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The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins | Blabber

The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Fantasy/Horror
388 pages
Hardback
Read Oct 1 – Oct 12
Spoiler-free blabber

This book is a bit unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The closest I can think of is 14 by Peter Clines, but even then, it’s more. I buddy-read this book with Katy @TheBibliobibuliOnBookbinderWay and we both really liked it.

The book opens on the main character, Carolyn, walking down the side of a highway, coated in blood. While the scene itself ends up not being super duper significant in the overall plot, it definitely sets the tone. It feels weird and unsettling and when a good samaritan pulls over to ask if she’s okay, my brain went ‘Nope leave her there’ immediately, already on alert that she was not someone you wanted to be around.

From there, the plot starts to slowly unfold – Carolyn and her ‘siblings’ are being blocked from entering their dwelling, the mysterious library, and their Father has disappeared. The library and what exactly Father is largely remains a mystery until the end of the book, and it creates a feel of uncertainty as you read. Too, the catalogues that each of the siblings studies as librarians are a bit outside the norm of what a normal library would hold.

All of this, together with the intense writing and out-there plot developments makes this book a very gritty, dark read. This isn’t a book you’d want to let your ten year old into, as it contains scenes of violence against children. I won’t go into what, for spoilers, but reading those scenes was difficult for me. The book is written in a way that doesn’t glorify the events, and they are relevant to the plot. But just so you know, they’re in there. So head’s up.

I think one of my favorite things about this book was the author’s ability to make me say ‘what the hell’ after the end of almost every chapter. The events of the book, as stated, are a bit out there. Things happen that are so bizarre and it takes a bit to get used to, but they’re bizarre in a consistent manner. There’s an order to how weird everything is, and I think that’s what made me love this book. I’m ok with suspending my disbelief if the author can paint a picture and make it all-encompassing, and that’s what Scott Hawkins does.

Character-wise, I didn’t like any of them except Dresden and Erwin. But when I say I didn’t like them, I don’t mean they were badly written. I mean they’re well written, but just awful people. Don’t go into this expecting to root for people, they’ll all leave a foul taste in your mouth. It kept me reading – watching these characters be who they were, and part of me hoped they all would just fail at everything. So not hate-reading, but reading while hating the characters as people, not as single-dimensional tropes. See the difference? I loved this book.

Finally, the ending of a book is make or break for me. I could absolutely adore the first 5/6ths of a book but if the ending is shit, the book will drop a star rating, sometimes two. But the ending of this, while just as totally insane as the rest of the book, was a solid ending in my opinion. I didn’t like the outcome of a lot of the characters, but it also fit really well with how Carolyn and the others were colored to act. It wasn’t outside their normal range of behavior. So while I wasn’t overly fond of how some seemed to just get away with awful deeds and others paid dearly for minor ones, it still fit the story.

So. Loved this book. Can definitely see me rereading it. Going on favorites list.

5/5 stars

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Posted by on 10/17/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Dragon Keeper (The Rain Wild Chronicles, #1)Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Fantasy
494 pages
Read Sept 2 – Sept 29, 2018
Rain Wild Chronicles, Book 1
Realm of the Elderlings, Book 10

Spoiler-free blabber

I buddy-read this book with Zezee! This is what feels like our millionth Robin Hobb buddy-read, and it was just as enjoyable as all it’s predecessors. 😀

I think that I would have enjoyed this book more if the previous Hobb books in the Realm of the Elderlings series weren’t The Tawny Man trilogy. I say this because to me, Tawny Man is her best works so far. I loved that series. So coming down off that and going into this one, I think my expectations were a bit too high, or I was still not over the previous one.

Overall, I did rather like this book. It was very enjoyable, and I feel like it’s a strong set-up to what could be a really, really good quartet. But, with my mindset still partially on The Fool and Fitz, my heart was still a bit distracted, so I feel like I couldn’t give as much affection to this one because Fitz and The Fool weren’t in it.

The characters that were in it though, were nice and gray and complicated, just how Hobb loves to write and them and I love to read them. Each one within the first book developed distinct personalities and motivations. Some of them I very much like, others I started with disliking and ended up liking and some I started with liking and ended up disliking.

Alise. Probably my favorite character in the series at this point. In the beginning of the book, she enters into a marriage contract with Hest, a prominent trader in Bingtown, which would allow her to pursue her study of dragons in earnest. Alise starts as a character that has never really been the center of attention but by the end of the novel, becomes more confident in herself and her skills and what attention she does receive from the other characters, she revels in. There’s a gray area with her in this though, but saying what it is would be a spoiler, I think. Overall, her character growth in this first book was good to read, and while she is my favorite character, she’s toying a very fine line in morals. It’ll be interesting to see which way she ultimately slides.

Hest. Easily my most hated character. Alise’s husband, he’s a bit of a jerk. I think his character arc was the most easily predictable for me. I was able to guess ahead of time why he acts the way he was acting, and to have to play out almost exactly as I predicted kinda let out some of the steam I had had going for this book. There was only a small detail about it that I had not predicted, but man, that detail is coloring other characters more complicated and makes interactions between others more hypocritical. AUGH I LOVE IT. I don’t like Hest, but as far as his part to play in the story, his actions are going to cause a lot of waves, man.

Sedric. This is the character I started with liking and ended up disliking. In the beginning, I saw him more as a pure and innocent and overall good influence in Alise’s life. But as the story progressed and we got to read from his point of view, we get to see that all is not well in Oz. He’s gray man, his moral compass is all over the place. He’s righteous in some areas and a hypocrite in others. He’s a very interesting one to read from for sure. I feel like his character arc has a lot of room for growth. I hope he becomes even more complicated.

Leftrin. This is the one that I started with disliking and ended up liking. Leftrin original struck me as a sly, manipulative individual, with his actions in the beginning of the book. And he might still be and is just good at hiding it, but seeing him interact with Alise and others, he’s warmed to me. He seems like he genuinely wants to be better, despite wanting to gain a profit along the way. I feel like this character is another one that could surprise me with his growth.

Thymara. I know this character got a lot of screen time, but she is one I’m still the least connected to. I like her overall, but I feel like I haven’t really gotten to read deep enough into her yet. I know her motivations, and I know her personality, but nothing has really struck me about her character yet, if that makes sense. I hope in the next book that she gets more POV time so I can read more from her and hopefully grow to like her as much as I like Alise.


Plot-wise, this book was rather slow. The reading wasn’t slow, I blew through it, but the speed at which things were happening was slow. This book, about half way through it, Zezee and I realized was just set up for the next books. Not saying that it was bad, but nothing really happened until towards the end of the book.

Most of the book was taken up by world-building and character development, both of which were really neat. I feel like Robin Hobb’s ability to build her world in the book with so much depth and distinction without it feeling like an info-dump is one of her best talents. At no point did I feel overwhelmed with trivia, nor did I get bored reading. Everything flowed really nicely and I found myself being able to open the book and read 100 or 200 pages in a single sitting. Her writing was compelling even though, as I said, I felt like nothing super major happened plot-wise. I think it was the anticipation of the next book that kept me going – with everything that was built up in this book, the next book sounds like it’s going to be even more wonderful.

So overall – I liked this book. The character development was good, the world-building was good. I just was hoping for a bit more plot, I guess. Plus, Fitz and the Fool – I want them back, man. MY HEART, IT YEARNS.

3.75/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 10/07/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft | Blabber

Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel, #1)Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft
Fantasy
383 pages
The Books of Babel, Book 1
Read July 21 – Sept 8, 2018
Spoiler-free blabber

Reading Senlin Ascends felt like reading an epic poem without the poem.

It had the lone ‘hero’ going on a huge journey to achieve a goal, it had lands of intrigue, it had allegory, it had beliefs held dear by the main character shattered over and over, it had everything, man.

I adored this book.

Back in March of this year, I completed the r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge, and was lucky enough to win an ebook of my choosing as a prize, given to me by one of the sponsors of the bingo game. I chose this one, having heard about it briefly, just enough to pique my interest. And man, I’m glad I chose it – I had never really read an ebook with so much gusto before. And I admit – I was definitely reading it at times I probably shouldn’t: During restroom breaks at work, during car rides when I was the passenger even though reading in the car makes me sick, during down time at restaurants, whenever I could. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The writing was beautiful, the main character had me rooting for him, and the world that Josiah Bancroft created is absolutely fascinating.

The book, if you haven’t heard of it, follows a man named Thomas Senlin, who upon arriving at the foot of The Tower of Babel loses his wife in the crowd, and has to ascend the tower to find her before she’s lost forever. The premise is quite simple, but the world created within the confines of the tower is quite rich. The tower itself is a feat of imagination. So high that only rumor tells if there is a top and what is there – each level, called a ringdom, is quite different from the one below it. Whether it be The Parlor, a level full of actors and performances and you can’t tell who’s playing a role and who’s not, or The Baths, a level rich in soap and hotels and conspiracy, each one feels as real and gritty as sand in your fingernails. I really enjoyed the depth of setting each ringdom had. Each felt like its own fully developed world with lore attached to it, even though they were connected by stairways and tunnels. Everytime Senlin arrived at a new one, it was like reading about a brand new place. The book also had a light steampunk feel to it – airships carried passengers from level to level, using air currents as their only source of movement, which I thought was pretty neat.

Senlin himself was a good character to follow. His development arc was nice and complicated. At the beginning, he was so full of awe for the tower. Coming with his new wife to the base of the tower on honeymoon, his story begins with him full of whimsical tales and beliefs about how wonderful the tower is and how splendid each level must be. Like all great tales though, he finds his beliefs called into question over and over again, each revelation of truth like a slap to the face. Characters he meets on each level only add to the complexity of the story – why they’re there, how they got there, why they stopped in that ringdom specifically. Each character gave Senlin added depth through the way they interacted and how each of their meetings came to an end. All of it felt like I was reading a giant metaphor. The allegory was strong in this book – it felt like a book I would read for a literature class in college. I could fill the margins with notes if I wanted. Heck, I want a physical copy now to do just that. When I continue this series (which I will be doing) I want to switch to physical copies so I can love on them without needing to worry about a battery charge.

Here is an example of the writing – a quote from near the beginning of the book. The context is Senlin is at the base of the tower, and has just witnessed the death of several people around him:

He especially delighted in the old tales, the epics in which heroes set out on some impossible and noble errand, confronting the dangers in their path with fatalistic bravery. Men often died along the way, killed in brutal and unnatural ways; they were gored by war machines, trampled by steeds, and dismembered by their heartless enemies. Their deaths were boastful and lyrical and always, always more romantic than real. Death was not an end. It was an ellipsis. There was no romance in the scene before him. There were no ellipses here. The bodies lay upon the ground like broken exclamation points.

I just. I love it. This is the first of many quotes I marked, and it’s the one that made me fall in love with Senlin Ascends. From this quote on, I was smitten. The whole book is littered with passages like this, and each one had my heart going ba-dump-ba-dump. Josiah Bancroft is a wordsmith and with just this one book, one of my favorite authors. He could publish his grocery list and I’d read it.

Another enjoyable aspect about this book is the tone it took – in addition to the characters and plot, the tone just made this world seem huge. Far bigger than a story set in one tower should feel. Repeated references to endless exploration of the tower, conversation and speculation on what and who is at the top, speculation of who built it and when, the way the people live their lives in each ringdom, almost in isolation of the others. It made each level feel like the size of a country instead of a city, and it gave the book a feeling of vastness that could allow for many, many more books set here to be written. When I said that it felt like I was reading an epic poem, I was not exaggerating. It just all feels so big.

I feel like there’s going to be a fantastic story told here, as Senlin continues his plight, and I’m here for it man. The next book is out and the third is expected next year. I’m hoping each lives up to this one, and improves on it (thought, that’ll be hard to do considering how good this one is already…).

I know I’ve done nothing but gush, but man, this book is so good. I. Loved. It. New all-time favorite, fan for life.

5/5 stars

Ps. I mentioned in a tweet that I was reading this book and Josiah Bancroft liked it. I may or may not have peed.

Happy reading!

 

 
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Posted by on 09/23/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas | Blabber

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas
YA Fantasy
Read Aug 23 – 27th
648 pages
Throne of Glass, Book 4
Spoiler-free blabber

I feel like these books are hard to review. Objectively, there are a lot of problems with them, but subjectively, I tend to adore them.

To prove my words, I wrote that top bit there and then I sat here for five minutes staring at my screen, trying to figure out how to start. Hm…

Queen of Shadows was a book on my 10 in 2018 list, the second year in a row it appeared there. I read the first three books rapid fire back in January of 2016 and then got distracted. This read was the second attempt. I picked it up once in 2017 and got a chapter into it before realizing I had forgotten character relations, major plots points, and all sorts of things from the first three. I ended up watching a spoilery in-depth review of Heir of Fire before jumping into it this time, and while my memory was spotty on it for a while, it definitely was a better experience.

Going into this one, I had heard it was a party-splitter, that some fans adored it and others really, really disliked it. I read it, waiting and waiting for this opinion-altering event to occur, and… I never really found one. Overall themes in the book could be off-putting I suppose, but I don’t think I quite understand why this book is so disliked by some when obviously they had liked the first three. I don’t really see how it was so different overall. So, if you are in the ‘didn’t like this’ party, enlighten me, because I am truly curious what I missed.

I think my favorite thing about this book and Maas’s books in general, is how easy they are to read. I tend to pick them up when I’m in a reading slump, because without fail I fly through them. I think I read this 650 page book in… four days? Maybe five? I really buzzed through it, and considering I’d only been reading manga beforehand because of  the slump, I’d say that’s pretty good.

I’ve mentioned in past reviews of the series that Celaena or Aelin or whatever her name is, is not my favorite character. She rubs me the wrong way. I feel like her abilities are too much for the amount of training she’s received compared to her enemies, some obviously much older and much more experienced. I guess she just comes across as a bit unbelievable to me. Though, she’s nowhere near as bad as my favorite Mary Sue. And honestly, I think I liked her more this book than I have in any of its predecessors. Originally in book one, she was very immature – threw tantrums, was vindictive. I think seeing her actually have interpersonal relations with people has helped. And I very much like ‘Aelin’ more than ‘Celaena’. Her character development has been going pretty well and maybe one day, I’ll actually like her. Maybe.

So, I mentioned there are problems with the book objectively, the main character being a bit over-inflated being one. Another is the age of many of the main players and leaders of factions. Everyone from the resistance to the assassins to the guards are in their late teens or early twenties, with the exception of the centuries-old fae who is somehow able to get along with everyone with no maturity or generational-gap issues. He just… fits right in, but you would think he’d have more problems adjusting. A third is the eventual almost-guaranteed attraction of every male character to Aelin. At one point or another, all of them decide they’re crushing on her or more, regardless of their age. Heck, even her cousin gets territorial over her (though not for romantic reasons, don’t worry, it’s not gross). A fourth is all the ‘alpha-male’ bull-doody that results from issue three. Aelin herself calls it out, but she does it in a way that says ‘Oh you guys. Quit fighting over little ol’ me’ and never actually addresses the root of the behavior or why it’s weird for them all to be posturing to each other over this 19-year-old woman.

So yes, objectively, issues. None of these issues are particularly new, they’ve been in the series since book one and just growing broader with the addition of more characters. Do they bug me? Yes. Are they enough for me to dislike the series? Weirdly, no. But, I can see why they’d be too much for some people. I feel like if I wasn’t able to fly through the books as easily as I am, these issues would be much more of a factor for me. But I at least want to acknowledge them.

Plot-wise I rather liked this book. I liked the expansion of the world, I liked the subplots of the side characters. I like Chaol and I really like Manon. The witch subplot chapters were some of my favorites, and I really like how she’s been developing and how her thirteen are actually starting to get personalities. When she was introduced last book, I found her interesting but her chapters were kinda flat. Aside from Manon herself, none of the characters in them were really given any opportunity to show that they were more than cardboard cut-outs. This book allowed for that, and I think that Manon’s First is one of my favorite characters in the series now. She’s pretty great.

Another thing I liked seeing was the friendship that developed between Aelin and one of the female characters that was mentioned earlier in the series and then forgotten about. She reappears in this book and actually gets a good dose of character development. It’s always nice to see a movie or book pass the Bechdel test, man. Just because a book has a main female lead doesn’t mean it passes, and it’s a bit sad that fails are so common. I think this relationship in particular is what made me dislike Aelin less in this book than I have in the others. I feel like this friendship was a much needed dynamic, and I hope it lasts.

And finally, as mentioned above, I flew through it. The writing was compelling enough to keep me reading for over a hundred pages a day, and that is the main reason why I liked it so much. The book was fun. It was enjoyable to read, and I found myself unable to put it down. It made me wanna break my book buying ban so I could go get the fifth one (but I didn’t, I’m making myself wait).

So overall, despite the issues this book has, I did rather like it, and I’m looking forward to the fifth one.

4.25/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 09/08/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Fence (vol 1) by C. S. Pacat | Blabber

Fence Vol. 1Fence by C. S. Pacat
Graphic Novel
112 pages
Issues 1-4
Published July 31st, 2018
Read Aug 7th, 2018
Spoiler-free blabber

I feel like I suffered from overblown expectations for this one.

I read Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy earlier this year and absolutely adored it, so going into this one, I guess I was expecting to immediately love it. Unfortunately, my feelings toward this first volume are more mild than I was hoping. Don’t get me wrong – I did like this and I feel like it has a lot of room to become a favorite, but the first trade alone didn’t quite do it for me. And that’s my own fault there.

Fence follows a young man as he enters a school and joins the fencing team with the hopes of winning internationally. The main character is written in a way that didn’t quite have me rooting for him. I tend not to like characters with egos and nothing to back it up, and in the beginning, this one did. It wasn’t huge, not like Kvothe-level or anything, but seeing him not immediately being the best fencer was super, super refreshing. I grew to like the character more as the story progressed and he learned a bit of humility.

The character on the cover of the issue is the main character’s rival, and I found him to be much more amusing. He’s written to be a bit of a jerk, though very skilled. He also has an ego, but it bothered me far less, as he had the years and years of training to back it up, as opposed to have just brazen over-confidence in himself. He could still use a bit of character development, but I’m gonna not say too much more on that, given it’s only been one trade volume.

The remaining cast of characters were all interesting in their own ways, but none of them have really developed too much so far, so I haven’t really decided if I like any of them over others. Reading this trade, with the cast of characters and the tone it set, reminded me a lot of Yuri!!! On Ice and Free! . It had a light-fluffiness to it that was enjoyable to read. So if you’re not into quasi-romance that will eventually end up being actual romance, then this series will likely not float your boat. Because I can see it coming a mile away – the graphic novel is listed as lgbt romance, so I know it’s coming. The hate-to-love trope is strong in this one, man. I feel it in my bones, and I’m looking forward to it. This trope, when written well, is wonderful. When it’s not, it’s really really not. But having read C. S. Pacat’s attempt at the trope before, I know she’ll do a decent job of it, so I’m excited.

So, this first volume was a solid beginning, and it definitely has a lot of potential to become a favorite as the series progresses. But, I think my high expectations made me not love this one as much as I thought I would. I’m still going to continue it, and will buy the second volume when my buying ban is over, so I hope it only gets better from here.

3.75/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 08/11/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik | Blabber

Spinning SilverSpinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Published July 10th, 2018
Read July 10th – Aug 1st
Fantasy
466 pages
Spoiler-free blabber

Reading Spinning Silver is like walking through an icy forest.

I could almost feel the chill in the air and the subtle fear in the back of everyone’s minds. The atmosphere of this book is both enchanting and unsettling at the same time.

I picked up Spinning Silver on its release date – I’m a huge, long-time fan of Naomi Novik. I first read her Temeraire series when I was in high school (and am in the middle of a reread now) and I picked up her book Uprooted on its release day a year or two ago as well. Everything I’ve read by her, I have loved, and this is no exception. I feel like at this point, she could publish her grocery list and I would read it.

Spinning Silver is a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, set in a Russia-esque village and nearby town and follows a few different perspectives, one being the daughter of a money lender who frankly is terrible at his job. The daughter, Miryem, starts collecting on her father’s debts and soon cultivates the reputation of being able to turn silver into gold.

This attracts the attention of a Staryk king, one of the creatures who live in a world right along side ours, who run through the woods at night on a silver road that appears and disappears without warning, who attack villages and are obsessed with gold. The king unfortunately takes the words of Miryem’s reputation literally.

The story goes from there, weaving fairy tale with myth with an over-arching sense of otherworldliness. I think my favorite part of the book – and this would honestly book one of my least favorites parts of any other book – is that nothing is really explained. There’s magic, but no defined magic system. The book just says ‘this is the world this book is in, and there’s magic here’ and that’s that. There’s no training, there’s no lore, it just is. And it played really, really well into the feeling of ‘unsettling fairy tale’ the book followed.

So if you’re not one who can easily detached from reality and go with the flow, then this book may not be for you. But if you can suspend your belief and grasp onto the idea that this magical realm exists just because it does, then you’ll likely love this book as I did.

The author did a wonder job of both making the Staryk creatures seem utterly foreign and oddly human at the same time. I think this branches from the fact that names in this world are a sacred thing – the Staryk king’s name is unknown, and the other Staryks who make an appearance do not give up theirs either, but end up adopting names that Miryem gives them out of frustration. It’s an odd dynamic. While the character development for the individual Staryks is a bit lacking, the development for the race of creatures as a whole is a bit more involved. I feel like it’d be hard to develop a character too much if even their name is off limits to use. Again, something I’d normally be irritated by but it kinda just worked for this story, for this setting, for this tone. Color me surprised.

The plot as well just feeds into the mythical tone – Miryem, who has the reputation she’s created for herself, is challenged by the Staryk king to do just what she claims to do, turn silver to gold. And Miryem, ever resourceful, handles the situation to the best of her abilities. I think she’s my favorite character in the story. Out of the six perspectives, I enjoyed reading from hers the most. She’s determined, kind-hearted and morally on a good track. Some of the other characters are not so black-and-white, some are rather gray, but each are still written so you can see where they’re coming from, if not the justification for their actions. Together, they interact, the reader sees their different perspectives and motivations as the story unfolds, and together they push the plot forward. It was a wonderful experience.

Overall, I loved this book. I loved its tone, I loved its plot, I loved the sense of wonder it gave me. I’m going to be thinking about this one for a long time.

5/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 08/07/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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Wildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley | Blabber

Wildest Dreams (Fantasyland, #1)Wildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley
Fantasy/Romance
536 pages
Read July 9 – July 18
Spoilery blabber

This book had two things going for it.

One, I picked it up for free when it was having a free day in the Kindle app, so I didn’t have to spend money on it. Two, it definitely succeeded in making me feel very strong emotion.

That emotion was rage. 😀

The ‘romance’ was unhealthy, the characters were walking stereotypes, the plot was predictable, and the tropes present in it were done very poorly.

There. That’s the overarching ‘why I don’t like this’ part of the review. I warn you now, I really didn’t like a single thing about this book. So if you don’t like reading very negative reviews you might wanna back out.


The gist of the story: our main character Finnie, who is oh-so-shockingly super rich, pays a witch to transport her to an alternate universe, swapping places with the other-world-Finnie there. The deal is they’ll stay swapped for one year and then swap back. She arrives to this fantasy land (HAW HAW THAT’S THE NAME OF THE SERIES, GUYS) to find herself immediately married to this beefcake called Frey Drakkar, who is this first-time-in-centuries-born guy who has the power to both summon elves and dragons alike. Turns out her alternate self agreed to the swap to get out of this arrangement. And after I finished the book, I didn’t blame her.

So that’s the plot. Throw in a bunch of sex scenes and tropes and you’ve got yourself this novel.

I figure way most succinct way to give my thoughts on the book is to start with overarching themes and then go plot point by plot point. So bear with me. Also, as I warned above, major spoilers ahead.

  • The very first thing that struck me about the book was the POV writing – the story is told from Finnie’s perspective and obviously she’s a bit overwhelmed at being transported from our world into this other world, but if I had a dollar for the amount of times I read ‘Holy moly’ or ‘Ho boy’, I could pay off my student debt. The government would no longer own my soul, people. I’D BE FREE. I assume the character was at least in her mid-twenties. I don’t quite remember. It might have said her age, but clearly the information slid in one eye and leaked out the other during one of my many fits of rage while reading this book. Regardless, the vocabulary of the main character left much to be desired.
  • Secondly, the homophobia and sexism in this book were unchecked. I feel like the author didn’t intend to write it that way, but it came out very much that way. The fantasy-world Finnie that switched our main character was a lesbian woman, who obviously had no desire to marry a man and bare his kids. Fair enough, right? But this introduced a theme that allowed for a few instances of where the characters essentially said ‘I’m not homophobic, but…‘ and then said or acted in a way that obviously showed differently. Same with the sexism. I’ll get into specifics later on below.
  • Thirdly, my most dreaded trope showed up in this book. The ‘I’m not like other girls’ trope. There is no way to write this well. Like, why would you want a character that fit this? It just makes them into a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and then anything you have them do after that I automatically add on ‘because she was so special‘ in my head to the end of every sentence. Specific instances of this will also be mentioned below.

For overarching themes, the above three are it. Otherwise, my gripes with the book had to do specifically with the characters and how they interacted throughout the story. Frey Drakkar in particular, I really hated. In any other book, an author who wrote this character would have written him as a villain. He’s not a good guy. But somehow, he’s the love interest and every single shitty thing he does is either ignored, forgiven, or supplemented with ‘he only did it because he loved her’. Barf. Finnie is a ding dong herself, but is more of a victim of Frey’s manipulation than anything. Sigh.

Here we go.

At the beginning of the story, right after Finnie is plopped into the fantasy world and married off to Frey, we find out immediately that he hates fantasy-world Finnie. Like, loathes her. Why? Because one night, Fantasy-Finnie drunkenly told Frey she was a lesbian. Therefore, he took it as a personal insult that his bride was not attracted to him. Never mind they both only entered into the marriage under contractual obligation, Fantasy-Finnie being a princess and Frey being the elf-dragon guy. Neither one had feelings for each other before and both grudgingly agreed to enter the union only because they knew an heir would need to be produced, so what does it matter what their sexualities are. It wasn’t like Fantasy-Finnie decided to like women to be spiteful to her would-be husband. Goodness.

Anyway, so day of the wedding, Frey is noticeably pissed right. Finnie is none the wiser, not knowing the sexuality of her other-self yet. So they’re married and immediately Frey drags her from the hall, throws her on a horse and gallops away into the woods, where they ride for hours, before he dumps her at his log cabin, tells her, and I quote, ‘I’ll not thrust my cock where you’d prefer a woman’s mouth to be’ and then disappears for two months.

And Finnie is left there, deer-in-a-headlight.

Now, while I mentioned I didn’t blame Fantasy-Finnie for running because Frey is just such a stand up guy, she’s not a stellar player either. She didn’t tell Finnie that she’d be arriving to immediately get married to Mr. Grumpy, or that she was a princess, or that she’d have obligations, yada yada. She left Finnie very unprepared for any of it (which she actually tries to rectify later, but I’ll get to that).

When Frey finally appears again, two months later, he’s surprised to find that Finnie has adjusted to log cabin life very well, had made friends with everyone in the town, yada yada. And he’s grumpy at her now because she’s not acting morose and depressed at being dumped, as he had expected. As they start to interact, Mr. Grumpy keeps being wowwed that Finnie is acting differently. Eventually he tells her he’ll take his ‘husband’s right’ that evening, whether she wants him to or not. So rape. He tells her he’s going to rape her. And what does she do? She goes ‘Oh I should try to mentally prepare myself.’ What. What.

So Finnie, having deduced at this point that her other self is a lesbian, tells Frey that she’s straight pretty much point blank. That, combined with the way she didn’t devolve into a ball of misery at being abandoned, makes Frey think, ‘Wait no this can’t be the same person, she’s so much better‘.

So he goes to the elves who say ‘yeah no this is other-world Finnie who likes men pretty much’ and Frey then binds her to the fantasy world permanently without telling her so he never has to deal with lesbian Finnie again because he hates her so much. Now, this part of the story was mentioned in the synopsis. So I was expecting it, but the way it was written screamed ‘I’m the bad guy who will eventually become the villain’. But does that actually happen? Nooooo. So now that Frey knows that Finnie is from our world, he tries to reneg on the rape threat during a chapter written from his POV, thinking to himself that he’d never force anyone, that he doesn’t dislike lesbians at all (as long as they’re not being a lesbian in his direction apparently), blah de blah.

So the story progresses, the two actually starting to get along now that Frey has realized that Finnie is straight, and Finnie is jumping on the opportunities not to be essentially in a feud with the man she was forced to marry.

Notice the theme? He’s totally okay with being nasty to people he doesn’t like, including handing out rape threats, and only treats people ‘nicely’ if he feels they’re useful to him. Remember this.

So the two eventually begin banging, despite the fact that he was a complete dick four chapters ago, as Finnie is amazed with how ‘hot’ her husband is and how he makes her ‘breasts swell’ (I swear that’s the actual phrasing in the book). She had told him shortly after the rape threat that she would need to use birth control. She starts using it, which is probably the wisest decision she makes the whole book. Frey, being distracted with how different, and wonderful and more better his ‘wee Finnie’ is than Fantasy-Finnie, doesn’t notice. Does she try to hide it? No. He just doesn’t notice. Remember this.

One of the reasons that Finnie agreed to the swap was because when she was young, her parents died. Fantasy-Finnie still has hers, so seeing her parents again is a big theme in the book. When they meet, her parents are kinda cold to her, thinking she’s Fantasy-Finnie, and only warm up to her after they realize she’s not the same one. Again, the whole ‘this Finnie is just better in all ways’ theme. It goes to the point where Frey, Finnie, and Fantasy-Finnie’s parents agree that Fantasy-Finnie committed high treason by running away and that they’re better off now that she’s gone. Even Fantasy-Finnie’s maids, four of them, who were supposedly her best friends for years and years, do nothing more than ‘oh that’s a shame that she’s gone’. Like… geez, guys.

There were also a few side characters, one of them blatantly sexist mind you, that decides that Finnie is ‘not like other women’ when she goes on Frey’s boat without being afraid. Like… what? And nobody calls him out on it, either. It’s just ‘oh this guy is how he is, but he likes you at least so it’s ok’. Again, ‘not like other girls’, ‘Finnie the special’, ‘Sexism is ok as long as it’s not directed towards Finnie’. Goodness gracious.

So the rest of the book is basically ‘Finnie’s evil extended family wants to control the country so they try to assassinate Finnie a lot’. Basic plot with a predictable ending. If it would have just been this, this book would have gotten a two star rating, maybe two and a half, if the ending would have been really good. But it was more than this. It was this, plus the terrible relationship dynamic that is Frey and Finnie.

I present to you, the (mostly) complete list of how Finnie and Frey are just awful:

  • Frey, as mentioned above, binds Finnie to the fantasy world without telling her
  • He’s constantly telling her how he’ll take her on adventures, lulling her into liking him, but then when she goes on one he thinks ‘she better not get used to this. No more of this after she had my kid’.
  • He’s constantly thinking she won’t be permitted to do go on adventures or do this or that or anything without his say so in the future, yada yada. Does he say any of this out loud? No.
  • Finnie finds out Frey had slept with a castle maid years before the two had gotten married. She gets insanely jealous, despite the fact that she’s mid-twenties and he’s mid-thirties. Like, he has this huge mentioned-over-and-over reputation for being virile, did she expect him to be celibate?
  • They argue over this maid, and Frey tells her that a marriage means he can still sleep around but she can’t and she’ll just have to deal with it. Finnie decides that her first impressions of Frey were right and that he was a jerk (at this point in the story, I’m thinking ‘maybe this will flip and get better, maybe they’ll out him as the villain’)
  • Frey then flaunts the maid in Finnie’s face by having her serve him during a meal they were having together. They don’t talk for a while as a result, but eventually make up with Finnie thinking ‘I’m still not comfortable with Frey being able to sleep around and me not, but whatever I suppose.’
  • At one point, as I mentioned earlier, Fantasy-Finnie tries to correct her earlier actions – she becomes guilty at putting Finnie through everything and contacts the witch to opt for an early switch-back. When the witch comes looking for Finnie, Frey intercepts the message and doesn’t tell Finnie the witch was ever there.
  • The witch is aware of the binding spell – Frey lies and tells her that Finnie knows of it and approves of it to keep the witch from talking to her.
  • They get intelligence from a neighboring land where a traditional activity is ‘The Wife Hunt’ where men literally hunt down women and claim them as their wives via raping them. Frey talks about a woman who was hunted down by the king and is now his bride by force, and says, ‘She’ll need to do some adjusting, but (king) is an honorable man so she’ll be fine’. Participated in Wife Hunt = Honorable Man. Does not compute. At no point is The Wife Hunt relevant to the story, mind you. It’s just a thing that was thrown in as a factoid. Was it done in a way that said ‘This is bad’? Was it ever called out for being bad? Nope.
  • Frey gripes about spending time with Finnie doing things she’s interested in but he is not. They went to a play she wanted to see and the whole time he did nothing but complain.
  • When Frey finally notices that Finnie is taking birth control, becomes enraged that she’s been ‘lying to him’ and he swaps it out for a placebo without telling her. There goes the consent Finnie was giving – at no point was she ok with unprotected sex – she had mentioned it multiple times.
  • Finnie gets pregnant.

At the point where Frey switches out the birth control, I almost quit the book. I was absolutely disgusted. The only thing that kept me reading were the multiple hints that Frey would be outed as a villain. It was the only thing that kept giving me hope. Like, one can’t write a guy like this and go ‘oh no he’s not the villain, he’s the wonderful love interest’, right? RIGHT?!

WRONG APPARENTLY.

Towards the end of the book, the witch manages to circumvent Frey and gets in contact with Finnie. She tells her everything that Frey has done – the binding, the intercepting messages, the birth control. Everything. Finnie gets angry, and calls out Frey in the middle of the court yard, giving him the verbal lashing of his life and I’m there thinking ‘YES THIS IS IT’.

And then he’s shot by an arrow mid-argument and ‘dies’. The city is suddenly under attack, the culmination of the consequences that Frey would have faced are now null and void

Finnie, captured by the enemy and being told that Frey is dead, immediately thinks, ‘I was wrong in my anger’.

‘I was wrong in my anger’. This is a direct quote. I about died. This is the point in the book where I lost all hope that it would get better. I now knew that everything up to this point, all the unhealthiness, all the manipulation, would be spun in a positive way.

It didn’t matter to her anymore that he was a manipulative bastard that forced her to have a child and trapped her there forever. He was dead, so she decided she was wrong to call him out on that stuff.

AND THEN TURNS OUT HE WASN’T REALLY DEAD. EFFING SHOCKER. During the month he was ‘dead’, nobody had ever found a body and nobody ever looked for it. They just thought ‘oh he’s dead’. Nobody ever even questioned it. It was just a plot device used to wave away all the awfulness that Frey is so he and Finnie could have a ‘happy ending’ without having to actually deal with the deceit in their relationship. It was just lazy writing.

So they reunite, Frey tries a half-assed apology, saying ‘I wronged you, but I only did it because I love you so much’ and do you know what Finnie says? She cuts him off and says ‘Oh no don’t apologize, it’s my fault, I shouldn’t have said those mean things to you’. And then the witch comes up to Finnie and apologizes for telling her about Frey’s lies and putting doubt in their relationship. At that point I just slammed my head down on the book and sighed.

And that was it. They lived happily ever after.

PS. Also at one point it was thrown in there that Finnie’s pregnancy was going much better than other pregnancies. #Notlikeotherpregnancies.


This book had so much potential. If Frey would have turned into the bad guy, I could have really liked this book. But he didn’t, he was still able to do all lying and manipulation and abuse and then say he did it out of love and then Finnie went ‘Oh all this stuff is ok’.

Do you know what kind of message this sends? It says ‘Abuse is ok as long as the person abusing you tells you they love you’. It’s unhealthy and perpetuates the ‘If he’s mean to you it means he likes you’ awfulness that is still mentioned in the modern dating world. No, if someone is mean to you, they’re an asshole. Nobody who loves someone else will manipulate them. Holy moly. Ho boy. Holy cow.

The only reason I didn’t DNF the book was the writing. Ho boys and holy molys aside, it was written in a way that I could binge, even if I was filling myself with hate-fuel as I did it. So because the writing wasn’t mediocre, it get a half star bump.

Rating: 1.5 stars

 
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Posted by on 07/22/2018 in blabbers, Books, Review

 

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