King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo | Blabber

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology, #1)King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Hardback
546 pages
YA Fantasy
Nikolai duology, book 1
Read Jan 29 – Feb 18
Spoiler-free blabber

Pacing.

My kingdom for some consistent pacing. Parts of this book, I really liked. Parts of it I wasn’t a huge fan of, but overall, the pacing was the major factor that kept me from rating this book more highly.

This book follows Nikolai, and takes place after the both the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. It delves into the political unease culminating between Ravka and its neighbors, the imposing threat of parem, and the growing movement of those who worship the legacy and memory of the Starless Saint. Guess who.

We’ll start with the negatives and end with the positives. Overall I did like this book, I just didn’t love it.

So, the negatives:

As mentioned, pacing. The pacing of this book was all over the place. The beginning of the book starts out decent, the middle drags, and the end goes very very quickly. There were multiple story lines going on in this – one following Zoya and Nikolai, one following Nina, and various smaller others that meandered in and out of the two of them.

My major issue with the pacing was due to how these two major timelines interwove, or didn’t, rather. I’ve read a few reviews on this book at this point, and one of the major points that people tend to make and that I agree with is that some of the perspectives seemed pointless at times. It jars the reader, jumping from the “main” plot line to the side ones, because the paces of them are so different, particularly towards the end of the book.

Speaking of the end (and as mentioned, no spoilers) a lot of things happen very quickly in the last hundred pages or so of the book. Things that I wanted to know more about, that should have been delved into, were skimmed over. Particularly what Zoya is up to during that time wasn’t given the attention it needed and deserved. Because of this, future chapters in the next book could have her feeling a bit unevenly developed. It’ll be like ‘suddenly she’s this way, because remember those 10 pages they talked about it in the last book?’. I hope very much that Zoya gets more focus in the next book – some internal strife, some monologuing, something that will give more attention to the development she went through so very quickly.

In addition, while Zoya developed fairly well throughout the book (and then… very fast, which makes me nervous) the other characters kinda fell flat. The series is called the Nikolai duology, but he didn’t feel quite as uh… vivid, as he did in the Grisha trilogy. I’m hoping it was because the author wanted to focus on Zoya, but this first book didn’t really feel like his book, if that makes sense. Nina as well seemed a bit less vibrant. But at the same time, that could be due to grief and I’m just being unsympathetic.

Speaking of, the positives:

(Spoilers for Crooked Kingdom) Nina’s grief. I think it was handled very well at the beginning of the book. It actually had me tearing up a bit, which… isn’t something I usually do when reading books, honestly. But I think it was the situation, the way Nina spoke about Matthias, the way she finally let him go, Nina’s sorrow felt very real to me, and very possible. It wasn’t overly dramatic or played out. It was a girl mourning the death of her love, and I felt it.

The characters, though they felt a bit flat, were generally still decent. While some of Nina’s bits were boring (aka moved at a glacial pace) I did enjoy seeing her. She was probably one of my favorites from the Six of Crows duology. That series I liked a tad less than the norm. It was a solid 3.5-4 star thing for me, which is a bit lower than you see on Goodreads. This King of Scars book I think is juuuuust above Six of Crows and juuuuust below Crooked Kingdom for me as far as rating goes.

Anyway, Nina’s plot line, while I still cannot fathom why it was drawn out so much, has me curious what will happen. It, more than Nikolai’s in my opinion, hints at a looming threat that I’m sure will come to fruition in the second book.

Nikolai, while uh… dampened, was still fun to read from. I particularly enjoyed his banter with Zoya, and enjoyed getting a bit of his inner monologue during the trials he was going through. Zoya as well, I really grew to like. Aside from the weird punch-in-the-face of stuff she went through at the end of the book, I really liked how we got her backstory. I think she is my favorite character.

The plot of this book I liked, but as mentioned, it felt stilted. It bumbled around for four hundred pages, but then really got on track at the end. Did it feel super rushed? Yes. But was it a good plot development? …I think so, yes. So I like the direction it’s going, I just hope the feeling I felt at the end of the book will stick throughout the second one, whenever it comes out. Speaking of, the ending. The very ending. Unfortunately I predicted what would happen two hundred pages before it did. It kinda took the wind out of it for me.

Despite that though, I’m still kinda pumped for it. I like the ‘what happened’, I’m just not sure if I’m totally on board with the ‘why and how’. hm hm.

So many things about this book gave me so many positive and negative feelings. That might be good though. It gives the second book so much more chance to shine. I’m excited for book two and definitely think it has the potential to be a five star book for me.

Just needs pacing.

3.75/5 stars

 

January Book Haul #26

Book Haul Base Banner

https://i.imgur.com/XS0XVS1.gifHappy Hump Day! Today I figured I’d do a haul. Now, at the beginning of the year, I made a resolution to keep my book buying to 4-5 books per year. I’ve since then added a bit of detail onto it.

I’ve decided that if I buy a manga or graphic novel (not a regular book) with the intention of reading it as soon as I get home, and then actually read it when I get home, it doesn’t count towards the five. I decided on this for two reasons: 1 – the whole point of my limit is to keep my TBR from growing, and if I read it right away, the TBR doesn’t grow, and 2 – manga takes like thirty minutes to read. I feel like if I counted them towards my five, I’d never actually buy them because of how fast I get through them, even though I’m actively following many series at the moment. I’d fall behind. 😛 So manga don’t count… if I read them right away. If I buy them and don’t get to them immediately, then they count.

Does that makes sense? I have no idea. Basically I’m just giving way to my impulses I suppose. What else is new.

Anyways. The books!

I got a lot of YA, and all fantasy. I dig it, though.

Empire of Storms and Tower of Dawn by Sarah J Maas – Haven’t gotten to these yet. I rather liked the world expansion in books three and four, so hoping I like these too.

Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb – The fourth and last book in the Rain Wild Chronicles, this series has really grown on me. I’m buddy reading it with Zezee and we’re both digging it so far!

Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo – I buzzed through the Six of Crows duology earlier this month after getting Crooked Kingdom, and am currently in the middle of King of Scars. I wrote a full blabber on Crooked Kingdom, and intend to for King of Scars as well as soon as I finish it.


I also got one graphic novel this month that falls into the category above – I bought it and read it immediately (so yay, doesn’t increased TBR) That is Fence volume 2 by C. S. Pacat.


And that’s it! I think I’ll keep separating out the five books and the ‘immediate read’ manga/graphic novels. Until next month, happy reading!

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo | Blabber

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Hardback
546 pages
YA Fantasy
Six of Crows duology, book 2
Read Jan 11 – Jan 23
Spoiler-free blabber

I picked this book up right after having finished Six of Crows. The first book suffered from over-hype, and having read it and been a bit disappointed, I went into this one with a much more realistic mindset. Because of that, I enjoyed it more than the first one.

This book picks up immediately after the finale of book one, and the characters have to deal with the new situation they find themselves in. The plot set-up for this book I think is more realistic than the first one was, and the ways the characters go about completing their objectives are much more believable. I stated in my blabber for the first one that one of my biggest problems with the book was that I found it hard to suspend my disbelief. It was easier this time around, as the motivations and actual skill sets of the characters had been more developed, and those of the enemy were less all-encompassing. It made the idea that the bad guy could potentially be overthrown feel more possible.

In addition to the plot, the characterization in this book was much more fleshed out. I griped in Six of Crows that Kaz was built up to be this ruthless, cold, vicious person, that he had this huge reputation for it, but we didn’t get to see it. Well, in this one, I was expecting more of the same, but thirty pages in, I went ‘Oh there it is’. The characters acted more how they’ve been described in this one, and it was nice to see a bit of cohesion there instead of ‘say one thing do another’. The other characters developed nicely as well. I particularly liked how Wylan grew – he became more sure of himself and his abilities, and ended up being one of my favorite characters by the end of the book. This book was funnier than the first one too. The humor wasn’t all over in-your-face, but there were a few times were I laughed. This book was fun to read.

Just like in the previous book, the main issue I had with this book was the pacing. The pacing, while a bit better than in Six of Crows, was still stilted and awkward. The beginning part of the book zooms, comes to a mini-climax, and then stagnates. It’s slow then, for about a hundred pages, and then it zooms again until the end of the book. The middle of the book isn’t supposed to make the reader want to put it down. And that’s what almost happened – I almost set it aside for a different book. I wasn’t going to stop reading it all together, but the way the plot progression was going, I was losing interest big time. That’s uh, that’s not a good thing when you’re building up to the finale of a series.

So that’s my biggest complaint. All the other complaints I had in book one have either solved themselves or they were improved on at least a little bit. If I remember, I think the Grisha trilogy had some pacing issues as well, so I’m hoping it doesn’t continue into the next series set in the same world.

So overall: This book was better than the first one. The characterization was improved, the plot was more believable, the humor was better, the characters were more likeable. It was all just better. If you read the first book and loved it, you’ll love this too. If you were luke-warm to it like me, I suggest picking this one up. Odds are, you’ll like it more.

4/5 stars

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo | Blabber

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Hardback
465 pages
YA Fantasy
Read Jan 5 – Jan 11
Spoiler-free blabber

Hype is a dangerous thing.

I had heard many, many good things about this book before I picked it up, and with King of Scars coming out at the end of this month, I figured I should get to it beforehand in case events within are mentioned in passing in the next series. I am a fan of the Grisha trilogy – all the books in there hover around 4 stars, give or take – and the majority of people seem to actually like this book more than that series. So going in, I was pretty pumped.

Unfortunately, I guess I was too pumped. I ended up liking the book, but that thing, that ‘oomph’ that everyone felt that made them absolutely adore it.. I didn’t feel it. As stated, the book was good. I liked it. I didn’t love it, though.

I liked the plot. I loved the world. I liked the pacing. I liked the characters… mostly. The biggest thing that killed this book for me though was the characters’ ages. I knew going into the book that it was young adult and therefore I would be reading about seventeen year olds. But even going in with that mindset, I still couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to get passed that, well, a bunch of seventeen year olds were breaking into a military stronghold deemed impenetrable. The method they used to get in as well, seemed a bit farfetched to me. I just kept sitting there thinking ‘Someone at some point in time must have tried that method. Like, how long has this place been around and nobody tried this?‘ But apparently, this group of people in particular, these teenagers, were way, way smarter than any military strategist or security personnel with decades of experience. Who knew.

I guess my point is that, after the build-up of the stakes and the danger and whatnot, the actual exhibition kinda… fell flat, which leads me into my other issue with the book. Whether it was the writing or the fact that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief, I just couldn’t feel the intensity of the situation. The stakes are basically life and death, in the long term. You’d think that would have me going ‘oh no oh no oh no are they gonna make it ugh ugh’, but it really didn’t. The situation, which should have had me on the edge of my seat, lacked any sort of feeling of urgency. And I think this reason specifically is why I rated it lower than people tend to. I wasn’t able to get myself to feel for the characters or the situation. There was no sense of impending doom, no anxiety build up about what would happen should they fail. It just.. wasn’t there.

Also, I don’t like Kaz. He reminds me too much of Kvothe from the Kingkiller Chronicles and I hate Kvothe. Kaz had the vibe of ‘I’m good at this stuff just because’, and it drove me bonkers. The second I realized the similarities, I actually said, “Oh nooooooo,” out loud. Kaz has this reputation for doing the gritty stuff, for doing any job, for being nefarious and cruel and yada yada. You don’t really get to see that, though. Sure it’s alluded to, but it really felt like ‘I’m telling you this stuff so I don’t actually have to write it and do the character development’. He had development during the story, which was ok, but his background didn’t really show through. I knew he was supposed to be this tough guy but like.. it didn’t really seem like it.

But! Like I said, I did like this book. What lacked for me in immersion, intensity and Kaz was made up for by just being back in the Grisha universe again. As stated, I like the world this novel takes place in. The world building for the city, the island, and the other countries mentioned are pretty neat. The magic system is super interesting and its use in this book had a different dynamic than in the Grisha trilogy, so it was nice seeing it from another perspective. I feel like so much more could take place here, and going by the new series that’s coming out soon, I’m gonna get my wish.

The side characters as well – basically everyone except Kaz, I really liked. I liked Nina in particular, because she had the same feelings towards Kaz as I do. Because of that, it makes me question him – maybe he was supposed to be written as an insufferable butt on purpose and will get called out on it in book two? Who knows. If that happens though, then you can bet your butt I’ll be singing its praises. The other side characters too were rather entertaining. I really like the character dynamics between Nina and Matthias, though I think the reason for the strife between them is a bit farfetched. The reason the author used to get them not quite liking each other is, well, ridiculous. The reasoning given for Nina doing what she did was that she had no other choice. She totally had another choice. There were so many other choices. It’s a minor issue though, I guess. I guess. The interactions between Jesper and Wylan too, I really enjoyed. I think those two characters are my favorite overall, and I hope to see them grow and develop in the next book.

And I think the best part about this book was the pacing. While I didn’t really feel the intensity of the situation, the pace of the writing kept me reading at a steady rate. Nothing felt slow or unnecessary, nothing felt rushed. The pacing saved this book for me. I really appreciate it when an author can keep a steady sense of ‘keep reading’ in me throughout the book, whether or not it’s during an action scene. It doesn’t happen super often, so it was so nice that it did.

Overall, this book was good. It wasn’t great, as I had been led to believe, but it was good. I liked it.

3.75/5 stars

 

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo | Blabber

(I’ve decided to change the review titles from ‘yapping’ to ‘blabber’, just because that’s the catch-phrase of my blog as is. So there. :P)

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
The Grisha Trilogy, Book 3
Read Jan 12th (the whole thing)
422 pages
YA Fantasy

-Spoilery blabbing-
Dun read unless you’ve read the book or don’t care about being spoiled out your ass.

I started this book this morning around 4am and stopped only for about 30 minutes at 7:30am so I could drive to work, where I promptly started reading again because it was dead as hell. It’s now 1:30pm and I’ve just finished this thing.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a complete series so quickly before. I started The Grisha trilogy on Jan 5th. The first two books took me two days each to read, then I read a different book for a day while I waited for this one to arrive in the mail, then I buzzed through this one in about 9 hours. I feel like the speed at which I read these makes my opinions on them different than they would be if I would have taken them slower, but who knows.

This third book, the final in the series, was a very bittersweet read for me. Overall, I really liked it, but it left me feeling bleak, I guess. The story picks up in the caves where the characters had escaped to at the end of the second book – the setting stayed there for a few chapters or so while Alina recovered got worse under the Apparat’s care. Honestly at this point in the book, I was under the impression that Alina’s powers were gone, kaput, nada. I reasoned this much from her saying just that at the end of the second book. But hey, low and behold, it was just because she was out of direct sunlight. Which in itself is fine, but she seemed to know as much – she actively sought sunlight so she could use her summoning abilities again. It just confused me – why have her state her powers were gone if she knew that weren’t? Not a huge deal, but I feel it was unnecessary. Image result for jaimie alexander

The book itself has a bit of a slow pace during the cave scenes but picks up fairly quickly
once they escape from it. One of my favorite parts
about this book is the character development, particularly Zoya’s. In book one (and part of two) she was a very one-dimensional stereotypical mean girl. She still kinda holds onto that persona, but at the same time, we get to see a bit more into her personality and sense of humor, which was a refreshing change. I keep picturing Jaimie Alexander, who played Sif in Thor, in my mind as I read for her, too. So she’s totally and completely cast in my mind and any other choice if they make a movie or tv show will pale in comparison, hawhaw.

But anyways, the meat of the book: The ending. I both loved and hated the ending. When I was reading and when Mal was killed, I got upset. And then when the Darkling was killed I got really upset. Like, that almost ruined the book for me – Alina sitting in the sand with the two deadies on either side of her. Like really. It would have been awful to end it that way. But Mal ended up living, which saved the book for me. If she would have ended up alone and mourning both of them, I feel like I would have cast this book away and never looked back.

But Mal lived and Alina is happy. And Nikolai lived as well, though I feel like I wanted to read more about him.

But the Darkling man, the Darkling. WHY did he have to die. I feel like his death is what caused this book to bump down to a four star rating for me. Until that point, it had been a solid 5 stars easy. There were so many ways he could have lived and the plot would still make sense. But ugh man. Ugh. I’m so mad about that. Honestly it’s mostly because I’m team Darklina all the way. (I fully understand that he’s awful and in no way suitable, but like I said since the first book, I was fascinated and was rooting for him hahah). So now I need to go find my non-canonical fanfiction and just stew in there for a bit, thank you. But even with my ship not happening aside, the character still could have lived. Buh. BUH.

Happy-sad-frustrated ending to the book. It was a really good ending – a really solid ending and honestly probably the most logical one for all the plotlines that had been set up and needed completed. It was good. But it wasn’t what I wanted. 😛

Rating: 4/5 stars

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo | Review and Spoilery Yapping

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Read Jan 5th- Jan 7th
358 pages
YA Fantasy

– Spoiler Free Reviewy Bit –

I’ve very, very late onto this bandwagon. I feel like everyone and their mom has read this book and that a review on it at this point might be a bit redundant. But hey, I’m gonna do it anyways.

Shadow and Bone was a fast paced fantasy where nothing happened and then everything did. I feel like that was my main problem with the book – its pacing was all over the place. That being said, I still loved the thing. I was (and still am) in the mood for YA fantasy and this book definitely scratched that itch in the best way. I can see why a lot of people enjoy this book, and at the same time, I can see where many had problems with it. Luckily for me, I’m on the ‘I like it’ side of the spectrum. There were a decent amount of tropes that this book fell victim to that should have bothered me but somehow didn’t. I really must have been in the mood for a book like this. I seriously enjoyed it but I can recognize its flaws.

The book begins a trilogy following a young woman who falls into the chosen one trope. Because of this, she’s whisked out of her military lifestyle to become a Grisha, a practitioner of the Small Sciences. The Grisha wear color-coded clothing, depending on which concentration they work in. The Darkling, for instance – the ruler of all the Grisha – wheres black. Summoners – those who can summon fire, water, etc – wear blue, yada yada. There are four different colors total, and what I found interesting was that while the Grisha made up a very small number of humans, they still had barriers between the different groups. Rivalries, jealousies, strengths and weaknesses. It was fascinating reading the politics between the groups for the little time that it was focused on. The main character Alina, finds herself placed in one of these groups, but saying which one is a spoiler and would ruin why she’s ‘the chosen one’.

The plot picks up after Alina begins her Grisha training and details about the multiple wars with other countries causing strife across the nation and the unsea, a vast, huge realm of darkness that stretches across the land like a scar, are revealed.

This book has action, romance, hints of ‘magic school’ness, even though all the Grisha whine ‘It’s science! IT’S SCIENCE SHUT UP’, and great world building. Based on Russian culture, this book is definitely unique in its background. I think one of my favorite things about this book is the strong female friendship present throughout most of it. The characterization is great as well – The Darkling in particular is fascinating. His motives, his actions, all of it. He’s like watching a train wreck. I just couldn’t look away. Alina’s character, while also pretty decent, I feel still lacks a bit of development. I’m hoping that’ll change in the future two books, especially after having to deal with the events in the first one.

The writing is wonderful as well. The usage of verbage and syntax sometimes almost give a poetic feel to the book and at other times, convey grittiness and despair. I really enjoyed the writing.

And my top absolute favorite thing about this book is that I had heard rumors about certain characters going in, so I was kind of waiting for something to happen, something that would prove these rumors, and when it finally happened, I was still caught off guard. I knew something was gonna happen and I still didn’t expect it. It. was. awesome.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. It’s given a solid beginning to a series that I’m hoping will stay just as good throughout.

4.5/5 stars


– Spoilery Yapping –

Okay so, as of 2017 I’m going to start adding these sections to my reviews. Only read these if you’ve read the book or don’t care about being spoiled out your ass.

This book was exactly what I needed I think. A YA fantasy that had handsome dudes in it to get me out of my reading slump. I read this baby in two and a half days. That’s practically unheard of for me. So this book follows Alina, right. She’s this girl who in my opinion reminds me of Violet from The Invincibles. At least, I pictured an older version of her throughout this thing. A stringy, skinny girl that (shocker) is secretly beautiful. Like I said above, tropes that should bother me but somehow didn’t. I think it was the writing and characterization that kept me from being overly annoyed by the tropes. I was just enjoying myself so much that they didn’t irk me.

Anyways. Violet Alina is plucked from her life as a military recruit to be trained as a Grisha after she blinds a bunch of people with her body. Shortly after she’s convinced everyone around her that she’s not a living time-bomb waiting to explode, she’s introduced to The Darkling, who I’ve developed a weird obsession with.

Image result for the incredibles violetThe Darkling is this very attractive ancient organism who tells Alina she’s destined for great things. And gasp, Alina starts falling for the guy. As soon as this started happening, my spidey senses started tingling and I felt the imminent approach of a love triangle. That’s because Alina’s best friend Mal (also strikingly good looking) whom Alina is secretly in love with (despite her being near him for their entire lives and her never mentioning it, shocker) saves her life and is then shipped off into war. Misunderstandings abound and Alina pines for the guy until his perfectly-timed-to-cause-drama return.

But lucky me, I’m not so sure about this love triangle anymore, especially after the end of the book. This is that thing I mentioned earlier. That rumor. I had heard going in that people loved and hated the Darkling, that he was despicable but they still loved the guy. I was 50% into the book and was still thinking ‘I don’t see it. He seems like a decent guy’ and then wham. The Darkling is actually an evil bastard.

Everything that Darkling had done up until that point, the romance, the kindness, everything, evaporated. And though I knew something like that would have to happen to prove the rumors, it still caught me totally off guard. And that’s what made me love the book: The Darkling’s character. His character is written so, so so well. Alina, upon realizing his true intentions, went back over all of his past behavior and she came to the realization that all of it was manipulative, all of it. He played her like a fiddle and showed no remorse. And the best part was, I didn’t notice any of it earlier on either and Alina’s realizations were also mine. Even parts that she didn’t go back and cover, I did, and I found them to be full of ulterior motive. I loved it. This book, this character. He’s a conniving bastard and I think it’s spectacular.

I hate the Darkling and I’m obsessed with him at the same time. Alina’s a decent character, Mal is a decent character, Genya is a decent character, but the Darkling is just morbidly fascinating and it’s great. Really, he’s like a train wreck. It’s just so awesome.

Wah, I need book two, stat. I need more.

I just sincerely hope that the author doesn’t decide to be all ‘lol Stockholm Syndrome!’ because I think I’ll have to punch the book in the head. We shall see now, won’t we.