YA Review: Vulture (Isles of Storm and Sorrow #3)

Title: Vulture (Isles of Storm and Sorrow #3)
Author: Bex Hogan
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

I’ve been waiting for the final book in the Isles of Storm and Sorrow series for a year, and after the extreme cliffhanger at the end of Book Two I couldn’t wait to get started!

Viper (Book One) sets up Marianne’s story and introduces us to the politics and magic of the Eastern Isles. Venom (Book Two) explores the consequences of Marianne’s actions, and sends her into danger as she travels across the Western Isles. In Vulture, familiar characters from East and West are brought together as Marianne seeks to protect the Twelve Isles from a dark magical threat.

It’s a breathtaking story. The action is non-stop as Marianne discovers the limits of her abilities, and the temptations of the magic she has learned on her journeys. This isn’t a black-and-white finale to the series, but an exploration of power, and how too much power brings temptation, corruption, and destruction. The first-person narration gives the reader a clear insight into the battle Marianne must fight within herself to control her hard-won abilities. It is refreshing and exhilerating to follow her story as she is repeatedly tempted towards revenge instead of justice. It is wonderful to see how much she has grown throughout the series, and how the strength she discovered in Viper has developed into the ability to change the world. How she uses that ability, and the changes she chooses to make, are always in question, keeping the reader and the supporting characters constantly on edge, right until the final pages.

It is wonderful to see characters from the previous books coming together to save the Twelve Isles and support Marianne – although some characters are more welcome than others. The author doesn’t give anyone an easy ride – there are twists, shocks, and surprises that test the strongest of Marianne’s companions, and tempt her to lose control of herself and her abilities. As in the previous books, no characters are safe from pain and tragedy, and everyone faces mortal danger. Be prepared for heartbreak – Bex Hogan doesn’t take prisoners!

This is an exciting, exhilarating, and thoughtful conclusion to the series, which highlights the strong relationships between the wide cast of characters, and gives Marianne the chance to grow and find her place in the world of the Twelve Isles. If you haven’t read the series yet, what are you waiting for?

Have you read Vulture? What did you think of the Isles of Storm and Sorrow series? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: A Vow So Bold and Deadly (Cursebreakers #3)

Title: A Vow So Bold and Deadly (Cursebreakers #3)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

I’ve been waiting for the third book in Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker trilogy, and A Vow So Bold and Deadly did not disappoint. Following the story of Harper and Prince Rhen in the first book (reviewed here), and the story of Grey and Lia Mara in the second book (reviewed here), the third instalment pieced together chapters from all four characters to narrate the climax of the series.

War is coming to Emberfall and Syhl Shallow, with Rhen and Grey on opposite sides. The prize is the crown of Emberfall, and while both sides are willing to fight, everyone is looking for a peaceful solution. The story follows the leaders of both countries as they try and fail to make peace – between Rhen and Grey, and within their borders. Shifting loyalties, civil unrest, and futile attempts at diplomacy keep the characters and the reader guessing right to the end. It’s an exciting, engaging story, revisiting the people and relationships of the previous books, and pushing them towards a war no one wants to fight.

I don’t want to give away spoilers, but I enjoyed this exciting and fitting end to the trilogy. If you haven’t read the series, what are you waiting for? Start with A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and introduce yourself to Rhen, Grey, and Harper, and the curse they must break to survive.

Have you read the Cursebreakers series? What did you think of the final book? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Ruin and Rising

Title: Ruin and Rising
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

Shadow and Bone, Book One of the trilogy, is reviewed here, and Siege and Storm, Book Two, is reviewed here.

After the cliffhanger at the end of Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising begins with Alina and her allies taking the chance to stop, breathe, and regroup. The future of Ravka is far from settled, and several factions are fighting for power – and looking for Alina.

This is another big story, and another gripping adventure in the beautifully drawn landscape of Ravka. Alina and the Darkling have unfinished business, but ending the fight for the future of their country will take sacrifice, and Alina’s choices will determine what happens to everyone within its borders. There are dangerous quests, surprise plot twists, punishment, pain, and deception – alongside the teamwork, loyalty, and friendship of Alina and her supporters. The trilogy ends with several unexpected twists, but the conclusion is dramatic and hard-won.

This is a satisfying final instalment in an exciting series, and I’m thrilled that the author has written more books in the Grishaverse. The King of Scars, Rule of Wolves, The Language of Thorns and The Lives of Saints are all on my TBR!

Have you read Ruin and Rising? What did you think of the story? What about the ending? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Siege and Storm

Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

Shadow and Bone, Book One of the trilogy, is reviewed here.

The second book in the Shadow and Bone Trilogy picks up the story from the end of Book One, and quickly drops the characters back into trouble, and back into action.

Mal and Alina have escaped from the Darkling, the Grisha, and the Second Army, but they soon learn that they can’t stay hidden. The Darkling has plans for Alina, and allies to help him achieve his goal. To survive, Alina must find allies of her own.

This is a big story, with dangerous sea voyages, mystical creatures, lavish parties, glittering palaces, and a threat to the throne of Ravka. The world building is gorgeous – Ravka’s forests and mountains feel entirely real, alongside perilous ocean journeys and a visit to the far side of the True Sea. Alina’s character develops throughout the story as she begins to embrace her new life, but as she starts to accept her importance the barriers to her happiness become more overwhelming, and the danger she faces becomes harder to ignore.

This is an exciting story with a fast-paced and shocking conclusion. Alina’s choices become more difficult as she discovers the importance of her role in shaping the future of Ravka, and her relationship with Mal is tested by the changes in her status. She remains a relatable character, and a reluctant protagonist in her own story, but she doesn’t shy away from hard choices and painful decisions. There’s a great second-book-of-a-trilogy cliffhanger, and I’m glad I have Book Three on my shelf!

Have you read Siege and Storm? What did you think of the story? Who was your favourite character? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Shadow and Bone

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

We chose this novel to read at YA Book Club because the Netflix adaptation is coming to our screens in April, and we wanted to read the book before watching the series. This is the first of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels, and having read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom last year, I was eager to go back and see how the story began.

The Six of Crows duology felt more grown-up than Shadow and Bone. Where Six of Crows features members of a criminal gang, the main characters in Shadow and Bone are younger and much more innocent. Alina, the narrator, and Mal, her best friend, are orphans. They grew up together under the care of a duke and his family, and both joined the army as young adults – Alina as a map maker, and Mal as a tracker. In the first chapter, we discover that there are two levels of military service. The First Army employs ordinary people like Alina and Mal, and the Second Army is made up of the Grisha – people with magical powers who can manipulate matter, summon the elements, and heal or harm the people around them. While Alina and Mal live as ordinary soldiers, the Grisha live like royalty, even while marching with the First Army.

A deadly encounter with dark magic brings Alina and Mal to the attention of the Darkling, a powerful Grisha and commander of the Second Army. As Alina learns more about herself, and about Grisha powers, she must decide where her loyalties lie. With Mal, the Darkling, and the Grisha she meets all competing for her attention and affection, she has to learn quickly how to navigate her new life without losing herself.

There’s plenty of excitement, danger, and political intrigue in the story, which provides a colourful introduction to the Grishaverse. The system of magic is consistent and interesting, with practitioners perfecting their skills in a single discipline, and working together to accomplish larger tasks. There’s a price for pushing the limits of Grisha powers, and for using power for personal gain. The settings for the story are well drawn and believeable – the cities feel busy and real, and as the characters travel the roads and mountains of Ravka the reader can feel the ground under their feet and appreciate the scenery around them.

Alina is an interesting narrator. She thinks of herself as plain and ordinary – she’s not even a particularly good map-maker. She was tested for Grisha power as a child and rejected, so she knows she is not worthy to be part of the Second Army. Her insecurity follows her through the story, and she constantly rejects any suggestion that she might be valuable or special – a belief that brings her into conflict with the people around her. It’s frustrating at times, but her ever-present imposter syndrome also makes her easy to relate to. Her relationship with Mal develops through the book as they discover more about their feelings for each other, but their history and the events of the story throw up constant obstacles to their happiness. Both characters feel real and complex, and it is easy to care about what happens to them.

This is an exciting introduction to the Grishaverse, and an interesting setup for the rest of the series. I’m glad I have the second book on my shelf!

Have you read Shadow and Bone? What did you think of the story? Who was your favourite character? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Deeplight

Title: Deeplight
Author: Francis Hardinge
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

Fourteen-year-old orphans Hark and Jelt scrape a living on the streets of Lady’s Crave, one of the islands of The Myriad. Life on the islands used to be dominated by the gods – giant sea monsters who swallowed ships and fought each other in the surrounding waters. But the gods are dead, and their bodies yield powers beyond the imaginations of the islanders. Hunting for godware is a dangerous profession, and when Jelt convinces Hark to help him dive to search for fragments they can sell, their lives are changed forever by their discoveries.

‘Deeplight’ is a gripping adventure story, set in a world that feels real and dangerous. Hark is a believable protagonist, and it is easy to sympathise with his dilemmas. He wants to build a better life for himself, but he can’t resist being drawn again and again into his best friend’s risky schemes. Hark and Jelt have been each other’s families for so long that Hark finds it impossible to walk away, and both boys pay the price for his decisions. Add in an engaging cast of supporting characters – ageing priests, ruthless gangs, strong women, and a genius scientist with questionable morals – and you have the ingredients for a nail-biting story. Part fantasy, part dark folklore, and part atmospheric horror, the book delivers chilling revelations, surprising plot twists, and touching moments of friendship, along with a spine-tingling sense of wonder.

A highlight of the book is the treatment of its deaf characters. Loss of hearing is a common injury among the Myriad’s under-sea scavengers, and deaf islanders are honoured for their bravery. Many of the characters in the book speak using sign language, and their status means that hearing characters learn the signs in order to communicate with them. Sign language is presented as a standard method of communication, and while characters from different islands are described as having regional accents, the signs also have regional variations. The author consulted members of the National Deaf Children’s Society, and the result is a diverse, inclusive narrative where no one feels like a token character, the use of sign language is seen as a strength and an honour, and everyone is important to the story.

Have you read Deeplight? What was your favourite part of the story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Venom (Isles of Storm and Sorrow #2)

Title: Venom
Author: Bex Hogan
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

Marianne, the Viper, is married to Prince Torin, but after the wedding, nothing goes according to plan. Marianne finds herself on the run, finding enemies she didn’t know she had, and discovering which of her friends she can trust.

The sequel to ‘Viper’ begins with a beautiful wedding, but just when you think the story is about to take a break, and give the characters a chance to reflect, the action kicks off and doesn’t let up. Marianne is in trouble, relying on friends and strangers to keep her safe while she finds out more about the Western Isles, and the magic she spent time researching in book one. The temptation to learn more takes her back to the West, where her competing loyalties lead her into danger – and to some surprising discoveries.

There is plenty of action in ‘Venom’, and plenty of excitement. Marianne encounters politics, power, and temptation, along with friendship, and fear for the people she loves. Every decision she makes brings heavy consequences – and without a clear plan she makes mistakes, and hurts the people she hoped to help. She’s still a strong protagonist, but this is an emotional journey through deception, myth, and the loyalty of friends.

To say that the book ends on a cliffhanger would be an understatement. When you turn the final page, you’ll need comfort food, and a plan to survive until the release of book three in April 2021!

I can’t wait …

Have you read Viper and Venom? What did you think of the story? Did you prefer the adventures of the first book, or the darker action of the second? And what about that ending? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Viper (Isles of Storm and Sorrow #1)

Title: Viper
Author: Bex Hogan
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

Right from the start, I loved this book. The first chapter wastes no time, throwing the reader into the blood-soaked life of the protagonist from page one, and building a strong character in a very few pages. There are no wasted words, no unnecessary descriptions, and no unimportant events. Chapter one introduces violence, conflict, fear, and betrayal, setting up the themes of the book. By the end of chapter two, all the pieces are in place for a thrilling pirate-based adventure.

I know I have a soft spot for pirate stories, seafaring tales, and strong female protagonists, and Viper brings all these things together with some vividly described settings and plenty of action. The main character, seventeen-year-old Marianne, is intelligent and brave, facing her fears and learning how to survive as the daughter of the Viper – the most feared ship’s captain on the ocean, and defender of the Twelve Isles. While the Viper is committed to training Marianne to follow in his bloodthirsty footsteps, she has other ideas, refusing to kill for him and turning her attention to stories of magic from the lost Western Isles.

There’s triumph and tragedy, friendship and betrayal, fear and strength, and some gorgeous settings. I wanted to visit the Twelve Isles, and by the end of the book I felt as if I had set foot on several of them. The descriptions are intriguing, and every time Marianne steps onto land the reader can feel the sun, smell the flowers, or wince at the sharp rocks underfoot. The descriptions of the ocean are just as vivid, evoking a sailor’s respect for the power of the sea.

Strong friendships and stronger betrayals are a theme of the book, as the loyalties of the Viper’s crew are tested, and Marianne uncovers her father’s plans for her future. A romantic subplot brings plenty of surprises, with the relationships developing in unexpected ways. The main characters are sympathetic and interesting, and the story is relentless, pushing through danger and nail-biting action to a satisfying conclusion.

This is an effective piece of escapism, which draws the reader into the world of the Twelve Isles, and sets everything up for the rest of the trilogy. I loved seeing the world through Marianne’s eyes, and I can’t wait for Book Two!

Have you read Viper? What did you think of the story? Are you looking forward to Venom – Book Two in the series? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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