesting and I didn’t see the twist at the end–the cliffhanger at the end itself makes me want to read the second just to see what happens. Though I have no strong attachments to any of the characters to see how things turn out for them.

Buy it on AMAZON.

UPDATE: It’s Official!

My Kalcyon ARCs have officially been delivered and I have never been so excited to open a package. It looks even better than I had hoped for it to. I love the new cover concept that I incorporated into it. For those who purchased my VERY first edition, I did make many changes to the cover and format, but I appreciate each and every one of you for your support ❤ On the plus side, it is technically a specialty product! (Get the hardcover! It’s 100x better.)

Kalcyon is slated to be officially released on January 31, 2015, however this will only be the paperback and e-book version. I am going to try my very best to get the hardcover version finished by this time as well, but the company I use has a somewhat slow turnaround rate for proofs. I am keeping my fingers crossed though.

This is such a surreal moment for me. And the best present I could have given myself for Christmas! I hope you all have a great holiday, and if you do have the chance, read my first book, Karnage, to get ready for the release of Kalcyon!

You can find Karnage on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Leave me a review and tell me what you thought!

Tata for now~

ARTICLE POST: Planner or Spontaneous

Are you a planner or the spontaneous type? I rest somewhere in-between the two. On one side, I love to plan–I spent $14.99 on a calendar app, yes, a CALENDAR APP. Sometimes I can’t believe it myself, but then again it’s probably the only app I haven’t regretted buying, and literally use it to list day-to-day tasks and events (It even color-codes! yaaaas). Then on the opposite spectrum, I am so spontaneous–I love surprises and surprising, and trying new things. If you’re my friend, I’ve surprised you once or twice, just for the heck of it.

The type of person and my personality is reflected in my methods as a writer. Every idea has been a result from a spontaneous actions I’ve taken, but if I wasn’t a planner, I would NEVER finish a book. Why you ask? Because behind spontaneity, there is no real sense, it’s purely force of will and desire–a rush of adrenaline. I have this general surge of excitement about an idea, but it’s only a matter of time when I run out of gas, and that’s where my planning side comes into play. Drawing up maps of connections between the characters, listing personality traits and physical appearances, accounting the pasts of each character until they’re real-life people to me, timelining all the events of the world, and outlining a whole series is ridiculously fun to me. It might be because I’m a bit of a controlling, methodical person, and as the holder of the pen, I possess all the power–to kill, to resurrect, to bring together, to separate forever.

But I think every writer needs to be spontaneous. Not only does it open new avenues into your writing, it’ll also reveal hidden doors to amazing discoveries. A writer needs to be open-minded to the outrageous. But they also need to know how to rein in the crazy so that they can get the most out of it.

As you might know, my first published book, KARNAGE, was a self-published book and also a baby of a seventeen-year-old’s spontaneous idea. It some ways, I may have rushed the publishing of this first book. There wasn’t much planning involved and it ended up just being straight doing. I’ve definitely slowed down the pace with the second installment of the series, KALCYON, which is scheduled to release late January, as I am taking the steps of marketing it before its release.

I’m also writing a new manuscript for a new series, titled DEATH WISH UNDONE. I’m hoping to get this series published through traditional methods. I’ve already pitched it to two agents who both found the idea intriguing and asked me to send the first 50 pages of the manuscript. I haven’t sent it to them yet, but I’m hoping to send it out soon. This manuscript was a product of much planning and not much spontaneity. In my opinion, while the world building is much more solid, I feel the story still lacks a spicy kick of sorts and I’m trying to figure it out before I send it.

Anyway, when all is said and done. If you’re the planning type, go out and do something spontaneous. If you’re the spontaneous type, sit down and write down a plan or outline. Either way, you’ll be surprised with the results you get and the ideas that will form!

Check out my young adult fantasy book Karnage (The Phoenix Ashes Book 1)! If you love special powers, dragons, and fantastical worlds then you’ll enjoy it!

ARTICLES YOU MAY ENJOY . . .

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BOOK REVIEW: The Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce

Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Series: Book 4 of Quartet (Complete)

The Realms of the Gods: ★★★★★/5

Summary: During a dire battle against the fearsome Skinners, Daine and her mage teacher Numair are swept into the Divine Realms. Though happy to be alive, they are not where they want to be. They are desperately needed back home, where their old enemy, Ozorne, and his army of strange creatures are waging war against Tortall. Trapped in the mystical realms Daine discovers her mysterious parentage. And as these secrets of her past are revealed so is the treacherous way back to Tortall. So they embark on an extraordinary journey home, where the fate of all Tortall rests with Daine and her wild magic.

The last book of the Immortals series! Ah. This was bittersweet. The battle between Tortall and Carthak, which even brought the gods into the mix finally comes to an end. Daine and Numair is brought into the Realm of the Gods and she finally meets her father, the God of Hunt, Weiryn.

The book starts in immediate conflict as we find that Tortall is in constant war with Stormwing Ozorne and his forces who is playing a dangerous game against the gods. Daine and Numair get pulled into the realm of the gods and need to find a way back to the mortal realms in order to help Tortall win a battle they seem to be losing. It starts a bit slow as they make their way to the dragons to hitch a ride back.

DAINE: Daine finally meets her dad, the God of the Hunt, Weiryn. There’s not much of an exchange between them and I kind of wished they had a conversation or two, separate from the other gods. In this final book, Daine has become a young woman. She’s strong, independent, and powerful. I love how, even though she’s only sixteen, she takes the initiative and is comfortable in her own skin(s). Daine is blunt and a refreshing protagonist.

NUMAIR: Ah…I love Numair. I will definitely miss him after this series. Despite his age, he has a young soul and is absolutely adorable. He finally makes a move too! He does everything in his power to keep Daine safe and never gives up on her even though there’s a possibility she’s dead. He cares for her as a student, friend, magical partner, and love. He’s extremely respectable as he continues to try and protect Daine’s innocence, though she won’t have much of it as she is very blunt with the matter.

RIKASH: I appreciate that Pierce developed a sort of humanity in the Stormwings when you hated them in the first parts of the series. Rikash is an honorable Stormwing and even Daine finds a friend in him.

DARKINGS: In the beginning you hate these little things and curse Daine for being naively kind to them. But by the end of the book you love these little inkblots. I love how each of our characters had one as a companion. It’s absolutely adorable that even King Jonathan had one.

Ok, so I’ll finally talk about the romantic relationship between Numair and Daine. I know some people criticize it because of the age difference (14 years). And, believe me, I am not a personal advocate of age differences in relationships. BUT, readers should remember that this is set in an age where girls are married extremely young and it is not uncommon for them to marry older. Plus, Numair possesses a young, pure soul and Daine is much more mature than her age reflects, so I calculate they meet somewhere in the middle and true age difference is around 4 years. I love the fact Daine realizes that Numair loves her with the little locket he’s been keeping and that she’s not all shy about it and is very upfront. They have been through so much together in the past 3-4 years that I really believed the development the relationship made. They struggled through life and death situations and at the end of each battle the first person they look for is each other, which does not change in this last book.

Pierce really developed the magical realms in this finale. You learn more of the immortals and the gods and their rules. It’s nice to see that even within the existence of gods there are limitations and rules and punishments. Overall, I loved this series. It was a reread from my middle school years, and it definitely renewed my love for fantasy.

BUY IT ON AMAZON