So – let’s start this with an updated introduction from future-March-2020-me, since that’s how long it took me to finally organize the mostly chaotic notes this post consisted of into something somewhat understandable… As you’ll know if you read my Why 2019 Was Such a Terrible Reading (and Posting) Year post, February 2019 wasn’t exactly the best month of my life. I was dealing with a bunch of personal stuff, so I wasn’t really in the mood for much reading. However, the books I did get to (mostly before the avalanche of personal crap started) were pretty great and definitely deserve a mention! So now, finally, over a year later, here are my thoughts on them:
Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles #1) by Melina Marchetta (4/5 Stars)
When Finnikin was nine years old, the world as he knew it came apart: the royal family of Lumatere was brutally slaughtered, its throne seized, and a curse cast that stops anyone inside from leaving the kingdom. Ever since, Finnikin has been roaming across the land of Skuldenore, together with his mentor Sir Topher and other Lumateran exiles. Then, ten years after what has become known as the unspeakable, Sir Topher and Finnikin receive startling news: the heir to the Lumateran throne may still be alive and their homeland might be saved. This is a suspenseful story of refugees, of friendship, and of love, and, though I did find it predictable at times, I really enjoyed it!
The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang (5/5 Stars)
This is the start to a Chinese-history-inspired high fantasy series, and, if this first book is any indication, one that has excellent chances of making it into my all-time favorites. From page one, I was hooked. Its protagonist Rin is a war orphan raised in the relatively poor Rooster Province of Nikan, one of the most powerful empires in the world. She knows that her one chance of escaping her abusive foster parents and arranged marriage is doing well on the Keju, an empire-wide test that can grant her access to an academy where she can further her education and be trained as a soldier. Rin studies day and night, and to everyone’s surprise, she passes the Keju with flying colors. In fact, she does so well that she is given a spot at Sinegard, the most elite military academy in the Empire. However, as a dark-skinned girl from a southern province, things aren’t easy for Rin. She has to fight to prove that she belongs, and at the same time be ready for anything in a world where political power is rapidly shifting. This book has a cast of wonderfully fleshed out, complex characters, a really intriguing magic system, lots of politics and folklore, great dynamic friendships and, and, and… I am still a little skeptical about the ending (in my opinion, a certain character was a bit overpowered), but I hope that that will make sense within the overall storyline. The rest of this was just so great that I trust the author knows what she’s doing. If you’re a fantasy fan, do yourself a favor and check this one out!
Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3) by Cassandra Clare (4/5 Stars)
This is the conclusion to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series, and book #I-don’t-even-know-anymore in the Shadowhunter Chronicles, so obviously I can’t say much without spoiling anything. The story starts immediately after the enormous cliffhanger that ended the previous book, Lord of Shadows, and continues the tale of the Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorn family as they try to save their world from the outbreak of a civil war and something possibly even more sinister. Overall, I really enjoyed this. I liked that we got to see familiar faces, but also more of the world, especially Faerie. I loved the mixture of suspense and character-drivenness. And, let’s be honest, the smut. However, there were also a few things that I think could have been done better. As with all of Cassandra Clare’s conclusions so far, I think that the ending of this could have been much darker. With stakes this high, I expect severe losses, and I want to bawl my eyes out at least a little. I didn’t get that here. Plus, I am always skeptical of parallel universe scenarios, and we had one in this story that I didn’t think was particularly well-executed. I felt like it had been put in mostly for fan service – so old characters could be resurrected, what-ifs explored. I wasn’t a fan, and I hope that part of the story won’t play a huge role in any future books. Other than that though, I thought this was a solid ending to the series. I just can’t stop reading these books, so I know I’ll be picking up whatever spin-off comes next…