Review: Crimson Bound

Crimson Bound, Rosamund Hodge

Published May 5th 2015 by Balzer + Bray

Kindle Edition, 448 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

This is an extremely overdue review for a book that I really enjoyed.  There were a few books that I read to keep sane last year while doing some very stressful hospital visiting and Crimson Bound was one of them.  Wouldn’t you agree that a book that kept me focused while in an ICU waiting room sounds pretty compelling?  

This will be short since I did read this forever ago – but Rachelle was an awesome Little Red Riding Hood.  She’s not facing a Big Bad Wolf per se but something else that can devour her whole.  This was a dark story and much, much more than a girl and a huntsman facing down one villain.  That was what I loved about it!  But in the face of it all Rachelle is so brave!  She’s giving everything she can to her kingdom, while facing a terrifying future herself.  Basically, she’s a badass.  The romance moved a bit faster than I would have liked, but I liked the way it all played out in the end.  The players were all in tense situations all the time, so I’ll credit for that for intensifying emotions.

This was a beautifully written book that became much bigger than I expected from the description.  I highly recommend if you like fairy tale retellings!

4 stars!

Thank you Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.  

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Review: Uprooted

Uprooted, Naomi Novik

Amanda

Published May 19th 2015 by Del Ray Spectra

Hardcover, 448 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Oh Agnieszka.  The Dragon.  The mother-effing WOOD.  I can’t think of any other book I’ve read recently where there was such a malevolent and discomforting presence as the Wood.  

So we have another Beauty and the Beast retelling – and while it could have been hard to follow ACOTAR for a fantasy I fell completely in love with this book.  The Dragon takes one young woman every 10 years from the valley to serve him in his tower.  Let’s be clear, the Dragon is a man, a wizard in fact.  In return for service from these girls the Dragon does whatever he can to keep the Wood from encroaching on the towns beneath him.  He fights the good fight, but he doesn’t always win against the Wood.  Men are lost, livestock, whole villages are swallowed.

I admit I was more than a bit suspicious of the Dragon at first.  Why must he take a girl for 10 years?  On return they all claimed he doesn’t touch them but all the townspeople have their suspicions.  Why is he such a jerk to poor Agnieszka at first?  Agnieszka was trying so hard for a life she never thought she would have! I was actively rooting against a romance in the beginning between these two.

BUT

Then I totally fell for the Dragon.  I loved the slow pace of this book.  It took a while for Agnieszka to even like the Dragon let alone to love him – it was a fantastic slow burn.   And while the romance is there and it was important, this book is about the magic and the evil and not about the romance.  Agnieszka is a loyal friend, daughter, a student and basically all around bad ass.  There were all kinds of twists I wasn’t expecting and most of all the Wood which basically gave me nightmares.

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If you want an awesome standalone fantasy with a kick-ass heroine and some sexy romance read this!  Then come back and tell me what you think.  Definitely one of my favorites I’ve read this year and one I will be rereading.

5 stars!

Thank you Del Ray Spectra and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Also if you like fairy tale retellings as much as I do Kat Kennedy at Cuddlebuggery did this awesome post all about Beauty & the Beast retellings!  I have to say I didn’t love Cruel Beauty as much as she did, but I am definitely adding the rest of these to my TBR!

Review: Tear You Apart

Tear You Apart, Sarah Cross

Amanda

Published January 27th 2015 by Egmont

ebook, 384 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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From Goodreads….

An edgy fairy tale retelling of “Snow White” set in the world of Kill Me Softly for fans of Once Upon a Time and Grimm.

Faced with a possible loophole to her “Snow White” curse, Viv goes underground, literally, to find the prince who’s fated to rescue her. But is life safe in the Underworld worth the price of sacrificing the love that might kill her?

How would it feel to be in love with someone who might be your executioner one day?  This is the central question I pondered while reading Sarah Cross’ Tear You Apart.  Vivian lives in the strange town of Beau Rivage where fairy tales have come to life.  Many of the locals are fairy cursed – you can find Sleeping Beauties, Snow Whites, Prince Charmings.  You can also find Evil Queens, girls who spit out jewels or frogs when they talk, and Beasts.  These are not Disney fairy tales, they are much truer to the original and often violent stories.  I enjoyed Cross’s first book, Kill Me Softly, also set in Beau Rivage so I was excited to see what fairy tale she retold next.  Viv is a Snow White, which means that she is the fairest of the fair. It also means her Stepmother will ask for her heart someday, and Viv must pray that her huntsman will find compassion for her.

To complicate matters, Viv knows exactly who the huntsman is who will eventually be tasked to kill her. Oh, and he is her boyfriend, Henley. Viv seems to love him, but through the story, she does not treat him as though she does! She can be downright cruel to him.  They had been the best of friends before falling in love, but Viv has a fatalistic outlook and seems to be just trying to push Henley to make a decision kill her himself.  I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t a big fan of Viv.  I love the world Cross created with these dark twisted versions of stories, but Viv was too whiney and spoiled.  Someone is going to try to kill you someday?  Ok that sucks, but try to do something to change your life then!  Don’t whine and antagonize people who might help you!  Viv does make a choice to go to the Underworld (another awesome setting!) but that’s to hide-not to fight back against her stepmother at all.  I will say Viv definitely improved in the end, but it was too late for me to care too much about her.

My issues with Viv aside, I was definitely entertained by this book!  I really liked how the fairy tales were wrapped into each other so the details all helped tell Viv’s story.  I loved that she brought in stories I hadn’t thought about in years like the 12 Dancing Princesses.  I also thought it was great that she brings in lesser known fairy tales such as the girl who spits diamonds and toads.  Things got twisted to a degree I didn’t expect!  If you’re a fan of fairy tales this was a fun read overall.

Sadly Cross’ publisher, Egmont, has closed but I really hope she’s picked up by a new house soon because I would read more from Beau Rivage for sure.

3 stars!

Thank you Egmont and NetGalley for this advance read copy in exchange for an honest opinion. 

Review: Princess of Thorns

Princess of Thorns, Stacey Jay

Amanda

Hardcover, 400 pages

Expected publication: December 9th 2014 by Delacorte Press

Source: E-ARC from NetGalley

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From Goodreads…

Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it’s too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

I really love fairy tale retellings so once I heard Sleeping Beauty was involved in Princess of Thorns I could not wait to read this.  This book was so much more than just a retelling of Sleeping Beauty though.  Our Princess Aurora is actually the daughter of Beauty and Prince Philip.  Beauty and Phillip are long dead and Aurora is trying to rescue her brother from the ogre queen who is also her step-grandmother.   A bit confusing right?  I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about this book at the very beginning, but I was quickly drawn in. By the end, I was so into it that I almost missed my train stop trying to finish!

Aurora, or Ror as she goes by, is kind of a bad ass.  If you have seen the Disney version Aurora is blessed by 3 fairies with beauty, song and rather than death with a sleep until she meets true love’s kiss.  Stacey Jay’s fairy blessings are not so benign.  In Princess of Thorns Beauty resisted having Aurora fairy blessed as an infant because the gifts can backfire on themselves cruelly.  However when she has no other choice she blesses Aurora herself.  Ror has been blessed with strength so she can hold her own in a battle despite her small stature.  She’s blessed with mercy, though this frustrates her because she would not always choose to be merciful.   Lastly, Aurora is blessed so that no man who loves her can act against her wishes.  Quite a combination.

While disguised as her brother Ror meets Prince Niklaas who is looking for Aurora for reasons of his own.  They combine forces to try to find her an army and pull off a desperate rescue from under the ogre queen’s nose.  He was a bit of a pig at times, but I did really love Niklaas.  He had a good heart and he just seemed like an accurate 17 year-old guy.  I thought Niklaas and Ror were so great together-even when he thought she was a boy!  I loved the spark between them and the snappy comebacks.  The book flashes from Aurora, to Niklaas and to the mind of the ogre queen herself.  The Queen’s perspective really put me off at first, but once you really understand what the ogres were up to they made sense and fit in well with the story.

I liked that Aurora was not perfect-there’s nothing so obnoxious in my mind as a character without faults.  She’s loyal and brave and practical, yet she starts off headstrong and loathe to accept help.  Thankfully as the story goes on she does mature and gain some wisdom.  I would have liked to know more of Aurora’s backstory.  Beauty and Phillip were only in this story in brief remembrances.  I would have liked some of their story, though it certainly would be 100% different than the Disney fantasy.  More of the fairies that she grew up with and more of the world in general would have been really cool I think.  There were some really beautifully written passages to this book and I would have liked to see them describe the world outside Aurora’s adventure.

Bonus points for the other fairy tale references! I am so glad that this was a stand alone novel, but I am burning with curiosity as to whether Jay will tackle the story of Rapunzel touched on here!  There is another red-hooded young lady I’d also love to read about.

4 stars!

Thank you Delacorte Press and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!