Review: Wildbound by Elayne Audrey Becker

An e-ARC of Wildbound on a Kindle sits on top of the spine of Foresborn in front of a green forest. A bottle of Topo Chico sits on its left.

Alexis: 

Wildbound is a fantastic sequel and ending to the Forestborn duology. A huge thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Netgalley for providing me an e-ARC!

The Forestborn duology follows Rora, a shifter who lives in Alemara, a land that once had magic but no longer does. When her best friend and the youngest prince, Finley, grows sick with a magical illness called the Fallow Throes, she’s tasked by the king to travel to find stardust to cure Finley, alongside Weslyn, the older prince, and her brother, Helos.

While Forestborn only followed Rora’s POV, Wildbound has dual POVs and follows Helos, her brother, as well. This worked exceptionally well for the story, and I found that the dual storylines upped the tension. I also got to know and understand not only Helos’ character better, but Finley’s, too. I actually ended up loving Helos’ POV just as much as Rora’s. 

Wildbound is action packed. We follow a war in Helos’ storyline and a spying adventure in Rora’s. While there are quiet moments to breathe, I didn’t want to put this book down.

Like Forestborn, Becker’s writing is lovely and full of forest and nature imagery. The characters are well-rounded, loveable, and so easy to root for! The worldbuilding and political intrigue are fantastic. Wildbound also delves into some very dark themes–not only prejudice but genocide, torture, and PTSD. Becker explores the themes of love and belonging with just the right amount of romance, including an m/m romance. 

I highly recommend picking up this duology if you haven’t already–Wildbound solidified it as one of my favorites.

Review: Monsters of Verity Duology by Victoria Schwab

Alexis, wearing a green flannel, holds a up a Kindle copy of This Savage Song in front of a fenceline and an autumn forest.

Alexis:

I have to admit: Schwab’s books are either a hit or miss for me, and I’ve avoided reading more of her books for that reason.

But I think This Savage Song, the first in the duology, is my favorite of hers so far!

It follows two juniors in high school named Kate and August, in an apocalyptic America that’s been divided into territories and overrun with monsters born from violence.

Kate is the daughter of Harker, who rules one side of the city of Verity, and August’s father is Flynn, who rules the other side. Kate does her best to get kicked out of every boarding school her father has dumped her in, in an attempt to come home to Verity. When Kate finally returns to Verity, August is enrolled into her high school, his enemy’s high school, in order to spy on her.

But here’s the thing: August isn’t actually human, no matter how hard he tries to be. He’s a Sunai, and he can reap souls through music, with his violin. 

I loved the gritty, urban feel of this book. Schwab’s writing style definitely works the best with this kind of book (as opposed to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, which is a lot less punchy and to the point, and instead very flowery). And I’m always a sucker for a dual POV.

August was by far my favorite character in this book. I loved his personality, and how he tries his best to balance who he wants to be with his monster side. And his musical, monster-y superpower was so interesting to read about. He’s such a wholesome and well-rounded character.

Kate is a great character, too. Schwab did a great job of writing how her past trauma impacted her and continues to influence her character. She’s a strong badass with a soft side, and she and August’s personalities mesh well together. 

Though a long book, the pacing was great, and I loved the survival plotline. 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 

Our Dark Duet

I flew through this book because I wanted to know what happened. That being said, it just felt a little disjointed, especially in comparison to the first one. The gritty vibes were all there, all good, and I really liked Kate’s character arc.

I liked August’s character arc, too, but I felt like we didn’t get to see his transformation, while we got scenes in the beginning explaining and detailing how Kate got to where she is.

The plot was a little bit frustrating, mostly because there was one monster that appears and is never explained/explored enough, so that I was left with a lot of questions. But mostly, I enjoyed this book overall…if it wasn’t for the ending.

It was a very specific kind of ending that I really, really don’t like. It’s totally a personal preference, but for me, it just kind of ruined the story.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐

Overall, if you’re looking for a gritty, YA urban fantasy, definitely pick this up! Now, the question is: should I finally read A Darker Shade of Magic?

Review: Dance of Thieves Duology

The spines of the Dance of Thieves duology perches on a windowsill next to a Sweater Weather wood-wick candle, and a small pot of cat grass.

Alexis:

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson had been on my tbr for years, and I finally said, You know what? I should get it from the library. 

I had no idea this book would focus so heavily on the romance, but I didn’t mind it. The story follows Kazi, a solider of the queen’s, and Jase, the leader of the Ballenger family, an influential family that rules a kingdom that the queen doesn’t recognize. 

Let me start out by saying that Pearson’s writing is great; the writing itself is 5 ⭐s. She has the perfect writing style for a fantasy book like this one, and I really enjoyed it. I also really love dual POVs, and I think it worked well for the story. 

I simultaneously loved this book and thought it was just okay. I sped through the first half (despite never having read Pearson’s other series, where Dance of Thieves takes place, and struggling a bit with the worldbuilding). 

But this book has a lot of long sections that drag. The writing and world feel like adult fantasy, but this is definitely a YA book, because we have some almost-insta-love, enemies to lovers, and teenage angst. 

I think the parts that just felt okay to me were the constant backs and forths. This is basically an enemies to lovers, and then lovers to enemies, and then back to enemies to lovers book. There was a lot of miscommunication, which I’m starting to dread in romance-heavy books. And to think it was the miscommunication plotlines, as well as all the extraneous worldbuilding details, that bogged down the story. 

That being said, I enjoyed it as a whole, and I’m hoping I’ll like the second one even more! 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐/5 

Vow of Thieves:

What a sequel! This book makes up for the slow plot in Dance of Thieves. While the book is still long, there’s so much more action. The stakes are super high. Kazi and Jase are separated for the majority of the book, which adds to the longing and stakes of the book.

I enjoyed getting to know all of the side characters more.

There are a couple aspects that kept this from being a 5-star read, however. While I liked that Kazi and Jase were separated, as I think it helped with character growth, I think it went on just a little too long. I waited like 300 pages just for them to be together again, and considering the first book was mostly insta-love, I didn’t really get to see them grow together as a couple. 

On top of that, there was one “plot twist” that kept being hinted at, but it was very obvious from the get-go what it was. And it also dragged on for almost 300 pages. 

Despite that, I flew through this book, and overall, I enjoyed it!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Alexis: Read 3/24/19

I loved the first half of this book. I loved Nikolai’s internal (and sometimes external) battle within himself. I enjoyed learning more about Zoya: her past, her innermost feelings, her motivations. And at first, I rejoiced in Nina’s chapters, especially after her ending in Crooked Kingdom.

King of Scars is told in third person from various perspectives, including Nikolai, Zoya, Nina, and a man named Isaak. I’m glad Bardugo decided on third person, as I think it worked perfectly for the world in Six of Crows, and ultimately served a better purpose than the first person of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy.

I enjoyed the masterful worldbuilding and name dropping of characters from previous books. Bardugo has really cemented the Grishaverse. And I really enjoyed how the plot was building. However, the second half started to meander. Zoya ended up being the primary character, rather than Nikolai himself. The book’s title is literally Nikolai’s nickname, and yet he sometimes gets lost in the sea of other characters.

I honestly wanted to skip over Isaak’s chapters; I felt like his information could have been revealed later and it would have served the book better, even if the the reader wouldn’t get to know him as a character. But I really just didn’t care about him.

Nina’s chapters began to feel drawn out. As much as I enjoy her as a character, I found myself wanting to stay with Zoya and Nikolai’s storylines. I almost wanted Nina’s chapters to be separated from the rest of the story, maybe as its own short book.

My primary concern, besides Nikolai not being as center stage as I wanted him to be, was where the plot ended up. It was building up to such a great place, but then the ending ruined it for me. I’ll avoid spoilers here and go more into that below.

This book definitely felt like a follow-up to the Shadow of Bone trilogy, which I didn’t like nearly as much as the Six of Crows duology. I was hoping for more of a Six of Crows feel, with the masterfully crafted plot and characters. I just wish the book had only switched in POV from Nikolai to Zoya and that the plot was…different. Even with my mixed feelings, I still love the characters and Bardugo’s world, and I flew through this book.

The first half of the book: 5 stars. Second half: 3 stars

VERDICT: 4 stars

 
SPOILERS BELOW:

I felt like most of the plot reveals in the second half of the book were a little too coincidental. Hanne just happens to be the daughter of Brum? The Saints just happen to be alive with the answers to a greater power for Zoya? And the biggest of all: the Darkling’s comeback. It felt like a cop-out to me. I wanted something as equally as dark to be the main antagonist, but I wanted something different. The Darkling’s story was supposed to be over. With all the tumultuous politics going on, I just felt like the ending could’ve gone in a different and better direction.