YA

Book Review: The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate (eARC)

The Red Labyrinth

Author: Meredith Tate

Publication Date: 04 Jun 2019

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Pages: 352

Publisher: Flux

Synopsis:

The massive labyrinth was built to protect Zadie Kalvers’ isolated desert town. Unfortunately, living in the maze’s shadow makes her feel anything but safe. Even without its enchanted deathtraps and illusions, a mysterious killer named Dex lurks in its corridors, terrorizing anyone in his path.

But when Zadie’s best friend vanishes into the labyrinth-and everyone mysteriously forgets he exists- completing the maze becomes her only hope of saving him. In desperation, Zadie bribes the only person who knows the safe path through-Dex-into forming a tenuous alliance.

Navigating a deadly garden, a lethal blood-filled hourglass, and other traps-with an untrustworthy murderer for her guide-Zadie’s one wrong step from certain death. But with time running out before her friend (and secret crush) is lost forever, Zadie must reach the exit and find him. If Dex and the labyrinth don’t kill her first.

My Thoughts:

Thank you NetGalley and Flux for providing this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I love dystopian tropes, which is why I was originally drawn to this book.

Right away, we emerge into a grim, post-apocalyptic world that consists of Blanks (people who are magically inept) of Skilled (people with varied magical abilities that’s based on a ranking system). The caveat? You’re born into these classes.

The story follows Zadie, a Blank, whose best friends with a Skilled, Limitless Landon…and of course, love is blossoming!! YES!!! Landon is referred to as limitless since his abilities essentially have no bounds. Society looks down on Zadie though since she’s not a skilled, but Landon has never held it against her.

Once Zadie actually goes through the challenges/traps of the Labyrinth, the plot loses a bit of steam. Additionally, the end of the story is a bit rushed, which is unfortunate.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, I just wanted a bit more.

Rating: 3.5 stars

YA

Book Review: Of Rioters and Royals by M.L. Greye

And eye color was everything. It was a way to interpret a person’s talents. Certain abilities were intrinsic to a person, depending on the shade of their eyes.

Of Rioters and Royals

Author: M.L. Greye

Publication Date: 18 Jan 2019

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Pages: 304

Publisher: Amazon Digital

Synopsis:

Emry is a Royal – a princess of Enlennd. As is tradition, she must have a knight at her side as her protector. The only way to appoint one is through The Trials. Her Challengers from the five regions of Enlennd must compete for the infamous title of Princess’s Knight. The problem, though, is that the people of Enlennd are split into two categories: Rioters and Royals. Finding the perfect knight may be the last of her worries. War is coming to Enlennd. 

Declan is a Rioter. An upriser. An anarchist. He mistrusts the Jewels – the sovereign family of Enlennd. Yet, he is offering himself up as a Challenger in The Trials. The Mistress, leader of the Rioters, has a mission for him. The first step is for him to become the Princess’s Knight. He is ready for the task, until he actually meets Emry and discovers that betraying her would be much more difficult than he’d thought. 

My Thoughts:

When I first started reading the prologue, I was a little bogged down with the sheer amount of information presented in order to set the foundation for the book. It was not particularly exciting for me, which put a bit of a sour taste in my mouth when I was starting chapter one. My palate was immediately cleansed once I dove into this riveting story full of magic, adventure, plot twists, and romance.

I was really intrigued by the idea of a person’s eye color predetermining the elemental magic that he or she would would harness. For example, Declan is a teal, so he has unnatural speed and partial control over nature. Princess Emerald on the hand is a silver, which is incredibly rare as are her magical abilities.

I loved the The Hunger Games esque style Trials that Declan and the other challengers faced in order to procure the prestigious position of Princess Emerald’s Knight. While Declan originally volunteers for the Trials as a means to gain access to the Princess so he can kidnap her and bring her back to the leader of the Rioters, things become complicated when he realizes that he would be betraying the girl that he saved all those years ago.

Overall, I think that Greye did a great job of immersing us into this magical universe, and I am intrigued to see how her series continues to unfold.  

Thank you to M.L. Greye for providing an ebook of this story in exchange for an honest review. This had no bearing on the outcome of this review.

Rating: 4 stars

Find this book online: Amazon and Goodreads

YA

Book Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

I give her a nod and turn for the door. 
“Rhen,” she calls after me. 
I pause in the doorway and face her. 
“I’m not going to fall in love with you,” she says. Her words are not a surprise. 
I sigh. “You won’t be the first.”

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publication Date: 29 Jan 2019

Genre: YA

Pages: 489

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Synopsis:

Fall in love, break the curse.


It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

My Thoughts:

In all honesty, I am a cynic when it comes to retellings of the Beauty and the Beast because it is my all-time favorite fairytale. I was excited when I first heard about this book (because who doesn’t love the opportunity to relive the magic and beauty of that tale), but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was also massively apprehensive. This book soared passed my outrageously high expectations because it was such a breathtakingly original work of literary magic that I daresay should not even be considered a retelling.

The opening chapters describe a scene where Harper witnesses a man (Grey) attempt to kidnap a girl in broad daylight in bustling Washington D.C. Even though Harper has cerebral palsy, which gives her a physical disadvantage, she still holds her own with a tire iron. While the girl is able to escape Grey’s attempted kidnapping, Harper is the next victim to be sent to Emberfall.

After reading those opening chapters, I instantly fell in love with Harper. First off, bravo for the inclusivity of characters with disabilities. Also, thank you for not making her disability a crutch or a source of pity. Harper is fiercely independent and will not allow anything, disability or not, to stand in her way of returning home to her dying mother and brother who must hustle to pay off their father’s gambling debts.

As the story continues, we are introduced to Grey, the Commander of the Royal Guard or at least he was before the creature killed everyone, and Rhen, the Crowned Prince of Emberfall who is cursed by the enchantress Lady Lillith to become a creature that preys on the kingdom once a season. Prince Rhen is convinced that the only way to break the curse is to fall in love.

Cue Harper. Harper does not buy the whole falling in love to break the curse spiel. She’s been kidnapped for god’s sake, so why on Earth would she fall in love with her kidnapper?! Instead, after she learns the state of destitute at which the citizens of Emberfall have fallen on, Harper takes it upon herself to help the people of Emberfall irrespective of their impending doom. She may not be able to help them all, but she will die trying!

As the story continues, the layers from the previous seasons of despair and defeat gradually peel away from both Prince Rhen and Grey. They accept that this is the final season of Lillith’s torment and regardless if the curse is broken or not, they will assist Harper in ensuring that their people are not forsaken.

Contrary to what I originally believed, this picturesque Beauty and the Beast adaptation was what I needed. The splendor of this story is that there is no love at first sight. Trust has already been completely shattered. Yet, you fall in love with the real moments that these characters have with one another. There’s something magical and enriching about stories that have relatable characters.  I cannot recommend this story enough. It will definitely be one that people will seamlessly integrate into their memories of the Beauty and the Beast.

Rating: 5 stars

Have you read A Curse So Dark and Lonely? Do you like fairytale retellings? Let’s discuss!

YA

Book Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig (ARC)



House of Salt and Sorrows

Author: Erin A. Craig

Publication Date: 06 Aug 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 416

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Thank you NetGalley and Delacorte Press for providing me a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Get swept away in Erin A. Craig’s mesmerizing House of Salt and Sorrows. As one by one her beautiful sisters mysteriously die on their isolated island estate, Annaleigh must unravel the curse that haunts her family. Be careful who you dance with. . . .

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last–the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge–and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who–or what–are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family–before it claims her next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.

My Thoughts:

This book transforms the fairytale of the twelve dancing princesses into a dark, sinister ghost story that makes you weary of falling asleep with the lights off.

 The story begins with Annaleigh Thaumus returning yet another family member, her fourth eldest sister Eulalie, to the Salt. Annaleigh has already lost her eldest three sisters and her mother as well. Eulalie’s body was discovered at the base of the cliff’s edge, and with everyone assuming that the Thaumus family is cursed, the majority of people assume that Eulalie committed suicide. Everyone except Annaleigh. Annaleigh’s young stepmother, Morella, the new Duchess of the Salaana islands decides, at the funeral, that she is done with mourning and uses it as a platform to announce that she is pregnant with a son.

Now at this point, I was asking myself how in the world did this woman know that she was pregnant with a son. She told Annaleigh that she was probably around 3 months pregnant, maybe more, so the gender of the baby should not be known at this point. Also, Morella decided to take a time of remembrance to focus on herself. I understand why the daughters were hesitant to like Morella because that was incredibly disrespectful behavior.

Following the funeral, Morella decided that Highmoor would no longer be in mourning, which was uncharacteristic for the people of the Salaan islands since the mourning period for the death of a relative was a minimum of one year. While Annaleigh was hesitant to oblige, her sisters were eager to go to balls and dance the night away. While the first ball to honor the triplet’s birthday was unsuccessful, the girls discover Pontus’ magical door, which allows them to travel to distance kingdoms where no one has heard of the Thaumus curse.

I enjoyed watching the development of Annaleigh’s character because I saw her as the voice of reason. Annaleigh was the first to accept Morella as a friend and give her a chance when her sisters viewed her as a gold digger. Annaleigh also was able to connect with Verity, her youngest sister, in a way that the other sisters could not since they presumed her to be filled with childish notions. Verity confides in Annaleigh that she sees her dead sisters after Annaleigh discovers her journal is covered in drawings of their rotting corpses.

Without giving away the plot, this story was an absolute page turner for me. Erin weaves this magical tale that is horrifying, heartbreaking, but most importantly, hopeful. The nuances in which she develops the characters made me fall in love with them; making it even more heartbreaking as the terror continued to unfold. Erin did warn us to be careful who you dance with, but were you paying attention?

Rating: 5 stars